Wow, what a win last night in Cleveland. And that was supposed to be the hard one… Our C’s are officially in the drivers seat for a playoff spot in the East and a win tomorrow, in the second of a home and home with Lebron, his hairline, and squadron of divas, may just lock things up. Let’s break it down. Assuming Lebron and Kevin Love make the trip (Kyrie Irving less likely), which is not a lock at all, I expect Coach Blatt to take a similar route and minimize their minutes, especially in the second half. Regardless what happens with them, these two teams have completely different mindsets at this point of the season, with the Cavs having clinched the 2nd seed and seemingly going through the motions until the playoffs, and the Celtics playing their most inspired and capable basketball of the season. Every game is a must win and they are really playing like it, winning the last three, and seven of the last ten (six straight on the road).
Marcus Smart and Evan Turner were the heroes in last nights game, with Smart delivering 19 points on 7 of 10 shooting (3-5 from three), and Turner with a whopping 13 assists. Isaiah Thomas performed as expected, with his typical 17 points 5 assists, and Jared Sullinger provided his first meaningful performance since his return from injury, with 5 points and 8 rebounds in just 19 minutes. If Sully can play himself into shape over the next week or so, I think he can be an impactful contributor off the bench in the playoffs. As far as tomorrow afternoon goes, I expect Isaiah Thomas to takeover the game, similar to what we saw him do last week against Detroit. No, Cleveland’s defense is not porous like Detroit’s, but with Irving likely out (along with solid wing defender Iman Shumpert), the Cavs’ point guard duties will again likely belong to Matthew Dellavedova, who, with all due respect, has about as much of a shot stopping IT off the dribble as I do. Goodluck, Matty boy. With Thomas and Turner hopefully making their way to the rim, it should create more opportunities for Bass, Zeller, and the rest of the C’s big men, not to mention three point shooters. For as talented as Kevin Love is offensively, he is slow footed and can be exposed on defense. While Sasquatch 7’1 250 pound Timofey Mozgov is a solid rim protector (1.3 blocks per game since beingacquired from Denver), he only played 16 minutes last night, and if Brad “the magician” Stevens elects to go small, will have to be pulled in favor of Shawn Marion or Mike Miller, who in 2015 don’t even scare your local AAU star.
Speaking of Stevens, he has essentially taken a team of glorified role players and journeymen and coached them to 21 wins since February 2, good for 4th most in the league (yup, that includes the big bad West) since then, only trailing the Warriors (27), the Spurs (24), and the Cavs (22). I’ll tell you what. Give me Stevens right now over any coach in the NBA besides Greg Popovich, and former Pop pupil Mike Blitzenwhateverwhocares from the Hawks. Don’t tell me about old friend Doc Rivers, who, while I still love the guy, has the Clippers going 95 on the highway to stagnation.
Who would have thought we’d be talking meaningful Celtics basketball this year in mid April? How sick is that.
Prediction: C’s 101-90
In Stevens We Trust
Nikolas Davos @NDavss58