By Travis Stahl
Prior to the 1989 NBA playoffs in an interview Magic Johnson was asked what team he feared the most and his answer was the Boston Celtics. Johnson’s logic was that any team containing Larry Bird is the most dangerous team in any playoff series. The 2012 version of the Boston Celtics don’t have Bird but they know what it takes to win a championship. Ask any team in the NBA right now what team they would least like to see in a seven-game series and the answer will be the Boston Celtics.
The Celtics are the hottest team in the NBA right now and are absolutely smothering teams on defense. At the all-star break, most analysts had written the Celtics off for dead and berated General Manager Danny Ainge for not trading away any of the team’s core players to build for the future. As it turns out, Boston had all the pieces to the puzzle on its team the whole time and just needed a little adjustment by Doc Rivers.
All season Boston has been average offensively so Rivers decided to stop fighting the inevitable. The team decided to give up the battle of chasing points every night and focus on defense. Rivers inserted Avery Bradley into the starting line-up in place of Ray Allen and moved Kevin Garnett to center. The results have been staggering as Boston has now beaten Miami twice, Indiana, and Atlanta in the last two weeks. In one of those beat-downs of the Heat, Boston held its opponent to 72 points.
This core group of Celtics with Garnett, Allen, Paul Pierce and Rajon Rondo has been to two NBA Finals winning the championship in 2008. This group knows how to win and even if Allen is not happy with his role coming off the bench it benefits the team and Allen understands that.
With Garnett, Allen and Pierce getting on in years the extraordinary change the Celtics achieved was by getting younger without making any moves at the trade deadline. With Bradley in the starting line-up Boston is now much faster. Rondo and Bradley on a two-man break can beat anybody down the court which is leading to more easy baskets. By moving Garnett to center it provided a spot for power forward Brandon Bass to get on the court. Bass has responded by with 12 points and six rebounds per game and more importantly provides the effort plays every team needs by taking charges and diving for loose balls.
In those 1989 playoffs Johnson was talking about you had Bird’s Celtics, Michael Jordan’s up-and-coming Chicago Bulls and the eventual champion Detroit Pistons. The Eastern Conference was loaded then, much as it is now. The top three seeds in the Eastern Conference this year are going to be some order of Boston, Chicago and Miami. The Celtics know how to win a title, the Bulls and Heat to this point do not.