The Boston Celtics, despite losing two games in a row, are tied with the Miami Heat for the best record in the Eastern conference and have all of the pieces in place to make another championship run this season.
While the Spurs have played very well this season, they have the disadvantage of not having a player who can defend quick point guards.
Coached by Doc Rivers, the Celtics have a starting five with a seemingly perfect fit at each position, something that is special in itself.
At the point guard position, the Celtics have Rajon Rondo, who does what a point guard is supposed to do.
Benefiting from his great instincts, when Rondo has the ball he is able hit the open man with a quick pass or drive to the lane when given space. On the defensive end, Rondo antagonizes opposing point guards with his speed and crafty play.
Ray Allen, quite possibly the most underrated shooting guard in NBA history, does exactly what is expected from a two-guard.
One of the best pure shooters in NBA history, Allen just broke the record for all time three-pointers made. Now 35 years old, Allen is quick and still one of the best shooters in the NBA.
Paul Pierce has spent his entire career with Boston and truly knows his role with the team.
Still a solid shooter with range, Pierce has the ability to hit the open jumper or create his own shot. Already in his 12th season, Pierce is having his most efficient year, shooting above 50 percent from the floor and averaging 19 points a game on just 13 shots.
Kevin Garnett, a true power forward, is still one of the elite defenders in the NBA with his long arms and great athletic ability.
Since Garnett joined Boston, the Celtics have made it deep into the playoffs every year except in 2009 when he was unable to stay healthy.
Now in his 15th season, Garnett is still a threat to score in the low post and can consistently make open shots from 10-15 feet away.
How deep will the Celtics go in 2011?
Perkins, 26, plays with the maturity of a player who is 36. A young center with a great work ethic, you will never see Perkins take a play off.
Kendrick Perkins does the dirty work in the paint for Boston, while never trying to force shots or take away shots from teammates.
Besides the great starters for Boston, the team also possesses a deep bench, allowing every member of the starting five to take breaks without significantly hurting the team’s performance.
Glen Davis and Shaquille O’neal have each done a fantastic job this season off the bench, while Nate Robinson and Marquis Daniels have provided some nice minutes as well.
Boston has shown great team chemistry ever since acquiring Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen in the summer of 2007. They have been very successful in both the regular season and the postseason, and have done it the right way with a combination of great athletes and mature players who want to win above anything else.
Although Rondo and Perkins are still in their mid 20's, the starting five for the Celtics has remained the seam over the last four seasons. In that time, Rondo and Perkins have matured, while Boston has been blessed by the fountain of youth that Allen, Pierce and Garnett have shown.
Now well into their 30's, Allen, Pierce and Garnett all peaked sometime in the mid-2000s, but none of the three have lost more than a step in their game.
A starting five with a prototypical fit for each position is rare and has certainly worked out for Boston. The closest thing we have seen in recent memory to the Celtics are the Detroit Piston teams from the mid-2000s, which like Boston, had a great fit at each starting position, but those Piston teams did not have as deep of a bench.
In last year's NBA finals, many people thought that the Celtics ran out of gas in Game 7, so with another year under each of their belts, who is to say that it won’t happen again?
Well, in Boston’s defense, Kendrick Perkins missed that Game 7 and is back and healthy again, while the addition of Shaq provides extra depth and efficiency to the center position.
Fans around the country are expecting another Lakers-Celtics finals, which would absolutely be another tough battle between the two rivals. However, it is in no way inevitably that both teams will win their conference.
Boston may struggle in the playoffs against younger, athletic teams, but their strong chemistry and depth should be enough to get them through the East for the third time in four seasons.