There's nothing quite like the words of Jim Mora to get you excited for the postseason. Anytime I think of the word, 'playoffs', that speech comes spiraling into my head. Unfortunately that hasn't happened lately with the Boston Celtics.
How it all came to fruition
Once the Ray Allen trade went down on draft day (that also landed us Big Baby) I envisioned the playoffs in the pitiful Eastern Conference. Then the Garnett rumors began to surface, and although I was a bit skeptical at first losing Big Al, I was convinced it was a great move once the trade was approved and Pierce and Ray-Ray joined KG for his first Celtics' press conference. Pierce, saddled with a sub-par team for his entire career, knew big things would come and he wanted to be present from the start. Team unity is apparent in many ways... taking the time to show up and greet a new teammate outside of practice or a team activity is one, and a big one at that.
Hope you're ready for the playoffs; if not KG might eat you. (AP Photo)
The Celtics immediately went from a team that could potentially grab a playoff spot to a team that could potentially win a championship. The aura of the team changed with one guy. There aren't many guys in the league that could do that. Thanks for coming to town, KG.
66 wins is something I'll never forget. Heading into the playoffs, this season has been nothing short of spectacular. From Ray Allen's game winners to Rondo's dazzling plays, this is one season I'm glad I was around for. Sure I'd love to have Big Al around when he hits his prime and starts dominating the league in a couple of years, but after this season's unbelievable ride I wouldn't change a thing.
Q & A
At the start of the season there were still plenty of questions surrounding the Celtics. Could Pierce, Ray-Ray and KG co-exist? Could Rondo, in just his second year, lead a championship-caliber team? Would we get a legitimate backup point guard? Did we have enough depth and firepower coming off the bench? Would Doc Rivers somehow mess this whole thing up? Could Brian Scalabrine lift his emotional high-fives and fist-pumps to a whole new level? This season delivered an emphatic 'YES' to all of those questions.
There's one last question that remains to be answered - does this Celtics team have what it takes to win it all? I think all C's fans would agree with me in saying they are the best team in the league, but (as this year's Super Bowl showed) that doesn't always guarantee a title.
We know what KG, Pierce and Ray-Ray can and will bring individually in the playoffs. We know Posey can do it all. We know Scalabrine will be ready to deliver a breathtaking towel wave. But here's a look at some of the other players that the Celtics will need major contributions from.
Big Baby will eventually get some minutes. They won't be consistent and he probably won't know about them ahead of time, but they'll come. When he gets called upon he has to be ready to deliver. He's shown great intensity throughout the season and also shown he can step it up in huge games (the rematch against the Pistons at Auburn Hills). The question in the playoffs will be if can he make an impact while receiving inconsistent playing time.
Tony Allen has shown flashes of his former self this season but the consistency hasn't been there. The C's won't need his scoring in the playoffs with The Big Three racking up minutes but there is no doubt he'll get some prime minutes late in games for his defense. Hopefully he's learned to lay off the pump fakes!
Leon Powe has been amazing the last month or two. I knew Powe worked hard, I just didn't know he could be this good. He was a bit of an ongoing joke between me and a friend. Back when he was still unproven and only getting garbage time I would always say he was awesome while my friend said he was terrible. I'd send him emails of box scores anytime Leon scored more than four points and he'd make a comment during a game anytime Leon messed up. Oddly enough, I haven't heard much out of my friend about Powe's ability lately. Go figure.
Rajon Rondo needs to play within himself. He can't try and do things he's not capable of; which honestly isn't much. If he plays his game I think he'll continue to grow and impress in the playoffs.
Perk needs to focus on rebounding and getting back on defense after a non-call. He went through that amazing streak this season where he was putting up double-doubles every game. I think its a little outlandish to expect on a regular basis in the playoffs, but if he attacks the boards and is a force underneath the hoop, the Celtics can make a deep run.
Sam 'I am' Cassell needs to be a little less 'I am' and a little more 'we are' for the Celtics to succeed. (AP Photo)
Sam Cassell has shown some signs of improvement as a Celtic during the last couple of games and I feel like he's one of the most important pieces to the puzzle. I've been very up-and-down on Sam during his stint with the Celtics so far. When we first made the signing I loved it because I knew we needed a veteran point guard. After seeing Sam play on the team I didn't really care for him and thought he was too worried about scoring. He made the game-winning three-ball against San Antonio in the Texas Triangle trip and I fell back in love with him. Then, in the following games, I continued to grimace each time he dribbled the ball down the court and tried shooting over a double team. Now I'm back to liking him as his shot selection has improved and he's shown he can play while Rondo is on the court. In the playoffs I think Sam will see some major fourth quarter minutes in close games. It's up to him to pass the ball out if he doesn't have a clean look at the basket. If he is able to do that, I think he'll work out perfectly and give us exactly what we need - a veteran point guard who can hit some HUGE shots.
Round 1 Prediction
As much as I enjoy the Hawks' youth and athleticism I just can't talk myself into thinking they'll win a game. I think the Celtics play with too much intensity and have been waiting for the playoffs since the start of the season. The Celts sweep in four and await Washington in the second round.
Not that you should, but if you need anymore inspiration before the playoffs be sure to visit the Celtics' homepage and underneath the 'Click and Roll' section, click CelticVision HD. Click on the 'In the Air Tonight' link and enjoy. On top of the immediate mental-hysteria this video brings you, there's a classic Scalabrine first-pump about three-quarters of the way through that's absolutely priceless. I use that every now and again to get me psyched for a post, you know, because writing is so similar to playing a competitive sport.