Blog Entry

Road to the Finals: Boston Celtics

Posted on: April 7, 2011 2:19 pm
Edited on: April 12, 2011 4:20 pm
 
Posted by Royce Young



If I were writing this piece a month and half ago, things might be a bit more optimistic. If I were writing this piece a month and a half ago, I think I'd likely be skipping all talk about the first and second rounds and going straight to possible Eastern and even NBA Finals opponents.

But a lot happened over the past 45 days or so. A lot happened that drastically changed the outlook of the 2010-11 season for the Boston Celtics.

You know the story. Danny Ainge decided to trade ubuntu cornerstone and family member Kendrick Perkins away for Jeff Green and a balding 27-year-old. The team was now relying on Shaquille O'Neal's 39-year-old body to heal up and be ready for the grind of the playoffs. The team was banking on Green -- a notoriously inconsistent player -- to consistently provide a scoring punch off the bench and stabilize things on the wing. The team was trying to keep an eye toward the future while still focusing on the now.

Except the now might've been badly damaged.

Since the Perkins trade, the Celtics are 13-9. They're giving up more points per possession, scoring less and losing to teams they almost always handle. Now my personality is anti-panic, so I'm definitely not doing anything of the sort for Boston. But let's face the music here: The team is much different without Perkins. Differently in personality, different in personnel, different in ability. Boston is really missing not just that one-on-one post defender they had in Perk, but what his attitude and intensity brought as well. 

Road To The Finals
I really agree with Bill Simmons, who knows that team better than anyone. They really believed in their group. They believed in the fact nobody had ever beat them when they were at full strength. They walked with a serious swagger, they believed in each other. I'm not exactly sure what message was sent to the team when Ainge traded Perkins, but I don't think it was a positive one. You can spin that deal any way you want -- it was for the future, the Celtics needed a wing, it helps the bench -- the players didn't respond well to it. And the actual team is the most important factor in all of this.

As it stands going into tonight's matchup with the Bulls, Boston sits second in the East, tied with the Heat and three back of the Bulls. Gone is the possibility of the top seed and it'll be a tussle to place second too. The Celtics are headed for an opening round series with either Philadelphia or New York. Fifty days ago, Boston looks superior in every way against both those teams. Now, things look a bit more iffy.

But here's where we pump the brakes.

The Celtics are, in fact, still 54-23. (Know what they were last year when they stormed to The Finals? 50-32 and fourth in the East.) They Celtics are, in fact, still good. They still have Ray Allen. They still have Kevin Garnett, They still have Paul Pierce. They still have Rajon Rondo. Maybe they're missing a big, mean-looking piece in the middle, but it can be overcome.

They defend. They score in crunch time. They're playoff tested. These guys know how to win. They know what it takes. Nobody has quite the same motivation as the Celtics, because nobody else suffered a painful Game 7 defeat in The Finals last June. Doc Rivers talked about how the team has that same excitement for the game and each other that it had in training camp in 2007 when they went on to win it all. This team is still very, very good.

Keep in mind, Perkins had only played in 11 games with Boston this season. The Celtics have experienced most of their success this season without him. But again, that's just without him on the floor. People tend to underestimate things like chemistry. Though Perk might not have been playing, the rest of the team knew he was coming soon, and really just in time for when they really needed him.

Is this Boston group a true Finals contender? Of course. Absolutely they are. The Celtics could trade Ray Allen and Paul Pierce and they'd still have Miami's number just because they're in the Heat's head completely. But no longer can this group take things for granted. They aren't going to cruise past the 76ers or Knicks. And despite having the Heat by the tail, they aren't going to just skip past them either.

Then it's about the Bulls. Doc Rivers and Ainge can tell themselves that getting Shaq back will be an answer in matching up inside with Joakim Noah and Carlos Boozer. That might be true. But things are different now for the Celtics. They've lost a little something. An edge, a mentality, a swagger -- whatever. And they may have lost their chance at it all this year too.
Comments

Since: Feb 10, 2007
Posted on: April 7, 2011 5:24 pm
 

Road to the Finals: Boston Celtics

     The Celts had all but ONE center during that poor stretch as well, thus forcing their hands at over-using Big Baby outside of his usual PF position.   ADD in Jermaine Oneil to the mix, who's played very well i might add, and now the Celts are locked and loaded with TWO centers in Krstic and Jermaine, something they didn't have the luxury of last year either.  THEN you add in Shaq come playoffs and you've got a three-headed monster at center that can rotate and stay fresh during games.   With 3 centers, KG, Big Baby, and Murphy, the Celts may have one of the bigges front courts in the leauge.  And lets face it, no matter what Shaq's condition is, if he's on the floor, there isn't a center in the league that can handle him.  The Celts have been pushing Rondo to shoot more during that poor stretch as well.  It probably cost them a few games along the way, but it did force Rondo to expand his game, which could come in handy in the future.  Also, the Celts never had two capabel backups at the guard positions most of the year either.  With West healthy and back in the flow ... and Wafer back as well, the C's for the first time all year have a decent bench available to back up Rondo and Ray.  In fact, with the additions, all the backups can go to their natural positions with Big Baby back at PF and Green at SF.  This gives as solid a 2nd unit as there is in the NBA ... and THAT will be the difference throughout the playoffs.   The defense has looked incredible.   The only ones that can stop the C's are the Celtics themselves!  BLEED GREEN!!!  Make room for banner #18  Yell




Since: Apr 15, 2008
Posted on: April 7, 2011 5:11 pm
 

Road to the Finals: Boston Celtics

Didn't everyone say the same thing last year? Not a Celtics fan really,but I don't think there a team you want to face in a 7 game playoff series.I don't think anyone is going to "cruise" over any one, is it because some of the marquee teams have gotten worse?I don't think so, i think it's more the competition around the league has gotten better...You still have your bottom feeder clubs that don't need to be mentioned....but when the Celtics first formed there "big three" the competition in the East was next to none...that's not the case anymore.
 
How can the teams #'s be so different without Perkins, they never actually had him playing in the first place....Shaq & Jermaine weren't hurt at the first of the year either, and were at least contributing a bit.....

They need to suck it up and just play the game, who cares if one guy was dealt...your being paid big money to play what most would call a hobby...suck it up.



Since: Aug 17, 2007
Posted on: April 7, 2011 5:11 pm
 

Road to the Finals: Boston Celtics

They can talk all they want to about Perkins not being in Boston now! Yes, with him being gone they are not as strong defensively but you gotta remember Perkins only played a handful of games for the Celtics this season! He was hurt most of the time so he was a non factor. I don't think that Shaq is the complete answer and may only be some part time help if he can stay healthy. I think the two people that need to step up for Boston now are Jermaine ONeal and Nenad Krstic. Those are they guys that need to help not Shaq!


The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com