Posted April 15, 2011, at 4:49 p.m.
The Boston Celtics will begin defense of their National Basketball Association Eastern Conference championship on Sunday when they open their best-of-seven first-round series against the New York Knicks.
The Celtics, who went 6-7 in their last 13 regular-season games, are the third seed behind Chicago and Miami. The Knicks are the sixth seed.
The Celtics won the NBA title in 2009 and reached the seventh game in last year’s championship series, only to lose to the Los Angeles Lakers 83-79.
Three basketball coaches were asked how far can the Celtics go this season and why.
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Warren Caruso, Husson University men’s coach: “I believe they have the pieces to win the NBA championship. They’re built for the postseason. They need to be healthy, obviously, and they’re saying that they are. If they’re healthy and have all the pieces on the floor, they’ll make a run for the NBA title.”
Ted Woodward, University of Maine men’s coach: “They’re capable of going all the way. You have to have different pieces to do that. They’ll need to play a little better than they’ve played of late. But the NBA has seven-game series and that’s (the playoffs) a long season in itself. They’re capable of playing great basketball the whole way through. They have a lot of veterans and they know this may be one of the last opportunities they’ll have to have everyone together.”
Chris Casavant, boys coach at Caribou High School: “I think they can make it to the finals. They have the experience to do it. Every year it’s the same thing with the Celtics. They don’t care if they finish first, second, third, fourth or fifth, they think they can still win the whole thing. They’ll be rested and focused and the guys who haven’t been playing well lately, like (point guard Rajon) Rondo, will step up and play better in the playoffs. It wouldn’t surprise me to see the Lakers and Celtics back in the finals (for the third straight year) even though they didn’t play well down the stretch. (The Lakers went 2-5 in their last seven games.) Phil (Lakers coach Phil Jackson) and Doc (Celtics coach Doc Rivers) have been there before and know what they’re doing. Everybody says Chicago plays hard every night, but that could be a detriment. A lot of the guys (on the Lakers and Celtics) didn’t play hard the last week of the season because they wanted to rest and get ready for the playoffs.”