Celtics vs. Bucks series preview

It appears the Milwaukee Bucks like their chances against the ailing Boston Celtics. They got smoked against Philly–riding a 16 game win streak, in their last game of the year. This is an intriguing matchup, Boston without its star Kyrie Irving, while the Bucks are at full health and with a star of its own in Giannis Antetokounmpo. It will be a high contested closely matched series the entire way through.

Regular season summary

Boston Celtics

Celtics vs. Bucks series preview

Jayson Tatum (Photo by bostonherald.com)

Given all of the injuries Boston had to deal with, they faired very well in 2017-18. They were in first place for a good portion of the season, but with a few key injuries and the stellar play of Toronto, dropped to the number two seed. Gordon Hayward went down in the first game of the season, and we recently found out that Irving would miss the remainder of the season.

Jason Tatum would shine in his rookie season and Jaylen Brown has developed nicely. It will be interesting to see how Terry Rozier and Shane Larkin fill in for Kyrie. Al Horford will definitely have a favorable matchup against the underweight John Henson. Marcus Morris has been playing lights out the tail end of the year and with the coaching of Brad Stevens we are in for a competitive series. Boston will remain in games because of their team defense, which was the fourth best in the league.

Milwaukee Bucks

Celtics vs. Bucks series preview

Giannis Antentokounmpo (Photo by thecomplex.com)

The Bucks have proven all season that are capable of beating any team, but at the same time can lose to any organization as well. Issues that plague Milwaukee are overall defense and a big man to go up against other big men.

Giannis is constantly improving and Khris Middleton is the best mid-range shooter in the league. Eric Bledsoe has come on strong towards the end of the year and had a stellar overall year. Malcolm Brogdon and Matthew Dellavedova are returning from injuries that have hurt them towards the end of the year. Jabari Parker coming off the bench and staying healthy is a huge piece of their equation; he must play well for the Bucks. The offense has been there all season for Milwaukee, but will their defense show up in the playoffs? Time will tell.

Prediction

The Bucks will end up prevailing in five games. They will split the first two games in Boston, which will set them up for a finishing game in Boston. A missing Kyrie Irving greatly impacts the outcome in this one, otherwise, Boston would take the series in five. It’s impossible to replace a team player of his greatness and with Hayward out as well, it’s extremely impressive they remained the number two seed. How much game do Jason Tatum, Jaylen Brown and Terry Rozier have in them?

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Celtics

Celtics’ depleted roster presents challenges moving forward

Point guard Kyrie Irving will be out the Celtics’ lineup for up to six weeks.

The All-Star and former NBA champion underwent a minor knee procedure on Saturday. The surgery was to remove a tension wire in Irving’s patella, placed there after his kneecap was repaired in 2015.

Irving has already missed the Celtics’ last five games due to knee discomfort. The rest didn’t improve his situation, leading to an expedited surgery timeline. The surgery was originally going to be scheduled for after the season.

With Irving officially sidelined, Boston’s roster keeps getting slimmer and slimmer. And with the playoffs on the horizon, the Celtics’ ability to field a team that can compete for the NBA Finals has been officially called into question.

Here is a look at the Celtics’ immediate future, regarding injuries, schedules and expectations.

Injury report

Irving is slated to be out of commission for anywhere from three to six weeks. The soonest he can return is April 14, the day the playoffs begin. If his return is pushed to six weeks, he could possibly not return until the Conference Semifinals.

Boston will be missing 24.4 points, 5.1 assists and 3.8 rebounds per game without Kyrie. Not to mention serviceable defense and some of the very best ball-handling and iso scoring skills in the league.

Fellow point guard Marcus Smart is also out after undergoing thumb surgery. He has been quoted as saying that he is eyeing a return sometime in May. The bulk of the point guard duties will fall on Terry Rozier and Shane Larkin in their absences.

Celtics

Daniel Theis grabs a rebound against John Collins. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

Rookie Daniel Theis is out for the remainder of the season after tearing his meniscus on March 11th. He has already undergone surgery, and is expected to return to the Celtics next season.

Jaylen Brown is aiming to return to the lineup on Sunday night, after being in the NBA’s concussion protocol since March 8th. The Celtics have been extremely careful regarding Brown’s injury, and his potential return will be a game-time decisions.

Of course, Gordon Hayward is still out after suffering a broken leg in the first game of the season. Coach Brad Stevens has adamantly stated that Hayward will not return, but the reports are not uniform. Hayward himself has not ruled out playing again this season, saying, “the hope is still there.”

Hardship Exemption

On March 23rd, it was reported that the Celtics are filing for a Hardship Exemption from the NBA. It is defined as follows by SB Nation:

“The Hardship Exemption is a tool that allows NBA teams that are hit hard by injuries to continue to field a deep enough roster to both practice and play games. In order to qualify, teams must have at least four players out for at least three games to petition. As soon as one of the injured players is ready to return, the team must drop back into compliance with standard roster size.” (Keith P. Smith, SB Nation)

If granted, this could be potentially huge for the Celtics’ playoff seeding hopes. It would allow them to sign players that fit Brad Stevens’ system in an effort to win the necessary games to secure home court advantage.

However, dropping that player could be potentially problematic, especially considering some returning players present question marks moving forward. Utilizing previously dropped players, though, would give a chance for that individual to showcase his skills as a form of tryout, which would be useful for all parties.

Stevens has been quoted as saying that Boston would target a perimeter player, if the exemption is granted. With a big chunk of their outside and mid-range shooting on the bench, this seems like the best fit.

Remaining schedule

The Celtics only have 10 games remaining on the season. Five are against lottery teams, four are against playoff contenders, and one comes against a potential playoff team (Utah Jazz).

Their schedule is obviously favorable. The lottery teams will be all but trying to drop these games against Boston. It is not an exaggeration to say that Boston’s bench alone could beat them.

Of their remaining five games against playoff teams, though, four are on the road. Two of those are against the Eastern Conference-leading Toronto Raptors (one at home, one on the road). These games are huge trouble for the second place Celtics.

Celtics

DeRozan dribbles against Celtics’ Jaylen Brown. (Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images)

The third place Cleveland Cavaliers are winners of four in a row, and their schedule is equally favorable. If the Cavs can stay hot and the Celtics start dropping games, they could easily be overtaken for the second seed in the Eastern Conference.

The good news is that even if they dropped all 10 games, they would still be a playoff team, albeit with a significant disadvantage. How far the Celtics go in the playoffs, however, is completely dependent upon when their injured stars can return and contribute at a high level.

Expectations should be leveled going forward. It would be a win for the team if they can go 5-5 in their last 10 games, which would probably keep them in second place. There is not a huge difference between the two and three seed in the NBA. If Boston wants a spot in the Conference Finals, though, they’ll need every home court advantage they can get.

Featured image by Gary A. Vasquez/USA Today Sports

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Boston Celtics: Youth leading the way

The Boston Celtics lost Gordon Hayward on opening night against the Cleveland Cavaliers. What seemed like a log jam at small forward and shooting guard a month ago has now grown thin with the injuries to Hayward and Smart. Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown and Terry Rozier have played key roles in life without Hayward.

The Celtics are one possession away from beating the Cavaliers and being 3-1 even without one of their All-Star guards. So how are they doing it? How are they surviving without Hayward? Well many of the young guards are being thrust into important roles and are coming out successful so far.

Brad Stevens

Boston Celtics

Brad Stevens on the Celtics bench (Photo: Business Insider)

Stevens is obviously one of the youngest coaches in the league so it’s only fitting that he’s one of the most important parts of the team. One of Brad Stevens’ biggest attributes is his ability to mesh a bunch of players with different skill sets together. Stevens has really shown that off throughout the first week of the season. Players like Shane Larkin are averaging 15 minutes and Aron Baynes is even starting games.

Stevens has shown that his coaching isn’t built solely around stars. Kyrie Irving’s statistics are down from last season. It’s completely understandable knowing he isn’t playing alongside LeBron James but it’s also a product of Brad Stevens’ offense. Stevens uses less isolation and more off-ball screens and more off-ball movement.

Kyrie’s numbers have improved in certain aspects. He is getting more assists per game and is turning the ball over less as well. Stevens offense makes Kyrie’s 21 percent decrease in points per game understandable.

Jayson Tatum

A month ago Jayson Tatum was going to be battling with Jae Crowder, Gordon Hayward and Jaylen Brown for minutes. As a rookie he is now starting and playing 34 minutes a game. 14.8 points, 7.8 rebounds and 1.8 assists per game on 48 percent from the field and 46 percent from three.

He has been both efficient as well as a scoring option to take the pressure off Kyrie and Jaylen. Many rookies don’t play three quarters of a game on average. Stevens has enjoyed his versatility as well as his ability to grab rebounds as a power forward.

Jaylen Brown

Jaylen Brown has transformed his offensive game in just a season. He is being more aggressive and almost has to be in this offense. He like Tatum is shooting 48 percent and is second on the team with 18.8 points per game.

Brown has also increased his three point percentage by three percent since last season. He has been his best when he’s gotten out in transition and attacked the lane and with many of the Celtics sets being with four guards, he has the option to almost every time he’s on the floor.

Shane Larkin and Terry Rozier

Every year there are extra minutes that no one knows where they go. Excluding Terry Rozier in this one but Shane Larkin has been receiving those minutes. Averaging 5.3 points and 2.7 assists in 14.7 minutes a game Larkin has provided a spark off the bench that wasn’t originally expected. Larkin has been benefiting from Marcus Smart’s injury and taking full advantage of his minutes.

Terry Rozier for long stretches in the last two years has looked to be the Celtics most consistent rebounder. This season he has a 5.3/1 assist to turnover ratio which is best on the team and 5.8 rebounds as a 6-foot-2 point guard. He is one of the first Celtics off the bench and has gotten Brad Stevens trust.

As a backup guard, not turning it over and providing energy and effort are two of the most important things and Rozier has done both of those things throughout the first week of the NBA season.

The Celtics have been hit with an injury bug to start the season with Morris, Smart and obviously Hayward. As they move forward their rotation will continue to differ being that Daniel Theis will be starting as of Thursday night. Look for the Celtics to continue to improve and for Brad Stevens to continue to put great rotations together moving forward.

 

Featured Image from clutchpoints.com.

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The new look C’s: Boston Celtics 2018 Preview

As the NBA offseason cycles through, many basketball fans find it hard not to talk about the upcoming Boston Celtics. From trading rising star Avery Bradley and trading the first overall pick, we have just begun on the changes that Danny Ainge and his organization have made.

Gordon Hayward signs with the c’s

Gordon Hayward was one of the biggest free agents available this offseason, and had offers from Miami, Utah and of course, Boston.

Hayward poses in All Star Game gear (purpleandblues.com)

However, Boston had something that stood out more than their past legends, Larry Bird, Bill Russell and a franchise with 17 total NBA championships: Head coach Brad Stevens. For those who don’t know the reasoning behind Stevens, Gordon Hayward played for Brad Stevens at Butler University, where Stevens coached in the past.

Right away, that boosted the Celtics’ chances of capturing yet another NBA All-Star.

Days later, Gordon Hayward officially signed with Boston on a four-year, $127,829,970 contract, doubling his recent contract of four years, $62,965,420 with the Utah Jazz.

The only downside of signing the recent All-Star is dealing with the nonexistent cap space. Boston needed to free cap space to sign Hayward to his full contract, which led to Boston trading away Avery Bradley, a beloved player in the eyes of Boston fans.

Boston traded Bradley to the Detroit Pistons, receiving Marcus Morris. Many are against this trade, but don’t forget the fact that Bradley is a free agent next season, who inevitably will ask for more money. This is something the Celtics cannot afford after the signing of Gordon Hayward.

third overall pick: jayson tatum. sf (duke)

The Celtics drafted Jayson Tatum with the third overall pick in the draft.

Tatum poses with the Celtics Front Office (boston.cbslocal.com)

Arguably the best man in this year’s draft, Jayson Tatum will bring his talents to Boston this upcoming season, bringing nothing but excitement to the organization and fans.

At Duke, Jayson Tatum recorded a total of 488 points, averaging 16.8 points per game as well as 7.3 rebounds per game, and shot nearly 50 percent on field goals in his single season with the Blue Devils. Tatum was ranked No. 3 in the 2016 ESPN Top 100 going into Duke University.

By the looks of the media, it seems like Tatum has already built chemistry with this Celtics roster, especially with Jaylen Brown who was a third overall pick in the NBA Draft two drafts ago. The two stars have referred to themselves as “7/11, always open” indicating their jersey numbers and the fact that they both hold great abilities to create openness on the court and sinking any shot.

Jayson Tatum will be a great attribute to this particular Celtics team. Whatever role Stevens gives him, Tatum will exceed.

depth

In addition to Gordon Hayward and rookie Jayson Tatum, the Celtics welcome Marcus Morris and Aron Baynes to the team, as well as key new players like Shane Larkin, Semi Ojeleye and Ante Zizic.

The Celtics made big moves to create a roster that embarks on winning a NBA championship.

Celtics coach, Brad Stevens (bostonglobe.com)

According to ABC News, Celtics president Danny Ainge said “I feel like our team is in better position than last year.”

Not to mention that the Celtics were NBA Eastern Conference finalists last season. The C’s look to change that to NBA East Champions, and even NBA Champions. With these added players, this goal is fully achievable.

How will this be done? Last season, the Celtics finshed 27th out of 30 teams in total rebounds, yet still managed to win the Eastern Conference regular season title. Simply, the Celtics needed more big men.

After one offseason, they have introduced a 6-8 forward in Jayson Tatum, a 7-foot center in Ante Zizic, a 6-10 center inn Aron Baynes and a 6-9 forward in Marcus Morris. These are all solid players with great height.

Mix this height with stars like Isaiah Thomas, Gordon Hayward and Al Horford, and you have a team with full potential to raise Boston’s 18th NBA Championship.

Brad Stevens will have a full roster with complete talent this upcoming season. With the new arrivals and established stars, the Celtics are trending up for next season.

 

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