A Brief Conference Finals Preview

If this season is to mark a watershed moment for anything it is the resurgence of the importance of wing players. Three of the four remaining teams best players are classified as forwards, the lone exception being Damian Lillard and C.J McCollum of Portland.

Despite Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson’s heroics in the final five-quarters of their second round matchup against the Houston Rockets, the greatest backcourt the NBA’s ever seen would be nowhere near where they are now without Kevin Durant shouldering over 42-minutes a night shooting the lights out while Curry struggled to find his groove.

For the past few years, the rise of Curry ushered in an era where the most important position in the league was in the backcourt. He concurrent rise of “Morey-Ball” and the death of the midrange turned basketball into a game we configure into a computer as opposed to the old fashioned eye test. But it’s the midrange which brought Portland to the dance and Houston’s inability to utilize a wide swath of the floor why they are no longer playing.

Milwaukee and Toronto are mostly mirror images of one another. The shakiness of the backcourt is well known for both teams. All Toronto needs to cruise to the championship round is four baskets from Kyle Lowry. You shouldn’t go into a playoff series feeling more confidence in a fossil like George Hill. But Boston is miles away a inferior defensive squad than Toronto for the simple fact Nick Nurse can execute a trapping scheme. It’ll be easy to double team anyone on Milwaukee anyone not named Giannis Antetokounmpo because of the simple luxury of having Kawhi Leonard on your team.

I want to pick Toronto because as a whole they are the better team. For all his failures on the biggest of sports, I trust Lowry more than Eric Bledsoe, and Khris Middleton is not going to play like 1996 Michael Jordan against a non-Celtics opponent. These two teams haven’t experienced any forceful fitting of square pegs into round holes. Milwaukee is basically LeBron’s wet dream surrounding Giannis around spot-up shooters and rim attackers.

I love Al Horford, but Serge Ibaka has more bounce in his legs and doesn’t have to be the lone person aware of his role. Ibaka is better equipped to takeaway a key cog in Budenholzer’s offensive strategy.

These teams are relatively evenly matched. Except Milwaukee is far and beyond ahead in point differential (+138) of Toronto. The track record for teams with a simply awesome statistic is this ends with Milwaukee on top of the basketball world.

Milwaukee over Toronto, 4 games to 1.

In the world of video games if your friend continuously picks the Golden State Warriors on NBA 2k, as you question your relationship with this cheater, you search for a team that’ll at least match them in firepower. If not Houston, then you’d pick the Portland Trailblazers. But Dame and C.J cannot hang with the unstoppable machine of Golden State alone and they are expected to do that under these circumstances.

If Kevin Durant cannot suit up for action perhaps Portland has a chance. But Houston had numerous chances to take advantage of a short handed Warriors only to let Steph get loose and wrestle the series away from their rivals again.

If Enes Kanter can’t hang against Andrew Bogut he’ll never see the floor. This is the only matchup for Kanter to sign. If he’s playable this series complexion looks completely different believe it or not.

The Warriors are vulnerable. There’s no spark plug in DeMarcus Cousins anymore. They are older, slower and have a few screws loose. But they’ll get exposed likely in the NBA Finals. Not the Blazers. Not a team they’ve routinely beaten up on for multiple years.

Warriors over Trailblazers, 4 games to 1.

Kevin Durant Is The The Iron Man

The playoffs without LeBron is like an endless tug of war between relatively equal franchises. Outside of my Celtics being throughly emasculated by the Bucks, every series became a best-of-3 and possibly will end in an ultimate Game 7.

We’ve heaped deserving praise on to Giannis Antetokoumpo for developing impenetrable post moves transforming the Bucks from a middling high-40s team to a 60-win one four-wins away from their first NBA Finals in over four-decades, we forgot the established star bringing his game to new heights. The two-time defending champion Golden State Warriors are not the same juggernaut we’ve grown accustomed to over the years. Stephen Curry isn’t the reliable sharpshooter he once was and with the loss of DeMarcus Cousins to an achilles their frontline is embarrassingly depleted forced to rely on old friend Andrew Bogut to hold down the fort.

Naturally, it all falls on Kevin Durant. With Curry shooting below 40 percent for the series against the Houston Rockets his running mate Durant has averaged over 42 minutes in the last five-games and is the lone constant pulse of the Warriors offensive game. Last night Durant suffered a calf strain no doubt connected to the heavy workload he’s shouldered the last week or so. Hopefully it isn’t anything more server. If it is, then the Warriors who are one-game away from returning to the final-four are as good as dead against the Rockets.

For all the answers Mike D’Antoni seemed to conjure up for limiting the playmaking of Draymond Green or the outside shooting of Klay Thompson it’s the puzzle of Durant that’s never been solved and likely never will be. P.J Tucker repeatedly has been bested when covering the two-time Finals MVP and it’s reached the point where you almost want to let the 6 foot, 5 inch James Harden switch on to 6 foot, 9 inch Durant as a last ditch effort to Jedi Mind Trick him into disrupting the flow of the offense.

Averaging 33.2 points per game, Durant is crucial to Golden State’s chances of not just beating Houston, but also winning the whole thing. If Durant ever becomes compromised, be it because his calf strain is more severe than the team is letting on or simply the heavy duty minutes is just too much for his body to bare, then the Warriors will fall. K.D’s played the role of iron man this playoffs and he is nowhere near the finish line. He can be commended for almost single-handily saving their season.

Pick Your Poison

As the playoff picture unfolds there are still some twists and turns left to be taken before anything is set in stone. However, the Celtics possible opponents come spring are more condensed than others. Despite a 10-10 start which acts as a crutch for the entire season in terms of their own seeding, the Celtics have rebounded and won 33 of their last 50. As of late the team found their collective mojo. Jaylen Brown is making a strong for him being reinserted into the starting lineup; and before suffering a neck strain Gordon Hayward seemed to have found a groove.

Boston can hope to advance no further than the third seed in the playoff standings. It’s likely the first round matchup will be either the Philadelphia 76ers or the Indiana Pacers. It is not a given Boston will have home-court advantage. The green team sits two games behind both Indy and Philly. This is crucial since the Celtics currently are 17-17 on the road versus 26-10 at home.

The Pacers have shown great strength in not cratering since losing Victor Oladipo for the season. Currently sporting the best defense in the N.B.A. Anchored by two young bigs Domantas Sabonis and Myles Turner, the former leads the team in rebounding (9.2) and the latter in blocks (2.8). The health of Boston’s bigs are immensely crucial to this series. Without either Al Horford or Aron Baynes the Celtics will lose this series on the boards. The loss of Oladipo dropped Indiana’s offense in to the bottom-tier of the league. Someone whose supposed to carry the torch, Tyreke Evans, hasn’t cut the mustard and picked a helluva time to have the worst season of his career. That all being said, the Pacers are still scary to a team that can’t get out of their own way like Boston.

Turning to the Sixers, the old cliche “there’s no loved loss” rings true. Amongst the fans that is. Philly’s gone under an extreme makeover since the season began. Gone is the faltering number one pick Markell Fultz. Defensive stalwart on the perimeter Robert Covington and power forward Dario Saric, who was an underrated thorn in Boston’s side last playoffs. In are Jimmy Butler, Tobias Harris and Jonathon Simmons. This is Philly’s best collection of talent in almost two-decades and its all because they whiffed on the number one pick…

For the constant reshuffling of the deck Brett Brown is able to still field a top-10 team in offensive and defensive rating. No matter how you slice it Butler is not a good fit next to Simmons or Embiid. Yet, they are able to overcome the growing pains and remain a force in the east. No team or player can even remotely hope to contain the fearsome twosome that radically altered the floundering franchise to fringe title contender status.

Well… except for Al Horford. Whatever the reasoning Old, Steady Al (as I am trying to nickname him) constantly gets the best of Embiid. J.B can do it all, yet against Horford a bullet in the chamber is unloaded and Embiid is forced out of the paint and turned into a spot-up shooter. It’s magnificent to witness as it still doesn’t make any sense. It’s like I am watching Paul Pierce versus LeBron James before his Miami-days. The future of the N.B.A getting constantly bested by who many deem irrelevant and “overpaid” and “average”.

If Mike Budenholzer is guilty of annually fizzling in the playoffs, but getting the best of Brad Stevens. Stevens deserves the label of someone who owns Brett Brown.

I am going to regret saying this, but I think Boston can win on the road in Philly and can’t do it anywhere else. Because I’ve seen them steal one before down there and they have yet to have lost a game to Philly this season.

It Shouldn’t Have Ended That Way

The 2010 NBA Finals loss to the selfish Kobe Bryant and the Los Angeles Lakers was the first ever heartbreak I experienced as a sports fan. I didn’t become integrated into the New England Patriots until 2011 – Just in time for the equally dreadful Super Bowl XLVI defeat. I HATED the Patriots before 2011. But I was always a Celtics fan. A young, pessimistic me didn’t take a seat on my cozy living room chair to watch, what I didn’t know then was the swan song for the era of Lakers dominance.

Ask anyone heading into the finals, even Bostonians would tell you the 2010 matchup meant so much more to Bryant than to the Celtics. In someways the loss in 2010 was a precursor to the Patriots loss to the Eagles in the 2018 Super Bowl. We entered the final dance calm and collected, “if we win: great! If we don’t, eh. Always next year,” little did we know there wasn’t to be a next year. It’s been nearly a decade since the Celtics made it to the final round. After 2008, the Lakers returned to being the Celtics bitch like in the days of Bill Russell and Tom Heinsohn. The best high-volume shooter the game’s ever seen bulldozed his way to a redemption championship the next year, then repeated himself the season after. At age 33, and with LeBron James looming in the shadows, in hindsight we were stupid for not seeing this as Kobe’s last dance, as well.

The old man Celtics that punched their way back to the finals, through an eastern conference that wasn’t deluded as it was two-years ago. The Miami Heat was the first casualty. Dwyane Wade was still in his prime, one year removed from averaging 30.2 points in the 2008-09 season off of 49.6% shooting. The Celtics took care of them in five. LeBron’s Cleveland squad was next. Many pegged the Cavaliers to stroll through the C’s en route to the much anticipated rematch of the east-finals a year ago against Orlando. After three games things were going as planned, Cavs lead Boston 2-1 and just took Game 3 at the Garden 95-124. Then something snapped in a bad way for LeBron; he shot just 34% in the final three-games as the Cavs dropped all of them, Brian Windhorst alluded to the organization is worried the pills Bron took to deal with his elbow pain was giving him depression. Things got messed up real fast is what I was saying. The improbable run bulldozed through the Magic Kingdom. Pierce shot 51.2%, averaged 24.3 points and 8.3 rebounds in possibly the best series of his career. Suddenly, the Celtics were back when nobody thought this unlikeable bunch of overpaid, aging, slow guys had a snow balls chance in Hell.

It wasn’t just “The Truth,” The 2010 playoffs birthed us “National TV Rondo.” The typical spunky little brother on the 2008 squad grew into arguably the best player on the AARP Celtics, getting the best of LeBron in a playoff series when things looked bleak during the semi-finals.

The decline of Garnett after his knee injury before the 2009 playoffs ended the hopes of repeating as champions. Garnett just wasn’t the same athlete after February of ‘09. The best player on the championship team fell to the third spot behind Pierce and Rondo. His offensive game dwindled, legs lacking the  bounce that nearly won him the MVP despite being in his early-30s.

The alternate outcomes that could have lead to Banner 18 basically go like this:

1. Ray Allen Doesn’t Croak in Game Three:
Yes. Perhaps the second greatest jump shooting guard of all-time, fresh off an 11 of 20 outing, including a record breaking 8 three-pointers, Ray-Ray followed that all-time virtuoso performance with the greatest dud of his storied career. 0-of-13. Zero shots made. In the crucial Game 4 Boston lost by just seven-points. The Celtics went on to win the next two to take a 3-2 lead, before, of course losing the final two games in Los Angeles.

Say, instead of the pendulum swinging all the way to the other side for Ray-Ray, he duplicates his outing from Game 2 making shot after shot. Alternate Reality Ray Allen shoots six-of-13, 3-of-8 from three and two free throws culminate to 27 points as the Celtics defeat Los Angeles 107-91. The Celtics go on to close the series in five-games.

2. Kendrick Perkins Doesn’t Get Hurt:
Okay. This is pretty played out, so lemme just set up the scenario. Celtics walk into the Staples Center, needing just one victory to sow this bad boy up. Things start off fine enough, then our lone reliable rebounder tears his ACL in the opening quarter then the game goes into the shitter REAL fast.

In the first six-games L.A snagged 244 rebounds to Boston’s 225; Perkins ranked first in the series (excluding Game 7) in the finals in TRB% at 15.7. In the ensuing decisive Game 7 L.A out-rebounded Boston 53-40. 8 Celtics offensive rebounds to Los Angeles’ 23.

Safe to assume the Celtics squeak out a victory, an extra title and save me a lot of misery if Perk is 100%.

3. Doc Rivers Manages His Rotations Better

Ah. This is truly the unsung reason for the Celtics crushing defeat: as the old Celtics legs waned as the game became a rock fight, the importance of young legs should have been prioritized. Glen Davis started off hot in the first quarter, knocking in six-points in the opening period. Doc went away from Davis in favor of the veteran Rasheed Wallace, who caused an awful lot of distress that season even though it didn’t look like that given his personable nature. Wallace turned back the clock slightly, finishing 5-of-11, 11 points and 8 rebounds, but fouled out with 25.7 seconds left  intentionally sending Bryant to the line.

The minutes tally went like this:
Rasheed Wallace: 35:36
Glen Davis: 20:50

If the workload was split up more evenly:
Wallace: 30:30
Davis: 25:56

An extra Davis basket changes the game dramatically. Sheed doesn’t need to internally foul Bryant if the Celtics lead L.A 79-80, as opposed to down 78-76. Davis finished the series with the best rebounding rate on the Celtics. The inability for Doc to see that playing Wallace 35-minutes wasn’t going to cut it against the younger Gasol will always perplex me. Big Baby Davis’ frame and patented strong finishes at the basket would have made the likes of Andrew Bynum pay in the post.

Now, let’s have some fun with a bonus rotational decision that surely would have won the game for Boston: Nate Robinson. Yes. Little Nate Robinson. He’s like a very poor man’s Isaiah Thomas. Robinson acted as a spark plug off the bench, doing so in Game 6 of the Orlando series and Game 4 of the Lakers series. Doc gave the three-time Slam Dunk champion just three-in-a-half minutes of Game 7, taking just 1 shots, missing it.

Robinson put up 12 solid points in Game 4, then followed that up with 4 assists off the bench in Game 5. There was something to be unlocked within the tiny leaping point guard. A jolt of life to a dying light begging to shine just once more.

Say, if Robinson takes five of Ray Allen’s 45 minutes and knocks in a couple jump shots in the third quarter (Hell, just one would have done the trick) and the Celtics win Game 7 by the score of 85-83. Is that feasible? I don’t see why not, and you better not try to convince me otherwise.

In the end: the Celtics lost out on a chance to cement themselves as the dominate team of the era. After the ‘04 Pistons crashed and won the finals, a new era of rough and tumble ball seeped all the way to the 2010s before being chased away by pace and space basketball. Throughout those six-seasons following the last Kobe/Shaq season there have been only one team to have won more than one title in that span: the San Antonio Spurs, and that’s it.

The Lakers added to themselves to that list, even with Kobe’s 6-of-24 shooting night that would have ruined his legacy if Gasol didn’t save his ass.

An extra title for the Pierce/K.G Celtics means Garnett probably has enough juice to pass Karl Malone on the list of greatest power forwards ever, behind only Duncan and McHale. Perhaps he’d be the series MVP, despite his age he was still able to garner 4 blocks in Game 7 and be the Celtics best option on offense finishing 8-of-13 for 17 points.

If Pierce bagged the extra chip it’s likely in Bill Simmons’ Book of Basketball makes an argument for him being the best player from the 1998 draft, not Dirk Nowitzki. Let’s see the argument:

Dirk versus Pierce, up until 2010:
Dirk: 21,111 points, 10 All-NBA selections, 9 All-Star appearances, 1 MVP, 1-Finals Runner-up
Pierce: 19,899 points, 4 All-NBA selections, 8 All-Star appearances, 2 championships, 1 Finals MVP

Hmmm… the only way someone could make this argument is if they were unabashed homers.

In all seriousness, maybe Pierce soars above Drexler, Payton, Thurmond and Kidd to just outside of the top-40. The Artist Formally Known as Ron Artest ate Pierce’s lunch on defense the entire series. Pierce countered by locking Bryant up for the most part. However, Pierce let Meta World Peace fire off the three-pointer that ultimately served as the dagger.

If Rondo gets the Finals MVP it only further highlight his fall from grace. But he shot 45.4%, averaged 13.6 points, 6.3 rebounds and 7.6 assists, was the most consistent Celtic of the series. After the 2010 run the media would attach Rondo to the C’s Big 3 core, naming it “The Big Three… AND Rondo.” Maybe the shine of Rondo would consume even Paul Pierce and things would get toxic real fast. On the flip side, maybe the New Orleans Hornets are seduced by the mystic of Playoff Rondo and wish to trade Chris Paul for him.

Either way, we’ll never know. We didn’t know then, but that was the last time the Celtics  have appeared in the finals. Maybe 2018-19 will end the drought?




Celtics Improbable Home Magic

“It’s true. All of it.” Stern words said by the late galactic hero Han Solo when Rey realizes all the legends she was told was in fact true as day. She reacts amazed, astonished. Such begins the whimsical, but treacherous ride into a bold new world. This is what life is currently like for Boston fans. Going into the playoffs the team looked ready to waive the white flag. Injuries waste potentially the last year of Marcus Smart and robs us of two prime All-Star seasons from Gordon Hayward and Kyrie Irving. It’s as if the Basketball Gods don’t want us to get this far.

No matter what this ragtag group of late draft picks and role-players ended Giannis Antetokounmpo’s season prematurely and now lead the best 1-2 punch in the conference 2 games to zilch. At home the Boston Celtics are indestructible. The mystique of the old Boston Garden carried over to the new TD Garden(Still the FleetCenter to me). The Celtics can’t seem to stay dead when they play in front of the Beantown faithful. Terry Rozier is at an All-Star level of good at home, 22.8 points in six games, 50.5% from the field. Versus 11.7 points on 27.8% shooting on the road. It’s somewhat smoke and mirrors but Boston enjoys home-court advantage throughout this series, even if Philadelphia ties this series up by Monday, I’d still feel confident in Boston going into a pressure packed Game 5.
Embiid faltered late, possessions featuring him bogged down to one-on-one everybody else standing around. Either Embiid makes the basket or misses, if it wasn’t for the early advantage Philly gained on second chance points (18-12) the Sixers would not have jumped out to a 22-point lead by the second quarter. Horford shut down Embiid forcing the dynamic center to settle for long range shots, of which he finished 1 of 6. Coming off the Miami series where he and Simmons imposed their will, it’s a drastic shift from those two being on God mode to the minuscule effect they’re having now.
Al Horford succeeded in dragging Embiid out of his work zone opening the lanes up to rim drives from T-Ro, Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown. What’s shocking is the Sixers were outscored by eight when Embiid was on the floor. The veteran Horford got the first step on Embiid numerous times, including the skillful layup off the feed from T-Ro. Embiid still has lots of learning to do. Perhaps the restrictions he’s been on for the season make him vulnerable in high pressure situations when the intensity is ratcheted up a level.
Embiid wasn’t even the best player for the Sixers in Game 2. J.J Redick and Robert Covington carries Philly’s offense. Rookie sensation Ben Simmons did not convert a single field goal attempt, his lone point coming from the charity stripe in the first quarter. Brad Stevens learned from coaching against Giannis for seven-games transition defense is tremendously important. Philly scored only thirteen points in the fast break, ten in preceding Game 1. While Simmons says his did of a Game was “self inflicted”, may be right, it doesn’t negate the Celtics walling off B.S comfort zone near the basket begging him to shoot every-time he touches the ball. Maybe at home, away from the disruptive confines of Boston Simmons can regain his prowess. It’s certainly possible.
But none of this is possible without Al Horford solidifying himself not just worth his max contract but making a strong candidacy for the Hall of Fame. Ripping off a postseason run reminiscent of Bill Walton of 1977 and Pau Gasol of 2010. Horford is everything to this Celtics team, there’s so much truth to the fact he does more “beyond the box score.” A sentiment usually ridiculed by those in the toxic Boston sports media.
Bill Walton, ‘77 Postseason:
18.2 PPG, 15.2 RPG, 5.5 APG, 50.7 fg%, 19.7 P.E.R, .162 WS/48, ORtg N/A
 
Pau Gasol, ‘10 Postseason:
19.6 PPG, 11.1 RPG, 3.5 APG, 53.9 fg%, 24 P.E.R, .224 WS/48, 126 ORtg
 
Al Horford ‘18 Postseason:
18.4 PPG, 8.9 RPG, 3.6 APG, 61.4 fg%, 23.3 P.E.R, .228, 129 ORtg
Players who’ve averaged more than 18 points, 8 rebounds, 3 assists and a block in the playoffs are usually the shot blocking lane clogger kind of center (David Robinson and Ralph Sampson) and dynamic forwards (LeBron, Barkley, Durant). But for a non-traditionalist big like Horford, someone who wishes he shot the three ball sooner in his career, it’s quite the accomplishment given the duration of the Celtics run and what he was saddled with this start.
Do the Celtics have enough magic in them to continue this improbable run on Saturday nightat the Wells Fargo arenain Philadelphia? Eh. I doubt it. But with home court advantage it is not inconceivable the Celtics Win this series in 7 and have a date with LeBron in a East-Finals rematch.
And then… I don’t know what I’ll think.

Bucks-C’s: Jaylen Brown Arrives; BOS Lead Series 2-0

Jayson Tatum wore some pretty nifty Laker gold color sneakers and that was his lone highlight of his night against Milwaukee, as the Celtics cruised to a 106-120 pummeling of the favored Bucks. The C’s now hold a 2 games to none lead over Milwaukee, each team will be off until Friday when the series will resume in Wisconsin at the Bradley Center.

Outside of Tatum’s low scoring of four-points on two-of-nine shooting, the Celtics played basically the perfect game. Jaylen Brown officially has his coming out party, knocking down jumper after jumper, finishing with thirty. Milwaukee made the mistake of going under every time the Celtics ran a dribble handoff (DHO) for Brown, willing to dare the second-year forward to shoot, he did and with great success. Bucks coach Joe Prunty did not adjust, and despite Brown developing himself as a fine deep threat, adhered to a seemingly outdated version of his scouting report.

Milwaukee went deep into their bench, unlike in Game 1, and found mixed results. Malcolm Brogdon again proved to be more ready for the playoffs than veteran guard Eric Bledsoe, notching 10-points in eighteen-minutes; Shabazz Muhammad come off the bench and was right hot out the gate, scoring 11-points in just twelve-minutes. But neither saw for the floor for very long. Sterling Brown didn’t log a single-minute until the fourth quarter when the Celtics already were way ahead. Tyler Zeller played only five-minutes and prospect Jabari Parker humiliated himself in the brief stint he had out there, giving zero effort on defense in a sequence after a missed shot, the C’s got back in transition, his assignment (Jaylen) was left open in the left corner for what seemed like forever, got a couple dribbles in before he drilled a three-pointer to stifle a Milwaukee rally. Parker finished with a miserable negative-15 and proved his critics correct that he isn’t ready for prime time.

Prunty continues to gift the Celtics by playing the wrong guys, not giving defensive, high-energy scorer Matthew Dellavedova more time, even with Tony Snell (again) scoring only two-points in twenty-two minutes. Quite ironic, given in Milwaukee’s season-opener against the Celtics, Delly was a key cog in the Bucks defensive identity, scoring fifteen-points and iced the contest with a 25-foot three. It’s baffling to see him out of the rotation.

To add insult to injury, Khris Middleton continued to shoot the lights out, picking up right where left off after a thirty-one point Game 1, scoring twenty-five points, but only receiving 14 attempts, converting on 11. Once again, Middleton and Giannis were the lone pulses of a dying Bucks team, combing for fifty-five points, while most of Milwaukee’s supporting cast floundered. But shooting was not the issue for Milwaukee, despite being down by as much as twenty, they managed to shoot 59.7% from the field. It’s the little matter of Milwaukee going seven-of-seventeen from the charity stripe and committing fifteen turnovers that played a big role in what could be a demoralizing defeat.

On the Celtics side of things, business was good. Terry Rozier and Marcus Morris continued to flourish. T-Ro scored 23, while Mook chipped in 18 off the bench, including two very important jump shots late in the final period when it looked like the Bucks were about to mount a last ditch effort run. Morris is clearly unfazed by the chaos around him, able to rise to the occasion when called on. It’s no wonder why he’s become such a critical part of Weird Celtics Twitter.

So, in the most unlikeliest of events, the shorthanded Celtics took it to the Bucks and now are in complete control of this series not many (including me) expected to win. Course, this is far from over. But the way the Celtics are moving the ball, getting every shot they’ve ever wanted, and how Milwaukee looks ready to be put out of their misery, you can’t help but get ideas of just how far this scrappy band of backups can go.

GAME NOTES:
Al Horford continued to dominate in the post, and midrange, scoring 16 points off of 7-Of-11 shooting, putting in five rebounds and four assists. Greg Monroe and Shane Larkin helped a ton off the bench, scoring twenty-three points between them both, Monroe putting in four-rebounds, two assists and two steals.

A Series Of Statistical Oddities

This’ll be a series of statistical oddities and who’ll be the least sloppy team, at times Boston looked unable to avoiding shooting themselves in the foot. In the second-quarter, the Celtics committed five turnovers, four of them coming from backup guard Shane Larkin, aiding the Bucks to get off the ropes turning a twelve-point deficit to a three-point lead in the span of twelve-minutes. The thirty-to-fifteen run by Milwaukee can be attributed to the Bucks hounding the Celtics everywhere, denying ball entry to Jayson Tatum and stifling Celtic big Greg Monroe. Middleton and Giannis got hot and took control, Boston had no answer for either of them the entire day and were fortunate Milwaukee couldn’t get much of anything out of anybody else to help push them over the top, as the Celtics won Game 1, 113-107.

Bucks coach Joe Prunty mangled his team, again, he didn’t play Giannis at center, until he took John Henson out after thirty-seven Minutes, finally turning to the lineup for the entirety of overtime. But it wasn’t just that. It was not substituting Tyler Zeller in to go against Greg Monroe in the fourth quarter, a matchup Zeller feasted on in their April 3rd regular season matchup. Desperate for Al Horford, Stevens rode the 31-year-old hard all night, deciding to sub him in next to Monroe with 7:51 left in the regulation; the frontcourt is one of Boston’s worst, accumulating a negative net rating of 15.7. Yet, Prunty failed to make Boston pay in any capacity. Prunty didn’t turn to Zeller, didn’t go small, didn’t even give Jabari Parker a chance to take advantage of the traditional lineup in the forty-eight seconds the Celtics played Monroe with Horford.
Boston also enjoyed an overwhelming surplus of bullshit scoring courtesy of Terry Rozier and Marcus Morris. Since Irving was lost, Boston’s offensive rating is a below-average 103.3, worse than the New York Knicks, of all teams. It’s safe to assume, the Celtics are going to deal with games in this series where they’re going to get nothing from either Mook or T-Ro. Mook made a complete bullshit 22-foot step-back fadeaway two, at the very end of the shot clock (https://on.nba.com/2HEzM1y). When Mook makes that shot, it just isn’t your night.
Marcus Morris played exceptional defense, guarding Giannis for 28 possessions, holding him to eight-points, and holding Khris Middleton to three-points in the fourteen-possessions he spent guarding him. Terry Rozier did a tremendous job on veteran guard Eric Bledsoe, who couldn’t have bought a basket from him. Forty-three-possessions, 5 points, two turnovers, 2-of-7 shooting, Bledsoe was an absolute disaster for the Bucks, who benefiting from 2nd-year guard Malcolm Brogdon (16 points) playing in his place. Likewise, Tony Snell was an abomination, scoring a measly two-points in thirty-three minutes of play. Amateur, but promising shooting guard Sterling Brown logged only two seconds, Prunty did not trust his young guys at all and it cost him a chance steal home-court advantage from the Celtics.
Despite Henson’s impressive six blocks, the veteran center only snagged five rebounds on the defensive glass and helped Boston win the battle on the boards, Boston scoring 22 2nd chance points to Milwaukee’s 5.
Even with all of that, the Bucks still had a chance to win this game in overtime. After a beautiful Jayson Tatum finger roll (https://on.nba.com/2J1aE4i), the Celtics lead 108-105, 1:22 left t, Prunty called timeout. Middleton drove to the baseline, finding an open Brogdon, as Rozier left his man to help on defense, he missed and Giannis grabbed the running rebound, dishing it to a driving Bledsoe, who gave it to a WIDE (WIDE) open Middleton who (thankfully) missed as well. Rozier out hustled Giannis for the critical rebound, T-Ro iced the game with seven-points from then charity stripe and the Celtics galloped out of their home building buzzing with confidence.
Will the Bucks continue to shoot themselves in the foot? Can the Celtics continue to rely on Marcus Morris and Terry Rozier erratic scoring? How much will we see the Giannis at center lineup? The answer to the last question, may very well decide the series.