For the first round of the playoffs, the Boston Celtics defeated Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Milwaukee Bucks in seven games, winning game seven, 112-96. The Celtics then defeated Ben Simmons and the Philadelphia 76ers in game one of the second round, 117-101. Along with the home court advantage in the first two rounds, the multiple Celtics’ season ending injuries have done more than give the rookies’ experience—they have skyrocketed players such as Jaylen Brown, Jayson Tatum, and Terry Rozier into the conversation as multiple rising stars in the entire NBA.
Second-year-Celtic, Brown, was the team leader in points per game through the first round, with 20.5. Also, rookie Tatum averages 17.0 points per game. Heading into the playoffs, Brown finished two of the last four games with 32 points and 27 points; meanwhile, Tatum in two of the last six games in the regular season had 20 points and 19 points. Also, Celtics’ guard Rozier, who was drafted in 2015, leads the team in assists per game with 6.6, while averaging 19.0 points per game as the new starting point guard.
After game one, “Scary Terry” accidentally called Bucks’ guard Eric Bledsoe, “Drew” Bledsoe in an interview, which Bledsoe later responded after game two explaining that he did not know who Rozier was. With nothing happening in games three and four, the third quarter of game five in Boston was when Rozier and Bledsoe finally got into an on-court scuffle that resulted in a technical foul on Rozier and a flagrant foul on Bledsoe.
Following game five, coach Stevens said, “I just walked up to Terry and told him, ‘you’re really important to us…other than that…I do want him to play with a chip and I do want him to play aggressive, we just need him on the court.”
As the Celtics are already a depleted team, they could not afford to lose Rozier from suspension.
Against the Bucks, shooting guard Brown had been in the main focus for Boston. In the first two games of the series, Brown earned 20 points and 30 points at home, then putting up a high of 34 points away in game four. After Brown left game seven against the Bucks early from hamstring cramps, Celtics’ head coach Brad Stevens did not want to risk any more injuries, resulting in Brown missing game one against the 76ers.
Despite speculation of a return, Celtics’ Gordon Hayward will not be playing this postseason despite a speedy recovery since the first game of the year in Cleveland. According to head coach Brad Stevens, “he’s not playing this year. I don’t know what else to say.”
In addition to Hayward, star point guard Kyrie Irving had knee surgery on Mar. 24, and will take the rest of the season off. Former Celtics legend Kevin Garnett was surprised that Irving opted for the season ending knee surgery.
“I was totally not ready for that one,” said Garnett.
After injuring his thumb on March 16, point guard Marcus Smart was originally given a six to eight week time period for his return without any setbacks. Smart was cleared for play in game five versus the Bucks and made his return to help the Celtics take what was a 3-2 series lead.
Another big loss for the Celtics is forward Daniel Theis who also had knee surgery that the Celtics announced will be season ending, but should set him to return for the start of next season. Theis is known for his defensive assistance coming off the bench.
“I think that he came in with knowing he could play, but maybe not even expecting to have the kind of season he had,” said coach Stevens on first-year-Celtic Theis rising above his expectations.
Going into the postseason, the Celtics expectations lowered, but the young future of Brown and Tatum have carried the team through a series against a tough Bucks team that includes one of the best players in the world—Antetokounmpo. In order to make up for those who are injured, the younger Celtics’ players will have to play well to extend their season through the 76ers. Game two is Thursday, May 3, in Boston at the TD Garden. The Celtics have a 1-0 series lead.