As everyone knows by now, the Boston Celtics and Washington Wizards just wrapped up a hard-fought series. As two of the NBA’s best backcourts went head-to-head, this series came down to more than just Isaiah Thomas vs. John Wall. The two teams were evenly matched but the Celtics were able to reign victorious by taking advantage of Washington’s weaknesses.
Boston Celtics Bench Provides Boost to Down Wizards
The second unit’s in this series were extremely critical, but Boston’s reserves outplayed Washington’s in almost every game. For the majority of the series, the starting lineups were pretty neck and neck. Led by Marcus Smart and Kelly Olynyk, the Boston bench scored a total of 274 points (39 PPG). Washington’s bench only responded with 170 (24.3 PPG).
Bench defense was another huge differential. The Celtics bench and Wizards bench are very different when it comes to defensive ability. With the Wizards, you have a pesky point guard in Brandon Jennings, then you have Kelly Oubre who is the only real disciplined defender in the second unit.
For the Celtics, Marcus Smart – who is arguably a top 15 defender in the NBA – Jaylen Brown, and Terry Rozier all have reliable defensive capability. The superiority on both sides of the ball was enough to help sway the series in favor of Boston.
Home-court advantage became a key factor in this series. Since early November, The Celtics and Wizards have played 11 times, including this year’s playoff series. The home team won all 11 of those games.
It wasn’t just the TD Garden that got in the Wizards’ heads. Over the regular season, Washington was 30-11 at home and just 19-22 on the road. If the Wizards had home court advantage there’s a very solid chance that they win in seven instead of the Celtics.
In a up-and-down series for most of the Celtics players, Al Horford stayed as reliable as they come. Horford finished the series with averages of 16.7 points, 6.6 rebounds and 5.1 assists per game. On top of that, he had shooting splits of 68-61-70 (FG-3P-FT) which converts to a true shooting percentage of 77.6 percent and currently ranks second in the playoffs with a TS% of 73 percent.
On top of his consistent and efficient series, Horford also helped create plenty of offense. Horford’s offensive rating was 139, nearly 20 points higher than any other Celtic. Although Isaiah Thomas had some amazing games (as usual), Al Horford was almost undoubtedly the team’s MVP for this series.
Now a juggernaut awaits the Celtics as they make their first Eastern Conference Finals appearance since 2012. With nothing to lose, the Celtics can play their brand of basketball and give the Cleveland Cavaliers their best shot.
March 17, 2014: Boston Celtics center Kelly Olynyk #41 during an NBA game between the Boston Celtics and the Dallas Mavericks at the American Airlines Center in Dallas, TX Dallas defeated Boston 94-89