I honestly thought when Boston’s Big Three won the NBA title last year, they would be content. The lifelong journey for Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, and Ray Allen was over. The Celtics franchise went from worst to first, and Doc Rivers molded a talented group of individuals into an excellent team. The magical playoff run that ended with a Finals victory over the hated Lakers in Boston seemed to cap it all off.
So how could a team, who lost P.J. Brown to retirement, and James Posey to free agency, be better this year? What would the Big Three use as motivation this time around?
It seems like they want to prove this year that last year was not a fluke.
Boston is currently (at time of this article) sitting on top of the NBA. With a 22-2 record, there seems to be no one that can slow down the machine. When examining the two games they did lose this year, neither show a pattern or blueprint to how to beat them.
In the first loss to the Indiana Pacers, Boston beat themselves, making 24 turnovers and going 21 for 35 from the free throw line. In that game, Paul Pierce struggled, scoring 10 points but was ice cold (3-for-15) from the field.
The only other loss this season came at the hands of Chauncey Billups-led Denver Nuggets. In that game, you saw an athletic, younger team (Denver) out-hustle the C’s. Carmelo Anthony had 18 points and 13 boards, and Billups dominated Rajon Rondo on both ends of the floor.
One of the concerns Boston had last year, and perhaps later this season may be times where Rondo could be exposed by bigger, faster, more explosive point guards, like Billups, Chris Paul, or Derron Williams.
The road back to the NBA Finals this year seems similar to last season, with a potential Eastern Conference Finals match with Lebron James and Cleveland looming. With nine games remaining on the schedule for December, there are going to be stiff challenges coming from the likes of Atlanta, Los Angeles on Christmas Day, and at Portland on December 30th. The Celtics, I predict, will be 29-4 heading into January, and thoughts of a 70-win season will surface in the new year. While I do not believe any team will reach 70 this season, this Celtics group does remind me alot of the 1996-97 Chicago Bulls, who repeated, beating the Utah Jazz in the Finals, and went 69-13 in the regular season.
How far do you think this Celtics team can go this year? Are they better than last years group in your eyes?