Apr 11, 2012, 12:42 PM EST
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.
Dec 19, 2014, 9:40 PM EST
Nice gesture by the players.
Dec 19, 2014, 8:30 PM EST
…pretty smoothly somehow
Dec 19, 2014, 7:25 PM EST
Leonard was the Finals MVP for San Antonio last season.
Dec 19, 2014, 6:45 PM EST
Warriors coach has jokes
Dec 19, 2014, 6:35 PM EST
This is the smart move by the Thunder.
Dec 19, 2014, 5:59 PM EST
It’s kind of moot now, but it’s not a surprise.
Dec 19, 2014, 5:15 PM EST
Lakers star: ‘If the opportunity came up, then that’s the time to have that discussion’
Dec 19, 2014, 4:29 PM EST
Black-and-white version of Toronto’s new logo looks similar to Brooklyn’s
Dec 19, 2014, 3:44 PM EST
President wants to see more athletes take political stands
Dec 19, 2014, 2:56 PM EST
This gives the Rockets a little more depth on the wing with Harden and Ariza.
Dec 19, 2014, 2:15 PM EST
Thunder star sprained ankle against Warriors
Dec 19, 2014, 1:40 PM EST
Miller starting against Nets in first game back from concussion
Dec 19, 2014, 1:04 PM EST
Sending Wright to the Celtics leaves major hole at backup center
Dec 19, 2014, 12:28 PM EST
Mark Cuban is too smart to pull the trigger on this kind of deal unless he has word he can keep his man.
Dec 19, 2014, 11:51 AM EST
Heat and Nets among teams that showed interest
Dec 19, 2014, 11:15 AM EST
Mavericks owner, one of many celebrities singing off Stephen Colbert, had his priorities in line
Dec 19, 2014, 10:15 AM EST
The Bulls are better off with their depth and flexibility.
Dec 19, 2014, 9:44 AM EST
Greek Freak makes diving steal again Kings
Dec 19, 2014, 9:08 AM EST
Warriors forward blows dunk, does everything else right in win over Thunder
Dec 19, 2014, 8:30 AM EST
Chris Kringle channels his inner-Allen Iverson
- Kendrick Perkins: Rajon Rondo wanted out of Boston 5
- Report: Minnesota agrees to trade Corey Brewer to Houston 5
- Dallas moves into title contender status with addition of Rajon Rondo 42
- Kevin Durant turns ankle, leaves game not to return; X-rays negative. 4
- Report: Celtics ‘pretty pleased’ with return they got in trade for Rajon Rondo 31
- PBT Extra: Jabari Parker’s injury, what does it mean for Bucks, Rookie of Year race? 5
- Reports: Celtics agree to trade Rajon Rondo to Dallas Mavericks 39
- Andrew Bogut undergoes PRP therapy on knee, out indefinitely 9