The Celtics’ Line-up
G Isaiah Thomas 5’9”
G Marcus Smart 6’4”
F Jae Crowder 6’6”
F Jared Sullinger 6’9”
F Amir Johnson 6’9”
The Celtics Strengths and Weaknesses
When it comes to this Celtics squad, the list of compliments are far longer than complaints. On offense they show the willingness to rotate the ball even if the team is struggling. Boston and Brad Stevens have installed a team first attitude with a roster built to fit specific roles, traits we struggle against. Jae Crowder is your anchor. He’s their top defender and most reliable wing scoring threat. Even more importantly, Jae is one of the team’s primary sources of energy. When things aren’t going well, he’ll find a way to make a play. Isaiah Thomas gets to play with a competent team defense for the first time in his career, while being given the duties of leading the team’s offense. If Isiah isn’t playing well, the Celtics become very beatable. The Celtics even brought in pieces to complement each other on the bench unit. I thought that Pistons Jonas Jerebko was a very borderline NBA player, but the Celtics have used him as a quality back-up stretch four. As much credit as Brad Stevens gets, Danny Ainge has done an incredible job finding the right players to quickly turn around Boston. They don’t have championship talent, but they are built to play as a team. The players are aware of their roles, you don’t see this team’s bench unit trying to figure things out on the fly, while our Bucks’ bench-unit is very inconsistent in who we look to get the ball, where to be when, and so forth.
Not only are they a balanced, team-oriented ball club, but they might be the toughest team in the league. I’m not sure how our current Bucks squad would handle a seven games series with a team that’ll get into like Boston. Giannis in particular, could allow getting beat up to get into his head. I imagine Boston would sag off Giannis the whole series and beat him up if and when he got in the lane. If he isn’t hitting his jumper, Giannis would need to come up huge in the fast break to give us a chance. This is a match-up that could leave Giannis in foul trouble game after game, for the Celtics are very good at drawing charge calls. Giannis just hasn’t developed the feel to avoid plowing his shoulder into the chest of the guy in front of him.
As I said, the Celtics don’t have many weaknesses. That being said, their starting line-up is the shortest I’ve seen around the league. They aren’t playing small-ball either; they play just like they would starting Dwight Howard. Although Amir Johnson is a very good rim protector, he’s still only 6’9”. Moose had his best game of the season doing a lot of his damage on Amir. Brad Stevens likes to play Sullinger at center at times to maximize floor spacing. Anytime they play this line-up, we need to go straight for the paint. Sullinger, much like Monroe, can’t jump, therefor you’re probably going to have a great look at the rim. As many other teams can attest for, point Giannis did give them some trouble, however they kept him in check enough in both games to win in blow out fashion. Lastly, Boston lacks elite athletes, so our core can be effective against this team if they find a way to overpower them.
Match up to Watch
I think our chances at pulling the upset ride on the Giannis vs Crowder match-up. If Giannis can control the pace and get into the lane against Crowder, we stand a chance. I tend to think Crowder would give Giannis fits during a playoff series this season. He’d take every chance he’d get to lay a body blow. Eventually, I think Giannis would succumb to his frustrations and pull a Mike Dunleavy. Without Giannis we would have nearly zero chance at winning the game. Although Giannis is the more talented player, Jae has the superior mental toughness currently. Despite my doubts, who knows what an extra motivated Giannis is capable of at this point?
Looking to the Future
Between Danny Ainge and Brad Stevens, I suspect the Celtics are going to be a team that’s constantly competing for the East title. If we want to get our championship, it’s highly likely we’ll have to deal with Boston at some point. With Boston holding a top 4 pick due to them from the Nets, they could add quite the prize to an already steady core. If they luck out and get Simmons or Ingram, they’re going to be a tough, tough team for years to come. They’d be way further down the line in building a team around their stars than we are, with a more talented coach. We need to build our team to combat the Celtics. By the time we’re ready to compete to go to the Finals, the Cavs will probably be on their down slope, while the Celtics will have plenty of playoff experience and talent. This team could turn into our road block.