Tag Archives: Boston Celtics

2016-17 NBA Expectations Meter: Atlantic Division

Rather than simply previewing each team heading into the 2016-17 NBA season, we analyzed each team and created what a successful season would look like for each franchise. Obviously, the bar is much lower for some than others (spoiler alert: the 76ers and Warriors do not have the same expectations), but each team has goals to work toward.

We begin this week with the Atlantic Division; home to the Celtics, Nets, Knicks, 76ers and Raptors. Two out of these five teams made the playoffs last year, and with other Eastern Conference teams such as the Pistons, Hornets and Wizards looking to take the next step, it is hard to envision three teams getting in from this division.

Perhaps the most interesting storyline to follow in the Atlantic Division is if any of the bad teams from last year can rise to challenge the incumbent playoff teams. The Toronto Raptors finished first with a 56-26 record, followed by the Boston Celtics at 48-34. After that, there is a stark drop-off; the Knicks, Nets and 76ers formed the basement of the Eastern Conference standings last season. In fact, those three teams combined for 63 wins, which is still 10 shy of the Golden State Warriors’ record setting season. Without further ado, here is each Atlantic Division team and their benchmark this year.

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Boston Celtics

                                  2015-16                                     2016-17
                                     48-34                                      53-29
              Lost to ATL in RD1 (6 Games)                           Conference Finals
                  2nd in Atlantic Division                       1st in Atlantic Division

The Atlantic Division in 2016-17 is going to essentially be a toss-up between the Celtics and Raptors. The biggest influence in that is going to be how quickly Al Horford settles into his new team. You may notice that our expectations for the Celtics, like the Raptors, is the Conference Finals. Only one of these teams is going to end up there. The Raptors are the known commodity, while the Celtics appear to be on the fringe of something good.

Losing in six games to the Hawks last season has to go down as a disappointment for Brad Stevens and company, and they will likely use that as fire to achieve better things this season. The Celts lost Evan Turner this offseason, and it has been reported that Marcus Smart will look to fill that void off the bench. The Celtics got rid of the underachieving Jared Sullinger, who was picked up by the Raptors. The Celtics will have to hope that he doesn’t find his stride with Toronto, meanwhile they have upgraded significantly in that department with the acquisition of Al Horford.

Though we have big expectations for the Boston Celtics this season, it is easy to envision them not playing out. This is a pivotal year for the Brad Stevens era, and there is a tremendous amount of pressure on them to perform. As stated earlier, a lot of this rests on the shoulders of Al Horford, but we have seen previously that big names coming to the merciless media market of Boston don’t always have the best track record.

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Toronto Raptors

          2015-16                2016-17
             56-26                   52-30
 Lost to CLE in CF (6 Games) Conference Finals (7 Games)
1st in Atlantic Division    2nd in Atlantic Division

The Toronto Raptors find themselves in a tough position as far as expectations go. Coming off a season in which they set franchise records for wins and lost in six games to the Cleveland Cavaliers in the Conference Finals, the only way they can really improve drastically is my making the NBA Finals. That is a tough task, considering last time we checked, LeBron James and Kyrie Irving are still in Cleveland and they aren’t going anywhere.

In the offseason, the Raptors lost big-man Bismack Biyombo, but gained Jared Sullinger and re-signed DeMar DeRozan for $25 million over five years.

It is very unfair to expect the Raptors to dethrone Cleveland yet, but at the very least they could set themselves to be the next team up. If they are able to beat Cleveland, they will have exceeded our expectations, but for now, a hard-fought seven game series is their benchmark.

 

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New York Knicks

                                 2015-16                                   2016-17
                                    32-50                                    44-38
                  13th in Eastern Conference                        Make the Playoffs
                     3rd in Atlantic Division                   3rd in Atlantic Division

According to Derrick Rose, the Knicks are a super team, right? Anybody? Well, Mr. Rose was a little off on that one, but we do envision the Knicks taking a step forward in 2016-17. How could they not? They brought in Derrick Rose, Joakim Noah, Courtney Lee and several other players, and got rid of some lackluster players like Arron Afflalo and Robin Lopez. That’s not to say the Knicks are going to be a great team this year, but they could be fun as hell to watch.

If there’s one glaring issue for the Knicks, it is Derrick Rose’s off-the-court distraction. Rose is currently tangled up in a rape lawsuit, and if he is declared guilty, the Knicks season is already derailed. So much of what they are hoping to do this year revolves around Rose recapturing some of the magic of early in his career, and an off-the court distraction is not how the Knicks hoped to start this season.

The problem for the Knicks is also a long-term sustainability issue. This team as currently constructed only has a couple “good” (if you even want to call it that) seasons in them. After that, Carmelo Anthony will be old, Rose will be washed up, and Joakim Noah will be a non-factor if he isn’t already this year.

The best thing that could happen for the Knicks is Kristaps Porzingis having an MVP-worthy season. If he can establish himself as a superstar in the NBA over the course of the next few seasons, the Knicks have something to build around. Until then, they will tread water in the bottom of the playoff picture.

Screen Shot 2016-10-11 at 4.46.46 PM.png Philadelphia 76ers

                              2015-16                                   2016-17
                                10-72                                   32-50
                 15th in Eastern Conference                              12th or Better
                     5th in Atlantic Division                      4th in Atlantic Division

I think we’re all in agreement that it can’t get any worse for the 76ers, right? They’re gaining (finally) Joel Embiid and Dario Saric, a couple long-awaited 2014 first-rounders. In addition, we might get to see a little bit of Ben Simmons, but that remains to be seen.

The new faces on the court signify progress for the Sixers’ “Trust the Process” rebuild, which is notorious for being the longest rebuild in NBA history (we think). Even if Embiid turns into Greg Oden and Saric plays like Dirk Nowitski’s uncoordinated little brother, it would be hard for the 76ers to do worse than last season. This is actually the first year in a long time that people don’t have the Sixers finishing last, and I guess that’s a good thing for 76ers fans. Maybe they’ll hit the lottery again and get another top ten pick that might see the court by 2020.

All joking aside, a core of Joel Embiid, Nerlens Noel, Jahlil Okafor, Dario Saric, and Ben Simmons could be halfway decent. All the 76ers have to do is make it work effectively.

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Brooklyn Nets

                              2015-16                                       2016-17
                                  21-61                                         25-57
                 14th in Eastern Conference                                 13th or Better
                   4th in Atlantic Division                      5th in Atlantic Division

Wait, shouldn’t that be spelled the BrookLin Nets? The only real move the Nets made this off-season was bringing in Jeremy Lin from the Charlotte Hornets, and that means this is going to be a long season. The lowly 76ers will now be breathing down the Nets’ neck with an improved roster, and it will be hard for Brooklyn to even stay out of the Atlantic Division basement.

The 25-57 record above is something the Nets should strive for, but in all reality, it will be an uphill climb. The Nets look poised to be potentially the worst team in the Eastern Conference, and no amount of crazy Jeremy Lin hairstyles or missed layup attempts can change this.

The Nets, however, are bringing in a new coach, which could be a reason for excitement. Kenny Atkinson is seen as a players’ coach, but we will see how that holds up throughout the course of a long season and many losses. Until then, keep trying Brooklyn. They don’t give participation awards in the NBA.

 

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NBA: 5 Most Interesting Teams to Watch in 2016-17

Now that September is here, the NBA off-season that brought us more twists and turns than a sketchy carnival ride is nearing a close. Between KD, Derrick Rose, Al Horford and others, there is a whole lot to digest before the 2016-17 season gets underway. Being the inquisitive people we are here at Fan Interference, we set out to rank the 5 most interesting teams to watch in the upcoming season. Keep in mind this isn’t about wins and losses. Just because something is going to be ugly doesn’t mean it won’t be fun to kick back and watch. Why do you think people stop and look at car crashes? Anyways, here are the most interesting teams for the upcoming season.

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5: Boston Celtics

Early on in the off-season, the Celtics were a dark horse pick to land Kevin Durant. When Tom Brady shows up to your free agent meeting, good things usually happen. Though it was reported that Brady’s presence at the meeting had a big impact on Durant, it wasn’t enough to get him in a green uniform. However, the Celtics scored big with the acquisition of Al Horford, a former star on the Atlanta Hawks. While Horford isn’t the superstar that Durant is, he fits in well with the Celtics and coach Brad Steven’s vision. The Celtics are projected to be one of the better teams in the Eastern Conference this season, and monitoring Horford as he settles in to the new role will be fun to watch, espescially for the Boston faithful.

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4: Philadelphia 76ers

While it is still entirely plausible that they lose over 60 games, this isn’t the same 76ers of last year. With Ben Simmons coming in as a rookie with much expected of him, the entire dynamic of the Sixers has changed. Their roster reads like a team that will be great in a few years; Jahlil Okafor, Nerlins Noel, Dario Saric, Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid are all very young and have a lot of potential. That last name, Embiid, will be particularly interesting to watch; he hasn’t played in an NBA game since being drafted 3rd overall in 2014. If Embiid can stay healthy and stay away from fast food this season, he could be a major player on a team that is looking to build an identity (and has been since Allen Iverson left).

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3: Chicago Bulls

The big headline here is Dwyane Wade. Nobody expected the king of Miami to leave, including Pat Riley. Additionally, the Bulls brought in Rajon Rondo, who has fallen off to say the least since his glory days with the aforementioned Celtics. With Wade, Rondo and Butler, the Bulls have a cheap version of a Big-3 with some glaring chemistry issues. It is no superteam, heck, maybe not even a good team, but it will be a hell of a lot of fun watching the power struggle between Butler, an incumbent Bull who looks to be the new leader, and Wade, a native of Chicago and 3 time NBA champion. Rondo is always a wild-card, but there might be a sliver of hope that the three of them can hit it off and the Bulls can be a contender in the Eastern Conference.

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2: New York Knicks

The Knicks made waves this offseason by acquiring Derrick Rose, Joakim Noah and Courtney Lee. The running joke here is that this team would’ve been great in 2010, but there could be some upside to the New York Knicks this season. Rose is certainly giving us no shortage of entertainment, claiming that this year’s Knicks are a “super-team”. As if there wasn’t enough pressure on the former MVP to finally start producing on the court again. That being said, if Rose is somehow able to recapture the magic of his MVP season, that would make for a lethal combo with Carmelo Anthony, who is aging but still shows he can produce at a high level.

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1: Golden State Warriors

It’s kind of an anticlimactic number one pick, but the Warriors will just be too damn interesting to ignore. With the addition of Kevin Durant (which is still hard to fully wrap your head around), the Warriors have somehow managed to make themselves even better than they were before. That being said, the Warriors have made a big change that may take some time to come to full fruition. Adding a super star to play with other great players like Steph Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green may take time to maximize their efficiency. Should the warriors stutter out of the gate, it makes it all the more interesting. Don’t get caught up on wondering if they can win 74 games. They won’t. That will become very apparent early on. My predicton is that the Warriors begin the season around the 20-8 mark. After that, they will hit a stride, but these things take time. Patience, young grasshopper.

Shamrock Shakeup: Celtics Hunt For Major Trade

If you believed every trade rumor you heard, you would think the Boston Celtics were the basketball equivalent of The Avengers.

The Celtics have been linked to almost every major free agent this offseason, and Danny Ainge has been making more phone calls than a creepy drunk ex-boyfriend. Beginning with Kevin Durant, Dwight Howard, and the successful courting of Al Horford, Ainge has now reportedly moved on to two new potential signees: Russell Westbrook and Blake Griffin.
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So, why are we all of a sudden seeing so many players linked to the Celtics? The first part of that is an aggressive free agent strategy. Ainge realizes that the Celtics are one or two players away from becoming worthy adversaries to the Cavaliers, so he has been recruiting like we’ve never quite seen before. This hard work is what allowed the Celtics to sign Al Horford, a move that escalated them into a new tier of NBA teams. Rather than viewing the Celtics as a team that will tread water in the Eastern Conference, a.k.a every team besides Cleveland, players now view it as a favorable situation with an organization that has perhaps the richest history in all of the NBA. Horford was the first domino to fall, now the question is if he made enough of a shockwave for others to fall as well.

The chances of Westbrook leaving Oklahoma City this off-season are slim, but even the mere possibility of a player of his caliber leaving for another city is headline news. Additionally, given the crazy moves we’ve seen so far this off-season, nothing, and I mean nothing, can be ruled out. It has been rumored time and time again that Los Angeles is Westbrook’s premier landing spot, but a lot of this was reported before the Celtics suddenly became such an attractive destination. Also, thanks to some mild stalking by SB Nation and other media outlets, it was confirmed that Westbrook, Ainge, and Isaiah Thomas were all in San Diego at the same time. Something tells me they weren’t all there to see a Padres game.

While Westbrook is a reach as far as 2016-17 is concerned, the Celtics are set up to be major players in the Westbrook free-agency scramble next off-season. If Ainge has his sights set on getting the best player available, that might be the best move here. Westbrook doesn’t necessarily fit into Brad Stevens’ offense as well as other potential recruits do, but he is by far the most talented.

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The other major player the Celtics are reportedly targeting, Blake Griffin, is perhaps even more intriguing. Though he is not the prolific offensive threat that Westbrook is, Griffin compliments what the Celtics are trying to do much better. Horford is a great shooter, so that allows Griffin to do his thing in the paint, an area that has been his wheelhouse thus far in his pro career. Recent incidents aside, (hang in there, Celtics equipment managers), Griffin would have great chemistry in Boston. There wouldn’t be any particular player that is viewed as “the guy”, whereas with Westbrook it would be his show.

Finally, there is one more rumor that must be included in the realm of possibility. Ainge said he plans to make a big move, so if all else fails, Jahlil Okafor may be fair game. It might not be the first choice for the Celtics, but it certainly would be a big move. Nerlins Noel has also been floated as a possibility, but that would hardly be seen as a big move. Okafor, though he may not have blown anyone away in his rookie season, still has enormous star potential and with a roster that includes Joel Embiid, Jahlil Okafor, Nerlins Noel and Ben Simmons, it just seems like someone has to be the odd man out there.

Also, don’t forget to follow us on Twitter, @FIsports_.

Ainge’s Unique approach to NBA Draft

The NBA draft took place Thursday night in Brooklyn and there were a lot of expected picks. But there also were quite a few unexpected ones. A majority of these surprise picks were from the Boston Celtics and President of Basketball Operations, Danny Ainge. With three first round picks and five second round picks, the Celtics were poised to land a few future stars in somewhat of a lackluster draft class. Ainge, despite his poor drafting record in the past, is trying to right the ship with this year’s picks, which included two international players in the first round. Let’s just say fans are not too happy with him on that one. But there is a method to Trader Danny’s madness and I’ll explain after we take a look at the picks.

ROUND 1 PICK 3,

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JAYLEN BROWN, SF, California

The 6’7” Small forward left Cal with a myriad of awards, including First team All-PAC 12 and PAC-12 Freshman of the year. He averaged 14.6 points, 5.4 rebounds, and 2.0 assists with 27.6 minutes played per game in 34 games over his freshman year. Although his season ended in less than spectacular fashion in an upset in the first round of the NCAA tournament, a game in which Brown fouled out early. One thing Ainge has continually said about Brown is his size and strength. He has an NBA body and is ready to play right away. He will most likely take a back seat to whoever wins the SF battle whether it is Jae Crowder or a free agent the Celtics bring in. One thing for sure is Brown will take his athleticism to the Parquet floor this season and make a positive impact.

ROUND 1 PICK 16

 

GUERSCHON YABUSELE, PF, France

The 19 year old, 6’8” 260 pound Frenchman also has an NBA body ready for the start of next season. The only problem is he might not be there. Yabusele is still under contract in France. Although he does have a buyout clause, the Celtics might leave him in Europe for another year to continue his development. Scouts have compared him to Draymond Green, but I like to temper expectations so I’d say compare Yabusele more to a guy like Glen Davis. He is more athletic and runs the floor better. Also, he is a great transition player with soft hands. The only knock on him is that he hasn’t faced elite competition. Until he makes an appearance against the best of the best, this pick cannot be criticized too much.

ROUND 1 PICK 23

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ANTE ZIZIC, C, Croatia

The 7’0” 250 pound center from Croatia, who has a 7’3” wingspan plays well in the block and can grab a ton of rebounds on both ends of the floor. Last year in Croatia, Zizic grabbed 31 percent of defensive rebounds and an outstanding 12 percent of offensive rebounds. Zizic can bring size and inside scoring ability. Which is something the Celtics have been lacking over the past three seasons. The question of Zizic is what can he do against NBA talent, similarly to Yabusele. Also, like Yabusele, there is always the possibility he stays in Europe another year to develop.

ROUND 2 PICK 45

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DEMETRIUS JACKSON, PG, Notre Dame

The 6’1” point guard Jackson excels at getting to the basket, a very athletic and explosive player with an above average ability to finish at the rim. Jackson has a strong frame and a large wingspan (6’5”).  He has the potential due to his quickness and athleticism to be a great player in the pick and roll, as well as in transition and isolation. At 45 overall, I think Jackson was a steal. Although it will be tough to fight through the five other guards for playing time, if he displays his athletic and playmaking ability, he might be able to add some scoring off the bench for the Celtics this season.

ROUND 2 PICK 51

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BEN BENTIL, PF, Providence

The 6’8” power forward from Providence is a local guy, many Celtics fans have seen him at the Dunkin Donuts Center in Providence, Rhode Island during their home games over the past two seasons. Bentil and fellow Friar Kris Dunn (drafted 5th overall) created a dynamic duo on offense terrorizing the Big East. Especially against Celtics head coach Brad Stevens’ Butler Bulldogs in which Bentil had 38 points. Bentil is a great weapon on offense averaging 21.1 points his sophomore season. As a power forward, he can stretch the floor with his ability to knock down the three point shot, on top of his ability to score in the post. Bentil definitely has a place on the Celtics roster next year to add that offensive spark to the bench that they have been lacking.

ROUND 2 PICK 58

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ABDEL NADER, PF, Iowa State

Nader, a 6’6” power forward, will probably translate to more of a small forward in the NBA due to his size. Averaging 12.4 points per game in his final season with the Cyclones, Nader saw his best shooting season during last season reaching almost 50 percent from the field. He will need every bit of that to make the roster as it is already tough enough to see playing time, Nader might not even crack the D-league roster.

Now you heard all you need to about these players, so what was the idea of Danny’s creative genius? Drafting internationally. That’s right, both picks that everybody was scratching their head at were actually genius by Ainge. Even if they don’t necessarily pan out how we like in the NBA. The ability to stash these players in Europe for at least another year while the Celtics own their rights still leave that extra cap space to sign TWO max free agents. Now Danny might be putting all his eggs in one basket by trying to get his established stars through free agency. But if they can attract a few stars, the Celtics are not too far off competing with the Cavaliers for the East title.

If you’re not impressed by this, Ainge traded two second round picks this year (31 and 35) for a 2019 first rounder from Memphis.  This leaves the Celtics with SIX first round picks in the next 3 drafts, which are predicted to be a lot stronger than this year. Needless to say, the Celtics future is very bright no matter how you look at it.

The Celtics Face a Crucial Game Five After Evening the Series with Atlanta

The Boston Celtics won their two games at home versus the Atlanta Hawks to even the series at two games a piece. Will they be able to take a game on the road from the Hawks? They play tonight at 8pm in Atlanta, looking to do just that. With all the momentum in the series going Boston’s way, tonight is the night they have the best chance to win on the road.

Game three was the Isaiah Thomas show. “The Little Guy” scored 42 points as the Celtics brought the series to within a game. Then, in game four it took a great team effort from the Green to win in overtime and even out the series. Paul Milsap was unstoppable for the Hawks, scoring 45 points on 19-31 shooting. This helped fuel a 16 point lead for Atlanta in the third quarter, and they went into the fourth with an 11 point lead over the Celtics.

The Celtics began their comeback in the fourth, and this is where they really started to really click as a team. Jonas Jerebko made some big shots down the stretch, and Isaiah had another big night. IT put up 28 points and hit a layup to tie the game at 92 a piece with 15 seconds to play, ultimately forcing overtime after Jeff Teague lost the ball as time expired. It also took a huge performance from Marcus Smart. After a couple bonehead plays from Smart late in the fourth quarter, he really made up for it by scoring 11 straight points for the Celtics. He also played some great defense on the other end of the floor. Brad Stevens made the switch to put Marcus Smart on Paul Milsap. Smart is a point guard and Milsap is a power forward, but Smart’s competitive defense was enough to keep the red hot Milsap at bay in the closing minutes of the game. In overtime, the Celtics were led by a couple quick baskets from Amir Johnson, and Isaiah put the game away with a three pointer late in OT.

Now we look on toward tonight’s game. After four games, the home team has won all of them. This is bad for the Celtics since the Hawks have home court advantage in the seven game series. However, if the Celtics can win tonight, they set themselves up nicely to win the series at home in game six and take on Cleveland in the next round.

If the Celtics are going to win one on the road, it has to be tonight. They just won two straight games after it looked like they might be dead in the series. Atlanta has to be feeling a little deflated after dropping two straight, including one in overtime in a game where they had total control late in the third and early fourth quarters. Isaiah needs to continue to dominate offensively. After scoring only 16 points in the second game of the series that the Celtics never even had a chance to win, it was nice to see Thomas come out hot in the next two games. But will he be able to continue that on the road? I think so, but we’ll find out tonight.

The C’s also can’t let Milsap, or anyone, go off again. Game four was the second time this season Milsap has scortched Boston (the first time being in the regular season when he put up 31 points and 16 rebounds). They need to contain him, along with Atlanta’s other offensive big man, Al Horford. While they did a better job defending Jeff Teague in game four, holding him to 13 points on 4-18 shooting, he is still a threat to put up big numbers with his ability to drive to the hole and shoot the three. Isaiah is a great offensive player, but he just doesn’t have the capability to guard Teague by himself. This allows Teague to drive to the hole and either dish it to one of his big men, pass it out to a sharp shooter like Kyle Korver, or take it himself.

The game can’t only fall on Isaiah’s shoulders either. The Celtics will need other players to step up offensively. Evan Turner hasn’t been hitting some of the mid-range shots that we’re so accustomed to seeing him knock down. And Jae Crowder has been just awful this series. He’s playing on a hurt ankle but he still isn’t hitting his threes, which shouldn’t be bothered by the ankle too much like driving to the rim would be. Also, the normally lock down defender is letting players drive to the rim on him with ease on the defensive end.

There’s no room for error for the Celtics in this game. If they lose tonight, I do believe that they can win at home again in game six to even the series one more time, but game seven I’m not so sure about. A game seven on the road is a scary thought. The Celtics haven’t beaten the Hawks on the road this year in the regular season or playoffs, so it’d be best if they can do it tonight, rather than leave it up for a win or go home game. If the Celtics can’t win this series in six, then it will most likely be the Hawks in 7, and they’ll be the ones that head to Cleveland.

Celtics Looking For Their Best Playoff Matchup

I know we’re all still on a high after Friday night’s game. And why wouldn’t we be? The Boston Celtics ended the Golden State Warriors 54 game home winning streak in dramatic fashion, winning 109-106. The Celtics did what they needed to do on their west coast trip, going 3-2, ending with the big win against the Warriors and defeating a Kobe Bryant lead Lakers team one last time, while clinching a spot in the playoffs. With five games left, the Celtics sit at the four seed in the East, but we could easily see them go into playoffs as good as the three seed, but as bad as the seven seed. That makes these last five games crucial for the Celtics.

Both Atlanta and Boston are 45-32 on the season, but Atlanta holds the 3 seed due to head-to-head matchups. Sitting behind the Celtics are the Miami Heat and Charlotte Hornets in the six and seven seeds respectively, with records of 44-32, just .5 games back of the C’s. You can see that these middle seeds in the East are in a log jam and anyone could end up playing each other in the first round.

As it stands, the Celtics would match up with Miami in the first round of the playoffs; a matchup Celtics fans and Miami “fans” are used to seeing, but with a whole new look now that LeBron James is back in Cleveland. But even with age, Dwayne Wade is still a dangerous player. At 34 years of age and twelve years of NBA experience under his belt, D. Wade is still averaging 19.2 points per game this season. Along with the veteran Wade, the Heat have the 26 year old big man, Hassan Whiteside. Whiteside averages a double-double with 14.1 points and 11.8 rebounds per game. He’s also a nightmare for opposing offenses on the inside, as he averages a league leading 3.7 blocks per game. Whiteside could do damage against the Celtics since the C’s don’t have a true low post big man. Their closest thing to one for the Celtics would be Jared Sullinger, but at 6’9”, he would be at a significant disadvantage against the 7’0” Hassan Whiteside. Honestly, I’d rather see the Celtics play someone else in the first round other than the Heat.

So who would I rather see the Celtics play in the playoffs? Out of the potential teams they could play, I think the Hornets are a good matchup for the C’s. If the Celtics can claim the 3 seed from the Hawks, and the Hornets stay where they are in the rankings, this will be the matchup we would see. Their best player is Kemba Walker, who is able to put up points no matter who he plays, averaging 21.1 ppg. After Walker, Nicolas Batum is the Hornets next leading scorer. Batum can shoot the three ball and at 6’8”, can work down low and from beyond the arc. However, I see Jae Crowder as a good matchup to limit Batum’s offensive production. Charlotte’s biggest inside presence is former Celtic, Al Jefferson, who never really lived up to his potential in the NBA and is now on a downward trend in his career. Though he can still be a threat inside, I don’t think Jefferson has the ability to take over an entire game, let alone an entire seven game series. I could see the Celtics beating the Hornets in 5 games if they get that matchup.

The Pacers and Hawks are the two other potential matchups for the C’s. I wouldn’t want to see the Hawks in the first round because they have so many different players that can beat you and play tremendous team basketball. They also have recent playoff success, making it to the Eastern Conference finals in 2015. I’d also be weary of the Pacers due to Paul George. Star power can be huge for a team in the playoffs. When a team needs a boost, it is crucial for them to be able to look to a player that can take over a game, and the Pacers have that player. It’s also good to see a Celtics team that has that player for the first time in a while, as it’s looking like Isaiah Thomas can fill that role. Truthfully, I think the Celtics can win the first round no matter who they play, but I’d like to see the easiest route to the next round.

 

 

What Jae Crowder’s Injury Means for the Celtics Moving Forward

Jae Crowder suffered a high ankle sprain in the Celtics’ loss to the Houston Rockets on Friday night, and is expected to miss a minimum of two weeks. While the injury shouldn’t have any long term effects on Crowder, it could have some long term effects on the Celtics. Crowder is an elite defender in the NBA and can shut down opposing teams’ key offensive weapons. Along with his stellar defense, he has become a much better offensive player than we’ve seen in the past. After being traded to Boston last season from the Dallas Mavericks, Crowder averaged 9.5 points per game. This season he is averaging a career high 14.4 ppg. The Celtics play Tuesday night in Indiana against the Pacers, Wednesday at home against the Thunder, and on the road against the Raptors on Friday night. These are three games that should not be taken lightly.

Let’s first look at the game against the Pacers. The guy opposing teams need to look out for on the Pacers is Paul George. George missed most of last season after sustaining a horrific lower leg injury the prior summer playing for Team USA. Now he’s back and looking like he did before the injury, averaging 23.3 points per game. The Celtics lead the season series 2-1, holding the Pacers to 100 points or less in each of the three games. But that could certainly change with the absence of Crowder. Crowder is a key defender for the Celtics, always playing with outstanding heart and hustle, and would be matched up against Paul George in tonight’s game if he were able to play. Now, the Celtics will be leaning on Evan Turner to slow down George. Turner looked lost on Friday night covering James Harden, as Harden put up 32 of the Rockets’ 102 points. Without Crowder to keep Paul George at bay, I believe the 7th seed Pacers will beat the 3rd seed Celtics in this game.

The Celtics will then look to win a game at home against the Oklahoma City Thunder. Oklahoma City’s record is 44-22 and are currently in 3rd place in the superior Western Conference. The Thunder are a tough team to handle with their two super stars in Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant. Westbrook is head and shoulders above all other point guards in the NBA when it comes to shear speed and strength. He has the ability to take the ball to the rim in both the half court offense and in transition. However, with an elite perimeter defender in Avery Bradley and a defender coming into his own in Marcus Smart, the Celtics may just be able to slow down Westbrook enough to get the win.

But, oh wait. You still have to slow down Kevin Durant. Durant is another player that could be kept at bay with the defensive play of Jae Crowder. Avery Bradley is a candidate to cover Durant during Crowder’s absence, but Durant at 6’9” is much taller than the 6’2” Bradley, and could score easily in the post and could use his length to get shots off over Bradley in the mid-range game. This means that we will again turn to Evan Turner to cover the former MVP, Kevin Durant. I don’t have confidence in Turner covering Paul George, so I sure as hell don’t have faith in him covering Durant, who is pretty much just a better Paul George. Durant is averaging 28.1 ppg this season and I think we can count on him to put up more than that against the Celtics this Wednesday without Crowder in the rotation.

And now we’re on to Friday’s matchup against the Toronto Raptors. The Raptors are 2nd in the Eastern Conference, currently sitting 6.5 games better than the 3rd place Celtics. The Raptors are led by emerging superstar, DeMar DeRozan, who averages 23.3 ppg this season and a little over 30 ppg this month. DeRozan, at 6’7”, would be a good matchup for the Celtics’ D if Jae Crowder was playing. Are you seeing a theme here? Again, Avery Bradley is too small to cover DeRozan so we’re looking at Turner to take on the challenge. Turner, while still not a bad defender, just doesn’t have the size that Crowder does. And while you’ll see players on the Boston Celtics team showing tremendous hustle, I don’t know if anyone other than Bradley comes even close to the hustle that Crowder plays with. I’d put this down as another “L” on the Celtics’ upcoming schedule.

After the game in Toronto, the Celtics travel to Philadelphia to play the joke of the team that is the 76ers. This should be a win for the C’s no matter who is on the court. Then they will see the Magic at home, which I would expect another win from. But then the schedule picks up again. Before Crowder comes back, the Celtics will play the Raptors again, the Clippers, Trail Blazers, and possibly the potential best team in NBA history in the Golden State Warriors. Though playing the Warriors at home is an automatic loss for any team, I’d be confident in all these other games with a healthy Crowder. Crowder has become a valuable asset to the Celtics. His improvements with the three-ball and overall offensive production this year are great for a Celtics fan to see. And as always, his defense is one of the best in the NBA. Celtics fans should expect to lose some games in his absence and possibly drop in the Eastern Conference standings. There are three teams all within a 1.5 games of the 3 spot in the East. If the Celtics can’t hold it together without Crowder, don’t be surprised to see them head into the playoffs as a 5, 6 or maybe even 7 seed, rather than the 3rd.