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Section 109: Can the Celtics even get home court in the first round?

March 11, 2010
The Boston Celtics lost two games in a row this week and dropped into a tie with Atlanta for the third-best record in the conference. If Boston keeps playing at their current .500 pace, and Milwaukee keeps winning, The Celtics could lose home court advantage in the first round of the playoffs. Even if there’s a tiebreaker, the Bucks are only two wins behind Boston in conference record.
Whose home court would the Celtics likely end up playing on, if they slipped to fifth place? Milwaukee, where the Bucks have won 21 of 30 games so far this season.
Why the turnaround this season? A lot of factors, but two basic equations: When Andrew Bogut is good, the Bucks are good. When Kevin Garnett is bad, the Celtics are bad.
Has Garnett really fallen off that much statistically? He’s down almost two points per game, 14.2, and one rebound per game, 7.5, from last year. Compare that to his last season in Minnesota (06-07), when he averaged 22.4 points and 12.8 rebounds. Or his first season in Boston (07-08), when put up 18.8 ppg and 9.2rpg. His blocks, steals and assists are about the same. The numbers are declining, but not terrible The biggest difference you see is the lack of speed and mobility when Garnett guards the lane or the baseline. Without a more intimidating Garnett, Kendrick Perkins suffers defensively as well.
Bogut, on the other hand, got over a nagging back injury that slowed him all last year. A number one draft pick, a lot of people got on him because he was not the game changer they expected immediately in his first year. Some players take longer to get the pro game, though, and experts will tell you centers take longer to develop in the NBA. Bogut, only 25 this year, lost half a season last year to injury, appearing in only 36 games. This year, he’s averaging 16.2 points per game and shooting 53%. He’s shooting free throws at 66%, the highest in his career. He’s also setting career highs in scoring, total rebounds and offensive rebounds.
Bogut and Garnett aren’t a true head-to-head matchup. But it’s interesting to see how the gradual decline and ascent of these two is reflected in their team’s play.
Both teams have played 63 games as of today. Of the last 19 games, both play 8 against likely playoff teams. Boston plays Cleveland twice; Houston, Dallas, and Utah on the road; Denver and San Antonio. The Bucks get Utah, Denver, Atlanta, Memphis, Cleveland and Phoenix. Milwaukee also gets five likely wins, playing the Sixers twice, the Clippers, and the Nets.
So the home court advantage for these two could come down to the last few games of the season. Including game 80, which is Boston at Milwaukee, and game 82, which is Milwaukee at Boston.
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