Apr 11, 2012, 12:42 PM EDT
The play for the first three quarters of this season confirmed the conventional wisdom going in — the Miami Heat and Chicago Bulls were the class of the East, everybody else was a couple of steps back.
But in the past 10 days, the Boston Celtics have thumped the Heat twice. And although the Bulls beat the Celtics in that time frame, anybody who has seen Chicago of late and waited for the return of Derrick Rose knows the Bulls are not at their peak. They look vulnerable.
With their play of late, do we have to consider the Celtics contenders?
Yes. But for them everything needs to go right — health, good matchups. Which is pretty much what everyone said about Dallas before last playoffs and…
Boston has certainly hit its stride of late. That all starts with their defense — that has been their calling card during this run, it had taken a small step back in recent seasons but this year they are back to being the best defensive team in the league. When you defend like that, you have a chance every night in the playoffs. And Kevin Garnett is still at the heart of that (and he’s scoring well of late, too).
The Celtics also are getting great play from their role players — against the Heat on Thursday Greg Stiemsma was a force in the first half, defending at the rim and knocking down midrange jumpers. The emergence of Avery Bradley has allowed Doc Rivers to bring the scoring punch of Ray Allen off the bench, giving the Celtics frightening depth. Brandon Bass is an upgrade from Big Baby. Even guys like Sasha Pavlovic are stepping up.
Rajon Rondo keys the offense — he is the guy who has to create for others, to get some easy buckets in transition, he has to keep the ball moving. Boston has become an offense that finds the mismatch and takes what the defense gives them. Miami gave them jump shots, Boston was disciplined and knocked down the looks. Boston also runs some nice Paul Pierce/Garnett pick and rolls, plus they move off the ball well.
It may come down to matchups — Boston clearly gives the Heat trouble. Boston’s ball movement exposes the help rotations of the Heat, then Boston has guys who can knock down the jumpers. It was not a lack of effort from the Heat Tuesday night, they just struggle with Rondo and Boston. Chicago — from the same defensive school as the Celtics — may be a tougher matchup for the Celtics. And it’s also the more likely second round contest.
But right now, when you talk of teams that have a chance to come out of the East, you have to mention the Celtics. They have earned their way into the conversation.
Apr 18, 2014, 12:29 PM EDT
Bulls in 6
Apr 18, 2014, 11:44 AM EDT
While nothing is set in stone (Mike Woodson has yet to be officially fired) you know back channel conversations have already taken place. It sounds like Kerr wants in.
Apr 18, 2014, 11:10 AM EDT
Behold: The Air Jordan XX9.
Apr 18, 2014, 11:05 AM EDT
Kevin Durant and LeBron James finish 1-2 on every ballot
Apr 18, 2014, 10:33 AM EDT
Playing effective NBA defense is more about dictating shot location than contesting shots.
Apr 18, 2014, 10:00 AM EDT
Taking a lot of 3s and making a lot of 2s is not easy
Apr 18, 2014, 9:15 AM EDT
With Andrew Bogut the Warriors outplayed the Clippers this season, but Golden State will be without him and that is trouble.
Apr 18, 2014, 8:44 AM EDT
The league will try to offer a larger, better paying D-League
Apr 18, 2014, 8:00 AM EDT
Wizards also rise
Apr 18, 2014, 12:56 AM EDT
This is exactly what you’ve been waiting for — a dramatic reading of Space Jam including Blake Griffin and D’Andre Jordan.
Apr 17, 2014, 11:18 PM EDT
We may not see him on the sidelines of TNT games these playoffs.
Apr 17, 2014, 9:38 PM EDT
Center has $3.8 million player option
Apr 17, 2014, 8:34 PM EDT
All would make strong hires
Apr 17, 2014, 7:05 PM EDT
Adidas rolls the dice on a young guard with potential. Not a bad business plan.
Apr 17, 2014, 5:57 PM EDT
Both are likely first round picks in the teens or early 20s.
The Al Jefferson Effect: Now that the Bobcats are playoff-bound, how they want their big man to help next
Apr 17, 2014, 4:53 PM EDT
What affect will Jefferson have on the development of Kemba Walker, Bismack Biyombo, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Cody Zeller?
Apr 17, 2014, 4:50 PM EDT
Raptors fans are pumped for the playoffs.
Apr 17, 2014, 4:00 PM EDT
Can you blame them?
Apr 17, 2014, 3:59 PM EDT
Ballots show a tight race
Apr 17, 2014, 3:15 PM EDT
It really comes down to this: Does he trust Phil Jackson and Knicks management to build a winner quickly?
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