- The Washington Times - Sunday, April 30, 2017

BOSTON — Brad Stevens said Sunday morning that Boston will stick with its small starting lineup that includes small forward Gerald Green to open its series with the Washington Wizards on Sunday at 1 p.m. in TD Garden.

Green was put into Boston’s lineup in Game 4 of its first-round series with the Chicago Bulls when Stevens benched Amir Johnson. Boston opened that series by dropping the first two games at home before winning four consecutive to close it.

“We put a lot of time and thought into that,” Stevens said. “I think the biggest thing is our ability to space the floor and I felt like we did a good job of flying around defensively. We’re small. But, we’re pretty athletic in that group and we were pretty quick to balls, whether they were rebounds, loose balls, whatever the case may be. So, there are a lot of factors there. I think that [Green] had done a really good job. I think the other factor that cannot be understated is how Amir has accepted having to be available off the bench. He’s just been the best teammate you could ask for.”

Because of health issues throughout the season, the Celtics had a different starting lineup each time they played the Wizards. The teams split the season series, 2-2.

Once the Chicago series concluded, Stevens admitted that starting Green means Boston will essentially concede any chance of winning the rebounding battle.

Having Green on the floor instead of Johnson means a smaller defender will be on 6-foot-10 Markieff Morris to start. Stevens mentioned that the Celtics switched 1-4 in the opening round against Chicago, and that Green was the primary defender on Nikola Mirotic.

However, Morris is distinctly different than Mirotic despite them being the same height. Morris is a much more physical player with a midrange and full post game. Mirotic took 60 percent of his shot from behind the 3-point line this season.

Jae Crowder will also be a factor here. Boston’s “power forward” in this alignment with Isaiah Thomas, Avery Bradley, Green and Al Horford, is just 6-foot-6 but a rough-and-tumble player.

Morris spent the first round dealing with Atlanta’s Paul Millsap, turning much of the focus of the series to his matchup. How he can exploit his size — and how well he defends smaller players — will be key in this series, again putting him in the middle of a postseason conversation.

Keeping this starting lineup puts an even larger emphasis on Boston’s 3-point shooting. It shot just 33.9 percent in the first round (Washington was worse, 31.4 percent) and was 14th during the regular season in 3-point shooting. Washington finished 20th in 3-point percentage against, progressively moving up during the season after an atrocious start defending the long-range shots.

“We’re going to have to guard their 3-point shooters, this is how they play,” Wizards coach Scott Brooks said. “They do a great job spreading the floor. We’ve had a lot of experience throughout the year of guarding smaller players with bigger guys. Definitely, they’re going to have to do it this afternoon.”


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