Heading into the 2018 NBA season, the Boston Celtics were the favorite in the Eastern Conference. They were one series away from the NBA Finals just a season ago, and the Cleveland Cavaliers were the only team to put a stop to them. With the Cavs taking a much-expected pitfall with the loss of their biggest superstar, the East seemed to belong to the Celtics. And much to their surprise, Boston would find out that they are going to get every team’s best shot when they went against them early on.
The Celtics needed to make a statement. Boston needed to prove their dominance early on as they were pretty much crowned the leaders of the East before the season had begun. They had a couple of wins early on, but ultimately, the Celtics got off to a slow start. Even though the Toronto Raptors, Milwaukee Bucks, and Philadelphia 76ers all improved over time, the Celtics remained the same, and it didn’t seem like that was good enough.
That’s not to say that the Celtics needed a personnel upgrade. Not at all. The Boston Celtics still have a ton of talent on their roster. With everything coming together, the Celtics could quickly jump back into the equation of being in the running for a top seed. They just needed to figure out why they were underperforming, and what exactly were they going to do to get right back on track. So, what exactly was the problem?
The Celtics Bought into the Offseason Hype
Being confident is never a bad thing. You need confidence in order to prevail. However, being over-confident can really take a toll on a team. Especially when the over-confidence occurs so early on in the season. That’s what happened to the Boston Celtics. All of the expectations of being offseason champions got to their heads. Well, at least that’s what second-year guard Jayson Tatum thinks.
“Maybe we believed the hype too much and we didn’t come out and perform. There was a big target on our backs. The teams were coming after us and we didn’t understand that. Nothing we can do about the past, just focus on the next game.”
According to NBA.com, Jayson Tatum believes that along with the masses outside of the game, the Celtics locker room truly believed that they were above everybody. Being the favorites in the conference could mean good things. But if the favored team isn’t ready to live up to the hype, then things can get very complicated, and even humiliating at times.
With the targets on their backs, the Celtics ended up with a record of 10-10 through the first 20 games of the season. In other words, they were a humongous disappointment to not only themselves but to those who believed they were the best team in the conference by default. While the Celtics are on a four-game win-streak, they are finally hitting their stride again. Now, they just need to live up to the hype of being ‘back.’
Are the Celtics officially back to where they were? It will probably take a few more games to honestly tell. The real question here though would be is second-year guard Jayson Tatum back? Remember, during last year’s playoff run, Tatum went on a tear as a rookie. With his dominant playoff stretch, Tatum entered into 2018 with high expectations personally. And like the Celtics, Tatum disappointed as well. There’s still a ton of basketball left to be played, and now the Celtics need to reverse roles with the targets on their back. Now, it’s revenge time.