Crowder happy about big lift provided by Lee and Johnson


Crowder happy about big lift provided by Lee and Johnson

BOSTON -- There will be varied points throughout the season when the Boston Celtics will go with a “small ball” lineup to try and counter an opposing team’s size.

But those times may be fewer and farther between, based on some of the additions made by the Celtics in the frontcourt.

The free-agent signings of 6-foot-9 big men Amir Johnson and David Lee has given the Celtics the kind of 1-2 punch in the frontcourt Brad Stevens has yet to have as Boston’s head coach.

You can count Jae Crowder among those who believes the team’s newest additions will go far in helping the Celtics in a multitude of areas -- especially defense.

“Those guys, those bodies are something that every team needs,” Crowder said on SiriusXM NBA Radio, hosted by Jeff Rickard and Antonio Davis. “As the course of the season wears on, you need those bodies.”

Look no further than Boston being on the short end of a four-game sweep in the first round of the playoffs to Cleveland, a series in which the Cavs never lost the rebounding war in any game and finished with a 6.3 rebound-per-game advantage.

There’s no way to know if having Johnson and Lee would have made much of a difference in Boston’s playoff series with Cleveland, but at the very least it would have allowed Boston to be more competitive not only on the boards but also defensively.

Part of Cleveland’s board work involved the Cavs having success on the offensive glass, which created multiple scoring opportunities for Cleveland. That was the last thing the Celtics could afford to happen with such consistency.

“With us getting those guys this summer, it really helped our defense more so than offense,” Crowder said. “Having those bodies to rebound and put more bodies in the game on opposing team bigs, is big for us. We didn’t have that depth last year.”

Indeed, both players provide some much-needed frontcourt depth, but it's the addition of Johnson that should provide tangible signs of improved play defensively.

The plus/minus per 100 possessions for Johnson throughout his career has been positive in 8 of his 10 NBA seasons. As far as being a rim protector, Johnson isn’t necessarily a major shot-blocking or shot-altering presence. However, he is known for being a solid positional defender who isn’t afraid to lay a hard foul or two on an opponent if it prevents them from getting an easy score. He's ranked in the NBA’s top seven in fouls committed four of the last five seasons, which includes a league-high 301 fouls committed during the 2013-2014 season.

Look for him to bring a similar brand of basketball to a Celtics team that far too often allowed teams a relatively clear path to the basket once they got past an initial defender and into the lane.

While it’s important to learn from the past, don’t expect Crowder or any of his teammates to dwell too much on what happened last season.

Crowder is well aware the Celtics have a lot of work ahead to be considered among the Eastern Conference’s elite, but there is a noticeable optimism about this upcoming season as they look ahead to training camp with a different cast of characters and to some extent, a different set of expectations.

After coming to Boston in December as part of the Rajon Rondo trade, Crowder became a key part of the Celtics’ late season surge into the playoffs. He was rewarded earlier this week with a five-year, $35 million contract.

While the goal last season was simply playing their way into the playoffs which they did, the bar has to be set higher this season for the Celtics.

“The one thing I feel like we should be focused on is winning a playoff game . . . winning playoff games and winning series,” Crowder said.

Well aware of this franchise’s success in the past, Crowder makes no secret about his focus is to eventually be part of the Celtics team that brings home Banner 18.

“The only way we get there is to win playoff games,” he said. 


Bucks fans' chant suggests they're pretty excited to face Celtics

Bucks fans' chant suggests they're pretty excited to face Celtics

As the Milwaukee Bucks put the finishing touches on a first-round sweep, their fans were already looking ahead.

The Bucks officially set up a second-round NBA playoff series with the Boston Celtics by beating the Pistons in Detroit on Monday night. And before that game even finished, fans at a Game 4 watch party in Milwaukee had the C's on their minds.

This is a perfect revenge matchup for the Bucks after Boston ousted them in the first round last season. Milwaukee star Giannis Antetokounmpo admitted as much Monday night after his team's series-clinching win.

But here's a quick warning for Bucks fans: Be careful what you wish for. The Celtics are riding high off a first-round sweep of the Indiana Pacers, and the last time another fanbase expressed its desire to play a Boston team was New York Yankees fans ahead of the 2018 American League Division Series. And we all know how that ended.

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Celtics to face Bucks in second round of the NBA playoffs

Celtics to face Bucks in second round of the NBA playoffs

To nobody's surprise, the Boston Celtics are going to play the Milwaukee Bucks in the second round of the NBA Playoffs.

The Bucks, the East's No. 1 seed, had the best record in the NBA last season (60-22) and faced little resistance in their first-round matchup. They easily swept the Detroit Pistons in four games. The Pistons' star player, Blake Griffin, was far from healthy, and that played a role in the Bucks' series win.

This is the second year in a row that the Celtics will play the Bucks in the playoffs. Last year, the No. 2 seeded Celtics defeated the Bucks in a series that spanned seven games. The home team won every game in that series.

The Bucks will be a tough opponent for the Celtics. Potential league MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo is a matchup nightmare, and he averaged 27.7 points, 12.5 rebounds, and 5.9 assists per game during the regular season. And around him, the Bucks have solid depth.

In their regular season series, the Celtics posted only a 1-2 record against the Bucks, winning their first meeting in November but coming up just short in their other two games. Antetokounmpo averaged 31 points per game against the Celtics, so slowing him down will be key to finding success in the series.

The Celtics will open on the road in this series, as the first two games will be in Milwaukee. The Celtics will have to ensure that they get off to a solid start and continue to fare well on the road, something they struggled to do last postseason (1-7 record in eight road games, 0-3 in Milwaukee).

BLAKELY: Celtics vs. Bucks playoff history>>>

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