Los Angeles Lakers - http://www.cbssports.com/mcc/blogs/
Cleveland Cavaliers - http://www.cbssports.com/mcc/blogs/
Well now that teams are clinching divisions and spots in the postseason I thought it would be cool to go ahead and preview each team that is going to be a part of the 2009 NBA Postseason. I will do one for each team as they clinch a playoff spot and since we already have teams that have clinched, we will start with them. Now we will continue with the team with the defending NBA champions: the Boston Celtics.
Boston's obvious strength coming into the playoffs is the fact that they're the team looking to repeat as champions. Any doubt you can have about this team's style of play can be quickly shot down with a quick flash of the hand by any member of the big three. Experience is something that you can't really undervalue in the potseason, and after last season's dramatic run to a championship, the Boston Celtics endured every problem that you could fathom last year and turned it into an NBA championship. Paul Pierce elevated his game to a new level in last year's postseason, and over one year developed a reputation as a clutch player. He and Kevin Garnett lead the respective inside-outside games of the Boston Celtics and is the biggest reason why they are as good as they are. A team like Boston is a team that systematically beats you down. They can launch jump shots consistently from any angle on the court, and Kevin Garnett anchors an inside game that is as effecient as it comes on both sides of the basketball. There's no real spot of attack in the system.
The Celtics defense, of course, is where you should really maintain focus. Paul Pierce has developed into a fantastic man defender and Kevin Garnett isn't a slouch himself, seeing as how he won last year's defensive player of the year award. Teams have to fight for every basket when they face up against Boston and that takes its toll over a 48 minute game. The Celtics are a hard working squad, and they don't take possessions off on any side of the ball.
The Celtics do go through stretches where they struggle to score. Rajon Rondo is an effective point guard for this team, but when he's called on to do too much he's really hit or miss. Outside of him, they have nobody who can really run the point guard position seeing as how Stephon Marbury has been a horrendous flop and Eddie House is a horrible ball handler for the guard position. Of course, that lack of depth was no problem last year. House stepped in fine when Sam Cassell was ineffective, but it is a weakness on the squad. Also, hunger will not be an issue for this team. A team with Kevin Garnett on the roster will never lack any emotion or desire to win. However, this isn't necessarily the same Celtics squad as last season. Gone are James Posey and P.J. Brown. In are Stephon Marbury and Mikki Moore. That's an obvious decline in production and court savvy and that could pose a bit of a problem in a seven game series.
The loss of James Posey will really be felt in the potseason, as he gave Paul Pierce moments of rest and guarded the opposing team's best player and allowed Pierce to flourish on offense before taking over again for the end of the game. Also, his knack for hitting big shots really helped mask what was an underwhelming postseason for Ray Allen. The fact that all of the big three are unselfish also could be a problem, because if Pierce isn't knocking down the big shots, Garnett and Allen don't necessarily demand the ball in clutch situations. Remember, in last season's game seven against Cleveland, P.J. Brown and Eddie House were helping Paul Pierce in that fourth quarter.
Why They Will Win It
The Celtics are a safe pick because we know that they can do it and we know that they have done it. Kevin Garnett also will have this team playing at a high level and even though they won a championship last season, they still play that same blue collar style of ball. None of the desire and grit that made last season's squad so embraceable is absent on this season's squad. Paul Pierce is so terrific on both sides of the basketball that you can't really help but admire his determination, and everyone else has no problem stepping in and filling roles. There's nothing to distract this squad, and honestly the only team that can shut the Celtics down is the Celtics.
Why They Won't Win It
However, they are capable of beating themselves. Doc Rivers is very questionable with his rotations and sometimes gives undeserved minutes to players in opportune situations (look at Sam Cassell and Glen Davis last season). A lack of a determined, confident second star that demands the basketball really puts a lot of pressure on Paul Pierce in critical situations. He can more than handle it, but it'd be nice if they could go elsewhere to take teams off guard.
The Boston Celtics enter this season's postseason in a tough spot because those crucial game 7's that were played in Boston last season may not be played in The Garden this year. However, this team is effective anywhere in the league because their style of play isn't necessarily feuled by a crowd reaction. They're an effective, systematic bunch and you can't question their heart or talent. The injuries set them back a bit, but they'll be in the talk as the playoffs continue. It's difficult to beat a physical team in a seven game series, and Boston is the epitome of a physical team. There's no reason to say they definitely won't repeat this year.
Coming up next: the Orlando Magic