Is the Boston Celtics reign at the top of the Eastern Conference over?
The Boston Celtics have been the creme of the crop of the Eastern Conference since they signed Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen in the summer before the 2007 season. Four years later, they look old, confused and an easy second round match up for the Miami Heat.
When the Kendrick Perkins trade happened right before the NBA deadline was official, I thought the Celtics were in trouble. When I watched the Miami Heat tear the Celtics up in the first two games of the second series of the 2011 playoffs, I thought the same thing. This time trouble looks more like doomed.
The Celtics lost game one 99-90 and game two 102-91. Here are reasons why Boston’s reign as an elite Eastern Conference team is near the end.
Boston has one guy who can play great defense in the middle of the paint, Garnett. In my mind, no team can win championships with one interior defender, especially if he is in the twilight of his career such as KG is. He has had a solid season but the ware and tear of 82 game regular season and the every other day playoff routine is showing KG is on his last legs.
When Perkins was on the team, he sat out more than half of the games because of knee surgery. This means KG has been in the middle battling other NBA giants the entire season with no help. Boston doesn’t score 120 points a game to beat teams, they play hard nose defense which led to them leading the NBA in points allowed with 91. If the D is soft and allowing the heat to score 99 and 102, the Celtics will not return to Boston for another game.
Not only is KG tired but so is Paul Pierce. He had a solid game one before getting kicked out with two technical fouls but he was a no show in game two. Realistically, he has hurt his team more than he has helped them. In game one he had 19 points and seven rebounds but he would rather pick fights and give Dwyane Wade the death stare instead of playing basketball.
In game two, he stayed on the court for the entire game but he only scored 13 points off 5-11 shooting. The Celtics can not win if Pierce is not putting up solid numbers, which 13 points, is not. Defensively, he can not keep up with the monstrosity known as LeBron James. Not many are, but Pierce is not quick or big enough to bother LeBron because he is whooping on the Celtics with 22 and 35 points in game one and two.
Without a non-tired big man in the middle, James, Wade, Bosh and even Joel Anthony can pound the Celtics in the paint or drive and dish for open shots from Mike Bibby and James Jones. Pierce and Garnett are not doing what they need to do to defeat the Heat.
I said this before, but I think Perkins is the missing piece. Sure, the Celtics won without him but at the end of the season when the older players are tired, they need the 26 year-old center to beat down opponents. The Celtics have a chance against young teams who are afraid of getting smacked in the paint and take jumpers.
But when the threat isn’t there, a big neon light appears above the paint with a big fat OPEN.