Celtics grade for season already in: A-plus
It’s all gravy from here.
The Boston Celtics punched a ticket to the Eastern Conference finals following a 115-105 victory in Monday’s Game 7 over the pesky Washington Wizards at an electric TD Garden.
Those who bleed green can breathe easy. The 2016-17 season is an inarguable success and every additional roar from the Garden crowd will be icing on the cake.
And amid the buzz of Wednesday’s date with LeBron, the long-awaited ping-pong balls have spoken.
Finally, No. 1.
It took long enough for the “Luck of the Irish” to pay dividends. There will be plenty of talk on whether this pick ends up in a package deal for an All-Star, but Danny Ainge should remain patient and continue to build if the goal is to create a perennial contender.
Welcome to Boston, Markelle Fultz.
But it’s tough to think too much about the months and years ahead considering the present opportunity.
Despite owning home-court advantage, the plucky Celtics are heavy underdogs against the defending champion Cleveland Cavaliers – and rightfully so.
LeBron James is a basketball unicorn. His blend of size, skill, durability and court awareness is unlike anything the sport has encountered.
He’s also the kind of guy who earlier this month playfully grabbed a courtside server’s beer during a rout of the Raptors, which is all fun and games, until The King gathered his merry band of lawyers when Great Lakes Brewing Company used the image of His Highness holding the beer on its Twitter account.
“This is about the last thing I’m trying to worry about right now, my agent and my legal team will take care of it, but yeah I know (Great Lakes) is trying to benefit off of me,” James told Cleveland.com. “And I heard they were the same company that made all those ‘Quitness’ beers, and now they’re trying to benefit off me this way? Yeah, it’s pretty funny.”
It’s a shame the greatest player of this generation is so insufferable.
Given the recent run of New England championships and the fan base’s unabashed tendency to gleefully rub it in the face of everyone on the wrong side of Connecticut, LeBron’s polarizing nature presents the extremely rare occasion when objective viewers will likely be rooting for Boston glory.
Will this help spur the Celtics to the NBA Finals? No, probably not.
The Wizards proved to be a tall task. Cleveland is Mount Everest of the East.
However, as Kevin Garnett once bellowed through championship confetti: “Anything is possible!”
Need evidence for KG’s claim? Well, Kelly Olynyk put the Celtics on his back with 26 points, five rebounds and four assists in 28 minutes to spearhead a Game 7 win. The 7-footer’s awkwardly effective performance ended Washington’s season and erased the haunting memories of John Wall’s Game 6 dagger as the Celtics solidified their status among the league’s best.
If that just happened, anything can – and every win from here is a cherry on top.
Jason Orfao can be reached at 594-1253, email@example.com or @Telegraph_Jason.