Five adjustments Celtics can make for Game 4
Five adjustments Celtics can make for Game 4
WASHINGTON -- Even with a 2-1 series lead, the Celtics haven’t talked or played like a team that’s in control of a series.
Judging by the way the Wizards thumped them in Game 3, folks can understand better now why the Celtics had no issues with overconfidence after winning Game 1 and 2 in Boston. They knew they were fortunate to win both of those games.
But in terms of confidence, the Wizards have remained a confident bunch because for the most part, they have been the better team for longer stretches of this series.
According to NBA statistics guru Dick Lipe, the Celtics have led for 26 minutes, 49 seconds of this series while the Wizards have played with a lead for an astounding 112 minutes, 12 seconds with the teams being tied for a total of 10 minutes, 59 seconds.
So as we gear up for Game 4, there’s no question the Celtics are looking to make some changes. You have to after getting beat by 27 points in the playoffs right?
Brad Stevens isn’t showing his hand just yet, but here are five adjustments that could be just what Boston needs in order to hand the Wizards their first home loss in the playoffs this season.
5. GO TO HORFORD EARLIER, MORE OFTEN
Big Al tends to ease his way into games offensively. That needs to change for Game 4. While his instinct is to get his teammates involved and make winning plays, his ability to establish himself as a scoring threat from the perimeter is going to open things up for his mates later in the game. Washington’s Marcin Gortat had a good game (13 points, 16 rebounds), but Horford reminded us all that he can be a major scoring threat from long range on any given night. He was 5-for-8 shooting with 16 points, connecting on 4-of-5 3s. Being more “stretch” than “big” for the Celtics is in order for Game 4.
4. LET’S GET PHYSICAL
It sounds easy enough, right? But as we saw in Game 3, Washington was far and away the more aggressive team at both ends of the floor even if they both finished the game with 26 fouls committed. Boston can’t compete let alone win a game, when they’re being out-worked the way they were in Game 3. Being physical doesn’t mean you go all Kelly Oubre Jr. on someone and deliver what has been unanimously agreed upon was a dumb play on his part. But it does mean playing with a different disposition than what we saw in Game 3. Boston’s entire team seemed to have missed the memo about road playoff games require an elevated level of intensity. Playing for their playoff lives, the Wizards brought it. Boston didn’t.
3. GET THOMAS BETTER LOOKS
Game 3 was easily Thomas’ worst game of the playoffs, and the Wizards’ defense had a lot to do with that. Thomas was just 3-for-8 from the field, with one shot (a miss) being uncontested. Finding ways to free him up offensively has to be at or near the top of Boston’s to-do list going into Game 4. While I’m sure there are plenty of X’s and O’s Stevens can draw up that can address this, the improvement can start with something very simple: better screens. You certainly have to give credit to Washington for doing a really good job of mixing up its double-teams, blitzes and overall aggression in defending Thomas. But the Celtics only had eight screen assists in Game 3. Just to put that in perspective, Al Horford averaged 8.5 screen assists in Games 1 and 2. It’s the little things that will open Thomas back up for a big bounce back game on Sunday.
2. MAKE OPEN SHOTS
It sounds really simple. But as we have seen with the Celtics throughout the playoffs, it is a lot easier said than done. As much as Boston has had problems making uncontested shots, the Celtics were truly at their low point in Game 3 in this category. The Celtics had 38 uncontested field goal attempts in Game 3. They wound up making just 10 shots which meant they connected on a woeful 26.3 percent of their uncontested shots. On the road with a crowd that’s jeering you on non-stop, making open shots has to become the norm if the Celtics have any realistic shot at heading back to Boston with a 3-1 series lead.
1. START MARCUS SMART
As much as I know Brad Stevens loves to start games with shooters who can help with spacing, in theory, they need to do something about these horrible starts to games. They need to play better team defense, and the best way to do that would be to have Marcus Smart in the starting lineup instead of Gerald Green. Yes, I know this is what the Wizards have done most of this season. They came into the playoffs as the fourth-highest scoring team in the first quarter of games. But what they are doing to the Celtics to start games is just unacceptable for any team, let alone one that prides itself on good defense. The Wizards have averaged 39.7 points scored in the first quarter. This has to change, and it has to change quickly if Boston seriously thinks it will win this series.