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Celtics’ first round matchup could be their toughest in the East



Celtics' first round matchup could be their toughest in the East

With the playoffs proper across the nook, virtually the whole lot is shaping up fairly splendidly for the Boston Celtics. The C’s, who’ve seven fewer losses than the NBA’s subsequent finest workforce (the reigning champion Denver Nuggets), have had an almost flawless season. They’ve the #1 offensive ranking and the #2 defensive ranking within the league, and so they’ve completed so whereas incorporating Kristaps Porzingis and Jrue Vacation – two former All-Stars – into an already strong core of the Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, Derrick White, and Al Horford. The entire stars have realized to coexist on the ground collectively, and each single starter has willingly sacrificed for the betterment of the workforce.

Everyone has seemingly purchased in. Most significantly, although, Boston must be totally wholesome (knock on wooden) heading into the playoffs. Excellent scenario, proper?

Along with the Celtics’ successes this season, the Jap Convention has been weak –there’s simply no different method to say it. In keeping with DraftKings, of the highest 9 NBA groups with one of the best odds to win the championship this season, solely three groups – the Celtics, Bucks and Sixers – reside within the East. And, Milwaukee isn’t precisely taking part in their finest basketball as of late; they’ve misplaced 4 of their final six video games, three of which had been to the Wizards, Grizzlies and Raptors – among the NBA’s worst. Lillard seems to be like he’s misplaced a step, and the impenetrable backline of Giannis Antetokounmpo and Brook Lopez hasn’t been sufficient to compensate for the horrible level of assault protection of Beasley, Lillard and whoever else Milwaukee throws on the market. Oh, and now the Greek Freak is battling a calf harm… as if issues couldn’t worsen for them. I’m not too frightened in regards to the Bucks, fairly frankly.

You understand who does fear me within the East, although? Two groups. One is the Miami Warmth, who Boston misplaced to final yr within the Jap Convention Finals. And the opposite is the 76ers, who blew a 3-2 lead towards the Celtics final yr within the convention semifinals, however who (when wholesome) have seemed extra harmful than a season in the past.

And what’s the Celtics reward for having one of the best common season successful share of an NBA workforce previously 5 years? Properly, it is likely to be going through the Warmth or the 76ers within the first spherical.

Thanks a lot, basketball gods! If the common season ended as we speak, Boston would have a 50% likelihood of going through both Miami or Philadelphia within the first spherical. And, in actuality, it’s in all probability greater than that, as a result of I don’t see both of these groups shedding to Chicago or Atlanta in a second play-in sport. Not less than the basketball gods did the Bucks just a little bit dirtier than us; Milwaukee would have a 100% likelihood of going through both the Warmth or the Sixers if the common season ended as we speak. Tough draw.

Picture by Mitchell Leff/Getty Photos

So long as Jimmy Butler and Erik Spoelstra are on the Miami sideline, I’m afraid of the Warmth. We don’t must see Jimmy morph into prime Michael Jordan once more as soon as the playoffs come round to consider it’s for actual. He’s going to do it like he at all times does. He rests in the course of the common season, after which he turns into one of many 5 to 10 finest gamers within the NBA as soon as successful actually issues. It’s like clockwork. The addition of Terry Rozier additionally scares me fairly a bit. I don’t like that he’ll have an additional chip on his shoulder as a result of the Celtics traded him some time again. I have already got a imaginative and prescient of him going off for 40 towards us, hitting powerful shot after powerful shot. It’s simply what the Warmth do. It was Caleb Martin final yr, however it’ll be another person this yr.

Somebody will step up and turn into a main playmaker or a go-to scorer as soon as successful time commences. Regardless of who they’ve filling out the roster, the teaching of Spoelstra and the management of Butler make Miami a frightening first spherical matchup. They’ve been overmatched towards the Celtics and have gained earlier than (want I remind you of final yr), and so they can do it once more.

After which there’s the Sixers. It’s like individuals overlook that Boston was down 3-2 final yr to Philly. There’s this assumption that Embiid and the Sixers have some kind of psychological block towards this Celtics core, however they get nearer to knocking them out yearly. And in a yr the place Embiid seemed as pleased to be in a Sixers uniform as I’ve seen him, I don’t wish to face them early on.

Now, clearly Joel hasn’t seemed the identical since getting back from his MCL harm. Nevertheless, he may completely be ready to let free and go full throttle as soon as the playoffs begin. He’s appeared a bit hesitant in utilizing his physicality and muscle within the few video games that he’s beenback, however I assume that’ll change as soon as successful time commences.

The silver lining is that maybe a primary spherical matchup towards Miami or Philadelphia will kick the Celtics into gear in an identical approach that the Brooklyn Nets did to Boston within the 2022 playoffs. Regardless of the 4-0 sweep of the Nets two years in the past, Brooklyn pressured the Celtics to be centered and locked in from the beginning, which paid dividends in future rounds. So, if Boston is confronted with both Miami or Philly within the first spherical, hopefully they will channel their depth from the beginning and replicate what they did in 2022, this time with a Finals win.

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