Celtics

How Celtics benefit from Bradley Beal, Spencer Dinwiddie sitting out NBA restart

How Celtics benefit from Bradley Beal, Spencer Dinwiddie sitting out NBA restart

While no Celtics have opted out of the NBA's restart in Orlando later this month, other teams are losing star players.

And the C's can benefit from those absences.

The most recent All-Star deciding not to play is Washington's Bradley Beal, whose right rotator cuff will keep him out of action. According to a Wizards release, the decision was made after consultation between Beal, his representation, and team doctors.

Download the MyTeams app for the latest Celtics news and analysis

“This was a difficult decision and one that I did not take lightly as the leader of this team,” said Beal, whose symptoms worsened over the NBA hiatus despite his efforts to go through rehab so he could finish out the season. “I wanted to help my teammates compete for a playoff spot in Orlando, but also understand that this will be best for all of us in the long term.”

While it might have been a difficult decision for the two-time All-Star, it makes things even easier for the Celtics, whose last seeding game before the playoffs comes against the Wizards on August 13. Beal was averaging 30.5 points per game (second in the NBA behind James Harden) when the season was put on hold, but he had torched the Celtics in the teams' only meeting this season. Beal erupted for 44 points on 17-for-27 shooting in a 140-133 Boston win on November 13.

With Beal opting out, the Wizards will be without their two leading scorers when the season resumes. Davis Bertans had also opted out of the restart before he enters free agency this offseason. Rookie Rui Hachimura is the team's highest-scoring player set to play in Orlando, and he only averages 13.4 points per game.

Entering the restart 5.5 games behind the eighth-place Magic, the Wizards were already a longshot to qualify for the playoffs, but their absence makes things easier for their opponents, including the Celtics, who will try to make up a three-game deficit on the Raptors for the No. 2 seed in the East. 

The Celtics also caught a break with Brooklyn's Spencer Dinwiddie deciding not to play in the NBA bubble. Dinwiddie was the Nets' highest-remaining scorer on their roster (20.6 points per game) and he had two double-doubles in three games against Boston this season.

Beal and Dinwiddie's absences are a double dose of good news for the Celtics. Not only are the Wizards and Nets both on Boston's eight-game schedule, the Raptors aren't scheduled to face either team and won't get the benefit of taking on those depleted teams.

Celtics Talk Podcast: Can Tatum be a title team's best player? | Listen & subscribe | Watch on YouTube

Celtics-76ers Preview: Can Kemba Walker break out of his Philly slump?

Celtics-76ers Preview: Can Kemba Walker break out of his Philly slump?

Twenty-one months ago, Kemba Walker dropped a career high 60 points on the Philadelphia 76ers, so it would be a bit shortsighted to suggest that Walker has any sort of a Philly problem.

But here’s the reality from Walker’s first season in Boston: In three games against the Sixers, Walker shot a mere 37.3 percent overall. He averaged 22.3 points but on 19.7 shots per game. The Celtics owned a team-worst net rating of minus-17.7 during Walker’s 103 minutes of floor time against Philadelphia, a span in which the Celtics were outscored by a total of 34 points. Boston went 0-3 in those games.

While Walker’s performance during seeding games eased concerns about the balky left knee that hindered him before the 2019-20 season paused, one of the big questions for Boston entering a first-round series against the 76ers is whether Walker can play to his All-Star standards and spearhead Boston’s offense against a team that often flustered the Celtics with its size and length this season.

Don't miss NBC Sports Boston's coverage of Celtics-76ers, which begins Monday at 5:30 p.m. with Celtics Pregame Live followed by tip-off at 6:30 p.m. You can also stream the game on the MyTeams App.

Walker is vital to Boston’s offensive success. The Celtics posted a team-best offensive rating of 115.2 this season when Walker was on the court and that dipped to 109.4 when he was on the bench.

As much as Walker passed the eyeball test inside the bubble, looking spry and swift, the team’s starters didn’t put up their typically glossy offensive numbers. Given the way the Sixers can make things difficult on the defensive end, it’s crucial that Walker has that first unit firing on all cylinders in the postseason.

That starts with Walker being able to create his own offense.

The 76ers will deploy some of their bigger guards against Walker, including 6-foot-5 Josh Richardson, who had nearly three times as many matchup minutes against Walker as the now-sidelined Ben Simmons did during the regular season. Walker can also expect a healthy dose of rookie reserve Matisse Thybulle, another 6-foot-5 wing who made things particularly difficult on him.

The Richardson-Thybulle combo accounted for a total of 21 minutes of matchup time over three games and limited Walker to 27 points on 34.7 percent shooting (8 of 23 overall) including just 28.6 percent (4 of 14) beyond the 3-point arc, per the NBA’s matchup tracking. What’s more, Walker had more turnovers (five) than assists (four) against those defenders. Thybulle also blocked Walker's shot four times and his length can really disrupt the smaller guard out past the 3-point line.

 

The Sixers’ size simply makes everything a little bit more difficult for Walker. They can fight over screens and still contest pull-up jumper and they can close out to the 3-point line with a long arm extended as he rises. Walker made just 9 of 28 above-the-break 3-pointers against Philadelphia, a spot where he shot 38.8 percent against all other teams.

But where the Sixers can really make things tough on Walker is when he tries to score near the basket. Walker connected on just 2 of 8 shots in the restricted area this season against Philadelphia, and went 3 of 9 from inside the paint. Whether it’s Joel Embiid or Al Horford, or a combination of both, the Sixers will scramble to help whenever Walker attacks off the pick-and-roll. 

 

So, what does Walker need to do to thrive against the Sixers’ size? Rewinding to that 60-point outburst in November 2018 offers some clues, especially considering he had almost the same number of field goals that night (21) as he did this entire season against Philly (22). 

Even with Jimmy Butler hounding him for much of the night, Walker was able to attack the basket and finish through contact. He was 9 of 13 at the rim, often charging off screens beyond the 3-point arc and getting to the rim before Embiid could even arrive with help. He didn’t get rattled when some early layups didn’t fall and used body control to muscle home tough finishes. He pulled up in the mid-range when Embiid sank towards the hoop.

[embed <iframe width="640" height="360" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/LEkEHzsx4-0" frameborder="0" allow="accelerometer; autoplay; encrypted-media; gyroscope; picture-in-picture" allowfullscreen></iframe> [/embed]

If the Sixers are going to have success in this series, they’re going to have to muddy up the game. They’re going to have to turn them into rock fights. They’re going to have to get physical and try to make Boston uncomfortable.

The Celtics have to counter with ball movement and not settle for perimeter looks. It’s on Walker to keep attacking in the pick-and-roll and try to spray the ball through the labyrinth of long arms to get teammates quality looks.

If Walker has Boston’s offense clicking, it’s going to put an exceptional amount of pressure on the Sixers to match that offensive output, something that won’t be easy with their lack of shooting and the absence of Simmons.

So much of the Celtics’ offense is predicated on Walker’s play. It eases the burden on Jayson Tatum and creates even more opportunities for Jaylen Brown and Gordon Hayward. But it starts with Walker.

He doesn’t need to have monster nights like that 60-point outburst in 2018 (heck, the Hornets lost that game) but he needs to play with the same confidence and continually put pressure on the Sixers’ defense.

Jayson Tatum dominates Celtics teammates in NBA bubble bowling outing

Jayson Tatum dominates Celtics teammates in NBA bubble bowling outing

With Mookie Betts off to Los Angeles, the Boston sports scene is missing a professional athlete who moonlights as an elite bowler.

Might another young superstar fill that void?

A few Boston Celtics players blew off steam Thursday following their seeding-round finale with a trip to a bowling alley in Orlando's NBA bubble. Naturally, they kept score -- and Jayson Tatum spared no one.

Don't miss NBC Sports Boston's coverage of the Celtics-76ers first-round playoff series. You can also stream all games on the MyTeams App.

Here's the final tally, per Tatum's Snapchat:

It's no perfect 300, but 180 still is a strikingly good score for the 22-year-old All-Star, who left his teammates in the dust with a "turkey" in his final frame.

Here are some highlights from the session from Enes Kanter's Twitter, which include Tacko Fall's solid form, Jaylen Brown chucking a decent ball and Javonte Green "misfiring," to put it lightly:

Maybe Kanter should have focused less on filming and more on bowling, though: The C's big man finished dead last with a 71.

The Celtics are off until Monday, where they'll roll into a first-round playoff matchup with the Philadelphia 76ers having gone 5-3 in eight seeding games.