Healthy Celtics set to make noise in NBA East­ern Con­fer­ence

Manila Times - - Sports -

LOS AN­GE­LES: The Bos­ton Celtics -- with Kyrie Irv­ing and Gor­don Hay­ward back from in­jury and young­sters Jaylen Brown and Jayson Ta­tum maturing all the time -are tipped for big things in an NBA East­ern Con­fer­ence now de­void of LeBron James.

James and the Cava­liers de­nied the in­jury-hit Celtics in game seven of the East­ern Con­fer­ence fi­nals last sea­son, but a full-strength Bos­ton squad has caught the at­ten­tion of many -- in­clud­ing Klay Thomp­son of the reign­ing NBA cham­pion Golden State War­riors.

“I like the team out East in Bos­ton,” Thomp­son said in pre-sea­son mus­ings on who might pose the big­gest threat to a War­riors ti­tle three-peat. “I think that they are go­ing to be a team to reckon with.” Celtics guard Irv­ing thinks so, too. “Can we beat Golden State in a se­v­engame se­ries? Yes,” says Irv­ing. “Be­cause of who we have and what we’re es­tab­lish­ing here, not just for this sea­son but hope­fully for the next few years -- some­thing that’s pretty spe­cial.”

Irv­ing missed the last 15 games of the reg­u­lar sea­son and the play­offs, but the for­mer Cava­liers star says now that he’s healthy, his prior ex­pe­ri­ence against the War­riors could help put the Celtics over the top if they come up against the reign­ing champs.

He ad­mits that “the whole league is on no­tice” when it comes to the War­riors’ aim of achiev­ing a fourth ti­tle in five years.

“But there’s one fac­tor that they’re aware of and I’m aware of and that’s that I’ve seen them up close. I know what it takes.”

As the sea­son ap­proached, Irv­ing in­di­cated he didn’t want his im­pend­ing free agency in 2019 to de­tract from the Celtics’ more im­me­di­ate goals.

“I be­lieve Bos­ton is the place for me,” he said. “I’m look­ing for­ward to the chal­lenge this year.”

Aid­ing that chal­lenge will be Hay­ward, who missed 81 games af­ter fright­en­ing an­kle and leg in­juries in last year’s sea­sonopener.

“It’s scary to think about some of the op­por­tu­ni­ties we’re go­ing to have go­ing for­ward,” Irv­ing said.

Hay­ward says last sea­son’s ad­ver­sity strength­ened the Celtics, with Ta­tum, Brown and Terry Rozier ris­ing to the oc­ca­sion.

“There’s go­ing to be sit­u­a­tions where some­body is go­ing to get hurt again, some­body’s go­ing to be sick, some­body’s go­ing to be hav­ing a bad game as it hap­pens ev­ery year for ev­ery team,” he said. “To have so many guys that we can rely on, that can go get a bucket, that can go get a big- time stop -- that’s huge for us as a team.”

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