Celtics-Wizards preview: Boston can't afford early deficit in Washington

Celtics-Wizards preview: Boston can't afford early deficit in Washington

WASHINGTON – During the first time-out in Game 2 called by Boston Celtics head coach Brad Stevens, his team was once again facing an early deficit. 

The good news? 

Instead of 16-0 as was the case in Game 1, the Celtics were "only" down 16-8. 

Boston came back to win both games, but know the chances of getting off to such a horrible start and rallying to win will be a lot harder to do now that the best-of-seven series is now in Washington for Games 3 and 4.

Despite having a 2-0 series lead, the Celtics know there’s plenty of work left to be done as well as areas in need of improvement. 

Near the top of that list has to be getting off to better starts. 

“These guys (Wizards) have been good starters all year,” said Celtics head coach Brad Stevens.

During the regular season, the Wizards averaged 28.4 points in the first quarter which ranked fourth in the NBA. In the two playoff games thus far against Boston, the Wizards have pummeled the Celtics at the start of games with an astounding 40.0 points scored per game in the first.

“They blitzed us at the start of all six games,” said Stevens, referring to the four regular season meetings and the two in the playoffs. “We need to do a better job with that, while recognizing too, it doesn’t mean you can’t play well the rest of the game. We have to be as consistent as we can be throughout the rest of the game. But you have to be ready for that initial hit.” 

Lacking a heightened sense of urgency to start games has been an issue at times for the Celtics this season. 

“It’s simple,” said Boston’s Avery Bradley. “Coming out and understanding what we need to get as a team. Coming out playing hard; can’t come out cool. We come out and we’re ready to play, I feel like we’ll get a better start.”

Good starts are important, obviously. 

But as the Celtics proved in Games 1 and 2, finishing is what matters most. 

And while it certainly has to feel good for the players to be talked about in such glowing terms of late, the Celtics may soon find themselves battling what may be their greatest foe – overconfidence. 

Fat chance of that happening under Stevens’ watch. 

After Boston won Games 1 and 2, he has stayed consistent in his talk of his team not playing as the series’ status (2-0 Celtics) might indication. 

And even if the Celtics absolutely dominated Washington in both games which they didn’t, the Celtics would still have no reason to believe that this series is over. 

Especially against a Washington team that was one of just six teams in the NBA (the Celtics were one of the six as well) to win 30 or more games at home. 

“There’s nothing accomplished until you win four games in a series,” Stevens said. “These guys (Wizards) have been great here; not good, great. And have … both games could have gone either way but they really outplayed us more quarters than not.”

Isaiah Thomas isn't ruling out return to Celtics

File Photo

Isaiah Thomas isn't ruling out return to Celtics

Isaiah Thomas back in green? Maybe there's a chance after all.

The former Celtics guard, now with the Lakers, started a Q&A session on Twitter and was asked whether he'd consider returning to Boston this offseason. This was his answer...

That's not a no.

Thomas has had a rough go of it since leaving the Celtics. His brief tenure in Cleveland didn't go according to plan, and things haven't gotten a whole lot better out in L.A. The 29-year-old is averaging 15.3 points per game just a year after averaging 28.9 with Boston.

Let the speculation begin.


Horford not making any excuses after C's rough outing vs Pelicans

Horford not making any excuses after C's rough outing vs Pelicans

Al Horford understands that there’s plenty of blame pie to go around following Boston’s 108-89 loss to New Orleans. 

Considering how Pelicans stud Anthony Davis dominated the game on so many levels Sunday night, Horford was quick to acknowledge his role in the loss. 

“He (Davis) was able to get behind our defense a lot,” Horford told reporters after the loss. “Some mistakes on my end; gotta give him credit. He dominated tonight. I’ll definitely take the blame for that.”

Davis finished with a double-double of 34 points and 11 rebounds, a total that would have been higher if not for the game being so lopsided which allowed Davis to head to the bench early in the fourth. 

MORE - Blakely's stars, studs, and duds from C's-Pelicans

And Horford’s struggles defensively were just as problematic on offense as the five-time All-Star tallied just six points on 3-for-11 shooting to go with four rebounds and three assists. 

Boston has been a team whose collective sums have fueled their success. 

But Horford understands he has to be a high impact performer, a job that’s even more vital when key starters like Kyrie Irving (left knee soreness) and Jaylen Brown (concussion) are out as well as top reserves Marcus Smart (right thumb) and Daniel Theis (torn meniscus). 

And by Horford’s own admission, he just didn’t bring it on Sunday at a level to give him and the Celtics a legit shot at winning the game.

“Defensively we had too many breakdowns,” Horford said. “And the game got away from us in the second half. So there’s no excuses. I didn’t give us a chance, either; missing a lot of looks offensively. I just need to be better.”

And he’ll have to be if Boston (47-23) is to get back on track with a win on Tuesday against a talented Oklahoma City squad led by Russell Westbrook, Paul George and Carmelo Anthony. 

At full strength, the Thunder would be a significant challenge for the Celtics. 

But having a roster with a number of key players out with injuries, it becomes even more imperative for Boston’s top players to elevate their play. 

And as you scan this Celtics roster and examine those who are healthy enough to play, it’s clear that Horford more than any other Boston player, has to find a way to become more impactful.

Certainly, more points and rebounds would help. 

But as we’ve seen time and time again with Horford, often his greatest contributions to winning games don’t necessarily show up in the final box score. 

That being said, a six-point, four-rebound game doesn’t cut it. 

Horford has to be better, something he knows better than anyone. 

“I’ll definitely look at the film and see how I can be better individually,” Horford said. “The good thing about the NBA, is we have a chance to play on Tuesday. Hopefully we’ll learn from this game and be ready to go Tuesday at home.”