11/05/2018 – Jamaica Gleaner. / BOSTON (AP) :
The Boston Celtics have been mining possibility out of improbable odds throughout the 2017-2018 season.
A season filled with so much promise was jolted just five minutes into their season opener back in October when Gordon Hayward was lost for the year to a fractured ankle.
It looked to be derailed for sure when Marcus Smart suffered a torn ligament in his thumb in March, followed by Kyrie Irving being sidelined for the season a month later following a pair of knee surgeries.
Yet, after completing a 4-1 series win with their 114-112 victory over the Philadelphia 76ers on Wednesday night, the Celtics are somehow back where no one – except maybe only them – believed they could be: headed to a second straight Eastern Conference final.
A rematch with Cleveland Cavaliers and LeBron James awaits them, but for a Celtics team that has had to trudge uphill throughout the season, still playing at this point of the postseason feels like reason to celebrate.
Coach Brad Stevens said this group has never stopped playing together despite all the challenges they’ve faced. It’s testament to a programme they’ve been nurturing since he took over as coach five years ago.
According to Elias Sports Bureau, the Celtics are the first team in NBA history to reach the conference finals in back-to-back seasons, while returning only four players from one year to the next (Smart, Jaylen Brown, Al Horford, and Terry Rozier). That are advancing to the Eastern Conference finals in consecutive seasons for the first time since doing so five straight times from 1984 to 1988.