After 27, games spread over 53 days, the Miami Heat's 27 game winning streak finally came to an end last night in Chicago, against a Joakim Noah and Derrick Rose-less Bulls squad. Say what you want about Miami, but the streak was incredibly impressive. They won blowouts (17 wins by 10+), close games (6 games decided by 5 points or less), home games (13), road games (14), games against contenders (12 against playoff teams), and games against pretenders (15 against non-playoff teams). They took all comers, and pulled off the second longest wining streak in league history. Impressive, but thankfully - it's finally over. SportsCenter is again safe to watch, as #HeatStreak has died of natural causes.
So now what?
Miami's streak captivated the NBA landscape, and now that it's over - it's time to turn our attention towards the playoffs. In the Eastern Conference the 8 playoff teams have been decided for a while thanks to the chasm between the 8th seeded Bucks, and 9th seeded Sixers, meaning that seeding is the only thing to be determined over these last three weeks.
As Celtics fans, where do we want the team to land?
There really seem to be two groups of people out there; those who want the Heat in round 1, when the Celtics will be "rested", and those who want to wait as long as possible, and play Miami in the Eastern Conference Finals should both teams get that far. In other words, is it better to slip to the 8-seed, and take on Miami right off the bat? Or do what it takes to claim the 7-seed (or 6th if someone slips), and avoid Miami for the maximum amount of time?
Let's analyze both paths for the Celtics, shall we?
Path #1 - slipping to 8th (Boston is currently 2.5 games ahead of Milwaukee for the 8th-seed with 11 games to go, Bucks own the tiebreaker), taking on Miami in Round 1.
The one thing I keep hearing, over and over again is that Boston is better off taking on Miami in Round 1, when the C's are "fully rested". I'm not so sure this is the case. While the Celtics may be fresher earlier on in the playoffs, so will Miami. And while Miami's stars are younger than Boston's, Boston's current team is actually younger than Miami's. Boston's ideal nine-man rotation once the playoffs begin is Bradley-Lee-Pierce-Bass-KG-Terry-Green-Wilcox-Crawford, a grouping with an average age of 29.1. Miami's playoff rotation on the other hand is Chalmers-Wade-Lebron-Bosh-Haslem-Battier-Allen-Cole-Andersen, a grouping with an average age of 30.6 years old.
While popular thinking is that Pierce and Garnett will "tire" out the later the playoffs go, we have recent evidence (last season) that says that won't happen. KG played at an All-star level during the 2012 Eastern Conference Finals (19.1 points, 9.4 rebounds per game), while Pierce played well early in the playoffs before a strained MCL slowed him down. This whole line of thinking seems to be flawed, as people just assume that the Celtics will be the one breaking down as the playoffs go on. Considering the Celtics are younger than Miami (something we could not say last year), and we have last year's playoff run to draw from, this does not seem to be supported by facts.
Playing Miami in round 1 also lowers the chance that one of the Miami stars will have gone down with an injury already. After all, the more games Miami plays, the more chances for one of their 'Big-3' to be impacted by an injury. We saw this last year, as Chris Bosh went down in Round 2, and Dwayne Wade's knee became a factor around the same time. While an injury to one of Boston's stars is almost irrelevant (if Boston loses someone it simply lowers their low chances to nonexistent), an injury to a Miami star could make all the difference in the world. That's why I'm rooting for the second choice.
Path #2 - staying in 7th (or rising to 6th), taking on Indiana/New York, and avoiding Miami until the Conference Finals.
Before people start the whole "You're jinxing it!" schtick, let me explain that in no way am I guaranteeing that the C's would get past both Indiana and New York (in some order). It would be extremely difficult actually, but if Garnett comes back healthy, I have always liked the C's chances against either of those teams. That's why this path is more desirable in my opinion. The Celtics get two rounds of quality opponents to get into a rhythm before a possible date with Miami with a trip to the Finals on the line. It also gives Miami two rounds worth of games to suffer a possible injury, a variable that could well make the difference in a series.
|Even though the season ended in disappointment, this moment still matters|
Even if the Celtics don't beat Miami, path #2 could mean they advance further in the playoffs, and "It doesn't matter when they get knocked out if they don't win it all". I HATE this statement. The 2002 run to the Conference Finals was a blast, I would much rather have those memories than the Celtics bowing out to the Sixers in round 1 that year. I also have found memories of the 2010 team that scrapped their way to within 6 minutes of a title. You're telling me that if the Heat beat the C's that season in the first round, you would have been just as satisfied? Ridiculous. And then there was last year. The Celtics, without a bench, got within 10 minutes of a trip to the Finals against the juggernauts from Miami - would a round 1 ouster by Atlanta really have been as fun? If you're a 'title or nothing' fan, I guess you think it would have been. But for me, each playoff series has it's own personality, it's own little life so to speak. And I'll take a few more of those, as opposed to a possible first round exit any day of the week.
That's why I'm pulling for the 7-seed, and you should be too.
Follow Mike on twitter - Mike_Dyer13 Michael Dyer 3/28/2013 03:12:00 PM Tweet