SI: Are the Celtics at risk of an upset?
Sports Illustrated highlighting all of the reasons why the Celtics should be primed for a 1st round upset. Let's take a look:
1. The have all the pressure as the #1 seed.
I'd like to just ignore this one because I think it's silly to think that there's some kind of massive pressure on the Celtics to win. Especially with the majority of media, and in particular in and around Boston, has counted them out and diminished a lot of what they've accomplished so if anything they're still playing with a chip on their shoulder. But it would be a massive disappointment to lose in round one again, so there's gotta be some pressure there.
2. Their best player is the worst point guard in the NBA in Real Defensive plus-minus.
We've been hearing this all year long. Back in January CBS Sports came out with a scathing analysis of Isaiah Thomas and how the Celtics defense drops dramatically with him on the floor in the 4th quarter, and his positive effect on the offensive end didn't outweigh it. While I understand that IT will likely always be a liability based on his size alone on the defensive end, a quick look at the numbers for the season and the Celtics are a +7.5 and +5 with the two lineups Thomas has spent the majority of his time on the floor with (the starters and the IT and D lineups respectively) including a +12.2 in the 4th quarter with that same IT & D group. Anyone that actually watches the game can see how stagnant the team is without Thomas on the floor offensively, and according to ESPN (the same site the calculated the Real Defensive Plus/Minus stats) Isaiah is 3rd in the NBA in Real Offensive Plus/Minus, trailing only Russell Westbrook and Steph Curry. His offense absolutely outweighs any defensive detriment.
3. The Celtics lack a 2nd go-to scorer and rely too heavily on 3-point shooting.
This is definitely one of the C's biggest achilles heels. While IT pours it in offensively every night there's no 2nd option they can reliably count on. There's nights when the whole offense is rolling and a bunch of guys land in double-figures scoring. Sometimes the bench comes through with some points with somebody like Gerald Green or Kelly Olynyk providing some offensive punch from the bench, but there's no consistency there. The Celtics are tough to defend when the offense is rolling and they have a lot of options to score, but there's absolutely no #2 option that can find his own shot consistently.
As for the outside shooting, I think the entire league is relying on those and that's not particularly an issue with the Celtics as a team. I would like to see them work that ball into the post more through Al Horford. I think with Robin Lopez being the Bulls biggest threat on the glass it's important to attack him as much as possible to try and get him off the floor via foul trouble.
4. Jimmy Butler is the best player in the series.
This is true, but even though I think Butler has the edge here I don't this is some kind of lopsided mismatch in terms of the best player on either team. Their offensive outputs are comparable, but obviously Butler gets the edge as he's a terrific defender as well. Their stat lines for game one are eerily similar, but if we're gonna kill Isaiah for his defensive analytics he should get credit for his game 1 +/- :
5. Danny Ainge decided to sit pat while Toronto, Cleveland, and Washington all made upgrades at the trade deadline.
Riiiight, but what does that have to do with a 1st-round upset from Chicago?
I can't believe they didn't bring up the rebounding! Either way Ben Golliver of Sports Illustrated wrote a whole article about all these detriments for the Celtics and yet still favored them to win the series summed up in just one sentence:
The Celtics should still win this series: They are deeper, more reliable, more explosive, and they possess home-court advantage.
Maybe the C's don't have home-court anymore, but I'm not getting worried unless they lose again tonight. Big game for sure against the TNT Bulls later today, but I expect a better effort from a team that was reeling on Sunday night after the loss of Chyna Thomas. As much as the grief was weighing on IT Sunday night he was able to come out and rally himself to control his emotions, but it likely had a big effect on his teammates as well. With a few days to gather themselves the Celtics will hopefully come out with some conviction and pick up Isaiah instead of the other way around for once. I fully expect them to do that and to come out on top at the end of this series too, because they are the better team.
Celtics in 6.
Photo Credit - Brian Babineau/NBAE via Getty Images
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