Ric Bucher picks Boston to be the biggest surprise this post-season, Chris Broussard says 'nayyyyy'
Via ESPN Insider: Link
RIC BUCHER: When we first discussed debating who the surprise team of the playoffs would be, I figured the most difficult part would be choosing from a half-dozen or so options. Did I want to go with a playoff newcomer (as in, OKC or Charlotte) that seems poised to pull off a first-round upset? Or did I want to go with a coming-on-strong team (as in, San Antonio or Portland) to reach the conference finals? I decided to go the other way and pick the team whose staunchest fan, The Sports Guy, already has given them up for dead. I'm saying the Boston Celtics are going to be in the Eastern Conference finals.
CHRIS BROUSSARD: You are certainly going out on a limb, my man, because I don't see any way Boston gets by Cleveland in the second round (assuming the Cavs beat the Bulls in Round 1).
More quotes and fun facts (Chris Broussard hates unicorns. Fact.) after the break.
Note: RB=Ric Bucher, CB=Chris 'Negative Nancy' Broussard
RB: I know the Celtics have not been consistent and stumbled down the stretch, but they still show flashes of playing as well as anyone when they're motivated, demonstrated by their recent win over the Cavs.
CB: I agree that Boston can be "the old Celtics" from time to time, but they can no longer do it for a full seven-game series against a top-flight team.
Chris Broussard is skeptical of our Schwartz. Ric "I don't need no stinkin' K's" Bucher is about to show Broussard what the back of his hand looks like.
RB: I don't blame anyone for believing the Celtics are done; but having been around the team several times in the last few weeks, I know there remains a tremendous amount of pride in that locker room, and my sense is that they will come into the playoffs with a chip on their shoulder because everyone has written them off. I particularly like their chances of knocking off Orlando.
The Celtics, for as disappointing as they've been, are the eighth-best defensive team overall and third-best defending the 3. Defensively, I just don't see any reason they can't get back to the tenacity that had them holding eight of their first nine opponents to 90 points or less.
CB: I see a big reason Boston can't play well enough defensively to beat Cleveland or Orlando -- age! KG was always their anchor defensively, covering for other guys and making them better than ever on that end. Well, age, injuries and wear-and-tear have sapped him of the ability to do that night in, night out.
Chris Broussard taking the typical 'pessimistic Polly' stance here, as well as working in a little bit of 'Harry Hater'. Let's see how 'The Buchs' responds!
RB: I see the age factor as a little overblown with Boston, as opposed to, say, San Antonio, because of Rajon Rondo and Kendrick Perkins and a defense that isn't predicated on one guy like Orlando's is. Perk and Rondo have done nothing but improve and were instrumental in the Celtics going to seven games in the second round without KG last year.
My reason for still believing in Boston is more gut than anything statistical. I know Doc Rivers has been juggling his rotations just to get everybody to the finish line without setbacks. Mission accomplished. Meanwhile, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen have both found their stroke, scoring big and shooting better than 50 percent.
CB: There's no reason -- other than the sentimental "gut" -- to think the Celtics are going past Round 2. Since Christmas, they have been absolutely mediocre, going 27-27 since their 23-5 start. That's a pace that would have them seeded eighth in the weak East and out of the playoffs altogether out West if they played that way all season. That's four months of middling play. That's enough of a sample size for me.
Chris Broussard has officially run out of steam. Take him down Ric.
RB: Despite the Celtics' feebleness, they beat the Cavs two out of three times this season, a team they'd face before the conference finals.
CB: First of all, Boston's 2-2 vs. Cleveland, not 2-1, and the win on opening night can easily be dismissed because the Cavs were adjusting to playing with Shaq for the first time. Not an easy adjustment, as you know.
RB: Adjusting to Shaq? Um, I believe they will be doing that all over again. Unless, of course, you believe he'll step right back in seamlessly. I don't.
Ummmm Ex-squeeze me? Baking powder? Don't hurt em' Ric!
CB: Secondly, Boston is 1-3 vs. the Magic. But more than that, the Celtics have become a terrible rebounding team. They're the worst rebounding team in the playoffs and ranked 25th in the league overall in rebound margin.
RB: Doc drove home exactly how much the regular season has meant to the Celtics by sitting the Big Three in the season finale. In fact, the only game in which he played each of the Big Three at least 35 minutes was against the Cavs, for a win. That was by design, to find out exactly where the team was when it unleashed the cannons. Satisfied that they could still get it done, they pulled the tarp out again. They went 1-3 against Orlando despite outrebounding the Magic three out of four games, so I don't put much stock in rebounding being a meaningful harbinger.
As I said, this argument can't be waged with charts and graphs. It's about this being the Celtics' last stand as currently constituted, and about pride. More than anything, it's my lack of confidence in Orlando and Cleveland as playoff teams. Regular season, no question they were both better. But do they have the players who can deliver in the clutch in the playoffs? We have yet to see it from either of them.
Awwwwww call it! Call it! This isn't a debate it's a massacre! Ric Bucher, you sir, are some kind of wonderful.
Let's just hope you're also not some kind of crazy.