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Haliburton injury is the latest clearing in Celtics' playoff path

Watch your step, Luka Doncic. Chew your food, Anthony Edwards. Don’t stray too close to the edge of the earth, Kyrie Irving.

At least one of you presumably has a date with the Celtics in the NBA Finals, and we’d hate to see you fall out a window or get carried away by a hungry eagle.

To say the Celtics’ path to the Finals has been strewn with bodies is no figure of speech. They have zero reason to apologize and it’s not like they choose their opponents, but something about facing them has led to rival stars experiencing that kind of unfortunate accidents that led The Godfather’s Don Vito Corleone to declare himself “a superstitious man.”

The Celtics beat the Heat in the first round without annual postseason tormentor Jimmy Butler. By the time they dispatched the Cavaliers in the conference semifinals, Donovan Mitchell had been reduced to modeling Sam Cassell-style glasses on the sidelines. And now comes their latest good fortune via a rival’s misfortune.

During Thursday’s Game 2 blowout of the Pacers in the Eastern Conference Finals, Indiana’s All-NBA guard, Tyrese Haliburton, departed with a hamstring strain. A similar injury cost him multiple weeks in January, as well as his effectiveness for most of the second half of the season.

With Haliburton in the lineup, Indy stood no better than a remote chance of upsetting the Celtics, but without him, the Pacers probably shouldn’t plan on setting foot in Boston again this spring.

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That’s just how it’s been for the Celtics, who have suffered their share of heartbreaking losses during this run of five conference finals in seven years, none bigger than their Finals defeat to Steph Curry and the Warriors in 2022.

Perhaps the basketball gods are finally clearing a path, since this was supposed to be the season of their coronation anyway. Or maybe they’re just benefiting from blowing away the field during the regular season, thus allowing for virtually the entire roster to be healthy and unstressed, save for oft-injured big man Kristaps Porzingis (calf), who now has the luxury of convalescing until the Finals.

Not many teams could tell their third-best player to take his time coming back in the playoffs, but the Celtics have been that good, and their opponents, frankly, that diminished.

Again, no need to apologize. The Nuggets won last year’s championship by beating two play-in teams, including the Heat in the finals. In fact, the only team they’ve beaten that qualified for the postseason outright over the last three years is the Suns. No one is calling for Denver to return its title.

It’s possible the Celtics will never be tested en route to Banner 18. We keep saying they haven’t played anywhere near their best, but they maybe they won’t have to, because they keep winning by double digits anyway.

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Meanwhile, the Mavericks are coming off hard-fought series with the Clippers and top-seeded Thunder, while the Wolves needed seven intense games to eliminate the Nuggets. Both teams have been pushed far harder than the Celtics, and eventually that grind catches up to you.

For now, the Mavericks and Wolves are basically at full health, although it’s worth noting that both Doncic and Edwards look a bit gimpy – the former with a litany of injuries, the latter ever since taking a hard fall in Game 6 vs. the Nuggets.

It’s enough to make you wonder if the basketball gods have one more gift pending: “Nice teams they’ve got there. It would be a shame if something happened to them before the Finals…”

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