WALTHAM, Mass. – Size has been an issue the Boston Celtics have had to contend with all season.
But you will be hard-pressed to find another stretch like the one the Celtics are in right now that features so many elite-level big men.
It began Monday night with Miami’s Hassan Whiteside and will continue Wednesday against a Detroit Pistons team that’s led by former UConn star Andre Drummond.
After that, the Celtics host DeMarcus Cousins and the Sacramento Kings followed by a road game at Philadelphia against Joel Embiid and the Philadelphia 76ers on Friday and Saturday, respectively.
The Celtics passed their first big man test on Monday’s 112-104 win at Miami.
Whiteside had a big game with 25 points and 17 rebounds, but most of his points came after Boston had firm control of the game.
Making the win even more impressive was it came with Al Horford out while being with his wife for the birth of their second child.
Filling in for Horford was Tyler Zeller who will likely see a spike in his playing time this week.
Against the Heat, Zeller had 10 points on 4-for-7 shooting along with seven rebounds – tops among Boston starters.
With Horford back in the fold, Zeller will once again find himself coming off the bench.
But with the size of the Celtics’ upcoming opponents, look for a spike in Zeller’s playing time this week.
“In the back of your mind, you know you’ve got a good chance to play,” Zeller told CSNNE.com. “I just have to continue to produce when I get out there, help my teammates any way possible.”
Amir Johnson said the key to the Celtics being able to limit some of the upcoming big men will be in how well they contest their opponent’s pick-and-roll offense.
“Most of these teams, they run pick and rolls and bigs dive to the basket for lobs, just like Whiteside did and in (tonight’s) game Drummond will look to do the same thing,” Johnson told CSNNE.com. “So just being locked in … it’s going to be a team effort.”
And while the Celtics (10-7) will be seeing the Pistons (9-10) on the back end of a Detroit back-to-back, it won’t make dealing with Drummond any easier.
The 6-foot-11 center had three points and six rebounds in just 13 minutes after he was hit with a flagrant-2 foul (an automatic ejection) in the second quarter of Detroit’s 112-89 win at Charlotte.
“He’s a load,” Zeller said. “Big, strong; he’s a good player. Defending him isn’t going to be just me or Amir or Al or any player. It has to be a team effort defensively. And it has to be like that really against every team, not just the ones we have coming up that have really good centers.”
And it can’t just be for most of the game, which was the case against Whiteside who had just two points and five rebounds in the first half on Monday.
“We have to stay under control,” Johnson said. “Sometimes we can get out of hand and we don’t do our job. We have to for 48 minutes. We have to be defensively sound, play our defense and do that for the rest of the game.”