After a convincing four-game sweep of the Indiana Pacers, the Boston Celtics reminded the basketball world why they had started the year one of the favorites to win the Eastern Conference. Although the Pacers were missing star guard Victor Oladipo, the Celtics put on a clinic in terms of how versatile and dangerous their roster is in a seven-game playoff series.
While nobody doubts the pure talent on the Celtics roster, they struggled with consistency in the regular season. Routinely dropping winnable games to some of the league’s worst teams, the Celtics looked clunky working Irving and Gordon Hayward back into the rotation and were never truly able to go on an impressive regular season run. The Celtics best stretch of play came in January when they won 10 of 11 games with their lone loss coming to the Warriors. While this run coincided with beating up on some lottery teams, they did pick up solid wins over the Thunder, Nets, and Raptors.
However, the Celtics looked like an entirely different basketball team against the Pacers. With Hayward starting to look like his old self and headlining the second unit, the Celtics don’t give opponents a moment to breathe and have a bonafide scorer and number one option on the court at all times. Closing out games becomes even deadlier for the Celtics when you factor in Hawyard’s improved play alongside Irving’s brilliance.
So just how are they best suited to dethrone the Warriors?
Are the Celtics the Best Suited Team In East to Upset Warriors? Stephen A. Smith Thinks So
(Stephen A. starts talking at 2:25)
While Stephen A. Smith focuses primarily on the fact that the Celtics are young and have a closer in Irving, there are a number of other factors that make them a tough stylistic matchup for the Warriors.
Especially considering the Warriors are now likely down DeMarcus Cousins for the rest of the playoffs, they will be forced to lean on the small-ball “Death Lineup” much more frequently. The “Death Lineup” sacrifices rebounding but is built to expose opposing teams’ size advantages. With Draymond Green being able to lock down opposing big men much larger than him, it allows the Warriors to run out a lineup featuring four legit shooters and future Hall of Famers (yes, Iggy is in there too, don’t forget he had a career before GS) alongside Green.
The Celtics have the necessary pieces to counter this and to take advantage of the Warriors when their stars inevitably need rest or get into foul trouble. While Irving will always be a bit of a defensive liability, the Celtics can pack the floor with four plus defenders against the death lineup and might be able to actually slow down the Warrior attack. Horford is an extremely smart big man and has proven himself able to handle Draymond Green down low. The Celtics can also help to shore up the backcourt defense by running out Jaylen Brown and get excellent two-way play from both Hayward and Jayson Tatum.
While an Irving-Brown-Hayward-Tatum-Horford lineup still pales in comparison to the sheer star power of the Curry-Thompson-Iguodala-Durant-Green “Death Lineup”, they project to be able to at least hang defensively while keeping the Celtics close with a diversified offensive attack.
Where the Celtics really have an advantage is in the depth department. The Warriors have a solid second unit but nothing compared to what the Celtics are working with. Featuring a max player in Hayward alongside Brown, Terry Rozier, Aron Baynes, and Marcus Morris, the Celtics have one of the most talented benches in the league. While no team in the league can go toe-to-toe with the Warriors starting five, the Celtics should be able to keep things close and could possibly pull off an upset by gouging the Warriors when the bench inevitably has to step in.