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Celtics Update – 12/13

Eastern Conference Standings

1.       Boston 23-6

2.       Cleveland 20-8

3.       Toronto 17-8

4.       Milwaukee 15-10

5.       Indiana 16-11

Here we are 29 games into the current NBA season which is a bit more than a third of the way through.  The Celtics have a couple of games lead on the Cavaliers and a comfortable lead over the rest of the Eastern Conference.  I suppose this is about what we expected for this season through this point.

The grind of the season is starting to catch up with the Celtics.  It now appears very likely that Marcus Morris will miss an extended amount of time due to his troubling knee.  The knee was an issue coming into the season and the Celtics eased Morris into action and spotted him nights off as well.  Well, now that doesn’t appear to be enough and he will miss some time.

Both Al Horford and Kyrie Irving have and will miss more games here and there as well.  Irving missed the second night of a back to back early in the week with a thigh issue and Horford is out on 12/13 with “rest” given as the reason.  This looks to us like Coach Stevens and Danny Ainge are proactively prepping for a deep playoff run.  They will find spots to rest their key, veteran guys.

With Morris out the other guys simply have to pick up the slack.  It won’t come from one singular player but rather a combination of Smart, Rozier, Tatum, Brown, Their, and Baynes.  The depth is there to ride out the absence of Morris.  We expect the Coach to simply shuffle things up a bit and plow forward. 

Let’s take a look at Jaylen Brown through the first third of the season.  Here are the 36 minute splits:

16.8 pts, 6.7 rebounds, 1.5 assists, 39.5% 3PT

Jaylen has certainly progressed very nicely from his rookie season and appears headed for stardom.  However, like the team in general, there are always ups and downs and pitfalls in the long grind of the NBA season.  Brown is showing some excellent signs most of the time but has his lapses as well.  It will be exciting to see the team and Brown at the end of the year.  Last season during the season Jaylen showed remarkable improvement and the ability to take coaching and feedback and implement it.  We expect the same this season. 

Celtics Update – 12/5

Eastern Conference Standings

1.       Boston 21-4

2.       Cleveland 17-7

3.       Toronto 14-7

4.       Detroit 14-9

5.       Philadelphia 13-10

The resurgent Cavs are incredibly hot now and entering a stretch with minimal travel and very weak opponents.  They will likely continue to chip away at the Celtics’ lead in the Eastern Conference as it stands currently.

The Celtics are 21-4 which is obviously a spectacular record and best record in the NBA.  However, some of the things we’ve mentioned here previously continued to linger and fester over the last week or so.  The defensive numbers and execution have lagged.  Coach Stevens said there are some technical things they can improve and matchups can cause issues, but he is well aware of the ebb and flow of a season and the need to constantly improve.  At one point the Cs were dominant on the glass and defensively but that has slipped.

The offense is grinding its way forward.  The revenge win on Monday night 12/4 at TD over Milwaukee certainly highlighted this.  Irving and Horford simply function beautifully together.  They have such a strong sense of flow and tempo and where the other player needs to be and will be.  Another factor getting stronger by the game seemingly is the long range shooting of Jayson Tatum.  When the Celts are moving the ball exceptionally well and the assists per FGM is very high, the rookie Tatum is finding himself with some very nice looks from 3PT land.  It is paying off as Jayson Tatum currently leads the entire NBA in 3PT%.  Not the rookie class, the entire NBA. 

After one more home game this week the Celtics head out on the road for a three game road trip.   

Wake Up Call – Detroit Pistons Ring The Bell

No need to panic.  Perhaps it will end up being a useful loss.  Whatever the case, on Monday night November the 27th the Detroit Pistons came into TD Garden and easily handled the Boston Celtics.  Some may jump to conclusions regarding this loss and we will not do that.  There are a couple of things that did stand out however.

The first thing that jumps out is how easily Detroit scored on the Celtics.  The top defense in the league looked very mediocre.  Detroit was able to get nice, open looks on the perimeter and Andre Drummond scored at will down low and off the pick and roll.  Al Horford had a lot of trouble with Drummond.  Baynes fared much better when he was on the floor.  So, it is very prudent to keep an eye on the perimeter defense against a top shooting club (Detroit is currently #1 in the NBA in 3PT %) and the interior defense when facing big, old school centers.

The other thing that really caught our attention was the defense Detroit used against Kyrie Irving.  This was a game where no other Celtic was really able to step up to help Irving offensively.  This doesn’t happen every night but it can happen.  The Celtics need to scheme their way out of this type of situation where Irving is bottled up and nobody else scores the ball consistently.  

Celtics Update – 11/27

Eastern Conference Standings

1.       Boston 18-3

2.       Detroit 12-6

3.       Cleveland 12-7

4.       Toronto 12-7

5.       Philadelphia 11-7

The Celtics finally lost a game and the epic winning streak came to an end.  The good news is that they rebounded immediately following the loss to go out and completely dismantle Orlando in their next game.  They won the game by fifteen points but they were up almost thirty for a good portion of the game.   

The Celtics now have five home games in a row in Boston at the TD Garden.  They host the Detroit Pistons on Monday night the 27th in a showdown with the #2 team in the Eastern Conference.  Then they host the Sixers, Suns, Bucks, and Mavericks.  This is a stretch where they need to win these games and refine their game overall while staying healthy.  There are no back to backs and then they are back out on the road. 

Let’s take a look at some crucial team statistics and where the Celtics rank currently in the NBA.  We are a quarter of the way through so this data is very legitimate and meaningful.  Yes, the season evolves and things change but the reality is teams have already played about 20 games of the 82 game slate.

Defensive Rebounding % - 5th

Total Rebounding % - 4th

Defensive Efficiency – 1st

Opponent Fast Break Efficiency – 11th

Offensive Efficiency – 13th

Assists per FGM – 10th

As the statistics show above the Celtics are clearly a superior defensive team and rebounding team.  This matches what you see on the floor when watching games.  Currently the Celtics are a bit above middle of the pack on offense.  This also makes sense with what we see on the court.

Ideally the Celtics are able to vault into the top 5 in the NBA for defense, offense, and rebounding.  Easier said than done but that is the objective.  

Celtics Update – 11/21

Eastern Conference Standings

1.       Boston 16-2

2.       Toronto 11-5

3.       Detroit 11-6

4.       Cleveland 10-7

5.       Washington 10-7

The Celtics winning streak now stands at an astonishing 16 games after an overtime victory in Dallas on 11/20.  Kyrie Irving poured in 47 points.   Since our last update the Celtics defeated the defending champion Golden State Warriors and held them to 88 points.  They also went on to defeat the Atlanta Hawks in that letdown game and now the Mavericks on Monday night.  This team is simply rolling along right now.

As each game passes Celtics fans are starting to see more and more why the trade for Kyrie Irving was so important.  Irving could end up averaging the same or even fewer points/game than Isaiah Thomas but that misses the point.  It is very obvious to all now that Kyrie Irving truly is a special talent.  Kyrie can take over the game whenever he wants to and he appears to be strategically waiting for these very situations to present themselves so he can pounce. 

Jaylen Brown continues to blossom as well and is truly a force right now in the NBA.  If Jaylen brown keeps playing like this he might find himself on the All-Star team in just his second year in the NBA.  His defense and rebounding have been outstanding every game.  His offense has seen some ups and downs but his stroke from the 3PT line has been great and you can see how he could be a 20+ points/game scorer.  No doubt the ability is there.  Jaylen is averaging 16.2 points, 6.7 rebounds, and shooting 40% from the 3PT line so far. 

The next four games are a critical and difficult stretch for the Celts.  They play at Miami, home to Orlando, at Indiana, and then home to the surging Detroit Pistons in an intriguing showdown.  These are tough conference rivals and they will all be out to end this winning streak.  

Celtics Update – 11/13

Eastern Conference Standings

1.       Boston 12-2

2.       Detroit 10-3

3.       Orlando 8-5

4.       Washington 7-5

5.       Knicks 7-5

The Celtics continue to roll right along and have won 12 straight ballgames now after their first two losses to open the season.  This is really an amazing run the team is on.  On Sunday 11/12 the Celtics defeated the Toronto Raptors in dramatic fashion 95-94 to win their 12th straight game.  This week the Cs will face the Brooklyn Nets and then on Thursday they welcome the Golden State Warriors to TD Garden.

During this win streak the Celtics have played two games without Al Horford and now two games without Kyrie Irving.  Irving took an accidental elbow to the face from teammate Aron Baynes and suffered a facial fracture.  He was fitted for a mask and should return this week.

The Celtics defense continues to dominate as the team sorts out its offense.  The most recent win featured offense from a group of players but most notably Horford, Jaylen Brown, and Terry Rozier off the bench.  It changes every night.  Watching this offense evolve over the course of the season will be one of if not the most interesting storylines.  Yet again in Sunday though it was the league’s best defense that was able to keep the opposition in check.  The Celtics held a team to under 95 points again. 

Take a look at the Top 10 ranked players in the NBA right now for Defensive Rating:

1.       Rozier – Boston

2.       Horford – Boston

3.       Irvng – Boston

4.       Smart – Boston

5.       Baynes – Boston

6.       Drummond – Detroit

7.       Capela – Houston

8.       Brown – Boston

9.       Davis – Portland

10.   Tatum – Boston

This pretty much says it all right there.  That is most of what you need to know about the season so far for the Boston Celtics.  

Celtics Update – 11/9

Eastern Conference Standings

1.       Boston 10-2

2.       Detroit 8-3

3.       Orlando 7-4

4.       Washington 6-4

5.       76ers 6-4

The Celtics continue to roll along and have won 10 straight ballgames now after their first two losses to open the season.  It was the Lakers on Wednesday night that came into TD Garden only to leave without a victory.  A high profile rookie for Los Angeles got all of the attention but it was very clear that there were not just a few but several players on the floor vastly superior to Lonzo Ball.

There are some new challenges for the Celtics to face currently.  Jayson Tatum left the Laker game with a bad ankle and did not return in the 2nd half.  Al Horford sat out the game completely due to a concussion and the NBA’s concussion protocol.  Early reports are that Tatum’s ankle is not serious but we don’t know how long it will sideline him.  Horford missed nine games last year with concussion issues but we do not know if that will be the case this year.  They really have to take these concussions on a day by day and hour by hour basis.

Aron Baynes stepped up big time against the Lakers.  He tossed in 21 points, slammed the glass all night, and played his usual rugged defense.  Baynes was a force.  Kyrie Irving as well continued to show how he is indeed a MVP candidate.  Irving’s wizardry was on full display with his shiot making and ball handling and he also showed off some really exceptional passing skills. 

The Celtics will host the Hornets and Raptors on Friday and Sunday respectively before heading to Brooklyn to face the Nets.   

Kyrie Irving and Al Horford – Two Peas In A Pod

The two members most often criticized and poked at by the fans and media are the two producing the most beautiful basketball on the court, perhaps in all of the NBA currently.  As the Celtics offense as a whole struggles to gain the consistency shown by the defense, Horford and Irving are synchronizing their movements and actions at a very high level.

Most fans and media “experts” look at the most basic and superficial stats to make a judgment or deliver a so called “hot take”.  People criticize Irving for not scoring 35+ a game as if leading a team to a 9-2 record so far means nothing.  It is worse with Horford.  Because of his salary people expect Horford to lead the NBA in every category.  Well, he currently is leading the NBA in some of the stats that mean the most in terms of victories.  Irving, for his part, simply does whatever is needed throughout a game.  If the team is getting good offensive production from others he continues to push hard to feed them and help the team win.  If the team is struggling to score then Irving simply takes over himself. 

The Celtics slim victory over a weak Atlanta team on Monday night, November 6th highlights this better than any game this far.   Playing three games in four night perhaps caught up with the Cs (who also had Marcus Morris out resting that knee) because they simply didn’t have it on defense.  So, in the third quarter Irving simply took over the game and won it for the Celtics.  Horford?  That bum!  Yup, he just missed getting a triple double.  Not too shabby for a center.  This game is the reason why Horford/Irving might be the best duo in the NBA currently and leading perhaps the best team in the NBA currently. 

Celtics Update – 11/6

Eastern Conference Standings

1.       Boston 8-2

2.       Detroit 7-3

3.       Orlando 6-4

4.       Washington 5-4

5.       Toronto 5-4

The Celts defeated the Orlando Magic in Orlando on Sunday evening November 5th to improve to 8-22 by winning their 8th straight game.  The Celtics sit alone atop the Eastern Conference standings ten games into the long NBA season.

Coach Stephens’ comments after the game we felt really captured the essence of this season so far.  The defense without a doubt has been the key and the most consistent aspect of this team.  The Celtics currently have the best defense in the NBA.  There is really no way around that fact.  The Celtics are #1 in the NBA in Defensive Efficiency and points allowed and among the leaders in Defensive Rebounding %.  Coach Stephens was very emphatic when stating that the coaching staff was not pleased at all with the offensive performance this far.  Coach Stephens feels that the Celtics have a tone of improvement on offense ahead of them.

Wait, what?  On paper it looked like this team would be an offensive juggernaut when assembled.  Perhaps that will still happen.  Right now however the Coach is spot on in his analysis.  Guys are still getting to know each other and gain comfort in the system.  Kyrie Irving has had explosive moments late in games but you sense he really hasn’t turned on the jets just yet.  Things are looking very bright though because what we are seeing consistently on offense is the ball movement and finding open shots.  Irving and Horford appear to be building amazing chemistry and guys are always moving the ball well.  The offensive stats and consistency will come along as long as the players stick to the system and keep moving the ball.  

Celtics Update – 10/30

Eastern Conference Standings

1.      Detroit 5-2

2.      Boston 4-2

3.      Washington 4-2

4.      Orlando 4-2

5.       Milwaukee 4-2

Still early in the season but we are seeing some interesting things with the current standings in the Eastern Conference.  One notable absence is the Cleveland Cavaliers.  The Cavs have lost to a handful of weak teams already and their defense is really struggling in a major way.  It will be very interesting to see how they react because the simple fact of the matter is that the team is filled with mediocre defenders.  Isaiah Thomas returning, if he does this season, won’t help them there either.

Speaking of defense let’s check in to see how the Celtics look after six games and a major transformation.  Remember, there were countless “experts” extolling how the Celtics would plummet defensively with the loss of Avery Bradley and Jae Crowder.  Perhaps they failed to grasp the gains seen from the length and athleticism provided by Brown and Tatum along with the toughness brought by Aron Baynes.  These numbers are also without Marcus Morris and a partially healthy Marcus Smart. 

Defensive Efficiency: 2nd

Defensive Rebounding %: 4th

Opponent Fast Break Efficiency: 11th

Opponent Effective Field Goal %: 7th

Again, it is indeed still early in the season but these numbers presented above are VERY encouraging.  If the Celtics become a top-tier defensive team there is no doubt that they are a contender for a Championship.  Fans and media tend to overlook defense and focus on offensive superstars and exciting teams like the Warriors and Rockets that score tons of points.  That’s fine but even the Warriors have ranked well defensively over the last couple of years.  So far so good so let’s see how the Celtics continue to progress on both ends of the floor.

Celtics Update – 10/27  

The Celtics proceeded to continue making progress on Thursday night with a nice road win versus Milwaukee in a revenge seeking situation.  A week ago the Bucks defeated the Celts at the Garden and the Celts bounced back with a fairly solid overall effort.

This game was a great snapshot of how thigs ebb and flow.  Most of the excitement this far centers on Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum.  This is even to the point where fans are questioning Kyrie Irving and as usual overlooking Al Horford.  The victory versus the Bucks makes a strong statement that the team’s performance as a unit is what is most important.  Al Horford was the best player on the court Thursday night and he led the Celtics to victory.  Kyrie Irving was also very effective.  Jaylen Brown struggled for most of the game and Tatum was kept in check by the Bucks.  Things evolve and ebb and flow.  The Celtics will need big contributions from all of their players and things even out over time.  Aaron Baynes was also very solid last night.

Our sense is that Kyrie Irving is feeling his way into this situation. He may be a bit more passive currently but that in no way means he can’t simply choose to dominate offensively at any moment.  He is likely intentionally working very hard to get as many people involved as possible.  Seems like plenty of people are looking for him to score 40+.  Who cares about that?  Kyrie’s focus is on winning games and making the team better.

Celtics Offense – 10/23 Update

Perhaps the main reason why Coach Stevens was able to guide the Celtics as they kept grinding away to the ECF was offensive system and efficiency.  Across several categories the Celtics ranked #2 or #3 in the NBA often only behind a team like the Golden State Warriors.  It was very clear last year that the system endorsed by Danny Ainge and installed by Coach Stevens was working quite well. 

Although just a three game sample it warrants poking inside the stat hub to see how the Celtics look so far this season.  Here are the NBA rankings for the Celtics in some critical offensive categories:

Offensive Efficiency – 23rd

2nd Half Points/Game – 11th

4th Quarter Points/Game – 14th

True Shooting % - 24th

Assists Per FGM – 10th

Obviously it is still very early in the season so there is no reason to ring the alarm bells just yet.  After ten games are played these stats could be completely different . . . . . . but they could also be similar.  The Stevens offense should be producing a high number of assists per FGM due to elegant ball movement along with high efficiency ratings and a high true shooting % among other measurements.  The numbers you see above are reflective of what you have seen so far on the court.  On offense it looks like the Celtics are still trying to find themselves and get into some type of groove.  Tuesday night’s game against the Knicks comes after ample practice time so it will be interesting to see what we see out on the court.  

Celtics News

Celtics Tickets

Celtics Rebounding

Celtics Trade

Celtics Update – Rebounding: Has It Improved?

Only three games so far.  Yup, that is a small sample size.  However, this is three NBA games and they all count and are all highly scrutinized and evaluated.  For the last two seasons most fans are aware that the Celtics have had challenges with rebounding.  This is certainly the case.  What most don’t realize though is that an NBA team does not have to be the best rebounding team in the NBA to win a championship.  You might not even have to be in the Top 5.  What a team must avoid though is being at the bottom of the barrel in Defensive Rebounding %.

Operating a t a low level in terms of Defensive Rebounding % means the opponent is getting a lot of offensive rebounds and a lot of easy buckets.  This is of course hurts the overall defensive stats and efficiency because there are so many easy baskets being scored.  The Boston Celtics currently rank 10th in the NBA in Defensive Rebounding %.  Just three games in, but it’s a start.

It may very well be that the team that has more 2/2 type combo guys and not many traditional 5s is a better rebounding team.  Guys like Brown, Rozier, and Tatum look to be high quality rebounders for their respective positions and roles which will only help.

Celtics Update – 10/21

The Celtics got the win on the road in Philadelphia Friday night in an ugly NBA game marred by a ton of fouls and horrid basketball through the first three quarters.  Playing with Marcus Smart (both ankles) out and Marcus Morris still out the Celtics gutted out a much needed victory.  It was a good sign to see both the team and coaching staff respond with finding a way to get that first victory of the season.  The Celtics are now 1-2 and host the New York Knicks on Tuesday at the Garden. 

Friday night saw a very strong performance from Al Horford as the all around best player for the Cs.  Horford got more shots and helped make the offense function much better when on the court.  Kyrie Irving took a modest step forward and appears to be settling in a bit more to the offense.  Guys off the bench such as Larkin and Bird made some big contributions simply doing their jobs and filling their roles. 

The Celtics get some much needed rest and more importantly practice time.  This coming week is a great opportunity to fine tune things and grab a few wins.  Let’s see what happens.

Celtics Update – 10/19

The Celtics dropped their second game last night and are now 0-2 on the season.  Yes, the loss of Hayward and missing Marcus Morris are huge issues, but every team in the NBA faces serious challenges over the course of the long season.  The key is bouncing back and grinding it out.

Right now the Celtics are not organized or synchronized well at all offensively.  In addition to shooting poorly from the field, Kyrie Irving looks timid and tentative at times.  Perhaps he is working his way into the mold of a Celtic teammate but the team needs him to be the superstar of the offense.  Jaylen Brown has looked very assertive on offense and Jayson Tatum is showing positive signs as well. 

The best performer so far perhaps is Terry Rozier.  Rozier has been fabulous off of the bench on both ends of the floor.  Rozier and Brown have been the two best players so far.

There is no reason to panic at this point.  The loss Wednesday at home was on a back to back and now the team gets some rest before playing at Philadelphia Friday night and at home against the New York Knicks on Tuesday.  There are plenty of rest days in there and time to get things straightened out.   

Celtics Update – 10/18

The major news from opening night was of course the horrible injury suffered by Gordon Hayward of the Celtics.  We don’t know the exact extent of the injury and how long Hayward will be out so we will just have to wait and see.

Although the Celtics lost to Cleveland there certainly some encouraging signs.  Playing without Hayward and Marcus Morris the Celts lost by just three points on the road against a very good team.  The Cs had the lead late and basically blew the game in the end.

The biggest positive was Jaylen Brown in our view.  Brown was extremely aggressive, confident, and athletic and it was fun to watch.  Jaylen missed some easy shots early but he just kept coming back for more and played a lot of minutes.  He finished with 25 points.  Rookie Jayson Tatum certainly had a robust experience in his first game.  He struggled mightily in the first half but rebounded quickly and actually played quite well in the second half.  Marcus Smart looked horrible on offense early but also settled in nicely.  With Hayward out the trio of Brown, Tatum, and Smart will be playing a ton of minutes and will be needed to contribute at a very high level.

Celtics Update – 10/16

The coming season is no doubt the most highly anticipated season for the Celts since the Garnett era.  Expectations are fairly high and it all gets underway on Tuesday night in Cleveland.  It’s very easy to take this game and extrapolate to some conclusion the following day as to who is better and who is going to get to a certain point or not.  However, let’s remember there are a lot of moving pieces here.

Lebron James is working through an ankle injury and may not play for Cleveland.  If he does suit up it remains to be seen how much he plays.  Isaiah Thomas will be out until at least January for Cleveland.  The Celtics are missing Marcus Morris with a knee injury.  Morris got off to a late start in the preseason dealing with personal issues and now needs a few more weeks of time to properly prepare. 

The first full week of NBA action for the Celtics will see the Cs take on the Cavaliers, Milwaukee Bucks, and Philadelphia Sixers.  Coach Stevens announced that the starting lineup most likely will consist of Irving, Hayward. Horford, Brown, and Tatum.  Yes, the starting lineup will have a rookie and a 20 year old in his second season.  We may not gain too much from the opener with Cleveland but it looks like we are going to get to see quite a bit of Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum right out of the gate.  That is probably the most intriguing aspect of this first week.  Let’s see how this team fits the pieces together and enjoy the action.

Preseason Observations – October 11th

Just some quick hitting notes about the action so far.

Terry Rozier – Rozier has been absolutely fabulous.  Yes, it is preseason and some of his minutes are against guys that won’t play all the much in the regular season but regardless Terry Rozier is progressing quite nicely.  We have been wondering about the second say 3-5 guys to get minutes and where the offense will come from.  If Rozier takes a step forward offensively that is certainly part of the answer.  So far in the preseason Rozier has done the following:  61 minutes, 35 points, 14 rebounds, 10 assists, 5 steals and shooting 50% from the floor. 

Marcus Smart – Smart continues to look more energetic and physically fit as he enters his contract year.   Look for the Cs to not rush to sign him but rather let him use that motivation all year long to earn a new deal.  One can’t help but repeatedly comment on how much slimmer Smart looks and how much better his outside shot looks.  Marcus appears to be definitely moving in the right direction.

Marcus Morris – We haven’t seen Morris in game action yet.  The last two preseason games will be the only action he gets before the games are live and for real.  

It’s Finally Here – The Celtics On The Actual Basketball Court

Preseason Game #1 took place on 10/2 at the TD Garden and the Celts defeated the Charlotte Hornets in a fairly entertaining game in front of a solid crowd for a preseason game.  It’s important to note that in addition to reducing the back-to-back games in the schedule the NBA also reduced the preseason to just four games.  Coach Stevens won’t have all that much time to sort out this new squad with eleven new players and will likely use the first 20 or so games of the regular season to learn quite a bit. 

 

The starting five with Morris away for personal reasons consisted of Horford, Irving, Hayward, Brown, and Baynes.  It was clear that this first unit will be able to move the ball quite nicely on offense and there was fairly impressive defensive chemistry as well.  Guys were nervous or rusty or both and missed quite a few good, open looks that they will hit with more frequency as the season really gets going.  Hayward in particular seemed a little off and nervous. 

 

So what was interesting about the first preseason game?  Here are a few observations:

 

-          Marcus Smart DEFINTELY lost a good amount of weight and that looks like a very positive factor for the Cs.  Smart also looked quite good shooting the 3 all and a lot more confident overall.

 

-          Aron Baynes might be more than just a nice little roll player.  He looked very comfortable and a lot more effective on offense than most people might have expected. 

 

-          Daniel Thies has some nice overall basketball skills and knowledge.  Yes, he played mostly against the reserves from the Hornets but it’s apparent he understands the game well and is a complete player.  Interesting.

 

Sure there were a lot more things going on out there but those are a few observations for now.  We will learn more with each preseason game and will keep you posted.  

Training Camp – What To Expect From The Cs

Now the real work begins.  This past summer was perhaps the most exciting summer in the history of the Boston Celtics.  That may sound like hyperbole or an overstatement, but let’s face it this summer was huge.  The Celtics traded a second team all-NBA point guard that lead their team in scoring for a top 5 offensive player in the league.  But, they only gave away peanuts to get IT4 initially so in reality they traded peanuts for Kyrie Irving.  IT4 was a flip.  They always landed another huge free agent in Gordon Hayward on top of landing Al Horford the year before.  Oh, and they are completing construction on their phenomenal new training facility just off the Mass Pike in Brighton.  The Celtics are building a basketball machine and dynasty.

Well, enough with the praise and hype they still need to get on the court and win a whole bunch of ballgames.  So, what will we see in training camp and what can we be looking for?  Here’s a few ideas.

Jaylen Brown’s Role – Is Jaylen Brown a starter in the NBA?  Is he coming off the bench?  Does it even matter?  One thing we know for sure purely by process of elimination is that Jaylen Brown will be getting substantial minutes.  Danny Ainge traded or cut loose everyone else so by default Brown is the next man up as a wing or 2 guard.  The Celts appear more than willing to be patient with young players on the offensive end in terms of developing their outside shot.  What Stevens won’t tolerate is defensive lapses.  If Jaylen Brown is an asset on defense he will play a lot of minutes this season.  It’s as simple as that.

Offensive Juggernaut – The whole world expects this Celtics team to explode offensively, but we might not see that all that much in the preseason.  This is the preseason and the core guys are veterans.  They know how to prepare and be in shape and get and stay healthy.  Let’s see how much playing time they actually get in preseason games versus practices.  We would expect the core of this team to ebb and flow over the course of the season and get used to playing with each other.  Hopefully they peak heading into the postseason.  We are not sure how much the Celtics will put on film for other teams this preseason and how much they will risk injuries or playing the stars too much. 

The Bench – What will the Celtics bench look like and consist of?  Who will provide the scoring and offense off the bench?  Will Jayson Tatum be taking a lot of shots right away and relied on for scoring?  In recent years the Cs bench had some guys that could shoot the bell fairly well and came in firing away.  Now the team has guys like Tatum, Terry Rozier, Aron Baynes, Guerschon Yabusele, and a few others.  We think it is more than reasonable to ask what this will look like and more importantly who will be scoring the basketball.  Baynes is not a scorer.  Marcus Smart is an all-around gutsy and strong ballplayer but not an offensive force.  Tatum is a rookie and just a kid in reality.  Yabusele has never played in the NBA.  Certainly parts of the starting five will blend in with the bench but you can bet Coach Stevens and his staff will be working tirelessly on how they will get production from players not named Irving, Horford, Hayward, and Morris.  

Marcus Smart – The Forgotten Man

They kept him.  They didn’t trade him.  That is actually saying quite a bit when you look at exactly how much of the roster Danny Ainge has turned over in the last two seasons.  It really is remarkable.  Yet, here is Marcus Smart standing tall and still wearing green.  What this tells us in our view is that the Celtics really like this guy and are willing to ride alongside him as he tries to improve his offensive game.

 

Smart is a bulldog and has tons of heart.  You can’t coach or teach that.  But, he still shoots poorly and was out of shape in the latter half of the season last year and playoffs.  Apparently Smart has trimmed down and dropped about 15 pounds.  We will see if that is the case shortly. 

 

Historically speaking is it even possible to just “all of a sudden” be a much better offensive player?  Well, actually fans can look no further than the Celtics and Avery Bradley to see if that is the case.  Bradley entered the NBA as a defensive stud and still is.  However, he methodically chipped away and built himself into a very legitimate offensive player in the NBA.  Last year he shot 41% from 3PT and will likely make $20 Million/year or more when he signs somewhere as a free agent after this season. 

 

Just because Bradley was able to do it does not mean Smart will.  The one thing we know is that Marcus Smart has the desire and the killer instinct.  If he is in better condition this season that will be a big sign.  He sees all the big names and he knows Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum can eat up some minutes he might otherwise get.  It’s up to him to take a big step forward this season.

Celtics Three Point Shooters

Very deservedly so much has been made about the exciting offensive prospects for this 2017/2018 Boston Celtics team.  The addition of Gordon Hayward and Kyrie Irving to the Brad Stevens system that statistics prove is indeed working very well opens up boundless opportunities.  This Celtics team should be very efficient and effective offensively. 

Let’s take a look at the stats for the Celtics’ primary three point bombers for this coming season.

 

Total 3PT%

Corner 3

% of 3PT Assisted

Kyrie Irving

40.1%

38.4%

53.1%

Gordon Hayward

39.8%

40.0%

74.5%

Al Horford

35.5%

36.8%

97.7%

Marcus Morris

33.1%

43.6%

91.5%

Jaylen Brown

34.1%

43.8%

95.7%

Marcus Smart

28.3%

41.9%

90.4%

Terry Rozier

31.8%

21.9%

80.7%

Guerschon Yabusele

TBD

TBD

TBD

Jayson Tatum

TBD

TBD

TBD

 

This snapshot includes what we are projecting to be the team’s primary 3PT shooters this season.  Certainly some others will throw up the long ball here and there but the bulk of the shots will come from this group.

The first thing that jumps out is that the Top 5 names on that list might be the starting unit and they all shot at least 33% from the 3PT line last season.  Not many NBA teams will put a starting five on the floor that can say the same. 

Another thing that stands out is that really only two players (and primarily just one – Irving) can create their own 3PT shot.  Hayward and Irving both have a % of 3PT Assisted number below 75% meaning that there are occasions where they make a 3PT shot and it was not set up with a pass and catch and shoot scenario.  This makes sense.  Hayward can create his own shot and Irving is the perhaps the best player in the NBA with the ball in his hands.

A few other things jump out as well.  Take a look at how much better Jaylen Brown, Marcus Morris, and Marcus Smart are shooting the Corner 3 versus their overall 3PT%.  This isn’t to say young players like Brown and Smart can’t or won’t improve their overall percentage, but clearly they appear to be more comfortable and confident shooting that Corner 3.  Along with Morris part of this might be the ability to get a pretty wide open look and time to release the shot.  Whatever the exact reason is you can bet Coach Stevens will be looking to run offensive plays and sets that put those three players in the best position to success and help the team win.  With opposing teams worried about Irving and Hayward, if I were Jaylen Brown, Morris, or Marcus Smart I would be very motivated to knock down a whole bunch of open looks from the corner.

Jaylen Brown:

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.    

Summer League Results

The Celtics were pretty effective in the Summer League racking up wins left and right.  Most of the focus was on the 7/11 combo of Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum.  The Celtics selected Tatum 3rd overall and traded out of the #1 spot to do so.  There will be very heavy scrutiny on this move and the comparisons between Tatum and Markelle Fultz will go on forever.  Granted it is the Summer League and just rookies and younger players, but boy did Jayson Tatum look very good (as did Brown as a second year player).  Jayson Tatum clearly has very nice offensive skills and can create his own shot.  You can see that he could certainly evolve into a powerful 3PT shooter and already shoots great from the FT line.  Time will tell. 

Celtics Defense Post Irving Trade

There will be plenty of debates about how this mega trade will affect the Celtics defense going forward.  As we examined in the offseason review posted on this page the Celtics were actually fairly competent on defense last season despite the huge issue with rebounding.  Poor defensive rebounding gave opponents easy buckets which skewed the overall defensive stats in a bad direction.  By other metrics the defense was in the upper half of the NBA so the question is what will happen this season.

 

The swap of Irving and IT4 likely favors the Celtics defensively.  Irving is by no means a strong defender but he at least has some size and length at the point position.  He is not as much of a liability as Thomas is when taller guards back him down into the post and shoot or find open looks for others from there.

 

Although Crowder was quite versatile the inclusion of Hayward is not necessarily a drop off defensively.  Hayward is quite competent in contesting shots and playing solid team defense.  In fact, he played major minutes for an elite defensive team last season in Utah so he must have some level of ability and desire defensively. 

 

The big question is who starts in that 2/3 role that is open and what Morris brings if he starts at the 4/5.  Jaylen Brown might be that guy and he as excellent length and athleticism to contribute defensively.  He showed that last season quite clearly.  Morris is a player with a reputation for nagging opponents like Lebron James so we will just have to see how he blends in with the Celtics.  Most of the focus is on the star laden Celtics offense that will take the floor but it is quite possible the team is a bit better defensively as well.  

Irving Trade Complete – 8/31

Regardless of whatever was at play it can now be safely reported that the trade of Kyrie Irving to the Boston Celtics is complete.  The Celtics did agree to add a 2nd round pick in 2020 and the deal is done.

Speculation abounds on both sides as to what was really taking place behind the scenes.  There are those that feel that the new Cavaliers GM needed to take some type of stand and try and show that he will not be bumped around.  Some feel there really is an issue with IT’s hip beyond what the physicals show which got the Cavs very nervous and filled with regret.  Who really knows?

Training camp will be here in no time and both teams deserve the opportunity to move forward with a final and clear resolution.  They can now do exactly that.  

Final Roster Spot – 8/28

Despite the drama surrounding the trade for Kyrie Irving and waiting on if/when the trade goes official, life does move on for the front office.  By all accounts there is one roster spot still open on the Boston Celtics.  Chatter surrounding this roster spot recently centered on Tony Allen (old Celtic, drafted by the team, defensive specialist) and Gerald Green (another old Celtic and drafted by the club). 

On Monday a new name emerged – F/C Thomas Robinson.  Let’s take a look at Thomas Robinson to see what he could potentially offer the Celtics and why they might be looking at him seriously.  Apparently Robinson is in working out for the team today. 

Robinson is a 6’10” F/C with five years of NBA experience under his belt.  He’s bounced around a bit playing for seven teams over those five seasons.  The thing that really jumps out about Robinson is rebounding, and that is certainly the biggest area of weakness for the Celtics.  Here are Robinson’s Defensive Rebounding Percentages for the last three seasons: 30.2%, 27.8%, and 28.1%.  Last season Kelly Olynyk lead the Celtics in Defensive Rebounding Percentage which tells you something right there.  Here are his Total Rebounding Percentage stats the last three seasons: 22.6%, 22.0%, and 21.8%.    

Thomas Robinson’s 36 minute splits last season were 15.5 points and 14.3 rebounds.  Robinson would never even get close to 36 minutes on this Celtics roster but those numbers are extremely productive.  If he joined the club and was that productive with his minutes the team would welcome that with open arms for sure.

Irving Trade Drama – 8/28

So, is Irving a member of the Celtics or not?  Last week late in the week reports emerged that suggested the Cavaliers were basically voiding the trade due to concerns over the hip injury to Isaiah Thomas.  Obviously Thomas took a physical with the Celtics just days before the trade and also took one with the Cavaliers after the trade was announced.  The Cavaliers have stated their main objective in this trade was getting their hands on that Brooklyn pick in 2018 though it is not entirely clear if that is true.

Different folks have different opinions about whether or not this trade can be rescinded.  Some feel the Cavs will wiggle their way out of this.  Some feel the Celtics will not budge and the deal is done.   Another view is that this is just a ploy to get the Celtics to sweeten the deal.  Some even say the Cavaliers are demanding Jaylen Brown or Jayson Tatum.  Celtics fans and supporters quickly laugh at that suggestion.

The whole issue just screams of an obtuse and strange scenario.  How could Irving return to the Cavaliers and how could IT4 and Crowder return to the Celtics?  All three players know at this point that their respective teams were happy to trade them.  Yes, these are professionals and they will play and play hard regardless but erasing this trade as if it never happened would certainly throw both teams into a mess of confusion. 

As of right now the Celtics have been fairly quiet and appear to be sticking to their guns.  A close and reliable source on the Celtics sent out messages on social media stating that in no way, shape, or form would Brown or Tatum be involved.  The waiting continues for now.  Will the Celtics toss in something to sweeten the deal and put it in the rear view mirror?  Will the NBA get involved and resolve this by force?  Time will tell as we wait to see what happens.

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Irving Trade – Celtics Roster

Danny Ainge kept saying he was stockpiling assets while remaining on the prowl for a big move.  Well, he certainly kept to his word.  Ainge followed up the free agent signing of Gordon Hayward with a blockbuster deal that brings All-Star guard and NBA Champion Kyrie Irving to the Celtics from the Cleveland Cavaliers.  The Celtics sent Isaiah Thomas, Ante Zizic, and Jae Crowder along with the Brooklyn Pick in next year’s draft to the Cavaliers in exchange for Irving. 

It may appear to be quite a haul for Cleveland at first glance.  Crowder has an extremely team friendly contract and Thomas is making a modest salary this coming season.  Zizic could develop into a decent big off the bench and everyone expects Brooklyn to be terrible again this season.  There are however risks in what Cleveland obtained.  Thomas is a free agent and might simply walk for the biggest deal he can get after being underpaid for a few seasons given his productivity.  Brooklyn might be a bit more formidable this season thus increasing the chances that pick is not in the Top 3 or even Top 5.  Nobody knows for sure.

Looks like the Celts went for a “sure thing”.  They know Kyrie Irving is and what he is not.  They have him for two more seasons guaranteed and he is only 25YO.  Perhaps he can be persuaded into signing a long term deal.  There is no guarantee that this 2018 Brooklyn pick is a slam dunk or even in the Top 5.  Aside from that the Celtics already have numerous other draft picks to include two other 1st round picks in the 2018 draft.  The Celts can only fit so many guys on a roster at any given time. 

Irving makes the Cs a very legitimate threat to win it all.  His offensive explosiveness is in the Top 5 in the NBA for sure.  The Celtics will now have four starters around the edge that can all shoot the three ball and create their own shot.  Al Horford, Kyrie Irving, Gordon Hayward, and Jaylen Brown can all do this.  Brown is a work in progress but he showed the athletic ability to get to the basket and shoot the three in his rookie season. 

There are questions now about the depth and rounding out the roster.  It certainly appears that Marcus Smart and rookie Jayson Tatum will get a whole bunch of minutes.  Beyond that it’s not entirely clear aside from Terry Rozier so this bench will have to come up with something in terms of generating offense.  Bringing back Gerald Green to fill the final roster spot and add some offensive explosiveness is a very possible option. 

This upcoming NBA season figures to be very exciting.  It sure looks like the team’s ownership and management have done their part in putting together an extremely talented roster.  It’s up to Coach Stevens and his staff to put the pieces together and get the team operating at full capacity.  Opening night sees the Celtics visit Cleveland so the drama and intrigue will be amped up right away.

One of the most overlooked aspects of this trade is the huge bet being placed by the Celtics.  The Celtics in making this trade are betting big on their youngest players.  Many of the key role players from recent seasons are gone.  Jaylen Brown and rookie Jayson Tatum will be getting serious minutes.  Who else will be getting the minutes 

With all of the drama surrounding the #1 pick, trading the number one pick, and the potential trades and eventual trade of IT4 to tof they do not?  Brown could get 25+ minutes a night easily if he performs well.  The move to orient the entire season and franchise around Irving, Hayward, and Horford by default places an enormous bet on the expectation that Brown and Tatum are both ready right now to be reliable NBA players.  

Gordon Hayward – Overlooked Gem This Offseason

With all of the drama surrounding the #1 pick, trading the number one pick, and the potential trades and eventual trade of IT4 to the rival Cavaliers for Kyrie Irving . . . . . . . forgive anyone that has somewhat lost sight of the addition of Gordon Hayward to this Celtics team.  The Celtics sign one of the top 20 players in the NBA to a juicy long term contract.  This is a huge move by a franchise known for struggling to attract big name free agents.  That is now Al Horford and Gordon Hayward in back to back off seasons. 

Let’s not forget how important Gordon Hayward will be for the Celtics.  Hayward is a very competent defender that has length to contest shots on the perimeter.  This aligns nicely with the current NBA style and specifically the style of top teams such as Golden State and Cleveland that launch tons of 3s.  Hayward can also create his own shot off the dribble and shoot off the pass along with the 3 ball.  The Celtics will benefit tremendously from this spacing and ability to create a shot.  Thomas was the only real option for the Celtics in this regard in recent seasons.  Now they have Hayward and Irving and others such as Horford and Jaylen Brown that can create their own shot. 

Hayward is a legitimate NBA star that has really blossomed in the last three seasons.  Some feel he will perform even better in the Coach Stevens system and with the talent around him on this Celtics team.  This is a player that has averaged 19.3, 19.7, and 21.9 points the last three seasons.  His PER over those last three years is also 20.2, 18.3, and 22.2.  Last seasons was his best yet so you could argue he is just now putting it all together.  These next couple years should be his peak performance level. 

So many “fireworks” did in fact emerge this summer (as ownership and Ainge kept promising) that one can easily lose sight of the impact Gordon Hayward can have.  It will be very interesting to see how Hayward performs with this Celtics squad as it appears as though he is on the cusp of taking his performance to another higher level.  

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. 

Coaching Staff:

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. 

Jaylen Brown:

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.   

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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.

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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/

http://www.sportingnews.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

 

@ChrisDHallaNBA

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.

Weekly Outlook

With 3 home games this week the Celtics should go 3-0. The Suns are one of the youngest teams in the NBA, and young teams generally struggle in this league. Not only that, the Celtics should know not to take them lightly. The Celtics will be out for revenge over their last second loss to the Suns on March 5th. While the Pacers and Heat both present a decent challenge, more so the Pacers, both are teams the Celtics should beat if they execute and don’t make mistakes. Neither team will be a pushover and both teams are battling for playoff positioning. But the Celtics are also trying to catch up to the Cavs, and further distance themselves from the Wizards. The Heat would present more of a challenge if Dion Waiters and Justise Winslow were healthy. However with guys like Wayne Ellington and Luke Babbitt on the floor, the Celtics should be able to handle them.

 

3/14/2017

Eastern Conference Standings #1-#8 

  1. Cleveland Cavaliers 43-22
  2. Boston Celtics 42-25
  3. Washington Wizards 41-25
  4. Toronto Raptors 39-28
  5. Atlanta Hawks 37-20
  6. Indiana Pacers 34-32
  7. Detroit Pistons 33-33
  8. Milwaukee Bucks 32-34

Week in Review    

          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.

Weekly Outlook

          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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