First match-up in conference semi-finals. Boston coming in this one after they beat Chicago 4-2 in series despite they were in the hole and lost both first games at home. Interesting fact is that Boston lost first two games with Amir Johnson in starting line-up, since they change that Boston were able to win all four next meetings with Chicago. Basicly Boston line-up in last four games against Bulls was with three guards, Thomas, Bradley and Green, while Crowder played as small/power forward, on that way Celtics were able to speed up the game and they were more outside threat than inside. I expect from Boston to run same line-up against Wizards in this series, because Wizards have similar roster like Bulls with outside Morris at power forward who is same as Mirotic, mainly outside shooter and Crowder can handle that.
Thomas, Bradley and Horford were leaders in first round against Bulls, Bradley has the easiest job against Wade, Wade was outstanding player but at the moment he is just a shadow of a player which he used to be, Horford took advantage of his shots from distance and from behind the arc to make favorable match-up against Lopez which couln't guard him outside the paint, Thomas had huge problems against Rondo in first two games, not huge problems to score, but he couldn't assist and made a lot of turnovers and silly decisions, and Rondo injury probably is the main reason why Bulls struggled and lost four straight games, that kind of player can make difference in play-off games and without him Bulls didn't had another player to match against Thomas, neither Grant or Carter Williams weren't able to handle Thomas. Beside these three, Green steped up in last two games especially in offense, while Crowder is nothing special, he took so many shots and missed majority of them, while on defense he made a lot of silly fouls especially against such great player like Butler is. Rotation didn't brought to much to Boston in this series, Smart is totally inconsistant, Brown is too young, maybe the best rotation player was Olynyk, it's very hard to guard Olynyk because he knows how to score from inside and outside.
Wizards on other side beat Hawks also in six games, but I must say, how they lost two games in that series is quite questionable, I said questionable because I think refeeres gave huge help to Hawks in these two games, they whistle few times unexisting turnovers and most important they kept Morris out of the game with all fouls they whistle to him in match-up against Millsap, I mean Millsap is world class power forward, but you can not whistle every contact as foul, basketball isn't chess. Despite lost two games (btw both games on road) Wizards showed great basketball and I think they had chances to finish this series earlier than they did.
Beal and Wall, unquestionable were the best in this series. Wall average 29.5 points with 10.3 assists per game, on other side Beal averaged 25.8 points per game. Simply these two were unstoppable, or at least Hawks didn't have neither one single player to handle these two. Morris was very good in first two games, than in next three he was awful (I already wrote about this) and in last one he bounce back and again showed great abilities. Gortat isn't same played since last season and season before, but still he is doing a great job in protecting the paint and provide scoring from inside and truth to be told he had hard task against Howard in this one, but also we didn't see too much from centers in this series, mostly both teams runs smaller line-ups. Maybe the biggest difference, beside Wall and Beal of course, in series against Hawks, made Porter, he is such a great all around player, posses great shooting skills but also he knows how to draw fouls and scoring easy points from free throw line. Also another part of Wizards team which bring them win in this series is rotation, led by Jennings and Bogdanovic at first place, Bogdanovic an outstanding shooter and scorer while Jennings also knows how to score, but beside them in few occasions Smith and Oubre also stepped up, so we can say that Wizards have good rotation for play-off standards.
Thomas against Wall: At first place Thomas can not hadnle Wall defensivly, and that could be the key for this series, on other side Wall can handle Thomas on defense or at least to slow him down, because Wall is much better than Rondo and Rondo already proved that he knows how to stop Thomas. However in this match-up we should expect from both players to score a lot, but biggest question is who will handle whom better on defense, basicly who will score more points and in that area I believe Wall has huge advantage, also recent tragedy which Thomas suffered clearly changed him and no matter how morbid that sounds, but these kind of things also counts.
Bradley against Beal: Great defender against great scorer and shooter, in this match-up I think Boston has upper hand, Bradley is one of the best, maybe even the best, perimeter defender in NBA and Beal relies too much on his shot from distance and from behind the arc. On other side Bradley knows how to score, no doubt in that, but in this series I think his main task will be to handle Wizards guards on defense, on purpose I said guards, because we can expect from coach Stevens to mix things during game and put Bradley on Wall and Beal alternately.
Green against Porter: I suppoused Stevens will continue to starting Green at small forward, however in this match-up I think Green has no chances. Porter is simply too good for him and we should see a lot of points from Porter especially from free throw line, Green can contribute only in offensive part in this seriese, but even there is question because Porter is stronger than Green on low post, while also knows how to defend small forwards which are good shooters.
Crowder against Morris: This could be similar match-up like Morris against Millsap, Millsap used his strenght to force Morris on silly fouls, that kind of strategy Morris can use against Crowder, especially on low post and in paint, while with Morris shooting skill from behind the arc will make him very hard to defend, either for Crowder or Johnson. So I give advantage to Wizards on this position.
Horford against Gortat: Something similar we saw in first round when Horford matched with Lopez, yes offensivly he was better than Lopez but on defensive end Celtics allowed too many offensive rebound, and Lopez was the played which collect most of them, same thing we can expect from Gortat in this one, so lacking of defensive abilities to stop Horford, Gortat can compensate on offensive end with easy points in paint and providing offensive rebounds and second chance points. So I should say this match-up is pretty even.
2nd unit against 2nd unit: Even in second season in NBA, Smart still didn't showed too much improvment, yes he can score from anywhere, but also he can missed from anywhere, his shooting percentage is too low and clearly he isn't good passing point guard, as I said main threat in second unit is Olynyk and probably Smith will focus on him on defense in second unit. On other side Wizards with Bogdanovic and Jennings have huge advantage in that area and Wizards second unit can provide valuable minues and hold or make bigger lead if that's what Wizards need
PREDICTION: I believe Wizards have huge chance to win this series, I think they are better team, at home they will have absolut advantage and I doubt they will dropped games at home, so they just need one win on road to bring home court advantage at Washington. About over/under market, good bet should be over, because both teams like to force fast basketball with a lot of shots from behind the arc, but everyone need to be carefull with lines which bookies will set for this match-up anything above 216-216,5 has no value to bet on over. On the end, about Player performances, or bet on players points, assists, rebounds, Wall will should be able to cover any line in points and assists, but I am more for points on him, Porter also should be able to cover lines for over on him in points department, while Gortat will be suitable for over in rebounds, on other side Horford for points and Bradley for points, while Thomas is risky bet in this series.
NEXT CONFERENCE SEMI-FINALS MATCH-UP WILL COMING UP TONIGHT OR TOMMOROW IN THE MORNING