Boston Celtics (2-1) at Wizards (1-2)
Round 2 Game 4
Playoff Game #10, Road Game #5
Sunday, May 7, 2017
6:30 PM ET
Radio: 98.5 Sports Hub, WFED 1500 AM
The Celtics enter Game 4 with a must win attitude after losing Game 3 by an embarrassing 27 points. The Wizards played with more intensity and were the tougher team, pushing the Celtics at every turn. The Wizards used a 22-0 run to jump out to a 39-17 first quarter lead and the Celtics were unable to make up any ground the rest of the game. With 3 ejections and 8 technical fouls, the game was very chippy, with the Wizards being the more aggressive team.
The Celtics have played 3 games at the Verizon Center this season and have lost all 3. What is worse, none of the 3 losses have even been close. They have lost by 25, 15 and 28. The Celtics have had off since Thursday to think about this latest loss and to work on a plan to turn it around and find a way to win in DC. The bad news is that it seems that the longer the Celtics have to rest between games, the worse they play. On no days rest, the Celtics are 10-7. On 1 day rest, they are 41-14. But on 2-3 days rest they are 7-10.
The Celtics realize that they were out toughed and out played by the Wizards and know that they need to increase their intensity and toughness to match the Wizards. In Games 1-3, Washington has outscored the Celtics 119-70 in the first quarters. The Celtics have outscored Washington 199-150 in quarters 2-4 and OT. So, clearly, the Celtics must find a way to get off to a better start. The Celtics have tried using Gerald Green and Amir Johnson in the starting lineup to no avail..
There are several players on both sides who are playing with minor injuries. Avery Bradley is playing through a hip pointer. Isaiah Thomas is playing with mouth pain after losing a tooth in Game 1. John Wall has complained of wrist and ankle pain. Markieff Morris sprained his ankle in Game 1, but has played through it (or had his twin play through it). Ian Mahinmi played just 10 minutes in Game 3 after returning from a calf injury.
Jason Smith has been playing through soreness in his calf. Otto Porter has been playing with soreness in his elbow. Kelly Oubre, Jr has been suspended for his attack on Kelly Olynyk after a hard screen in Game 3. This may or may not be a good thing for the Celtics. In the 3 games so far, the Wizards are +43 with Oubre on the bench and a -43 when he is on the court. Perhaps the suspension will help the Wizards more than the Celtics.
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 pointer) probable
Isaiah Thomas (teeth/jaw) probable
Ian Mahinmi (calf) probable
Jason Smith (calf) probable
Markieff Morris (ankle) probable
Otto Porter (elbow) probable
Kelly Oubre Jr (stupidity) out
Isaiah Thomas vs John Wall
John Wall is a tough matchup and the Celtics can't expect to stop him but hopefully they can make it as hard as possible for him to try to wear him out by the end of the game. Expect Isaiah to cover Portis, who is the least threat of Wall, Beal and Portis. Avery, Marcus, Jae or Terry will more than likely cover Wall who is a threat to score on every possession. He will be comfortable at home and so the Celtics will need to stay on him defensively.
Avery Bradley vs Bradley Beal
Bradley Beal averaged 24.5 points, 3.3 rebounds, 2.6 assists, and 2.0 steals per game so far in this round. He scored 27 points in Game 1 but just 14 points in Game 2 and 11 in Game 3. Avery has been doing a good job limiting his effectiveness so far and the Celtics need to continue to make it as difficult as possible for him.
The Unknown Celtic vs The Unknown Morris
The matchup that has been the toughest for the Celtics so far has been Markieff (or is it Marcus?) Morris. They tried starting Gerald Green in two games and moved Jae Crowder to the 4 to cover Morris. In Game 2, the Celtics tried to go back to Amir Johnson in the starting lineup. Neither of these matchups worked in that the Wizards have gotten off to huge starts in all 3 games. We may see Jonas Jerebko, Marcus Smart, Tyler Zeller, or Jaylen Brown starting to give the Celtics yet another different starting lineup to try to match up with Morris.
Al Horford vs Marcin Gortat
Gortat has been steady for the Wizards in the 3 games so far. He is averaging 14.3 points and 13 rebounds per game. Al (or possibly Kelly or Amir or Tyler or Jonas) need to keep a body on Gortat, especially in the paint to keep him from getting to the rebounds and getting second chance baskets.
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 Wizards increased their efforts on defense for Game 3, holding the Celtics to 35.1% shooting from the field and 31.3% from beyond the arc. At the same time, the Wizards shot 46.7%. The Celtics absolutely must pick up their intensity and effort on the defensive end if they want to turn it around and get a win in this game.
Be Aggressive - The Celtics need to be the more aggressive team from start to finish. Brad
Stevens said that the one thing he noticed about how the Wizards played was how hard they played. They played harder and were more aggressive on both ends of the court. They need to be more 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 in all three games so far, but they finished the first two games being more aggressive. They didn't pick up their intensity in game 3 and the Wizards capitalized. The Celtics have to be the more aggressive team.
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. In Game 3 the Wizards out-rebounded the Celtics 50-38. Much of rebounding is effort and the Celtics have to put out the extra effort to crash the boards and win the rebounding battle.
Focus - The Celtics started Game 3 by turning the ball over time and time again. They had 16 turnovers to just 9 for the Wizards and that's just too many. They also missed shots, including at the free throw line where they missed 8 free throws for the game. The Celtics have to find a way to block out the distractions of the road and the hostile crowd and focus on playing basketball and focus on limiting turnovers and hitting their shots.
Keep Your Composure - The Celtics must keep their composure. The Wizards were instigating and pushing and shoving and flopping and trying to get into the Celtics' heads. The Celtics have to stay focused on basketball and not let them take them out of their game. Brandon Jennings is an irritant and not a very good player and he got tossed and took Terry Rozier with him in the last game. He will probably try to get someone tossed again in this game but the Celtics can't let them get into their heads. They have to stay composed and focused on playing team basketball.
Role Players - 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 the first two games they, along with most of the starters didn't come through in Game 3. The Celtics must all play good defense as well as hit their shots and give the Celtics an advantage whether the starters or the reserves are in the game.
Start Strong - As has been noted, The Celtics have been outscored 119-70 in the first quarters of the first 3 games. The Wizards starting lineup has a net rating of +44.1 in those 3 games. The Celtics have to find a way to start strong offensively and to also get a better start defensively to limit the Wizards in the first quarter. Whether it is a change to the starting lineup or just more effort from the current starters, they have to figure it out. They cant continue to have 20+ point deficits in the first quarter and hope to win, especially on the road.
On the Road - The Celtics won't have the incredible Garden crowd behind them in this on to give them energy. They will have to play through a hostile atmosphere and overcome the inconveniences and the distractions of playing on the road. The Celtics have played fairly well on the road this season and they have to continue that in this game. They have to come out with their focus on playing team ball and playing harder than the Wizards, no matter what is going on around them.
Effort - In game 3, the Celtics effort just wasn't there. They allowed the Wizards to play harder and to be more aggressive and to be the tougher team. The Celtics have to come back in this game with more effort and to play harder and be tougher than the Wizards. Every player has to come out with the mindset to play their hardest and to give their best effort. They each have to be aggressive and not allow the Wizards to out-play 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? After the chippiness of the first game, the refs will probably call it a bit tighter. It all effects the outcome of the game and most importantly, the Celtics need to adjust to the way the officials call the game.