This season has not gone the way the Boston Celtics were hoping but anything can happen in the playoffs.
The Celtics were expected to be one of the best teams in the Eastern Conference. After last year’s run to the Conference Finals, it was assumed that a healthy roster and another year of development for Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown would push Boston to new heights. Instead, they’ve muddled through ups and downs and still haven’t even locked down homecourt advantage in the first round of the playoffs.
However, anything can happen in the playoffs and despite their lingering inconsistency, the Celtics absolutely have the talent to make a run for a title. Here’s why it could happen.
5. They can deal with Giannis Antetokounmpo
The Celtics are headed for a No. 4 vs. No. 5 matchup with Indiana in the first round, which, assuming a win, likely means the Bucks in the Conference Semifinals. Milwaukee has been well ahead of any other team in the East this season but Boston has to feel at least somewhat confident about their ability to matchup with Giannis.
Almost no one can deal with Giannis’ combination of strength and quickness but Boston has had some success trying to counter the strength aspect of that equation. Al Horford has defended Giannis more than any other Celtic in their three matchups this season, holding him to essentially his season scoring average but holding the Bucks well below theirs on those possessions.
Giannis, individually, has scored well against Boston but the five most common defenders he’s faced — Horford, Semi Ojeleye, Marcus Morris, Jayson Tatum and Marcus Smart — have all kept the Bucks below their full season offensive efficiency when they’re on Giannis. Part of the equation is that, in attempting to blow past the bigger defenders, Giannis is more likely to shoot than pass in these matchups. Again, he’s scored well but making Giannis beat them by scoring helps limit the effectiveness of the Bucks shooters and levels the playing field to some degree.