Celtics Shoot Themselves Right Out of the Playoffs

Lebron Dunk- ABC News

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BOSTON- There are some games that you just know it isn’t going to be your night. There is the famous, as I call them, “mountain games” because the whole game you are climbing the mountain to try and tie or take the lead, but you simply cannot pull it off because of either a turnover, and once you get within two possessions, the opponent goes on a 7-0 run to make it an 11 or 13 point game. That was Game Four and Game Six, but that certainly was not the problem last night.

Last night is what I call “can’t hit a damn shot” night, and those games are more frustrating to watch than mountain games, because when a team steals a mountain game, you KNOW they were outplayed and got lucky. Losing when you can’t shoot is maddening, especially when you play terrific defense and hold the other team to 87 points. Layups, and-ones that became two free throws because nobody could finish through contact, bad shots, badly TIMED shots (like Rozier chucking up a three with 21 seconds on the shot clock after Marcus Morris makes a HUGE offensive rebound), and hero shots ultimately ended the 2017-18 Boston Celtics season, and to be perfectly honest, it sucks.

Boston came out looking ready to play, which isn’t easy for a team this young facing a Game Seven situation. Boston jumped out to a 26-18 lead in the first quarter, and it appeared they were on their way to another home win. Yes, it was early, but all the ingredients were there. Boston was hitting shots, playing good defense, Cleveland was missing, and Lebron looked like he was ready to go into “tired-Lebron” mode.

That is when Jaylen Brown and Terry Rozier forgot how to shoot. I would also mention Marcus Smart, but we all know he can’t shoot, so his 0-10 line last night was nothing new. He at least went to the basket, but couldn’t finish some of those aforementioned “and-ones”. Brown was good in the first, and then he fell apart. Rozier was awful from start to finish, and he saved his absolute worst for the worst possible time.

In the second and third quarter, the Celtics scored a COMBINED 30 points, which is simply disgusting. Boston only had FIVE turnovers overall last night. Let me repeat that- Boston had FIVE turnovers last night. Cleveland had 12 turnovers in the game last night, so there is seven more possessions Boston could have scored on, but they didn’t take advantage of Cleveland’s mistakes like they had earlier in the series.  A perfect example is when Lebron got picked off by Tatum, who then fires a pass downcourt over the head of Jaylen Brown. You not only let the Cavs off the hook, you blew a chance for an easy two. These things can’t happen in playoff games, let alone Game Seven.

The fourth quarter was slightly better because Boston scored 23 points, but they allowed 28, and the way Cleveland was scoring was even more maddening. Lebron James simply took the ball and went to the basket at will. No help, no attempt to double, just one-on-one domination. Why not adjust? Why isn’t Marcus Smart getting help in the post on a guy that is five inches taller than him? Not only were the Celtics missing every three they shot, they were allowing Lebron to get rolling, and once that happens, it is over. Jeff Green was scoring points in the 4th quarter; that is all you hear if you are wondering who won this game.

Overall, the Celtics were 29-85 from the field (34%), 7-39 from three (17.9%), 14-19 from the FT line, with three of those misses coming at crucial moments in the fourth, 42 rebounds (one more than Cleveland, usually an indication of a Boston win), and Boston also won the turnover, assist, and steal battle. Boston won in every stat column except the two that matter the most- made shots and points.

Cleveland was 30-66 (46%) overall, and they struggled from three (9-35, 26%), but they took more high percentage shots when it mattered, and they hit those shots. Lebron James stat line was great, but he did turn the ball over eight times. Tristan Thompson was a huge presence for the Cavs, and George Hill, the veteran guard who has been in the Finals with San Antonio, was a +24 for the night. Like I mentioned earlier, Jeff Green also played well. When that happens, your team is in trouble.

Again, it is as simple as this- Boston shot themselves into the offseason. Shooting has always been an area where Boston needs help, and that will absolutely be one of the areas they look to upgrade this offseason. Yes, they were missing their two best players, and if they played, this series would have ended in four games, but they didn’t, and seeing the other holes when they’re out could end up being a Godsend for a roster that has the ability to win multiple championships.

They weren’t going to win the title this year, but it sure would have been fun to watch them put a scare into the Warriors or the Rockets. Unfortunately, that is not to be, yet, and we will have to settle for watching Lebron lose yet another championship.

 

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Celtics Need To Add Offense To Their Bench

The Celtics are playing good basketball, getting the job done on defense and on the boards, but not all is perfect at the Garden. The Celtics need more scoring either off the bench or even in the starting lineup if they want to get to the Finals, and there are a few players out there that could give them that boost they need to get them past Toronto, Cleveland, or whatever Eastern Conference team makes . Preferably they would find someone that defends well too, but the main focus has to be on finding a guy that can put the ball in the basket. There is one player available that truly fits their needs, and a couple that could be available at some point if things don’t improve with their current situations. 

1. Tyreke Evans, SG, Memphis Grizzlies

Evans is the type of player that fits Boston’s needs, and he is having his best season since his rookie year. Evans has started 26 of 46 games, averaging 31 minutes, 19.5 points, 5 rebounds, 5 assists, and one steal per game. He is also shooting 39% from three, 46% overall from the field, and he’s only committing two turnovers per night. Evans would immediately become the best scorer off the Boston bench, and he could possibly even work his way into the starting lineup before the playoffs. I understand Jaylen Brown has been pretty good, but Evans is better, and having Brown off the bench could be huge for the second unit.

With Greg Monroe already joining the team to provide a low post scoring and rebounding presence, the possible addition of Evans would give this team a formidable eight man rotation, and that is before you take the possible return of Gordon Hayward into account. If Boston lands Evans without having to give up a rotational player, they are clear favorites in the East, and they may have a puncher’s chance in the NBA Finals. 

2. Lou Williams, SG, Los Angeles Clippers

Williams is a volume scorer that would add an element Boston does not currently possess, and he would have the potential to fix two problems. The first problem- bench scoring; with Williams as the 6th man, you instantly add a guy that can score 15 in the blink of an eye. Williams’ minutes are up this year, and he’s responding with solid numbers. In 29 minutes per game, he’s scoring 18.9 points and 4.4 assists while shooting a 45% overall, 39% from three point land.

He would be a huge part of the Boston offense because of his shooting ability, and again, what he would provide off the bench. Williams also makes $7 million this season, so if Boston was to trade for him using the Injured Player Exception, not only would he fit, he might become a big chip at the trade deadline if Boston was to make a blockbuster deal. With the relationship between Doc Rivers and Danny Ainge, keep an eye on this scenario. Boston has so many strong picks in the future, which allows them to unload maybe a decent one like the Memphis pick for a player the caliber of Williams. If Boston decides to keep him, he’ll be a strong fit and a fan favorite.

3. Marc Gasol, C, Memphis Grizzlies

I’m sure most of you are laughing at this one, but before you go off the deep end, take a look at the situation in Memphis. They just fired their excellent head coach, David Fizdale, and Gasol is complaining that he’s being removed from games in the 4th. Obviously the Grizzlies aren’t going to trade him to Boston because it doesn’t make sense financially, but could the Grizz, if in the midst of a meltdown, possibly buyout Gasol? Absolutely, and it makes sense if you look at his age, contract, and the situation they’re in.

Gasol is 32 years old; his next three seasons he’ll make $22,642,350, $24,119,025, and $25,595,700. For a team that is obviously going to need a rebuild, doesn’t it make sense to get out from under that contract, regardless of not gaining an asset? They could attempt to buyout Gasol, but it won’t be easy. He is going to want at least 30 of the 71 million owed to him, but if the Grizzlies truly want to rebuild, they will start to unload players they don’t see leading them into the future.

If, and it is a BIG if, Gasol was to be bought out, the Celtics would absolutely be the first team in line to sign him, offering their Injury Exception they received after Gordon Hayward broke and dislocated his ankle. He would be a perfect fit, allowing Horford to play the four, and adding another great passing big man. Gasol is currently averaging 18.6 points, 8.9 rebounds, 4.3 assists, and 1.6 blocks per game. Imagine how good those numbers would translate to Boston? Yes, it is the longest of long shots, but Memphis is bad, and things could get intolerable for the talented Spanish center. This wouldn’t happen immediately, but this situation cannot be ignored.

 

4. Jabari Parker, SF, Milwaukee

Three years ago nobody would expect Parker to be in this conversation, and the worst part is, he may only be trade bait. If Boston wants to use their Injury Exception to add a player that can be flipped in a larger deal at the trade deadline, they have to acquire that player before the end of this week. Parker has one year left on his deal at $6 million, so he’s an ideal candidate.

Parker is expected to return at the All-Star break from his ACL tear last season. He was terrific last year, starting 50 of 51 games, averaging 20.1 points, 6.2 rebounds, 2.8 assists, and 1.0 steal per game. Boston could choose to keep or trade him, it is their choice. If he shows that he is healthy, it makes sense to hold onto him, and possibly even sign him after the season. Parker is probably going to have to be a bench guy due to his knees, but he can still be an extremely effective player in the NBA, especially as a 6th or 7th man.

5. Corey Brewer, SF, Los Angeles Lakers

Brewer wouldn’t provide as much offense as Boston is looking for, but he is very good in transition, he can still defend very well, and he always plays well in big games. His familiarity of playing with Al Horford, albeit in college, would help his transition if he were moved to Boston. In the last two seasons, Brewer has only averaged 15.6 and 11.4 minutes, and his stats have paid the price. There is no question Brewer could help the Celtics, and he is most likely available, but the only way they make a move for him is if they acquire someone who can score first. 

5. Julius Randle, PF, Los Angeles Lakers

You are probably thinking there is no way the Celtics make a trade that would require this type of gamble, but the Lakers do not appear to be moving forward with the talented big man, and the Celtics are in need of someone who can score and rebound; Randle fits that mold.

Randle hasn’t started a single game for the Lakers in 2017, and the only way that will change is with an injury. There were some rumors of a Dallas/LAL swap with Nerlens Noel coming to LA and Randle headed to Dallas, but that has never materialized. Randle has been a pro throughout this whole process, even when he knows the Lakers are going in a direction that doesn’t include him. In just 22 minutes per game this season, Randle is averaging 12.5 points, 6.3 rebounds,

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Celtic Trade Scenarios

Another day, another new team that is rumored to be the frontrunner in the Kevin Love sweepstakes. The Golden State Warriors, as expected, are the top competition for the Boston Celtics in the pursuit of Kevin Love, and today things got interesting. The Warriors have offered David Lee and Klay Thompson for Love, Kevin Martin and JJ Barea. Golden State sees the opportunity to add Love and move Harrison Barnes into the lineup to replace Thompson. In theory, there is no dropoff for the Warriors at small forward and they replace David Lee with Kevin Love, which is a huge upgrade. If you think Love is bad on defense, wait until you watch David Lee.

This would validate the report that Minnesota wants NBA veterans in return for Love, but this new rumor stinks of posturing. Why would the Timberwolves, a team that hasn’t been in the playoffs since 2005, trade their franchise player and other assets to a direct competitor in the stacked Western Conference? There are eight precious playoff spots and if Minnesota helps one of those eight from 2013/14 improve, they are doing a disservice to themselves and their fans. Considering this new report and applying logic to these rumors, this sounds like a direct message to Boston that they aren’t getting Love without providing a veteran that they can immediately put in their lineup. I’m assuming Boston doesn’t have the guy they want, so it may be time to get a third team involved. Here are a couple possible deals:

Trade Scenario #1- Boston, Minnesota and Orlando

Boston Receives– Kevin Love, Magic 2014 2nd Round Pick, T’Wolves 2015 & 2016 2nd Round Picks

Minnesota Receives– Aaron Afflalo, Avery Bradley, Jared Sullinger, 2014 #6 Pick, #17 Pick, Boston 2017 1st Round Pick

Orlando Receives– Jeff Green, Kelly Olynk, Boston 2015 1st Round Pick, LA Clippers 2015 1st Round Pick

Some may look at this deal and think Orlando is getting the lower end of the return, but Aaron Afflalo has already talked about wanting to be traded and Orlando is in full rebuild mode anyways. Adding Green will make up for lost scoring, Olynk is still improving and they get two 1st round picks next year. Minnesota gets the proven young NBA star in Afflalo and replace Love in the frontcourt with the up and coming Sullinger. Avery Bradley would also be a good young piece for the Wolves and they also get the three 1st round picks they coveted. The Celtics end up with Love, possibly JJ Barea, and three 2nd round picks. Everyone wins and the money works.

Trade Scenario #2- Boston, Minnesota, Detroit

Boston Receives– Kevin Love, Detroit 2014 2nd Round Pick, Minnesota 2015 2nd Round Pick

Minnesota Receives– Greg Monroe, Jeff Green,Boston 2014 #17 Pick, Boston 2015 1st Round Pick, LA Clippers 2015 1st Round Pick, Brooklyn Nets 2018 1st Round Pick

Detroit Receives– Jared Sullinger, Kelly Olynk, Avery Bradley, 2014 #6 Pick, Boston 2016 1st Round Pick

Again, it looks like Detroit is getting the raw end of the deal, but they actually get quite the haul for Greg Monroe, a player that most likely will be traded this summer. The Pistons end up with Boston’ top pick because Minnesota gets a true young big in return, not to mention three first round picks and a good bench scorer in Jeff Green. The Celtics get their guy, albeit after surrendering five 1st round picks and a few good, young players.

All of these rumors will be just rumors until something comes to fruition, but when it comes to trade talk, it is important to remember that the trade has to benefit all the franchises involved. Both of these deals would benefit all three teams involved and would allow the Timberwolves to possibly compete with Golden State instead of handing them a guaranteed playoff spot next season and beyond.