There’s only a week left in the regular season but we still have no idea who the Celtics will be matched up with in the first round. Boston plays the Cavaliers tonight and the winner will take the lead for the number 1 seed. The lower half of the bracket is just as convoluted.
I’m not even going to bother going through the various scenarios but at the moment it appears that one of these teams will meet the Celtics for a first round series.
There’s an outside chance that the Pistons or Hornets could sneak into the conversation as well, but for now we’ll focus on that handful of teams.
One week to go in regular season, still seven potential first-round opponents for Boston. Chicago + Indy most likely candidates at moment. pic.twitter.com/5q58GPHYdG— Chris Forsberg (@ESPNForsberg) April 5, 2017
The CelticsBlog staff has been busy doing pre-previews for each of the potential matchups. I thought I’d highlight each article and add my own 2 cents focusing on the fun storylines each series could provide.
The two sides split their four-game season series, but it’s been hard to know which Bulls team you’re going to get on any given night: the one that swept the Cavaliers in the regular season or the one that went a combined 0-7 against the Dallas Mavericks, Minnesota Timberwolves and New York Knicks.
As Tim points out, there’s no way to know how this one is going to play out on the court if only because the Bulls are so unpredictable.
From a narrative perspective, this one writes itself. Let’s list them, shall we?
- Rajon Rondo plays against his former team, ...in the playoffs, ...playing for a team he used to torment, ...for a fan base that used to hate him for it, ...and that same fan base still seems to hate him because he’s a maddening talent and personality. Delicious.
- Jimmy Butler plays against the team that has tried multiple times to trade for him and is likely to try again this offseason. He gets a taste of what Brad Stevens can do with a team of self-made, overachievers just like him. The Bulls management gets a chance to fall in love with some of the guys that could be headed the other direction in a trade as well. Or maybe both sides will forever wonder what could have been.
- Former Celtics nemesis Dwyane Wade is back playing the Celtics but with a different team this time. Does he still have some of that old juice or is he on the back nine of his career and a poor spacing option on the court with his teammates?
The Celtics swept the regular-season series against the Pacers, going 3-0. So on the surface it is safe to say that this could be a favorable matchup. But the playoffs can be a different ballgame, and Indy still has Paul George (at least for the next few months), and Jeff Teague can still fill up a box score.
Not to over-simplify things too much, but take everything I said about Jimmy Butler and apply it to Paul George. He is said to have his eye on joining the Lakers when he’s a free agent in over a year. But he also wants to play for a contender and he could certainly make the Celtics a contender if the price is right. Will a challenging series against the Celtics make him ditch his Laker dreams and be more amenable to a potential long term contract with the Celtics? It couldn’t hurt.
Oh yeah, and lots of Larry Bird nostalgia. That’s always fun.
Boston’s system alone helps diminish the chances Whiteside takes over and controls a game. With Horford’s driving, shooting, passing, rebounding and quick feet defensively he can have a far more diverse impact on the game than Miami’s best big. The only player with a comparable ability on the Heat is Josh McRoberts, who is probably done for the season with a foot injury.
None of the Miami big 3 are left from their title teams but it would still be fun to eliminate the Heat from the playoffs. Spoelstra might win Coach of the Year and this scrappy team plays hard and smart, so I’m not considering that a slam dunk by any means. There’s some Suns related history between Goran Dragic, Isaiah Thomas, and even Gerald Green, so that could be fun too.
Boston and Milwaukee are a contrast of styles, body types, and philosophies. The Celtics want to fly around on both sides of the ball, creating havoc with their ball movement to score and flustering offenses with their quickness on the perimeter on defense. The Bucks are longer than most teams, so everything is geared to take advantage of their size mismatch, including running their offense from the post and elbow and shrinking the court by trapping and overloading the strong side.
Bill focused on a hilarious kung-fu analogy with the Celtics being Bruce Lee and the Bucks being Kareem Abdul-Jabar. Personally I can’t think of this team and not be reminded of one of those promotional wind-sock man things you see out front of a used car lot.
As for storylines, this one isn’t so much fun as it is terrifying to think about playing against the Greek Freak in a playoff atmosphere. He’s the number 1 reason why I am glad this is matchup seems to be the least likely at this point.
Atlanta Hawks: coming soon
We don’t have a preview up yet for the Hawks but that one will be coming soon.
A year ago the Hawks were a terrible matchup for the Celtics in part because Al Horford is awesome. Now Horford is playing for Boston and the Hawks replaced him with Dwight Howard, who himself could be a matchup nightmare for the Celtics.
If Millsap is healthy, this could be another challenging series but ultimately I think the Celtics have passed them in terms of talent and execution.
Conclusion: Regardless of the opponent, this year’s playoffs is going to be fun.
Which team would you most want to play in the 1st round?
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