By Tyler Sullivan Follow on Twitter @TylerSully
Brad Stevens shook up his starting rotation against Indiana on Wednesday night going with Isaiah Thomas, Avery Bradley, Jae Crowder, Jared Sullinger and Amir Johnson. The Celtics got off to a better start and gave themselves decent looks offensively in the first quarter and throughout the game, but ultimately lost to the Pacers 100-98.
I like the change with the caveat that Marcus Smart (who was out with a toe injury) remains the starting point guard with Isaiah Thomas coming off the bench as the teams 6th man when he’s fully healthy.
Even with Smart’s injury keeping him out, it’s no surprise Stevens injected Thomas into the starting rotation due to his offensive ability and, to his credit, Isaiah has excelled when starting at the point boasting a stat line of 27 points, 7 assists and 2 steals on Wednesday night. He also shot 47.4% from the floor and 57.1% from three point land. Overall though, Thomas should and will be more impactful being the spark off the bench rather than the teams stating point guard.
Shooting is the hot topic and a major problem for Boston to start the year ranking 28th in shooting percentage at 40.2%, but that isn’t the biggest issue with this team and shouldn’t be what dictates the starting rotation.
It’s the bigs.
Smart, Bradley, Thomas and even Crowders’s offense will come around and the ball will find the bottom of the net soon enough. But, the C’s defense, especially from their bigs, is what is concerning and is why this current group of Johnson and Sullinger, deserve more minutes.
Opposing starting bigs that the Celtics have faced this year have compiled 121 points and 73 rebounds through for games. If you want to break it up, each starting big (Center and Power Forward) averages about 15 points and 9 rebounds a game.
The Zeller-Lee duo is a combined -10.4 on the year and have just 28 total rebounds between the two. Sullinger and Johnson, on the other hand, are a +6.3 and grabbed 52 rebounds. This obviously is a little slighted and unfair to David Lee considering Tyler Zeller has struggling mightily, but that is the person Stevens put him with so they are a unit for better or worse.
It should also be noted that part of the reason Amir was in the starting rotation was due to Brad Steven’s preference of pairing him with Isaiah Thomas, but regardless of how they reached this combination of Sullinger and Johnson, it works and it should see more time.
Marcus Smart is out again for the Celtics against Washington tonight and it looks like it will be the same lineup that we saw in Indiana. Once healthy though, a lineup with him, Bradley, Crowder, Sullinger and Johnson with Thomas the first guy of the bench, could be lethal for the Celtics going forward.
Shooting isn’t the issue. It has and always will be the lack of a true force down low.