…otherwise known as the Eastern Conference Finals.
So I was wrong about the Washington Wizards beating the Boston Celtics in the second round. Wasn’t the first time I’ve been wrong, won’t be the last. But we can all admit it the series really could have gone either way, when all was said and done. And the fact that the C’s needed a big effort in Game 7 from Kelly Olynyk, of all people, to advance to the next round should scare the bejesus out of anyone rooting for the hometown team.
Kelly Olynyk? Sweet, another thing that makes me look bad. Though I won’t feel as bad when he averages about 5 points a game in the East Finals.
In any event, the Cleveland Cavaliers and King LeBron James await. And I have to tell you, while watching Game 7 of the Wizards series, the Blowhard really wasn’t totally emotionally invested. Normally in the playoffs, especially Game 7’s, we are hanging on every shot, every rebound, every referee call…everything. All the while essentially funneling beers in the process.
But Monday night? I don’t know. It was sort of a weird feeling. In the end, I determined that my lack of emotion came down to two things:
*I felt that the Celtics were going to get screwed in the draft lottery Tuesday night. I know this has absolutely nothing to do with this year. And from all indications there are a handful of pretty good players in the draft this year who should make an impact in the NBA. So even dropping down to #4 may not have been catastrophic. But with the way the C’s and Danny Ainge have been slowly rebuilding this team, I felt like anything less than the #1 pick would be a pretty big disappointment.
*More importantly, the fact is the C’s have zero chance in this series. Yup. That’s ZERO. Not a snowball’s chance in hell. None. Nada. Zilch. Ok, enough. But part of me was like, why bother winning this series? So they can get embarrassed in the next one?
Stupid, I know. You never know what can happen in any given series, right? And when you can win a round in the playoffs, you certainly do it. But I couldn’t shake the malaise.
Truth be told, we do know what is going to happen in this series. What’s left to determine is how many games it will take for the Cavs to beat the Celtics.
Cleveland is 8-0 in the 2017 playoffs. They seem to be on a mission toward another championship…or at least an expected date with Golden State in the NBA Finals.
Who’s going to stop LeBron James? 34.4 points per game in the playoffs, up from 26.4 during the regular season. Jae Crowder? Ummmm, I don’t think so. The C’s could use his 6 fouls anyway. Obviously, despite their defensive prowess, neither Avery Bradley nor Marcus Smart will be able to do it. Jaylen Brown? Please.
Sure, they can double and triple team the King. But then Kyrie Irving or Kevin Love or J.R. Smith, or…a bunch of other guys will be running around wide open. Kyle Korver will inevitably bury countless open threes. Maybe Channing Frye too.
Tristan Thompson will undoubtedly slaughter the Celtics on the boards…along with Love and James.
I could go on, but will mercifully stop. The people who say the Celtics have a chance will point to the fact that they got the #1 seed in the East for their performance in the regular season. Key phrase? “Regular season”. Cleveland rested a lot, knowing they had a long playoff run to prepare for. They most likely coasted in other games. Then with a week left in the regular season, they came to Boston and blasted the C’s. That just cemented they did not care about seeding. They felt they could win anywhere, anytime. And they are likely right…at least through the Eastern Conference.
There’s really nothing more to say. Cleveland ends the run. This time for real. Four games to one. I actually was going to say it would be a sweep, but the C’s may steal one. Which one? Guessing that if it’s any, it’s actually Game 1 tonight. Cavs haven’t played in 10 days and may show some rust. Celts are coming off a big Game 7 win and may be carrying some of that positive energy forward with them. The game is in Boston. Who knows, maybe the players are pumped the organization got the #1 pick yesterday! Ok, not likely.
But if they don’t take Game 1, sadly it looks like a sweep. It’s been a helluva ride though.
…and am I changing my mind on Washington four games to two?
I assure you, this is not an overreaction to the C’s getting trounced in Games 3 and 4 in Washington. But those games certainly don’t help.
In reality, the Wizards should be up 3 games to 1 right now. They had 2 great looks to end Game 2 before it went to overtime and missed both. People around New England I think are blinded by Isaiah Thomas’ magical(?) 53 point performance that they actually miss this simple fact.
Isaiah actually only has 32 total points since his Game 2 outburst. Yeah, Game 3 was out of hand early. And Game 4 got out of hand during the 26-0 run in the third quarter. So his playing time was down a smidge.
But you know what else? Washington finally had some answers for him. That has been dissected over and over for some time now. So I’m not bringing anything new to the table here.
The point to stress again is that…Isaiah can’t do it by himself. Again, no secret. Though Al Horford has stepped up his game for the most part in this series…in my eyes…who has been the C’s third best player? Terry Rozier perhaps? Yikes!!
Jae Crowder, Avery Bradley, Marcus Smart…all nice players. But these guys simply aren’t going to beat the better teams. Of course Rozier isn’t either. So the Wiz double and triple IT and then…it’s over.
Guess what too? Bradley is hurt again. Surprise!!
We can talk about a max contract or not for Isaiah and player moves and all that when the offseason arrives. As for this series though, will it change when the C’s get home tonight for Game 5? I don’t see it. Unless the team hits 19 threes again, including Crowder’s 6 for 8, as they did in Game 1. Which I don’t see either.
Which brings me to coach Brad Stevens. He has done what he’s could with matchups. Trying to “hide” Isaiah on defense. Trying to free up IT on offense. Mixing in the regular bench guys in Smart, Kelly Olynyk and Rozier to try to maximize their time on the floor. Even finding some use for Jonas Jerebko from time to time (but not for Amir Johnson though…oh well, can’t win them all!).
But the threes…oh God…the THREES!! Roughly half the Celtics shots are threes. When they go down, very nice. But when they don’t…ugh. During that 26 point run, the C’s kept firing up threes like they were going to get 10 points each time they would fall. Of course they were kicking the ball all over the place too, but when they did take shots, they were ugly threes.
I know, I know, I KNOW…this is Brad’s system and it works…works a lot actually. But when it doesn’t, someone needs to rein the team in. Especially in the playoffs. Didn’t seem to happen last game.
I think the Wizards bring their game plan in from DC and also their renewed confidence and win a tight one in Game 5. Then once again blow the C’s out Friday night in Washington. Am I happy about it? No. But it is what it is.
IT gets slowed down a bit, the Wiz grossly outrebound the C’s again, no other Celtics step up, the C’s don’t hit 19 threes…etc., etc., etc. It all adds up.
Again, the progress shown by the Celtics this year has been great. There is more work to do, as we have been saying in this space all year. But it’s been a nice ride in the meantime. And especially Isaiah has been fun to watch.
In the end, losing in this round shouldn’t be so depressing when you think about it. The Celtics would get embarrassed and possibly swept by the Cleveland Cavaliers in the Eastern Conference Finals. I don’t think that is going out on a limb either.
May as well let the Wizards be that sacrificial lamb though…
…so I made a prediction for the Boston Celtics first round series against the Chicago Bulls. I had the Celtics initially beating the Bulls 4 games to 2. Then I changed it because of Isaiah Thomas’ sisters untimely passing. Made it 4-3 C’s. Should have kept it at C’s in 6. Have I not learned from going against my first inclination…in most situations? Guess not. Oh well…
The Celtics woke up from dropping the first two at home, Game 2 being especially frustrating and actually, embarrassing. It helped that Rajon Rondo got hurt and did not play in the Bulls 4 defeats. I knew Rondo would step up his game for the Celtics and the playoffs in general. I was surprised to see what kind of difference he seemed to actually be making on the floor. Especially after his uneven year. I suppose you can never predict which version of Rondo he will bring to the floor. But it was a big loss for the Bulls.
Apparently, Jimmy Butler was going through some physical issues as well, despite being on the floor as much as he usually is. Every player most assuredly has something going on physically at this time of year. But when Rondo plays awesome and you lose him…and your best player in Butler is fighting something also…those are big detriments. Of course that goes without saying.
The Celtics definitely played better starting in Game 3. But they were helped by the situations noted above, no question. Food for thought heading into the second round matchup with the Washington Wizards.
The Wizards? I’m not sure how much I can tell ya. Similar to the Bulls, I can’t say I have watched a ton of Wizard basketball, if any. I look and see that Washington and Boston split their season series 2-2. The Celtics won both games at home by single digits, while they got walloped both times in the nation’s capital. I can also tell you there has been some bad blood this year between the teams…for only God knows why. I remember Jae Crowder getting worked up over something and putting his finger on John Wall’s nose after one game. But per usual with basketball “fights”, I didn’t pay much attention to it. The NBA has a bunch of fraudulent tough guys that talk a lot of smack, then when it gets physical, flail around like they’ve never thrown a fist ever…or run away still yapping and flexing their muscles and all that. Not worth my time…
Anyway, as for the matchups, Avery Bradley will presumably guard Bradley Beal. AB gives up 3 inches to Beal, but maybe the “disrespect” Bradley felt in Round 1 will continue to spur him on. Marcus Smart gives up only an inch, so he should help here too.
But I don’t know how Isaiah is going to guard John Wall. (Well, maybe this “defensive” matchup will be a wash, with Wall having to cover IT). And I don’t know who is going to keep Marcin Gortat off the glass. Maybe even Markieff Morris, for that matter. Rebounding is still an issue for the Celts, and will be until/if they decide to fix that in the offseason. Otto Porter killed them in their first matchup, but I’m going to worry about the other 4 starters over him. Maybe that’s a mistake. Especially if Brad Stevens leaves Gerald Green in the starting lineup. Green would then likely guard Porter (Jae Crowder on Morris, Al Horford on Gortat). Not necessarily ideal for Green to be guarding…anyone.
I will give Stevens credit however. He made the change going to Green against Chicago, instead of Amir Johnson. I’ve been saying for quite some time now that I have no idea what Johnson brings to the table. Supposed to be a power forward but averages about four and a half rebounds a game. At least Green can score. But is this the right strategy for the next round? No idea.
I know that spot with Green will be rotated around with several players…primarily Smart I would say. So it’s not like Gerald will be playing 30 minutes. Unless he is on fire of course. Kelly Olynyk and Jonas Jerebko will be the other main “contributors” off the bench. But that’s ok, the Wizards bench doesn’t appear that strong…to me, anyway. But I already told you I haven’t watched them a lot, so what do I know?
Mid-season acquisition Bojan Bogdanovic seems to be the main guy to contend with off the Wizards’ bench. Who else, Jason Smith, Kelly Oubre? Nah. Maybe if they let Brandon Jennings gun it up like he did early in his career, he can make a difference. But he shot 27% in 23 games with Washington this year after he was acquired. His shooting percentages have always been putrid, but this certainly takes the cake. Though he is shooting 55% in the playoffs…so again, what do I know?
That’s about all I have for analysis. And it’s not necessarily deep analysis anyway. But I had to say something. Sssssoooo…the result?
Washington in 6. It was nice that the C’s finally got over the hump and won a playoff round under Brad Stevens. Progress is still happening, slowly, but I believe surely. I just don’t see how they stop Wall and Beal for a whole series. Or keep Gortat from making a big difference on the boards every game as well. The Celtics will play hard. Isaiah will get his. But I think this is where it ends…