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Irish Coffee: A Preview of Celtics Previews 10.18.10 at 10:49 am ET
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Wake up with the Celtics and your daily dose of Irish Coffee …

 

Every publication from here to Los Angeles is rolling out its NBA preview, and the predictions for the Celtics are, well, pretty predictable: They’re old, but they’re deep. They coasted through the 2009-10 regular season, and they’ll do it again. If they can stay healthy, they’ll compete for a championship. See for yourself …

SLAM Magazine: “Get your jokes in about the Celtics while you can. Sure, the Big Three and Shaq Daddy may alternate using the wheelchair Paul Pierce used in Game 1 of the 2008 NBA Finals. They probably will take some games off in the regular season, as head coach Doc Rivers did last year to keep the team healthy for the playoff run. And Rajon Rondo’s jumper, though improving, is still broken like the NBA single-game scoring record Michael Jordan would be if he had played in his prime today. That said, this is a team that finished second in team assists and fifth in points allowed last season, and they have seemingly improved as a team overall. No squad in the NBA overcomes their deficiencies like the Boston Celtics, and they are serious title contenders in the 2010-11 season. Don’t say we didn’t tell you so if the Miami Heat cool off, the Orlando Magic disappear and Irish eyes are smiling after another magnificent seventh game between the Lakers and Celtics.”

That points allowed indicator — and, more specifically, point differential – has been a fairly good reflection of the C’s success the last three years. In the 2007-08 season, they ranked second in points allowed (90.3) and first in point differential (+10.2), resulting in a 66-16 record, homecourt throughout the playoffs and an NBA title.

In the last two seasons, during the 2008-09 campagin (62-20) and last year’s regular-season walkthrough (50-32), those numbers slipped.

To put the importance of those stats in perspective, when the C’s finished 24-58 in 2006-07 BB3 (Before Big 3), they ranked 18th in points allowed and 23rd in point differential. Keep an eye on those numbers in the first month of the season, especially considering the C’s brutal schedule through the first few weeks.

Ball Don’t Lie: “The team looks great. Kevin Garnett appears to be the picture of health, a chubbed-out Paul Pierce is as feisty as ever, Ray Allen looks about the same, and the team just oozes competitive spirit. But this is a team built to turn over a new leaf when there aren’t any leaves on the trees next spring, not when the foliage is blowing around and the days are getting shorter. It’s a long season, people get injured and things tend to even out. And, as was the case last year, those 50 wins would have little bearing on what happens in the postseason. This is a championship contender. Perhaps more than ever.”

I’m not exactly sure what they’re getting at when they call Pierce “chubbed-out,” considering he’s shown up slimmed down in each of the last two seasons. Still, they touch on an interesting point: The C’s competitive spirit. With the play of the second unit, a renewed focus on that two-year window and a vengeance factor for that Game 7 loss, this year’s team appears to have a competitive edge we haven’t seen since 2007-08.

Hoops Daily: “The Celtics’ Achilles heel remains health.  A lot of guys have played a lot of games, and a major injury to anybody inside the Allen-Garnett-Pierce trio would be catastrophic.  Rebounding, the Celtics’ ugly nemesis last year, could prove to be even more problematic with Perkins in street clothes for a while. And then there’s the departure of Tom Thibodeau, the guy who masterminded the Celtics’ dominant lockdown defense for the last three years, to consider as well. The team has the personnel and the experience to continue their defensive dominance, but it wouldn’t be a shock if they took a slight step back in that department. The Big Three are rickety and parts of their bench are downright old, but if you’re an Eastern Conference team dreaming of a Finals matchup with the Lakers, you’d do well not to run into the Green come May. Expecting 50-55 wins is probably best for a group that will likely go through the motions in the regular season before showing up gangbusters in the playoffs.”

Obviously, a major injury to any of the Big 4 (with Rondo) would be catastrophic. Then again, that can be said for the Heat, Lakers and Magic as well. I’m not sure if I’m buying the rebounding issue, either, considering that was the Celtics main focus in the offseason. I’m not sure if you know, but the C’s picked up Shaquille O’Neal and Jermaine O’Neal in the offseason, not to mention the addition of Semih Erden.

However, the loss of Thibodeau needed to be mentioned. That point differential statistic is largely a result of a defensive scheme he implemented, and the C’s will be integrating the O’Neal Brothers and Co. into that scheme without Thibodeau. How Rivers and new assistant Lawrence Frank incorporate the new bodies into the “if-it-ain’t-broke-don’t-fix-it” defensive system will go a long way in determining this team’s success. In his first two full seasons as head coach of the Nets (2004-05 and 2005-06), Frank’s teams ranked sixth in points allowed.

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