Boston Celtics, Already Overlooked
It is insulting how quick people are to count the Boston Celtics out of the race for the NBA Championship.
Some mock them as the team with four people who will soon be getting AARP benefits. They claim "age" and not enough "talent" are the reasons why they will not win, or even get past the Miami Heat.
“They will break the single-season win record [of 72 wins],” Jeff Van Gundy said. “And I think they have a legit shot at the Lakers’ 33-game [winning] streak [in 1971-72], as well. And only the Lakers have even a remote shot at beating them in a playoff series. They will never lose two games in a row this year.
“They have put together a much better roster than anybody could ever have expected,” Van Gundy added. “There is now no good way to defend them. They are unguardable. They are indefensible. They are just too good and have added so much shooting and are so versatile that they will score at will.
“And with Erik Spoelstra coaching, they will be in the top three defensive teams in the league, as well. The other 29 teams better hope the lockout gets moved up a year.”
- Jeff Van Gundy
With all due respect to Jeff Van Gundy, I firmly disagree.
Need I remind you that in the last three years, the Celtics have done the following:
Won the 2007-2008 NBA Championship, defeating Lakers in six games.
Made it to the 2008-2009 NBA Conference Semifinals, losing to Orlando in seven games (without KG).
Won the 2009-2010 NBA Eastern Conference Championship, losing in the Finals to the Lakers in seven games.
The Boston Celtics have one of the best team defenses in the last four years.
They are not chumps, nor washed up. We witnessed that in the playoffs last year where they made the most impressive playoff run I have seen from them. They eliminated the Heat, sent the Cavaliers packing, and made the Magic disappear before falling six minutes short of a second title against the Lakers.
As far as this year is concerned, I am fairly confident Boston has just as good a chance as ANY team in the Eastern Conference to emerge as the Eastern Conference Champions again.
Here are some possible reasons why the Celtics can extinguish the Heat in the playoffs, once again.
Shaq and Jermaine
The weakness Boston had on its offense is now filled.
Shaquille O'Neal, the most dominant center of the modern era of basketball, has joined the Celtics for the next two seasons. Although this isn't the Shaq of the early 2000's, he is still a factor in the paint on both ends of the floor. This is something Boston has NOT had.
Last year, Shaq put up decent numbers in his 18th season: 12.0 PPG, 6.7 RPG, 1.5 APG, 1.2 BPG, and 56% FPG in 23.3 minutes per game.
The Celtics also added 14-year veteran Jermaine O'Neal (former Miami Heat player), who plays more like a power forward then a traditional center. O'Neal is able to knock down jump shots and bring down rebounds as well as block shots. O'Neal isn't known for his massive defensive presence, but with a 6'11" frame, he will likely be able to alter most shots in the paint.
Last year, Jermaine had 13.6 PPG, 6.9 RPG, 1.3 APG, and 1.4 BPG while shooting a 52 percent FPG in 28.4 minutes per game.
Combine those two centers, and you have a complete center rotation: 25.6 PPG, 13.6 RPG, 2.8 APG, and 2.6 BPG while eating up all 48 minutes.
The addition of these two centers were a necessity.
Starting center Kendrick Perkins went down with a knee injury last year in the Finals against the Lakers and is not set to come back until late in the regular season. Also, backup center Rasheed Wallace is set to retire.
No team has an answer for Rajon Rondo.
With his so called "weak" jump shot improving and blistering speed, he will dominate the Miami Heat's Mario Chalmers and Carlos Arroyo. Once the Heat close in on Rondo, it will be too late, as he will most likely have already dished the ball to 6'11" power forward Kevin Garnett or Shaq, who stands at an intimidating 7'1", for an easy slam dunk.
Last season was Rondo's best to date. At 24 he hasn't hit his prime yet, which is scary. His stats from last season are as follows: 13.7 PPG, 9.8 APG, 4.4 RPG, 2.3 SPG, while shooting (in the paint mostly) 50 percent FPG, in 36.6 minutes per game.
He is arguably one of the best defensive point guards in the league.
The Original Big Three
People tend to shy away from these guys, as they are older. But make no mistake, they can still fill up the stats very nicely.
People have said "Who is going to stop Wade, James, and Bosh?"
I am in no way shape or form saying that Allen, Garnett, and Pierce can STOP Miami's big three. But if ANYONE in the Eastern Conference has a good chance at slowing them down, it WILL be Boston.
Ray Allen, again, had a consistent year during the regular season with the following stats from the 2009-2010 season: 16.3 points per game, 3.2 rebounds per game, and 2.6 assists per game in 35.2 minutes per game.
Paul Pierce, again along with Allen had a consistent year during the regular season with the following stats: 18.3 points per game, 4.4 rebounds per game, 3.1 assists per game, and 1.5 steals per game in 34 minutes per game.
Kevin Garnett, had a sub-par season at best, playing limited minutes, as he was coming off a knee injury from the previous season. He was still able to average: 14.3 points per game, 7.3 rebounds per game, 2.7 assists per game, and 1.0 steals per game in 29.9 minutes per game.
Combined Stats between the Boston Big Three:
48.9 points per game, 14.9 rebounds per game, 8.4 assists per game, 2.5 steals per game.
I hardly call those stats washed up, old, or over the hill.
The Celtics did lose a key piece to their bench last year in Tony Allen. Allen who played a major role in slowing down Kobe Bryant in the 2009-2010 Finals, decided to take his talents to Memphis, to join the up-an-coming Grizzlies.
However, the Boston Celtics still possess one of the deepest and talented benches in the NBA.
Key contributors off the Celtics bench include: Nate Robinson, Glen Davis, Von Wafer, Marquis Daniels, and at least one of the O'Neals.
If the C's can squeeze about 25 points from the bench, they are going to be very difficult to beat.
Coach Doc Rivers
The core of the Boston Celtics is Head Coach Doc Rivers, who decided to take another crack at winning a championship.
The Head Coach match up will be fun to watch, as both Erik Spoelstra and Doc Rivers are two of the best defensive minded coaches in the NBA. Expect the games between the Celtics and Heat to remain in the 90's whenever they play each other.
However, we already know Boston's defense is elite, while we are yet to see what the Heat can bring to the table.
I really don't need to get into this to much, but Boston has won 17 NBA Championships, the most in NBA history. The team closest to Boston, is LA, winning 16. The two powerhouse franchises combine for 33 championships together, which is half of the entire total amount of championships since 1947.
Not to mention, Boston and LA have met in the finals, two out of the previous three years. Boston is a safe bet, until they are beaten.
History is on the side of the Boston Celtics, we know they are playoff proven.
They have a tactic that seems to work, and they win. Who can argue that?
Yes, they are aging and there window might be closing quicker than most elite NBA teams, but by no means can they be counted out.
The match-ups clearly speak for themselves:
Rondo - Chalmers: Advantage Boston
Allen - Wade: Advantage Miami
Pierce - James: Advantage Miami
Garnett - Bosh: Even
O'Neal - Anthony - Advantage Boston
Bench - I will be generous and say wash
Coaching - Advantage Boston
Offense - Advantage Miami
Defense - Advantage Boston
If both of these teams can remain healthy, it is more then likely they will both finish in the 1-5 seed, which will guarantee (assuming both get out of the first round) they will meet in the Eastern Conference Semifinals.
This will likely mean Boston will only have to play a max of seven games, before facing the Miami Heat, which is to Boston's advantage. The quicker Boston can dispose of there first round opponent, the more rest they can have, before facing the Heat.
In closing, I would just like to say: Don't count out the Celtics. They are battle tested and have proven themselves in the last three years.
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