Every morning, we compile the links of the day and dump them here… highlighting the big story line. Because there’s nothing quite as satisfying as a good morning dump.
The chants started with just under four minutes left, as the Celtics’ emphatic 112-96 Game 7 playoff win over the Bucks shifted from a contest to a coronation. They started in one small pocket of the TD Garden, and then they spread quickly and loudly, as the fans looked ahead to what’s next.
“We want Philly!” they shouted.
Just four days ago, as the 76ers closed out their opening-round series against the Heat, their fans had belted out a similar mantra about Boston. And now, both sides will get exactly what they want, and it will come suddenly.
There is a strong temptation to make this about the next chapter in the Boston vs. Philly rivalry. I have the best Philly vs. Boston photo up on my wall (right above that amazing Celtics-Lakers jump ball photo)
But no… that’s not what does it for me this time around.
This isn’t necessarily Boston vs. Philly for me. It’s Boston vs. The Process. While I will not dive so deeply (again) into why I hated “the process” so much, I will just like to say that it would be very nice to have Boston be the team that snaps Process-lovers back into reality.
Of course, that will be very difficult because the Sixers are pretty damn good and they’re playing their asses off. Against Miami, Ben Simmons got anywhere he wanted, Joel Embiid dominated his matchup, and shooters like JJ Redick, Dario Saric, and Marco Belinelli got free to rain down hot death from long-range.
Boston is, as is widely known, plagued not by an injury bug, but an injury locust swarm that may limit a very important remaining player (more on that in a moment).
However, the remaining pieces they have are good. Not only that, they’re good in the right places.
Al Horford has drawn matchups against Embiid and Simmons and has done quite well. According to NBA.com tracking data, Horford has drawn Simmons on 68 possessions, on which Simmons shot 4 of 12, had 6 assists and turned it over 3 times. He drew Embiid 48 times, on which Embiid shot 5 of 14, including 0-2 from 3, with 1 assist, 2 turnovers, and a block.
That’s not a lot of data but it’s enough to show that Al Horford has been effective against them in the regular season. When Horford defends Embiid, he’ll be more effective than Hassan Whiteside, which is a big start. He can switch on pick and rolls to Simmons and provide some resistance.
I personally am on the start Smart train again in this series. I’d match him up with Simmons and try like hell to cut off the penetration. Simmons doesn’t shoot so the height difference doesn’t bother me. In fact, if they want to goad Simmons into shooting, this would be the way to do it. Horford can stay on Embiid, and then you throw three other wings out there to defend the shooters. Maybe the third wing is Semi… maybe it’s Morris… maybe it’s Rozier. But I think Smart on Simmons, Horford on Embiid, and Celtics long wings on the shooters is a good recipe for defensive success.
We’ll just have to see how it goes from there, but matchup-wise, this isn’t as bad as some people want to make it out to be. Yeah, Philly rolled past Miami, but instead of looking at it as four monster wins in a gentleman’s sweep, look at it as Philly taking advantage of one huge set of mismatches four times.
Boston is a different team with different strengths. This will be a good series one way or another. Sure, Boston’s in a tough spot, but they’re not ones to quit, and they’ll all be ready for the challenge.
Well.. we hope they’ll ALL be ready. which brings me to…
Page 2: Where Jaylen Brown strained his hamstring
Brown said he will undergo an MRI on Sunday but is optimistic he will be available for the Eastern Conference semifinals opener against the Philadelphia 76ers on Monday in Boston.
“I just did a move and it just popped a little bit, pulled it a little bit, but it’ll be all right,” Brown said after Boston’s 112-96 triumph.
Asked about a treatment plan, Brown said, “Massage, rest, ice, all of the above. I hate taking pills. Like, I probably haven’t taken a pill in over 10 years. But they’ve got me taking anti-inflammatories and stuff like that. So just whatever it takes. Because I wouldn’t miss this next series for the world.”
ESPN Boston: Celtics’ Brown set for MRI, hopeful for Game 1
I can’t anymore with these injuries.
If they lose Jaylen then that’s just too much to overcome. He does too much. Last night, he was defending extremely well on the perimeter and was a big reason why Milwaukee was so uncomfortable out there. He’s a slasher, a scorer…
… yeah I know you guys know all this. It’s just very frustrating to see another guy potentially miss time. Hopefully the day off and intense treatment can minimize the damage.
Hamstrings are tricky. He could play and be fine… but one wrong move and he’s done for a long time.
Sigh… let’s just hope for the best.
Related links: Globe: Jaylen Brown dealing with hamstring strain | Herald: Celtics notebook: Jaylen Brown to have MRI on hamstring | NBCS Boston: Brown to undergo MRI on Sunday following hamstring injury in Game 7 | The Athletic: Brown’s injury casts shadow over win vs. Bucks
Shout out to the Boston Garden fans for this one…
Celtics fans got on the Bucks guard with a “who is Bledsoe” chant early in the contest. The arena then roared in the fourth quarter when, with the Celtics churning toward a victory, the team played a pump-up video from the real Drew Bledsoe.
“Man, that was special,” said Rozier. “Aye, that was dope. I don’t know who thought of that, but that was nice.”
And a special shout out to the Celtics for making this happen:
That Bledsoe-Rozier beef was the least expected aspect of this series when it started. No one previewed this series and thought “watch for that bad blood between Eric Bledsoe and Terry Rozier.”
But Tito dropped a “Drew” and then Bledsoe dropped a “who” and it was on. But it’s all good now.
“You got two guys that want to win, two chippy guys, two short point guards you know just out there having fun,” said Rozier. “If it takes for us to go back and forth and jaw back and forth or battle, push each other, it’s whatever. That’s just part of the game, but at the end of the day, you know we talked after the game.”
Bledsoe confirmed that he and Rozier walked away from the series without hard feelings.
“I mean, it’s the playoffs. What do you expect, us to be out there shaking hands and giving out hugs the whole time?” said Bledsoe. “That [stuff] ain’t going to happen. He had a hell of a series, man, I got to take my hat off to him.”
I always loved angry, chippy basketball on the court and then a pound or handshake to show respect after the game. You give me your all, I’ll give you mine, and let’s see where this goes. That’s basketball. That’s sports.
In the end, that matchup was pretty encapsulating of what this series was. It was tough, hard-fought, and it came down to made the plays… and it was mostly guys playing well in their own buildings.
I’ll end by giving those Milwaukee players their proper respect. They are in a tough spot with some bad coaching there and some less than ideal team construction. But Giannis is a beast and they’re close to being a big problem in the East.
The rest of the links:
Celtics.com: That’s What He Said – Bucks at Celtics (Game 7)
NBCS Boston: Horford shines in Game 7, continues to be ‘stabilizing force’ for Celtics | Stars, studs, and duds: Rozier drops 26, Ojeleye limits Giannis in C’s win | Celtics dominate Game 7 vs Bucks, advance to face 76ers in Round 2
MassLive: For Jayson Tatum & Terry Rozier, playoff atmosphere ‘will shape their careers’ | Al Horford (26 points) on Boston Celtics’ forward Semi Ojeleye: ‘We don’t win the series without him’ | Daniel Theis Injury: Boston Celtics big man likely won’t be available for full contact until mid-July
The Athletic: Celtics face massive problem trying to contain Embiid |