Every morning, we compile the links of the day and dump them here… highlighting the big story line. Because there’s nothing quite as satisfying as a good morning dump.
For a Boston team that had to claw its way to simply snag the last playoff berth in the East two seasons ago, the No. 1 spot simply shows how far the team has come.
“They definitely weren’t thinking No. 1 seed when I got here. I know that for a fact,” Thomas said. “They were barely thinking playoffs. How fast it’s come, it’s good. It says a lot abut the direction this organization is going in and the work we put in as players and coaches.”
Did Thomas think the Celtics had the potential to get to this point?
“I did,” he said. “But I’m different from others.”
Regular season wins during the Brad Stevens era:
— Brian Robb (@CelticsHub) April 13, 2017
Just shy of four years after the Celtics traded away the bedrock of their best teams since the 1980s, with full intentions of deliberately rebuilding their brand, here they are– the number one seed in the east with 50-plus wins and just one player remaining from the last Celtic team that cracked 50 victories.
Let’s wait two sections from now to put asterisks on this accomplishment (very few wins for a one-seed, lowest point differential of all time for a top seed, injuries in Cleveland and Toronto) and instead take a second to stop and realize how incredible this ascension is. The Celtics, in a way, are still in the rebuilding process. They are not a finished product. It’s quite possible that they’ll be finals contenders 2-3 years from now and look fundamentally different than they do now, thanks to more Nets picks, cap space and the possibility of a disgruntled star on the move. But for now, they have home-court advantage until the NBA Finals and a group of guys itching to find playoff success. These last few weeks, mostly full of home games against lesser opponents have finally come to an end, and it’s time for the real season to begin.
The Celtics open as your number one seed on Sunday evening at the Garden. Yes. The “rebuilding” Celtics. Life is pretty good.
Herald – Celtics get number one job done
On page 2, here comes playoff Rondo and the TNT Bulls
…the Bulls who seemed to be mired in problems on the floor and within the locker room, rallied to win seven of its last nine games and sneak into the eighth and final playoff slot.
Several contributing factors have come into play leading them to where they are now.
But few stand out more than their point guards who are All-Star guards of the Celtics’ present (Isaiah Thomas) and their past (former Celtic Rajon Rondo).
Their play with be critical in their first-round matchup which begins on Sunday at the TD Garden at 6:30 p.m., and can also be seen on CSN.
“I just want to go out there and win,” Rondo told reporters after Chicago’s 39-point win against Brooklyn to secure the eighth playoff seed. “So my only focus is to get the win.”
Chicago has done just that, winning seven of their last nine games.
And the play of Rajon Rondo has been a significant part of the Bulls’ late-season surge.
It’s surprising when you consider all the issues that he and the Bulls had this year which at one point led to head coach Fred Hoiberg taking him out of the rotation altogether not to mention some social media back-and-forth barbs between Rondo and Dwyane Wade and Jimmy Butler.
But through the disagreements and disappointing play for long stretches this season, Chicago righted the ship in time to get into the postseason where they’ll face a Celtics team that is led by Thomas.
If Rajon Rondo turns into “National TV Rondo” and the Bulls continue their absurd streak of dominance on TNT (three of the first four games of the series are on the network), they’ll not only pull the 8-1 upset, but they’ll win in 5 or 6 games.
Safe to say that likely isn’t going to happen. There will be plenty of analysis by our writers in the lead up to Sunday’s game one, but the first thing I’ll say is that the mid-season Bulls’ trade sending Taj Gibson to OKC is going to be one of the key reasons the Celtics win this thing in six games. Gibson and Robin Lopez combined to give the Cs fits on the offensive glass. Gibson is exactly the type of player that gives the Celtics trouble, and thankfully, he’ll be playing against Houston this weekend.
The Bulls come in on a bit of a streak, which started in earnest after the Cs embarrassed them on a Sunday afternoon last March at the Garden. Still, this is probably the best possible match-up for the Celtics and even with a motivated Rondo and the series’ best player on the other side, the Celtics should advance.
I’ve been saying this all year: The Cs ended their last two seasons with playoff losses at the Garden in the first round. In both of those games, the crowd cheered the team off the floor, with “Let’s Go Celtics” chants out of appreciation for a season of overachieving. If the Cs end this season in similar fashion, with a game 5 or 7 loss at home, it should sound like a funeral. No one’s expecting this team to win the whole thing, but they better take care of the Bulls, at least.
Herald — Get ready for Rajon Rondo
On page 3, The Cs aren’t your typical one-seed and Dan Shaughnessy wants you to know it
Are these Celtics the worst No. 1-seed in postseason history, or are they a worthy lot, bound for the conference finals and perhaps capable of stunning the Cleveland Cavaliers and advancing to the NBA Finals?
I think we know the answer. Today’s Celtics fall in between the two extremes. They are not total frauds reaping the benefits of the Tomato Can NBA East. But nor are they championship driven.
Even the most delusional Green Teamer knows the Cavaliers are better than the Celtics. Celtics owner Wyc Grousbeck went on the radio this week and acknowledged Cleveland is better.
“Cleveland is the team to beat, there’s no question about that,’’ said Stevens. “They deserve that. They’ve been to back-to-back Finals and so until somebody knocks them off, as a defending champion, I think that’s a fair way to view things.’’
Even Tommy Heinsohn would agree.
You’ve heard it already, but now that the Cs are officially the number one seed, get ready to hear it even more: “Cleveland’s the real number one,” “the Celtics are the worst number one of all time,” “They’ll probably lose in the first round.”
Look, Shaughnessy and others (including Wyc and Brad) are right: Cleveland is the team to beat. It isn’t lip service, it’s legitimate. They very well can flip a switch a la the 2010 Celtics or the ’95 Rockets. It’s still an accomplishment worth celebrating, though, and it’s going to be obnoxious to hear about the symbolic asterisk that pundits and talking-heads will want to place on this Celtics season. The best things the Cs can do to stop it all is to live up to the seed and get to game one of the ECF against the Cavs.
And finally, we interrupt this playoff news with a Dancing Bear update
While the Boston Celtics were clinching the No. 1 overall seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs on Wednesday, the Maine Red Claws were battling for their playoff lives against the Fort Wayne Mad Ants in the first round of the D-League playoffs.
Fortunately for the Red Claws, they had 2016 Celtics draft pick Guerschon Yabusele coming off the bench.
Yabusele showcased his unique skill set on Wednesday, dropping 26 points on 10-for-14 shooting from the field as the Red Claws rallied for a 124-119 victory that propelled them into the second round of the D-League playoffs. He added nine rebounds and two blocks, one of which started this fast break that ended with the French big man throwing down a big dunk.
The number one seed, the best odds for the number one pick, and Yabusele fever has reached the shores of America.