If not the Celtics then who

The Boston Celtics have lost two straight (sort of like the bar if Ivory Soap sinking to the bottom of the tub—that never happens with Ivory. It always floats). And, apparently, the Celtics are not supposed to lose two in a row. But they have and folks are proclaiming that they have “run out of gas.” Maybe they have but there’s little need to panic. Everyone knows that the price of gas has plummeted and the team from Beantown should be refueled and on another winning streak shortly.

But let’s say Boston does completely falter. Let’s say that they are unable to put enough fuel in their tank for the long run—securing a second straight NBA title. What teams are likely to take their place? Here’s a quick look at and consideration of a few potential 2008- 2009 NBA champions.

Cleveland Cavaliers: The Cavs possess a PF/PA average of plus-12.30 points per game. They manage to win games even when they are playing poorly. They are first in the Central Division and second in the Eastern Conference. They are perfect at home (15-0) and their overall record is 25- 4. Their “D” is extra tough as opponents have averaged just 89.2 PPG against them. That’s best in the league. Defense does win championships. With that in mind, the Cavs’ average 8.07 steals per game and 5.79 blocks per game while opponents average 6.28 SPG and 3.38 BPG. On the offensive end, Cleveland hits 52.7% of their two-point shots. Opponents put in just 44.5%. Of course, small forward LeBron James, perhaps the best of the best the league has to offer, is the ultimate go-to, take it home and make it or break it player in the league. 

In the Western Conference, the Los Angeles Lakers certainly look good. They have a plus-9.4 PF/PA average. The team scores an average of 106.5 PPG, which is best in the NBA. Their home mark is an impressive 51- 1. Kobe Bryant is perhaps the most explosive backcourt man in the game. At this point, he’s averaging 26.2 PPG, hitting 46.9% of his field goals and 86.2% of his free throws.

A few other teams to consider include the New Orleans Hornets and the Houston Rockets. The fact is that Hornets’ point guard Chris Paul is simply a massive talent. The Houston Rockets have a healthy Yao Ming and six players scoring in double digits. If the new guy on the block, the much-traveled Ron Artest, can keep his focus, these Rockets could propel themselves into the finals and a championship bid. The Portland Trail Blazers also need to be considered. Sure, they may have Greg Oden but the fact is that third-year man Brandon Roy is a lunch pail type player who gives it his all everyday. His work ethic, leadership and output could prove to be massive over the course of a long NBA season. Finally, Dwight Howard at center leads an impressive Orlando Magic team that is good at both ends of the court. The Hornets could be in the mix when it comes to the Eastern Conference Finals.

But let’s go back to the Green Machine called the Boston Celtics. There are a few things to remember about the team that Red Auerbach fostered and made into champions so long ago. They have a home record of 17- 1. And their PF/PA average is at plus-9.6. Those are both second-best to only Cleveland. Home court advantage is huge in the NBA and chances are that the Celtics will have it throughout the playoffs. Their defense is also in the top three of all teams. They are explosive from the three-point mark, putting in 37.0% while opponents hit just 32.7%.

Yes, the Lakers look good and the Cavaliers seem to be for real. Plus there is a slew of other clubs that show power, promise and pizzazz. But don’t forget that the Celtics are still champs and, for the most part, continue to play as such. There is, after all, that age-old quality that they rediscovered last season after a hiatus of 20 years—Celtic Pride. Don’t count Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen and company out. 

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