Friday, April 5, 2013

Celtics Clinch Playoff Berth

The Boston Celtics clinched a postseason spot with their 98-93 win over the hapless Detroit Pistons. Jeff Green led the way with 34 points (on 13 of 19 shooting), 6 rebounds and 4 blocks. Paul Pierce and Brandon Bass both chipped in 17 points apiece as Boston improved its record to 39-36.

Though they got crushed on the boards (Greg Monroe snared 17 of them), the Celts compensated with lockdown defense. The Pistons shot below 37 percent from the floor and missed 20 of their 24 three-point attempts. Those paltry numbers can be mainly attributed to one man--Charlie Villanueva--who bricked all but two of his 17 attempted field goals and came up empty on all eight of his threes.

So with that, more than two months after losing Rajon Rondo for the season, Boston has a reason to celebrate. But their long, arduous journey is far from over; it has just begun.

Starting tonight against the Cleveland Cavaliers, the seventh-ranked C's have just seven games left to try to improve their seeding. If they get hot and win five or six of those games they could leapfrog both the Derrick Rose-less Chicago Bulls and Atlanta Hawks in the standings to settle at fourth in the East, but that's unlikely to happen. The Celtics sputtered lately--5-9 over its past 14--and will be hard-pressed to fare much better with Doc Rivers expected to rest his starters. That means  Boston is going to battle either the New York Knicks or the Indiana Pacers in the first round.

Though it pains me to say this, they will probably lose, possibly in four.

Never mind the fact that Indy and New York are vastly superior teams. The C's have never been eliminated from the first round since the Big Three era began, but this could be the year they finally bow out before the conference semis. They're another year older and they'll really miss their star point guard, who always takes his game to another level during the postseason. It remains to be seen how effective Kevin Garnett will be on a bum ankle and creaky knees. In addition, this will be their first playoff run without clutch sharpshooter Ray Allen to bail them out with his late game heroics. Jason Terry, his replacement, has not lived up to expectations and needs to step up his game over the next few weeks. If Terry catches fire this team becomes much more dangerous offensively, but when he's slumping Pierce is the only true shooter capable of spreading the floor for Green, Avery Bradley and co. to attack the rim.

Terry's the X-Factor, and Boston needs him now more than ever.

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