The Boston Celtics garnered a great deal of hype, once again, before the start of their 2023-24 response campaign last season’s gut-wrenching playoff exit against a No. 8-seeded Miami Heat crew — and rightfully so.

Celtics president of basketball operations Brad Stevens and owner Wyc Grousbeck didn’t hold back, pulling off not one, but two offseason blockbusters to add Kristaps Porzingis and Jrue Holiday. That gave a Celtics team that fell just two wins shy of an NBA Finals title in 2022, a pair of established All-Stars with plenty to offer an already star-studded duo in Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown.

On paper, that’s elite. Holiday, one of the league’s top perimeter defenders with an ability to stump a plethora of opposing scoring options, and Porzingis, the former prodigal son of New York with an ability to score from anywhere. That’s a luxury that very few teams ever get the chance to assemble, much less a team that’s already built a contending core.

However, the hype doesn’t just loom in reality. In fact, the folks over at 2K Sports also have high expectations for the new-look Celtics, as evident in the release of “NBA 2K24.”

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While undergoing a simulation of the 2023-24 Celtics season in 2K’s “My GM” mode it’s clear: Boston is booked for the mountaintop, but not for long.

To keep this online experiment fair, no changes were made to the initial roster assembled for Boston’s Opening Night matchup with the New York Knicks. That means no succumbing to the temptations of fantasy-like trades or midseason free-agent signings. In other words, no treating the video game like a video game.

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So, the first order of business: Boston’s first 82.

Regular season summary
Boston finished at 58-24, earning the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference with the most wins in the NBA — the Los Angeles Clippers led the West at 54-28. The offense averaged 122.8 points per game while shooting 49.5% from the field. As expected, Tatum led the charge, averaging 29 points, 8.8 rebounds and four assists to finish fourth in the scoring lead. Brown followed with 23.5 points, then Porzingis with 21.8 in his debut run with Boston.

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Here’s how the supporting cast finished:

— Jrue Holiday (14.2 points, 3.9 rebounds, 6.1 assists, 48.6% FG)
— Derrick White (11.1 points, 3.1 rebounds, four assists, 44.7% FG)
— Dalano Banton (eight points, 2.9 rebounds, 2.9 assists, 43% FG)
— Svi Mykhailiuk (6.5 points, 1.7 rebounds, two assists, 35.7% FG); suffered a right ankle sprain at the end of the season and was sidelined for 2-4 weeks
— Payton Pritchard (5.7 points, 1.7 rebounds 2.1 assists, 39.2% FG)
— Sam Hauser (5.4 points, 1.7 rebounds, 0.6 assists, 43.7% FG)
— Al Horford (5.3 points, 5.6 rebounds, 4.2 assists, 52.9% FG)
— Lamar Stevens (3.3 points, 2.7 rebounds, 0.3 assists, 45.5% FG)
— Luke Kornet (three points, 3.4 rebounds, 0.4 assists, 58.3% FG)
— Oshae Brissett (did not play for Boston)
— Jordan Walsh (did not play for Boston)

Celtics head coach Joe Mazzulla earned Coach of the Year honors after his second year at the helm.

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Playoff summary
Boston played the Pistons (No. 8 seed) in the first round of the 2023-24 playoffs but suffered a major blow in Game 4 after taking a commanding 3-0 series lead over Detroit. Holiday suffered a broken right ankle that ended his postseason campaign and deflated the Celtics. The Pistons forced a Game 7, which Boston took, 127-110, courtesy of Tatum and Brown combining for 56 points while Banton stepped in with 17 in 30 minutes played.

That ended a rollercoaster opening round, placing Boston in Round 2 with the Cleveland Cavaliers.

There, the Celtics once again, went seven games coming out on top to set up yet another Boston-Miami conference finals battle for a shot at the NBA Finals — against the Los Angeles Clippers.

Boston came up short, again to the Heat, losing in six games. The C’s took home a gut-wrenching 125-124 loss in Game 6 as Jimmy Butler stole the show by scoring a game-leading 33 points. Tatum flopped with a 9-for-22 night, including a 3-for-13 performance from beyond the arc, totaling 26 points.

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Miami, for the second consecutive season, put Boston away in the playoffs.

Three surprise takeaways from simulation
1.) Banton, a first-year Celtic, blossomed as the reserve unit leader, working his way to the starting lineup toward the final few weeks of the regular season.
2.) Pritchard, fresh off signing a $30 million contract extension, didn’t live up to the dollar figure (at all). The undersized Oregon product wasn’t a difference maker off the bench, nor was he able to deliver any sort of impact in the playoffs.
3.) Horford, who took a backseat from the starting lineup, wasn’t able to fulfill a sixth starter role similar to Malcolm Brogdon’s in 2022. He still leaned to his new-found outside source of offense, shooting 47.8% from 3-point range while attempting 2.2 per game. But even that wasn’t enough.

At the end of the day, it’s just a video game, right?

Featured image via Winslow Townson/USA TODAY Sports Images