What are the chances that the emerging Boston Celtics will battle the Cleveland Cavaliers for the Eastern Conference championship? I’d say very good. Although we’re just in the beginning of the First Round of the National Basketball Association (NBA) playoffs, it’s hard to imagine the Celtics not reaching the conference finals after all their accomplishments this season, particularly in earning the top spot in the eastern conference after the elimination round.
I have so many friends waiting for the reemergence of the Celtics at the top of the NBA’s pinnacle. There are still a great number of Pinoys rooting for Boston even after so many years have gone by since the Larry Bird era. In the local basketball fraternity alone, I can name Tessa Jazmines, Boyet Sison, Sid Ventura and Butch Antonio as die-hard Celts. And I believe all of them expect Boston to get past Chicago in the first round.
The Celtics have been very impressive this season, especially with their offense. They average a remarkable 108 points per game (PPG), with a 45% shooting clip. The Bulls have 102.9 PPG. Sensational guard Isaiah Thomas is now, without a doubt, among the very best players in the NBA, leading his squad with 28.9 PPG and 5.9 assists per game (APG). He’s the main reason why Boston is the No. 1 team in the Eastern Conference after the regular games. But he’s got help too. Avery Bradley, Al Horford, Jae Crowder and Marcus Smart add a combined 54.8 PPG to make a balanced offense for the Celtics.
Chicago’s chance is to force a more defensive game on the Celtics and slowing down Thomas. The Bulls outrebound the Celtics by more than four boards per game, but all the other stats are pretty much even. Jimmy Butler and veteran playoffs guard Dwayne Wade banner the Bulls with 23.9 and 18.3 PPG respectively. They also draw 42.8 PPG total from Taj Gibson, Nikola Mirotic, Robin Lopez and Doug McDermott.
I predict the series to end in six games, with Boston advancing.
Now, how likely is a Celtics-Cavs finale? I think like the Celtics, the Cavs are also unstoppable in making it to the Eastern Conference title series. Cleveland is heavily favored to advance to the next playoffs phase over the Indiana Pacers. The Cavs are 3-1 versus the Pacers during the regular season. And when it’s playoffs time, the best of the best come out to play. Lebron James is still widely considered as the NBA’s biggest superstar today and he shines brightest during the playoffs. He leads his team in points, assists and field goal percentage with 26.4, 8.7 and 54.8% respectively. Kyrie Irving adds 23 PPG and about six dishes per night to compliment James. Kevin Love and Channing Frye total 28 PPG. The Cavs have so much experience and talent to not make it all the way to the conference championship. The same experience will probably give them the edge over Boston in case they meet in the finals. But Boston is the hottest team right now in the East and it will take more than experience and talent to deny the Celtics a crack at the NBA title. The Toronto Raptors and Washington Wizards are the other favored teams in the first round but I don’t think they can upset the Cavs and Celtics in the second round.
In the Western Conference, it’s looking like the Golden State Warriors and San Antonio Spurs are the hands-down likely teams to reach the finals. Although most think that the western group is more competitive, these two teams are just too good right now. The Warriors are looking to make up for their disappointing finish last year after a historic regular season finish. The Spurs are always dangerous in the playoffs.
This early, I’m picking the Boston Celtics to go up against the Golden State Warriors for the 2017 NBA plum. I know my friends are hoping my crystal ball is no liar.
Happy Easter everyone.