Celtics earn rapid playoff payoff in reaching Eastern Conference finals

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Limited Eric Lindros Jersey The payoff starts now, in the wake of a grueling second-round series. The Celtics are in the conference finals, one of the NBA’s last four standing. With that, the franchise has completed an overhaul that is still in its early stages.

They did so while employing a cast assembled with remarkable precision in the wake of the splitting of the Kevin Garnett-Paul Pierce mini-dynasty in 2013, a cast that showed its versatility and promise in downing the Wizards. The Celtics relied on their star guard, Isaiah Thomas, who recovered from a slow start to finish with 29 points and 12 assists with just two turnovers.

Thomas, remember, was acquired from the Suns at the trade deadline in 2015 for a pittance: a draft pick and Marcus Thornton. The deal will go down among the major heists for a franchise built on running transactional rings around unsuspecting front-office honchos. Thomas has quickly become the anchor of this franchise, and that trade was team president Danny Ainge at his most Auerbach-ian.

The two-time reigning Defensive Player of the Year, Leonard averaged a career-high 25.5 points to go along with 5.8 rebounds and 3.5 assists during the regular season and upped those figures to 27.8, 7.7 and 4.7 in the postseason. He went down in the fourth quarter of the Spurs’ 110-107 Game 5 win at home against Houston. He didn’t play at all in Game 6, but his teammates more than held down the fort, besting the Rockets by 39 to advance to the conference finals.

The Spurs are already without veteran point guard Tony Parker. He suffered a ruptured left quadriceps tendon, which required season-ending surgery, in Game 2 against Houston.

San Antonio won two of its three meetings with Golden State during the regular season. The Warriors prevailed 110-98 at home in the last contest between the teams.

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