To see a team play through a regular season without its best player is not a rarity in today's NBA.
It actually happens often. But for Brad Stevens -- a coach who had to endure the loss of not one but two of his best players and finish the year with the second-best record in the east -- the 2017-18 season is a revelation.
From losing Gordon Hayward in game one to seeing his leader in Kyrie Irving sidelined for 22 games, Stevens has had to pick up the pieces and put together a winning team.
In a tight conference where dropping a handful of games often leads to slippage in the standings, the Celtics have held their ground -- securing the No. 2 seed while defeating some of the hottest teams around. James Holas aka 'Snottie Drippen' of Basketball Breakdown, who recently joined Anna Horford's Horford Happy Hour podcast, couldn't wrap his head around the fact the injury-plagued Celtics continued to stack up wins while simultaneously losing players from the roster.
"I am surprised because after every injury I thought, 'okay, this is where things fall apart, and then okay, this is where things fall apart' and then Kyrie's been out and they're still playing well," Holas explained. "Greg Monroe had an interview the other night and he was asked, 'Are you surprised?' and he said, 'No, I'm not surprised by anything in Boston' and that's where I'm at now."It was a wild but successful month of March for the Celtics. Boston kicked things off with a big win against the Rockets and then the health of the team diminished by the week after March 11 against the Pacers. The news of Marcus Smart (hand) was followed by backup big man Daniel Theis (meniscus) ruled out for the season, then came Irving (initially 3-6 weeks) with guys like Marcus Morris, Al Horford and Terry Rozier missing games here and there via illness and ankle sprains.
However, the Celtics didn't waver -- they steamrolled through the month strong with a 10-3 record, including a four-game sweep out west and wins against elite teams such as the Thunder, Trail Blazers, and Raptors.
Later came the bombshell: Irving out for the year.
And without him, the Celtics enter this year's playoffs as not your typical No. 2 seed but still considered a dark horse in the Eastern Conference -- a team that will not be taken lightly but are clearly more vulnerable than they were in the beginning of March. Still, Brad Stevens' candidacy for Coach of the Year is stronger than it's ever been.
He's been the common denominator behind 54 regular season wins who is looking to ride the momentum of an incredible campaign into the postseason.
"The fact that there is anyone else in the running for coach of the year is laughable to me," Holas stated. "No other coach has had to deal with the amount of injuries, [he has] a rookie not just playing big minutes, but huge minutes and then a second-year guy also playing big minutes. No other coach in the discussion has had to deal with any of that stuff and Brad Stevens just keeps rolling."
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