Boston's Top Team Accomplishments of the Season
BOSTON – What a season it was for the Boston Celtics.
Fifty-five wins. Another trip to the Conference Finals. Rapid growth by budding stars. Continued improvement by established veterans. It was impressive all around.
Along the route of Boston’s 101-game journey, many feats were accomplished, some by the team, and some by individuals. Over the course of the next week, we will dive into all of the most notable accomplishments.
First, we start out with the team’s accomplishments, which were plentiful. Here are the top five feats the Celtics accomplished during the 2017-18 season.
No. 5 – Ending an 0-884 Streak with a Shocking Comeback Win
Prior to March 20, teams were 0-884 on the season when trailing by five or more points during the final 20 seconds of a game.
After March 20, teams were 1-884.
That’s right, Boston beat the odds in dramatic fashion to become the first team in 885 tries to pull off such a stunning victory – and it was even more impressive than the raw stat indicates.
The Celtics trailed by five points with 16.8 seconds left after Westbrook made one of his two free throws. Terry Rozier quickly answered with a 3-pointer with 12.7 seconds left, and then the C’s fouled Carmelo Anthony with 8.4 seconds left.
What happened next will never be forgotten by anyone who was in attendance for the game, most notably Anthony.
Anthony, a career 81.2 percent shooter from the free-throw line, missed BOTH of his freebies to set up history.
Following a timeout by Boston, Jayson Tatum found Marcus Morris on the right wing off of a drive-and-kick. Morris caught the ball, through a shot-fake at Paul George, took one dribble to his right and let it fly over the outstretched right arm of Steven Adams.
Morris’ incredible shot gave Boston a 100-99 lead with 1.8 seconds left, and after a missed heave by Westbrook at the buzzer, it also gave the Celtics the most improbable comeback of the season in the NBA.
No. 4 – Going 22-8 Against the West
There’s been a lot of talk about the West being better, top to bottom, than the East over the last few years. The Celtics weren’t listening to that conversation during the 2017-18 season.
Boston won 22 out of 30 games against the West this season, a mark that was three wins better than any other team in the East (Toronto – 19). The team’s win percentage of 73.3 percent against the West also stood as the second-highest mark in the league, trailing only Houston’s 78.9 percent mark.
Among the Western Conference teams who fell at the hands of the Celtics were the Rockets, the Warriors, the Trail Blazers, the Thunder, the Jazz, the Spurs and the Timberwolves. That’s seven of the eight teams that made the playoffs in the all-powerful West.
The last time the Celtics won 20-plus games against the West was during their championship year of 2007-08, when they went 25-5 against the West.
No. 3 – Reaching Conference Finals with a New Team
It’s no secret at this point that the Celtics overturned their roster last summer, even after reaching the Conference Finals. The shocking part about this season was that they were able to again reach the Conference Finals with almost an entirely new roster.
Only four players – Jaylen Brown, Al Horford, Terry Rozier and Marcus Smart – played for Boston in 2016-17 and returned for the 2017-18 season. Although Boston added the likes of Kyrie Irving, Gordon Hayward (who was lost for the season on Opening Night) and Jayson Tatum, molding a bunch of new pieces into one team was a hefty challenge for Brad Stevens.
Yet somehow he and the Celtics made it work, even while facing multiple bouts with adversity throughout the season. In the end, according to Elias Sports Bureau, Boston became the first team in NBA history to reach the Conference Finals in back-to-back seasons while returning only four players from one season to the next.
No. 2 – Winning 16 Straight Games
Boston’s season opened up in devastating fashion, as All-Star signee Gordon Hayward went down on Opening Night with a fractured left ankle. The C’s would go on to lose that contest to the Cavs, as well as their next game against Milwaukee.
Sitting at 0-2 on the season, with a need to ditch a large portion of the game plan they had worked on during the summer and training camp, the Celtics were faced with a question: would they fold in the face of adversity, or would they rise above it?
They answered that question in resounding fashion.
Beginning with a matchup against the 76ers on Oct. 20 and running all the way to Nov. 20, Boston rattled of 16 straight victories. At the time, that streak ranked second in the league since the start of the 2015-16 season, when Golden State won 28 straight.
The streak allowed Boston to accrue the second-best record in the history of the franchise through the first 20 games of a season. It’s 17-3 mark trailed an 18-2 mark tallied by five previous Celtics teams.
The streak also built a guiding level of belief throughout the team that even without Hayward, it could still compete at the highest of levels.
No. 1 – Reaching Conference Finals with Rookie-Laden Roster
Question: Prior to the 2017-18 Celtics, when was the last time a team reached the Conference Finals while having at least five rookies appear in at least 30 games during the regular season?
Boston became the first team to do so, thanks in large part to the contributions of rookie star Jayson Tatum. The 20-year-old wing averaged 18.5 points per game during the postseason to lead the team to within minutes of reaching the NBA Finals.
The other four rookies who appeared in at least 30 games were Semi Ojeleye (73), Daniel Theis (63), Abdel Nader (48) and Guerschon Yabusele (33). Tatum, Ojeleye and Theis, who was lost for the season to injury in mid-March, were three important pieces of Boston’s rotation.