When: Sunday, May 1 at 1 p.m. ET
Where: TD Garden in Boston, Massachusetts
Wizards: Ian Mahinmi (Out, Calf)
Q&A with Jeff Clark with CelticsBlog
We talked with Jeff Clark of CelticsBlog about what the Wizards can expect in this series from Boston.
The Wizards held Isaiah Thomas to 40 percent shooting from the field and 27.8 percent shooting from deep in their four meetings this season. Do you think the Wizards were able to do anything special to limit his effectiveness that they can use again in the playoffs or do you think it was just a random blip?
I read somewhere that opponents' 3 point percentage very seldom has a lot to do with the defense. You can limit their looks and make them work for the shots, but I'm not personally going to put too much stock in the percentages themselves, in particular with such a small sample size.
With that said, the Wizards are a bad matchup for Isaiah for a few reasons. Wall is bigger (so is everyone) but he's also lightning quick. So Thomas won't be able to simply blow past him like he can some other guys. So he'll need that much more help getting free on screens and pick-and-roll situations. In addition, the Celtics do their best to "hide" Thomas on defense. Having two stars on the perimeter make that much harder. He's also been shooting poorly from outside for the last couple of games. All that said, I think he'll find a way to get his points. As Brad Stevens says, "water finds its level."
The Wizards and Celtics both invested a lot into recruiting Al Horford last summer, but he's coming off an interesting series where he took a bit of criticism for Boston's early struggles in the series. Where do Celtics fans stand on Horford and what kind of impact do you think he can have against Washington?
The Al Horford narrative is frustrating sometimes. He doesn't always put up the kind of counting stats that you would expect to see from a max contract star player. So at first glance, it seems like he's under-performing. But if you look a little deeper and watch him closely (or even just listen to his coach and teammates) you see how much value he adds to the team in a thousand little ways. His passing from the high post is the stuff that a coach daydreams about. At least part of the credit for Isaiah's monster season goes to Horford for freeing him up in so many ways. It is true that there are times when he's trying too hard to "make the right play" and as a result he doesn't look for his own shot enough. But I'll take that over a volume shooter that detracts from the overall scheme. To me, he's worth every penny of that contract.
Who do you think Avery Bradley will spend more time guarding in this series: John Wall or Bradley Beal?
There's no good answer for this question because there's poison in both cups. The Celtics will probably try to hide Isaiah Thomas as much as possible, so I wouldn't be too surprised to see a lot of switches and odd rotations where guys like Jae Crowder come out to help on the perimeter more. Also, we've seen Stevens alter his starting lineup to match up with the Bulls (adding Gerald Green) so I wouldn't put it past him to insert a guy like Marcus Smart to have another plus defender out there from the jump.
What is your prediction for the series?
Seven games, back and forth, emotions run high, random guys step up with amazing games, last second buzzer beater game winners for both sides, a couple of overtime games, and the team that scores last wins. If you can't tell, I have a lot of respect for this Washington team. I'll pick the Celtics because I'm a homer but this has all the makings of a great playoff series. Can't wait to see it unfold.
Most Likely Wizards Killer: Marcus Smart
Marcus Smart has had some offensive explosions at times, but I’m picking him more for his defense in this one. He’s quick, he’s physical, and he’s been known to get under John Wall and Bradley Beal’s skin in the past. He could either force Wall or Beal into a bad shooting night, or agitate one of them to the point where they pick up a technical or get ejected. Smart has the potential to wreck Washington’s chances of pulling off an upset on the road without even scoring a point.