Eastern Conference Semis Recap: Celtics vs. Wizards
Before I even get into these two games so far or try to start breaking down this series, I would be remiss if I didn't first acknowledge the crazy shit that Isaiah Thomas has been able to do so far in this postseason. The day before the playoffs even start, he loses his 22-year-old sister in a car accident and proceeds to drop 33 the day after her death. Then after falling down 0-2 to the Bulls, he wills his team back to win 4 straight and close out the series despite flying cross-country to Takoma, WA to attend her funeral. Early in Game 1, after landing back in Boston at 4am with a 1PM tip off, he takes an elbow to the face and gets one of his front teeth knocked out. What does he proceed to do? He stays in the game and drops 33 to lead his team to a victory. And just when I thought he couldn't do anything else, he goes out and drops a career-high 53 points in Game 2 after falling on his face in the same exact spot he lost those teeth in. Oh, and he did it on his sister's birthday; she would have been 23.
The performances he's putting on during probably the most difficult time of his life would be incredible for anybody, but he's 5'9'! Our franchise is rich with history and has some of the greatest players of all time, yet he's continuing to set Celtics records game after game. The best part about it is the fact that with the help of Al Horford, he's making his teammates better in the process. It's no longer a one man band with Isaiah having to carry the load every night. While I'm on the topic, much respect to Al Horford. I used to hate his very existence dating back to the KG/Ray Ray/Pierce days when the Hawks took us to 7 games as an 8 seed the year we won the championship. He's heard a lot of criticism both fans and the media for his play this season, but he's telling everyone to shut the fuck up and is balling out in the playoffs. Brad said it best; Al scoring 15 points it he equivalent to anyone else scoring 25 because of how much of an impact he has on other people's game.
When it comes to this Celtics-Wizards series, there's no way I would have been able to predict this one correctly like I did with the Bulls. I was almost positive Washington was going to escape out of Boston winning at least 1, especially if we dropped 2 to the Bulls. But that just further cements my notion that those first 2 games were a fluke and our squad was feeling the after effects of IT's tragedy. But the playoffs show you how important home court advantage is because there hasn't been a regular season or playoff game in which the road team has won between these two teams. This series is going to be hard to predict because in both games so far it has seemed like it's been a tale of two halves. Washington comes out SKRONG out of the gate and then we come back in it after upping the physicality.
We're a different team than the Hawks, and the Wizard's strengths just happen to be strengths of ours as well. Everybody and their mama knows about Washington's elite backcourt of John Wall and Bradley Beal, and unless you have elite perimeter defenders to counter that you're going to have a tough time. Well, it just so happens we have plenty of elite perimeter defenders. You're not going to be able to stop Wall and Beal in the same game, but if you're able to slow one down you can expect to be in good shape. That's what we've done thus far with Beal, to the point where Scottie Brooks is pulling a Fred Hoiberg and complaining about the refs. Wall is going to get his, especially given the fact that he's going to be guarded by IT 50% of the time, but we can't be like Atlanta and let him and Beal combine for 73 in a game. Washington has to do something about our ability to hide IT on defense. They don't have the most depth in the world, but too often I see Isaiah in the corner guarding Kelly Oubre getting a free pass. They also need to play for longer than just the first quarter because it seems like they come out and execute their gameplan for the first 12 minutes and then lose focus. Their starting lineup absolutely kills us, but foul trouble in Game 2 was the death of them. As soon as Gortat fouled out I knew that game was ours.
Lastly, I need to shout out our bench. I've seen them step up like I haven't seen them step up this entire season. There probably hasn't been anyone harder on Kelly Olynyk this season than I have; I mean I literally said I would trade him for a washing machine like in Semi-Pro. But I don't know where we'd be in this series without him. My nigga, Terry Rozier? The most openly-blood affiliated player on our team? Baller. He's in his second season and I knew since training camp he was going to make a major jump this year and that's exactly what he's done. I follow Rozier on snap chat and it's amazing what he's able to do on the court given the amount it looks like he gets fucked up with his homies. As our backup point guard, he's better than some team's starters. You already know what kind of energy Smart and Jaylen Brown are going to bring off the bench and they've both been huge as well. Credit to Brad Stevens for finding the right matchups based on personnel.
Not even going to try to predict an outcome with this series because Washington can turn right around and win both of them at home. But I'll tell you one thing; if we steal one of these games down here in DC it's over. Regardless, I'm proud of my squad. Can't wait to see what these next few years hold for us.