Are the Celtics actually Finals contenders?

via Jennifer Brown

via Jennifer Brown

March is flying by and the playoff talks in the NBA are in full swing. Clinchmas is about to begin and teams are about to get into all make or break situations. The biggest question surrounding the NBA right now is can anyone beat the top dogs? One of the teams in consideration for upsetting the Cavs, is the Celtics. They are 42-25 and are only 2.5 games behind the Cavaliers for the top seed in the East. They are without a doubt one of the most underrated teams in the league, which brings up this question: Can the Celtics actually make it to the Finals? The short answer is yes. The Celtics have proved this season that they can play with the top teams, beating Cleveland two weeks ago and proving their bounce back ability, as they beat Golden State in Oakland last week after losing two straight. Pulling the upset of the year is not out of the question. But the long answer is maybe not.

Let’s take a look at how playoffs would look if the season ended right now. The Cavaliers(1) would play the Bucks(8), the Raptors(4) would play the Hawks(5), the Wizards(3) would play the Pacers(6) and the Celtics(2) would play the Pistons(7). Then, the winners of 1/8 and 4/5 would play each other and the winners of 3/6 and 2/7 would play. Finally, those winners will play in the Eastern Conference Finals. So, it would be highly likely that the Celtics and Cavaliers would be the possible ECF but they would have to beat every other team to make it there, and that is where the problem is.

Throughout this season, the Celtics have played one of these seven teams in playoff contention 19 times. Their record is 10-9(.526) and they have 6 games left against these teams. So basically(with their record), they have a 50/50 shot at winning the East which is what they should be given to make the ECF at all. The biggest struggle the Celtics have had is consistency. They lose games that should have been sealed a quarter earlier, they play amazing one day and suck the next, they can make the most difficult and crucial shots but miss the easiest ones. Watching a Celtics game is like a guessing game, you never know what team you’re going to see. You could get the team that blew the Warriors away or the team that got beat by the Suns. No stats, record or history can predict what will happen; It will always be a wait and see kind of thing(kind of like March Madness). But the two biggest teams they have struggled against(Hawks and Raptors) will be out of the picture if the standings stay like this. If they can keep the second seed, or find a way to avoid playing them (2-4 record against these teams), the Celtics will easily make it to the ECF.

With a struggling Cavaliers team and an injured Kevin Love, the top seed and hopes of making it to Finals look more and more realistic by the day. If the standings stay how they are by the end of the season then yes, the Celtics absolutely can have a real shot at making it to the ECF and possibly beating the Cavaliers, but everything would have to go exactly right for this to happen. If they can learn how to seal games and not let momentum shifts affect how they play, they can (and will) make it to the Finals.