The first game of the second round will take place in Boston, where the top seeded Celtics host the fourth seeded Wizards. Each team won it’s opening round series in six games, finishing on Friday evening, so neither team has had extended rest. The Wizards finished off the Hawks with the first and only road win in that series, while the Celtics, after losing two straight at home, beat the Bulls four times in a row. The Celtics have another variable in play, as Isaiah Thomas left the team immediately after the game on Friday to fly to Washington to attend his sister’s funeral. He’s expected to play today, but no doubt his heart will be heavy.
The Celtics should have the advantage in depth in this series, which is one of the things that got them the top seed, and one of the Wizards’ weaknesses. They got excellent play off the bench in the first round from guys like Kelly Olynyk, Terry Rozier, and especially Marcus Smart, who will be key in trying to slow the Wizards’ explosive back court. It will be interesting to see if Brad Stevens continues to start Gerald Green, who moved into the starting lineup in game three against the Bulls and made a real difference after not starting at all during the regular season.
The Wizards have a terrific starting lineup, but didn’t get much consistency from anyone outside of John Wall and Bradley Beal in the first round. Marcin Gortat was particularly quiet, seeming to lose his way offensively. They were able to beat the Hawks relying on mostly two guys, but that likely won’t be enough against the Celtics. Gortat, Otto Porter, and Markieff Morris combined to average 38 per game during the regular season, but saw that drop to 27 against the Hawks. They need more production from those players if they want to win.
The Celtics will be hoping that their hot shooting from three in game six against the Bulls carries over. They still shot worse from three in that series than they did during the season, and two of their key three point shooters, Thomas and Jae Crowder, really struggled beyond the arc. Threes are a huge part of their game, and the difference between winning and losing this series might be how they fare from downtown.
Celtics in seven.
The first round will come to an end in Los Angeles. The only game seven will be between the Jazz and Clippers. The Jazz must feel they let it get away from them when they lost game six at home, and now must try to win on the road. On the other hand, they have beaten the Clips twice already at Staples in this series.
Gordon Hayward and George Hill scored effectively in game six, but that was about it for the Jazz, who need secondary scorers like Rodney Hood (who has really struggled,) Derrick Favors (1-6 in game six) and Joe Ingles (amazingly scoreless in game six) to give them some production.
The Clippers will rely on Chris Paul in the biggest game of their season, as they usually do. They got just enough from other guys to off-set the absence of Blake Griffin and the continued struggles of J.J. Redick to survive game six. The Jazz have rendered Redick invisible during most of this series, but the Clippers could use some production from him today.
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