Watching the Celtics in January and February, one would think that the possibilities for this team were endless. A third place finish in the Eastern Conference? A SECOND place finish in the Eastern Conference? A trip to the Eastern Conference Finals against LeBron and the Cleveland Cavaliers? A date with the Golden State Warriors in the NBA Finals? On Thursday night all those hopes and dreams were put into a box along with the rest of the memories from the 2015-16 Celtics season and stored away for the summer.
The Celtics couldn’t get passed the Atlanta Hawks in Game 6 of their first round match-up, but really the series was lost in Game 5 after the Hawks figured out how to stop the Celtics’ superstar point guard, Isaiah Thomas.
Atlanta doubled Thomas and constantly made things difficult for him as Jonas Jerebko, Jae Crowder, and Boston’s other role players failed to hit open shots and pick up the slack. Thomas finished the game with only seven points and a mild ankle sprain. Atlanta would employ the same tactics in Game 6 and the Celtics did not respond.
Evan Turner finished Game 6 with only eight points on 4-17 shooting while Jae Crowder continued to miss some crucial buckets. The TD Garden crowd, which was electric in Game 4, was never able to be a factor in the game.
While the Celtics were able to win two games at home thanks to Isaiah Thomas’ 42 points in Game 3 and the overtime victory in Game 4, the series would be an uphill battle for Boston after the loss of Avery Bradley in Game 1.
The Celtics undoubtedly missed Bradley on the offensive end as a second scoring option, but his presence was even more debatably missed on the defensive end guarding the likes of Jeff Teague, Kent Bazemore, and (I can’t believe I’m actually going to write this) Mike Scott. They torched the Celtics from behind the three-point line in the second half of Game 5.
I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to go to Game 4 at the TD Garden, and as I was walking down the spiraling steps from the balcony section with throngs of Celtics fans after the game, I truly believed the Celtics still had chance to take the series. I was naive to think the Hawks wouldn’t adjust.
So, as of Thursday night the Celtics season has come to a conclusion. During the season we made a commitment to collecting the game night posters from each Celtics game we attended. After the game we would put the poster up on the wall by our bathroom sink. This was the final tally for the season:
Now attention for the Celtics shifts to the NBA Draft Lottery on May 17th. Isaiah Thomas will represent the Celtics that night as Boston prays their 15.6% chance (via the Nets pick) is enough to get them the first pick in this year’s NBA Draft.