Celtics-Wizards preview: Boston needs to solve Washington's defense

Celtics-Wizards preview: Boston needs to solve Washington's defense

BOSTON –  Both Boston and Washington know the winner of Game 5 by no means will automatically advance to the Eastern Conference finals. 

But there is no getting around the fact that both teams view this game, certainly more than any other, as the game to get if you’re going to win this series. 

Boston comes in feeling good about its chances of getting back on track now that the series has shifted back to Boston where they won Games 1 and 2. 

Meanwhile, Washington is hoping to build off a pair of strong wins in Games 3 and 4 in Washington, hoping the momentum they believe they have now will carry over in what will be an extremely intense, competitive game. 

“They’re going to play hard,” said Boston’s Kelly Olynyk. “They’re trying to get a win so they can go home and close it out. We’re trying to get a win so we can go there and close it out.”

The Celtics know all about the potential consequences, good and bad, that come about with tonight’s Game 5 battle. 

But as he has preached all season, Celtics head coach Brad Stevens isn’t looking any further ahead than what transpires after tonight’s jump ball.

“You have to win four games to move on, you gotta lose four games to be done,” Stevens said. “There’s a lot of play that goes into that. You just focus on the possession at hand, you stay in the moment the best that you can. As I told our guys (Monday), you got the best two out of three to go to the Eastern conference finals. Our focus has to be on the first possession (tonight).” 

Here are a few nuggets to chomp on leading up to tonight’s Game 5 matchup between the Boston Celtics and the Washington Wizards.

MEDICAL UPDATE: Boston: Avery Bradley (hip) is probable; Washington: None


Wizards defense: They are coming off an impressive 121-102 victory in Game 4, a game in which their defense gave the Celtics major fits by forcing 36 turnovers which has led to 51 points in the last two games. 

John Wall: If this series had an MVP after four games, Wall is your guy. He’s averaging a double-double of 28.8 points and 11.1 assists per game which speaks to his ability to not just score but also set up his teammates for baskets as well.

Terry Rozier: Yes, I know. He got a good chunk of his 16 points off the bench in garbage time during Game 4 when the outcome was all but decided. I get it. But that doesn’t take away from the fact that when he’s on the floor, good things have usually happened for Boston in this series. In the four games, Rozier has a plus/minus of +44 which not surprisingly, is tops among all Celtics.


Avery Bradley: He has done more than enough to establish himself as one of the better two-way players in the NBA, but he’s still looking to get on track offensively. In Game 4, Bradley had five points on 2-for-9 shooting. 

Jae Crowder: You have to love what he’s been doing on the boards and defensively, but it is his shot-making that has really failed him the last couple of games. After scoring a career playoff-high 24 points in Boston’s Game 1 win, Crowder has totaled just 34 points in the Celtics’ last three games and has shot just 35.7 percent from the field.

Road team woes: Four games into this series and the home team has won each game by at least double figures. It is a trend that the Celtics hope to continue tonight as they try and go up three games to two in the best-of-seven series. 


  • Good Start: Boston has fallen behind by double digits in the first quarter of every game but Game 4 in this series, so a better effort and crisper execution at the start of the game would go far in their quest to take a 3-2 series lead.
  • Rebound battles: Boston isn’t expected to dominate the glass, but keeping it close is well within their range of ability. In Boston’s Game 1 and 2 wins, they were tied 38-all in Game 1 and minus-3 (44-41) in Game 2. The Game 3 and 4 losses saw the Celtics outrebounded by 12 and 14, respectively.
  • Help for Thomas: Boston had a pair of 20-plus point scorers in Game 1 besides Isaiah Thomas. They’ll need similar offensive balance to take home Game 5. Because as good as Thomas is, he needs his teammates to make shots to loosen up a Wizards defense that’s totally locked onto him. 


  • Wall-to-Wall Coverage: John Wall has been an absolute beast in this series, putting this Wizards team on his back time and time again. He has been the catalyst for their play for the most part in this series and will certainly lead the charge tonight if they are to build off the momentum they gained from Game 3 and 4 wins in Washington.
  • Backup Power: Washington’s second unit has won the battle of the backup units in the last two games. Their play isn’t just about scoring, it’s about making an impact. And when you look at this series and Washington’s two wins at home, Bojan Bogdanovic (16.5 points per game in Games 3 and 4) along with a solid defensive presence by Ian Mahinmi have been important players in Washington winning the last two games with relative ease.
  • Otto Porter Jr.: The unsung hero of this playoff series for Washington, Porter Jr. has been a major contributor in so many ways. In the last two games, he averaged 18.5 points, eight rebounds and 3.5 steals while shooting 15-for-22 (68.1 percent) from the field.

Blakely: Why Celtics should feel pretty lucky on St. Pat's

Blakely: Why Celtics should feel pretty lucky on St. Pat's

It’s hard being an NBA fan and not thinking about the Celtics on St. Patrick’s Day.

All that green, the shamrocks and the libations that so many of us enjoy even more today than most days, it’s pretty cool and certainly something – well, for me at least – to be thankful for.

The Celtics, yeah, they got a few – quite a few - things to be thankful for as well.

So what better day to point a few of them out than the unofficial holiday of the Celtics, St. Patrick’s Day.


When Danny Ainge drafted Terry Rozier three years ago, I admit I wasn’t a believer. You had guards, Danny Ainge. What do you need another one for? Draft Sam Dekker from Wisconsin, or UVA’s Justin Anderson. Hey, that kid Bobby Portis from Arkansas looks pretty good, too.

Ainge and the Celtics took a look at all those guys and came away convinced that Rozier was the best fit for what the wanted both in the short and long-term from that draft.

While Rozier has not emerged as a star, he has shown us all more than enough to know that he’s a pretty damn good player.

And throw in the fact that the dude was born on St. Patrick’s Day - as was Ainge - how can this guy not have a little bit of luck on his side?


LeBron James’ timing has been impeccable when it comes to leaving for greener pastures. So, when Kyrie Irving let the Cavs know he wanted out of Cleveland, it took a minute to sink that they were about to be LeBron’d by someone other than LeBron. But in making his desire to be traded, Irving was giving the Cavs an opportunity to get something in return for shipping him out to who knows where. The Cavs eventually wound up with a couple of draft picks, with one being a coveted first-rounder via Brooklyn in June’s NBA draft along with a trio of players headlined by Isaiah Thomas who was still on the mend from a hip injury.

The injury took longer to heal and the Cavs wound up trading Thomas and ex-Celtic Jae Crowder to teams out West.

Today, Cleveland is treading water as a middle-of-the-pack club that has shown very few signs of late that they will be nothing more than first-round fodder for some team with deep playoff aspirations and a roster ready to make that happen.

And Irving?

He was named to his fifth All-Star team and has spent most of this season playing for a Boston team that until recently held down best record in the East and currently sits in the No. 2 spot.

Irving is dealing with a sore left knee that has limited him recently to not playing, but it doesn’t appear to be an injury that will significantly impact what he does in the postseason for a Celtics team that, despite all their injuries, still holds out hope of making a strong postseason run.


Whenever you ask Brad Stevens about his decision to leave Butler for the Celtics in the NBA, he makes it clear from the outset how difficult a decision it was for him and his family.

Just imagine if Stevens had won a national title instead of having a pair of national runner-up finishes to his name? Leading a mid-major like Butler to an NCAA title, which would have meant slaying UConn or Duke in the process? Stevens would have been more than just a big deal on the Butler campus. He would have been seen as a basketball god who would have had an even tougher time walking away from what he had helped build at Butler.

So Celtics fans, be thankful for Duke and UConn because without their national title game wins over Butler, there’s a very good chance that Brad Stevens would not be coaching the Celtics now.


Remember back in 2013 when Danny Ainge had the serious basketball man crush on Duke’s Justise Winslow, a player that he was willing to trade plenty of draft picks (reportedly as many as four first-round picks) to acquire the rights to draft?

Ainge suspected the Miami Heat would select him with the No. 10 pick, so Ainge tried to swing a deal with the Charlotte Hornets who were in the No. 9 slot.

Charlotte liked Winslow, but they were more smitten with Frank Kaminsky. Because of that, they wouldn’t do a deal with the Celtics.

Not doing that deal allowed Boston to have the kind of assets to eventually acquire Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown and Irving, moves that have collectively led to Boston’s surge towards the top of the NBA standings despite having the fifth-youngest team in the NBA.

Winslow, selected by the Heat with the 10th overall pick, has come nowhere close to being the impact player Miami was hoping they would get. And while Kaminsky has had some decent stretches, he too has been a bit underwhelming. Meanwhile, Boston kept its 16th overall pick and used it to select Rozier who as it turns out, has arguably been the best player among the trio.

Having a good scouting staff is important, of course.

But a little luck every now and then doesn’t hurt, either.




Against Magic, C's do what they're supposed to

Against Magic, C's do what they're supposed to

Beating one of the few teams already eliminated from the playoff race is in itself not that big a deal.

It’s called doing what you’re supposed to do.

But for these Celtics, their 92-83 victory over the Orlando Magic on Friday night was more than just another victory.

It was the latest installment in a season filled with teachable moments and lessons that can bolster in some fashion their chances at a deep playoff run.

While there’s no way they’re going to go far without their core guys Kyrie Irving, Marcus Smart and Jaylen Brown, getting guys to fill in for them and still manage to win, is important in this team’s overall development in both the present and future.

No one on the Celtics’ roster can score like Irving, the league’s 11th-ranked scorer at 24.4 points per game.

Still, getting his fill-ins Terry Rozier and Shane Larkin to go for 17 and 10 points certainly helps.

And Jaylen Brown’s ability to play both ends of the floor at a high level is huge, but rookie Abdel Nader has shown he too has some potential to be a solid two-way talent.

Smart’s defense sets him apart from others, but the Celtics collectively were able to make up for that with an impressive defensive rating of 83.1 against the Orlando.

And their collective efforts serve as yet another teachable moment for the Celtics.

Here are five takeaways from a game that wasn’t nearly as close as the final score might lead one to believe: 

There may not be another Celtic whose stock has risen more than Terry Rozier’s this season. He has become a reliable two-way talent off the bench whose capable of giving you starter-like production when needed. He had 17 points against the Magic along with seven rebounds and five assists.

With Marcus Smart (right thumb) out for the rest of the regular season, Terry Rozier in the starting lineup along with Marcus Morris, those are three really big chunks of Boston’s second unit no longer coming off the bench. The second unit players might have been different, but that didn’t affect the Celtics’ bench from impacting the game in a significant way. Against the Magic, they outscored Orlando’s backups, 39-28. 

He signed with the Boston Celtics at a time when a role for him was far from defined. His patience and Boston’s faith in him has paid for both as Larkin continues to be that utility player that Brad Stevens has leaned on at times. Larkin was solid off the bench, scoring 10 points.

This may be one of the closest Coach of the Year votes we have ever had in the NBA. Regardless how short the list may be, you can bet Brad Stevens will be on it. The way he has been positioning the Celtics to be among the last teams standing despite all the injuries they have endured this season, speaks to his ability to not just draw up X's and O’s but also his ability to develop players who when called upon to play, are more than ready for the challenge.

It’s fair to expect the Celtics are going to be short-handed for the rest of the season, which means those still around have to step their game up – Horford included.

For Horford, stepping up involves being more assertive as a scorer and not rely as much on his skills as a play-maker. We saw that from Horford on Friday, as he tallied a near double-double of 15 points and nine rebounds but more important, he took a game-high 18 shot attempts.