The Boston Celtics crashed out of the NBA playoffs in the Eastern Conference Finals, suffering a 4-2 defeat at the hands of the Miami Heat. The Celtics held a 96-90 lead in the fourth quarter of game six, but as in previous games in the series, they failed to close out the contest.
Jimmy Butler, Bam Adebayo, Tyler Herro, and Duncan Robinson were all on point to guide the Heat into the NBA Finals. Since Brad Stevens took charge of the Celtics in 2013, he has failed to guide one of the NBA’s storied franchises back to the Finals.
They have now reached the Eastern Conference Finals three times in the last four seasons, but have failed to get over the line. Boston was undone twice by the brilliance of LeBron James in the Cleveland Cavaliers, but on this occasion there will be a feeling of underachievement, having outperformed the Heat during the regular season.
It would be a surprise if Boston’s head of basketball operations Danny Ainge chooses to move on from Stevens, who helped rebuild the franchise amid the departures of Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce. Young stars Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown are beginning to take ownership of the side, but whether Stevens will get the best out of the duo remains to be seen.
What is the issue with the Celtics?
The Celtics will be one of the leading contenders for the NBA Championship next season due to the returning talent on their roster. It will be a competitive Eastern Conference, which could provide value in the outright markets for Boston to triumph. There are offers available in Legalbetting.com to improve your odds or at least use a free bet on a sign-up offer or bonuses by joining the best sportsbooks on the market. It would be a good way to back the Celtics without putting a serious stake down as last year highlighted their lack of composure under pressure in the playoffs.
Boston blew significant leads three times against the Heat in the Eastern Conference Finals, and before that allowed the Toronto Raptors back into their series in the semi-finals. There’s a distinct lack of killer instinct on the team, which has halted a potential charge into the Finals. Brown and Tatum are excellent but are still learning as all the great players have done in the past. Even the GOAT Michael Jordan had his initial struggles in the playoffs.
Kemba Walker was signed to provide leadership at point guard in the aftermath of Kyrie Irving’s exit. Walker was impressive during the regular season but lacked experience in the playoffs. It was evident that he failed to rise to the occasion in the clutch. Gordon Hayward’s injury problems loomed large again – he has been plagued with bad luck since his first appearance for the Celtics. It looks doubtful that Boston will ever see the best of Hayward, which could be a problem given his significant salary for next season.
What should Boston do regarding Stevens?
It would be an incredibly harsh call for a coach that has led his team to three Eastern Conference Finals in four years to be fired. However, there have been incidents in the past where coaches have been let go, despite solid achievements on the court.
Dwane Casey performed brilliantly with the Raptors, guiding the franchise to top spot in the Eastern Conference in the 2017/18 season and the playoffs in five straight years. However, Toronto’s failure in the post-season at the hands of LeBron and the Cavaliers forced the hand of the franchise’s hierarchy. They fired Casey and hired Nick Nurse, and in the following campaign, the Raptors won their first NBA Championship.
The Chicago Bulls were in a similar situation with Jordan after disappointments in the post-season under Doug Collins. He was a popular coach – sharing similar traits with Stevens. However, following a defeat in the 1989 Eastern Conference Finals at the hands of the Detroit Pistons, the team choose to move on and hire Phil Jackson. The rest is history as the Bulls created arguably the most dominant dynasty in NBA history.
No one is saying that Stevens is preventing a surge of titles for the Celtics, but for one reason or another, he has not squeezed every ounce of potential out of his roster, at least in the last two years. Cutting ties with the 43-year-old at this stage would be extreme, but he perhaps has only one more season to prove that he is capable of leading Boston to a championship.