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When asked about what goals the Boston Celtics had coming into the 2016-2017 season, forward Jae Crowder responded with, “Get past the first round.” The Celtics did just that, winning four games in a row against the Rondo-less Chicago Bulls after losing the first two games of the series in Boston. This was the first time since the 2011-2012 season that the Celtics got past the first round. But now, the Celtics have their sights set on something more important -- The Washington Wizards.
After the Celtics lost their second straight game to the Wizards to knot the second round playoff series at 2-2, Boston star Isaiah Thomas said this, “I might have hit the ground five or six straight times. I’m not one that likes hitting the ground. So I think it’s gotta be called differently.” The Celtics didn’t lose game four because of the refs missing calls or Isaiah Thomas missing teeth. They lost because of rebounding and poor play. Washington and Boston were tied at halftime, but that changed in the beginning of the third quarter when the Wizards went on a mind boggling 26-0 run.
Breaking Down the Run
How did a 1 seed give up 26 straight points? Well, they turned the ball over nine times in a five minute span while playing lackadaisical basketball. Washington went 10-12 from the floor while making eight straight. Bradley Beal led all scorers during the run with eight. 19 of the 26 points were off of turnovers. Celtics coach Brad Stevens did not make one substitution during that span and once he did, it was too late. The Celtics just looked like they gave up. It is inexcusable for an NBA team to allow 26 straight points, let alone a one seed.
The Wizard’s 26 straight points were the most consecutive points scored in an NBA game in the last 20 years. That isn’t the only record that has been made during the Washington Boston series. According to Celtics stat guru Dick Lipe, the 73 second-half points allowed in game 5 were the most by the Celtics in a playoff game since May 24, 1987 and are the fourth most in franchise history. Also, the Wizards are the first playoff team since the 2010-2011 Spurs to have gone on two +20-0 scoring runs. The Spurs ended up losing their 2011 first round series against the Memphis Grizzlies 4-2.
If the Celtics want to win this series, they’re going to have to change their gameplan. They need to get off to a better start. In the past four games, they have been outscored in the first quarter 139-94. Games aren’t usually decided after the first 12 minutes, but starting strong helps build confidence. Rebounding has to be more important to Boston. The only reason they won game one was because Washington’s big man and rebounding machine was forced out of the game with an ankle injury. Boston does lack an elite rebounder. In fact, their leading rebounder, Al Horford, ranked 42nd in rebounds per game during the regular season (6.2). The C’s also have to not be afraid to shoot the ball. Even though it is good to share the rock, if you do it too much like the Celtics have been, it becomes a problem. If the Celtics do these things and also turn the ball over less, they will have a great chance at facing the Cleveland Cavaliers in the Eastern Conference Finals.
Although the Celtics aren’t playing their best brand of basketball, I think they will end up winning the series. Why do I think that? Well, the home team has won every game and if that continues, the Celtics will win the series 4-3. Game five will be played in Boston, game six will be played in Washington, and if necessary, game seven will be back at the Garden. Another reason the Celtics will win is because, well, they are the Celtics. This is the same team that had the best record in the East during the regular season. They aren’t a one seed for no reason. They are led by the “King of the Fourth” Isaiah Thomas, who averaged the third most points per game during the regular season (28.9) and is projected to finish in the top five for MVP voting.
Like I said before, if the Celtics get past the Wizards, they will have to face the red hot Cleveland Cavaliers who are 8-0 in this years playoffs. I personally believe Lebron James and the Cavs are too much for the Celtics. Lebron James is playing his best basketball in years and the rest of his team is playing just as well. With that said, I think the Cavs will defeat the Celtics in six games.
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