The Runner Sports

How The Boston Celtics Can Still Win This Series

The second round playoff series between the Boston Celtics and the Washington Wizards is all tied up at 2. Somehow though it feels like the Celtics are down. Maybe it’s because in both games in Washington they got destroyed.

Game 3 saw the Wizards up 39-17 by the end of the first.

Boston never recovered.

Game 4 saw a 26-0 run in the 3rd quarter that led to an easy Wizards win.

Even when Boston won Games 1 and 2 in Boston, the Wizards had large runs. Washington started Game 1 up 16-0, in Game 2 they dropped 42 in the first.

These large runs have led many to believe that Washington is the super team and will win this series. While the runs are concerning, Boston is still more than capable of winning this series. It starts with Game 5 Wednesday on their home floor. Here are three keys for the Celtics to not only win tonight, but to win this series.

Limit Turnovers

A turnover vs Washington is not like a turnover against other teams. Turn it over against the Wizards, and John Wall is scoring on your basket in a blink of an eye. His speed is a weapon and he makes teams pay for turnovers like no other player does.

In Game 1, Boston only had 11 turnovers, they won. In Game 2 they had 16, which is bad, and it took 53 points from Isaiah Thomas to make up for it. You can survive 16 turnovers at home and when your star has 53, that doesn’t work on the road. Game 3 is a prime example as they had 16 turnovers again and lost by 27. Game 4 was the low point. Boston had 20 turnovers that led to 34 points for the Wizards. That is simply impossible to recover from. These turnovers are what are fuelling Washington’s runs as well. During the 26-0 run, Boston had 8 turnovers.

Coaches, fans, and people like me always say stop turning it over. What they don’t say is how. Well here are a couple of things Boston can do to stop the bleeding.

One is getting more penetration into the lane. That way at least if they turn it over, it will be harder for Washington to start a break, and give the Celtics a chance to set up their transition defense.

The second thing is to simplify on offense. A high pick and roll between Thomas and Al Horford has proven time and time again to get a good look. Thomas needs to do a better job of recognizing a trap earlier so he can give it up to Horford, who then, in turn, needs to make a quick and decisive play. Horford needs to be assertive early, and go to the basket. He has fallen in love with his jumper too much. Even though he is hitting them, if he drives he can kick it out to get Boston’s other shooters going. A combination of simplifying and being aggressive to the basket should calm the turnovers down by the Celtics.


I put this in all caps because it’s that important. Celtics fans have been screaming this all season. Rebounding almost cost them the series against the Bulls. Boston is not a good rebounding team, they finished 27th in rebounding. However, they have moments where they look capable. They will never be a dominant rebounding team, but they need to at least hold their own.

Boston tied the rebound battle in Game 1; in Game 2 they were only out-rebounded by 3. Brad Stevens will take that any day of the week. In Game 3 they were out rebounded by 12, in Game 4 by 14. You combine that with turnovers and it spells disaster.

To win, Boston probably can’t be out rebounded by more than 5-7 boards. With Boston, it’s usually as simple as keep the rebounding close and they win, get crushed on the boards they lose. To keep it close it will take a total team effort, as the Celtics don’t have a single dominant rebounder. Horford is going to have to play inside more.

Guards who can rebound like Marcus Smart and Terry Rozier may need more minutes if it’s becoming a problem early. Even though Smart has his own limitations, and is a roller coaster of a player. Rozier should probably play more anyway. He has the athleticism and speed to keep up with the Wizards, he can also defend, rebound, and is rapidly improving as an outside shooter. Rozier is +44 for the series; he needs to play more.

Okay, I’ll stop with my Rozier love fest. However, if their bigs like Kelly Olynyk and Amir Johnson are not getting the job done on the glass they need a quick hook. Rozier and Smart have proven to be better rebounders anyway.

More Threes Please! 

The foursome of Avery Bradley, Jae Crowder, Marcus Smart, and Terry Rozier need to hit some threes. These shots have been there all series. Washington has struggled defending the three all season, and have also given lots of good looks to Thomas and Horford. Those two have hit them for the most part, but the other four have not.

For Boston to win at least two of them has to catch some fire from deep. In Game 1, Crowder was the hero hitting 6 threes. Game 2 saw Thomas score 53, so it didn’t matter what anyone else did, but that is not sustainable going forward. In Game 3, Crowder, Bradley, Smart, and Rozier combined for 4 threes. Game 4 saw the foursome combine again for just 4 threes.

They have been missing wide open shots. Washington is giving them these shots especially to Smart and Rozier. Boston has to make them pay to lighten the load on Thomas and Horford. Going home should help. Bottom line they need to shoot with confidence and keep shooting even if they miss a few early ones. They won’t win unless they hit around 13-15 threes.

Summary and Prediction

Washington’s starters are better, John Wall is the best player in this series, and the Wizards have another gear the Celtics simply can’t reach.

However, the Celtics have home court, the better coach, and a deeper bench. Boston has cards to play, and they are still more than capable. Boston has a lot to do; they need to limit turnovers, not get crushed on the boards, and hit some threes. They can and if they do they will not only win this game, but this series. I like Boston tonight and I still like them in this series.

Evan Dyal

Evan Dyal

Charlotte Hornets Writer at The Runner Sports
Evan Dyal