Playoffs time, hello Hawks!

It felt like forever, but the NBA playoffs are finally here! After a horrible start, the Boston Celtics got into shape and the last season game versus Milwaukee is seriously showing a lot of positives.

Alright, so Ray is still injured with no news on his date of return, but we have some great promise in the rookie E’Twaun Moore, playing well despite limited minutes and more especially Avery Bradley, who has exploded this year with lockdown defense, consistent shooting and lightning cuts to the basket. Not forgetting Mickael Pietrus, who has returned from injury to provide an agile wing and more great shooting to the bench.

So long as Rondo keeps up his amazing court vision and drives to the basket, I don’t mind him not taking jumpers ever. As always, plenty of other guys who can shoot! That incidentally includes the big guys Brandon Bass (BA$$ = MONEY!), Stiesma and KG, probably the best mid-range shooting big man in the league.

And I’m really quite happy with the recent pickups – Hollins and Williams are big and agile, not All-Star but good enough to run, rebound and finish at the basket. Hollins may have a persistent reputation as a awful rebounder, but I’m hoping he wakes up and boards hard; he did really well in the Milwaukee game.

Great to see Sasha and Quisy get some minutes and just play to get some rhythm going. I’ve always thought of Sasha as being a good player, and Quisy just wasn’t the same after that fall last year. Nevertheless, some improvements seen in the recent games which has been awesome. Despite the obvious fact that playoff games usually have a much shortened rotation (eight to nine men), I’m hoping they get to contribute in a few games and make their mark.

Add Pierce’s all-around game as a point forward, scoring and passing when needed, and KG’s top-notch defense and shooting? And we have got a real shot at the finals people. Not a great chance, but a chance nonetheless.

Excepting the ’08 championship year, this is honestly the first in a long time when I’m really pleased with our lineup; great starters with a decent bench. The thing about previous seasons was the inability to maintain a consistent bench. Once again, I am really pleased that Danny’s decisions have worked out well this season.

And of course, on to a brief opinion about the first round against the Hawks.

Zaza’s out, Horford’s out which helps a lot on thinning their interior defense.

Ball handling:
It remains to be seen how the Celtics perform when Rondo is off the floor. Bradley remains quite raw on this aspect, and constant ball pressure from the Hawks might result in turnovers. This is where Pierce always does a great job, taking over ball handling and distribution duties.

Also, another key is on how they contain Josh Smith/Joe Johnson. Nothing can be done if they shoot the lights out the way the Knicks did recently, but the paint has to be protected. I’m also reasonably confident that Bradley can shut Teague down and limit his penetration; Hinrich should not be a big threat, as is Radmanovich. Rebounding is also a key on defense, second chance points need to be limited!

Stick to the good old plan, pick and pops with Bass and KG, Bradley, Rondo and Pierce cutting in with the open spacing and we should see good things happening. Off ball movement is critical for the bench, but we have a pretty mobile lineup with Pietrus/Stiesma/Moore/Quisy, so I don’t foresee stagnated ball movement. The one pity is we don’t have a good backup point guard, so Sean Williams and Ryan Hollins will likely be unable to finish easy shots at the paint without Rondo’s wizardry. And so long as our offense keeps moving the way it’s been going for the recent games, we should be good for a win with 4-2, or even 4-1.

What else is left, you ask? GO CELTICS!