Who’s ready for the playoffs? I’m sure most fans are, and if you are like me, then the playoffs couldn’t start fast enough. I hate this time of year in the NBA. The last three weeks of the season are always the worst for me. Aside from the race to the eighth in the West, seeding seems to be all but set. We know which teams are going to be in the playoffs, and for the most part, we know which seed each team will have, give or take a spot, when playoffs start.
I am admittedly much more familiar with the Eastern Conference than the West. I’m a Toronto Raptors fan, and most TV stations around here tend to play a ton of Knicks, Heat, and Celtics games. If I’m lucky, maybe I can catch a Bulls game once in a while. The Bulls and Celtics are two of my favorite teams to watch. Whether they play each other, or other teams, I am looking forward to how these teams fare in the playoffs. Much has changed for the Celtics since last years loss in the NBA Finals to the Los Angeles Lakers. Of course, the Bulls have a completely different lineup as well, but have played very well together, and under the guidance of rookie head coach Tom Thibodeau, have the best defense in the league.
The difference between these two teams heading into the playoffs, is that the Bulls are thriving going down the stretch, while the Celtics are faltering. To be honest though, I wouldn’t read too much into either event, since the Bulls have a very easy schedule headed into the playoffs, while the Celtics are a veteran team, and counting them out at any time would be stupid (remember they were the fourth seed last year).
The Bulls currently have the first seed in the Eastern Conference. They have certainly lived up to the hype, and play notoriously tough on the defensive end. In fact, the only team with a lower opponent point per game average is the Boston Celtics. The difference is though, that the Bulls also have a balanced offense. I don’t think I need to mention that Derrick Rose is one of the top point guards in the league, having an MVP type season. They also have good offensive weapons in Carlos Boozer and Luol Deng, with Kyle Korver off of the bench.
One knock against the Bulls, if there is any, is that the players on the team don’t have much success in the playoffs. However, in my opinion, that isn’t a fair thing to point out. Derrick Rose, and Joakim Noah have been to the playoffs twice in their young careers. Boozer and Korver have both been on the Utah Jazz, which were perennially in the playoffs out West. Perhaps this team hasn’t been to the playoffs together, but many of their individual players have been to the big stage. I don’t think that this team has any flaws, and maybe, just maybe, they can be good enough to reach the NBA Finals.
The Celtics are worthy of making the NBA Finals once again. Every team goes through rough stretches in an 82 game season, and a team full of NBA veterans should not have any problems. I think momentum is a viable excuse for a young team, but with Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen and Paul Pierce still on the team, I don’t think momentum will mean anything. So for that reason I will ignore that the team isn’t playing so great as of now. What I can’t ignore is this: they don’t have Kendrick Perkins.
Kendrick Perkins gave the Celtics a defensive presence inside. I think Jeff Green is a better player than Perkins, but Perkins was a weapon the Celtics could have used on Dwight Howard, and Andrew Bynum, should the Lakers and Celtics both make the Finals. But with Green they get an inconsistent scorer off the bench. The Celtics should have been in a “win now” mentality, but the move to trade Perkins was clearly because they didn’t want to pay him in the future. So now, the Celtics have gone from being favorites in the playoffs, to a team with a bunch of question marks.
So what would happen if these two teams met in the Eastern Conference Finals? Let’s look at the matchups.
POINT GUARD: DERRICK ROSE VS RAJON RONDO
This is an intriguing match up. Rondo is a good defensive point guard, but I think Rose will get his points regardless. On the other hand, Rose won’t do much to stop Rondo, who will still be able to get his teammates involved, since he has such great court vision. However, Rose is the best player on the Bulls, and will likely average 25 ppg or more, while dishing around 7 assists a game, so I will have to give the edge to ROSE.
SHOOTING GUARD: KEITH BOGANS VS RAY ALLEN
This match up goes to Ray Allen. Bogans is in the starting line up because of his defense and ability to hit the occasional three, but Ray Allen is clearly much better than him. Bogans is one of the worst starting players in the league, so I don’t think I will waste much time with this analysis. Edge ALLEN.
SMALL FORWARD: LUOL DENG VS PAUL PIERCE
I like what Deng brings to the game, but Pierce is the go to guy for the Celtics. Pierce is the better player, but this match up is closer than you may think. Click on the link to see: http://bkref.com/tiny/XVgeH. They are very close in every category. I am going to go with Pierce, because he is slightly better this season, and has had more experience in the playoffs. So I will reluctantly give the edge to PIERCE.
POWER FORWARD: CARLOS BOOZER VS KEVIN GARNETT
Defense versus offense. Garnett is still one of the top defensive players in the league, and I think he will shut down Boozer. I think Boozer will average between 16 and 18 points with Garnett guarding him. I will give the edge to GARNETT.
CENTER: JOAKIM NOAH VS NENAD KRSTIC or SHAQUILLE O’NEAL
Noah is a beast on the boards, and plays with high energy. Krstic simply isn’t as good a player. Shaq is too old to be relevant on offense, and isn’t as effective on defense as he once was. Any team with a good center is to be feared in the playoffs, and Noah is a top center in the league. Edge goes to NOAH and the Bulls with this match up.
BENCHES: BULLS VS CELTICS
I like the Celtic’s bench. I also like Chicago’s bench. I think Jeff Green is a decent scorer to have off the bench, and along with Big Baby Davis that can be a good combo. However, the O’Neal’s and Murphy are close to obsolete. Taj Gibson, Kyle Korver and the defense of Ronnie Brewer is more valuable to me than the Celtics bench. I like the Bulls bench a LITTLE bit more than the Celtics, so the edge goes to the BULLS.
These two teams are neck and neck, and I don’t like to pick one over the other, but if I HAD to, I would pick the Celtics. I never like to count out a gang of veterans, who are probably still angry over losing to the Lakers last year, so call me crazy, but I think the Celtics have one more title run left in them, Perkins or no Perkins.
Remember, these are only my opinions, so if you want to share yours, hit me up on Twitter (see bellow) or write a comment.
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