INDIANAPOLIS -- If the Boston Celtics had their way, this past regular season would be like those amnesia-themed soap opera storylines that just get dreamed away, as if they never happened.
Pegged to finish first in the Eastern Conference, the Celtics had to finish the season strong just to get home court in the first round.
The once-stout defense that returned all the core players from last season’s squad got progressively worse as the season went on, only to level out in the final month or so.
Nope. That didn’t happen either.
Players struggled to adapt to different roles instead of just rolling along and racking up a ton of wins.
No idea where that came from.
Boston’s success in the postseason isn’t as much about flipping a switch, but instead starting anew without paying any attention to the issues and problems that resulted in a disappointing regular season.
The Celtics hope to keep the dream alive Friday night in Game 3 of their best-of-seven series with the Indiana Pacers, a series in which Boston has jumped out to a 2-0 series lead.
After a regular season to forget, the Celtics have done their part to keep the past in the past with a clear and undeniable focus on the playoffs -- a process that began well before the postseason.
“In a lot of ways it was not an easy year,” said Celtics head coach Brad Stevens. “And yet we still managed to be a reasonable team that achieved some things.”
Kyrie Irving is an elite scorer, and has been ever since he came into the league.
But this season, he showed the ability to expand his game in ways few envisioned, especially on defense.
He will never be confused with being a defensive stopper, but there’s no question Irving is in a better place at that end of the floor than we saw last season or prior to that in Cleveland.
Irving had a defensive rating of 74.2 in Boston’s Game 1 win over the Pacers, which was tops among all guards who played at least 20 minutes.
For most of this season, he has ranked among the team leaders in charges taken as well as deflections.
Gordon Hayward has not only embraced his "sixth man" role on the team but also has steadily distanced himself from that gruesome ankle injury suffered in 2017, to the point where all the talk about him focuses on his play and not the injury.
Boston’s bench has seen players come and go this season into and out of the starting lineup, but the group as a whole had been strong most of the season.
The Celtics’ second unit allowed the fewest bench points per game (34.2) in the NBA while being ranked ninth in bench scoring (39.3 points per game).
In the playoffs, when rotations are shortened and the impact of the bench is lessened, we have seen a precipitous dip, as the numbers for Boston’s bench are down across the board.
But that doesn’t diminish the impact that players off the bench like Gordon Hayward and Terry Rozier and Marcus Morris have meant to this series.
It was Morris’ 20-point performance in Game 1 that proved critical to Boston’s 84-74 win.
And it was solid play by Terry Rozier and Gordon Hayward in the second half of Boston’s Game 2 win that helped Boston rally for a 99-91 win.
Collectively, it has led to the Celtics being where they thought they would be in this first-round series, up two-zip heading into Game 3 on the road.
“Not what we had hoped, not what the outside had hoped but I think that (end of the regular season) gave us a reset,” Stevens said. “I think our guys are all excited about that.”
Because more than anything, Boston’s reset gives this team a chance to make the kind of playoff run that won’t be forgotten anytime soon.
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