2019 Playoff Preview: Boston Celtics
The Boston Celtics did not live up to expectations in the 2018-19 regular season. The door seemed wide open for the Celtic’s to stamp their dominance over the conference with LeBron James leaving for Los Angeles and a healthy combo of Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward.
Success on paper however doesn’t always translate to the hardwood, and the Celtics finished at just 49-33. Barely good enough for a fourth place finish within the conference, as the team struggled with its consistency all season. Putting together six game winning streaks only to immediately lose five in a row.
Winning 49 games is generally considered a strong NBA season, but the 2018-19 Boston Celtic’s regular season will be remembered more for combative Kyrie Irving post game conferences, the inconsistency of Gordon Hayward, and the constantly projected narrative of the lack of chemistry within the squad from both the media and players on the team.
The magical part of the playoffs though is none of that matters now. Only what happens next.
Depth—The Celtic’s roster is absolutely loaded. The rotations runs nine guys deep: Kyrie Irving, Al Horford, Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, Gordon Hayward, Terry Rozier, Aaron Baynes, Marcus Morris and Daniel Theiss. Any one of these players can win the Celtics a playoff game, and it doesn’t even include fringe rotation players Semi Ojeleye, Robert Williams and injured Marcus Smart.
Playoff Kyrie—With opposing teams able to game plan for a seven game series, scoring the basketball becomes a more difficult task in the playoffs. Irving has proven he can perform at an elite level in the postseason, and he might just be the best go to scorer in the entire Eastern Conference.
Rebounding—The team just doesn’t rebound well. The Celtics finished 22nd in the league in total rebounds a game and 20th in offensive boards a game. Problems have a way of growing worse in the playoffs and the Celtics are going to have to rebound with fervor in the playoffs.
The problem is due to the team’s best lineups running on the smaller end. With Horford playing the five and Tatum or Morris playing the four. It’s a great lineup for scoring, but one that really struggles on the glass. The injury to Marcus Smart also isn’t going to help in the rebounding department for the squad.
Player to Watch
Terry Rozier—Stop me if you’ve heard this one before. Terry Rozier is going to have to step up big time for the Celtics in the playoffs with a guard ahead of him in the rotation going down with an injury. Marcus Smart is projected to miss 4-6 weeks with a torn oblique and Rozier is the player most likely to fill the vacated minutes.
The Louisville product averaged 9.00 points, 3.9 rebounds and 2.9 assists in a limited role over the course of the regular season, but Scary Terry was someone born in the postseason last year, and look for him to come alive again in this time around.
Team’s X Factor
Marcus Morris—The play of Marcus Morris has been a strange indicator of the Celtic’s success over the course of the season. In wins he’s averaging 15.4 points and 6.3 rebounds on 46.6% shooting from the field. On the other hand, in losses he’s averaging 11.8 points and 5.8 rebounds with a 34.6% shooting percentage from the field.
He’s struggled for major parts of the season, but when the 6’9, 235 pound forward gets going on the offensive side of the floor he’s a game changer. Look for Morris’ level of play to be a major X-factor for the Celtics this postseason.
Which Gordon Hayward will we get?—Nobody expected Gordon Hayward to return from his shattered leg and right away look the same as he did in Utah. With that being said, a final regular season stat line of 11.5 points, 4.5 rebounds and 3.4 assists has to be considered a bit underwhelming.
Hayward finished the regular season on a scorching run, which included a 9-9, 21 point performance in a must win game against Indiana. Hayward has had explosions of stardom within stretches of mediocrity all season. If Hayward is able to string together max contract type number the Boston Celtics suddenly become near favorites in the East.
Estimated Playoff Run
Second Round Exit—The Celtic’s didn’t do themselves any favors by failing to secure a top three spot in the Eastern Conference. The problem is two fold. Firstly, assuming the top seeds win their first round matchup’s, Boston will have to play Game 7’s away from home after the first round. The home team wins near 80% of the time in Game 7’s of the NBA playoffs and it’s a stat that doesn’t bode well for the Celtics.
Secondly, the Celtics have a problem with the Milwaukee Bucks. The expected second round match up with the number one team in the East is the worst possible scenario for the team. The Celtics just don’t match up well with the Milwaukee team. They were lucky to get by them in last year’s playoffs and relied on home court advantage in that series. Boston is 1-2 against the Bucks this season and it’s hard to imagine the Celtics taking down this version of Milwaukee.