For the second installment of the “Match Up” series, I turn my attention over to Boston. Today’s preview of the Celtics was provided by Michelle from NBA Musings.
On paper, the upcoming Boston Celtics 2009-2010 season should rival their 2007-2008 championship run. They have all the same pieces in place plus a couple of great new pickups a la Posey and P.J. Brown of that season. Last season, injuries (KG, Scal, Powe) and free agent failures (Mikki Moore, the Starbury experiment) were their undoing. This season, injuries are still the big unknown (Will KG be 100% following surgery? Can the others avoid major injuries?), but the free agent pickups of Rasheed Wallace and Marquis Daniels are undoubtedly a significant improvement towards getting the Cs back to championship form.
- All-star roster. The team is stacked with all-stars who have all won at least one championship. Aside from Sheed, they have all played together at least two seasons. They know what it takes to get through a taxing season and kick it up a notch for the post-season run.
- All-star caliber PG. Unless he takes an unanticipated step back, Rondo is coming and he’s coming fast.
- 3-point threats. The Celtics now have at least three players off the bench (Scalabrine, House, Sheed) who can be reliably depended on to drain 3s to get the team back into any game.
- Depth. New pickup, Marquis Daniels plays multiple positions well. A player with that kind of versatility could have potentially saved the Celtics last season during the Orlando playoff series when Pierce and Rondo were completely gassed.
- Age. The Big 3 + Sheed are all over 30. How will they handle the pressure of not just wanting to win now, but needing to win now?
- Emotions. KG, Sheed and Perk in particular, are fiery and intense. Technical fouls are a concern.
- Off-season antics. Will there be any residual fallout from Ainge publicly criticizing Rondo to the media? Will Glen Davis be as motivated this season with less minutes and no imminent contract to play for? Will the ghost of fan favorite, Leon Powe come back to forever haunt the halls of the TD Garden?
Last Season Record: 0-4
The Raptors had no answer for the Celtics last year and like most teams, if they found a way to stop one guy the other two did all the damage. Chris Bosh’s struggles against Kevin Garnett have been well documented but it was Paul Pierce and Ray Allen who managed to carve up the Raptors on the perimeter. The wing play of the Raptors was sorely lacking last season and a team like Boston took advantage of that. Using the quickness of Rondo to drive to the basket, aided by the slow rotations, made for a whole lot of open looks for the Boston shooters.
The Bigs: This was already a nightmare match up for Chris Bosh. Add in Rasheed Wallace and it makes for the toughest test he has to face all season. There is just no room to do much on offense as the Celtics can put out various combination’s of Sheed, KG, Perkins and Glen Davis on the floor. There is a good balance between offense and defense on their front court where the Raptors still depend heavily on their offense to do the work at this position. Defensively, Toronto can focus more on Garnett as Sheed may not be a primary option on offense and the addition of Reggie Evans and Amir Johnson will help by making available 12 more fouls to work with. But, until Bargnani can pull a second defender, challenging the forward/center positions of the Celtics will remain daunting task.
The Wings: Paul Pierce may have been pushing it when he claimed to be the best basketball players in the world but its not too far from the truth. In recent years, the Raptors had to settle for players like Anthony Parker, Jamario Moon and Joey Graham defending Pierce. With all the changes on the team, they finally have some formidable options available while challenging Pierce to work on both ends of the floor. This is probably the story for every match up because for the first time in years, the Raptor actually have a legit wing player. Though he too is deficient on the defensive end, Hedo should get a chance to handle the ball more against the Celtics while getting some help on D from Antoine Wright. When people speak of a tall lineup for the Raptors of Bosh, Bargnani and Hedo the thought of a Celtics front court of Perkins, Garnett and Sheed is downright scary!
The Guards: Rajon Rondo did his thing in the playoffs and showed the world that he is one of the best at his position. Quick guards like him usually give Jose Calderon fits. Calderon, already known to be a weak defender, will continue to find it hard to keep up with Rondo but could be moved over to guard Ray Allen if Jarret Jack is on the floor at the same time. The addition of Marquis Daniels gives the Celtics another scorer off the bench aside from Eddie House and keeping the two in check will be a good challenge for the newly acquired depth on the Raptors bench. Ray Allen has been a Raptor killer his entire career, but having the ability to put different guys guarding him is a new luxury the team needs to take advantage of. Offensively, Jose will get his looks and this is one of the teams he probably needs to look for his own shot more. Having Jack, Hedo and Belinelli as spot up ball handlers should allow him to be more offensive minded keeping Rondo busy on that end.
Predicted Record: 1-3 (Expecting the Raptors to pull one out at home)