All Signs Point to Celtics Gearing Up for Second Straight Finals Run


Lucas Parent, Lion's Roar Staff

     Despite a facial injury to Jaylen Brown, the Celtics are readying to advance to the NBA Finals yet again. 

     Prior to the All-Star break, the trade deadline saw the Celtics acquire Mike Muscala from the Oklahoma City Thunder for the low price of Justin Jackson and a pair of second-round picks. After losing out on Jakob Poeltl, it was clear that Brad Stevens and the Celtics’ front office still yearned for a bench center to push the Celtics “over the top.” For Boston, Mike Muscala was that guy. Muscala saw limited minutes as one of the oldest players on Oklahoma City’s roster, averaging only 14.5 through 43 games. However, Muscala makes the most of his minutes when they become available. In LeBron James’ record-setting game on February 7th, Muscala saw the court for 17 and a third minutes, and scored 16 points, effectively spoiling “The King”’s night. Muscala has seen the court in three games for Boston, scoring double-digits and accumulating multiple three-pointers in all three. It may be a fair assumption to say the Celtics found a gem in Muscala.

     The Celtics’ Finals chances will rely heavily on Jayson Tatum this season. Tatum is currently in MVP talks, putting up 30.6 points and 8.6 rebounds per contest. Over the weekend, Tatum made all-star game history, Starting for Team Giannis, Tatum scored 55 points, an all-star game record, and became one of two players in history to score ten threes in the famed game (Stephen Curry made 16 last season). Fans of the Celtics will hope Tatum can resume this level of play should the team make the NBA Finals. Last season in the Finals, Tatum had several rough outings as the Warriors took advantage. Guarded primarily by Andrew Wiggins, Tatum shot under 40% from the field four times in six games, including an abysmal 17.6% in game one and 33.3% in a must-win game six. Additionally, Tatum was responsible for four or more turnovers in over half of last season’s NBA Finals games.

     Jaylen Brown, however, was a bright spot for the Celtics in last year’s Finals. Being guarded by former Defensive Player of the Year Draymond Green, Brown still managed to score 17 or more points in every game. In the Celtics’ final win, game three, which put the series up 2-1 in Boston’s favor, Brown scored 27 points on 9/16 shooting and gathered nine rebounds. Brown’s success has carried into his play this season, as the Cal product is having a career season. Brown is currently averaging a career-high 26.5 points and seven rebounds per game while shooting a career-high 48.7% from the field. Brown was injured by Tatum in a game prior to the All-Star break but is expected to return soon. The Celtics return to action on February 23rd against the Indiana Pacers. Should Brown remain out the C’s return to action Saturday against the Philadelphia 76ers. 

     Additionally, the Celtics removed the interim label from coach Joe Mazzulla, making him the head coach. Former coach Ime Udoka, who is currently serving a suspension for a workplace violation, is expected to garner interest from other teams across the association. Mazzulla is a Rhode Island product, formerly playing at Bishop Hendricken.