NBA 2018-19 Predictions: Year of the Celtics

Welcome to my NBA 2018-19 predictions, where I will make my conference standings predictions as well as playoff predictions.  The Celtics made it very far last year, and that was with Gordon Hayward and Kyrie Irving hurt.  With the full squad healthy and Jayson Tatum bound for a huge year, could this be the year when they finally make the NBA Finals and beat the Warriors?  Read below to find out what I think.

Eastern Conference

Playoff Teams

  1. Image result for celtics logo Boston Celtics (60-22)
  2. Image result for wizards logo Washington Wizards (52-30)
  3. Image result for raptors logo Toronto Raptors (51-31)
  4. Related image Detroit Pistons (49-33)
  5. Image result for cleveland cavaliers logo Cleveland Cavaliers (47-35)
  6. Related image Milwaukee Bucks (46-36)
  7. Related image Charlotte Hornets (46-36)
  8. Related image Philadelphia 76ers (44-38)

I think this is the year for the east and the west to begin to look more balanced.  The Celtics have a championship-caliber starting 5 that can take this team very far.  I feel that despite Toronto’s addition of Kawhi Leonard, the Wizards, not the Raptors will be the #2 seed behind Boston.  After the signing of Dwight Howard, they filled their only major hole: center.  Their back court is stacked between John Wall and Bradley Beal.  The Raptors should also be in the mix, as well as the Pistons.  I think the acquisition of Blake Griffin is really going to impact Detroit this year, as Andre Drummond and Griffin make for a dynamic duo that leads the Pistons to a comfortable playoff berth under new head coach Dwane Casey.  Detroit lacks the depth of a championship contender, but they have what it takes to make a playoff run.

Most people immediately think that since LeBron James is gone, the Cavaliers are going to suck.  But I don’t think lack of talent was the problem with LeBron’s supporting cast.  I feel that the team relied way too heavily on LeBron James.  Expect Kevin Love, J.R. Smith and their teammates to lead the Cavs to a decent season.  You may be wondering, where are the Sixers?  I don’t think Philly will repeat what they had going last year.  I tend to trust veterans more than youngsters, but I don’t yet trust Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid to lead the Sixers to two straight Top 4 seeds.  They may prove me very wrong this year, but I’m just not comfortable predicting that yet.  The Sixers will make the playoffs with a low-end seed, alongside the Bucks (Greek Freak and their young roster will bring them back to the playoffs), and the Hornets (I think this is the year for this young squad to finally breakthrough).

I do not have the Pacers, a popular pick to earn a Top-4 seed, making the playoffs, and I will explain why below.

Non-Playoff Teams

9. Image result for knicks logo New York Knicks (42-40)                                                                                             

10. Related image Chicago Bulls (41-41)

11. Image result for heat logo Miami Heat (41-41)

12. Related image Brooklyn Nets (37-45)

13. Image result for pacers logo Indiana Pacers (28-54)

14. Image result for orlando magic logo Orlando Magic (27-55)

15. Related image Atlanta Hawks (10-72)

I think this is the year that the Knicks (due to the return of Kristaps Porzingis) and the Bulls (due to a strong off-season) will go from the basement of the league to average teams that just miss the playoffs.  The Heat, who have a decent roster, but nothing that really stands out, are in the same situation.  The Nets should also get closer to that as their young core emerges.  Below those four teams, I have the Indiana Pacers.  I don’t see Victor Oladipo leading this team by himself like he did when he was traded last year.  I can’t see what he has around him that can lead to contention.  Bojan Bogdanovic and Oladipo are not enough to bring this team back to the playoffs, and I see the aforementioned teams as far more playoff-prepared.  I was shocked when they made the playoffs last year even.

I still see the Magic and Hawks finishing in the basement of the East, below Indiana.  Orlando had a versatile young core developing, but the losses of Oladipo and Elfrid Payton set them back.  The Hawks had a rough season in 2017-18, and they didn’t really do much to improve for this year.  They’re not rebuilding, but they don’t have any contending pieces either.  It’s time to go full rebuild for the Hawks, and I don’t expect much at all from them this year.

Western Conference

Playoff Teams

  1. Related image Golden State Warriors (66-16)
  2. Related image San Antonio Spurs (55-27)
  3. Related image Houston Rockets (54-28)
  4. Image result for thunder logo Oklahoma City Thunder (53-29)
  5. Related image Portland Trail Blazers (51-31)
  6. Image result for timberwolves logo Minnesota Timberwolves (48-34)
  7. Image result for lakers logo Los Angeles Lakers (45-37)
  8. Related image Dallas Mavericks (43-39)

The Warriors may have added a star center, DeMarcus Cousins this off-season, but I could see them regress mildly after losing a good amount of bench depth.  After Golden State, I have the Spurs.  I think they will benefit largely from the acquistion of DeMar DeRozan.  With a healthy core, they will be in the running for a high playoff seed.  The Rockets and Thunder will put up a fight for the second seed as well.  Houston has most of what they had going last year, and they added another key piece in Carmelo Anthony.  The duo of Paul George and Russell Westbrook will boost the Thunder this year alongside off-season acquistions Dennis Schroder and Nerlens Noel.

The Blazers lack the front court talent to contend for a title, but the back court duo of Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum should be enough to get them into the playoffs again.  I thought at first that this might be the year when the Timberwolves emerge as a title contender, but with Jimmy Butler leaving, I don’t see more than a low end playoff seed as this team will lack a true star.  I don’t think the Lakers will see much more than that either.  What key pieces around LeBron James that will help them contend?  When LeBron was in Cleveland, he had Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving alongside him, at least up until last year.  His signing with LA was a great personal move, but he shouldn’t expect to make it back to the NBA Finals just yet.  I have the Mavericks in the final Western Conference playoff seed.  With the additions of rookie Luka Doncic and veteran center DeAndre Jordan, they should at least contend for a back end playoff seed.

Non-Playoff Teams

9. Related image Memphis Grizzlies (42-40)

10. Related image New Orleans Pelicans (37-45)

11. Image result for jazz logo Utah Jazz (34-48)

12. Related image Phoenix Suns (31-51)

13. Image result for kings logo Sacramento Kings (23-59)

14. Image result for nuggets logo Denver Nuggets (15-67)

15. Image result for clippers logo Los Angeles Clippers (12-70)

Despite a weak 2017-18, the Grizzlies still have the same core from their playoff contention days.  I could see them making a run at a low end playoff seed.  Expect regression from the Pelicans with DeMarcus Cousins gone, but new acquistions in Elfrid Payton and Julius Randle will keep this team in the hunt for the playoffs.  With teams like the Mavericks and Lakers on the rise, I could see the Jazz slip a little bit this year.  They still have the same core from their run of playoff contention though, so they won’t be absolutely atrocious.

The Suns and Kings will improve slightly as the young talent begins to work in their favor, leaving the Nuggets and Clippers in the basement of the West.  Denver lost a lot in the off-season despite adding veteran Isaiah Thomas.  With a lot of the former basement dwellers of the Western Conference rising, Denver could regress significantly.  That leaves the Clippers, who will regress further with DeAndre Jordan and Blake Griffin gone.  They are left with an aging, declining core, and will need to go full rebuild after this season.

The Playoffs

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Here is my projected bracket for the NBA 2019 Playoffs.  In the first round, I have all home teams winning.  The top half of the Eastern Conference bracket is a lot stronger than the bottom half.  I see the Celtics, Raptors, Wizards, and Pistons moving on with ease, but don’t be surprised if the Bucks upset the Raptors.

In the West, I have the Spurs continuing their bounce back from a rough 2017-18 with an impressive series win over LeBron James and the Lakers.  The Rockets and Warriors will win more easily.  It could be close between Oklahoma City and Portland, but the Thunder have far better front court talent, and that will work in their favor.

The Pistons may be my dark horse in the East this season, but I cannot see them beating this stacked Celtics squad in 7.  I also see this as the end for the Wizards, as Kawhi Leonard leads the Raptors past Washington’s all-pro back court duo.  In the West, I do see the Spurs’ magical run ending when they take on the 2017-18 Western Conference regular season champion Houston Rockets, who have not lost much since their 2017-18 dominance.  Golden State should take down the Thunder with ease.

In the Conference Finals, I have the Warriors and Celtics winning.  The Rockets couldn’t top Golden State last year, and now that the Warriors have added DeMarcus Cousins, I cannot see it happening this year.  The Celtics will have a close series against Toronto, but I think their young talent and dominant starting 5 will help them advance.

Now, we have the match-up we’ve been waiting for.  The dynasty (the Warriors) takes on the rising challenger (the Celtics).  This is bound to be one of the best playoff series’ in recent history.  But who will finish the job?  The Warriors may have a star-studded starting 5, but I see their lack of a bench hurting them here.  I think this is the year that the Golden State dynasty will be overthrown.  The Boston Celtics will win the NBA Finals in 2019, starting a new dynasty.

Who do you have going all the way in the NBA?  Comment with your thoughts below, and stay tuned for more Celtics and NBA coverage soon.

 

Fast Breaks Make An Impact, Celtics Comeback Against Knicks

avery-bradley-game-winner-3--4--16

 

The Celtics had a miraculous 105-104 victory over the New York Knicks last night.  Isaiah Thomas had an amazing 32 points plus 8 assists, Jae Crowder had 20 points and 8 rebounds and Evan Turner got 21 points off the bench.  Jared Sullinger added 11 rebounds.  For the Knicks, Carmelo Anthony had 30 points and Robin Lopez had a 12-point, 12-rebound double-double.

The Celtics were trailing 58-53 at the half.  Between a lot of back and forth, the Celtics struggled to take a lead most of the games, and it started very dull, no big runs.  Despite Isaiah Thomas and Jae Crowder getting some pretty good points on big baskets and fast breaks in the first half, it lacked action.

The Celtics made the game more exciting in the 2nd half.  After a slow start to the 3rd, the Celtics broke away with a 15-2 run to take a 4 point lead after trailing 65-56 with 10 minutes to go.  Big three pointers by Jae Crowder and Avery Bradley highlighted the run.  By the end of the quarter, the Knicks had began a run of their own.  The Knicks had an 87-81 lead.

Through most of the fourth, the Knicks were cruising still.  They had an 100-92 lead with for minutes to go.  All of a sudden, the Celtics began to break away.  Basket after basket, the Celtics were coming back.  Jae Crowder shot a really impressive fast break layup that got everyone cheering.  They now had cut the Knicks lead to one point.

After a ‘Melo score, the Celtics got back to work.  First Jared Sullinger, then Evan Turner on a quick pass from Isaiah Thomas!  The Celtics led 103-102.  After a Knicks score, Avery Bradley made the game winner!  One of the most amazing plays was right after that, a strong block to prevent Carmelo Anthony from answering with a Knicks buzzer beater.  Ending the game on a 15-4  run, the Celtics took care of the Knicks 105-104.  Now for the stat wrap.

 

Stat Wrap

  • The Celtics have won 13 straight at the Garden, and 5 straight overall.  What a streak!
  • Isaiah Thomas, Evan Turner and Jae Crowder combined for 73 of the C’s 105 points.  That’s 69.5%!
  • In their home streak, they have gotten 100 points in each game!
  • The Celtics and Knicks were tied in the standings on January 12th.  Since, the Celtics have gone 19-6 and the Knicks have gone just 5-18!  That’s also the last 25 games for the Celtics!
  • The Celtics outscored the Knicks 30-4 in fast break points.
  • The Celtics are 38-25 and the Knicks are 25-38 after this game.  They have opposite records and best of all, the Knicks are 13 games behind their rivals!

 

The Celtics travel to Cleveland after a 5-0 homestand.  Last time, they beat the Cavs at the Garden in another miracle.  Can they keep it up and repeat in the Cavs rematch against Team Green?

Bradley’s Buzzer Beater Leads Celtics to Victory

The Boston Celtics were trailing most of the game but came back to win 104-103 in the second half.  Evan Turner had a good night, earning himself a double-double (19 points, and a career high 12 rebounds), plus 6 assists.  Isaiah Thomas also contributed with 22 points, and Tyler Zeller had 16.

LeBron James also got 30 points for the opposing team, J.R. Smith had 20 and Kyrie Irving contributed 19 points plus 6 assists.  No Cavaliers players had double-doubles like Turner despite King James’ scoring showcase.  James honestly goes untouched cause the NBA wants to further promote their best stars like James, Kevin Durant and Stephen Curry.

For most of the first quarter, the Cavs were destroying the Celtics, making some amazing plays.  The Celts were down by 12 or 13 most of the 1st quarter, and they were down 32-20 when the quarter ended.  To make matters worse, Isaiah Thomas rolled his ankle.

The Celtics were still trailing in the second but began to come back.  Thomas was back but LeBron James took one little rest and Kelly Olynyk led the Celts on a 12-2 run.  It was easier on the defense without King James but he returned and the Cavs scored 5 unanswered points.  By the end of the half they had cut the lead from the end of the first half, trailing just 49-43.  From the end of the 2nd to the start of the 3rd, they went on a quick 21-4 run. The run lasted from 6:24 left in the 2nd to the first two minutes of the 3rd.

The scoring started to slow down at that point.  Kevin Love in the meantime hobbled off the court with an ankle injury.  By the last two minutes of the third the Cavs were once again up by six.  They had made a run gaining 9 on the Celts through most of the 3rd.  But Love being in the locker room wouldn’t help.  At the end of the 3rd, it was 73-65 Cavaliers.  The Celtics regained control in the 4th quarter.

With Kevin Love out, the Celtics started the quarter with a 10-0 run.  LeBron James ended it with some go-ahead free throws.  9 minutes left.  There wasn’t much scoring besides free throws for the few minutes after that.  The Celts had another 11-2 run from the 6.5 minute mark to the 4 minute mark.  After that, the Cavs surged back with 9 straight points to regain the lead, 93-92.  This is where it began to get exciting.

The Celtics tied it up, but the Cavs answered with two 2-pointers and a free throw.  The Celtics answered with a basket to make it 99-96 Cavs .     The Celtics called time with eighteen seconds to go.

The last 18 seconds were especially exciting.  The Celts were down 101-96.  The Celtics got the ball and Bradley missed a long three pointer off the in-bounds.  Sullinger quickly rebounded it and tossed it to Jae Crowder who made an amazing three pointer from the corner that cut the Cavs’ lead to two points with 8 seconds left!!  The Celtics immediately fouled and the Cavs made both foul shots.  103-99 Cavs.  The Celtics called timeout again to take the in-bound in Cavaliers territory.  Evan Turner got the layup in just four seconds!  This time the Cavaliers fouled on Turner’s layup.  With the Celtics down by two Evan Turner had to intentionally miss the shot.  The ball tipped off two Cavs players before going out of bounds. The Celtics had the ball with 4.1 seconds left.

The officials gave the ball to Jae Crowder in front of the basket they were shooting into, then he passed it to Isaiah Thomas and Thomas tossed it to Avery Bradley.  Bradley bobbled the ball momentarily but regained control with enough time left to attempt a shot.  Avery Bradley released the 3-point buzzer beater from the corner and made it as time expired!!!!

avery-bradley-buzzer-beater-2-5-16.jpg
Avery Bradley shooting the game winning buzzer beater

The Celtics came back from a six point deficit at the half to defeat the Cavaliers 104-103!  They were trailing by thirteen to start the first quarter and slowly but surely they came back to win!!!   The Celtics advance to 30-22, while the Cavs fall to 35-14.

The Celts next play today at 1, hosting the Sacramento Kings.  Hopefully I can catch that game.  The Celtics are on a 3 game winning streak and have won 8 out of their last 9.  Can they keep it up?

Celtics Win 2nd Straight vs. Suns, Great Weekend for Boston?

A great weekend is already brewing for Boston sports fanatics.  The Celtics had a nice win over the Suns last night, the Bruins beat the Sabres 4-1, the Pats are bound to pounce on the Chiefs for revenge, and the Red Sox and Joe Kelly avoided arbitration with a one year deal.  The Celtics and B’s also play again today.

The Celtics won 117-103 over the Phoenix Suns.  This is the first time Boston has played the Suns since Isaiah Thomas was on the Phoenix Suns.  Thomas and Marcus Smart, who had his first career triple double, the youngest to do it (10 pts, 11 assists, 11 rebounds), helped them to a big win.  The game puts the C’s at 21-19.

Marcus Smart shooting for two of his 10 points that contributed to his triple-double.

Avery Bradley and Jae Crowder also each contributed 17 points, Kelly Olynyk scored 21 despite limited court time, Thomas gave in 19, and Jared Sullinger had a double-double.  So the offense was still booming like the 4th quarter of Celtics-Pacers, when they came back by constantly doing this pattern, steal, pass, run, shoot.  It got them 4 unanswered baskets.  This time, they had such a big lead at half that 2nd half struggles didn’t matter, they still held a lead.

The start was rough.  While the Suns got to shoot more, the Celtics got more 3 pointers, and they led 16-12 with 6 minutes to go.  The struggles continued throughout the quarter, but they piled up enough extra points to lead by 7 by the end of the 1st. They grabbed on to their largest lead when they went on a 22-5 run to end the 1st half.  Kelly Olynyk led the offense during the run, responsible for 13 of the 22  points.  Olynyk finished the game leading the offense with 21 points and 9 rebounds, most of it coming from just that portion of the game.  He made four 3-pointers, three during the second quarter.

In the 3rd quarter, the Suns began to come back.   For most of the quarter, they did it slowly, but they had a short 11-4 run at mid-quarter.  The Suns just barely outscored Boston 31-28 in the quarter.  They continued the slow comeback, but the Celtics were just scoring too much overall for the Suns to get too much of a move on.  They went from a 21 point to a 14 point deficit but still won, 117-103.

Mirza Teletovic and Brandon Knight had decent games combining for 38 points, but the Celtics had 4 players with at least 17 points, the Suns only had two that had at least 16, one that had 22.  Two players on the C’s had double or triple doubles, Phoenix had none.  Best of all, Isaiah Thomas was second in points for us, with 19.  If he did the same for Phoenix, but not us, we would’ve lost 122-98.  So the Isaiah Thomas trade was surely worth it.  The Celtics are beginning to look like a young, but powerful playoff team.  Their conference is the easier one to do well in, and their division’s only competitors are the Raptors, and possibly the Kristaps Porzingis led Knicks.  The season continues on.

Also be on the look out for my NBA mid-season report soon.  I will include playoff predictions, and will be preparing it after the Celts play their 41st game today.