7 games never felt so good. Boston may have closed out the Chicago Bulls last night, but the only real winners were the audience.
Chicago are off home for exit interviews and the Boston Celtics have no time at all to prepare for what should be an even sterner test against an Orlando Magic team whose All-Star center has discovered a nasty streak.
The absence of Kevin Garnett effectively guaranteed that this first rounder would be much closer than each franchise’s seeding would have suggested.
The Bulls team, with John Salmons and Brad Miller in the squad, would have been good for the 5th seed out East if they had played the whole season as they had since their trade with Sacramento.
In contrast, if Boston had missed Garnett the whole season they would have been closer to the 4th seed rather than the 2nd spot.
The seedings lied and what followed could well have been the finest first round playoff series in the history of the NBA.
Regardless of the exit, the Bulls know that in Derrick Rose they have a truly mercurial talent that should develop (more) into one of the finest in the game. Depending on Ben Gordon’s contract situation, the Bulls will return, a year wiser and more experienced.
Along with Gordon, Rose was the Bulls leader. Dude is a Rookie.
Perspective is a fine thing.
Boston have little time to be relieved as the Magic come calling in just a few days, fresh off of a confidence boosting win in Philadelphia, something they achieved without their suspended big man.
Can Orlando dethrone the Champions? They have to fancy their chances. Without Garnett the Celtics look lost defensively and will struggle almightily to contain Dwight Howard. Kendrick Perkins, Glen Davis and Mikki Moore will have their hands full.
The possibility of 20/20 games for Howard is very real given the calibre of player he will be up against, none of who are the greatest of athletes, at least when compared to Howard.
The Cs will be even more reliant on their new Big 3: Rondo, Pierce and Allen. All of whom will have to be at their best to see off a surging Magic.
It is certainly worth considering the extent to which fatigue might play a part in this series with Allen especially having played many, many minutes in the numerous overtimes with Chicago.
The Celtic big men just have to try and contain Howard as best they can and make the magic hit their shots from deep. If Howard dominates (likely) Boston will be going fishing. If they keep his numbers respectable, then the likes of Allen and Pierce will have a chance to play clutch and sink the upstarts from Florida.
Such is the importance of Garnett and the presence of Howard that the Magic will progress in 6. Although if their first rounder has taught us anything it is that there will be countless twists and turns before we know who will advance to the Conference Finals.