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Celtics Offseason Review
By all accounts the 2016/2017 season was an enormous success for the Boston Celtics. Of course fans and the media clamor for the next banner and championship but let’s not lose sight of the tremendous progress by the Boston Celtics. Just take a look at the records of Brad Stevens over the first four years of his Celtics coaching career. Every single year the team makes progress and more signs show up in terms of the implementation of his systems and strategies.
The Celtics reached the Eastern Conference Finals and were soundly beaten by the Cleveland Cavaliers. Nobody enjoys a good butt kicking but this may turn out to be a very productive experience for the team. Yes, several players will move on from the team and new faces will arrive but the team was able to learn what it takes to make a deep playoff run. They also received a very frank and blunt assessment of where they are and what they need to do. Building blocks.
This was a huge season for the coaching staff and in particular Head Coach Brad Stevens. Stevens earned a reputation among Celtics faithful of being a bit of a genius. Everyone can clearly see how crafty he is calling plays and how he has maximized the skills and performance of not just one but several players. However, the fact was his playoff record was very weak heading into the 2017 postseason. Stevens showed a ton of versatility and flexibility in navigating his way to the Eastern Conference Finals.
Let’s not forget regardless of your own explanation the team was down 0-2 to Chicago and won four straight to take that series. It doesn’t matter who was hurt or not it is still difficult to beat an NBA team four straight games in the playoffs. The seven game series against Washington was huge. That was a turning point. Coach Stevens showed that he can get his staff and team focused and able to grind out a hard fought series. Stevens did whatever it took to take the team as far as possible. Gerald Green started games and produced. Jaylen Brown sat out entire games and then contributed when called upon. Throughout the postseason the team got an incredible amount of open looks that the players simply did not knock down. The offensive system is clearly working as the easy looks and very wide open shots were there. These are all very good signs.
Here are the 36 minute splits for 20 year old Jaylen Brown in his rookie season with the Boston Celtics:
Points: 13.8 Rebounds: 5.9 Assists: 1.7
FG %: 45.4 3PT %: 34.1 FT %: 68.5
People seem to overlook how difficult it is to even get ANY minutes on a NBA team that ultimately makes the conference finals. Jaylen Brown certainly had an up and down year and learned a ton. He started quite a few games when Bradley was out. He had some DNP coach’s decisions. He had games where he barely played at all. He also had games where he was very effective.
Jaylen’s athleticism was apparent right away but he was also able to improve his shooting as the year went on. Specifically, he looked and felt more comfortable with the 3 ball as the year went on and shot it with confidence in the postseason as well. Although throughout the year he missed plenty of defensive assignments as any rookie will, Jaylen Brown also earned a spot as a defensive weapon for Coach Stevens and was used in that role in the playoffs.
It seems pretty clear that Brown will get a lot of minutes this coming season. He needs to improve his handle so that he does not get stripped so frequently when taking the ball to the basket. He can get his own shot and the team needs that desperately but he must cut down on the turnovers. Those things will come with time. His defensive skills and length and athleticism on the defensive side are wat will likely get him more minutes in the short run as he continues to mature and grow. Defense and chip in on the glass and he will play more consistently.
Team Stats 2016/2017 Season:
Defensive Rebounding % - 29th
Opponent Effective FG % - 6th
4th Quarter Points Per Game – 2nd
2nd Half Points Per Game – 3rd
Assists Per FG Made – 2nd
Assists Per Possession – 2nd
True Shooting % - 6th
Taking a look at the above statistics we can clearly see that the Celtics struggled mightily with rebounding this past season. Everybody knows this. Fans lashed out at Danny Ainge for his “failure” at the trade deadline to acquire a solid rebounder off the bench. Danny Ainge made it very clear the team was only interested in “skilled bigs” which aligns with their strategy and huge success Golden State is having using the same strategy.
However, take a look at the defensive stats above. The Celtics were 6th in Opponent Effective FG % which means they are pretty damn good at defending at the point of attack. If they can improve their rebounding even just modestly their overall stats on defense will shoot higher. Better defensive rebounding will improve all of the defensive scoring stats because there will be fewer offensive rebounds for the opposing team.
The offensive stats noted above really hammer home the point that the Celtics have the right Head Coach in place and the right system. The Celtics have absolutely beautiful ball movement and only Golden State ranks higher than the Celtics in the key assists categories. The Cs also ranked 6th in True Shooting % (despite not having more than one true star offensive player in IT) which demonstrates that the coaching and system are on track indeed. Also, look at how well they perform in the second half and the fourth quarter. They make adjustments and they are conditioned to go the distance and keep battling.
Let’s see how the remainder of the offseason looks because they are still more moves that need to be made to work towards that final roster for opening night.
Celtics Update 6/20
It certainly has been a crazy couple of months for the Boston Celtics. The team made a thrilling run to the Eastern Conference Finals only to be outdone by a Cleveland Cavaliers team that currently is simply better than the Cs. However, there was so much progress made this season and fans and the coaches learned so much about various players and where and how they may fit into the Celtics future.
After the Golden State Warriors crushed the Cavs in the finals the focus shifted to the draft, free agency, and any potential trades that might go down. Celtics President and GM Danny Ainge did not disappoint in terms of providing a lot of drama and speculation as the Celtics made a major move with the Philadelphia 76ers. The Celts and Sixers swapped picks in the current 2017 draft and the Celtics also acquired a future first round pick from Philly.
The protections on that future pick get a bit confusing but for now the key is that the Celtics now draft 3rd on Thursday night and the Sixers have the #1 overall pick. This tells me that Danny Ainge simply does not have nearly as much faith and confidence in Markelle Fultz as the majority of fans and “experts” seem to have in him. If the Celtics viewed Fultz as a “can’t miss” superstar they would have stayed pat and taken him.
Who will the Celtics take now at #3? We will have to wait until draft night to find out. A surprise pick to consider: Jonathan Isaac. The tall and lanky 6’10” freshman from Florida State is very young and thin so will likely get banged around quite a bit in the NBA early in his career. However, he was a point guard just a year or so ago and has excellent ball and shooting skills. That near seven footer that can shoot and handle the ball might be just what Ainge has in mind.
Celtics Update 5/17
Well it certainly has been an exciting couple of days for the Boston Celtics. On Monday night the team defeated the Washington Wizards in Game 7 of the quarterfinals to advance to the Eastern Conference Finals to face the Cleveland Cavaliers.
On Tuesday night May 17th the bouncing ping pong balls finally landed in the favor of the Boston Celtics. The Celtics will have the #1 overall pick in the upcoming NBA Draft in June. The brilliant trade engineered by Danny Ainge with the Brooklyn Nets is starting to really pay off. As a reminder, the Celtics were able to draft Jaylen Brown last June because of that trade and they have the Brooklyn pick for next season.
Let's get into this series. There are a couple of very important factors to consider. Everyone knows this will be a very tough task to deal with the Cleveland Cavaliers. One major challenge will be how the Celts manage the Cleveland muscle underneath. By that we mean specifically Tristan Thompson. The Celtics don't have a wide, strong, aggressive body underenath to match up with a guy like Thompson. Tristan Thompson has destroyed the Celtics this season on the offensive glass in the games he played. If he does that again in this series that will only create more looks for Cleveland's arsenal of 3PT shooters.
Speaking of 3PT shooting, another major factor to consider is how the Cs will defend against the Cleveland 3PT bombers. In the playoffs the Cavs are shooting an absolutely scorching 55% on uncontested 3s, and that certainly has to come back down to Earth at least a little bit. More important will be how the Celtics defend on the edges as Lebron James and Kyrie Irving penetrate the lane and look to find open shooters. I would expect to see more of Jaylen Brown in this series for primarily defensive purposes. Certianly the Celts would love to see Brown contribute offensively like he did in game 7, but he has the athleticism and reach to contest open 3s around the arc. They need him badly to do just that.
Another great source for Celtics News and Updates: http://www.yardbarker.com/
Celtics Update 5/13
Well here we are now with a Game 7 heading back to Boston and the TD Garden. The Celtics lost in agonizing fashion in Game 6 in Washington and now face a do or die situation in Game 7 on Monday night, May 15th.
The Celts lead by five with 1:24 left in the fourth quarter and committed a devastating turnover. The wizards made them pay and ultimately won with an amazing 3-pointer by John Wall with almost no time remaining. The biggest challenge for the Celtics in Game 6 (and in most games this series) was the lack of production from their bench. Most observers felt heading into this series that the Celtics had a substantial edge in depth and bench play. That has not been the case. However, it should be noted that the bench has performed a heck of a lot better at TD Garden in the playoffs than they have on the road.
Another facto to keep a close eye on is Coach Stevens and his staff. This is the fourth year now for Brad Stevens as the Head Coach of the Boston Celtics. Game 7 is an extremely pivotal point for the coach. He needs to prove, and has the opportunity to do so, that regardless of the roster and any holes he can indeed maneuver his way through two rounds of playoffs in the NBA. If he can do so that is really saying something. The Celtics are absolutely loaded up with future draft picks and have a lot of room to spend money in free agency. Coach Stevens can prove he is making progress with his staff if he can make it into the Eastern Conference Finals this season.
Celtics Update 5/5
The Boston Celtics and Washington Wizards series is offering fans and the media plenty of drama and entertainment. The Celtics currently lead the Wizards 2-1 in the series after getting completely buried and destroyed in Game 3. There is no doubt that off the OT win in Game 2 and 2-0 series lead the Celts entered the home court of the Wizards flat and were blitzed right out of the gates.
Both teams seriiously dislike each other and the play has been very physical. Oumbre was ejected in Game 3 for assaulting Kelly Olynyk with a cheap shot. Morris threw Horford into the crowd in Game 2. Players on both teams are doing their share of flopping and trying to get each other in trouble.
Game 4 is in Washington on Sunday May 7th in the early evening. This will be an absolutely crucial game for this series. How will the Celtics react to getting destroyed in Game 3? Will the Wizards be able to maintain that level of energy and continue to shoot lights out? It will interesting for sure and we now know the series is definitely coming back to Boston for a Game 5 showdown.
Celtics Update 5/1
The Celtics were able to polish off the Chicago Bulls with four straight victories to take that series 4-2. Looking back at the games, the Celtics really dominated and those four victories were not as close as the score might imply in a couple of them. The interesting thing is that the Celtics did not shoot the ball well at all that entire series except for one game. Let's see if they can find more easy shots and get their stroke going against Washington.
On Sunday April 30th the Celtics defeated the Wizards in Game 1 of the Conference Semifinals. The Wizards took advantage of their super high energy level early and blew the doors off the Cs running to a 16-0 lead. Over time the Celtics grinded away and wore down the Wizards. They entered the 4th quarter up 15 points.
About half way through the 4th Coach Stevens went to Jaylen Brown which provided a nice spark. Eventually the Celts pulled away ratrher easily to take a 1-0 lead. Al Horford continues to play just absolutely brilliantly. Hordford is literally doing everything possible to win and racking up major assists and rebounds to go with some scoring. The Little Guy IT4 torched the Wizards for 33 points in Game 1 and nailed several big 3s. Jae Crowder was on fire from deep range which is a very postive sign.
Celtics Update 4/24
Celtics fans are likely saying “finally” to themselves. The series is now tied 2-2 and Game 5 is at TD Garden in Boston. The Celtics really sprung to life in Games 3 and 4 and beat the Bulls rather handily in a manner not truly reflected in the final scores.
Many people will point to the absence of Rajon Rondo for Chicago as the reason. That certainly is playing a role but the bigger issues are the emergence of the Celtics bench and containing Robin Lopez. Lopez has not dominated like he did in the first two games. The Celtics bench is not playing great by any means yet but they are at least making a positive contribution.
Other key factors of course are Isaiah Thomas, Al Horford, and Gerald Green. Green jumped into the starting lineup in Game 3 and has provided very solid offensive punch. In Game 4 he tossed in 18 points and grabbed 7 boards. Horford has been sensational overall in three of the four games and Isaiah is taking over on offense every time when called upon. It’s a three game series now and 2/3 games are in Boston.
Celtics Update 4/21
The Celtics lost Game 2 to the Bulls in embarassing fashion. They were essentially blown out on their home floor. There were a couple times where they got it close but it isn't a stretch to say they gave up a little bit.
Robin Lopez killed the Cs again. The Celtics bench was trrible again. Time will tell if things turn around but it's hard to see the Celtics shooting and scoring much less efficiently than they have in these first two games.
UPDATE: PG Rajon Rondo is now listed as OUT indefinitely with a sprained thumb.
Celtics Update 4/18
The Celtics find themselves down 1-0 to the Chicago Bulls in the first round of the NBA Playoffs. As the #1 seed in the Eastern Conference the Celtics nabbed home court advantage and a first round matchup with the Bulls.
The Bulls had an up and down year and, as the #8 seed implies, barely made the playoffs. One area where the Bulls do excel is offensive rebounding. This happens to be the Achilles heel of the Boston Celtics as the biggest weakness of the Cs is defensive rebounding. This definitely played a huge role in Chicago’s win in Game 1. The Bulls destroyed the Celts on the glass. Robin Lopez was a beast.
The other big issue was the production from Portis off the bench for the Bulls. Look for the Celtics to have a firm plan on how they want to deal with him in Game 2 and the rest of the series. The same can be said for Lopez. He is too tall and has too much reach to completely stop him so the Cs will need to do something to mitigate his impact.
Isaiah Thomas is playing this series with a very heavy heart and under unimaginable pain and suffering. Thomas lost his younger sister in a tragic car accident the day before the series started. Thomas opted not to miss any time and he was outstanding on offense in game 1. The rest of the team, and in particular the bench, needs to pick up the slack.
The keys the rest of this series will be the Celtics bench scoring and the Bulls offensive rebounding. The Bulls are not that good or efficient on offense, but they sure are better when they get an extra 15-20 possessions. The Celtics bench can and has been very productive all year long. They stunk in game 1. If that bench can spring to life and Al Horford plays as well as he did in game 1 the Celtics can definitely make a series out of this.
Celtics Update 4/7
1. Cleveland Cavaliers 51-27
2. Boston Celtics 50-29
3. Toronto Raptors 48-31
4. Washington Wizards 48-31
After cruising to an expected easy victory at the Knicks on Sunday, the Boston Celtics got pushed around and manhandled this past week. Both Cleveland and Atlanta completely dominated the Celtics and beat them easily.
There are three games remaining: at Charlotte and then home to Brooklyn and Milwaukee. These are three games of course the Celtics “should win” but keep in mind the strategic nature of resting players and controlling minutes. It looks much more likely now that the Celtics will end up with the #2 seed in the playoffs rather than the #1 seed. So, we will have to see how Coach Stevens handles these last three games. They must win at least one to stay in that #2 spot in all likelihood.
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Boston Celtics Weekly Preview/Recap
Eastern Conference Standings
1. Cavaliers 46-23
2. Celtics 45-26
3. Wizards 42-28
4. Raptors 41-29
5. Hawks 37-33
6. Pacers 36-34
7. Bucks 34-35
8. Pistons 34-36
Week in Review
The Celtics, as predicted here, went 3-1 last week. They lost a game they should have won, although against the Sixers and not the T-Wolves, and won a difficult game against a quality opponent when they beat the Wizards. The Celtics missed an opportunity to gain some ground on the Cavaliers. A 4-0 week would have helped them in their race against the Cavs. However, it is difficult to complain about a 3-1 week. Especially considering the beat the number 3 seed, and further separated themselves from the rest of the pack in the Eastern Conference. Isaiah Thomas missed two games after hurting his knee against the T-Wolves. And Avery Bradley and Al Horford have begun playing very well, finally getting back into a groove after finally getting healthy. Horford in particular has increased his production both as a scorer and a rebounder, while still posting quality assist numbers game in game out. Bradley has become an important source of secondary scoring. The Celtics will need Thomas, Bradley, Horford, Johnson and Crowder to stay healthy. When their starting 5 is intact they are a tough team to beat. When they have injury issues they have been frustratingly, even if understandably, inconsistent.
This coming week the Celtics will play the Pacers, Suns, and Heat. All three games are at home. The Celtics are 0-1 against the Suns, but 5-0 against the Pacers and Heat. Isaiah Thomas’ health will be something to watch going forward. He returned to action against the Wizards but seemed to lack his usual lift and speed. Will the team opt to rest him in order to ensure maximum effectiveness during the playoffs? It isn’t out of the question. Marcus Smart and Terry Rozier struggled mightily on offense while he was out, as did Jaylen Brown. The Celtics will be looking for revenge against the Suns who embarrassed them just last week. While both the Pacers and Heat are battling for the final few playoff spots in the East. The Pacers are currently the 6th seed and the Heat are the first team out of the playoffs in the 9th spot. Both teams will also be aware that conference records are a tie-breaker. And seeing as neither team has beaten the Celtics this season, they are sure to have plenty of motivation this time around. This could be a more difficult week for the Celtics than it would seem on paper. If the Pacers and Heat bring their “A games” and Thomas is less than 100% or out entirely the Celtics could easily drop a game or two this week.
Pacers (36-34) at Celtics (45-26)
The Pacers are playing well right now, coming off a win against the Utah Jazz. Their top performers are Paul George, Jeff Teague, Myles Turner and C.J. Miles. The Pacers have no reported injuries. The Pacers have a strong roster on paper, and one could say they should be better than their record. Jeff Teague has been an all-star at the point-guard position before. Paul George is one of the best wings in the league. Myles Turner is one of the best up and coming young big men in the game. He can rebound, defend, is a shot-blocker, and can shoot from range. Thaddeus Young is an athletic and effective power-forward. C.J. Miles is a sharp-shooter from deep and they have a strong bench with guys like Aaron Brooks, Glen Robinson the 3rd, Al Jefferson and Monta Ellis. They’ve been struggling all season to find effective lineup combinations and to figure out who fits well together. In fact, they’ve essentially been alternating wins and losses for their last 13 games.
Isaiah Thomas will have to attempt to slow down Jeff Teague. Teague has a big size advantage over Thomas. The two are also familiar with each other. Teague played for the Hawks during last season’s playoff series against the Celtics. While slowing down Teague is no small feat, neither is slowing down Thomas. Teague knows this first hand, as despite the Hawk’s attempts to double and trap Thomas he still blew up for 42 points in game 4 of the series last season. This matchup could go a long way towards deciding the game.
The other matchup to watch is Paul George against Avery Bradley. The Pacers have been playing George next to C.J. Miles at the Shooting Guard position lately. Will the Celtics have Bradley attempt to defend George? Or will Crowder defend him, as he would if he was still slotted in at the Small Forward spot. Bradley has defended 6’8’’ wing players before, as he generally defends Gordon Hayward when the Celtics play the Jazz, or Jimmy Butler when the Celtics play the Bulls. The Celtics could also start Jaylen Brown at the 2, as they did while Bradley was hurt. Regardless of who lines up opposite George he presents a huge challenge. George is averaging over 22 points, 6 rebounds, and 4 assists per game and is shooting better than 38% from three-point range. He is tall, long, strong, athletic, and highly skilled.
Al Horford and Amir Johnson will have to match up with an athletic pair of big men in Thad Young and Myles Turner. Both are effective two-way players. Young is an important player for the Pacers, as their defense struggled at times this year when he was out with an injury. And Turner averages over 2 blocked shots per game. These two combine for around 24 points and 13 boards per game. Thad Young is an underrated offensive player as well. He is great at getting to the rim and effective finishing around the rim. He can shoot the corner 3 at 36%, and he shoots over 50% from 3 feet to 10 feet out. He hasn’t historically been a three-point shooter, but is shooting 39.5% from three this season on 1.8 attempts per game. Myles Turner is also very effective at the rim (70%), and while he isn’t a great three-point shooter he can knock them down on occasion at 33.3%. Turner is also a very good mid-range shooter. He makes 45.5% of his shots from 10ft to 16ft and from 16ft to the 3 point line. Keeping these two in check on offense, on the boards, and on defense will be very important.
Suns (22-48) at Celtics
The Suns beat the Celtics by 3 points, 109-106, on March 5th. So while they are 22-48 and have one of the 3 worst records in the league, the Celtics should know first-hand not to take them lightly. The Suns have been shutting down their veterans and playing their younger players big minutes. They’ve shelved Tyson Chandler, Brandon Knight and Eric Bledsoe. Instead playing Alex Len, Marquese Chriss, Tyler Ulis and Alan Williams. The average age of their top 10 rotation players is actually the second youngest in the NBA next to the Lakers. Whether this plan is solely for tanking purposes, as in losing as much as possible to attempt to get as high a pick as possible, or whether they’ve just decided they need to develop their young players through actually in-game experience is debatable. Veterans Ronnie Price and Leandro Barbosa are basically the only older guys still in the rotation.
The back-court matchups will be interesting with Devin Booker and Tyler Ulis taking on Isaiah Thomas and Avery Bradley. Ulis is a small but quick point-guard. But he is deceptively effective on defense. Despite lacking size and length he uses his speed to stay in front of his man and is an absolute pest. He can also use his speed to get to the rim on offense and is an effective passer. He’s averaging 12.5 points and 7.1 assists over his last 9 games, and 14.75 points and 9.5 assist over his last 4 games. Since he has been given the starting job and started playing big minutes, he has excelled for the Suns. Booker is one of the best young guards in the league. He is an excellent shooter and a fantastic all-around player. Booker averages 20 points 3 rebounds and 3 assists per game. Booker shoots 36.9% from three. Bradley will have to stick to him like glue out on the perimeter, and make sure to contest every shot. Especially in the corner, where Booker shoots 43.8%. Booker is difficult to defend, because in addition to being a great shooter he is an excellent finisher near the rim. He hits 59.3% of his at-rim attempts. Booker does struggle in the mid-range, however.
Marquese Chriss, Alan Williams, and Alex Len will get the bulk of the front-court minutes for the Suns. Len and Chriss are both great finishers inside, and Chriss is also a pretty good shooter for a big man. Chriss especially is a double-double threat and can be a pest on defense. Chriss was a big part of the final moments of the Suns victory over the Celtics back on March 5th, stealing an inbounds pass meant for Isaiah Thomas. The Celtics will have to make sure to box these guys out, and stick with them defensively.
Heat (34-36) at Celtics
The Heat are battling for a playoff spot. Right now they’re 9th in the East. The Heat are 0-3 against the Celtics this season. However, they’ve been playing some of their best basketball of the season lately. Hassan Whiteside was just named Eastern Conference Player of the Week. Dion Waiters is out with an injury and Rodney McGruder has taken his place in the starting lineup. Justise Winslow is also hurt and is likely out for the season.
The Heat’s biggest threat is Hassan Whiteside. Whiteside is an athletic finisher and shot-blocker. He is a beast on the glass. Whiteside is a similar style player to DeAndre Jordan and Andre Drummond. However, he does have a bit more foot speed than either of those guys. One way to neutralize his shot-blocking is to attack him with a speedy point guard. If Isaiah Thomas can penetrate, draw Whiteside to him, and then dish the ball of to Whiteside’s man, the Celtics can use his eagerness to block shots against him. The Celtics have employed this strategy before. Other than that Amir Johnson and Al Horford will simply have to box him out, body him up, and battle him underneath.
Goran Dragic plays the point for the Heat. Dragic averages 20 points and 6 assists per game. Dragic is an efficient scorer, and is playing well lately. Dragic scored 33 against the Pelicans March 15th and followed that up with a 19 point 10 assist outing against the TimberWolves. The Celtics might attempt to defend Dragic with Avery Bradley and put Isaiah Thomas on either McGruder or Ellington. Regardless, whoever defends Dragic will have their hands full. Dragic is a lot like Isaiah in that he gets most of his points either at the rim or behind the three-point line. He doesn’t take a lot of mid-range shots.
Tyler Johnson is a big time three-point shooter off the bench for the Heat. The Celtics will have to make sure they don’t leave him alone on the perimeter or try to help off of him. Johnson scored 23 points in the Heat’s win over the T-Wolves on March 17th.
Eastern Conference Standings #1-#8
The Celtics lost to the Clippers and Nuggets, but beat the Warriors and Bulls last week. The Celtics beat the Warriors in Oakland for the second time in two seasons. The Celtics were fortunate to play the Warriors without Durant, but the win is impressive regardless. Al Horford and Avery Bradley have returned providing a big boost to the Celtics. While other teams added at the trade deadline, the Celtics were able to sit on their assets and add two of their best players from their own sideline. The Celtics went on a tear from January 25th to February 15th, winning 11 of 12, but have been up and down lately. 5-6 since February 15th to be exact. However, the tear they went on after the All-Star break and the struggles the injury hampered Cleveland Cavaliers have gone through have the Celtics within a game in the win column of the Number 1 seed in the Eastern Conference.
The Celtics have a favorable schedule remaining and after blowing out the Bulls last week hopefully they are starting to get their groove back. The Celtics can make some hay in the remaining weeks. However, a favorable schedule is only favorable with the appropriate attitude and proper execution. Any team is capable of playing up or down to any given opponent on any given day. The Celtics will still have to bring their “A game” day in and day out. This week the Celtics will play the Timberwolves, Nets, Sixers and Wizards. The Wizards are currently the third seed in the East, and within 2 games of the Celtics. The Nets and Sixers games are on the road, and the Timberwolves and Wizards games are at home.
Timberwolves (28-38) at Boston Celtics (42-25)
The Timberwolves are an exciting young team probably a year or two away from being able to really do some damage in the league. Karl Anthony-Towns is maybe the most exciting young big man in the league right now. His ability to do dirty work inside, and combine that with skill and athleticism on the perimeter is incredible. The big man can handle the ball, shoot, pass, and pound the paint. He had 39 points and 13 rebounds on March 13th against the Washington Wizards.
The Timberwolves have another young stud on the roster in Andrew Wiggins. Wiggins is athletic and capable on both ends of the court. Wiggins is the opposite of most young players when it comes to his shooting profile from the perimeter. Most young players learn to shoot threes by starting in the corners and working out from there. Wiggins shoots 34.7% from three overall, but only 25.0% from the corner. The Celtics have to be aware of this, and keep him away from the wings and the top of the key.
The Timberwolves round out the rest of the roster with a mix of younger prospects, young veterans, and veteran role players. Prospects like Kris Dunn and Adreian Payne are on the bottom of the depth chart. Young veterans like Ricky Rubio, Gorgui Dieng and Shabazz Muhammed play primary rotation roles on the team. Brandon Rush and Jordan Hill provide some veteran support for the young guys.
The Celtics should be able to defeat the Timberwolves, however their athleticism and team speed will definitely pose a threat, as will Karl Anthony-Towns. (Not to mention they’ve been hot lately, including that win over the Wizards.) While Towns and Wiggins mature, and the team adds to the supporting cast around them, this team could become a major threat within the next few years. The Celtics are 1-0 against the T-Wolves this season.
Boston Celtics at Brooklyn Nets (12-53)
The Brooklyn Nets have had a very difficult season. They’ve had a bit of a revolving door at the point-guard position with Jeremy Lin missing some time this season. Brook Lopez and Joe Harris are out right now. However, they have made some strides.
Isaiah Whitehead and Spencer Dinwiddie have helped the Nets find some consistency at the PG spot even with Lin missing some time. Hollis-Jefferson and Sean Kilpatrick have continued to develop and look like they’re becoming solid players. Trevor Booker is a very solid rebounder and defender at the power-forward position.
The Nets are a lottery team, yes, but they aren’t a team completely devoid of talent. They don’t have any stars besides Lopez, and they don’t have any real veteran starter-level talent. While the Celtics should beat the Nets easily, and the Nets should finish with the worst record in the NBA, they’ve made strides this season. They’ve installed a new coach that doesn’t seem entirely incompetent in Atkinson. And they have solid young prospects developing within his system.
Caris LeVert has returned from injury and begun to excel. He was the exact type of home-run swing the Nets need to take in the draft. Without any lottery picks for the next couple years, any type of lottery talent that falls for any reason is what they need to target. LeVert was an excellent player in college but he suffered various injuries throughout his college basketball career. LeVert has had his struggles and growing pains, he’s only shooting 30.3 % from three for the season. But he’s also had some big games. Scoring 19 points against CLE on January 6th with 7 for 12 shooting, or scoring 13 points against the Knicks on 4 for 4 shooting on March 12th for example. LeVert needs to refine his shooting from deep, however he excels near the rim. LeVert shoots 68.9% within 3 feet of the rim. He’s a guy the Celtics will need to focus on keeping out of the paint. Keep him on the perimeter and he will struggle, but let him get into a rhythm and he’s shown he’s capable of big games.
The Celtics should win this game easily, and the Celtics fans around New England will enjoy some #NetsPick talk. While the Nets have a difficult road to improvement in front of them without their next two draft picks they do have some emerging young talent and a head coach who given sufficient time may start to make lemonade out of the lemons he’s been given.
Boston Celtics at Philadelphia 76ers (24-42)
The Sixers are 0-3 against the Celtics this season. They, too, have some emerging young talent. No, I’m not talking about Embiid or Simmons or even Okafor. The young player on the Sixers the Celtics need to watch out for is Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot. He recently scored 18 points on 7-11 shooting in a win against the Lakers. He’s a slasher, and he’s athletic enough to get things going at the basket.
The Celtics won’t have to worry about dealing with Joel Embiid or Robert Covington. But that does mean they’ll contend with Okafor and the above mentioned Luwawu-Cabarrot. Okafor is a talented inside scorer, but is a terrible pick and roll defender. He’s awful at help defense, weak-side defense, or any type of defense off the ball or in space. He can be exploited. While he’s been playing some of the most promising basketball of his young career lately, the Celtics should look to attack him early on the offensive end, and contain him on the defensive end.
The Celtics will also have to contain Dario Saric. Saric can pass the ball exceptionally well for a big man. And he has a streaky three-point shot. He posted a 29-7-5 stat line against the Lakers with Joel Embiid declaring him the rookie of the year after the game. He has a pretty good handle for a big man, but he can be sloppy with it. He tends to lose focus with his dribbling at times. Saric is a player the Celtics should defend aggressively. Force him into some turnovers and throw him off his game before he gets it going. Turn his streakiness against him.
Just like the Nets, the Sixers are one of the worst teams in the league and a team the Celtics should beat easily. However, they have NBA players on their roster too. The Celtics can’t take this game lightly, or some of the young talent the Sixers have might surprise them.
Washington Wizards (41-25) at Boston Celtics
This will be an important game. The Celtics are the 2 seed in the East, and the Wizards are 3 seed. The Celtics want to gain ground on the Cavaliers, and establish some distance between them and the Wizards. Not only that, but the Celtics are 1-2 against the Wizards this season. With a win in this game the Wizards will hold the tie-breaker over the Celtics.
The Celtics will have to worry about the duo of star guards the Wizards feature. John Wall and Bradley Beal are both fantastic players. Wall is one of the most athletic points in the NBA and Beal can shoot the lights out. Together they make a great pair. The Celtics will fortunately have Avery Bradley back. Bradley and Marcus Smart need to make locking down Beal and Wall their top priority.
The Wizards also have an impressive group of big men. Gortat is a force to be reckoned with and around him the Wizards have Markieff Morris and Ian Mahinmi. Mahinmi is a serviceable defender and rebounder, and Morris is a versatile and athletic offensive power forward. Gortat is a really impressive all around player and a bruiser inside. These guys make the Wizards a difficult matchup for the Celtics.
Otto Porter Jr. and Kelly Oubre are a pair of young and talented wings. Porter Jr. is shooting a blistering 45.3% this season. He’s improved his game in other areas as well, and he’s got a PER above 15, which is the league average, for the first time in his career. (17.6 to be exact.) Porter Jr. can score, rebound, and defend. And he can certainly take advantage when extra defensive attention is given to Wall and Beal.
This will be a very difficult game for the Celtics to win. The Celtics have a favorable schedule remaining a part from this game. If the Celtics can beat the teams they should beat, like the Nets and Sixers, and win this game as well they can go on quite a run to close out the season. The number 1 overall seed in the East wouldn’t be out of the question. The Wizards are deep and talented and have great roster balance. They have the guards, the wings, and the big men to pose a threat to the Celtics.
The Celtics should go 3-1 this week. While it’d be easy to predict wins over the T-Wolves, Sixers and Nets and a loss to the Wizards that’s not exactly how it will go down. The Celtics will lose a game they should win, most likely against the T-Wolves as they’re hot right now and KAT is a monster, and then post an impressive victory over the Wizards.
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