From The Other Side: The Celtics Are Under Construction | Wizards Blog Truth About It.net

From The Other Side: The Celtics Are Under Construction

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Updated: February 9, 2018

The Boston Celtics team that lost to the Washington Wizards last Christmas Day looks and plays slightly different than the one that enacted revenge with a 110-104 overtime win on Thursday.

Back in December Kyrie Irving and Jaylen Brown did the heavy lifting in the scoring department (20 points each), the starters (except Aron Baynes) all played at least 31 minutes, and the bench featured contributions from Marcus Smart, Terry Rozier and Daniel Theis. Marcus Morris was still recovering from a lingering knee issue after missing nine games and Shane Larkin added five mainly inconsequential minutes. The Celtics lost that game in the fourth quarter due to their failure to grab defensive rebounds (none in the last six minutes), their inability to counter the Wizards’ small-ball lineup of Wall-Beal-Oubre-Morris-Porter, and the late game synergy of Wall, Beal and young Kelly Oubre.

Last night the Wizards were without Wall, who was in attendance in street clothes after a knee cleanup, which automatically meant the complexion of the game would be much different than it had been on Christmas Day. In his absence the Wizards adopted a share-the-wealth approach to basketball, and given they won five of their last six games, that strategy proved to be fruitful. Coach Stevens noticed it as well:

Well, I mean, they’re much different. He’s a however many time All-Star. He’s a max-player in the league. He’s special. But they’ve done a good job of replacing him by committee, which you have to do in this situation.

Jaylen Brown chimed in on the Wizards’ growth as well:

They’ve been moving the ball and any team that moves the ball is hard to guard. Satoransky has been playing really well for them getting the ball side to side and Brad Beal has been taking that leadership role and playing really well. I think that’s the biggest difference and they’ve been playing more as a team.

The Celtics did not have to deal with the loss of their superstar against the Wizards, but Kyrie Irving was only playing his second game since injuring his quad, Marcus Smart was out of the lineup–not because of a trade despite all the rumors leading up to yesterday’s trade deadline–but due to a hand that he inauspiciously injured.

In addition to dealing with those injuries, Coach Stevens also had to figure out how to officially incorporate Greg Monroe into the rotation. Monroe’s contract was bought out by the Phoenix Suns last week and although the Celtics agreed to sign him shortly thereafter, the deal could not be made official (and Monroe could not occupy the Celtics last roster spot) until the trade deadline passed. The Celtics didn’t make any moves, the deal was made official, Monroe met with the team and got a crash course on the offense, and by game-time he was part of Coach Stevens game plan for the Wizards.

Once the game started, it was clear that Coach Stevens was in trial-and-error mode in terms of balancing his new lineup options.

At the 3:15 mark of the first quarter with the Celtics down by just two points, Coach Stevens decided he wanted to see Monroe play with the other members of the Celtics’ bench, while they played against some of the Wizards bench players. He subbed in Daniel Theis for Al Horford and Monroe for Kyrie Irving.

That lineup of Theis, Monroe, Terry Rozier, Jaylen Brown (the lone starter) and Marcus Morris played together around eight minutes against both the Wizards’ starters and bench players, and they more than held their own. They outscored the Wizards 22-19 during that time, and although Monroe looked slow and out of sync at times, the play of Theis and Rozier more than made up for it.

At the start of the second half the Celtics reverted to their traditional ways of wreaking havoc on opponents by letting Al Horford and Kyrie Irving have their way with the Wizards and they did just that by scoring nine points apiece. The Wizards led by two at halftime, but by the time Horford and Irving checked out of the game for some rest in the third quarter, the Celtics led 73-68. This time the lineup consisted of Monroe, Rozier, Jayson Tatum, Morris and Theis and once again they extended the lead, this time by three points. The offense was a tad uneven–partly due to unfamiliarity and partly because the Wizards kept fouling and forcing the Celtics to the foul line–but it was clear that Coach Stevens was gradually gaining trust with this particular combination of players.

By the mid fourth quarter, Coach Stevens decided to mesh the bench and the starters together for the home stretch, and things came unraveled a bit. Kyrie returned to the game and began missing shots, there were turnovers by Horford and Morris, and overall the Celtics were stagnant on offense, as the Wizards–thanks to Otto Porter, Markieff Morris and Bradley Beal–began to catch fire. The Celtics looked to be headed towards a three-point loss until the referees, or Irving, (depending on who is answering the question) bailed them out.

In overtime, the duo of Irving (who once again drew a foul via a 3-point shot from Markieff Morris) and Jaylen Brown were the weapons of choice for Brad Stevens and they proved to be the deciding factor in Boston’s victory. It wasn’t a pretty win, and it was clear that Coach Stevens was straddling the line between his comfort zone and experimentation, but in the end, Boston was victorious and he learned something about Monroe’s fit on the team.

On Monroe:

It’d be really hard to, basically, not be in the locker room at all until 35 [minutes] on the clock and I’m talking to the team for the first time. That’s the first time you’re sitting there. For him to come in and, you know, we simplified what we’re doing for the most part just to certain actions that we had talked to him about. I thought he did a really good job.

On Daniel Theis:

I think Theis can rebound against smaller guards, especially on the offensive glass. He had a few unfortunate bounces in overtime otherwise he had two tip-ins. And then I think he can move his feet enough to guard guards.

On the lineup of Rozier-Brown/Tatum-Monroe-Theis and Morris

I think one of the things you think about when adding Greg is that’s time that you don’t necessarily have to stagger necessarily Kyrie and Al. And so I think that’s a positive moving forward. We still will [stagger] some depending on who we’re playing and the match-ups and those types of things but I felt about the way that Theis and Greg played together with Morris at the “3” which he hasn’t played at all this year, but he got in the post and utilized his size advantage.

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Rashad Mobley
Reporter/Writer at TAI
Rashad has been covering the NBA and the Washington Wizards since 2008—his first two years were spent at Hoops Addict before moving to Truth About It. Rashad has appeared on ESPN and college radio, SportsTalk on NewsChannel 8 in Washington D.C., and his articles have appeared on ESPN TrueHoop, USAToday.com, Complex Magazine, and the DCist. He considers Kareem Abdul-Jabbar a hero and he had the pleasure of interviewing him back in 2009.