Top 5 Moments From the 2017-18 Season
BOSTON – The Boston Celtics closed the book on the 2017-18 season Sunday night as their 245-day journey from Day 1 of training camp to Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals came to an end.
Along the way, the C’s produced countless unforgettable moments, from individual triumphs, to gritty comeback wins, to resilient playoff performances that all paved the way to a successful campaign.
Before we head into the summer and gear up for the next step on the path to Banner 18, let’s flip back the pages and relive some of those pivotal moments that helped create a season for the ages.
5. Celtics Out-Smart Rockets in 26-point Comeback
The Celtics proved time and time again during the 2017-18 season that no lead was safe against them. There was better example of that than their mammoth, 26-point comeback win Dec. 28 over the Houston Rockets at TD Garden.
Boston experienced one of its worst starts of the campaign, falling behind Houston, 32-12 by the end of the first quarter. The Rockets went ahead by as many as 26 points during the third quarter, and by the time they got to the 8:20 mark of that frame, the C’s had a win probability of just 0.6 percent.
Despite the odds, Boston never lost hope, and put forth its biggest rally of the season. The Celtics trailed 69-44 at the 7:26 mark of the third quarter, but then flipped a switch at both ends of the court, finishing off the final 19:26 of the game on a 55-29 run that included a miraculous finish.
The Rockets were still leading 98-95 with 7.3 seconds left, but Jayson Tatum brought the C’s within one point with a cutting dunk off of a nice dish from Marcus Smart.
Smart then turned to defend James Harden on the ensuing inbound pass, and before Houston could even get the ball in, Harden threw an elbow at Smart's chest and got called for an offensive foul.
The Celtics, out of timeouts, quickly inbounded the ball to Al Horford in the post. Horford went to work on Tarik Black, before shot-putting the ball through the hoop with 3.7 seconds to give Boston its first lead of the game.
Houston still had an opportunity to try for a win, but Smart wasn’t going to let them have that chance. He baited Harden into committing another offensive foul before the Rockets could inbound the ball, to help put a seal on Boston’s most impressive comeback win of the season.
4. Ending the Hunt: Celts Fight Off Bucks in Seven
If we were to tell you at the beginning of the season that the Celtics would fight their way into the second round of the Playoffs without Gordon Hayward, Kyrie Irving, and with a hobbled Jaylen Brown, you never would’ve believed it.
Yet somehow, Boston pulled off that feat April 28, finishing off the Milwaukee Bucks with a shorthanded Game 7 victory.
Hayward and Irving had both sustained season-ending injuries before the Playoffs even began, while Brown was added to the injury report midway through Game 7 after suffering a strained hamstring.
Winning the series would be a daunting task without them, but the Celtics didn’t fret and made it happen.
Al Horford and Terry Rozier scored 26 points apiece and Jayson Tatum added 20 points of his own to power a 112-96 win, propelling the Celtics into the second round.
Through that win, Boston proved that it could overcome any injury in an situation. It was without arguably its top three scorers, yet managed to find a way to fill the gaps and put up 112 points against a long, athletic Bucks defense.
All season long, the Celtics embraced a next-man up mentality, as they overcame injury after injury. There was no better example of that than their Game 7 effort against the Bucks to keep their postseason alive.
3. Irving Caps off C's Winning Streak with a Bang
Many NBA pundits believed that the Celtics’ playoff chances went out the window five minutes into the regular season opener when Gordon Hayward suffered a season-ending leg injury. And after an 0-2 start, that belief started to appear plausible.
But then, the unthinkable happened. The Celtics came together and rallied around their fallen teammate to produce one of the most remarkable winning streaks in franchise history.
After dropping those first two games, the Celtics didn’t lose again for more than a month, winning 16 contests in a row to match the team’s fourth-longest winning streak ever.
The win that capped it all off on Nov. 20 was one of the most impressive of them all, as newly added star Kyrie Irving went off for a season-high 47 points in Dallas to lead the C’s to a 110-102, comeback win in overtime.
Boston actually got off to a 37-22 start that night, but then blew its lead and fell behind by double digits. The Mavs went up by as many as 13 points midway through the fourth quarter, but the C’s rallied back to tie the game, 96-96 with 1:01 remaining on an alley-oop slam from Irving to rookie Jayson Tatum.
That score held up until the end of regulation, before Irving entered takeover mode in OT.
The All-Star point guard personally outscored the Mavs 10-6 during the extra period, finishing off the night 16-of-22 from the field, 5-of-7 from 3-point range and 10-of-11 from the free-throw line.
His overall effort epitomized the Celtics’ full body of work over the previous month, showing resilience, faith and determination, all while battling in the face of adversity.
Boston’s streak would come to an end two nights later in Miami, but by then its players were already filled with enough hope and trust in each other to power their way to a 55-27 regular season record and the second seed in the Eastern Conference Playoffs.
2. Trusting the Process: C’s Rally From 22-Down in Game 2 Win Over Philly
We’ve highlighted Boston’s come-from-behind wins over the Rockets and Mavericks, respectively, but no comeback victory was as important as the one it earned May 3 in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals.
After winning Game 1 over Philadelphia in blowout fashion, the C’s got off to a slow start in Game 2 and trailed the 76ers 48-26 by the midway point of the second quarter.
Philly looked like it was well on its way to a series-tying win, but by halftime, Boston found a way to completely flip the script.
The Celtics discovered a groove and outscored Philly 25-8 during the final 6:20 of the second quarter, including an 11-2 run during the final two minutes that brought them within five points of the 76ers.
Philly entered the second half with a 56-51 lead, but the TD Garden crowd wasn’t going to let them hang on.
Celtics Nation, fueled by the first-half run, had created deafening buzz that hung in the air for the remainder of the night.
Riding the energetic wave produced by its faithful fans, Boston was able to snag a lead four minutes into the third quarter. From there, the Celtics managed to hold off Philadelphia, fighting their way to a 108-103 win.
Had Boston lost the game, the series would have been tied up and the 76ers would head home with an edge in momentum for Games 3 and 4.
Instead, the comeback effort proved to be a devastating blow for Philly, as it set the tone for the rest of the series. The Celtics rode their momentum to a Game 3 win three nights later at Wells Fargo Center, before clinching the series in five games to move on to the Eastern Finals.
1. Raising 34 to the Rafters: Pierce Immortalizes Celtics Legacy
The most impactful moment of the season wasn’t a miraculous comeback effort or a historical individual performance. In fact, it didn’t even occur during a game, nor did it involve any current players on the Celtics roster.
This moment belonged to Paul Pierce. And this moment solidified the irreplaceable legacy he established in Boston over an extraordinary 15-year career in green and white.
Following a Sunday afternoon matchup against Cleveland Cavaliers on Feb. 11, Pierce stepped onto his beloved parquet floor and stared up toward the TD Garden rafters. He had always aspired to have his No. 34 raised to the roof to join the elite group of distinguished Celtics Legends, and now his dream would come true.
Pierce was joined on the court by family members, fellow legends and former teammates and coaches – a few of whom had prepared praiseful speeches for the event.
The Truth, himself delivered a 24-minute speech straight from the heart, thanking the team, the fans and the city of Boston for joining him on his decade-and-a-half-long ride that produced a 2008 title as well as an abundance of individual franchise records.
Capping off the ceremony, Pierce grabbed a rope and did the honor of raising his own jersey patch to the rafters. He did it slowly, enjoying every second, watching his No. 34 soared skyward to its eternal resting spot among the patches of 22 other legends.
The moment was bigger than the 2017-18 season itself. It put a seal on the incredible career of one of the most iconic figures in franchise history and created a memory that will sit with Celtics Nation forever.