Switch Flipped; But That's No Guarantee

Headed into the playoffs the Knicks were the trendy upset pick.  To be fair to the "experts," few actually picked the Knicks to actually win the series.  They just hedged their bets by saying that they had the best shot at an upset out of all other Eastern Conference matchups.  And based on the conclusion of the regular season it was hard to blame them.  

But there's just something different about the playoffs and there appears to be a different level that this team plays at in the second season.  (And in an offhand way of trying to be somewhat objective, I have to admit that the Knicks struggled with injuries as well - though I think that was the difference between a 5 or 6 game series vs. a sweep)

To wit, there's a phrase in the world of trading stocks (and finance in general) that gives us equal parts comfort and warning.

Past performance is not a reliable predictor of future results.

In other words, just because Google stock soared into the 600s early in the year didn't mean it would keep gaining.  Likewise, just because a stock is at an all time low doesn't necessarily mean it will keep falling.  In fact, it might be a great buying opportunity if the fundamentals of the company are strong.

It cuts both ways in basketball as well.  Just because the Celtics finished the season poorly doesn't mean the poor play would carry over into the postseason.  However, just because the team "flipped The Switch" and made it to the Finals last with the same core group (though a completely new supporting cast) doesn't mean it will happen again.

Last year the Celtics dispatched both Dwyane Wade and LeBron James in the first two rounds.  Now they face them together with Chris Bosh in tow.  I still like our chances against them but it will not be an easy road.  I dare say there won't be a sweep in the next round.  After that should for all intents and purposes be the Chicago Bulls, owner of the best record in the regular season.  Both the Bulls and the Heat throttled us in the closing weeks of the season.  But there I go again, using the regular season as a predictor of future results.

Ask the experts if they thought the Pacers would give the Bulls this hard a time in the playoffs.  Ask the experts if they expected the Hawks to take control of the series against Orlando.  Ask the experts if the Hornets had any shot against the mighty defending champion Lakers.  Crazy stuff happens in the post season and that, as they say, is why they play the games and why we watch at the edge of our seats.

Of course there are always subtle trends to look for that might give hints to the future.  The bench play has been a concern for the whole first round.  They played maybe 3 quarters of decent basketball and two of them happened in the first half of yesterday's game.  But they did seem to gain a little more confidence and aggressiveness as the series went along (in particular Big Baby and to a lesser extent Jeff Green).

Also, it is promising to see the Heat fail to close out the plucky Sixers yesterday.  Scott Souza made the point on Celtics Stuff Live last night that LeBron led teams in the past (Cleveland) have scorched the Earth in the regular season but failed to deliver in the playoffs because teams get a chance to gameplan against his talent.  Now he's got a couple more talented pieces around him, but I like our chances with Doc and his staff drawing up ways to frustrate and limit the Heat stars.

There are always different factors to consider as well.  The Celtics squad that owned the Heat early in the season is not the same team that will take the court in the 2nd round.  There is still a chance (depending on who you believe) that we might see Shaq, which further changes the dynamic and even the gameplans of each team.  Every situation is different.

The Switch appears to be locked in the on position now.  There's no more excuses about motivation or focus.  This is all that matters now.  The best team will emerge from these playoffs.  The legacy of the Big 4 has another few chapters to write.  Danny Ainge and The Trade will be judged by the next few weeks and months.  Bet against them at your own risk, but don't assume anything.  This should be fun.  NEXT!

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