Will the Boston Celtics have the same fate as the 2012 OKC Thunder

The Boston Celtics almost pulled off one of the most impressive championship runs of all time. Sweeping Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving. Outlasting a generational talent in Giannis Antetokounmpo and the reigning champion Bucks. Plus a thrilling 7 game series against Jimmy Butler’s Miami Heat. But the Celtics flaws were on full display throughout.

Until the finals, an infatuation with trouble worked for the Celtics. It almost seemed to define them. They overcame everything from bad habits to calls to split up their core. They fought through a disappointing start to the season, which left them out of the playoff race entirely as recently as January.

They came together when criticism surrounded their two stars and later surged to second in the Eastern Conference standings. They won three elimination games, including two on the road, to set up a matchup with Golden State. As Boston players and coaches pointed out several times, they always seemed to take the toughest road.

But the thing about the road the Celtics elected for is that it will catch up to you in the end. The turnovers, inexperience, low basketball IQ and the aura that is the Golden State Warriors suffocated the Celtics who were already running on fumes.

The Celtics had chances in the NBA Finals but failed to close out Game 4 and Game 5 before dropping Game 6 on their home court.

After falling behind by 22 points in the third quarter of the finale, they tried to save their season with one last, desperate charge, but couldn’t score enough to sustain the pressure on Golden State.

And knowing that their flaws were the reason between them joining the Celtics championship club, and now just another disappointing shortcoming has to be killing their psyche. Your legacy and defining moment was right there in your hands and you fumbled it just like the basketball in every big situation.

The initial response to settle the high emotions is “this core will be back.” After all Tatum is just 24 years old and Jaylen Brown just 25.

But let me remind you of another team who we all just assumed were scratching the surface with their finals loss; the OKC Thunder in 2012.

Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook were just 23 years old, with James Harden just 22 years old. The trio never played another game together. Durant and Westbrook were taken out by injuries some years. In others they were simply out played by teams who they should’ve beat.

The OKC run to the finals and the Celtics run to this years finals are quite similar too.

In 2012 the Thunder took out the reigning NBA champion Dallas Mavericks.

This season the Celtics took out the reigning NBA champion Milwaukee Bucks.

In 2012 the Thunder dismantled Kobe’s Lakers.

This season the Celtics put KD through his least efficient series in a decade.

In 2012 the Thunder defeated a more experienced, culture based team in the San Antonio Spurs.

This season the Celtics did the same to the Miami Heat.

The eerily similar playoff run, combined with the young talent and coach, the comparisons are all too obvious to make.

That OKC team reached the NBA Finals too soon. The Celtics core have been to 4 Conference finals already in their young careers, so they were ahead of that OKC team in terms of experience. But the Celtics should know better than anyone that just because you get that far doesn’t mean you’re destined to win.

Going forward Boston has to do a few things to ensure they don’t suffer the same fate as the 2012 Thunder.

First things first is keeping in place the core of Tatum, Brown and Smart. They have been the constants of 4 Eastern Conference Finals appearances. Don’t go breaking that up. Instead add to it.

At the top of the list is a pass first point guard who can get the team under control when they begin to unravel with turnovers. Boston lost this series mainly do to their turnovers. Their half court offense is non existent for long stretches of games. A true point guard will help solve those issues.

Secondly they need a more consistent 3 point threat.

The Celtics were all hot or ice cold from the perimeter all playoffs long. Either Horford, White and Smart hit 4 threes each, or the team was shooting 20%. The reason being none of them are elite, consistent shooters. Boston needs their version of Duncan Robinson or a Buddy Hield. Someone who’s only role is to hit 3’s and spread the defense for Tatum and Brown to attack.

It is small adjustments the Celtics have to make. But without them the chances of running through the Bucks, Heat, Nets and 76ers again are slim to none. Despite being young, the championship window for core groups are normally small. They have to capitalize on their youth combined with veteran presence before they face the same fate of the 2012 OKC Thunder.

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