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The Read & React: Boston bully ball

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With most of their wings nursing injuries, the Celtics went with a bigger lineup against the Wizards and almost pulled out an improbable win.

NBA: Washington Wizards at Boston Celtics Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

Bill Sy: You play the hand your dealt. With nearly half the roster on the shelf, Brad Stevens started a lineup of 6’2 Terry Rozier, 6’8 Jayson Tatum, 6’9 Marcus Morris, 6’8, 260 lbs. Guerschon Yabusele, and 6’10 Aron Baynes. Nursing so many injuries, the Celtics lacked their inverted offensive scheme with side-to-side action and wing attacks. Instead, Boston played a much more traditional post up on the block, pick-and-roll style that nearly won the game.

This wasn’t so much a moral victory as a study into what other options the Celtics can go to in the post-season. The Wizards are an average defensive team. Outside of Otto Porter, they don’t have a shutdown perimeter defender, but they are big and last night’s game provided a good test case for Stevens to see if his team could slog out a ground-and-pound game in the trenches.

NBA: Washington Wizards at Boston Celtics Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

It wasn’t pretty, but it was effective. Greg Monroe had his best game in green, going 8-for-9 from the field and grabbing 10 rebounds. He did most of his damage diving to the rim off picks or cleaning up drives with four offensive rebounds and put backs. Baynes finished with 7 points and in his first start, Guerschon Yabusele scored four points and dished out 5 assists.

Little discoveries like this could pay off in the playoffs. With the Celtics pretty much locked into the #2 seed in the East, they could face anybody from the Wizards to the Sixers, Heat, and Bucks. Most of those teams boast big front courts with their starters, but could Moose do some damage against former Celtics Kelly Olynyk, Amir Johnson, or Tyler Zeller?

Alex Kungu: There’s been a lot of discussion lately about Al Horford and his value. It’s mostly driven by box score watchers and horrible radio, but if anyone wanted to know what they were missing without our all-star big man look no further than poor Aron Baynes and the PnR’s he was forced into with Beal. Boston ends the game small with Horford at the 5 for a reason, the best players in the league want to go force switches on PnR’s and Al Horford is able to limit those looks with his long arms, quick lateral movements, and perfect contests that allow him to make shots just as difficult as a wing could. We didn’t have tonight and it was a big part for Beal getting it going. Here’s the big and-1 he had in double OT:

Baynes is standing straight up when he’s making the coverage call instead of getting in a stance and anticipating a Beal drive. This essentially turned it into a foot race between Beal and Baynes which for all Baynes strengths , we know how that was going to end. It was a great effort for the Celtics regardless, but it served as yet another reminder of how big of role Al Horford plays for this team.