WALTHAM, Mass. — Fewer teams operate with a bigger chip on their shoulders than the Boston Celtics.
And ironically enough, that chip grows with every game they win.
The Celtics’ latest victory over the Washington Wizards on Monday night earned them a date with the Cleveland Cavaliers in the NBA’s Eastern Conference finals. Boston enters with home court advantage as the No. 1 seed, but the defending champion Cavs are viewed as heavy favorites.
In short: The C’s have the perfect reason to feel they’re once again being overlooked.
“The first couple rounds, they didn’t think we were going to get past that,” point guard Isaiah Thomas said Tuesday at the team’s practice facility. “So, I’m not even worried about what others are thinking. … Everybody’s counting us out, so it’s special for us.”
The 5-foot-9 Thomas has been known to adopt the underdog role, but he’s far from the only Celtic who believes this team doesn’t get its fair shake in the national spotlight.
“People have been saying stuff about us since the first playoff (series),” guard Avery Bradley said. “We were down 0-2 (to the Chicago Bulls) and you heard people talking stuff about us. But it’s part of the game; we understand that.”
Boston indeed was on the ropes in its first-round series against the Bulls, dropping the first two games at home before rallying to win four straight. And even if the C’s were a slight favorite to win their second-round series against the Wizards, don’t tell that to this group.
“Did you hear anybody pick us to win last series, either?” forward Jae Crowder said in response to pundits picking Cleveland in this series. “What about the one before that?”
The Celtics won’t have to trick themselves into being the underdog against Cleveland. LeBron James and Co. are a perfect 8-0 this postseason and are coming off nine days rest. They look like a well-oiled machine poised to roll to its third straight NBA Finals appearance, and Boston even stretching this series to six or seven games would be considered an upset.
To put it another way, the Celtics are right where they want to be.
“This team believes we have a chance, and we know we have a chance,” Thomas added. “We’re the No. 1 seed for a reason.”
Thumbnail photo via David Butler II/USA TODAY Sports Images