The Eastern Conference semifinals are set, and the Boston Celtics will take on the Washington Wizards in their second-round NBA playoff matchup.
The Celtics and Wizards are evenly matched, as each team implements a strong backcourt with complementary wing players. The two teams’ area of struggle also is similar, as neither squad has the personnel to dominate on the glass.
Considering all of the similarities, it comes as no surprise the Celtics and Wizards split their regular-season series, with the home team winning each contest. Luckily for the top-seeded Celtics, they will have home-court advantage in the series, which kicks off Sunday at TD Garden.
You can expect the series to be very physical, as there’s no love lost between the C’s and Wiz. The two teams have manifested their distaste for each other on numerous occasions this season, including a postgame skirmish and an impromptu “funeral.”
All things considered, this is bound to be one heck of a series.
Here’s a quick preview for Celtics-Wizards.
How They Got Here
Celtics: 4-2 first-round series win over the Chicago Bulls
Wizards: 4-2 first-round series win over the Atlanta Hawks
Key for Celtics: Complementary Scoring
There are no two ways about it: Isaiah Thomas runs the show for the Celtics offense. However, the All-Star guard can’t do it all on his own. Thomas received no help in Boston’s first two games against the Bulls, which allowed Chicago to grab an early 2-0 series lead.
The Celtics changed the tone of the series once players outside of Thomas started to wake up. Avery Bradley turned in terrific performances in Games 5 and 6, scoring 24 and 23 points, respectively. Al Horford and Jae Crowder also provided Boston a lift, easing the pressure on Thomas.
John Wall isn’t the best defender in the league, but his speed and aggressiveness probably will slow Thomas down at times. Boston will need a boost from its role players in these situations if it has any hope of winning the series.
Key for Wizards: Dominate Interior
The most glaring red flag for the Celtics in their first-round series against the Bulls was their struggles on the glass. Chicago, and Robin Lopez specifically, pounded Boston on the boards early in the series, which totally altered the pace of the game. It prevented the C’s from getting out in transition and limited second-chance opportunities.
The Wizards don’t have any dominant big men, but Marcin Gortat is serviceable enough to make an impact on the series. He’s not much of a threat on the offensive end, but he’s capable of pulling down rebounds and providing strong interior defense. If Gortat and Markieff Morris can get the ball in Wall’s hands in transition, it could be problematic for the Celtics.
Prediction: Celtics in 7
While Boston heavily relies on Thomas, Washington equally puts its eggs in Wall’s basket. If Wall has an off night, it usually results in a Wizards defeat. While the Celtics and Wizards are evenly matched in multiple areas, the C’s have the advantage in depth and coaching.
The playoffs typically are decided by stars, but Boston appears to be unafraid to dive into its bench and that could be the difference in the series. We’ve already seen Gerald Green go from the bench to starting lineup, and the veteran forward made a big impact on the series. The Celtics also have received strong efforts from Kelly Olynyk, Marcus Smart and most recently, Terry Rozier.
The Wizards feature one of the worst benches in the league, which could be cause for concern in this series. Boston’s ability to get its starters rest could pay dividends against the overworked Wizards. And while his postseason record isn’t the greatest, Brad Stevens certainly is a better in-game coach than Scott Brooks.
Given the Celtics’ advantage in depth and coaching, we think they’ll narrowly earn a trip to the Eastern Conference finals.
Thumbnail photo via Bob DeChiara/USA TODAY Sports Images
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