Nov. 15: Brooklyn Nets 102, Boston Celtics 97
Nov. 28: Brooklyn Nets 95, Boston Celtics 83
Dec. 25: Boston Celtics 93, Brooklyn Nets 76
The Boston Celtics' second-half success seems to fly in the face of logic when you fail to see Rajon Rondo on the court, but digging below the surface shows that it isn't fluky.
Avery Bradley isn't the passer that Rondo is, but he's one hell of a defender. More so than any other player in the league, the Texas product treats all 94 feet of the court exactly the same. His constant intensity insures that any lapses in concentration will be punished.
His steps forward lead me to believe that the C's will jump the Chicago Bulls in the standings, allowing them a first-round matchup with the Brooklyn Nets, who similarly experience a jump. Theirs is over the New York Knicks, a team currently ravaged by injuries.
While each squad can breathe a sigh of relief that it won't be facing the Miami Heat in the second round of the postseason, they do have to get by each other first.
Expect this matchup to be hard fought and close from start to finish, but the Nets just have superior talent without Rondo in the lineup. As well as Bradley has played, playoff Rondo was always better than regular-season Rondo.
Deron Williams is finally getting healthy, and you can see the results in both his vastly improved jumper and his confidence. He's crossing people over at (D-)will and thriving in P.J. Carlesimo's offensive system.
It takes a lot to overwhelm the swarming defense employed by a certain green-clad team, but Williams, Joe Johnson and Brook Lopez qualify as "a lot."
Of course, this is all virtually irrelevant if Jeff Green continues to think that he's the best player in the world.
Series Prediction: Brooklyn 4, Boston 2