Celtics Continue to Display Signs of Greatness with Another Unlikely Victory

Great teams find a way to win regardless of the odds. 

If this is true, the Boston Celtics have strengthened their position as the best team in the NBA over the past 48 hours.

Celtics Continue to Display Signs of Greatness with Another Unlikely Victory
Celtics Continue to Display Signs of Greatness with Another Unlikely Victory

Thursday night at TD Garden, Boston defeated the reigning champions despite shooting 39.8 percent from the field and committing 17 turnovers, some of which nearly cost them the game in overtime. 

On Saturday night in Toronto, the Celtics once again defied the odds by prevailing despite being without Jayson Tatum and 60 percent of their starting lineup for the entire second half. 

Saturday's game was ruled out for Tatum due to a strained left wrist. Marcus Smart and Robert Williams were ruled out for the remainder of the game — and who knows for how much longer – at halftime.

Smart had a frightening injury with 9.7 seconds remaining in the first half, as he collected a pass from Al Horford on the left wing and attempted to turn the corner into the basket with his right foot. Smart's right ankle was severely twisted to the outside, causing the reigning Defensive Player of the Year to immediately fall to the ground in pain while yelling for assistance from the bench. 

Smart is unanimously considered as one of the league's hardest players. The fact that he fell in such a manner and promptly called for help indicated that he had sustained a legitimate injury. 

The guard was injured just a few minutes after Williams, the defensive backbone for Boston who was named to the All-Defensive First Team last season, left the game for good. At halftime, it was reported that Williams had a hyperextended left knee following a first-quarter play in which teammate Jaylen Brown collided with the outside of that knee. 

Given that Williams' left knee was operated on both last season and this offseason, Celtics Nation's reaction to the play and subsequent announcement was one of grave anxiety, given that Williams' knee had been operated on both last season and this offseason. Joe Mazzulla, however, stated after the game that the injury was "nothing significant" and that the Celtics were "merely being cautious" by holding him out of the second half. 

Smart's knee was not hurt during the play, and X-rays of his ankle came up negative. 

All of this is great news for Boston, but these absences, combined with Tatum's, left the Celtics severely undermanned as they navigated a road game against a desperate Toronto squad. Even worse for the C's was the fact that they went behind by as much as nine points in the third quarter while using their bench more frequently. 

Yet, similar to what they did Thursday against Golden State, the Celtics steadied the ship and eventually closed the gap to four points heading into the fourth quarter. Malcolm Brogdon contributed significantly to Boston's ability to stay close by scoring 10 points and playing nearly the entire quarter. Brogdon's performance paved the way for the Celtics' big fourth quarter, which ultimately resulted in their ninth consecutive victory. 

The Celtics began the fourth quarter with Derrick White, Payton Pritchard, Jaylen Brown, Grant Williams, and Blake Griffin on the court. Prior to that point, Pritchard and Griffin had a combined 0 points, 0 rebounds, and 2 assists, but they immediately boosted the team's momentum. 

At the 10:57 mark of the fourth quarter, Pritchard's 3-pointer gave the Celtics their first lead since the second quarter, with a score of 87-85. Pritchard assisted on Brown's 3-pointer to start the period, and then he sank his own to give the Celtics their first lead since the second quarter At the 10:37 mark, Griffin then blocked a shot by Chris Boucher before diving for the loose ball. 15 seconds later, Williams drained a 3-pointer from the right wing to give the C's a five-point advantage. 

That was all Boston needed to set the tone for the rest of the evening. Pritchard went on to hit three more crucial 3-pointers, and Al Horford made four clutch plays in the final ten seconds to seal the victory. 

Pascal Siakam attempted to take a game-tying or game-winning shot prior to the final buzzer, but Horford stole the ball from behind and prevented it. Horford gained possession of the ball, dribbled away from everyone on the court to run out the clock, and then continued to run. Horford ran directly off the floor, via the back corridor, and into Boston's locker room. 

He knew that he and the Celtics had just escaped with an improbable victory for the second time in less than 48 hours. This victory gave Boston the best record in the league, 35-12. 

After the last two games, this aphorism resounds loudly. Boston did exactly that against Golden State and Toronto, proving that great teams find a way to succeed regardless of the circumstances.

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