Celtics

Celtics embrace best-of-three, look to bring the intensity

Celtics embrace best-of-three, look to bring the intensity

BOSTON – This best-of-seven series between Boston and Milwaukee has been reduced to a best-of-three affair with the two teams locked into a 2-2 series tie.

As we’ve seen in the past, there’s an increased amount of pressure for both teams as a series progresses.

Still, with the Celtics being at home and the stakes being what they are – the loser will be facing playoff elimination in Game 6 on Thursday – a heightened level of stress for all involved seems a given right?

“You can certainly look at it that way,” said Celtics coach Brad Stevens. “Or you can look at it and say we have been around basketball all of our lives and we got a best of three to go on to the next round. It’s a challenge, it’s fun. It’s what you’re here for.”

Jaylen Brown has been one of Boston’s top players in this series, averaging a team-high 23.8 points per game.

Brown knows as well as anyone how these are highly stressful times but understands his focus – and the rest of the Celtics' for that matter – has to be on doing whatever is needed to come away with a Game 5 win.

“It’s one game at a time,” Brown said. “That’s how I look at it. We come out and play as if it’s Game 1. Be relaxed but also come out and have that same intensity that we brought in Game 4, Game 1 and Game 2 and see where that takes us.”

Here are five below-the-radar storylines heading into Game 5:

HORFORD IN THE POST

Boston has been at its best in this series when Al Horford has had a good amount of touches in the half court where he can work on Milwaukee’s low-post defenders. According to nba.com/stats, Horford is averaging 5.3 points on post-ups which is third in the playoffs behind San Antonio’s LaMarcus Aldridge (10.5) and Philadelphia’s Joel Embiid (6.5).

SPOTTING MIDDLETON

Milwaukee’s Khris Middleton has been scoring in an array of ways for the Bucks, with a sizable chunk of the scoring damage he inflicts coming by way of the spot-up shot. In fact, he’s averaging 8.0 points on spot-ups in the postseason which trails only Portland’s Al Farouq Aminu (11.5).

PASSING ROZIER

Terry Rozier will be looking to step his scoring game up tonight, for sure. His passing game in the playoffs has really strong. In fact, only Philadelphia’s Ben Simmons (88.5) has more passes in the postseason thus far than Rozier (76.8) according to nba.com/stats.

SEMI OJELEYE

While Giannis Antetokounmpo has had success against pretty much every Boston Celtic in the playoffs, rookie forward Semi Ojeleye has done as good a job as anyone when it comes to defending Antetokounmpo. Don’t be surprised if Ojeleye sees a spike in minutes played in Game 5. In Boston’s Game 4 loss, Ojeleye saw more than 17 minutes of court time, with Marcus Morris (he played 26 minutes, 19 seconds) being the only Celtic reserve to log more minutes.

BUCK-ING HISTORY

The Milwaukee Bucks are shooting 54.2 percent from the field in the playoffs which is tops among all playoff teams. That includes them shooting at least 50 percent from the field in their past three games, something Milwaukee hasn’t done in the playoffs since April 27-May 1, 1990.

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE

Jayson Tatum on overhyped talk: 'I'll stick to my job'

Jayson Tatum on overhyped talk: 'I'll stick to my job'

A story earlier this week from Bleacher Report's Grant Hughes calling burgeoning young Celtics star Jayson Tatum one of the NBA's five most overrated players has expectedly ruffled some feathers in the Boston sports stratosphere. 

But Tatum himself is taking the high road. In a conversation with ESPN's Chris Forsberg centered around his recent workouts with future Hall of Famer Kobe Bryant, the 20-year-old forward, who finished third in Rookie of the Year voting this past season, said he wasn't bothered by the article:

While Hughes acknowledged that Tatum could be a franchise player, his reasoning for inclusion on the list was that he could be a victim of the stacked team for which he plays, saying, "Kyrie has never been one to take a backseat, and with him back on the floor, it'll be much harder for Tatum to build on his postseason takeover."

As for the session with Kobe? Tatum clearly absorbed a lot:

Hughes also named Warriors center DeMarcus Cousins, Raptors forward Kawhi Leonard, Bulls foward Zach LaVine and Suns forward Josh Jackson in the company of overhyped players.

It's been quite a week for Tatum, the former No. 3 overall pick out of Duke University. Earlier in the week, the St. Louis native had his jersey number permanently retired at his high school alma mater.

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE

Anything is Podable Episode Four: Building the Roster

Anything is Podable Episode Four: Building the Roster

Even with three All-Stars in Ray Allen, Kevin Garnett, and Paul Pierce, Danny Ainge and the Celtics knew that, in order to win a championship, the team needed a strong supporting cast of role players.

Episode Four of NBC Sports Boston’s “Anything is Podable” takes a look at how Ainge constructed the rest of the roster and how one word, “ubuntu,” set the tone for a memorable season.

Giving the team a shooter off the bench, as well as another veteran presence in the locker room, Eddie House was perfect for the 2008 Celtics.

“I remember going to a practice when he was a young player,” said Ainge regarding House. “Just watching him shoot, and shoot, and just amazed at what a great shooter this kid was.”

“I saw him have his 56 and 60 back-to-back point games in the Pac-10 and it was amazing.”

Long a fan of House, Ainge went out and got his guy, but he wasn’t finished yet.

James Posey, a veteran wing who had experience both starting and coming off the bench, was nearing a deal with the Nets, but one call changed everything.

“I actually told my agent, I’ll just go to New Jersey,” said Posey. “Then Eddie House called me.”

House convinced Posey to spurn the Nets in favor of the Celtics, giving Boston another veteran off the pine.

With the roster taking shape, what the team needed now was an identity.

Ubuntu.

Mentioned to Doc Rivers at a trustee meeting at Marquette University, the word that means “I am who I am because of you,” became the team’s mantra.

“I looked this word up and I spent, no exaggeration, hours and days on this word,” said Rivers. “Everything about the word epitomized what we had to be.”

Ubuntu was the rallying cry of the 2008 Celtics and it all started with a Board of Trustees meeting at Marquette.

Anything is Podable is a ten-part series diving into the story of the 2008 Celtics and their championship season, with exclusive, never-before-heard interviews with team executives, former players, and media members.

Narrated by Kyle Draper, it’s the perfect way for Celtics fans to pass time this offseason and get excited for 2018-19, a season in which the Celtics have as good a chance at raising their 18th championship banner as they’ve had since that magical 2008 season.

Fans can subscribe to the podcast through the link below and check out the other nine episodes for a look at this exclusive series.