Round 2: Celtics vs. Bucks

Who wins?


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lexrageorge

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The talent gap and roster construction issues are not mutually exclusive. There is undoubtedly a talent gap between the two teams. There is no one on the Celtics roster close to Giannis's level. And if you want to look at why this season's Bucks were better than last season's, most of that is due to Giannis, as he improved by 2.5 win shares alone. Win shares is not an ideal stat, but it can be descriptive. Kyrie is obviously second best on the floor, but there is a huge gap between them, IMO.

Horford is probably #3. He was clearly hurting a good chunk of the regular season, however, and the Bucks were probably a horrible matchup for him.

It's the next group where Milwaukee was deeper: Bledsoe, Lopez, Middleton, and Brogdon (obviously a non-factor this series) are all better (today) than Tatum, Brown, Morris, and Hayward. Smart's injury was big blow as well, as the Celtics had no-one to truly replace him, and he was clearly not himself either. I cannot imagine what it would be like to shoot with a sore oblique muscle.

There were also roster construction and matchup issues. Probably also chemistry issues, which were beyond Brad Stevens' ability to fix (and probably would have been beyond Phil Jackson's and Greg Popovich's as well).
 

Red Averages

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Credit belongs to the Bucks' team building philosophy as well. The whole league, including the Celtics, has jumped heavily into the small ball philosophy and switch-everything defense. So why not go big, defend the paint and dare opponents to shoot with their 3rd, 4th options? It might not work against Golden State, but that's just one team. An added bonus is that they were able to get Lopez and Mirotic for nothing.
Exactly this. This series really reaffirmed how important AD would be for the Celtics given he would clearly be on the court for 35+ minutes a game. Brad doesn't have the same level of confidence in any of the other C on the roster, which forced the Celtics to go small. When that wasn't working there was no one else to turn to in this series since they couldn't find anyone able to make a shot consistently.

Really impressive that the Bucks can run out lineups with the following height: 7 ft, 6' 11, 6'10, 6'8 with a PG.
 

HowBoutDemSox

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Credit belongs to the Bucks' team building philosophy as well. The whole league, including the Celtics, has jumped heavily into the small ball philosophy and switch-everything defense. So why not go big, defend the paint and dare opponents to shoot with their 3rd, 4th options? It might not work against Golden State, but that's just one team. An added bonus is that they were able to get Lopez and Mirotic for nothing.
Reminds me of Belichick looking at seemingly every other team going for smaller, quicker players and then building a bullyball roster to push everyone else around.
 

Strike4

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One element that contributes to this debate is that the Celtics have a huge spread between their ability to play as one of the best teams in the NBA at times, and then at others look like one of the worst. So on the one hand we are extremely disappointed in them for getting trounced in five games, but on the other: this is what they are, a 4 seed. They lost to the 1 seed who are a very good team. The Celtics spray all over the chart between looking like a 1 seed and looking like an 8 seed. Their lack of consistency deceives the eye.

And last night they looked really bad, most of the Celtics showed all their worst tendencies last night and it was like watching your kid bomb out on a violin recital.
 

CoffeeNerdness

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Reminds me of Belichick looking at seemingly every other team going for smaller, quicker players and then building a bullyball roster to push everyone else around.
Meanwhile Stevens is still running Rozier and KI together for decent chunks of the game when the season is on the line.
 

BigSoxFan

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Meanwhile Stevens is still running Rozier and KI together for decent chunks of the game when the season is on the line.
The continued Kyrie/Rozier pairing might be one of the most confusing parts of this season. Like...it...doesn’t...work.

There must be some kind of analytical data to support it but, man, I would love to see it.
 

lexrageorge

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Kyrie/Rozier pairing: 441 regular season minutes (34th among team pairings), +4.2 net rating (61st of 117; however the first 20 or so are noise due to their being seldom used combinations like Hunter/Rozier's +165 net rating).

In playoffs: 70 minutes (23rd), -3.1 net rating (40th, but 20 of those 40 are low minute (<25 minutes total) noise). And Smart was unavailable for 7 of the 9 playoff games, and was essentially limited in 2.
 

HomeRunBaker

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What I expected (naively perhaps) coming into the season was last years commitment to playing style with the addition of Irving and at some point a repaired/reconditioned Haywire. I thought they would play the same brand of basketball, and the difference would be when it came time in tight games to make that clutch shot the ball would find Irving and he'd make his share of them - befitting his history of being able to make that shot. I expected Irving to want to be the player that in a tough moment would use his ability to get to the rim and break down the defense as a difference maker. What I didn't expect was Irving to take possession of the basketball and try to imitate early Lebron/Jordan in a "do everything myself" mode. The Celtics proved during last years playoff run (admittedly without the pressure of expectations) that there was talent available to allow Irving to pick his spots and be the difference maker - rather than simply try to put the team on his shoulders every minute he was on the court. Having said all that - I'm not sure how much of this issue is Stevens not convincing him to play within his framework, Stevens not adapting to what Irving was delivering, or just Irving needing to get through the "being the man" part of his professional growth. As part of that growth, he's missed that as fans in Boston, most value skill, talent and hardwork (which he's delivered) but when players talking about the play of the team predominantly think and use the word "I" instead of "We" - you better deliver or it is going to end poorly.

Good luck Danny... you are going to need it.
Kyrie averaged more assists per game this year than any other season he's been in the league. As others have pointed out, Kyrie's "net rating" shows we are a better team when he is on the floor. Kyrie's counterpart production numbers are excellent as well. Kyrie is going to make either 2nd or 3rd team All-NBA this year.

Our problem this year wasn't Kyrie it was our supporting cast of young players who have never played in complementary roles being asked to suddenly do something they have never done while needing to put up their own numbers with their first payday coming up as their inner-circle tells them how they are better than so and so (who also happens to have a similar skillset). It was a flawed roster from Day One and Ainge essentially punted at the trade deadline while (hopefully) looking to knock one out of the park this summer once the redundancy log jam at the wings weeded themselves out via FA and trades.
 

lovegtm

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Kyrie averaged more assists per game this year than any other season he's been in the league. As others have pointed out, Kyrie's "net rating" shows we are a better team when he is on the floor. Kyrie's counterpart production numbers are excellent as well. Kyrie is going to make either 2nd or 3rd team All-NBA this year.

Our problem this year wasn't Kyrie it was our supporting cast of young players who have never played in complementary roles being asked to suddenly do something they have never done while needing to put up their own numbers with their first payday coming up as their inner-circle tells them how they are better than so and so (who also happens to have a similar skillset). It was a flawed roster from Day One and Ainge essentially punted at the trade deadline while (hopefully) looking to knock one out of the park this summer once the redundancy log jam at the wings weeded themselves out via FA and trades.
Agree with this assessment. The problem is that the relationship with Kyrie might be too far gone now. He looked really disengaged the last few games. I suppose if it’s about the young guys, and his relationship with Ainge is fine, then it’s fixable.
 

HomeRunBaker

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No, I mean production. Kyrie, Horford, Smart, Tatum, Brown, Morris, Baynes, Rozier, Hayward have all been productive starting-calibre players in the NBA. You have a top 15-20 guy, former all-stars, top draft picks with successful seasons under their belts, etc.

If you line up these guys in fantasy basketball fashion, they match up quite well with Milwaukee. Again, everyone thought it was Boston or Toronto as top team heading into the season. Almost nobody had Milwaukee. They were seen to be in the 2-4 range.

Of course, this isn’t fantasy basketball. Experience, chemistry, personnel fit, etc. all matter. As HRB/DeJesus have pointed out, they were far superior in that regard. I’m literally only contesting the talent gap point.
Are we talking "talent"/ "upside" aka "potential" or current production/ability?

Milwaukee crushes us at the top 2 slots which in this league is most crucial. Through no fault of Kyrie's the Bucks win #1 by a landslide. Middleton over Tatum is another clear Milw win as well even though Tatum may have more "talent" he isn't nearly as productive right now as Middleton who also benefits by playing well off Giannis. Which brings up another crucial point in that the Bucks veterans more easily fit into their roles around Giannis than the Celtics do around Kyrie who by definition of his position/skillset has to have the ball in his hands to be most effective. I've said this for years and been criticized for saying it.....but it is extremely difficult to build your team around a PG as their position by definition is that of a complementary piece. Few can pull it off.....Curry, Nash, etc. Many great great talents never could. Yes, it is possible to be too talented for your positon as Kyrie could go down with Iverson, Marbury, Francis, Baron, and others who had similar trouble of properly balance their immense skillset with the requirements of the position. It's no fluke that Iverson's Championship run came the year Eric Snow pushed him off the ball.

We beat the Bucks at several "talent" spots deeper in the rotation however that is where being a veteran and a good complementary player takes precedent. Rozier is more talented than Hill but the latter understands the game, his role on the team, and makes better decisions as a veteran. You can say the same with guys like Mirotic, Ilyasova, and Lopez as well.....despite Jaylen possessing more natural talent.

As far as the preseason prognostications.....they were wrong. Milwaukee showed over the entire season they were the best defensive team and the best overall team in the East. Over that same period we showed all of our flaws, didn't have as much top tier talent, and had non-role players plugged into crucial roles they aren't yet equipped for. The talent gap and the cohesion gap were both clearly evident over the past two weeks despite that people thought would be the case prior to the season.
 
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Strike4

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Agree with this assessment. The problem is that the relationship with Kyrie might be too far gone now. He looked really disengaged the last few games. I suppose if it’s about the young guys, and his relationship with Ainge is fine, then it’s fixable.
It's like any ongoing issue in the workplace, and I think this one can be resolved. It's a basketball issue, not really a leadership issue, as @HomeRunBaker points out. Kyrie being terrible in games 2 to 5 was for basketball reasons, not because his leadership was lacking this year (which is was), or because he doesn't care, or because he's a jerk. People tend to conflate those things in sports figures. He wasn't missing shots because he doesn't care. His poor body language is probably because his shots weren't going in and when you are supposed to be carrying the team, that's not good. Because none of us talk to Kyrie or know him personally we tend to interpret larger things in what happens on the basketball floor, which is weird when you think about it.
 

RetractableRoof

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Kyrie averaged more assists per game this year than any other season he's been in the league. As others have pointed out, Kyrie's "net rating" shows we are a better team when he is on the floor. Kyrie's counterpart production numbers are excellent as well. Kyrie is going to make either 2nd or 3rd team All-NBA this year.

Our problem this year wasn't Kyrie it was our supporting cast of young players who have never played in complementary roles being asked to suddenly do something they have never done while needing to put up their own numbers with their first payday coming up as their inner-circle tells them how they are better than so and so (who also happens to have a similar skillset). It was a flawed roster from Day One and Ainge essentially punted at the trade deadline while (hopefully) looking to knock one out of the park this summer once the redundancy log jam at the wings weeded themselves out via FA and trades.
There is a difference between dribble penetrating and kicking the ball out for a reasonably open or not closely contested 3 and building a cohesion with your teammates where they get easy buckets that may or may not be 3s. One builds continuity and a rhythm for your teammates and the other just leaves them sitting in the corner hoping they deliver like a mature Ray Allen. How do we see how many assists Irving has that aren't a kickout 3? I understand the league (and Celtics alike) values the 3 over almost any mid-range 2, but when your step back 3 isn't dropping the first 5 times or so (and/or your teammates aren't getting theirs to drop), maybe it is time to try to involve your teammates more than just kicking it outside and then shrugging your shoulders when they don't convert. Some of it is roster construction, some of it is young players not being comfortable (or content) in their roles, some is coaching philosophy, and some of it is Irving being cast as "the man" and not making his teammates better. Whatever form that takes or should take - he didn't do it.

Brown and Tatum specifically are too talented to leave on the 3 point line and hope they can drain 3s consistently. Ray Allen could run around for 2 miles each possession, work through 2.5 screens, over the river and through the woods and then hit the corner 3 - but he's not walking through that door. As young guys, they need more of a rhythm to be able to hit those outside shots consistently. The person with the ball needs to do more (on a consistent basis) than leave them just that shot.

I personally think Ainge/Stevens can win with a clone of the San Antonio playbook/style if the C's have got the right players. I thought last years team with the addition of a healthy Haywire (and his style of play) would continue in that direction - and believe the organization thought so as well. IMO, the addition of Irving was a mis-step for that style of play - and he clearly doesn't buy into it. It is my opinion that if Irving were willing to remain Robin-like (on a team of other aspiring Robins) and seize his Batman moments when they show themselves, this team could succeed in the San Antonio mold. If he has to see himself as Batman all the time, then nothing else fits - be it the roster, the attitude, the coaching, the system of play, none of it.

Sorry it's so wordy, I'm frustrated by the end...
 

sezwho

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Our problem this year wasn't Kyrie it was our supporting cast of young players who have never played in complementary roles being asked to suddenly do something they have never done.
Chemistry for the young guys was a problem because of the roles and limited minutes, no doubt exacerbated by GH getting minutes he wasn’t earning, but primarily I think because of what many have stated: what they were actually asked to do was play shitty Kyrie basketball.

The my turn-hero ball nonsense, which I frankly thought was part of what Kyrie was hoping to escape in Cleveland, made them as ineffective as they are unwatchable.

This season was so maddening.
 

NomarsFool

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He looked really disengaged the last few games.
He has looked very unhappy for most of the last four games, because for most of the last four games the Celtics were losing, and Kyrie himself was playing poorly. I would certainly hope he was unhappy in that situation.

Kyrie was in a real slump. It's difficult to understand, because I don't think we've seen that very much. Maybe the Bucks just really played great defense. Here and there was probably some bad luck, but certainly not all or most of it. Maybe he wasn't feeling well.

The narrative I do disagree with is when others have said that he "didn't care". He took a charge from Giannis in the 4th quarter. You don't do that if you don't care. That hurts, it risks injury - it's just not something you do if you are checked out and don't care.
 

HomeRunBaker

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Chemistry for the young guys was a problem because of the roles and limited minutes, no doubt exacerbated by GH getting minutes he wasn’t earning, but primarily I think because of what many have stated: what they were actually asked to do was play shitty Kyrie basketball.

The my turn-hero ball nonsense, which I frankly thought was part of what Kyrie was hoping to escape in Cleveland, made them as ineffective as they are unwatchable.

This season was so maddening.
If it was so maddening for you with Kyrie ON the floor what was it for you when he was OFF the floor? Why were we a much better team with Kyrie on the floor if he was the cause of all this lack of chemistry? He isn’t the one that filled the roster with redundant wings. Rozier said it best after the game......you had a bunch of highly paid offensive players and a bunch of young offensive players looking to get paid. None of this was Kyrie’s fault. It wasn’t Brad’s fault. Why isn’t Danny Ainge getting any criticism for this assemblence of players?

This is my point of Kyrie being the undeserving scapegoat after the Milwaukee series. Maybe I feel this way because I felt the Bucks would likely make quick work of us......which had nothing to do with Kyrie but that the Bucks are the superior team.


He has looked very unhappy for most of the last four games, because for most of the last four games the Celtics were losing, and Kyrie himself was playing poorly. I would certainly hope he was unhappy in that situation.

Kyrie was in a real slump. It's difficult to understand, because I don't think we've seen that very much. Maybe the Bucks just really played great defense. Here and there was probably some bad luck, but certainly not all or most of it. Maybe he wasn't feeling well.

The narrative I do disagree with is when others have said that he "didn't care". He took a charge from Giannis in the 4th quarter. You don't do that if you don't care. That hurts, it risks injury - it's just not something you do if you are checked out and don't care.
Kyrie likely recognized that we had no answers in stopping Giannis and/or felt the officials were never going to stop blowing the whistle when there was contact with Giannis. He’s not a robot, neither are any of the other players who likely recognized the end was near following G3.
 

RetractableRoof

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The reason that Ainge isn't getting grief is because Kyrie wasn't part of his core plan. The rebuild was stock piling assets until he could figure out where to spend them. Where he was drafting he just grabbed best player available. And as we know the league (including the Bucks) for a while is gravitating to the athletic/long wing switch anywhere/anytime style of play. Ainge prepared to do that, hired a coach prepared to do that, drafted to do that. On his journey to Grandma's house, Kyrie popped up. He looked at the cost to acquire a top X player, and decided to pull the trigger. I'm betting he thought Kyrie would buy in and embrace the desired style of play. He looked forward at Davis, and saw a chance to thin the herd of his interchangeable wings and turn them into a second superstar. He also had Haywire whose injury threw a huge monkey wrench into what were at the time reasonably fluid plans.

This is what Ainge does. He drafts well, drafts athletic upside, assembles talent, trades/swaps/steals upside nickels for established dimes, dimes for quarters, etc. It's how we got the big 3 (v2). He saw the end of his big 3, dismantled them into assets and starting the musical chairs again. It is how he works, and no one is perfect. Ainge is performing as advertised, and in a generally respectable/successful way given that no GM is perfect. Everything about Ainge is based on his team(s) playing unselfish basketball. He hired a coach that believes in service based leadership. He played with Bird et al in the 80s and there was enough basketball to go around for all that talent. He built the new big 3, and with some strain there was just barely enough basketball to go around there. He had a team last year after injuries that played over their heads by virtue of unselfish basketball, they know Haywire is unselfish, the major fly in the "team uber alles" ointment is Kyrie.

I'm not blaming Kyrie in a personal way (not in the he sucks way). I'm saying Kyrie needs to grow professionally in the same way that we all acknowledge that Tatum and Brown need growing time. He needs to grow in how he deals with the media as a superstar, how he interacts with his teammates, how he needs to adjust his game to get the most from the team. Most superstar capable athletes don't know how to lead from the get go - they just do what they are good at initially. At some point they get tired of putting up 63 points in a losing performance in a playoff game and figure out that they need their Robin(s) to be effective and involved in order to be successful in a team game. Figuring out how how to do that is tricky - I certainly couldn't help them. I can say that Kyrie's approach this year didn't work. If we accept Kyrie as Batman, this year he basically told all the Robins to go stand in the corner until he needed them.

TLDR: Ainge is building what he advertised: a team loaded with growing (and currently inconsistent) Robins in the coaches desired style available to be traded/discarded/play with the Batman given to them. Kyrie as cast as Batman needs to grow into his own role, or change his perception of what a Batman does. I see no place to criticize Ainge unless one feels he shouldn't have pulled the trigger on Kyrie.
 

the moops

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Celtics could really use someone like Mirotic. Whether he is making his shots or not, someone who just bombs and completely stretches the defense
 

Big John

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I have no problem with Ainge pulling the trigger on Kyrie the first time. I will have a major problem if he pulls the trigger a second time (resigning him for the max) because Kyrie hasn't been nearly as good as advertised. He's no superstar.
 

BigSoxFan

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Celtics could really use someone like Mirotic. Whether he is making his shots or not, someone who just bombs and completely stretches the defense
Agreed. Seem to haven’t really been able to replace what Olynyk gave us.