22. Winning the first game is hard.
“The first one is always the toughest, especially if a team feels confident coming in,” Jaylen Brown told reporters after Game 1. “So it was good that we got this one. We’ve got to fight to get the next one, too.”
23. Of course, winning the second one might be just as hard, and winning the fifth one is even harder (etc. etc.). It turns out the playoffs are exhausting!
As I said on Saturday, I’m not worried about Milwaukee. I expect the entire series to be sort of an extended version of Sunday’s game. I think the Celtics are going to struggle at times and look completely lost–as they did in the second quarter–because, well, I mean look at them. Frankly, I’m surprised that none of them have caught smallpox or diphtheria at this point. You’re going to have stretches where the longest tenured player on the court is “Li’l Buster”, just now wrapping up his third season with the Celtics.
But, on the whole, the Celtics wrapped up the season as a solid number two, despite occasionally playing like, well, number two, and that superiority should tell over the course of a seven game series.
My hope is that the Bucks come into this game all bent out of shape about the officiating in the last game. I want those guys to think that “the refs cost us the game” because that means they think they should’ve won going away, and I like it when teams playing the Celtics harbor such delusions. If they aren’t thinking straight, they’re not going to come close to winning.
Page 2: Where Brad says he always knew Rozier had it in him
At No. 16, most analysts (and even scouts) believed Rozier was a reach, and that the Celtics could have gotten him later in the draft. Boston had a second pick that year — No. 28 — and the consensus seemed to be Rozier would have been available then as well.
But Danny Ainge took no chances, snapping up the Louisville sophomore at No. 16 and ignoring the fanbase’s displeasure.
Nearly four years later, no Celtics fan is complaining.
“I go back to when Danny drafted him,” Brad Stevens said in a conference call on Monday. “(Rozier) has the elite athleticism, elite work ethic, elite competitiveness and if you put those three things together, usually it turns out pretty good.”
I was a fan of the Jaylen Brown pick from day one for pretty much the same reasons Stevens gives for Rozier’s success: Athletic ability, competitive mindset and a solid work ethic.
If you have those mental tools, you’re going to get as much out of your body as you can, and Rozier, whose limitation (height) is pretty much made up for by his speed, is going to be an interesting player for the Celtics–or somebody.
I know you occasionally hear people saying–half in jest–that Rozier makes Kyrie expendable, and while that’s a fun thought, reality is Rozier’s 24 and Kyrie’s 25–they’ve both got roughly the same number of years ahead of them.
Much as it pains me to say, though, if Rozier doesn’t make Irving expendable, I’m afraid he does make Smart expendable. We know what Smart is at this point, while Rozier continues to develop.
But you know what? Any decisions like that are in the distant future (you know, like July), and they won’t be made by me–and they won’t even be influenced by me. So, I’m gonna do my best to sit back and enjoy the show.
Finally: Forsberg takes a close look at the end of the bench*
*Hah. End of the bench. Right. Maybe at the beginning of the season, now these guys are all logging bigtime minutes.
Adding top-end talent like Hayward and Irving was supposed to deplete Boston’s depth. But Boston’s youngest players have routinely stepped up this season, including in big-time situations.
I just grabbed a small chunk of the article–you should click over and read the whole thing. Chris chatted with Shane Larkin, and explains how Ainge signed him in a 48 hour window afforded by the intricacies of the Spanish leagues.
But ultimately, that quote above tells the story: Ainge is good at what he does not just because he’s not afraid of making incredibly unpopular decisions (cut to fans booing the Jaylen Brown selection), but because he–and his staff–don’t waste roster spots. They moved quickly to sign Shane Larkin at a point in time when the PG roster was (injured) IT, Smart and Rozier. The trade for an approximately healthy Irving certainly didn’t move Larkin up the depth charts, but paying attention to that 15th roster spot paid off as A Series of Unfortunate Events befell the Celtics this season.
The rest of the links
ESPN: Boston’s Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown get playoff basketball lesson No. 1 (we’ll have to forgive the writer of this article for overlooking Jaylen’s playoff experiences last year)
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