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Closing Argument…Celtics Playoff Preview

Posted By Warren Shaw On Apr 28 2012 @ 1:28 pm In Boston Celtics | 9 Comments

It is impossible to discuss the Boston Celtics 2012 playoff run without making mention to the fact that it will likely be the last for the Big 4.

Impossible. So I will embrace the elephant in the room in the same manner the Celtics themselves have.

Boston’s record going into the All-Star break was a putrid 15-17 with their last loss being their 5 straight in a terrible showing in Oklahoma City.

Kevin Garnett, the heart and soul of the team, delivered a message that nobody seems to be willing to repeat verbatim in a “team meeting”. The message in not so many words according to a CSNNE.Com [1]report was:

If you’re not ready to step your game up the second half of the season, step aside and don’t come back because he doesn’t want you and the Celtics don’t need you.

Father time had a sobering and humbling effect on the proud veterans up to that point. Fully aware of the limited time Boston had as a team/family, Garnett’s used his voice and words (whatever they actually were) as a shot of pure adrenaline to the bloodstream.

Garnett led by example averaging 17 points and 8.5 rebounds a game after the All-Star break. The Celtics finished 24-10 to win the Atlantic Division and capture the 4th seed in the Eastern Conference.

Now their opponent is the up-start and athletic Atlanta Hawks who actually hold home court advantage in the series as a result of a better record during the season.

Ironically just 3 months removed from the rumors of carnage fans had called for on the roster, the Celtics are the favorites in the series and are poised for a deep playoff run.

The Hawks will not lay down as they are hungry to prove they are not the “same old Hawks”. Boston would be wise to heed that underlying theme.

Atlanta has given the Celtics all they can handle in the games they played this year. The Hawks rank in the late teens to early twenty’s in just about every significant category (scoring, rebounding, assists, etc).

Where the Hawks do shine is in the area of fast break points ranking 6th overall at 15.9 per game.  They will try to run and execute on the fast break to avoid Boston’s vaunted half court defense. 

The Celtics have taken a cavalier approach to the need for home court advantage in this series despite a less than stellar road record in the regular season (15-18). Injuries are always the story for Boston with the bone spurs in Ray Allen’s ankle of the most concern currently.

Allen’s availability is a mystery and is really being taken on a day to day basis. Without him, Boston’s bench attack becomes almost nonexistent. 

Let take a look at how the Celtics and Hawks stack up against each other:

Starters

Atlanta

Boston

Advantage

PG

Jeff Teague

Rajon Rondo

Boston: Rondo is a top 5 point guard and Teague while improved is brash and still a bit inexperienced

SG

Kirk Hinrich

Avery Bradley

Boston: Choosing Bradley over Hinrich would have seemed insane at the beginning of the season. However Bradley has developed into a candidate for the all defensive team with an improved jumper.

SF

Joe Johnson

Paul Pierce

Even: Both are skilled play makers who are capable of making clutch shots. No advantage either way.

PF

Josh Smith

Brandon Bass

Atlanta: Smith is probably going to make one of the All-NBA teams and despite the season Bass has had there is no contest here.

C

Jason Collins

Kevin Garnett

Boston: The Hawks may be without regular starter ZaZa Puchlia for the start of the series and either way Garnett is head and shoulders above both Collins and Pachulia

Bench

Marvin Williams, Ivan Johnson, Tracy McGrady, and Willie Green

Mickael Pietrus, Greg Stiemsma, Sasha Pavlovic, and Keyon Dooling

Atlanta: Has a slight edge especially if Allen misses multiple games in the series. The Celtics bench has been one of the worst in the league this season.

Prediction: Celtics in 6

It will not be easy for Boston but they should advance into the second round to play Chicago.

Boston’s lack of rebounding will be a problem against the Bulls but more than any other team the Celtics rely on momentum. I question the Bulls’ health and if they can steal a game in Chicago the Celtics will have a chance to reach the conference finals.  Allen must be healthy for any of this to happen.

Unfortunately I fear Boston’s run at banner 18 will fall short in the conference finals against the Miami Heat. LeBron James and Dwyane Wade figured out what it would take to beat the Celtics in the playoffs last year.

I doubt they have forgotten.

Boston’s season has been a lesson in underestimating and exceeding expectations. They will make a glorious run at a title befitting the hearts of the champions they once were.

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[1] CSNNE.Com : http://www.csnne.com/blog/celtics-talk/post/Garnett-holds-team-meeting-prior-to-All-?blockID=659310&feedID=3352

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