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Which Eastern Conference team scares you the most?

 

So last night I was watching the Heat-Knicks game and I couldn’t really decide which team I should root for. Ultimately, I went with the Knicks. Lesser of two evils. But like most NBA fans during the 2nd half of the season, I then started thinking about how this game could potentially affect my team: the Celtics.

Maybe it’s a little early to start projecting playoff matchups, but it’s still a lot of fun. Here’s the thing, though. I have no idea who I want the Celtics to play. In the past few years, it’s been pretty straightforward: first avoid Cleveland, then Orlando (in retrospect, this probably should have been switched).

But this year, things are a bit more confusing. It’s safe to say that the Eastern Conference is a 4-horse race. Boston, Chicago, Miami and Orlando. Technically, Atlanta is only 1 game behind the Magic, but I’m not taking the Hawks seriously until I’m proven otherwise.

Here are the standings:

1. Boston           35-10
2. Chicago         31-14
2. Miami            31-14
4. Orlando          30-16
5. Atlanta           29-17

It really boils down to Chicago, Miami and Orlando. In all likelihood, if the Celtics reach the NBA Finals, they will need to get by 2 of these 3 teams.

So my question is: which team would Celtics’ fans like to avoid?

Chicago Bulls:

The only team that can compete with the Celtics’ depth in the frontcourt. Let’s just assume that Joakim Noah comes back healthy and returns to form. Not only is he one of the best rebounders in the NBA, he’s a strong defender, and he absolutely hates Kevin Garnett. Makes me a little nervous. Not to mention that Noah isn’t even their low-post scorer. That would be Carlos Boozer. Personally, I’ve never been a huge Boozer guy. Just seems like he forgets to show up in big moments. But 20 ppg is 20 ppg, right? Plus, they have Taj Gibson coming off the bench, who probably deserves more 6th-man of the Year attention than he’s been getting.

Tom Thibodeau also has the Bulls playing the best defense in the league right now, which we all know is vital to postseason success. And on top of that, Thibs is pretty familiar with the Celtics’ offense. I’m not sure how much that really matters, but it can’t hurt.

Here’s my one issue with the Bulls: they don’t really have a pure/natural scorer. Yes, Derrick Rose is averaging 25 ppg and is probably the MVP right now. But the Bulls don’t have anyone like a Paul Pierce that can create space and consistently hit jump shots at the end of games (sorry Luol Deng). Even if Rose gets to the rim for the first 45 minutes of the game, defenses change in the last 3 minutes. Rose has dramatically improved his shot this season, but in the playoffs I would imagine teams will back off him significantly and force him to make that 18-footer.

Miami Heat:

I’m excited to see the Celtics play Miami in two weeks because I think it’s going to be a very revealing game. The Heat are not the same team that they were during the first month of the season, when the Celtics beat them twice without too much trouble. Hopefully Chris Bosh will be healthy so we can see the Heat at full strength.

The obvious problem with the Heat is their lack of depth. Aside from their Big Three, nothing has seemed to work out for them this season. Udonis Haslem has been hurt pretty much all season…Erick Spoelstra just took away the starting point guard spot from Carlos Arroyo and gave it Mario ChalmersMike Miller has been a complete disaster. Even when you think he’s finally turned the corner, he reminds you that he hasn’t. For example, on Sunday he scored 32 points and pulled down 10 boards. Then yesterday, in a semi-important game at MSG, he scores 0 points in 21 minutes.

However, if you need a reminder as to why you don’t want to play the Heat, just look at the Cleveland Cavaliers. That’s a terrible basketball team, but LeBron James still managed to win 1 or 2 games in any given playoff series with absolutely no help. It was simply asking too much of him to do it 4 times against teams like Orlando and Boston. Now, though, he has help. Dwyane Wade can win a playoff game. Bosh could even win one, too. LeBron doesn’t have to do it all. And that’s what makes me nervous.

Orlando:

The new-look Magic aren’t going to have many problems on offense. Gilbert Arenas can go off at any moment. So can Jason Richardson. They both scare me. Hedo Turkoglu has been a Celtics-killer in the past. He scares me, too. Ultimately, Orlando wouldn’t have traded for all these offensive weapons and if they didn’t think Dwight Howard could anchor the defense by himself. I agree with the strategy, but we’ll see how it plays out in reality.

Unless the Magic add another big man to supplement Howard, Orlando is going to have a difficult time trying to cover KG, Perkins, Shaq and Baby. I know it sounds like I’m beating a dead-horse talking about the Celtics’ frontcourt. But it’s a very unique advantage for Boston this season.

My pick: Right now I’m leaning toward Chicago. I really don’t want to play the Bulls. But maybe I’m simply overanalyzing this and the obvious answer is you don’t want to play Miami.

  • SteveB

    Teams I don't want to play in order: Bulls, Heat, Magic. Bulls have the depth, great point guard and rebound and defend. Heat have two great scorers. Magic have a little of everything but lack that edge to tough it out in a 7 game series. The Bulls are also the only team that have a PG that Rondo can't dominate.

    • Rav

      I have a feeling that Rondo will step it up once we get into the playoffs. As of now, he's been dogging it on defense, going back to old habits like the back-tip to get more steals. On the other end, he's been giving up his own offense to pad his assist stats.

      I think once we get into the playoffs he will be more dominant and take the reins, i.e. try and score more, and be a lockdown defender, like in last year's series' against CLE/ORL

      • jpbl1976

        I agree. I don't think he hates Rose but there's certainly an icy rivalry between the two. Also, Rose is overrated. Any player who says he patterns himself after Steve Francis (which Rose did), does not deserve to be taken seriously. I still think Boozer, Gibson and Noah will have more to do with whether the Bulls win than Rose does.

        Besides, as the Celtics proved with Kobe in 08 and the last Finals that they can stop scorers. What scares me about the Bulls is that they can rebound very well, especially with Noah around.

        • Batman

          No Rose is like Stephen Marbury without the attitude problems…which is scary
          But lets all remember that Rondo amps it up in the playoffs
          Triple double during the 2009 first round? Where he destroyed Rose? Anyone remember? :)

  • http://TheCBBG.blogspot.com Tessa

    I’m going to be boring and say Miami. They have the shallowest roster, but D Wade and Lebron, even if they’re struggling right now, have the capacity to be unstoppable. They also have months to improve, so I have to think the Heat will meld more as the season progresses (even if they look stunted now). Like it or not, those two are two of the best right now, and I remember last year during Celtics-Miami, and Doc said you always have to be worried when the best player is on the other team, in reference to D.Wade… And I imagine that’s applicable X2 this time around. After that, I’d say Chicago (D.Rose is a formidable opponent, they have a fairly decked roster and a good coach) and than Orlando, because I don’t buy that Orlando is mentally tough enough to hang.

  • TedL

    Wow. Interesting. Of the three I'd prefer to play the Bulls, and then the winner of Miami – Orlando.

    Let's stop being kind. Against a good defensive team, the Bulls will go through long stretches where they are simply atrocious on offense. When you need those stops at the end of the game, when both teams put out max effort, it's (barely) possible that Chicago is on Boston's level. But they are not close on offensive execution. Advantage Boston.

    Assuming they're at full strength, I'm more worried about Miami and Orlando. Of those two, I want to wait and see how they develop and how we look with Perk. If the playoffs were this week, I'd rather face the Heat.

    • TedL

      To be a little more clear – Chicago's D and Boston's D, at max effort, may be comparable. Their offenses are not. Not close.

  • I_Love_Green

    1. Bulls- Simply because they always play us tough, and now they have a really good team.

    2. Magic- Best center in the game, and 3 or 4 guys who can catch fire from 3 and take over the game.

    3. Heat- 2 major weaknesses, point gaurd play and their frontcourt. Celtics biggest strengths, Rondo and the gigantic frontcourt. They only have Lebron and Wade who can go off on us.

    • koolaid

      Totally agree.
      1) Bulls. They will get a SG before the deadline for sure. They are already a solid, solid team but if they can get some scoring from that position they're very scary.
      2) Magic. They had no chance with Vince. Now they have some serious gamers that can score in bunches.
      3) Heat. The only thing that worries me is how many FTs they will get from superstar calls, especially on their home court. Otherwise, they don't even come close to matching up with the Cs.

      • Eric

        Not sure how the Bulls get an SG that's much of an upgrade over what they have now. They'd likely have to trade a current asset to do it, which I don't think they will do. Gibson? Maybe, but that'd make them pretty thin up front.

        Of course if they were to get someone like Rip, they'd be scary as hell.

  • kricky

    The bulls, because of the offensive rebounding potential (the C's achilles heal) and because Rose just flat outplayed Rondo last time they met.

    Also I wish we had signed Kurt Thomas or tried to trade for him this off-season.

    But I still like our chances. Cs in 6.

  • JenG

    I'm gonna agree with most of you guys and go with the Bulls. I have no doubt we'd win in a 7-game series, but at what cost? How much would the vets have to go through in order to get it done? That's the only thing that scares me about them. You could probably say that should be a concern with Miami too, but you only have to be concerned about 2 players there (I refuse to put Bosh in that category) instead of a whole team. And the Bulls are a scary TEAM.

    Btw, I think too many people have gotten overly concerned with the Rondo/Rose matchup since the last game. Yes, Rondo got spanked, but if you looked at most of there games against one another, Rondo more often than not out plays Rose. Or at the very least, matches him. I'm not taking one game (during a stretch where Rondo's game is kinda in a funk) and automatically declaring Rose better. As much as I love him and his game, he has not proven he's better than Rondo to me.

  • http://twitter.com/M_DeVelaine @M_DeVelaine

    I might be one of the few actually worried about Orlando? Strange.

    Miami's not that big a deal to me. Yeah, they have LeBron and Wade, but aside from that, the C's own them at every remaining position. Bosh vs KG? Bosh retreats back into his shell and can't do anything while KG goes to town on him. It'll probably go 7, but there's nothing there to be worried about from my point of view.

    Chicago's a good team, and they have some unique insight into the C's… But can they really take the C's when they're healthy? I'm not so sure. Might be a classic case of letting one guy (Rose) get his, while shutting everyone else down for the series. Those will be fun games to watch though, because they're going to be good.

    Boston's probably the only team that can claim a sliver of an advantage over Dwight Howard, just because of the number of guys we can throw at him who can and will cover him one-on-one. After that… They've surrounded him with how many 3-point shooters? And then there's Stan Van Gundy who, despite all of the ways we can find to make fun of him, is actually a really good coach, and can manufacture wins against Boston.

    To me, that's the toughest series, Orlando. But… We'll only have to face two of the three anyway, barring some sort of collapse from one of them. Three tough series no matter how it looks, but we're only facing two, so I'd rather skip Orlando.

  • v

    I agree with Ted L.

  • zebulon

    Calling Rose "probably the MVP" is embarrassing. He's 'probably' the fifteenth or twentieth best player in the league.

  • Scott

    IF this was directed to our team, what do you think they would say? Bring on anybody.

    Thats my answer. This team can win a series against any of those three teams, and i doubt they will back down from anyone.

  • Batman

    Rondo is the key to these series.

  • AussieCeltic

    How would the Bulls, Heat and Magic answer this question? Would the Heat and Magic be more concerned about playing us or the Bulls or each other? I think they would want to avoid us at all costs given our recent playoffs form.

    What do you guys/girls think?

    • Chris O

      Avoid us. We are the Champion team out of the bunch and the ones with the most depth, overall talent and most experience. In a series we should clearly be the most feared.

  • Chris O

    The Eastern Conference Team that scares me the Most.???…..US!!!!! We scare me the most. If healthy and playing well we can and should be able to beat the Heat, Bulls and Cavs. If we are not healthy and don't play to our potential we will fall. Only teams that can stop us is US in the East and maybe the Spurs or Lakers out West. That is it. Bulls are not deep enough in a 7 game series (I mean just match up the top 8 on each team and C's probably have 6 check marks). Heat are short at PG and Center which is where we really can abuse them (and no they can't abuse us enough at the other 3 spots) Orlando is going to be too small since they shipped out Gortat and Lewis and I don't think they are tough enough…

    • Chris O

      Woops that says Heat, Bulls, Magic hahaha

  • DRJ1

    Magic are likely to be the toughest team to beat in the playoffs. They've got 2.5 months more to improve their teamwork (and you can bet they'll be focusing on defense, as well as adding one more big), and they are LOADED with talent everywhere you look. Heat are a lot easier to deal with because you know who your 3 horses are: tame them and you get em beat. Chicago is a good, tough team, but the level of talent there is significantly inferior to Orlando's, once you get past Rose. (On O, that's either BECAUSE Rose doesn't distribute enough, or THE REASON WHY he doesn't. Either way, it's a problem for them.) Where the Magic are going to keep growing between now and the playoffs, Chicago only has a couple of injury returns to look forward to. Right NOW I'd rather not see the Bulls. By April, it'll be the Magic we'll want to avoid.

    • Chris O

      Magic have no defense and depth. They have Howard and a bunch of sub par defenders (granted Howard is a FORCE). They are going to be small and bad on defense. IF you have Perk, Shaq, Baby, Semih you can MOSTLY guard Dwight 1 on 1. That leaves the C's defense in a superior position compared to most teams when facing the Magic. Also the Magic cannot guard the C's. Remember they don't have Barnes and Pietrus now. I would stick with Rondo and Ray/Delonte (if running two 1's is what the magic do) over Agent 0 and Jameer anyday in the playoffs.

  • torpid bunny

    The magic are definitely better, as are the bulls. I maintain the bulls are a player short and the magic aren't much better than the team that barely got past the celtics when KG was out.

    It's the Heat.

  • dadadtfawer

    idunno whats with this bulls hype. adding booze is not going to make them from being a team that loses in the first round into title contenders. sure theyre better but … miami??

  • GranTur

    I'm way more scared of Orlando.

    Miami and Chicago have very poor depth, and the Celtics tend to kill teams that don't have a balanced attack. A lot of Miami and Chicago's scoring is isolation, which hugely sucks against the brand of defense the Celtics play.

    Orlando, on the other hand, is a much more balanced team. Unlike Miami and Chicago, they have multiple clutch shooters. Two of their three big men can also shoot the outside shot effectively. They have great spacing.

    Thankfully, Orlando still has Dwight Howard, who has continually choked in the playoffs against the Celtics. The Celtics almost beat the Magic when their frontcourt was Perkins, Glen Davis, and Mikki Moore LOL. Oh and we had Stephon Marbury too.

    Either way, only the Lakers and Magic can come close to matching a health Celtics team.

  • skeeds

    very nice article. I have to agree with the Bulls. If I'm scared of one team, it's the one who has a better defence than the Celtics. We know Doc can milk the missmatches for all their worth, and eight now, even the Magic seem more dangerous than the Heat.
    Best case scenario for me, the Knicks first, then meet the Heat in the conference semifinals. Make it as early as possible. And if the other matchup is Orlando-Bulls, well, just hope that whoever gets out of that series is too banged up to bring it in the confernece finals.
    And then, Celtics vs Spurs. Old school veteran mayhem. If we see 7 finals games like the one we saw between them earlier this season, I'd allmost accept it if the Spurs took it. Allmost.

  • pam

    Orlando will be interesting because of matchups vs howard. Assuming perk starts games, there will be some time when shaq is in the game and howard is on the bench. Who guards shaq? Bass? Anderson? Chances of howard being in foul trouble vs us are pretty high

  • Jenndoll

    Bill Simmons recently stated that he feels the Chicago Bulls are the scariest team in the East. Since he knows more about b-ball than any of us and makes a lot of money expressing his opinions, im going to agree with him and say the Bulls!

  • Legs Diamond

    If the Celtics are healthy and in rhythm I believe that it will not make any difference who they play, homecourt advantage or not. But there are too many regular season games to go, and miles to go before we sleep. Doc, don't overplay your principle players. Right now I worry a bit about Pierce, and Rondo has not been the same since before his injuries.

    (and was it Eddie House who was the Heat's most valuable player in the fourth quarter against the Pistons?)

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