With the NBA playoffs right around the corner, let's take a look at the Celtics most likely opponents.
1st Round: Miami Heat
With Boston likely receiving the #2 seed in the East, it's looking like the Heat will receive the 7. Sitting at 41-37, Miami has had a very underwhelming season by their standards. After coming within one game of the finals last year, this team looks completely different. However, in the 4 head-to-head matchups between Boston and Miami this year, the teams split 2-2. With guys like Jimmy Butler, Bam Adebayo, and Tyler Herro, this team will always be a threat, but something is just missing for Miami this year.
Jimmy Butler should be on an All-NBA team this year, but besides him, Bam, and Herro, I'm just not sure where the scoring is going to come from. This is evident as Miami has the worst scoring offense in the entire NBA this year at 109 PPG and in a series against Boston, this won't lead to success. With the Celtics having so many guys that can go get a bucket, I don't think these teams are as competitive as they have been in past years. Verdict: Celtics in 5
Eastern Conference Semi-Finals: Philadelphia 76ers
A team that Boston is very used to playing in the playoffs, Philly will always offer a threat. With a 51-27 record on the season, the 76ers are led by MVP frontrunner Joel Embiid. I'll be the first to admit that I'm not a very big fan of Embiid or how he plays, but I do have a lot of respect for anyone that's able to get buckets at his level. At 33 points a game, this big man will be a handful for the Celtics.
When considering a possible series against the Sixers, the starting 5's are very comparable. Philly really does have a first 5 that can rival almost any of the top contenders, the issue for them is when they have to go to the bench. With extremely limited depth, they could get worn down in a series against Boston if all of their starters are having to play major minutes. With Boston having a 3-0 lead in the regular season this year with the final matchup taking place tomorrow night, I don't think Philly has enough guys to keep up with the C's. Verdict: Celtics in 5
Eastern Conference Finals: Milwaukee Bucks
Now we get to the fun part, how to predict what would happen in a series against the high-powered, #1 overall seed, Milwaukee Bucks. Led of course by 2-time MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee has a 56-22 record with 4 games left to play. The Bucks are a hell of a team, with likely defensive player of the year Brook Lopez anchoring the defense, Jrue Holiday and Khris Middleton getting buckets, and an excellent bench unit, there's a reason the Bucks are the #1 seed. One interesting thing about them is that despite all of the weapons they have, they're just 15th in offensive rating this season. Now the defense is 3rd, but if their offense experiences lulls in a series against a team like the Celtics, there could be some ugly nights for these Bucks.
The one thing that makes me the most confident against Milwaukee is matchups. There are genuinely no weak defenders in Boston's nightly rotation, but while Milwaukee does have that highly-ranked defense, there are a few guys who can be picked on. In a playoff series, Boston will surely target guys like Grayson Allen and Joe Ingles if they play big minutes because they have little chance of stopping Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum in a 1-on-1 situation. With a 2-0 record against the Bucks with everyone available this season, I just don't see the Bucks having enough answers for Brown and Tatum. Call me a homer if you must, but we're sending them home again. Verdict: Celtics in 6
NBA Finals: Denver Nuggets or Phoenix Suns
This could honestly be a handful of teams with how wide open the West is this season, but if I had to put money on it, I would guess either the Nuggets or Suns are playing in June. Looking at Denver, they obviously have the two-time defending MVP Nikola Jokic, but after that, where's the real danger? On the other hand, Phoenix has a duo that can rival Tatum and Brown, with KD and Devin Booker. The Suns are currently 6-0 in games Durant has played, and they are a real threat to come out of the West.
Thinking about Denver, I just can't find a reason to be intimidated. I know how good the Joker is, but he is arguably the worst rim protector in basketball at the center position, and when he goes out, I'm not sure who is facilitating their offense to get buckets when it matters. Phoenix on the other hand is very intimidating because of the star power they possess. Had Durant been in Phoenix the whole year, I would guess that they'd be the #1 seed. With Ayton also in the middle, they are a very good basketball team. They also might have some shortcomings with depth though, just because of all they had to give away to get Durant. Verdict: Celtics in 5 Vs. DEN. Celtics in 7 Vs. PHX