The Boston Celtics disappointing Game 7 loss to the Miami Heat sent them down a path they have become all too familiar with in recent years. With the loss, the C's were officially eliminated from the playoffs yet again, which is something this team has become quite accustomed to in recent seasons. Despite making it to the Eastern Conference Finals in five of the past seven seasons, the C's don't have a ring to show for it.
So once again, it's back to the drawing board for the Celtics, who will be trying to find a way to get themselves over the championship hump that has been eluding them for years now. They were supposed to do so this season after making it to the Finals last year and acquiring Malcolm Brogdon over the previous offseason, but their final destination resulted in them coming up just short again.
While nearly pulling off a historic 3-0 series rally against the Heat is nice, the Celtics find themselves at a crossroads. They have the talent to win a title, but to this point, they continue to throw away great opportunities to do so in the postseason. At some point, changes need to be made, which is why this needs to be a rather explosive offseason in Boston.
It's time for the Celtics to change things up
By the end of their series against the Heat, it looked like the Celtics had simply run out of gas. Derrick White's last-second buzzer-beater in Game 6 saved them momentarily, but with Jayson Tatum suffering an ankle injury seconds into the game, Malcolm Brogdon dealing with a pretty significant arm injury, and Robert Williams III reportedly throwing up during the game, Boston just couldn't get anything going in Game 7.
Of course, those aren't excuses, because the Celtics put themselves in this poor situation. They shouldn't have needed six games to beat the Atlanta Hawks in the first round of the playoffs. They shouldn't have needed seven games to beat the Philadelphia 76ers in the Eastern Conference semifinals. And they should have never fallen behind 3-0 in the ECF against the Heat.
This is what happens when you play with your food, and the Celtics do this more than any other team in the NBA. This also isn't the first time they have pulled this stunt either. Going to seven games against the Heat and Milwaukee Bucks killed the C's in the Finals against the Golden State Warriors, and they found themselves in a similar predicament in the 2020 NBA bubble, where they allowed the Toronto Raptors to push them to seven games in the semis before losing to the Heat again in the ECF, this time in six games.
All these losses have come with the same core group of players for the most part. Tatum, Williams, Jaylen Brown, and Marcus Smart have been with the team in all three of these scenarios, and the 2022 and 2023 postseason runs were made with virtually the same team. At some point, the organization needs to take note of the results they keep falling victim to.
What changes should be made to overcome these struggles? The two most obvious ones involve moving on from Brown or Smart, or firing first-year head coach Joe Mazzulla, who had a rather rocky rookie season with the team. While any other team would seemingly be in a rush to try to switch something up, though, the overarching consensus seems to be that this team can still win a title.
Who knows; maybe they can win a title. But the Celtics have consistently shown us who they are over the past few seasons. Tatum isn't the late-game killer he wants to be in the postseason; Brown isn't the superstar that can lead the offense when he needs to against a suffocating defense; Smart isn't consistent enough to have the desired impact over a seven-game series.
Boston finally broke through to make it to the Finals last year, meaning that anything less than a championship this season would be a failure. And sure enough, they once again fell apart in the playoffs in basically the same way we have seen them do so for the past seven years. The offense gets stagnant and turns the ball over like crazy, and when their shots aren't falling, their defensive intensity suffers.
At some point, enough is enough. Sweeping changes need to be made to this team in an effort to get them a title, because this current squad simply does not have what it takes. It doesn't matter what their potential is if they consistently fail to reach it. The Celtics have shown us who they are time and again, and it's time to see if the front office has finally noticed and decides to make the changes necessary to put this team in the best position to raise Banner 18 next year.