With Boston (53-29) finishing as the top seed in the East, many NBA fans and analysts are already speculating about what could happen in a Celtics/Cavaliers Eastern Conference Finals. Could Boston end LeBron James’ streak of six consecutive NBA Finals? Could the Celtics hold off the Cavs in a potential Game 7 in Boston?
Brian Jones isn’t convinced that the Celtics will even get out of the first round. In fact, he thinks that the Bulls (41-41) can win the series. So does Bobby Marks.
“It’s interesting,” The Vertical’s front office NBA insider said on CBS Sports Radio’s Gio and Jones. “If you look on paper, certainly (the Bulls can win), but they need a healthy (Rajon) Rondo (wrist). I know he’s a little bit dinged up, but if they play like they’re capable, I certainly think so.”
In four years, Brad Stevens has taken the Celtics from 25 wins to 40 wins to 48 wins to 53 wins. Still, they’ve never gotten out of the first round of the playoffs during his tenure.
Now they’re the No. 1 seed in the East.
“It’s hard being that No. 1 seed when you really haven’t been there before,” Marks said. “I saw it in New Jersey in that 01-02 year, and back then, it was a best-of-five series, so you’re really playing with a pressure. We played that Indiana team, which was a good team. It’s very similar to this Chicago team. That Indiana team had Jalen Rose and Reggie Miller and it wasn’t an 8-seed team.”
Technically, it was, but with Miller, Rose, Jermaine O’Neal, Brad Miller, Jamaal Tinsley, Al Harrington and Metta World Peace (then Ron Artest), that Pacers squad had the talent and toughness to challenge Jason Kidd, Kenyon Martin, Kerry Kittles, Keith Van Horn and Richard Jefferson.
“We wind up losing Game 1 at home and really got in a dog fight and wound up winning in double overtime in Game 5,” said Marks, who spent 20 years with the Nets. “This Chicago team really reminds me of that.”
The Bulls are led by Jimmy Butler (23.9 points per game), Dwyane Wade (18.3), Nikola Mirotic (10.6) and the aforementioned Rondo (7.8).
(“The Celtics are) going to be in a fight,” Marks said. “Remember, this Boston team has never gotten out of the first round. I know the (Al) Horford addition has been huge for them, but it’s a lot harder to win a series.”
Game 1 is Sunday in Boston at 6:30 p.m. ET.