Celtics Big-3-for-a-night worked once - will it work again tonight?
Boston's projected Big-3 was there for a bit over five minutes this season until Gordon Hayward went down. Kyrie Irving was still there for most of the season prior to knee surgery. But the Al-ways reliable Al Horford is still with us.
The Celtics took the first-round series versus Milwaukee Saturday night with a Big-3-for-a-night trio of veteran Al, youngster Terry Rozier and rookie Jayson Tatum. When Jaylen Brown joined the Boston walking wounded after suffering a hamstring strain in the Saturday finale, this three-some came through for the win.
These three don't yet have the talent of the Larry Bird/Kevin McHale/Robert Parish, Paul Pierce/Kevin Garnett/Ray Allen, Bill Russell/Tom Heinsohn/Bob Cousy combos. And the JoJo White/Dave Cowens/John Havlicek three-some never seems to get the credit it deserves.
But the Saturday crew came through and made Charles Barkley eat his words. Sir Charles had picked Milwaukee over Boston and stubbornly maintained that choice as the series progressed. I am certain he will now pick Philadelphia over Boston in the Eastern Semis.
Al, Terry and Jayson didn't win the game by themselves. Semi Ojeleye's defensive job on Giannis Antetokounmpo was masterful. And Marcus Smart just brings energy and aggressiveness to any game in which he participates. The hell with the hand injury and surgery. He was going to play! Period!
Jayson Tatum, the precious 20-year-old rookie with the offensive repertoire of someone who will not make vacation plans for the All-Star break for many years, may someday usurp Horford’s spot in that Big Three. The concern by those who seem to enjoy cooking up reasons to worry more than they do the game itself was that the Celtics’ young players — Tatum and Jaylen Brown in particular — would wear the weight of the pressure of playing in a Game 7. Tatum was so nervous that he scored a team-high 9 points in the first quarter, hit all five of his free throws, and finished with 20 points and a plus-26 in a team-high 39 minutes. Imagine what he will be in five years. Or three. Or heck, next year.
Rounding out the Big-3 (Okay, it's up to Big-6) is Brad Stevens. He seems to have an answer to every situation that develops. I personally define wisdom as a combination of intelligence, logic and life experience. Brad has wisdom well beyond what his age would tell us.
If Jaylen Brown can't play tonight, this is the group we are looking at. To skeptics of the value of a home crowd, I would ask - Where would you like this game to take place? Philly or Boston? We may be looking at a Big-7.