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2020 NBA Playoffs: Five Celtics opponents with 'classic series' potential

2020 NBA Playoffs: Five Celtics opponents with 'classic series' potential

After nearly five months without the NBA, we'd watch anything at this point, right?

Give us games, especially in the postseason, and we're going to eat it up.

But let's dream a little and hope for a classic, because some of the Celtics' potential opponents would absolutely bring that potential. Here's my list.

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1. CELTICS vs. CLIPPERS

This would mean the Celtics made the NBA Finals. Rad.

It would also mean a tremendous season series would continue. The C's and Clippers split the two games they played pre-COVID, but both were tremendous games, and really, Boston should have won both. The Nov. 20 meeting will be remembered for Jayson Tatum stepping back and dropping Paul George on his bottom to hit the game-tying 3 before the Clippers prevailed in OT, but the Celtics blew that game. They had a 10-point lead with six minutes to play, but weren't able to stop... Patrick Beverley?

And Beverley's a great player, cut from the same cloth as Marcus Smart, but he's usually not the player who's going to do an opponent in with his offense. Beverley's four 3s that game remain tied for his season high.

The Clippers didn't have Beverley when the teams met in February for a double-overtime Celtics victory, but between the star power throughout the two teams (Kawhi Leonard, Paul George, Jayson Tatum, Kemba Walker, Jaylen Brown, etc.), the tenacity on each side (Beverley, Smart), the Doc Rivers element and the fact that these teams haven't been able to settle a game in regulation, Celtics-Clippers would be an absolutely awesome NBA Finals.

The Clippers would probably win, but it would be a hell of a series.

2. CELTICS vs. LAKERS

Yes, I just want the Celtics to be in the Finals. And yes, I had a hard time not putting this No. 1, but the games between the C's and Clippers have just been too good.

As for a Lakers series, the storylines would be endless. LeBron vs. the Celtics again. Tatum taking on Kobe's team for a chance to win his first title. Anthony Davis against the team he more or less spurned when it came time to leave New Orleans. Also, the whole Celtics-Lakers thing.

The C's and Lakers split their season series, too. Boston smoked the Lakers, 139-107, at the Garden in January, but the teams turned in a classic on Feb. 23 in L.A. when Tatum (41 points) outdueled LeBron (29), but Davis' 32 points helped the Lakers to a 114-112 victory in a nail-biter.

Regardless of the outcome, this would be a tremendous Finals for the league. With all that's gone on, from the loss of Kobe to the shutdown of the league, Lakers-Celtics would be a captivating finish.

3. CELTICS vs. BUCKS

I want this mainly because I think the Bucks are overrated.

I mention this every time people bring up the Bucks being daunting, but I'll say it again: The Celtics went 1-1 against them and didn't have Brown for either game. That first game, way back in October, in which the Celtics came way back to win by 11 behind Walker's 32 points, was one of the most exciting games of the season.

There's also the revenge element, if you're into that sort of thing. The Celtics took Game 1 when the teams met in the second round last season, then lost their first game of the playoffs and fell apart. Beating the Bucks would establish the Celtics as the best team in the East, and on a lesser note, it would show that this isn't last year's team.

4. CELTICS vs. 76ERS

I want to see this series and I don't. I'm on record of Philly scaring me more than any team in the East, but if the C's can get over how poorly they match up against a Philly team that took three of four pre-COVID meetings, they should feel invincible.

The Al Horford angle would be interesting. He hasn't put Philly over the top since leaving Boston and has admitted his new team has had chemistry issues.

It's just a shame there won't be confetti to drop in the bubble if the Sixers force overtime. 

5. CELTICS vs. RAPTORS

People say they just want a sense of normalcy in these uncertain times, right?

Well, the new format for the NHL dramatically decreases the chances of the Bruins playing the Maple Leafs this postseason, so Celtics-Raptors might be the best chance at the familiar sight of Boston eliminating Toronto in the playoffs.

Don't miss NBC Sports Boston's coverage of Celtics-Bucks, which begins Friday at 5:30 p.m. with Celtics Pregame Live followed by tip-off at 6:30 p.m. You can also stream on the MyTeams App.

Celtics Talk Podcast: Could we see a C's vs. Lakers NBA Finals in the bubble?

Celtics Talk Podcast: Could we see a C's vs. Lakers NBA Finals in the bubble?

The Boston Celtics and Los Angeles Lakers haven't played in the NBA Finals since 2010. Could they start another decade with a championship matchup in the Orlando bubble?

The Lakers are the betting favorites to win the Western Conference, and they currently own the second-best record in the league behind the Milwaukee Bucks. The Celtics enter the league's 22-team restart as the No. 3 seed in the Eastern Conference playoff race. Boston has become a popular pick to make a deep run in the 2020 playoffs, with some experts even predicting a return to the NBA Finals for the C's.

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On the latest episode of the Celtics Talk Podcast, Los Angeles Times writer Brad Turner provided some perspective on what L.A. thinks of this year's Celtics team and what it's capable of when the 2019-20 season resumes.

"Man, that Jayson Tatum? I watched the game against the Clippers. He's going up against Kawhi Leonard and Paul George, and sometimes Pat Beverley. He gave them work," Turner said. "The nickname (LeBron James gave Tatum) was 'The Problem'? He's not going to be a problem, he is a problem. I love watching him play. 

"(The Celtics) are just fun, they play with a lot of energy, they seem to play more as a team now. They seem to just play great on offense and on defense. They're sharing the basketball more. ... That's the one team I kinda think could come out of the East. I wonder about them. If I had to pick a surprise team it would be (the Celtics). Well, are they really a surprise? Not really, because they got some talent there."

Celtics Talk Podcast: A C's-Lakers Finals in NBA bubble? | Listen & subscribe | Watch on YouTube

The Lakers might have the best chance to emerge from what promises to be a highly competitive Western Conference playoffs, but L.A. also will have its share of challenges. Former Celtic and current Lakers guard Avery Bradley opted out of the season restart, Another former C's guard and current Lakers reserve, Rajon Rondo, won't be available to begin the seeding games because of a broken thumb that's expected to sideline him six to eight weeks.

The loss of Bradley is particularly tough. He made a strong impact on both ends of the floor, and in the Lakers' second-to-last game before the season was halted, the veteran guard scored 24 points (including six 3-pointers) in L.A.'s only win over the rival Clippers this year. The Lakers signed J.R. Smith to help fill Bradley's role. Smith could help offensively, but he's nowhere near the high-level defender that Bradley is on the court. 

"It was a big loss, to be honest," Turner said. "That weekend (in March) when they played Milwaukee and the Clippers, we saw the true Avery Bradley that you saw in Boston. He was picking up full court and the best thing about him, he was knocking down his shots. He was scoring from the perimeter."

The Celtics and Lakers squaring off in the bubble with the Larry O'Brien Trophy at stake would be an awesome chapter in the league's best rivalry. It's hard to predict what will happen in the playoffs given the unprecedented nature of how the season is being finished, but both Boston and L.A. have the depth, leadership and talent to make it to the Finals.

Check out the latest episode of the Celtics Talk Podcast or watch it on YouTube below.

Ex-Celtic Avery Bradley explains why he's not playing in NBA restart

Ex-Celtic Avery Bradley explains why he's not playing in NBA restart

Avery Bradley is doing more than just expressing concerns about the NBA's 22-team season restart. He's taking action.

The Los Angeles Lakers guard has told the team he won't participate in the resumed season in Orlando, Fla., later this month, per ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski.

Bradley cited a desire to remain with his family, which includes his wife and three children. Bradley's 6-year-old son, Liam, has a history of "struggling to recover from respiratory illnesses," per Wojnarowski, putting him at greater risk should he contract COVID-19.

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"As committed to my Lakers teammates and the organization as I am, I ultimately play basketball for my family," Bradley told Wojnarowski. "And so, at a time like this, I can't imagine making any decision that might put my family's health and well-being at even the slightest risk."

Bradley's loss is a big one Lakers as they eye an NBA title in this shortened season. The former Boston Celtics guard was averaging 8.6 points per game when the season paused in March and is an elite defender who can stifle some of the league's best guards.

The health and safety of Bradley and his family are far more important, however. The 29-year-old isn't alone in opting out of the "bubble," either, as Washington Wizards forward Davis Bertans reportedly will sit out, as well.

Bradley also has been outspoken about how players can best use their platforms to push for racial equality in America, and the veteran guard plans to continue that work this summer.

"As promised also, I will use this time away to focus on the formation of projects to help strengthen my communities," Bradley added.

The Lakers can sign a replacement player to fill Bradley's role, and free agent J.R. Smith is "a leading candidate" to team up with old friend LeBron James in L.A., per Wojnarowski.