Celtics Radio Analyst: Kyrie Irving Will Miss First Round; Raptors Are Legit

Boston will struggle getting out of the first round – regardless of opponent, Sean Grande says

After Hours With Amy Lawrence
April 05, 2018 - 9:18 am

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Based on record, the Boston Celtics are the second-best team in the East. Based on the last couple of months, however, they're not. The Celtics (53-25) are 19-14 over their last 33 games and will enter the postseason with a great deal of uncertainty, mainly because Kyrie Irving (knee) hasn’t played since March 11.

“Kyrie Irving and Marcus Smart are not a part of the first round of the playoffs for the Celtics,” Celtics radio voice Sean Grande said on After Hours with Amy Lawrence. “They’re going to have to beat Milwaukee or Washington or Miami without them. That was going to be tough to do with them; but now without them, I think Brad Stevens’ focus and the Celtics’ focus right now is getting Terry Rozier 100 percent again, getting Al Horford a little bit of rest here over this last week, (and) getting a couple of games where you get Shane Larkin back. (Then) you have the team that is going to be the Celtics – the artists that will be representing the Celtics in the first round – you want to have a couple of games over these final four with that team together. Come April 14, Milwaukee, Miami, Washington – whoever it is, that’s going to be your team.”

The Raptors (56-22), meanwhile, are the top team in the East and beat the Celtics, 96-78, on Wednesday. While many fans and analysts question whether the Raptors can actually win the East, Grande insists they’re legit.

“Every bit of skepticism about the Raptors is fair, and they have earned it because of what has happened,” he said, referring to Toronto’s postseason struggles in recent years. “But three years ago, when Golden State got off to the crazy-good start (and put) up historic numbers, nobody wanted to believe that a team that played that way could win the championship because it hadn’t happened before when what they were doing was historically dominant. And of course, they went on to win. Toronto has had good regular seasons the last few years and disappointment in the playoffs, but those regular seasons are nothing like their work that they have done this year. They have matched Houston and Golden State pretty much stride for stride in terms of the content of their work.”

Houston (63-15) and Golden State (57-21) have better records, but Toronto may have the most depth in basketball.

“The bench is the difference,” Grande said. “There is no drop-off – zero – when they go to that bench. I love their bench. All that said, the Raptors are not playing their best right now. But I just don’t think, if you watch the games, it’s fair to compare them to the Raptors of years past. They’ve changed the style of play. They have so many guys who can shoot the three (who are) so dangerous. They’re going to play 10 guys, and they’re going to have success.”