While the Eastern Conference remains effectively the NBA junior route until further notice, LeBron James' pleasing ripple effect on the other coast is, for the first time in who-knows-how-to-long (OK , about eight seasons), this is a breed that feels wide open. There are a handful of teams with some chance of winning the East. Two of them played on Friday night when the Celtics and Raptors met in Toronto. The Raptors retired late and convinced with a 113-101 final score. The game was closer than that, and it became increasingly clear as the night went on, that this is a matchup worth having.
After watching the Celtics' rookies of the 76s earlier in the week, there was already a sense of what Boston would look like against good competition. Toronto took the opportunity to testify at home. Kyle Lowry scored a penalty two minutes before the end of the game before missing a low three in the following game. Kawhi Leonard got better as the night went by, Serge Ibaka looked upbeat and it all came down to a Boston team that has more pound-for-pound talent than anyone else in the league except Golden State. No team was perfect, but the pace of the game quickly increased, creating an exciting, up and down adventure.
This is the fourth day of the season and no time to anoint someone, but it's encouraging to see two teams that convinced us as potential conference finalists early on. These were the two best regular season teams in the East last year and both seem to have improved in the offseason, and that's good news for the state of the league. The up and down of the game was hypnotic for stretches, both teams full of versatile, capable talents who would play throughout the league. In the first round, the game's frenetic energy made it difficult to process in real time, but there was no doubt about the sheer amount of talent on the ground or the quality of the game. (1