We’ve seen the Celtics go from venerable to vulnerable in less time we could blink.
This unit just isn’t the same as the one that won last year’s Championship, nor is it the same one that began the season with a best all-time start at 27-2.
Last year everything went as well for Boston as it possibly could have. Despite the fact that both of their major acquisitions, Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen had already played through 11+ seasons, both managed to stay relatively healthy and with Paul Pierce, the trio managed to bring Boston its first championship since 1986.
This year seems headed for a very different finish.
The Celtics haven’t been the same without Kevin Garnett. Sunday’s 107-76 blowout embarrassment provides all the statistical evidence necessary to confirm that. The 31-point margin was the largest deficit the Celtics have lost by since March 7, 2007.
Although Garnett is scheduled to return as early as the first round, it is highly unlikely that he will return to true form immediately. He would be well-served to ease back into his game with a slow paced series against a primarily half-court team. Clearly, the last thing he and the Celtics need right now is a playoff series against a young, athletic, high octane team.
That is precisely why the first round holds a high degree of long-term danger for the Celtics particularly if Philly maintains the seventh seed. So in the likely event that the 76ers do remain in the seventh seed, how well will the Celtics be able to handle them?
Well, the 76ers have posted a morbidly unimpressive 1-7 record against the Celtics in the last two seasons and their sub-par offense just isn’t enough to outscore the Celtics four times in a seven-game series, even without Garnett.
You can’t win a series against a team like Boston with defense alone. However, defense and all-around physical play can run a veteran team ragged, particularly when they’re struggling with injuries.
After the probable series with Philly (which could extend as far as six games), the Celtics would likely face the Magic afterward and probably Cavaliers immediately after that. If somehow they emerged from all of that, they again be pitted against the Lakers, who have not only proven themselves to be the deepest team in the league, but have also harbored a personal vendetta against the Celtics since June of last year.
Far be it from me to advise the general public to completely count out a 60-win, reigning NBA Champion. I’d just say that all facts considered, Boston fans are probably going to have to save banner 18 for another year.
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