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The Top Seeded Boston Celtics Are Toast, Heres Why

By Doug Upstone

The last time a No.1 seed lost both home games to start a first round series was 1993, when Phoenix was sleepwalking against the No. 8 Los Angeles Lakers. The Suns recovered to take the next three contests (it was a 5-game series at that time) and went on the face Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls in The Finals.

With this being a seven-game series, the mountain is higher to climb for Boston over Chicago, having to win four times looking ahead, with three of those at what should be a rollicking United Center in the Windy City.

So why is this occurring and what can Boston do to turn this series around and live up to top-seeded reputation? Let's start drilling down to uncover.

Boston In Uncomfortable Territory

Since 1994, the No. 1 seed has been knocked off five times. Here is the list:

1994 - Denver over Seattle

1999 - New York over Miami

2007 - Golden State over Dallas

2011 - Memphis over San Antonio

2012 - Philadelphia over Chicago

In each instance, the underdog found a weakness to exploit and got hot at the right moment.

Simple Answer To Series, Boston is Not That Good

The Celtics won 53 games during the regular season to take the top spot in the East, but upon closer inspection, we found they only had a point differential of +2.7 on the season. This was good for only third in the East, behind Toronto (+4.2) and Cleveland (+3.7). This statistic is a measure of strength and ability to dominate and despite having the fourth-best record in the NBA. Boston was eighth in point differential and seemingly miles behind Golden State at +11.6.

There was a reason Cleveland did not worry about the top seed; they did not fear the C's.

Playoff Basketball is Different and Matchups, Talent and Experience Matter

Coach Brad Stevens was able to maximize a good, not great roster of players. Think about every team in your lifetime that has won an NBA title. Nearly always there are two outstanding players and an important third clog.

Boston's best player is Isaiah Thomas, who is 5'9 and a defensive liability. After that Avery Bradley, Al Horford, Jae Crowder and Marcus Smart are above average players, but not game-changers. If you are betting in the playoffs, you need difference-makers.

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Now let's look at Chicago and think about how they matchup. Jimmy Butler is an elite scorer and defender. No question Dwayne Wade's skills are eroding, however, early in the postseason and with more days off, he can pick his spots and be a real asset. Rajon Rondo (Update - Now out with fractured thumb) is a complex individual, yet when a head coach knows how to let him be and has veteran teammates who can keep him focused, Rondo is a very good point guard. Wade and Rondo have championship pedigree and coach Fred Hoiberg astutely understood the Celtics were 27th in rebounding and his Bulls have a +23 rebound differential after two games.

Boston is not officially dead, but after starting the series as -450 favorites to advance, they now sit at +230. Thanks for playing Celtics.

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