Who’s afraid of the Big Bad Celtics? Anyone? Hello out there? Ok…I think I just saw some tumble weed blow by. Teams around the league, and more particularly the Eastern Conference, licked their collective chops when the Celtics dismantled their roster and traded away Kendrick Perkins in February. Common thinking around the league is that Perkins was the key to the Celtic defense and toughness. The fall out of the trade has left the Celtics as the most unpredictable team going into the playoffs as well as the most dangerous.
This past NBA season was typical in a lot of ways for the C’s. Roller coaster like in every way. Injury filled coupled with some horrific rebounding numbers that would have Bill Russell cringing. Boston finished the season first in the Atlantic division with a record of 56-26 but just a 10-10 record in the final 20 games of the season. They can thank their inconsistency and uninspired play for that. Boston had the opportunity to control their own fate so to speak over the last week of the season but stumbled in key games against Chicago and Miami which sealed their fate as the 3rd seed in the Eastern Conference. They have looked lost, soft, inefficient offensively, and flat out uninterested since late February. Boston now faces a treacherous path throughout the playoffs that could include New York, Miami, Chicago, and whichever titan emerges from the Western Conference in the Finals.
Before the Celtics can look ahead they must look at where they have been, or rather who they have been. They have not played Boston Celtic basketball nor have they been healthy. The Celtic playoff run is largely dependent on the health of both O’neals (Shaq and Jermaine) as well as Delonte West. Add in a dose of Rajon Rondo with a heavy helping of rebounding and this team could find the recipe to return to the finals. Shaq is due back for game 1 against the New York Knicks as is Delonte West. Jermaine O’neal has shown some flashes of effectiveness and will be relied upon for 10-15 minutes a game throughout the playoffs.
Production from the bench will also fuel any potential run for a championship. How many times have we watched a Celtic telecast and heard Tommy Heinsohn screaming “The bench is giving us nothing” At times they are 2nd to none in the league but they have blown many a lead and Doc doesn’t believe in rushing the starters back out there to stop a run. He lets his veterans get their rest, confident that they will be able to turn the game back in the favor of the C’s. Unfortunately, this takes extra effort on behalf of the starters. Jeff Green, Delonte West, and Glen Davis have got to be consistent offensively for Boston to advance deep into the playoffs. Not one, not two, but all three of them must contribute nightly. The biggest issue for West is always his health but if he is on the court he gives Boston another play maker/defender enabling Rondo & Allen to get valuable rest.
This is a team not short on confidence or ability. Boston can beat anybody and when they are at their best and there is no disputing that. Paul Pierce said recently that he when he woke up he “Pushed the playoff button” and so did the rest of his teammates. Ah yes the mythical playoff button. Legend has it that all teams, players, and coaches push this button when the playoffs arrive. I am not exactly sure what makes Boston’s playoff button more effective than the other playoff teams but we are about to find out if it even still works very soon.
About the Author
Written by Warren Shaw
I am an avid Basketball fan who has worked for the New York Knicks, Alonzo Mourning Charities and various other sports organizations. Having covered many NBA and various professional sporting events has given me the opportunity to provide insight with an unbiased but flavor driven view. I look forward to providing NBA content and interacting with knowledgeable fans and readers. Follow me on Twitter @shawsports or Email your questions to me at Warrenshaw@prosportsblogging.com