Wizards (0-1) at Boston Celtics (1-0)
Eastern Conference Semifinals Game 2
Playoff Game Game #8, Home Game #5
Tuesday, May 2, 2017
8:00 PM ET
Radio: Sports Hub 98.5, WFED 1500 AM
The Celtics come into game 2 leading 1-0 in the series after a game 1 that wasn't without some drama. Isaiah Thomas suited up to play after getting in at 4am after flying to Tacoma to attend his sister's funeral. If that wasn't enough, he lost a tooth during first half action and completed the match afterward. Marcus Smart pulled himself in the 4th quarter after a series of mistakes.
The Celtics spotted the Wizards a 16-0 lead, which usually is enough to guarantee a loss. But the Celtics calmly fought their way back behind 19 3 pointers to get the win. The Wizards' starting power forward Markieff Morris came down on Al Horford's foot and turned his ankle. After writing in pain on the court, he was able to shoot the free throws but went to the locker room and didn't return. After the game, he insinuated that Al may have injured him on purpose.
Brad Stevens used the same starting lineup that he did in the Bulls series with Gerald Green starting in place of Amir Johnson, however he quickly pulled him after the Wizards got off to a 16-0 start. If Morris is out for this game, Stevens may start Green or, he may insert Jaylen Brown into the lineup after Jaylen gave him some good minutes in the 4th quarter. He started Marcus Smart in the second half of game 1 and he may also be a possibility to start this game.
Morris' injury looked like it might be serious and he didn't practice on Monday but he is insisting that he expects to play in Game 2. He went through part of the shoot around and he is insisting that he plans to play but his coach isn't quite as certain. His likely will be a game time decision. If he plays, I can't see him being 100% since that ankle twisted quite a bit. If he can't go, Kelly Oubre is expected to get the start.
Game 2 is important and the Celtics need to protect their home court in this series so hopefully they will come out much stronger than they did in Game 1. The Wizards aren't a great road team, with a 19-22 record in the regular season. The Celtics are 34-0 when leading 2-0 in a best if 7 series while the Wizards are 2-9 when trailing in a best of 7 series.
Probable Starting Matchups
Isaiah Thomas vs John Wall
Avery Bradley vs Bradley Beal
Gerald Green vs Otto Porter
Jae Crowder vs Markieff Morris
Al Horford vs Marcin Gortat
Isaiah Thomas (tooth) will play
Kelly Oubre Jr
Ian Mahinmi (calf) out
Jason Smith (calf) will play
Markieff Morris (ankle) day to day
Isaiah Thomas vs John Wall
Wall is very quick and a tough cover for anyone. He averaged 27.0 points, 4.6 rebounds 10.8 assists, and 1.2 steals per game in the first round. The Celtics need Isaiah's offense, but he is going to struggle to keep Wall from having a big game. He will likely cover Portis, who is the lesser threat of the three. Wall shot 9-20 from the field for 20 points in game 1 and the Celtics would like to hold him to even fewer points in this one.
Avery Bradley vs Bradley Beal
Bradley Beal averaged 24.8 points, 4.0 rebounds, 2.0 assists, and 2.2 steals per game in round 1. He scored 27 points in Game 1. Avery will need to play tough defense on Beal who is always a threat to score. Beal shot 40.4% from beyond the arc in the regular season but only 26.4% on 3's vs Atlanta. He was 4-7 on 3's in Game 1 and the Celtics need to defend him better in this game. Limiting Beal and Wall is key to getting a win in this series.
Al Horford vs Marcin Gortat
Gortat finished Game 1 with 16 points and 13 rebounds. Al is very important to the Celtics fortunes as he helps to run the offense when Isaiah is trapped and he is also key to the Celtics' defense. Gortat will especially be important to the Wizards if Morris is unable to play.
Keys to the Game
Defense - The Celtics need to make defense a priority. Defense wins games. They especially need to contain the Wizards' talented back court. The Celtics can't depend on hitting 19 threes every game and so they have to limit the Wizards' scoring. The Wizards shot 50.6% from the field and 43.5% from beyond the arc in Game 1 and the Celtics have to find a way to lower that.
Be Aggressive - The Celtics need to be the more aggressive team from start to finish. 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. They allowed the Wizards to jump on them out of the gate but finished the game being more aggressive. They need to play harder at the start and be more aggressive until the final buzzer.
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. The Celtics have to put out the extra effort to grab rebounds and match or exceed the Wizards efforts on the boards if they want to get a win in this game.
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 need to take care of the ball and focus on making good passes and not give the Wizards extra possessions and fast break points by turning the ball over.
The Celtics must stay focused and play team basketball and not allow the Wizards or the Refs to take them out of their game.
Reserves Play - The Celtics have the stronger bench and so players like Marcus Smart, Kelly Olynyk, Terry Rozier, Jaylen Brown, and Jonas Jerebko must produce for the Celtics when they come into the game. They did a great job of outplaying their counterparts in game 1 and must do so again in this game. Bojan Bogdanovic leads all advancing reserves with 9.7 points per game. The Celtics' reserves must play good defense as well as hit their shots and give the Celtics an advantage when the starters go to the bench.
Home Game - The Celtics are at home and have been playing well at the Garden this season. The Wizards haven't been the strongest road team this season and haven't played well in Boston in particular, losing 8 of their last 10 games at the Garden. The Celtics need to get energy from the fans, who should be loud and make the Garden a very hostile arena for the Wizards.
Motivation - The Celtics should be motivated to beat this team that has developed into a rival for them. They should be motivated by the accusations from the Wizards that the Celtics play dirty and that Al purposely injured Markieff Morris. And, more than anything, the Celtics should be motivated to prove everyone wrong who called them the worst #1 seed in league history. They have plenty of motivation and they just need to use it to raise their game to the next level.
The Little Guy - The Celtics depend on Isaiah Thomas to lead the team. He led the team with 33 points in Game 1 after getting in at 4 am from his sister's funeral. He lost a tooth and kept on playing. Some of that could have been adrenaline and hopefully he can keep up his superhuman exploits in this game as the Celtics need him. In 16 head to head matches between IT and John Wall, Isaiah has won 13 of them.
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.
Marc Thomas was voted one of the worst referees in the league in a 2016 LA Times survey of players and coaches. Davis has been inconsistent in calling the Celtics' games. Sometimes he is good and sometimes he is very bad. He is so bad that he even got to mild mannered Brad Stevens, who got tossed for yelling at him about bad calls. Both teams are 4-6 with Davis as an official. He is definitely not a homer ref with a home W/L record this season of 35-36.