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Jaylen Brown is now listed as doubtful for tonight's Game One versus the Philadelphia 76'ers. Just what the Celtics needed with an already-depleted crew!

This is just another test for the already severely-tested Brad Stevens. What lineups can he put out there that will counter the potent one-two punch of the two Philly bigs, Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid. Did I mention they were big - with Embiid at 7' and Simmons standing 6'10". They both are averaging double-digits in scoring and rebounds in the post-season, and Ben is close to a triple-double with 9.0 APG.

Simmons is shooting 50% on field goals and Embiid is hitting 37.5% of his three-pointers. The 76'ers can run and they can hit from outside. Simmons runs the show at point guard, and Embiid can stretch the floor or work the low post. Joel is blocking three shots per game in the playoffs. And the supporting cast is big and talented. This team just took out the Miami Heat in five games and their winning ways continue.

All five Philly starters shoot the three-ball well except for Simmons, and they all rebound well with the exception of sharpshooter J.J. Redick. Their smallest front-court starter is 6'9" Robert Covington. He is joined by 6'10 Dario Saric. Back-ups Ersan Ilyasova and Marco Belinelli are also pretty adept at putting the ball in the basket.


So what's Brad's plan. Putting Aron Baynes on Joel is one solution. Aron has the size and defensive ability to make it work. He can cover Embiid outside or under the hoop. But one issue with Baynes starting has to do with the Celtics offense. Aron doesn't usually put a lot of points on the board and neither does The Ox, Semi Ojeleye.

Marcus Smart's return has been a real lift for the team, but his offense, with the braced right hand, has not been there yet. The bulk of the offense needs to come from the Big-3-for-a-night (Saturday's Round-One finale) of Al Horford, Terry Rozier and Jayson Tatum. Marcus Morris may have a hot hand - has the size to deal with Philly's front line and a sound, all-around game from him would be welcome.

The coverage on Simmons will be interesting. There is no need to defend him for shots on the perimeter, but he needs attention everywhere else. Semi Ojeleye may be an answer there, but I can't see Semi in the starting lineup with Baynes. Simply not enough offense. If Aron takes on Joel, Al may be an answer for Ben. Here is NBA.com's Marc D'Amico with his thoughts on match-ups:

The C’s were very coy in their comments in this regard during Sunday’s media availability. As such, all that can be used to predict their game plan is what was witnessed on the court this season. Boston used Horford as Simmons’ main defender during the regular season, but there are many other candidates who did and likely will again see time against Simmons.

Semi Ojeleye is one candidate. He was Boston’s answer to Antetokounmpo during the first round, and while Antetokounmpo and Simmons are fairly dissimilar in terms of skill set, they are similar when it comes to size, speed and athleticism. The last man on the list of potential defenders against Simmons is someone who may come as a surprise: Aron Baynes. The 6-foot-10 Baynes is known more as a rim protector than as an agile defender, but he showcased during Boston’s previous series that he is capable of defending players like Antetokounmpo and Simmons at a high level.

“I thought some of our best possessions against Giannis were with Baynes guarding him,” Stevens claimed Sunday afternoon. “Obviously Semi more than anyone, but Baynes is able to move laterally, keep guys in front, make them take shots with him between them and the basket, and that’s what you ultimately want.”

The coach went on to call Baynes “one of the best defenders in the league” and said that Boston will “need him to be great in this series.”

One thing's virtually certain. Al, T-Ro and Jayson need to start the game. The other two spots are up for grabs. Semi took over the starting job from Aron in order to counter Giannis Antetokounmpo. Aron may take the job back to take on Embiid. I just can't see Aron and Semi both starting.


So I envision a starting-five of Baynes, Horford, Tatum, Rozier and Morris. Either Tatum or Horford will have the assignment of containing Simmons. Morris' stay on the court will be short-lived if his play does not coincide with Brad's scheme. So that is my plan, and I am sure we will see something quite different when Brad's actual starting five are announced tonight. Baynes on Simmons (as D'Amico suggested)? Could be!

Follow Tom at @TomLaneHC

Photo via NBA.com































Tom Lane 4/30/2018 10:19:00 AM Edit
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