Skip to content

Should we consider Boston a title contender now?

Apr 11, 2012, 12:42 PM EDT

Brandon Bass,  Kevin Garnett, Rajon Rondo

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.

Latest Posts
  1. Kevin Durant is tired of being asked about Tony Allen. Very tired.

    Apr 24, 2014, 5:46 PM EDT

    Memphis Grizzlies v Oklahoma City Thunder - Game One Getty Images

    Sorry KD, but through two games Allen has been the MVP of this series.

  2. Jabari Parker tells Dan Patrick two-and-done is “ridiculous,” likes ‘Melo comparison

    Apr 24, 2014, 3:59 PM EDT

    Gardner-Webb v Duke Getty Images

    Jabari Parker says he passed more than Carmelo because he had a better team to pass to.

  3. How much would you pay Lance Stephenson in free agency this summer?

    Apr 24, 2014, 3:17 PM EDT

    Boston Celtics  v Indiana Pacers Getty Images

    He wants Steph Curry money, but he’ll likely get more like $7 million a year.

  4. Pau Gasol says he would stay with Lakers for Kobe, but there needs to be changes

    Apr 24, 2014, 2:32 PM EDT

    Denver Nuggets v Los Angeles Lakers Getty Images

    Gasol basically wants D’Antoni gone, but even then he likely moves on.

  5. Oscar Robertson says if he were Carmelo Anthony “I would leave today”

    Apr 24, 2014, 1:56 PM EDT

    Washington Wizards v New York Knicks Getty Images

    Oscar Robertson thinks ‘Melo should get out of Dodge (and go to Houston).

  6. Nick Young’s first pitch at Dodger game is juuuust a bit outside (VINE)

    Apr 24, 2014, 12:01 PM EDT

    Nick Young AP

    He will not be getting a baseball contract soon.

  7. Jason Collins makes the Time 100

    Apr 24, 2014, 11:26 AM EDT

    Bl-5vGACMAE8nxe

    Dwyane Wade does writeup on Serena Williams

  8. Clearly frustrated James Harden argues with reporter, calls him “weirdo”

    Apr 24, 2014, 10:52 AM EDT

    James Harden James Harden

    Harden is frustrated. He should be, shooting under 30 percent for two games.

  9. Mike Conley wins NBA Sportsmanship Award

    Apr 24, 2014, 10:19 AM EDT

    Mike Conley, Kendrick Perkins Mike Conley, Kendrick Perkins

    Grizzlies guard gets Joe Dumars Trophy over Jeff Green, Channing Frye, Bradley Beal, Damian Lillard and Mike Dunleavy

  10. Can LaMarcus Aldridge break the all-time single-playoff scoring record?

    Apr 24, 2014, 9:24 AM EDT

    Portland Trail Blazers v Houston Rockets - Game Two Getty Images

    Trail Blazers forward is averaging 44.5 points trhough two games

  11. LaMarcus Aldridge, Dwight Howard had a duel (VIDEO)

    Apr 24, 2014, 8:46 AM EDT

    LaMarcus Aldridge, Dwight Howard, Terrence Jones LaMarcus Aldridge, Dwight Howard, Terrence Jones

    Dwight Howard was aggressive early and put on a show, but LaMarcus Aldridge won the war.

  12. Thursday NBA playoff previews: Which Indiana team shows up?

    Apr 24, 2014, 8:00 AM EDT

    Paul George AP

    All three series Thursday night are tied 1-1.

  13. LaMarcus Aldridge ruining Dwight Howard’s chance at redemption

    Apr 24, 2014, 1:40 AM EDT

    Dwight Howard, LaMarcus Aldridge Dwight Howard, LaMarcus Aldridge

    Trail Blazers take 2-0 series lead with second win in Houston

  14. Spurs give the ball away first, then Game 2 to Dallas

    Apr 23, 2014, 11:54 PM EDT

    Tony Parker Tony Parker

    The Spurs turned the ball over on 26.2 percent of their possessions. It’s very unSpurs like.

Featured video

Wizards playing spoiler in East
Top 10 NBA Player Searches
  1. A. Jefferson (3435)
  2. K. Durant (2911)
  3. L. James (2847)
  4. D. Wade (2786)
  5. D. Rose (2697)
  1. J. Noah (2590)
  2. K. Bryant (2442)
  3. D. Howard (2437)
  4. A. Bogut (2279)
  5. P. George (2186)