ATLANTA -- The long-awaited series between the Wizards and Boston Celtics is here, and it begins Sunday at TD Garden. They don't like each other in the regular season and that animosity is likely to reach new heights in the semifinals.
For the Wizards to upset the No. 1 seed, this is what has to happen:
-- Isaiah Thomas makes them go. During the regular season coach Scott Brooks deployed Kelly Oubre on him and it worked. He's more athletic than the 5-9 guard and has a 7-2 wingspan. The film study for reference.
-- Al Horford isn't a true center. He's a power forward who is undersized against true centers like Marcin Gortat and Ian Mahinmi. It's unclear when Mahinmi will be available after a left calf strain but Brooks told CSNmidatlantic.om early Friday if there was a Game 7 vs. the Hawks, which would've been Sunday, he wouldn't be able to play. Game 1 vs. Boston is Sunday.
-- Avery Bradley is one of the NBA's best defending backcourt players. He's fast, physical and strong on the ball. Bradley Beal will have his work cut out for him just to catch the ball cleanly. Bradley will try to deny him and will be aggressive over screens which means the seams for Beal will be backdoor and selling his moves to the arc and getting into the paint to breakdown the defense. The Celtics don't have true rim protection.
-- The second unit for the Celtics doesn't blow anyone away but Kelly Olynyk, Marcus Smart and Terry Rozier can get hot. They share the ball and allowing them to freely move the ball to step into open looks will make decent players look better than they actually are.
-- It's hard to imagine that the Celtics will go with Amir Johnson vs. Markieff Morris for any prolonged period of time -- he lasted four minutes before coach Brad Stevens yanked him from one game -- but if that happens that's a major mismatch that has to be manipulated at every turn.
-- The Celtics can't hide Thomas defensively. John Wall and Beal can and have posted him for easy buckets or force help that opens other teammates for clean looks. If they try to hide him vs. Porter who is 6-8 that's a near 50% three-point shooter. Thomas has to be forced to defend every possession on the court, unlike when the Chicago Bulls let him off the hook in Game 4. They allowed Thomas to be protected by defending the 6-foor-8 Paul Zipser who wasn't involved in any of the action.
-- Morris did a great job keeping his hands to himself in Game 6 vs. Atlanta. He has to repeat it for the playoffs. Getting cheap reach-ins is the biggest weakness in his game and he has to realize he doesn't have to get a block or steal every possession. Sometimes he has to have restraint and make sure he's available for the fourth quarter.
-- The Wizards had 17 turnovers, seven by Wall, on Friday. The Celtics' transtion game which features a lot of trail threes is fueled by such givewaways.
-- Gortat will get the post touches vs. Horford that he didn't get vs. Dwight Howard. The Wizards will go to him to start quarters to get him involved since Horford can't keep him off the low block. Can Gortat hit the shots? If he can, that alone changes the tone of the series because Horford can't bang with him down low for an entire game.
-- Defending the high post action. Horford initates most of it with dribble pitches and handoffs as the Celtics do a lot of split action to confuse the defense with their movement. Horford averaged 5.0 assists in the regular season which led post players. Not allowing him the room or space to do what he wants with the ball is a significant factor. Gortat hasn't always been consistent with ball pressure this far from the rim. That has to change. And the wings have to do their best to blow up the handoffs.
-- Because of their size problem, the Celtics will have issues rebounding. This is where Mahinmi gives the Wizards that second big to give them headaches on the boards but until he returns Gortat, Morris and Jason Smith should be enough. Thomas has no business getting tip-ins like he did in their last regular-season game won by Boston. If that happens, bad sign.