By Frank McLean
The Boston Celtics Saturday night rode a giant roller coaster of emotion in their opening Eastern Conference playoff series game with the Hawks in Atlanta.
They lost a nail bitter 102-101 and the game was highly entertaining, which is why I think this could be the most fun to watch of the four first round series in the conference.
Both teams finished the season with identical 48-34 records matching the won-loss of the Miami Heat and Charlotte Hornets, but what can make this a highly entertaining best of seven is the fact that both teams aren’t the best defensively and they can score. Now that’s what fans want to see, lots of baskets and defensive-minded coaches pulling their hair out.
The Hawks lead by 17 at the half, but the Celtics outscored their opponents 67-51 in the second half only to lose by a single point.
However, the Celtics it seems lost more than just a basketball game. They have lost guard Avery Bradley probably for the rest of the series with a strained hamstring and Canadian forward Kelly Olynyk’s right shoulder injury has flared up again.
If you watched the game on television, you would have seen the replay where Bradley was just running up the court with the play and all of a sudden he’s grabbing his right leg and trying to get to the bench in intolerable pain. Then he said heard it pop while running up the court.
It’s believed he hurt it earlier on when he tried to block a shot by the Hawks Jeff Teague.
“Avery has a pretty significant strained hamstring, I would say would be doubtful for any of the remainder of the series, certainly very unlikely Tuesday night,” said Celtics coach Brad Stevens after Sunday’s practice. “As of right now I would say he’s out Tuesday night, but obviously he’ll continue to get treatment around the clock and go from there. So I would say very unlikely the rest of the series.”
The other injury is to Canadian national team star Kelly Olynyk who strained his right shoulder again, the same right shoulder that kept him out of the Celtics line-up for 12 games in March.
Olynyk did not practice on Sunday resting it and with two day break between games one and two of the series the Celtics are hopeful that rest will allow him to dress for game two.
However from a Canadian standpoint, Basketball Canada and head coach Jay Triano have to be concerned that Olynyk’s right shoulder will be healthy enough for him to play in early July in the Philippines as Canada tries one last time to qualify for the Olympic Games in August.
To replace Bradley, Stevens is going to have to turn to rookie Terry Rozier who is considered someone who can play a little defense.
Rozier played for Rick Pitino at Louisville. I had a chance to talk to Rozier back in November when he was with the Celtic’s NBDL team Maine Red Claws when they played the Raptors 905.
He told me that in order to play for Pitino you have to play defense plain and simple or you don’t play at all.
Stevens is hoping that Rozier remembers what he was taught in Louisville because if the series is going to go longer than four games, he will have to make a significant contribution.
This wasn’t a good opening night in the playoffs for Boston.
Veteran journalist Frank McLean has covered nearly every Raptors game in Toronto since their inaugural season at the Skydome back in 1995-96. He has seen it all. The good, the bad and the really bad and he is one of the very few journalists in Toronto that has kept coming back for more.