The NBA world is high on The Greek Freak, but the Celtics are finally gelling, with equal talent and more championship experience.
The Greek Freak and his Milwaukee Bucks have been the talk of the NBA’s LeBron-less Eastern Conference this season. Despite James Harden’s brilliance, there’s a large number of folks who believe Giannis Antetokounmpo will win this year’s MVP award and then lead his well-balanced squad into the NBA Finals.
I disagree with that assessment. Maybe I’ll end up eating my words, but now that the Bucks and Celtics have advanced to a second round playoff matchup, my gut tells me that Milwaukee doesn’t have enough horses to offset Boston’s wealth of talent and playoff experience.
Vegas is saying the same thing in the latest odds that have been reported.
The Celtics have spent an entire season trying to work two max money superstars back into a team that advanced to the Eastern Conference Finals and took Cleveland to seven games. Free agent acquisitions Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward were paid a heavy bag to help the Celtics win an NBA championship, and both of their seasons tragically ended before last year’s playoffs began.
In their absence, Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown blossomed and showed their potential as starters. However, any astute basketball observer knew that the Celtics would have problems humbling their young pups and reincorporating Kyrie and Hayward back into starring roles this season.
The team had chemistry problems, Kyrie was critical of the young guns and media-induced rumors about Kyrie leaving at the end of the year to join KD on the Knicks made things worse. Along with the locker room drama, it took Hayward a bit longer than Kyrie to recover from his injury and work his way back into the mix. Hayward’s 20-point effort in the closeout game against Indiana implies that he’s ready to contribute on a high level.
With one playoff sweep over the Pacers, everything seems to be falling into place for Boston. With all due respect to The Greek Freak and his supporting cast of very good players, the Celtics can match Milwaukee from starting five to the bench. And they have a player in Irving who has been to the promised land and elevates his game in the playoffs.
This is The Greek Freak’s first rodeo as an elite player with championship expectations. Championship success usually doesn’t work out that easily. Even LeBron had to take some lumps before he broke through with Miami.
The Celtics have been the villain of the league this year. A talented, mess of dysfunction and ego that is robbing the league of what could be a dynasty-type team. But that was the regular season. The playoffs are a different ball game.
The series will probably go seven, but I have to think that Brad Stevens will finally live up to his billing as a young genius and the playoff experience of the Celtics will prevail.