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Sad news: he is gone….

Despite all of the ups and downs so far—the encouraging wins and baffling defeats, Kyrie Irving’s brilliant shot-making, Terry Rozier’s worst World B. Free agency, rumors, meetings, and the overall this-wasn’t-supposed-to-be-so-difficult atmosphere — I’ve never strayed from one belief about the Celtics:

No matter how much drama occurred along the way, whether self-inflicted or not, if they remained healthy throughout the playoffs, they would win the Eastern Conference championship.

So here we are, 60 games and 37 victories into the season, and I’m definitely wavering, guy. If the Celtics’ successes are to equal the sum of their individual talents, they are already well past due to getting their act together. Perhaps this — mercurial, talented, and occasionally lackadaisical but constantly annoying in their underachievement — is simply who

The Celtics began the season with high expectations, going 10-10 in their first 20 games. That was surprising, but understandable. Irving was recovering from a knee ailment, Gordon Hayward from a horrific leg injury, and they had to combine their talents with a group of veterans and young players who had progressed to Game 7 of the Eastern Conference finals without them.

We should have expected it to take time, especially because it was evident that Hayward’s reemergence would be a lengthy process.

However, since then, they have followed a predictable and unpleasant pattern. They’ll play incredibly well for extended stretches, possibly beat a very good team or two, and convince you that they’re finally living.

Up to their billing. Then, inevitably, they’ll lose a game in such an awful way that you forget about all of the excellent work that came before.

The most glaring example? From January 16 to February 5, they won 10 of 11 games, sandwiching a pair of five-game winning streaks between a hard-fought and well-played four-point loss to the Warriors. They’d arrived. This is the team we expected to see. Surely, they would now catapult themselves toward, and possibly past, the Bucks and Raptors at the top of the Eastern Conference. They had figured it out and discovered their identity. Look out, NBA; the Celtics have awoken.

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