Wizards (3-3) at Boston Celtics (3-3)
Eastern Conference Semifinals Game 7
Playoff Game Game #13, Home Game #7
Monday, May 15, 2017
8:00 PM ET
Radio: Sports Hub 98.5, WFED 1500 AM
Referees: Monty McCutchen, Derrick Stafford, Zach Zarba
It's win or go home time as the series shifts to the TD Garden for the 30th Game 7 for the Celtics' franchise. They are 21-9 in the 29 previous game 7's. This is the Celtics first Game 7 since 2012. As Isaiah said after Game 6, this is where legends are made. Havlicek stole the ball in a Game 7. Larry Bird and Dominique Wilkins dueled in a Game 7. Bill Russell played in 10 Game 7's and won them all.
This is the Wizards' first Game 7 since they were the Bullets and played the Spurs in the Eastern Conference Finals in 1979 (38 years ago). No Washington team has won a playoff game in Boston since 1982. The Wizards haven't won in Boston in the regular season since April 2014. The winner of Game 5 in a series wins the series 83% of the time.
Only 4 Celtics have Game 7 experience. Al played in 3 Game 7's with the Hawks. They won 2 and lost 1, a Game 7 against the Celtics at the Garden 1n 1008. Gerald played in 3 Game 7's, 2 with the Heat (1W and 1 L) and 1 loss with the Pacers. Jae played in a loss in a Game 7 with the Mavericks. Amir played in a loss with the Raptors.
Both teams come in with no major injuries aside from a few bumps and bruises. Bojan Bogdanovic missed practice on Saturday with the flu but is expected to play in this game. Every game in this series has been won by the home team. The Celtics won 2 close games in Games 1 and 2. The Wizards won in 2 blow outs in Games 3 and 4. The Celtics won in a blow out in Game 5 and the Wizards squeeked out a 1 point win in game 6.
The Celtics having home court advantage will give them a slight edge in this game, but they can't expect that to win the game without an all out effort on their part. The Wizards genuinely do not like the Celtics and will play very hard and so the Celtics must play harder. They especially must crash the boards and play tough defense to stop the Wizards, especially in transition and in the paint.
Probable Starting Matchups
Isaiah Thomas vs John Wall
Avery Bradley vs Bradley Beal
Jae Crowder vs Otto Porter
Amir Johnson vs Markieff Morris
Al Horford vs Marcin Gortat
Avery Bradley (hip pointers) probable
Kelly Oubre Jr
Bojan Bogdanovic (flu) probable
Isaiah Thomas vs John Wall
Wall started off slowly in Game 6 but came on strong to lead his team to a win to force a Game 7. He is averaging 27.9 points, 10.3 assists, 3.4 rebounds and 1.8 steals. The Celtics have to find a way to slow Wall down and also to get Isaiah open as they have double and triple teamed him at times in the series. This matchup is key on both sides. The Celtics need IT to make smart decisions on when to pass and when to put up a shot. They also need to slow Wall down, especially in transition.
Avery Bradley vs Bradley Beal
Beal is averaging 23.8 points, 3.3 rebounds, 2.8 assists, and 1.6 steals. Avery has played very well on both sides of the ball in the last 2 games and the Celtics will need another strong game on defense and will also need him to once again look for his shot and take some of the scoring load off of Isaiah.
Amir Johnson vs Markieff Morris
This has been the matchup that the Celtics have struggled with. Amir has started the past 2 games and the starting unit has gotten off to a good start in both games. In the second half of Game 6, only 3 players scored - Beal, Wall, and Morris. The Celtics need to slow these three players down if they want to get a win.
Keys to the Game
Defense - The Celtics need to make defense a priority. They especially need to contain the Wizards' talented back court. The Celtics can't depend on trying to outscore the Wizards. They have to stop them from scoring with tough team defense. They have to get into the passing lanes and force turnovers. The Celtics have struggled to play consistent defense in this series and they have to find a way to dig down deep and play tough in your face defense from start to finish.
Be Aggressive - The Celtics need to be the more aggressive team from the opening tip to the final buzzer. They need to be aggressive in going to the hoop, in crashing the boards, in fighting for loose balls and in running the court. They also have to be more aggressive on defense. They have to be the team that wants it more. The Wizards were the more aggressive team and they played harder in DC. The Celtics must turn that around and play harder and tougher if they want to get a win in this one.
Rebound - In the first meeting between these two teams, a Celtics loss, the Celtics were out-rebounded 54-31 by the Wizards. In the 2nd meeting, a Celtics win, the Celtics out-rebounded the Wizards 45-44. In the third game, a loss, the Celtics were again out-rebounded 43-32. In their 4th meeting, a Celtics win, the Celtics out-rebounded the Wizards 54-39. It isn't a coincidence that the team that won each game had the rebounding edge. In Game 1, the Celtics and Wizards both finished with 38 rebounds. In game 2, the Wizards out-rebounded the Celtics 44-41. The Celtics won those two games. In Game 3 the Wizards out-rebounded the Celtics 50-38 and in Game 4 they out-rebounded the Celtics 45-31 and the Celtics lost. In Game 6, the Wizards out-rebounded the Celtics 46-37 and the Celtics lost. When the Celtics put out the extra effort it takes to box out and crash the boards, they win but when they allow the Wizards to out-work them on the boards, they lose. They MUST work harder to grab rebounds.
Focus - The Celtics at times can shoot the lights out and other times can't hit the broad side of a barn. Much of that has to be their focus on taking good shots and taking their time with their shots and not rushing them. They can't let the Wizards goading them or the lack of calls take their focus off of playing the game the right way. They have to also realize that if the 3's aren't falling they must go to the basket or they will shoot themselves out of the game once again. The Celtics seem to play very well for most of the games and then lose their focus for a short period each game and give the Wizards a big run. In Game 6, they were up 5 with just 90 seconds to go and they lost focus and allowed the Wizards to steal the game. They have to stay focused and not give the Wizards any chance to go on a run.
Value Each Possession - The Wizards 26-0 run began with two shot clock violations by the Celtics. They scored 19 of those 26 points on Celtics turnovers. For the game, the Wizards scored 34 points off of Celtics turnovers. The Celtics gave up 25 second chance points. They have to stop turning the ball over and crash the boards and concentrate on their shot selection so that they don't give the Wizards a big run in this game.
Everyone Contributes - The Celtics are built to have everyone contribute. Avery and Jae were just 4-18 in Game 4 and just 1-8 from beyond the arc. The starters, especially, have to come up big and no lose their focus. Over 69 minutes, the Wizards starters have outscored the Celtics starters 45.2 points per 100 possessions. The Celtics reserves were just 2-18 for just 5 points in Game 6. They can't afford to have any or all of their rotation players give away the ball and miss their shots. Every player has to contribute.
Home Game - The Celtics are at home and in this series, especially, home court has been important. Each game so far has been won by the home team. The Wizards have their last 10 games at the Garden. They haven't won a playoff game at the Garden since 1982. They haven't won a regular season game at the Garden since 2014. The Celtics need to get energy from the fans, who should be loud and make the Garden a very hostile arena for the Wizards.
Backs Against the Wall - This is it. Win or Go Home. The Celtics need to put everything they have into this game in order to get the win. The Wizards also have their backs against the wall and so the Celtics must play harder and play like they want this game more in order to get the win. Hopefully there will be no more stunts with black clothes but just a mindset that this game is theirs and they are going to give all they have to win it.
Officiating - Officiating is always an x-factor. How the refs call the game has a big influence on how the teams play. Will they let them play or call every little bit of contact? Will they call it evenly or will they favor one team or the other. Will they be influenced by the home crowd? It all effects the outcome of the game and most importantly, the Celtics need to adjust to the way the officials call the game. The refs missed several calls down the stretch in Game 6, most notably giving them 1 second less on the last shot. Hopefully the refs call this one fair and let them play.
Monty McCutchen was voted one of the best refs in the league by coaches and players in a 2016 LA Times poll. He has been decent in most Celtics games but there have been a couple of games where he has been really bad, the double OT loss to the Warriors last season is one of them. Draymond Green committed his 6th foul and they gave the foul to Curry, who was not even involved in the play. Green then played all of the 4th quarter and two overtimes without getting another foul called on him, although he committed several. Avery Bradley, who was successfully limiting Curry, fouled out on two very questionable calls. The Warriors shot 39 free throws to just 16 for the Celtics.
Derrick Stafford is known to be quick to call technical fouls. Pat Riley and Stafford have a bit of bad blood between them. Back in 2003 when Riley was coaching, he accused Stafford of shouting "It's not about you" and some other stuff at Riley when Riley complained excessively about the calls. Stafford was suspended for 2 games as a result. Stafford was also fined as a result of a complaint that Lawrence Frank made when he was coach of the Nets. A ref has to be pretty bad to be suspended or fined for an incident since the league usually feels that they can do no wrong. I found 4 other articles detailing complaints about Stafford for his actions or comments. It seems that Mr Stafford has been a hot head who loves to lash out at players and coaches who question him. Hopefully he has mellowed a bit, but Brad Stevens' calm demeanor should be a benefit when dealing with him.
Zach Zarba called Game 1 against the Wizards.this series. Zarba was the referee who called the last second foul on Smart against the Bulls to give Butler the free throws to win the game. Despite that, he has been mostly good in games vs the Celtics this season, though. Washington is 6-4 with Zarba in their last 10 games while the Celtics are 6-4 in their last 10. His home W/L record this season is 36-33.