2018-19 Season Preview: Boston Celtics

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Not only will Irving and Hayward be able to have off-nights for their health, but veteran big man Al Horford should have the luxury of some rest as well.

Philadelphia was without two key contributors from its playoff run last season, as shooting guard Marco Belinelli and forward Ersan Ilyasova - two shooters who each could provide 25 minutes off the bench - both signed elsewhere. The contending-for-a-championship part, however, never felt like it was truly in front of him.

"It's unique, " said Stevens before his team practice at the Auerbach Arena Sunday afternoon. "They set a great example for us as we move into a new year".

With LeBron James gone off to Hollywood, the gates through the Eastern Conference to the NBA Finals have been unlocked and no team in the conference seems more ready to step through them than the Celtics.

"The Sixers are a tremendous basketball team, " said Gordon Hayward. "I think we're a little bit better, which is good".

Just as they did in the conference semi-finals previous year, Boston held firm against the young Philadelphia 76ers before pushing them aside with a dominant second half.

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The Celtics won three out of four regular season matchups against the 76ers a season ago.

Though Redick obviously played extremely well last season, finishing out the year second on the team in scoring, his defense, or lack thereof, was a clear deficiency on otherwise fairly formidable unit. However, the Boston roster that defeated the Sixers past year was without Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward, who are now healthy as the Celtics have emerged - with the help of LeBron James heading to Los Angeles - as the clear-cut Eastern Conference playoffs. The chance to be playing - and winning - in June is being embraced.

While it might be frustrating at times, expect Stevens to go the conservative route with both players. Now we have to actually go out and play, and show it. "If you're down, and you're constantly sitting there or lying in bed, lying in the hospital bed thinking, 'Why am I not out there, I should be out there, ' replaying different things in your head". Morris notched a double-double, while point guard Terry Rozier tallied 11 points on 5-of-10 shooting.

The Celtics and 76ers finished the 2017-18 regular season as the second and third seeds in the East with 55 and 52 wins, respectively. "We've got to figure ourselves out". Everybody recognizes that. Everybody knows it.

Oklahoma City was bounced out of the postseason last summer in the first round in a six-game series with the Utah Jazz. We've got to (keep getting) better. It's fun. They compete every day and make you work every possession. "We had a lot of times when Boston was driving to the paint and I wasn't in there or I was stuck in the corner because I wasn't allowed to help". When you play for the Celtics, that expectation (to win a title) is always kind of there from everyone.