The Daily Gamecock

Three takeaways from the first weekend of the NBA Playoffs

Chicago Bulls guard Derrick Rose (1) drives on Milwaukee Bucks guard Jerryd Bayless (19) during the first half on Monday, April 20, 2015, at the United Center in Chicago. (Brian Cassella/Chicago Tribune/TNS)
Chicago Bulls guard Derrick Rose (1) drives on Milwaukee Bucks guard Jerryd Bayless (19) during the first half on Monday, April 20, 2015, at the United Center in Chicago. (Brian Cassella/Chicago Tribune/TNS)

The NBA Playoffs are finally upon us, and there was certainly a ton to take away from the first weekend.

Boston Celtics are One Superstar Away From Contention

When general manager Danny Ainge traded away franchise legends Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Doc Rivers, stockpiled draft picks and looked ahead toward the lottery, Celtics fans envisioned a tedious rebuilding project full of stress, frustration and rage. Ainge ripped the heart and soul directly out from Boston’s loyal fan base to essentially start fresh. The team hired a rookie head coach, drafted ball-hawking point guard Marcus Smart in the 2014 draft, and subsequently dealt its two best remaining players, Rajon Rondo and Jeff Green, for a myriad of draft picks and a collection of role players.

Boston should be lottery bound yet again, right?

Well, apparently this so-called “role player” Jae Crowder has quickly emerged as a poor man’s Kawhi Leonard and head coach with no prior NBA experience Brad Stevens actually knows what he’s doing.

The Celtics are the feel-good story of the 2014-15 season, transforming a collection of misfits into a team facing King James and the Cleveland Cavaliers in the first-round of the playoffs.

Isaiah Thomas and his feisty Boston Celtics have proven they are one final move away from being serious contenders in the Eastern Conference. It just so happens that Ainge has the assets and cap space pull it off.

Cleveland Cavaliers Road to the Finals Won’t Be Easy

As the aforementioned Celtics continue to fight for their playoff lives, Cleveland is ultimately expected to come out of the first-round victorious. Though the Chicago Bulls possess a two-game lead on the Milwaukee Bucks, Chicago’s experience and size up front should suffice for a series victory over the young, unseasoned Bucks.

Chicago was widely perceived as the favorites to represent the Eastern Conference in the NBA Finals after adding the offensive versatility of Pau Gasol in the frontcourt to go along with the return of a healthy Derrick Rose. The bandwagon quickly lost steam as Rose tore his meniscus, and the remainder of the roster struggled to stay healthy for any extended period of time.

Rose returned just in time for the playoffs with critics suggesting the team should bench the point guard in favor of backup Aaron Brooks.

Rose responded with a tremendous 23 points in Game 1 and a 15-point and nine-assist performance in Game 2, displaying glimpses of his former self. With Rose’s  rejuvenation, Chicago appears to be rolling just in time for a likely showdown with the Cavaliers in the second round.

Dallas Mavericks are a Disaster

The post-2011 NBA Champion Dallas Mavericks have been chronicled by persistent roster turnover and a collection of eccentric personalities whom have failed to mesh into one single unit. Dallas allowed the linchpin of its defense — Tyson Chandler — to walk in 2011, banking on attracting marquee free agents like Dwight Howard and Deron Williams.

On a quest to attract superstar talent, Dallas elected to sign a cast of players to short deals, which has made it hard to develop cohesiveness.

Then the front office admitted defeat last summer by reacquiring Chandler via trade, signing small forward Chandler Parsons to an absurd maximum contract and acquiring Rajon Rondo in a mid-season trade that abolished the slightest bit of team chemistry Dallas had going.

The result? Squaring off against a weak seventh seed facing James Harden, Dwight Howard and the "drive n' kick" Houston Rockets.

Aside from a brief spurt in the second quarter of Game 1, the Mavericks followed up an underwhelming regular season with a horrid opening game. The spacing was a disaster, perimeter defense was atrocious and unsurprisingly, Amar’e Stoudemire is still one of the worst defenders in NBA history. This is the first sign of the inevitable death of the 2014-15 Dallas Mavericks.


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