In case you missed it, the playoffs are starting. The Celtics are playing the Pacers. You should watch.
Previews, previews, everywhere previews. I thought I’d link to and quote a few. (Ours are coming, don’t you worry)
The Celtics have one of the NBA’s best closers in Irving, who ranks among the top of the league in several clutch-time stats. Irving has scored or assisted on 57 percent of the Celtics’ points in clutch time this season (defined as the final five minutes of the fourth quarter/overtime and the score with five points).
Jay King looks at how Smart’s injury impacts the defense
None of the possible replacements can match Smart defensively. Beyond his obvious physical traits, he tends to be in the right spot every time – an especially important ability given how the Celtics defense slipped over the latter half of the season. After inserting Aron Baynes into the starting lineup recently, Boston had started squeezing opponents dry again. The defense’s teeth will grow duller for as long as Smart stays out of the lineup. In previous matchups against the Pacers, he typically guarded their top healthy scorer, Bojan Bogdanovic, who averaged 20.9 points per game after the All-Star break on 50.1 percent shooting, including 42.2-percent from behind the arc. He has been Indiana’s clear No. 1 option since Victor Oladipo’s injury in January.
Chris Forsberg looks at the Celtics’ options
It would seem the spotlight will fall brightest on Brown, who started the season as the team’s starting 2-guard before Boston’s early-season starting five fizzled. Smart elevated to that starting spot on Nov. 23 and never relinquished it.
But Brown brushed off a slow start and played some inspired ball since the calendar flipped to 2019. According to the NBA’s tracking database, Brown held opponents a field-goal percentage that was minus-3.4 percent below their typical season average — an excellent number. Some of that is a product of playing against reserve lineups and the challenges will be greater in the postseason but Brown has the defensive ability when he’s focused.
No. But he’s so, so much closer, to the point that he’s an unequivocal positive essentially every time he steps on the floor. He’s defending and distributing at a high level, and he’s getting to his comfort zones and finishing as a scorer. The 3-pointer is still yet to resurface fully, but as everything else returns, he buys time to rediscover his stroke. Even without it, he’s turned the Celtics back into a force offensively.