Red Sox’s Alex Cora Identifies With Championship-Hungry Celtics

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BOSTON — The Celtics are just one win shy from placing the bow on top of their elite 2023-24 campaign as NBA champions, which brings back memories for Red Sox skipper Alex Cora.

Six years ago, debuting at the helm in Boston, Cora managed a Red Sox team that finished the regular season with an MLB-best 108 wins. That also set a franchise record and simultaneously established the big shoes to fill for a club that — at the time — hadn’t won a World Series in five years.

Looking back at Boston’s 11-3 postseason run before mobbing the mound at Dodger Stadium in celebration of the organization’s ninth championship, Cora sees a similarity with this edition of the Celtics.

“They’re very consistent in what they do and we felt the same way (in 2018),” Cora said before Sunday’s matchup against the Yankees. “The expectations were to win the World Series; same as these guys. The expectation is to win the whole thing. If not, it was a bad year.”

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When comparing the 2018 Red Sox to the 2023-24 Celtics, who also finished with an NBA-best 64 wins in the regular season, the similarities extend beyond records. The front office brought in J.D. Martinez and eventual World Series heroes Nathan Eovaldi and Steve Pearce midseason, giving the club a combination of stardom and depth. As for the Celtics, Kristaps Porzingis and Jrue Holiday were introduced in the offseason, supplementing the Jayson Tatum-Jaylen Brown tandem in a multitude of ways.

The Celtics haven’t lost more than twice consecutively, and that’s continued throughout the playoffs. Very few times have they been outplayed beyond being competitive, and most importantly, the team’s selfless playstyle has been contagious and effective.

No longer are the eyes directed solely on Tatum and Brown because the All-Star duo isn’t the beginning and end of where the Celtics have arrived.

“You got the star players, right? But then the role players are really good,” Cora said. “People think that we had eight guys playing and that was it, right? We had a platoon behind the plate, a platoon at first, a platoon at second, at third. Then we had the three outfielders.

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“You surround the superstars with good, solid role players, good things are gonna happen.”

Cora, who’s been attentive to the Celtics and their run to the NBA Finals against the Mavericks, stressed the importance of depth. Like guard Derrick White and longtime veteran Al Horford, the Red Sox, too, had their unsung hero moments in 2018. Utility player Brock Holt hit for the cycle in Boston’s trampling 16-1 Game 3 win in the American League Division Series.

Of course, it’ll only matter if, like the Red Sox that year, a Larry O’Brien Trophy is hoisted during Boston’s first duck boat parade in five years.

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