If you exist in the intersectionality between Boston Celtics fandom and New England Patriots fandom, then you’re likely familiar with the phrase, “Do Your Job” as made popular by Bill Belichick and the Patriots. The mantra simply demands that as a member of a team, you receive an assignment, and you fulfill that assignment to the letter. There’s no room to do too much or too little. Simply put, just do your job.
As the Celtics have endured a litany of injuries this season, the next man up on the roster has (more or less) continued to step in to fill the gaps. As the hampered squad will begin their playoff battle against the Milwaukee Bucks tomorrow in Game 1, this team is in danger. Obviously, they’re in danger of being out-talented by not just the Bucks and Giannis Antetokoumpo, but also a potential second and third round opponent, but they’re in danger of their own mental state.
When things go wrong in a team setting, often, the mentality of any given player is, “EYE need to do more.” This sentiment is admirable, and it can serve its purpose in the heat of the moment. Big plays and big moments develop from these kinds of thoughts. However, when you already know that you’re entering a situation disadvantaged, that mentality will impede progress. A pre-meditated “fight or flight” mentality will only lead to disaster, and that is the issue that this young Celtics team faces heading into their first round matchup.
For a team missing its first and second options on offense (and its best perimeter defender), this team has to have a strategy, and they have to stick to it if they want to succeed in this series and beyond. If anyone does too much or too little, the results could be catastrophic (dramatic, but true), especially when facing off against a team like Milwaukee with nothing to lose, no expectations, and a star player with a wingspan that extends the length of the NBA baseline.
Let’s take a look at each member of the team and see what job they have and how they can execute it perfectly.
Terry Rozier: Score.
Scary Terry had a phenomenal regular season filled with progress and huge leaps. Averaging a career-high 11.3 points, Rozier stepped up in a huge way when Kyrie Irving missed time. I expect Al Horford to be the primary facilitator as Boston goes through its sets this postseason despite Rozier doing a solid job this season. Terry Rozier functions best in a high-octane, fast-paced offense, and he thrives when he can go at his speed.
It’s the playoffs, though, and the game is going to slow down. It’s a little more difficult for Rozier when the pace is slower, and that will affect his play-making. Horford is better equipped to handle this, and I expect Brad Stevens to adjust accordingly. Without Irving, the Celtics will need a dynamic scoring punch, so Rozier focusing on that will keep the offensive ship sailing.
Jaylen Brown: Guard the other team’s best player
Brown improved mightily on offense from when he was entering the playoffs last season. He used to no be able to dribble more than twice without turning the ball over, but no more. He’s now developed into a maturing 2-way player, and his defense deserves a lot more recognition than it has been receiving. His scoring bursts when his eyes turn red and he does nothing but drive to the basket relentlessly seeking to commit a homicide at the rim will be crucial for the team’s dry spells, but his defense is even more important.
This team obviously lacks scoring right now, so the defense has to be elite to weather those scoring droughts. Brown will likely be tasked with consistently guarding the best opposing wing player. If he can focus on locking down Antetokoumpo and beyond, Boston will have more of a chance to advance.
Jayson Tatum: Second-unit scoring
Over the first half of the season, Tatum was tasked with being subbed out early and scoring in the second unit. He struggled with the confidence to take shots away from /checks notes Marcus Smart and Marcus Morris? But over the last couple of months, he has shown a willingness to shoot when guys like Brown and Rozier are sitting. This will continue to be imperative as the team looks for consistent scoring.
Marcus Morris: Score . . . a lot
It doesn’t matter what I write here, Mook is going to shoot. So I say: let him shoot.
Al Horford: Facilitate the offense
No matter how much we want it to be true, Al Horford is not going to turn into a 20-10 player every night. That’s not his game. I will happily take 14-6-6 on any given night, and as the team plays without its top-2 point guards, they’ll need Horford’s crisp passing and smart decision-making. No matter what, Horford will continue to defend at a high level, but his contributions on the other end of the floor to keep the offense alive will be beyond important.
Aron Baynes: Strike fear into opponents’ hearts
Don’t let Antetokoumpo terrorize you with scary poster dunks. Take the fight to him and scare him. Scare him and anyone else who opposed you. Do your job and make sure that if the Greek Freak or Khris Middleton or Jabari Parker beat their man on the perimeter and drive toward the hoop, they’re so scared that they pass out and commit a turnover. Don’t let anyone punk you. Show them all what happens when they challenge All of Australia.
Set picks that would make Kendrick Perkins smile in approval. Block shots in a way that would make prime Serge Ibaka blush. When you commit a hard foul, time travel to the 90’s and make the old heads proud. Oh, and rebound. That’ll help too.
Abdel Nader: Refuse to check in unless it’s garbage time
We all have a role to play. If you’re about the team, then you won’t check your -26.3 net rating in just 22 minutes against the Bucks into the series unless the game is already decided. Take one for the team, Nader.
Jesusemilore “Semi” Talodabijesu Ojeleye: 3-and-D
Semi Ojeleye has a long name, but his offensive game isn’t nearly as extensive. If he tries to do too much, he’ll cause turnovers that could be a massive detriment to the team, especially when facing off against a Bucks team that starves for easy opportunities to score. Ojeleye has to be solid playing within himself and where he is as a player right now, not where he could be in a year or two. He plays phenomenal defense against Antetokoumpo, and the team will need Ojeleye to knock down open 3-pointers. Do your job, Jesusemilore.
Shane Larkin: Energize the team
Ideally, Shane Larkin wouldn’t even see the floor, but he’s played really well since he returned from injury. He’s been a great burst of energy, and he’s provided solid play-making off the bench. Rozier and Brown’s minutes will likely increase, leaving less time for Larkin, but he will see the floor. He’ll have to make sure that he offers a sharp burst to inject the offense with energy while trying to not be a black hole on defense. Larkin plays hard, so this shouldn’t be an issue.
Greg Moos- I mean, Monroe: Operate in the post
Moose turned out to be an excellent signing for Boston. He’s an underrated passer and his post possessions have been a consistent source of second unit offense. One undeniable fact is that teams will target him in the pick-and-roll and he will get taken advantage of. He can still help this team by creating offense in the high and low post. Consistently scoring with his back to the basket or setting other players up will be a huge boost, especially when nothing else works. He has to focus on this and not try to do too much.
Guerschon Yabusele: Don’t mess up too much
Dabusele had a pretty strong last month while filling in for players missing games because of injury or rest. He can shoot the ball well, and his passing and rebounding are solid. If he gets extended time on the court, he has to limit his mistakes as much as possible. If he plays within the offense while celebrating accordingly, no one will have any cause for complaint.
Each Celtic player has a very specific thing to focus on. Staying in those roles and executing Brad’s strategy will make advancing out of the first round a lot easier than it could be. The Milwaukee Bucks pose a threat, but the Celtics are well-equipped to defeat them. The only thing that the Celtics really need to do is make sure that their biggest enemy isn’t themselves.