The NBA Playoffs commenced yesterday afternoon and the biggest early news broke in the very first game between the Bulls and 76ers in Chicago. The Bulls All-Star point guard and 2011 NBA MVP Derrick Rose tore his ACL toward the end of a lopsided Chicago victory. While this is unfortunate for the Bulls and sad for one of the game’s brightest young stars, Chicago’s bad luck may translate directly into shamrocks for the league’s most veteran team – the 2008 NBA Champion Boston Celtics.
Unlike the NHL Playoffs that reseed its participants between each round, the NBA Playoffs are a bracket. Once the original seeds are determined, your next opponent shows up on the next line just like in the NCAA Basketball Tournament. In other words, the winner of Seeds 1/8 automatically plays the winner of Seeds 4/5 regardless of what happens in the first round matchups between Seeds 2/7 and Seeds 3/6.
What’s the point? If the Celtics can win their first round series against Atlanta, then they will most likely face wounded Chicago in the second round. The NBA typically awards its MVP Award the most fairly out of all the major sports. The NBA attempts to crown its MVP by answering the question: “Which player most affects his team’s ability to win baskeball games?” In the 2010-11 NBA season, Derrick Rose was the answer.
In January at Washington DC’s Verizon Center, I had the pleasure of watching Rose disect the Wizards. It’s not only his ability to score, but also Rose’s lane penetration and passing that fuels the Chicago offense. On Day One of the playoffs, most NBA analysts concurred that the Bulls postseason fate is doomed without DRose.
The Celtics, on the other hand, seem to be peaking at the right time, like in 2010, when Boston reached the seventh game of the NBA Finals. Although Ray Allen is banged up and his participation in the early stages of the Altanta series is questionable, Celtics coach Doc Rivers has been successful in incorporating young Avery Bradley into the Boston offense. Bradley takes pressure away from Rajon Rondo, allowing the All-Star to concentrate on the strengh of his game – distributing the basketball.
If the Celtics defeat the Hawks (who it should be noted have homecourt), they should be able to also beat Chicago in no more than six games. That result would most likely pit Boston against the defending Eastern Conference Champions – LeBron James and the Miami Heat. The Celtics have OWNED the Heat in 2011-12. In the Celtic wins over Miami, Boston has presented itself as a clearly superior team.
So the question is: Where is the end of the road for this veteran band of Boston Celtic warriors? I think that the health of the Big Three is the answer.