The Boston Celtics did not find out until the final day of the regular season which team they would be playing in the first round of NBA playoffs.
Upon hearing the top-seeded Celtics would be taking on the flawed Chicago Bulls rather than the red-hot Miami Heat, New England native and unabashed C’s superfan Bill Simmons couldn’t have been happier.
“It’s fantastic,” Simmons told NESN.com’s Rachel Holt on Friday at the Play It Forward Summit at Boston University. “The Bulls are not very good. I was worried that they were going to play Miami, because I think Miami was, like, 30-11 in their last 41 games, which is a 60-win pace. That would have been crazy to play them as a No. 8 seed.”
One of the prevailing storylines of the first-round matchup involves Bulls point guard Rajon Rondo’s return to Boston. Rondo had a habit of playing his best basketball when the spotlight was brightest during his eight-plus seasons with the Celtics, and Simmons admitted he’s fearful of “National TV Rondo” making a comeback during this series.
“Rondo scares me a little bit, just because it’s Boston and national TV and all that stuff, but I just don’t think Chicago is very good,” the Ringer CEO said. “Toronto was the team I was most worried about, and Toronto plays Cleveland in Round 2, which was a break. I really don’t think any of these teams are very good. I think anybody can beat anybody.”
Though the Celtics are the Eastern Conference’s No. 1 seed, most still view the second-seeded Cleveland Cavaliers as the team to beat in the East. The defending champion Cavs have not been eliminated before the NBA Finals since LeBron James returned home to Cleveland in 2014.
The Celtics went 1-3 against the Cavs during the regular season, but two of their losses came by just six points.
“I think the Cavs would have to beat themselves to a large degree (for the Celtics to beat them),” Simmons said. “But they’re not very good defensively, and they have a lot of miles from the last couple of years. They don’t have a very good bench. The Celtics have played them really well up until last week when LeBron just killed them, but they match up pretty well with them for the most part. And they have home-court (advantage).
“And I sound like a homer saying this, but I really do think Boston has the most important, influential home crowd that can really push the team and drag just an extra something out of it. Golden State’s good, too, there are some good crowds. But I’m riding with Boston.”
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