Now that both the East and West contestants of what is the 2013 NBA Playoffs are set, here’s my take on the winners/losers of each matchup starting with the East. Seeds are in parenthesis.
(1) Miami vs. (8) Milwaukee: LeBron (DNP), Wade (DNP), and Bosh (DNP); Miami still wins 4-0. The Heat have 3 of the Olympic starting 5; Bucks have Jennings, Ellis, and a bunch of no names. The Heat should have been granted a first-round bye. That’s how horrible this series will most likely turn out.
(2) New York vs. (7) Boston: The Celtics should not be underestimated because of their age. Doc Rivers knows all to well – as do his players- what playoff basketball is all about. Only the Spurs Popovich is better at getting the most out of his squad. As long as health is not an achilles heel, Boston has more than a puncher’s chance of winning this series. The Knicks have 2 of the league’s premier shooters in Melo and Smith, but need Chandler to balance everything out. Sometimes when the shots are not fallin, the Knicks get caught holding the ball to long and standing around. The lack of ball movement in halfcourt sets will be their undoing and exactly what the doctor ordered for the Celtics. The Knicks should win; I won’t be shocked if they don’t.
(3) Indiana vs. (6) Atlanta: Pacers are to inconsistent; one minute they look as though they could beat anybody, and then turn around and look as though couldn’t compete with the recently crowned state champ Mentor Cardinals. Hibbert’s production is critical to the Pacers advancing to the next round. 8 points and 5 rebound type numbers will not get it done. Horford and Smith can tip the scales in favor of the Hawks if Josh stops poutin’ and start playin’ up to his ability. Al will bring it every night; will Smith help him out? Indiana wins 4-3 by default.
(4) Brooklyn vs. (5) Chicago: Lopez, Johnson, and Williams make up a nice core for the Nets, but Carlesimo and inexperience may count against them in the end. The Bulls are battle tested like no other. Chicago needs to only put points on the board; everything else will take care of itself. Rose’s return (off the bench) would be a huge bonus. Bulls win this series 4-2 on grit alone.
Of all the playoff teams’ I’ve previewed up to this point, the Boston Celtics are by far the one playoff squad that is surrounded by a myriad of questions. Can Pierce and Garnett pull it together for one more championship run? Will they survive a playoff series without the playoff- walking triple-double- Rondo? Are Avery Bradley’s shoulder seperations a thing of the past? I’m not sure what the answers to these questions are, and I may never know if the Celtics get handed a first-round exit ticket by the Knicks, but I do know one thing: no matter who’s name is on the back of the jersey at the time, putting on that Celtics uniform has enabled all those who wear it to perform. How else would you explain 17 championships?
Doc Rivers is second only to Greg Popovich when it comes to being a complete coach. As has been mentioned before with the likes of Jerry Sloan, both Pop and Rivers were former players who’s teams’ seem to have taken on the identity of each. Despite the rash of injuries that have befallen the Celtics this season, Doc has managed to keep his troops moving forward towards another possible championship run that many think the Celtics are too old to pull off. Never underestimate the heart of a champion; did not the tortise beat the hare? This team’s horses may have lost some it’s Kentucky Derby speed, but their high playoff basketball I.Q. more than makes up for that.
The Celtics stack up pretty modestly against the rest of the league from a statistical standpoint, but we all know know numbers never tell the whole story when it comes to the tenants at T.D. Bank North. They rank 11th in points allowed (96.5), and 18th in points scored (96.6). I’d be worried if these numbers were attached to the Atlanta Hawks because of their style of play. In the case of the Celtics these are grind it out numbers, and grind it out is what Boston does best; slow you down and be physical in the process. Because of this fact, I believe the first-round matchup against the Knicks is a toss up.
Yes, Melo and J.R. Smith are two of the game’s hottest shooters who have an uncanny ability to shoot the three. However, without an inside presence to compliment what the Knicks can do from the perimeter, the Celtics win this series. We all saw what happend to the Thunder in last last year’s Finals. Tyson Chandler is the key element for both teams in this series. The Knicks need him to balance out their half court offense, and the Celtics need his absence in order for their 29th league rank rebounding position to not rear it’s ugly head. Last but not least, the Celtics do a much better job of moving the ball in the halfcourt offense than do the Knicks.
With the playoffs set to start about a week from now, this is the only Eastern conf. matchup I look forward to seeing. The Celtics D vs. the Knicks love for the 3… Win or go home!