Friday, May 24, 2024

Celtics’ Eastern Supremacy Unchallenged: Does NBA Need True Contender?

HomeSports NewsCeltics' Eastern Supremacy Unchallenged: Does NBA Need True Contender?

The Boston Celtics are just toying with the Eastern Conference right now. On Tuesday night, they put the Cleveland Cavaliers in an industrial-sized blender and hit puree, blasting their overmatched foes 120-95 in Game 1 of their second round series.

It was a laughable mismatch from the opening tip. While All-Star wing Jayson Tatum struggled with his shot, dropping just 18 points, seemingly every other Celtic was burying jumpers from every angle imaginable. Jaylen Brown went supernova, torching the nets for 32 points on 12-of-18 shooting, including a blistering 15 point outburst in the first quarter alone.

“We’ve got a lot of threats on our team right now, it’s just ridiculous,” Brown said postgame. “With the addition of [Kristaps] Porzingis, the acceleration of Derrick White’s growth…it means a lot of guys are gonna have it going any given night.”

And have it going they did! White absolutely went bananas off the Boston bench, exploding for 25 points while burying 4 triples. The reserve backcourt duo of Payton Pritchard and Jrue Holiday tacked on another 30 combined points in the rout.

“When I get the ball, I want to be as lethal as possible,” Brown stated matter-of-factly. “We’ve got so many different guys who can hurt you in so many different ways.”

The Cavaliers, powered by Donovan Mitchell’s 33 points, didn’t stand a chance against the Celtics’ rip-your-heart-out offensive barrage and elite team defense. Despite shooting a solid 50% from the field and 50% from deep in the first quarter, Cleveland simply couldn’t match Boston’s firepower. The Celtics’ swarming, switch-everything scheme gradually suffocated the Cavs into submission after the opening period.

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“The game was closer early because we weren’t making shots,” Brown explained. “But we kept defending at an elite level, and eventually the shots started falling.”

And did they ever fall! After taking a 40-34 lead through one quarter, the Celtics rapidly accelerated away. Their lead swelled to 20 points by halftime and stretched to as many as 27 in the third quarter as the shellshocked Cavs were powerless to stop the onslaught. A thunderous “Beat the Cavs!” chant rained down from the deafening Garden crowd as it became apparent no firefight would materialize.

Veteran play-by-play voice Mike Gorman, set to retire after this playoff run, received the loudest ovation of the night when shown on the jumbotron midway through the mauling. The Boston faithful knew this Game 1 blowout was simply the latest evidence of their team’s frightening depth and prowess.

With the TD Garden already looking ahead to bigger battles on the horizon, an aura of disinterest and disengagement hovered over the Celtics at times. Boston seemed to be going through the motions, cautiously preserving their energy while running out the clock on an inevitable demolition.

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“If you want to get to where you want to go against teams like this, you can always fight for another level,” Celtics head coach Joe Mazzulla said. “Just having that mindset of getting better every day.”

Mazzulla’s words ring ominously for the rest of the playoff field. The defending Eastern Conference champions are blatantly biding their time, operating with a championship-or-bust mentality, while marginalizing foes like a kid flicking ants off a picnic blanket.

After vanquishing last year’s East finalists, the Miami Heat, in the opening round, Boston appears disinterested in anything besides the NBA Finals at this point. Awaiting them there will likely be whichever ruthless Western Conference juggernaut survives the bloodbath between teams like the Nuggets, Grizzlies and Timberwolves.

While those heavyweights beat each other senseless fighting through the brutal Western Conference bracket, the rested Celtics can luxuriate in regularly scheduled off days, getting key players’ body clocks aligned for the Finals while keeping their powder dry.

It’s an ominous luxury afforded to Boston by their supreme top-to-bottom talent level and the team’s serene confidence in their abilities. Tuesday’s Game 1 detonation of Cleveland registered as little more than a lazy hairflip, a mere flex of their obscene depth and firepower.

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Contenders be warned – the Celtics are operating at an elite, locked-in level right now. After rolling to the NBA’s best record and a trio of All-Star selections, they’re laser-focused on hanging another championship banner. Any hopes of derailing their title mission may already be fading into the rearview mirror.

By completely mollywhopping an overmatched but talented Cavaliers squad, Boston sent a resounding message to the rest of the NBA – we’re just getting warmed up. Four more routine wins against Cleveland separate them from an inevitable Finals berth against the sopped Western Conference survivor.

Don’t expect the Celtics’ concentrated intensity and championship-caliber mentality to waver against the Cavs. This is a team with much loftier goals than the second round. With their sparkling depth and unreal top-end talent, anything short of a title would be a cataclysmic disappointment.

So while contenders like the Nuggets, Grizzlies and Wolves beat their brains out in tooth-and-nail battles, the Celtics will continue coasting by overmatched foes, serenely biding their time for the biggest stage. The rest of the NBA has been resoundingly put on notice – this Boston machine isn’t going to be stopped.

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Mezhar Alee
Mezhar Alee
Mezhar Alee is a prolific author who provides commentary and analysis on business, finance, politics, sports, and current events on his website Opportuneist. With over a decade of experience in journalism and blogging, Mezhar aims to deliver well-researched insights and thought-provoking perspectives on important local and global issues in society.

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