Well, the 2020 NBA Playoffs are upon us. With its Disney Bubble premise in full effect, the 16 teams are squaring off to determine this year’s champion. While it’s hard to think that there won’t be an asterisk next to the 2020 title, a champion will be crowned.
The NBA is a fickle beast. Star-driven and tank-friendly, teams in the dumpster one year can be the king of the mountain the next. With that, stakes are high for almost every team as they make their playoff run, with sought-after stars often heading for greener pastures if they feel their squad can’t get over the hump.
We’re looking at each of the NBA playoff contenders and diving into what’s at stake for each team, the odds of making a deep run, and key storylines to watch.
Let’s hit the Boston Celtics.
Expectations: Make the Eastern Conference Finals
The Boston Celtics rebounded from one of the most disappointing seasons in franchise history to secure the #3 seed in the East. Adding Kemba Walker and removing Kyrie Irving from the team has had a similar effect to putting gasoline in a car instead of…what’s a liquid that acts like it knows everything and is kind of a jerk?
The Celtics engine is running at full steam as they begin the Bubble Playoffs and they should make it to the Eastern Conference Finals. However, it’s unlikely they will be able to get past Giannis and the Bucks.
What’s Working for Them
The Celtics have one of the most talented top fives in the league in Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, Gordon Hayward (we’ll get to that elephant in the room), Marcus Smart and Walker. This group is overflowing with versatility on both ends of the floor.
Tatum has continued the star leap in Orlando that he began during the final few months of the season. Brown looks like one of the best players in the bubble, and Walker looked to be finally past his knee injury with a 24/8/4 performance in Game 3 vs. Philadelphia.
What Might Hold Them Back:
Big man defense and health.
The Celtics combined Daniel Theis and Enes Kanter (with a little sprinkle of Robert Williams III) to form a successful big man recipe based on the match-up during the regular season. However, through the first three games of Round one, Joel Embiid has averaged a 30/13. The Celtics are up 3-0, but this still represents a potential Achilles’s Heel at some point in the playoffs.
Walker missed the Celtics first six games after the All-Star break with a knee injury, and has been on a minute restriction in the bubble. As noted, he’s looked better in the playoffs but this is still something to keep an eye on. Also, rookie Romeo Langford suffered torn wrist ligaments in the regular season finale. While he’s giving it a go and was never expected to be a key piece of the postseason rotation, it’s still an injury that will have an effect.
Then there’s Hayward…
Storyline to Watch
This is even more in focus now as Hayward rolled his right ankle at the end of Game 1 and will miss four weeks. There is the potential this timing could result in his being ready and then immediately needing to leave the bubble to see his child’s birth. In a hope for the best/prepare for the worst scenario, it likely makes sense for C’s fans to hope for a Hayward return in the middle of the Eastern Conference Finals. And for the Celtics to get there, they need their other major story-line to come through.
It is still too early to tell if Tatum can be “The Guy” on a true contender, but this will be his first test. And through the first three games of the 2020 postseason, Tatum is acing it. He averaged a 33/9 in the first two games before foul trouble limited his minutes and disrupted his rhythm in Game 3. This first round series is pretty much over, but if the Celtics want to make it to the ECF then the player LeBron called an “Absolute Problem” needs to be the best guy in a 2nd Round series vs. Toronto.
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