Five lineup tweaks Celtics can make for Game 3
CHICAGO – Brad Stevens is one of the most transparent coaches you’ll find in the NBA.
But when it comes to potential lineup changes heading into Game 3, Stevens is more coy than usual.
While Stevens did not say what if any changes he would make, the most likely tweak to the lineup would involve Amir Johnson who played just eight minutes, 37 seconds in Game 2. The veteran big man has been under the weather lately despite continuing to play.
That might also be a factor in head coach Brad Stevens' decision to potentially have Johnson coming off the bench.
Here are five possible tweaks that Boston could make to the starting lineup or the regular playing rotation.
Jonas Jerebko starts, Amir Johnson off the bench
While this seems a bit of a stretch, remember the Celtics got back in last year’s playoff series against the Hawks after they inserted Jerebko into the starting lineup for the last four games which they split, 2-2. Jerebko has played just three minutes, 59 seconds thus far in this playoff series in large part because there’s not a natural matchup that favors him. Rebounding has been a problem for Boston in this series, and that’s not likely to improve with Jerebko in for Amir Johnson which would move Al Horford over to playing center. Again, it’s a thought but not one the Celtics are to spend too much – if any – time on contemplating.
More minutes for Terry Rozier
Rozier’s playing time in the first two games has been limited to 12 minutes, 44 seconds – all coming in Game 2. Look for that number to stay the same or increase for Game 3. The second-year guard had five points on 2-for-4 shooting in Game two with two assists and no turnovers. More than the scoring, Rozier played with the kind of intensity and feistiness that Boston desperately needs if they are to get back into this series with a win on Friday.
Kelly Olynyk starts, Amir Johnson off the bench
The Celtics have been a much better team most of this season when Olynyk has a big game. So the idea of starting him could be just what he needs to get going, and what the Celtics need at this point. With the starting unit, Boston begins the game with five shooters on the floor which forces the Bulls to defend much differently than they do with Johnson on the floor. Boston certainly loses something in terms of rebounding with Olynyk over Johnson, but at this point Boston has to find a way to force the Bulls into being a bit more uncomfortable and unsure of themselves defensively. Putting Olynyk into the starting lineup has the potential to make Boston’s first unit more versatile offensively. And with Johnson coming off the bench, the second unit’s defense should see an overall improvement as well.
Jaylen Brown starts, Amir Johnson off the bench
This move would result in some reshuffling of the starting five in terms of defensive assignments. But it also creates a bit more defensive versatility. Jae Crowder would play the power forward position which means he would match up with Nikola Mirotic while Brown would likely start on all-star wing Jimmy Butler. However, Brown and Crowder can easily switch defensively on either player if they run some pick-and-roll or pick-and-pop action. And as with potentially starting Olynyk, Johnson coming off the bench can only strengthen Boston’s second unit.
Tyler Zeller starts, Amir Johnson off the bench
Of all the potential moves Boston can make, this one makes the most sense at this point. Zeller is the most physical big man the Celtics have on their roster, something they desperately need in order to bring Robin Lopez and Chicago’s other shooters back to earth. And he’s able to limit Lopez not only as a scorer but also rebounding the basketball, it would bode well for the Celtics to win. And if he struggles early, the Celtics can turn back to Johnson who will certainly look to redeem himself after a pretty bad Game 2 performance that led to Brad Stevens just playing eight minutes, 37 seconds in the Game 2 loss.