They’re coming. Somehow, someway they are back in it. Although it’d be foolish to anoint them title contenders, the Boston Celtics have suddenly turned into the most dangerous team not called the Heat or Bulls in the Eastern Conference. The C’s are 15-5 since the All-Star Break are riding a five game winning streak en route to first place in the Atlantic Division. Sunday was the cap on this impressive run from a team most thought was headed for an early exit in the first round. The Celtics brought in Prince James and the Miami Fraud and smacked them back to South Beach.
Now the question is, how serious are these Celtics as title contenders? A notion that admittedly was ludicrous a few weeks ago but now can’t be as easily ignored. It really comes down to if you’re a glass half full or glass half empty type of person.
Half Full/Half Empty
-Like has already been said this team is 15-5 since the All-Star break/Twice got blown out by the Sixers who they are battling for first palce in the Atlantic.
-The Celtics have won five straight and seven of their last eight./Only two of those wins came against current playoff teams.
-Despite their age the Celtics went 4-4 ina brutal eight game road stretch in which the team played three back-to-backs./Average margin of victory in the four wins; +5.8. Average margin of defeat in four losses; -11.8.
-Paul Pierce continues to play as one of the most underrated players in basketball. He was named Eastern Conference Player of the Week last week mainly for his 36-point, 10-rebound double-double in a win over Charlotte but he also had 20 plus points and at least six rebounds in each of the teams other three games in the week. Despite starting off out of shape Pierce has posted a strong stat line (19.1 ppg, 4.7 apg, 5.2 rpg) and is suddenly rebounding better than I can remember him ever doing. /Remains the only real scorer on the team and it’s unlikely that he will be able to pour in 36 points consistently in the playoffs against the teams that aren’t, you know, the Bobcats.
-Ask a casual NBA fan who has the most triple-doubles in the NBA this season and you’d probably hear a whole bunch of answerws like LeBron James, Dwayne Wade and Chris Paul and why they aren’t terrible guesses they aren’t correct either. The answer is Rajon Rondo who posted his fifth on Sunday with 16 points, 14 assists and 11 rebounds as he absolutely embarrassed the Heat on Sunday. He was without a doubt the best player on the court in the game. My question is why isn’t Rondo getting any MVP love? He obviously isn’t, and shouldn’t, be a favorite but at least he should be in the conversation right? He is the Celtics best player hands down right now, even with Pierce and Garnett playing at a high level. When he is playing at is best he is not only a ton of fun to watch but one of the more unstoppable players in the NBA today. Just a mention in the MVP conversation, that’s not asking too much is it?/Already hinted at it. As brilliant as Rondo is there are times when he is thrown out of whack and can’t get back in a rhythm and it’s impossible to imagine he can always reach in the tank and pull out a triple-double.
-Avery Bradley. Where the heck did this kid come from? He was a guy that seemed like yet another Danny Ainge draft bust but since Allen went down has seen his minutes go way up and likewise his production. He is certainly one of the teams best defenders especially on the perimeter. Just ask Dwayne Wade who is used to shelling out intimidating blocks not having them done to him. But Bradley has also been a decent ball handler and is scoring well (14.6 ppg in his last five games). Once Allen gets back he becomes a bona-fide stud off the bench./A month ago this kid was spending more time in his warmups at the end of the bench than actually playing basketball and who knows if Allen will come back and be healthy although he did return to practice yesterday.
-I don’t know if whatever Kobe got in Germany is contagious but since playing the Lakers in March Kevin Garnett suddenly looks like a whole new guy. His defensive intensity is (if you can believe if) higher than it’s been since maybe 2008. He is rebounding better and although still relying on his jumper a little too much scoring well. He led the team in scoring twice last week and even posted two double-doubles. Since February began he has averaged 17.4 points and 8.9 rebounds including 12 double-doubles after having only five in the first two months of the season. A big part of that has been his shift to the five-spot where he has really excelled. / He is still seven billion years old, or at least his knees are. Can he hold up this great play for another couple months not weeks?
I like how Brandon Bass and Greg Stiemsma are playing./They are Brandon Bass and Greg Stiemsma.
Right now these are all questions but it’s not as if other teams don’t have huge question marks. Is Derrick Rose still alive? Will he play again before the playoffs? Before the Mayan Calendar ends? Are the Heat going to crumble again? Can the Sixers still be a threat without any semblance of offensive balance? Can the Knicks win with just Carmelo? (Oh that one’s easy. No, no they can’t.) What Dwight Howard is going to show up the rest of the season?
What’s certain is the Celtics have inserted themselves back into the mix and they are certainly going to be a tough out in the playoffs for whatever team faces them, especially in a first round matchup if the Celtics lock up that fourth seed with an Atlantic Division crown.
Who are the real 2011-2012 Boston Celtics? Half full or Half empty? Let us know on Twitter (@seeuinoctober) or in the comments.