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. Pacers’ Jordan Hill arrested for reckless driving, clocked at 107 mph

    Jul 31, 2015, 7:15 PM EDT

    Phoenix Suns v Los Angeles Lakers Getty Images

    Hill told the police he was “in a hurry.” I guess so.

  2. Warriors trade Gerald Wallace to Philadelphia in exchange for Jason Thompson

    Jul 31, 2015, 7:01 PM EDT

    Dallas Mavericks v Sacramento Kings Getty Images

    Neither guy is going to make a difference on the court for these teams. This was just moving some money around.

  3. Trail Blazers guarantee Allen Crabbe’s contract for next season

    Jul 31, 2015, 5:46 PM EDT

    LV Celtics v Trailblazers Getty Images

    Crabbe looked good in Las Vegas at Summer League.

  4. Report: Hedo Turkoglu wants to play anther NBA season, Kings possiblity

    Jul 31, 2015, 4:59 PM EDT

    Washington Wizards v Los Angeles Clippers Getty Images

    The Kings don’t really have the roster spot for him.

  5. Grizzlies’ D-League affiliate hires female assistant coach

    Jul 31, 2015, 4:11 PM EDT

    NBA.com NBA.com

    Iowa Energy add Nicki Gross to coaching staff

  6. Report: Joe Johnson “pumped” that Deron Williams bought out by Nets

    Jul 31, 2015, 12:52 PM EDT

    joe johnson nets sleeved alternates

    Johnson makes $24.9 million, but this is the last year of his contract.

  7. Report: Knicks to sign Thanasis Antetokounmpo

    Jul 31, 2015, 12:47 PM EDT

    20141220 Westchester Knicks at Maine Red Claws Getty Images

    New York drafted Giannis Antetokounmpo’s brother last year

  8. Report: 76ers second-rounder J.P. Tokoto won’t sign with Philadelphia

    Jul 31, 2015, 10:23 AM EDT

    Houston Rockets v Philadelphia 76ers Getty Images

    No. 58 pick will reportedly head overseas or to D-League

  9. Knicks waive Ricky Ledo

    Jul 31, 2015, 9:21 AM EDT

    Ricky Ledo AP

    Guard didn’t show much in short stint in New York

  10. NBA lands in Africa trying to put down roots, which is all about youth programs, infrastructure

    Jul 31, 2015, 8:35 AM EDT

    cd0ymzcznguwzdbhnduynddiytjhm2yyzthlmtjjotqwyyznptu5nzjmmwjlotdhnzrhn2iwytixngrhnwi2yzqwyjzk AP

    “One thing to come out of this will be more camps, more clinics, more games, more youth competition, and from that you get into infrastructure, and building more courts.” —Masai Ujiri, Raptors GM and native Nigerian

  11. Mark Cuban says trading for Rajon Rondo was tough call, “came down to a coin flip”

    Jul 31, 2015, 7:59 AM EDT

    Houston Rockets v Dallas Mavericks Getty Images

    “And the coin flip was as much about, is there going to be anything else that we could do? Because we knew we had to do something.” —Mark Cuban on trading for Rajon Rondo.

  12. Pau Gasol on Fred Hoiberg: “I think we’ll play with a better flow offensively”

    Jul 30, 2015, 11:30 PM EDT

    Pau Gasol Pau Gasol

    Hoiberg has a much stronger offensive reputation than Tom Thibodeau.

  13. Blazers waive Brendan Haywood after acquiring him from Cavs

    Jul 30, 2015, 10:43 PM EDT

    Brendan Haywood, Michael Beasley Brendan Haywood, Michael Beasley

    Portland received Mike Miller and two second-round picks in addition to Haywood.

  14. Report: Kings expected to hire Nancy Lieberman as assistant coach

    Jul 30, 2015, 10:00 PM EDT

    Austin Toros v Texas Legends Austin Toros v Texas Legends

    Lieberman would be the second female assistant coach, after Becky Hammon

  15. Report: Hawks’ Mike Scott arrested for felony drug possession

    Jul 30, 2015, 9:15 PM EDT

    Mike Scott Mike Scott

    Scott was charged with possession of marijuana and MDMA.

Top 10 NBA Player Searches
  1. K. Bryant (2788)
  2. B. Haywood (2303)
  3. I. Thomas (2167)
  4. L. James (1923)
  5. M. Miller (1878)