As the playoffs kickoff and teams start the first round, some find themselves in tight spots against teams they should be able to handle. Most notably the one-seeded Boston Celtics, who currently trail the eighth-seeded Chicago Bulls who have them on the ropes, up 2-0. The other teams who should be on high-alert are the Los Angeles Clippers and Toronto Raptors, both of whom are tied 1-1 with the Utah Jazz and Milwaukee Bucks, respectively. So why are these teams that range in seeding from 1-4 having trouble with the bottom seeded teams? Time for some playoff breakdown.
There are two huge problems that have hit the Celtics at the same time, mixed with the fact that Jimmy Butler is one of the best 15, maybe even 10, best players in the NBA and can take over games when he chooses.
The first glaring problem is on the boards, an area Boston has struggled all season but has shown particular inaptitude during the Bulls series. Chicago’s Robin Lopez has made Boston pay for their lack-luster rebounding, grabbing 19 through two games while the team has grabbed 31 offensive rebounds alone in the series. This looks particularly bad because of the Celtics’ second problem: Depth.
They are an incredibly deep team, with players like Marcus Smart, Terry Rozier, Jamison Crowder, Jaylen Brown, and Al Horford all able to put up shots throughout the season, which masked their rebounding woes. In the playoffs, these guys cannot find a rhythm and have failed to hit the big shot in crunch time.
Now someone needs to hit a shot or grab a board if they are to get back in the series.
Los Angeles Clippers
If you watched any of the 82 games the Jazz played this season, you knew that Gordon Hayward would pose a problem for the LA squad. The glaring issue at hand is the lack of a bench, which has caused the most havoc on the defensive side of the floor for the Clippers. In game one, the Jazz had 47 points off the bench to the Clippers’ 20. The best adjustment they made in game two was running more of their offense through DeAndre Jordan and Blake Griffin in the paint, taking advantage of the matchup versus Boris Diaw.
In game two, when they took the game to the paint and had the Jordan/Griffin combo go off for 42 points and 20 rebounds, it made the difference.
Image that out of the sky, an alien ship appeared in your backyard. He touched down on the grass, lowered the ramp, and every little green Martian stereotype that you had ever heard of rolled out of the ship. He immediately becomes fascinated with what you are doing and who you are watching, and of course you are watching the Raptors/Bucks series. You naturally start to explain to him the game of basketball and how we have just entered into the playoffs as you crack open a few cold ones.
After hearing the game rules and objectives, the alien quickly assumes that the Greek God he is witnessing is the best player of the basketball world, and for this series he would be right.
On every game and series, weather it is AAU, pickup basketball, or the NBA, it becomes clear early on who is the player that can take over a game and impose their will. Despite the mid-season adjustments of bringing in P.J. Tucker and Serge Ibaka for the Raptors, it will not matter, because Giannis Antetokounmpo is the best player on the floor. He plays in the paint like a center and gets out to the wing like a small forward and handles the ball like a point guard. While Middleton, Maker and Snell are important to the Bucks, the ‘Greek Freak’ is the reason they can upset the Raptors, and because he is the best player on the floor, they do not have an answer for him. IBC and Tucker are too slow, while DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry do not have the defense.
This game is truly up to Antetokounmpo, can and will he take over the rest of the series? If he does, Toronto is in trouble.