NBA Playoffs 2012: Derrick Rose Injury Opens the Door for Boston Celtics

Haddon AndersonAnalyst IMay 2, 2012

Derrick Rose's torn ACL has altered the playoff outlook in a bevy of ways.

It's easy to highlight how the door is now wide open for Lebron James and the Miami Heat. With Rose and big man Dwight Howard (who is out for the year after having back surgery) sidelined, the road through the Eastern Conference has become much less treacherous.

Therefore, will the Heat enjoy a cakewalk to the NBA Finals?

Not so fast.

Rose's injury has created an opening for numerous teams. First of all, the Philadelphia 76ers now have a legitimate chance to upend top-seeded Chicago, especially after their convincing 109-92 victory last night in game two.

Secondly, and more importantly, the injury to Rose has plopped a broad opening in front of the Boston Celtics—the team everybody figured would be too old to contend again this year.

But now, it would be shocking to not see the Celtics in the Eastern Conference Finals. They just stole Game 2 in Atlanta (despite an inactive Rajon Rondo, who was suspended), tying the series at one game apiece. Furthermore, the Hawks' most versatile weapon, Josh Smith, sustained an apparent knee injury.

With the series shifting to Boston and Rondo returning, it's highly unlikely that the Hawks, with Smith potentially sidelined or at least hobbled, will steal this series.

Assuming the Celtics advance to the second round, they'll then either meet the Rose-less Bulls or the eighth-seeded Sixers. As of now, I'd pick the Celtics in six over both those squads.

The way the cookie is crumbling situates the Celtics as almost a shoo-in for the Eastern Conference Finals. Barring any major injuries, it's difficult to foresee the Hawks eking out the current series, or the emotionally-damaged Bulls or youthful Sixers bidding farewell to the C's in the second round.

Therefore, these details point towards the Heat and Celtics being on a collision course for a showdown in the Eastern Conference Finals.

While Derrick Rose's injury has created an opening for a handful of teams, such as the Heat, it has created the greatest opening for Boston. The Celtics struggled against Chicago this year, and if Rose had remained healthy, the odds wouldn't have in favor of Boston had it faced the Bulls.

But with the reigning MVP removed from the playoff picture, Boston only has one major hurdle in their way before the Finals, and they've actually played exceptionally well against Miami this season (3-1 on the year).

This year's Eastern Conference Finals will most likely be a showdown between the aging-yet-viciously-competitive Celtics and the star-studded, desperate-for-a-title Miami Heat. This spells enjoyment for all NBA fans.

The reality is the door is now wide open for the C's and, quite frankly, it could be their last opportunity to reach the NBA mountaintop with this assembled core.

If the Celtics can stay healthy and peak in the season's final stages, we could witness them return to the Finals for the third time in five years. 

The stage is set perfectly for Boston. All they need to do now is execute and prove they're still elite.