The Heat are streaking. The Bulls, tops in the East, have been consistent all year.
Then there are the Celtics.
“It’s a team that has been there and done that,” Josh said. “They’ve played through a lot of injuries, especially last year when people had written them off and didn’t t think they were going to make the Finals and they did and had a shot to win it. That doesn’t surprise me about this team.”
The C’s are old, injured, smaller and most nights seemingly sputtering to the playoffs. Except those times they are not, like last night’s W at San Antonio without Shaq and with Krstic leaving the game early.
It was a timely reminder that the Celtics are the defending East champs. They can get it done when they are right or find a way when they are not.
“They are the team until somebody proves them wrong,” Smoove said. “They have been the team these past couple of years. Those teams you just named [Bulls and Heat] are just hot teams that people are talking about. But what they have got to understand is this a veteran ball club and they have been in these situations.
“Regular season doesn’t matter, it’s what you do in the postseason. This is a veteran ballclub who has been together who have three Hall of Fame players on their team and they have already figured out how to get it done. The Miami situation is still up in the air how make that work in the postseason. This team, they already understand. They know.”
There’s going to be a lot of focus on Hawks-Magic the next few days. But if the Hawks are looking to do anything beyond just getting by the Magic before bowing out in the second round, chances are they are going to have to deal with the C’s.
“They have got a great core of guys, man,” J.J. said. “You are talking about Ray Allen, Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, Rondo. Those guys have been leading their team for the last three, four or five years. They are the team that you have to go through in the Eastern Conference to get to the Finals. This time of year, they are stepping their game up and gearing up for the playoffs.”
Against the Spurs Rondo went for 22, 14 and 5. After an uneven, injury-affected stretch in March, he’s looking ready to lead the Celtics on another title run.
“When they are most effective is when Rondo is effective with the basketball,” Josh said. “You seen it last night: it looked like everybody was kind of drained a little bit and then he picked up his intensity and energy and I think that got everybody else geared up to play.”
Michael Cunningham, Hawks beat