Last year, the Boston Celtics finished the regular season strong, went 40-42, snuck into the playoffs and promptly got swept by LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers. This year, the Celtics (38-26) are currently the 3-seed in the East.
So, how close are they to truly competing with the Cavs?
“Closer than they were last year,” Celtics play-by-play announcer Sean Grande said on CBS Sports Radio’s After Hours with Amy Lawrence. “Last year, the playoff series begins and the Celtics had finished 24-12, so there was, I think, undue optimism. There were some people who publicly here should know better who were predicting the Celtics to win that series and beat the Cavs, which was just absurd. You’re in an awkward position sometimes as the voice of a team. People would say, ‘Hey, this person thinks the Celtics are going to win the series. What do you think?’ I’m like, ‘Umm, well, I don’t quite (think that’s going to happen).’ What I said was the Celtics would be fortunate to win a game and of course they didn’t. Do I think that’s a 4-0 series again? I think the Celtics are clearly closer than they were a year ago.”
The Celtics beat the Knicks, 105-104, last Friday. It was their 13th straight home win.
Boston, however, went to Cleveland the very next night – its third game in four days – and lost, 120-103. The Celtics beat the Cavs in Cleveland, 104-103, on Feb. 5, but were outscored 69-48 in the second and third quarters on Saturday.
“You had a month where, not only were you winning all these games at home, you had in the back of your mind, hey, the Celtics just went to Cleveland and won, so anything is possible,” Grande said. “And you should think that when that goes on. But I think Saturday night was a reality check as to where it is. Right now, the Celtics are good enough to make it a truly competitive series. Last year what you had was a competitive sweep in that the four games were competitive games but the Celtics didn’t win one. The Celtics were more competitive with Cleveland last year than Atlanta was in the conference finals. The games were more competitive. I think this year it would be as much of a stretch to pick the Celtics to upset Cleveland in a series as it would be to say the Cavs will sweep the Celtics again. I think it’s somewhere in between there.”
Boston and Cleveland (44-18) don’t play each other again in the regular season. As of now, they wouldn’t meet until the conference finals.
“A Celtics/Cleveland playoff series, if it’s going to happen, is two months away,” Grande said, “and many, many, many things can happen between now and then.”