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Chris Broussard says Celtics could not win championship without Kyrie Irving

The Boston Celtics came within one game of making the NBA Finals last season. All Brad Stevens’ injury-depleted team needed to do was protect home court at T.D. Garden, where it had previously gone undefeated in the playoffs.

One problem: LeBron James stood in the way, playing Celtics spoiler yet again by scoring 35 points, grabbing 15 rebounds, and dishing out nine assists on 12-of-24 shooting in the Cleveland Cavaliers 87-79 victory in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals.

No matter, though. It’s not like Boston, without Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward, was ever supposed to advance as far as it did in last year’s playoffs.

Fully healthy and with James taking his talents to the Los Angeles Lakers, the Celtics would undoubtedly be overwhelming Eastern Conference favorites in 2018-19.

But this season has played out differently than many anticipated, with Boston’s talent failing to coalesce into a whole greater than the sum of its parts, as Brad Stevens’ team sits at fifth in the East with 26 games left to play.

Are hopes of the Celtics winning the East dead? No way, but Saturday’s injury to Kyrie Irving casts further doubt on those aspirations, as Chris Broussard explained on FOX Sports’ “Undisputed” Monday morning.

Irving suffered a sprained right knee in his team’s embarrassing home loss to the Los Angeles Clippers at T.D. Garden. Though he’s day-to-day, Irving is still set to miss Tuesday’s game against the rebuilt Philadelphia 76ers, which has major playoff implications given only a game separates the teams in the standings.

To be clear, nobody expects Boston to go anywhere meaningful in the playoffs should Irving’s injury affect him going forward.

The Sixers look like juggernauts with Tobias Harris in the lineup, the Toronto Raptors just acquired Marc Gasol, and the league-leading Milwaukee Bucks also got even better at the trade deadline by adding Nikola Mirotic.

Fully healthy, it’s fair to submit that the Celtics are now the fourth-best team in the East.

But if Irving isn’t 100 percent? Boston truly has no chance.