First quarters have been a constant problem for the Boston Celtics against the Washington Wizards.
Though Boston overcame sluggish starts at home in the first two games of the second round series, their propensity to fall behind early finally derailed their chances in Game 3’s 116-89 blowout loss.
Through the three contests, the Celtics have been down by an average of 16.3 points at the end of first quarters. It hasn’t been an issue isolated to the playoffs either as Boston trailed by 8.0 points per game following first periods in the four regular-season match-ups with Washington as well.
The Wizards’ starting lineup has been dominant all season and has continued to create separation in the playoffs at plus-8.7, but the Celtics have failed to adjust accordingly with their starting five.
Gerald Green as the fifth starter failed in the series opener and Game 3, while Boston didn’t fare much better with Amir Johnson in his place in Game 2.
Coach Brad Stevens could shake up the unit again in Game 4 tonight in an attempt to find a lineup that can keep the Celtics from falling into an early hole.
His best bet may be inserting guard Marcus Smart alongside Isaiah Thomas, Avery Bradley, Jae Crowder and Al Horford. Though Smart offers necessary playmaking off the bench and is a large part of the advantage Boston’s reserves hold over Washington, that five-man group has been one of the Celtics’ most effective – and second-most used – in the series.
With that lineup, Boston are holding the Wizards to 100.9 points per possession for a 3.2 net rating, while being plus-7 in total.
If not Smart, another option could be Kelly Olynyk, with him and the regular starters boasting a plus-42.1 net rating in a limited seven minutes.
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