Q: What is the general vibe of the Celtics fans on this matchup?
Jeff Clark: Well, heading into the last few games, I polled Celtics fans on twitter about who they'd most like to face in the first round and the Hawks got the fewest votes. So that tells you something right there. Also, it was interesting following the last game of the season, hearing that the Hawks were losing to the Wizards, and thinking, wait, if we come back and win this game we'll be "rewarded" with playing the Hawks? So there's clearly some level of consternation.
With that said, there's also an attitude of "bring it on, let's see what you've got." We've seen the best (beating the Warriors and Cavs) and the worst (losing to the Lakers and dropping 2 games to the Nets) from this team and we're excited to see what we'll get in the playoffs. Tons of respect for the Hawks, but we know that if we play our game we can win this thing.
Q: What is the frontcourt rotation going to look like in this kind of matchup? More Olynyk and Amir, etc?
JC: I seriously can't wait to see what Brad Stevens does with his rotations. We've been a deep team that runs a number of different lineups and looks out there. Amir could be a counter to Horford, or Olynyk could stretch him out away from the basket, or we could go full small-ball and see how that works. I have a feeling that Sullinger is going to play a big role with his rebounding. This is going to be a fun chess match and I'm sure that the gameplan will change game to game and even quarter to quarter.
Q: What's the biggest strength and weakness of the team this season?
JC: The Celtics hang their hat on defense and struggle at times on offense. The defense can turn into transition buckets which can swing a game in a hurry. But when we have to get buckets in the half court it can be hit or miss. Thomas can light up a scoreboard fast, but even he needs some room to operate and this team can be really bad at shooting 3's. Evan Turner is one of the few other guys that can create offense out of nothing, but you can leave him alone beyond the arc.
Another strength is just the overall vibe. It sounds corny, but this team really plays the game the right way. They embrace the team concept, they stay within the game plan, they never, ever give up on a game, regardless of the score. All that flows from Brad Stevens who plays the role of unflappable sherpa better than anyone I've ever seen. Personally, I'd like to hire him as a life coach, but I can't afford him.
Q: Isn't Jae Crowder awesome? I'll hang up and listen.
JC: So, this is where you and I start sounding like hipster beer snobs or coffee aficionados. I'm not necessarily comparing their games, but Jae kind of has a Millsap kind of vibe in that the impact they have goes well beyond the box score. I've said it all along, Isaiah is our best performer, but Jae Crowder is the MVP of this team.
Take anything you've heard about the identity of this team, and it all flows from Jae. Toughness, check. Tenacity, check. Teamwork, check. Resourcefulness, check. He's just the prototypical guy you want on your side.
Boston fans have a way of connecting with lunch pail guys that show up, do their work, and don't stop hammering away until the job is good and done. Crowder is that guy and we love him for it.
Q: What has to happened for the Celtics to win this series and if they lose, what do you think happened to lead to that outcome?
JC: The Celtics have to force turnovers and get transition buckets. Someone besides Thomas has to get hot on offense. But most of all, they have to play their game, where everyone plays their role and the process wins out over the long haul.
If they lose, it will be because the Hawks are a very good, well coached team, that simply executed better. Ok, ok, fine. If we lose it will also probably be because we couldn't hit the broad side of a barn from 3 point range and aside from Isaiah we don't have a guy that we can toss the ball to and say "go get us 20 points."
Still, I like our chances because the whole of this team is greater than the sum of its parts.
Thanks to Jeff for his time and be sure to read CelticsBlog for the Boston-centered take on the series.