Lasting thoughts from Game 7 vs. Cleveland?
Hunter Perkins: Sick to my damn stomach. I don’t care if the Boston Celtics would have gotten swept in the Finals, they deserved to be there. String after string of impressive performances came to a halt in Boston, and it was such a winnable game. Shooting 7-39 from three will hurt me for a long time. As excited as we all are for next season, we could still be playing right now. October needs to come real fast because these Celtics are going to be hungry.
Cory Prescott: When the Celtics had the opportunity to strengthen a 12-point second quarter lead only to see it dwindle to a 4-point halftime lead, they gave the Cleveland Cavaliers second life. With Kevin Love out and Jeff Green (one of the most frustrating Celtics of all time) acting as the de facto No. 2 scoring option for LeBron James, the Celtics should have taken this game – overall, they were the better team! It didn’t matter. The Cavs had LeBron and his overall experience and success in Game 7s. Jayson Tatum and Al Horford combined to score 41 of the Celtics’ paltry 79 points, making more than half (16) of the team’s total field goals (29) in the process. Instead of forcing the ball to those two, Brad Stevens’ free-flowing offense eventually came back to hurt the team in Game 7.
Mike Walsh: 79 points!? In an elimination game. At home. Against the second worst defense in the league. That was embarrassing no matter who was on the floor. And I know it’s unfashionable to criticize Al Horford among NBA elitists, but with chances to close out LeBron James he was a gaping negative in Game 6 and 1 of 5 in the second half of that Game 7. Your best player can’t do that in those situations.
Lasting thoughts from Celtics’ postseason run overall?
Perkins: Milwaukee was a great test. Athleticism combatted length and it made for a great show. We got the full seven games, but it was almost a very disappointing postseason. Losing in round one would have given fire to a lot of critics. We also would not have gotten to see Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum show what they can do. Records were broken by both young guns. The Philly series was great because they weren’t injured and we still kicked the hell out of them. Sure, a few games may have been very close to going the other way, but we got it done. If anything, this postseason showed us all that the Boston Celtics are going to be chasing titles for a long time; can’t really complain about that.
Prescott: In some regards, this reminds me a bit of last season’s playoff run. Last year’s Celtics were playing above their heads, especially once they got to the Eastern Conference Finals against Cleveland. In some ways, they were fortunate to even make it past Chicago in the first round. Although this year’s team was more talented than the 16-17 team (even with the injuries this season), the Celtics were close to bowing out in the first round against Milwaukee. If not for a couple of breaks and some boneheaded play down the stretch of games, the 76ers easily could have advanced past the Celtics. Although the Game 7 defeat against LeBron and the Cavs still stings, this postseason run reaffirms what many seem to believe. Once the reinforcements come back from injury, the Celtics will have something truly special on their hands.
Walsh: A lot of fun, but ultimately a frustrating end. The Philadelphia series had some unforgettable moments, and LeBron was LeBron. The thing I was most curious to see was Brad Stevens and Boston as a favorite/team to beat and we didn’t really get that. They’ve been a plucky underdog that gets the city behind them enough.
— Celtics on CLNS (@CelticsCLNS) May 29, 2018
Terry Rozier vs. Marcus Smart – choose one to commit to long-term
Perkins: I would rather keep Rozier. As crappy as it sounds, you never know when Kyrie will get injured next. Rozier loves being here and is the insurance the Celtics need at the point guard position. He is a special athlete with a jumper that will only get better with time. This is close because Marcus Smart is the heart and soul of the Celtics. Game-winning plays aside, Smart is one of the best perimeter defenders I have ever seen. My preference is to keep both, but the Celtics are going to have pay a lot of bodies over the next three seasons.
Prescott: I’ll probably disagree with myself by the time this is published, but for me Marcus Smart is the more logical choice. Although he’s 24 (just two years younger than Kyrie Irving), Rozier has just scratched the surface of his potential. Yet, his trade value is probably at its highest point right now and as a player Rozier doesn’t seem like someone who excels at coming off the bench for 20 minutes per game – Rozier needs to start to flourish. Smart’s skills are simply harder to replicate and given the dearth of money to be had on the open market this summer, the Celtics could resign him to a reasonable long-term contract. Although his shooting remains a problem, Smart’s defense and tenacity help provide an identity for the Celtics.
Walsh: Has to be Smart, even with some of his more bizarre tendencies, delusions of grandeur and the glass punching thing. He makes more sense for the team you have returning next year and hope to be in the future. The Celtics are still going to need an off-the-bench defensive force who can spot-start, is willing to shoot 3s, and is, most importantly, about that life. Terry’s greatest assets make him a poor man’s Kyrie Irving. But Boston already has a rich man’s Kyrie Irving. Though we’ll have to see how rich a rich man’s Kyrie Irving is paid when a rich man’s Kyrie Irving gets paid the super max.
Who’s the most likely Celtic to get traded this offseason?
Perkins: Terry Rozier. If we can snag a pick in the 4-6 range by trading Rozier along with the Sacramento pick and another pick, I’m game. Mo Bamba would give the Celtics everything they don’t already have. Superior length and rim protection along with a developing offensive game makes Bamba a true unicorn. He would be the final piece to the puzzle and would make the Celtics the title favorite next season. Yeah, you heard me. Kyrie, Brown, Hayward, Tatum and Horford with Smart, Morris and Bamba off the bench beats Golden State. If LeBron goes to Houston we may have a different problem.
Prescott: I’ll go out on a limb and say Marcus Morris. Despite being a potential piece to a championship contender next season (and in many ways, the perfect seventh or eighth guy on a championship team), Morris has griped in the past about not starting. Unfortunately for the 28-year old forward, he’s not going to sniff the starting lineup if the Celtics are healthy next season. Morris is also in the last year of a contract that is worth pennies in today’s NBA ($5.3 million next season). If the Celtics can sell high on Morris or use him in a packaged deal, you have to think Ainge may look to move on from the versatile forward.
Walsh: Has to be Rozier, given his raised stock and Danny Ainge’s always-itchy trigger finger. I’d say Jaylen Brown makes some sense, but I don’t believe any big fish are moving to Boston, i.e. Anthony Davis or Kawhi Leonard. Might as well hang on to Brown and see where he fits next year before maybe swinging him at the deadline if things are going as swimmingly as everyone assumes they will next season. Stevens at this point has to have enough pull that Hayward won’t be moved. Irving’s knee’s value is low and Horford’s sack of gold bricks is way too heavy to transport anywhere.