Brad Stevens has already done what Rick Pitino couldn’t do. Win without having to use hookers.
OK, that’s a bit unfair. We don’t know for sure if squeaky-clean Stevens ever did shady things to get talented kids to commit to Butler. But we do know that Stevens can get an NBA team to the postseason using a deep roster of average-to-below average pro players. Pitino could not do that here when he was in charge of the Celtics.
The “college approach” in the NBA does not work longterm. And it seems as though Stevens has adapted well to the “pro style.” But for one night only, it might be time to go back to the college antics.
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Friday night at TD Garden will be a “kitchen-sink” kind of evening for Stevens and the C’s as they welcome the undefeated and undisputed NBA champion Golden State Warriors to the Garden.
It will be the first “big” regular season game in the Stevens era and the first “must-see” Celtics game since Pierce and Garnett were still here.
The Warriors, who now own an astounding record of 23-0, are the new rock stars of the NBA. They’re the Miami Heat of the early 2010s. They’re the Chicago Bulls of mid-1990s. They’re the Celtics and Lakers of the 1980s. And they are more than worth the price of admission.
What Golden State is doing right now just doesn’t happen in this league (particularly with the style they use). The NBA not-so-long-ago was a league where the regular season was a glorified pre-season, not a toned-down postseason. But the Warriors are sprinting right now and they don’t look like they’ll take their foot off the accelerator until late June. Beating them now, next month or next spring – just once – will be a monumental task.
But if there’s one team that can do it – for one night only – it is a Stevens-coached team. Stevens is the master of the one-game elimination, going back to his college days. During those runs, his teams adapted to their opponent and found their weaknesses.
The Warriors, of course, have few weaknesses. But expect Stevens to find it on Friday night.
Golden State is already the best small ball team of all-time, so it’s quite possible the Celtics will go big. They called up 6-foot-8 rookie Jordan Mickey from the Red Claws on Wednesday – possibly a hint that it’ll be a go big or go home kind of affair.
Of course, Stevens might also have Avery Bradley and two other guards on the floor at the same time in an attempt to keep up with Stephen Curry. Or he could just have Bradley play Curry one-on-one and pray for a bad shooting night from Curry (if those do, in fact, exist).
No, the tried-and-true college full-court press won’t work against Curry and his superb ball-handling skills. But there could be some whacky zones in store for Golden State.
There are a million different gameplans Stevens could use against the Warriors. He’s paid to find the right one. Here’s saying he will and the Celtics will be the team to conquer the streak.