The Boston Celtics have a tendency of waiting until the end of the season to turn up the heat. The 2012-13 season will be no exception. Boston is still an elite team and, despite their slow start, will go deep into the playoffs.
The Celtics are three games over .500 with a record of 20-17. After a disappointing start, the team is finally beginning to come together and has a six-game win streak to show for it.
The Celtics' success in the NBA playoffs will be determined by the consistency of the team's role players. Last year, Avery Bradley stepped up as a large contributor to the playoff team. In 2013, the third-year shooting guard must continue to dominate, especially on the defensive side of the ball.
Bradley's defense is unique because he literally pesters his opponents from baseline to baseline. The Celtics were having trouble being the defensive prowess they're known for prior to Bradley's return. As long as he stays healthy, we can expect to see defensive plays like the rejection on Dwyane Wade below.
Bradley's intensity is imperative in the playoffs because his teammates will try to match it. He automatically makes everyone around him a better defensive player.
Secondly, the Celtics will be successful in the playoffs because of their veteran experience. Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Rajon Rondo have all been to the postseason multiple times. Not only do they know what to expect but also how to adjust their game to maximize their efforts.
The confidence that comes with playoff experience is important because basketball is just as mental as physical. In this postgame interview, Rondo's confidence was apparent, and the Celtics went on the win the series against Philadelphia.
Jason Terry also has playoff experience, as he won a championship with the Dallas Mavericks in 2011. Opponents shouldn't underestimate the value of veteran playoff experience, especially if the Celtics are matched up against the younger, less-experienced Brooklyn Nets. The Celtics will have an edge that few Eastern Conference teams possess.
The Boston Celtics are looking at a No. 4 or No. 5 playoff seed, and chances are they'll have to play either the Nets or the Chicago Bulls in the first round. Of course, this depends on how well the opponents play in the second half of the season, but it's a good prediction.
The Celtics are currently 1-2 against the Nets, and their lone win was the Christmas game. There is plenty of recent history between these two teams, especially after Rondo and Kris Humphries got into a scuffle on Nov. 28.
In addition, Boston is 1-1 against the Bulls so far, but that's without Derrick Rose. While Rose will undoubtedly be a huge contributor to his team, he will have trouble containing a new and improved Rondo while fresh off injury.
All in all, the Celtics are used to turning it on for the postseason. Opposing teams shouldn't underestimate Boston's ability to win when it counts. The Celtics should make it back to the Eastern Conference Finals, where they will presumably play the Miami Heat.
As far as the Heat matchup goes, it's too early to tell which team will come out on top. Miami has a great squad, but if anyone can beat them, it's Boston. The two teams meet for the first time since the season opener on Jan. 27.
All stats are accurate as of Jan. 15.