Potential Celtic playoff foes: Washington
BOSTON -- After a thrilling, seven-game second-round series a year ago, we all were eagerly awaiting a Boston-Washington rematch in the playoffs. But in the first round?
The fact that, at this late stage of the season, it’s still possible speaks to how Washington hasn’t been able to build off the success it enjoyed a year ago with a group that remains relatively the same.
Boston (51-23) is currently second in the East behind Toronto (55-20), while the Wizards (41-33) have the sixth-best record with a 1 1/2-game lead over Milwaukee (39-35). They trail fifth-place Indiana (44-31) by 2 1/2 games.
Here’s a look at the pros and cons of Boston facing the Washington Wizards in the first round of the playoffs.
PROS: MARCUS MORRIS
Playing against his twin brother Markieff and the Washington Wizards seems to bring out the best in Marcus Morris. His season-high 31 points came earlier this season against the Wizards. And his 7.0 rebounds per game against Washington is his best average this season against a team he has faced at least three times. Boston will lean even more on Morris if these two meet in the first round, with Kyrie Irving (left knee) questionable to be healthy enough at the start of the series.
PROS: POINTS OFF TURNOVERS
Washington has had its issues this season when it comes to capitalizing on the mistakes of opponents. It has become an even bigger issue since the All-Star break. Since then, Washington has averaged just 14.0 points off turnovers, which ranks 29th in the NBA. As bad as the Wizards have been in scoring off turnovers, they’ve struggled at limiting their foes’ scoring off of their miscues. Since coming back from the break, the Wizards have allowed 19.8 points per game off turnovers which ranks 28th in the league.
PROS: CELTICS BENCH SCORING
Injuries have certainly forced Boston to reconfigure its second unit, but this group has consistently managed to find guys to step up and contribute regardless of who may or may not be too hurt to play. Boston’s reserves have been impactful in the three games this season against the Wizards, outscoring them in each game by a combined 124-87 margin, or 12.3 points per game.
CONS: BACKCOURT MATCHUP
John Wall (left knee) will be back in plenty of time for Washington’s first-round playoff series, forming a formidable 1-2 punch in the backcourt with Bradley Beal. We all know about Wall’s end-to-end speed and how difficult that can be for any team to deal with. But with his absence, Beal has evolved into a more complete, all-around All-Star. Throw in the fact that Boston is likely to begin the playoffs without Kyrie Irving (left knee) and Marcus Smart (right thumb), and the degree of difficulty for the Celtics to win the series will take a noticeable spike.
One area where the Wizards have shown improvement is rebounding. Prior to the All-Star break, Washington had a rebounding percentage of .498, which ranked 17th in the NBA. Since the break, the Wizards’ rebounding percentage is up to .521, which ranks fourth in the NBA.
Every playoff series features players whose impact in the postseason rises, and if these two meet that would once again prove to be true. Boston’s Marcus Smart is expected to miss all of the first-round series and Daniel Theis (torn meniscus) is out for the season, not to mention that Kyrie Irving (left knee) isn’t likely to be ready at the start of Boston’s first-round series. That means players such as Terry Rozier, Marcus Morris and Greg Monroe are not X-factors but instead, prominent rotation/starters, which weakens the team’s overall talent in addition to impacting the number of X-factors to take the floor for Boston.