The Celtics finished up their regular season with a loss to the Washington Wizards 96-90. Luckily, the game did not mean anything for the third-seeded Celtics. Everyone got to see some bench minutes from most of Boston’s roster along with whoever they could find to play for the Wizards. Because of this, it is hard to find meaningful takeaways, however, a few players that will be crucial cogs in the playoff rotation started in this game. One of those being Enes Kanter who started for Daniel Theis at center.
For Kanter, it was important for him to get some end-of-season minutes before the playoffs begin. It will be a much bigger battle come Monday when he and Daniel Theis will have their hands full with Joel Embiid. Kanter can take some positives from this game and build on them to face off against Sixers in Game 1 on Monday.
One of the major things Enes Kanter is known for is his ability to work around the rim on the offensive end. He plays an older style of post-up basketball that is not as common with today’s big men. Against the Wizards, he showed off this skill mainly against Thomas Bryant in a battle around the paint. Kanter was able to get the ball on the block and go to work.
Kanter only finished with 8 points in 18 minutes of play, but this clip is a good example of his game. He went to his patented hook shot at the front of the rim. This can work on the Thomas Bryant’s of the NBA, but it will be a different beast attempting to bully Embiid to Kanter’s spot and then put up a hook shot over him.
The offensive challenges will rear their head in the playoffs when Embiid is on the floor. He loves the phyiscal challenge of a player like Kanter because of his size and strength showing up in his defense. That being said, the last time these two bigs faced off, Kanter ended the game with 20 points and played a scrappy game of follow tip-ins and jumpers/floaters a little outside of the blocks. This way of attacking Embiid can draw him out as much as possible to create room for the others to attack the paint. If Kanter can game plan around that, the Celtics offense can still get into rhythm without Embiid creating havoc down low in the paint.
Defense is historically where the concerns are for Enes Kanter. He is a bit slower on his feet and gets caught in no man’s land up at the top of the key on any kind of switch. Against this Wizards team, there were not any notable stretches were Kanter had a misstep. He stayed close to Thomas Bryant most of the day and may have only lost him a few times when Bryant stayed at the top of the key and took a three-point try.
This season, Embiid has been able to do what he wants. Even with some big numbers, Kanter has been the best defender against the down low, bully ball Embiid loves to implement for their offense. He is able to stand his ground a bit better than Theis in this setting. Embiid loves to prey on smaller bigs, but Kanter is a great contrast to Theis and able to take on Embiid down low to disrupt him.
Although Embiid still got the box score stats and the win to get the last laugh, there were many different versions of Kanter’s strong defense on Embiid. Kanter eventually wore down a bit which opened up the floodgates, but it was this strong, bodied up defense that disrupted Embiid’s game. The trick to Embiid is to have him play outside the paint. Get him to think it is hero ball time to where he starts jacking up bad outside shots. Once he is doing that, the Celtics have the Sixers where they want them. That defense is what the Celtics will need from Kanter in the minutes he subs in for Theis.
Even if the Wizards team was not the best competition to gauge the playoffs, it was still ideal that Kanter got some solid minutes starting at the center position and carrying the team down low. On offense going forward, he may need to rely on a style he is not as comfortable with, but because of that, it will spread out the defense for more room for the wings to attack. Then, on defense, he can play that bully ball-style against similar bigs such as Embiid. The combination of that will offer Coach Stevens and the Celtics positive productive minutes when he is out there.