For Boston, There was Much to Appreciate From This Playoff Run
Amidst the disappointment in the immediate aftermath of Sunday night’s season-ending, Game 6 loss to the Miami Heat, the Boston Celtics took a moment to appreciate the magnitude of their run to the Eastern Conference Finals.
Inside the Celtics’ locker room following the 125-113 defeat, coach Brad Stevens listed off all of the ways in which his team made him proud during their yearlong campaign together, which he later discussed with reporters during his postgame teleconference.
“My message, I think, was simple,” Stevens said. “I really appreciated the way that they played basketball all year. I really appreciated the way they competed. I really appreciated the way they blocked out stuff that didn't matter. I really appreciated the way that they inspired with their voice while they were here (inside the NBA bubble), and before. I appreciated the way they empowered all the different NBA employees that weren't here, including Celtics employees, and everybody else that benefited from them putting everything they had into this. And I appreciated the way they played and found joy and stayed together.”
Stevens wasn’t alone in his feelings, as several players relayed their appreciation of the unique journey as well. Kemba Walker, for one, was thankful for finally getting to experience a deep playoff run for the first time in his eight-year career, and also shared that he had no regrets throughout the experience.
“I’ve learned a lot, just the intensity of the playoffs, where every possession matters so much, from game to game,” Walker said. “Things switch from game to game, adjustments, every game is just different. Biggest regrets? Don’t have any. Lot of credit to Miami – those guys are really good – but I thought we fought hard. I’ve got a lot of respect for the guys I play with.”
Even for the players who have made it this far in the past, there were still plenty of positives to take away following Sunday’s elimination.
Jayson Tatum, for example, made it to the conference finals during his rookie season as well, but this year’s ECF run was an entirely different learning experience for the 22-year-old in that it was his first time leading a team while serving in a high-pressure, superstar role.
“If you want those expectations, if you want to be that guy that’s capable of doing those things you’ve got to go through some tough things, some ups and downs, some stuff I can learn from,” said Tatum, who averaged 25.3 points, 10.0 rebounds and 5.0 assists per game throughout the 2020 Playoffs. “I think I can learn a lot moving forward, from this season and this series overall.”
Marcus Smart believes that the whole group can learn a lot from this experience, and already can’t wait to see how they respond next season.
“We're great competitors, so we have to use this to fuel us to come back stronger, better, mentally, physically, emotionally, psychologically, all of it,” the veteran guard said. “We gotta use it to our advantage to come back. It's over. We can't change the past. We can only change the future.”
It is a future that looks bright for an up-and-coming Celtics team that managed to make it all the way to the final four despite having the youngest roster among all 16 playoff teams. Based on that knowledge, Walker believes they are just getting warmed up.
“This is our first year together, so we’re going to have some time to grow,” the All-Star point guard said. “It’s going to be a fun group over the next couple of years.”
And as the Celtics continue to grow, this will be a great experience for them to look back upon. There was so much to be learned throughout this yearlong journey, and so much to appreciate.