Why There’s Good Reason to Think the Celtics Can Win the East
It’s almost like a god given belief the Bulls and Heat will compete for the Eastern conference title this year. The Celtics, Pacers, and Knicks are kind of like these dark horse picks that people will always say if a few very specific things happen — like an injury to the Bulls or Heat — then MAYBE, just maybe, they can compete for the title.
I know what you are going to say: they don’t have a chance, their window closed almost two years ago, and how in the hell can they guard Lebron?
Well I am here to tell you that there are good reasons to believe the Celtics can win this year. The Celtics made one dramatic change in the 2nd half of this season: they moved KG to center and started playing a young defensive guru guard named Avery Bradley. Since that change, the Celtics have been on a tear… playing some of the best defense (measured in points per possession) not just of this year, but in recent NBA history and basically some of the most efficient ball-moving offense in the league. Their assist-to-point ratios are through the roof… meaning most of their scoring comes off of assisted passes.
But of course, that’s the regular season and the playoffs… well… the playoffs is all about match-ups.
The reason why Rondo is important has nothing to do with his ability or skill. Every contending team has skilled players. The reason Rondo is important in this year’s playoffs is that he gives the Celtics an explanation for why they lost to the Heat last year and a reason to believe they can win against them this year. Rondo was hurt in last year’s playoffs. Therefore, the Celtics can go into a series against the Heat and say, “Hey we lost to you last year ‘cause we didn’t have Rondo, but THIS year, this year will be different.” He is a new added bullet to fire in the chamber.
Who is going to punish the Celtics for playing Garnet at center? Think about it for a second… Chris Bosh? Carlos Boozer? Kendrick Perkins? There is no contending team in the league, save the Lakers, that will make the Celtics pay for going small. The thing about moving Garnet to center is that it’s allowed him to reclaim his position as one of the top defenders in the league. I know many of you think he’s washed up and can’t contribute to a championship team… but he has been so good on defense this year, guarding guards on pick and roll defense, patrolling the paint, and anchoring the best defense in the league… I would go so far as to say that whatever contending team is able to get him in free agency this summer… and if they can add him to their team as another cog… they will win the championship. I say that with a straight face.
At the beginning of the season we did a season preview podcast here at Pass the Relish. One of the topics we addressed is defining the unstoppable shot and who the remaining players in the league are who have one. And what we meant by unstoppable are those players who, no matter the defense, no mater how perfect it is, can still get the shot they want 90% of the time and make it in crucial situations. No.. Lebron, Durant, and Wade did not make the list… Defense can still force them into pretty miserable situations… only three players made the list… Dirk, Kobe, and Pierce. I’ll leave it at that.
Name one other coach from the East you would rather have leading your team in this years playoffs?
They know who they are.
What is that everyone says is the problem with the Thunder, Bulls and the Heat? Everyone says that they don’t know who they want to go to in clutch situations. Down the stretch in playoff games Kevin Durant seems to get pushed out of position and can’t really get good looks when the defense is set and locked in, they are forced to go to Westbrook and the second guessing begins. The Heat’s best player… isn’t really their best player and they have no idea what their pecking order is. The Bulls? The Bulls still haven’t found a legitimate second option and will have to prove they can overcome this. This has been a consistent question for them when the shots aren’t falling and they need to manufacture points. The Celtics know exactly who is going to get the ball down the stretch, they know exactly where everyone wants the ball, how many times they should be shooting it, and where their good shots come from.
So yeah… I am picking the Celtics. I am not going to guarantee it… but for the reasons I stated above I have good reasons to think they can prevail. Part of this is about strategy, team synergy, and matchups, but another part of this is the fact that I just like rooting for the underdog. And as big of front-runners as they have been, everyone is counting the Celtics out and think about just how damn sweet it would be to see the mighty Heat fall to a team of geriatrics that everyone counted out.
One last thing… I am a Laker fan.
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