Boston Celtics must seize NBA championship opportunity after dispatching Milwaukee Bucks

This group of Boston Celtics may have other chances to get to the NBA Finals.

They are young and talented with an impressive first-year coach, front-office expertise and a supportive ownership group.

But no such things are promised. Injuries, trades and other quality teams can get in the way.

When there’s a moment, teams need to take advantage. That moment has arrived for Boston.

The Celtics have a terrific opportunity to not only get back to the NBA Finals for the first time since 2010 but win their first championship since 2008 – and again overtake the Los Angeles Lakers for most titles with their 18th.

Boston knocked off the defending champion Milwaukee Bucks, 109-81, in Game 7 on their Eastern Conference finals series on Sunday and will play the Miami Heat in the conference finals.

Game 1 is Tuesday in Miami (8:30 p.m. ET, ESPN).

It was an impressive series victory. Trailing 3-2, Boston needed to win Game 6 on the road. They did that and then hammered the Bucks at home in the series finale.

It was a sign of a determined team, and the Celtics have what it takes.

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The Celtics’ Marcus Smart (36) and Payton Pritchard celebrate after a three-point basket against the Bucks during Game 7.

“This is the group that I feel like is poised enough to get it done,” Celtics star Jaylen Brown said. “I feel like everything we’ve overcome – all these battles and challenges and adversity that we’ve been through this season as well as the challenge that we just had overcoming the defending champs – I feel we are prepared. I think that we’re ready to take that next step. We’ve just got to go out and take it.”

Scoring isn’t a problem with Brown, Jayson Tatum, Marcus Smart, Al Horford and Grant Williams.

Brown, who averages 22.2 in this season’s playoffs, pointed out the Celtics win in a multitude of ways. Tatum scored 46 points in Game 6, Horford 30 points in Game 4 and Williams 27 points in Game 7. Tatum will be the best offensive player on the court in the Miami series and he has shown growth in his game – the ability to take over as he did in Game 6 and the patience not to force offense as he did in Game 7 even with 23 points on just 14 shots.

They are the best defensive team in the league with the defensive player of the year in Smart. From Jan. 1 through the end of the regular season, the Celtics had the best record in the East, the second-best offense, No. 1 defense and best net-rating, outscoring opponents by 12.7 points per 100 possessions.

Even though Brown is 25 years old, Tatum 24 and Smart 28, they have ample playoff experience. This is Brown’s fourth conference finals in his six seasons, Tatum’s third in five seasons and Smart’s four conference finals appearance. And Al Horford has been around, getting ready for his fourth conference finals.

The Celtics have been building for this moment for years with this group. LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers were in the way in 2017 and 2018 when the Celtics lost in the conference finals, and the Miami Heat took care of the Celtics in the bubble conference finals in 2020.

Former president of basketball operations Danny Ainge put this in motion by drafting Smart, Brown, Tatum, Grant Williams and Robert Williams. Former Celtics coach Brad Stevens took over for Ainge and made his mark quickly, trading for Al Horford and hiring Ime Udoka as his replacement. Udoka turned a team that started 18-21 this season into a title contender.

The Celtics have lost to the best and now they just beat the best. It’s time the Celtics apply all the lessons from games lost and won and realize the expectations that have been rising.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: NBA playoffs: Boston Celtics’ moment for another title has arrived