So far, the playoffs for the Boston Celtics has been one hell of a roller coaster. The emotional twists and turns have coincided with reality and created a notion that these Celtics can make some noise. The consistently inconsistent Celtics are currently tied 2-2 in the series with the Wizards; with the games heading back to Boston.
The first round against the Bulls and the first four games against Washington have highlighted both the highs and lows for the guys in green.
Let’s talk about the highs first, because when they’re at their best, the Celtics can contend with anybody.
First off is Isaiah Thomas, the heart and soul leader of this team. Even before tragedy struck, IT has had this Celtics team on his back all season. That’s a lot of weight for little shoulders, but nothing he cannot handle. When at his best, Isaiah Thomas is an offensive superstar with a Kobe mentality. There are stretches of games (usually in the fourth quarter) where Isaiah looks downright unstoppable. His stop-and-start game is unmatched, and he has shown an ability to any shot on the floor whether there is a man in his face or not.
Isaiah is the only player on the Celtics that can create his own shot against anyone he faces. The Celtics need Isaiah to get back to being aggressive. In game four, he started hot but ultimately fizzled. That’s because the Wizards attacked him, both on offense and defense. He had six eyes on him at all times on offense, and the Wizards effectively isolated him on defense.
This led to turnovers and fast break points for the Wizards, something the Celtics cannot live with. Isaiah needs to beat his first man and then either take it inside or dish it out. The Celtics are at their best when Isaiah Thomas can carve up opposing defenses. Let’s get back to that.
Next up, Brad Stevens. There are a few things that Stevens can change to better the Celtics. Brad we get it man, you like Gerald Green. He’s a scorer that can jumpstart an offense in the blink of an eye, but that’s about it. When Green is unable to score, he becomes virtually useless. There’s a young man on the Celtics bench that could soak up Green’s minutes and play a much more effective role. It took the Celtics being down 20 in the fourth quarter of game four for Jaylen Brown to get some minutes. First thing he does? Can a three and then grab a board. Jaylen is probably the most exciting player to watch on the Celtics, aside from Thomas. He’s an athletic specimen who’s biggest weakness coming out of college has been his biggest NBA strength. Jaylen Brown has shot the ball so well this reason, especially for a rookie. He makes rookie mistakes (see the double-dribble in game four right after his made three) that will drive Stevens nuts, but he adds a new dimension to the Celtics. Brown is going to be a great player, but even right now he can add a big athletic body to throw at these Wizards. We’ve seen what Brown can do on both offense and defense, so let’s let the dog out. This kid is ready to play.
Speaking of kids, when can we see more Terry Rozier? I love Marcus Smart as much as the next boasting Boston fan, but Rozier has been way better this series, and in the playoffs in general. In a small sample size, Rozier has been the best player on the Celtics this playoffs. He owns the highest net rating on the team, and it isn’t really that close. Rozier is more than a backup point guard, he is a fun player to watch. He moves fluently, has a good jumper, and is electric as all hell. He’s athletic enough to play both guard positions, and possesses a feistiness that might get this team going. Stevens needs to let Rozier loose, because he can help finish this series.
Another thing, where the hell is the all-world defense from Bradley, Smart and Crowder? Not only are these the Celtics best three defenders, but they are three of the best perimeter defenders in the league.
I’ll tell you what, you would not know that from watching this series thus far. Bradley has done the best job out of the three, but we need to see the ballhawking, attached-to-the-hip Avery Bradley. The one that scores 18, grabs six boards, and pisses off opposing backcourts. I’ll take that Avery Bradley, please. He can frustrate Wall and Beal, but he needs to play his game, and play it well.
Jae Crowder, where’s the chip on your shoulder man? Crowder plays his best when he plays with an edge. In a series of two teams that hate each other, this aggression should not be hard to tap into. In what should be a series tailor-made for Crowder, he’s gone invisible. Aside from his game two performance, Crowder is struggling on both ends of the floor. The Celtics forward needs to rediscover his high level of 3-and-D play. Crowder playing his best would result in him scoring around 14 and 15 but holding Beal and Porter to a low level of play. He has the ability, he has the chip on his shoulder, and he has the team to support him. C’mon Jae, let’s do this.
Marcus Smart is one of the hardest players to value. His stat line usually does not do his play justice. He’s a superb defender that makes game-changing plays. He’s usually the first one to hit the ground for a loose ball, and he’ll be the last one to back down to Wall or Beal. When Marcus Smart is firing on all cylinders, he’s a straight-up nightmare to play offense against. He will rip the ball from your hands, put a shoulder into your chest, or finesse you with his quick hands. Marcus Smart is the player you love to have when he’s doing well, but can frustrate the hell out of you. He takes unwarranted threes, commits silly fouls, and gets into his own head. Marcus Smart is Marcus Smart’s worst enemy. He needs to find himself and play his game, because the Celtics won’t get by the Wizards without him.
The Celtics are by no means down and out. The series is tied and they still have homecourt advantage. The boys need to get the past two games out of their head fast, because game five is the only game that matters right now. There are adjustments that need to be made, but the Celtics are not in trouble yet. They need to hit open shots, defend their positions, and send these goddamn Wizards packing.