The unmentioned, but significant, factor in Celtics playoff dive - Marcus Smart's injury
There are untold reasons for the Celtics dive into oblivion during the Milwaukee series (and prior). But we may be missing one. My original argument on November 20, 2018 with the Celtics in 7th place in the East with a 9-8 record, was to start Marcus Smart to inject much-needed energy into the team right out of the gate. Well, six days later Marcus was a starter, and it worked nicely with a win over the Pelicans.
Marcus Smart has directly or indirectly caused like all of the Pels’ turnovers and mistakes
The bonus of Smart-as-starter turned out to be the synergy that emerged between Kyrie Irving and Marcus. Kyrie openly admitted that Smart allowed Irving to "play off the ball", both offensively and defensively. It worked, with Boston finishing the season with a still-disappointing 49-33 season - but better than what we saw at the start of the season.
The Celtics were able to cruise past the Pacers in Round One, accomplishing a 4-0 sweep. Their top player was most-likely Bojan Bogdanovich. Well, the best player on the Round Two opponent was the Bucks Giannis Antetokounmpo - a major rise in talent. After losing the series 4-1, analytics flowed, but one factor has been neglected. Smart was out with an injury in the first three games, and was only partially effective for Games Four and Five.
There are many reasons for the Celtics losing any bit of control they may have had in the series. Kyrie just went into savior-mode - and failed miserably. Gordon Hayward and Jayson Tatum were not effective. Maybe Kyrie Irving missed the synergy, support and energy generated by Smart as his back-court teammate. I feel it certainly played a role. I have previously written that there seems to be a similar synergy between Irving and Al Horford. Marcus Smart's injury, and its timing, definitely had an impact on the negative outcome of the season. The Celtics maladies are treatable, and most likely curable. Doctor Danny Ainge just needs to find the right prescription.
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Photo via Brian Babineau/NBAE via Getty Images and Charles Krupa/AP photo