The Boston Celtics have their first-round date secured with the Miami Heat, which will mark the start of a long-awaited return to the playoffs for the NBA’s regular-season wins leader (64).

Obviously, there are no guarantees in the playoffs. It’s a clean slate, a new season, and everyone has a chance. But not everyone has performed up to the standard of the Celtics. Boston only endured consecutive defeats twice and won its first 20 straight at home, proving to be in a league of its own.

Nearly everyone on the roster pitched in. From the starters to the secondary unit to the team’s trade deadline acquisitions, depth always favored the Celtics. It didn’t matter what the injury report read. The team refused to let anything derail its season, though there are plenty of other reasons why this year is the year.

Here are three:

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1. Jayson Tatum’s, Jaylen Brown’s willingness to sacrifice
From Tatum’s All-Star MVP in Utah to Brown’s career-best campaign, all the talk surrounding the 2022-23 Celtics began with their star duo. But those credits didn’t transfer in the playoffs.

No, Boston didn’t need to split the Jays. However, a change of some sort was necessary. And aside from the departures of Marcus Smart, Malcolm Brogdon, and Robert Williams III, among others, it all began up top. Tatum and Brown had to invest in a new identity that was beneficial for the team, its support cast, and the primary goal: a championship.

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That meant no career-high focus. Records weren’t chased. They were naturally reached by the team’s cohesive unit, not anyone individually. Boston’s offense wasn’t just dominant. It was historic, recording a 1.22-point scoring rate per possession — the best in NBA history. The Celtics also scored 150-plus points on six occasions, which no other team has ever done. Yet, what should be highlighted the most was the team’s record-setting fewest turnovers (11.3).

None of that would’ve been possible had the team not bought in.

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“I think everybody’s just growing, trying to get better each and every day,” White told reporters during Tuesday’s practice, per CLNS Media. “Everybody has the right mindset and I’m looking forward to this.”

2. Kristaps Porzingis — the best No. 3 on any NBA roster
After years of swinging and missing, Boston’s front office nailed it and found the perfect third star to complement Tatum and Brown.

Porzingis is everything Celtics president of basketball operations Brad Stevens could’ve imagined and much more. The 28-year-old moved on from a downtrodden Washington Wizards team with no future, put aside the worries of divvying up offensive possessions and naturally found success on both ends of the floor without stepping on anyone’s toes. While limited to 57 games due to injury-concerned management, Porzingis remained elite.

He averaged 20.1 points, serving as Boston’s third 20-plus-point scorer, shooting a career-high in two-point range (60.6%) and from the field (51.6%). Porzingis also led the team in rebounds (7.2) and blocks (1.9), giving the Celtics a two-way threat with an ability to score from nearly anywhere. The injury and roster fit boxes were crossed out, leaving Porzingis’ inexperience playing past the first round of the playoffs as the only potential concern left.

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“I haven’t experienced (the Celtics-Heat rivalry) you know, but I know that there’s some history and it’s the playoffs at the end,” Porzingis told reporters during Saturday’s practice, per CLNS Media. “Everybody’s excited and as I said, we just look forward to this matchup.”

Porzingis averaged 20.3 points with 7.3 rebounds and shot over 50% from the field across Boston’s three regular-season matchups with Miami.

Adding an element such as Porzingis proved to be the ultimate game-changer for the Celtics. Therefore, nothing suggests that’ll change — health pending.

3. The Celtics have welcomed new perspectives, from the roster to the team’s head coach
Boston isn’t just a different team performance-wise. The Celtics spent an 82-game regular season journey readjusting their way of thinking — a nod to head coach Joe Mazulla’s influence in Year 2 on the job.

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“It’s been a really open-minded group toward finding ways to constantly grow as a team and get better,” Mazzulla said ahead of Boston’s final regular season matchup with the Knicks. “And learn from the process and not necessarily from the result. So I’m grateful for that.”

Tasked with coaching the newest Celtics “super-team,” Mazzulla didn’t punt on an opportunity to treat any experience as a learning lesson, whether it came from a loss or while watching the Miami Dolphins defense. Mazzulla strongly believes applicable knowledge can come from any street corner, emphasizing and spreading that frame of mind throughout the locker room.

In response, the Celtics have entrusted Mazzulla’s vision and off-the-court work that’s always aimed at improving the team.

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Jrue Holiday, debuting in Boston, averaged 10 shot attempts a night — his fewest since his rookie season in 2009-10. Yet, the 33-year-old still led the Celtics in 3-point shooting (42.9%), allowing Holiday to lead the league in outside shooting from the corner.

Having the freedom of being entrusted by the organization paid dividends for Mazzulla and the Celtics throughout the regular season. Witnessing that unfold since the team re-took possession of the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference on Nov. 14, and not letting go ever since proves Boston intends to roll into the playoffs with a different energy.

Sometimes that’s all it takes to hoist a Larry O’Brien Trophy.

Featured image via Jonathan Hui/USA TODAY Sports Images