by Mark Deeks
(4) Washington Wizards @ (1) Boston Celtics (series tied 2-2)
In the stand-out series of the second round thus far, the Wizards put in their second big victory in a row in a 121-102 victory over a Celtics team that has now lost the last two games by a combined 46 points. With every game of the series having gone to the home team thus far, however, the Celtics may enjoy some sort of advantage going into the pivotal game five.
Both teams should be at full strength with no injury news to report.
Celtics fifth starter
Celtics head coach Brad Stevens still cannot decide on his fifth starter, swapping Gerald Green for Amir Johnson then back again, alternating the two throughout the entire playoff run thus far. Johnson now has four playoff games started versus three DNP-CDs, and yet he has only twice played in double figure minutes in the postseason, his high of 18 minutes coming way back in game one of the first round series against the Chicago Bulls. Green meanwhile seemingly can play anywhere from 25 minutes to 0 on any given night. It is tough to know how much either will play, and even tougher to predict what they will do – Johnson thus far has contributed almost nothing statistically, while Green can score either 0 or 8, depending on match-ups and/or whether his shot goes in that night. It is probably the best bet at this point to avoid both.
Beyond the core starting four of Avery Bradley, Al Horford, Jae Crowder and Isaiah Thomas, the Celtics’s bench rotation always features healthy lashings of Marcus Smart and Kelly Olynyk, who have cemented the sixth and seventh man roles. The minutes for the other players, however, are variable. Jaylen Brown, Terry Rozier, Jonas Jerebko and the aforementioned Johnson/Green duo are all proving very unpredictable. Smart, the sixth man, is receiving by far the most consistent volume of minutes, but his role is a more defensive one that is not well measured in fantasy terms. Indeed, with an eight turnover performance in game four, Smart’s post-season averages of 8.1 points, 4.4 rebounds, 4.6 assists, 1.7 steals, 1.0 blocks and 2.3 turnovers per game on 35.5% shooting from the field (and 54.5% from the line) are not huge for their price.
Impact of Mahinmi and Oubre returning
For the Wizards, the return of Ian Mahinmi has firmly diminished the very-cheap-filler-pick value of Jason Smith, who moves to the third string and now barely plays. For all his value as an interior defender, Mahinmi himself is not a stat collector, particularly offensively, and while Tomas Satoransky has experienced a minute spike over the last two games, these were due to the large amounts of garbage time and the suspension of Kelly Oubre, and thus are not expected to continue. The bench unit is thus likely to be primarily Oubre, Mahinmi and Brandon Jennings, who provides breathers only for John Wall and whose stat lines in the 5 point 2 assist range do not move the needle from a fantasy perspective.
Oubre will return from suspension for game five and could be considered as a value pick. As a player who is better defensively and never hugely featured offensively, his statistical output from a fantasy point of view is never predictable; nonetheless, after two 12 point outings in the first two games, plus consistently high rotation minutes (we’ll excuse his 5 minute outing in game three, given that it was only that low due to ejection), Oubre could feature once again. He could also go 1-5 from the field with 3 rebounds and 2 turnovers in 25 minutes. Such is the Oubre way. In either eventuality, he will likely play a good number of minutes, and thus he is a candidate to produce for good value. Unless he gets ejected again.
Amongst the starters, in a series featuring few big men (and, particularly, few big men being productive), Marcin Gortat continues to return solid traditionally “big man” numbers. Gortat has totalled 49 points, 46 rebounds and 5 blocks in the four games hence, shooting 57.8% from the field. His output is consistent, his minutes (foul trouble notwithstanding) even more so. On the wing alongside him, Otto Porter is similarly reliable in a different way. Not handling the ball enough to ever have ‘big’ nights, Porter’s development as a finisher from both inside and (in particular) outside have made him a solid contributor offensively, scoring in the teens in all four games of the series thus far and going so without the three point weapon (only 3-12 in the series) that, at 43.4% during the regular season, made him one of the league’s best outside open shooters. Also contributing on the glass (9.0 per game) and in the defensive stats (9 steals and blocks thus far), Porter is a consistent contributor across the board.
Battle of the star point guards
Ultimately, though, the big money picks have to come through for these attempted value picks to be able to tip the balance in the first place. The point guard battle of Isaiah Thomas versus John Wall is thus imperative. Wall thus far is averaging 27.8 points and 12.3 assists per game in the series, alongside 2.8 steals, 2.8 rebounds, 1.8 blocks and 5.0 turnovers per game, but is taking a lot of shots to do it (shooting 40-96 from the field, or 41.7%).
Thomas in reply is averaging 29.5 points and 5.5 assists per game of his own on an even 50% shooting, but his 86 points in the two wins juxtaposes strongly with his 32 points in the two losses. Wall’s high presses on Thomas are partly why, and with his more wide ranging statistical input, he has better fantasy value, especially with the Wizards in the ascent. Marcus Smart is the best defensive match-up for Wall, hence his high minutes, but no one stops Wall in transition, and with the Wizards’s defense able to force the Celtics (and Smart in particular) into live ball turnovers regularly, he is always in the action and on the score sheet.