Lebron James and Kyrie Irving and their personal back-story. Brown, Love, Horford, Crowder, Tatum… they’re all good players; and any one of them might end up hitting a key shot or grabbing a key rebound at crunch time. And there’s the drama over our believed former sparkplug, Isaiah Thomas.
But the key tonight may well come down to names like “Theis” and “Rozier,” or “Korver” and “Green” — and especially, their respective leaders, Marcus Smart and Dwayne Wade.
Bench vs. Bench
Especially given how well each of the benches is playing — albeit in different ways.
Wade has (to his credit, willingly) taken leadership of a Cavs second unit that comes in and can score and extend leads. In a recent Cavs comeback win against Sacramento in Cleveland, James had a negative plus-minus for the game, and all the team leaders were guys like Wade, who sparked a fourth-quarter comeback.
Boston’s bench isn’t an offensive juggernaut — in fact, last in the league in bench scoring. But Smart, Terry Rozier, and Daniel Theis, along with their counterparts, have been one of the most effective defensive second units in NBA history.
(And the scoring may pick up a but with the return of Marcus Morris. Though Morris will not be coming off the bench against Cleveland; he’s starting in place of Baynes, and of course, against a Cavs team that likes to play Love at center.)
Make or miss? First you need the ball
A month ago, Boston was in the top 10 in the league in most NBA “hustle” categories, as we reported just prior to the team’s first matchup against the Chicago Bulls.
Today — after what has truly been a horrendously compressed schedule for the Celtics — the team is in the bottom half of most categories, including (but not limited to) loose ball recoveries.
We’re sure everyone, especially the journalists, will be writing post-game about a last-second shot or turnover by one of the super-stars. “It’s a make or miss league,” and all that.
But as the Celtics un-forgot in an epic win against the Rockets (remember the last 10 seconds of that one?)… make or miss? To do either, you need to get the basketball.
Paul Pierce: a hustle play for the ages
And although we doubt they do… if the Celtics need a reminder, they need only consider the much-celebrated Truth: Paul Pierce.
Game 7. Celtics vs. Cavs. Big shots? Spectacular blocks? Sure, the game had all of those. But the game — and banner 17 — may have come down to one key hustle play. A hustle play for the ages…