AP NEWS

Celtics look to slow down John Wall with same starting lineup

May 16, 2017 GMT

There’s a good reason Celtics coach Brad Stevens chose to start Amir Johnson in his fourth straight game last night, and not just because the team needed the additional size against the Wizards’ combination of Marcin Gortat and Markieff Morris.

Instead, it’s all about John Wall and his ability to finish at the rim.

“Easier said than done,” said Stevens. “You’re not going to do that if you turn the ball over and you don’t have enough guys back, because he is so electric in transition. Big reason why we’ve stayed big toward the end of this series is you have to do your best to be impactful in the paint, but he is such a great player.

“He made a huge shot the other night (in Game 6). His ability to stop on a dime and shoot has improved. But the first thing every coach will tell you is his foot speed to the rim is special, so you have to do your best to make those as tough as possible. Easier said than done.”

Tough to compare

Stevens wasn’t drawing any similarities between his first NBA Game 7 and his Butler years, playing against Duke in the 2010 and UConn in the 2011 national championship games.

“None,” he began. “Those days were so different because, for one, I was in Indy in a hotel, which was weird in and of itself, and the other was in Houston. Just totally different scenarios, totally different days. Obviously it’s great to have a chance to experience those things. But a lot of players at this level have experienced those things as well.”

The Celtics coach does believe, though, a lot that can be taken from the NCAA tournament experience.

“The most important thing is focusing on what you can control, what’s important right now,” said Stevens. “Once we get on the court, are we doing our best to be solid in doing what we want to do from a game plan standpoint. The other night we did a lot of that. We didn’t always score at our best level, it wasn’t the most efficient offensive game we played all series, but we really competed.

“Their All-Star (Wall) made a huge, huge shot (to win the game). So you focus on what you can control and improve that efficiency in the offensive end, and hopefully defend with same sense of urgency.”

Stevens also continued to be amazed by his team’s demeanor.

“Our guys’ vibe never changes. It’s really, really, really rare,” he said. “One of the things I really appreciated about this team is they haven’t got too high or low. But one thing you have to focus on is to play well. When that shot went down and we didn’t score when we got the ball back, immediately our focus went to Game 7. We’ve gotta go. Wall hit a great shot.”

He was then, bizarrely, asked if his team was excited for Game 7.

“I sure hope so, yeah,” Stevens said. “That would be an issue if you weren’t excited to compete in this game.”

Wizards’ workhorses

Wall and Bradley Beal went into last night averaging an improbable 38.4 and 38.1 minutes, respectively, in this series. Wizards coach Scott Brooks wasn’t going to change the workload.

“I can’t really anticipate what’s going to happen,” he said. “There’s fouls, there’s situations you can’t control. You have to manage that on the fly. I anticipate them playing high 30s, low 40s. They need some rest. I can play them 48. I’m sure they would like to play (all 48). I’ve done it before. Let’s see how the game is going. Long timeouts. I can burn a timeout here and there to give them an extra rest.

“You say there’s so-called minute and a half or two and a half minute timeouts, those are usually four and a half minutes. There’s plenty of rest.”