Celtics coach Brad Stevens says Wizards are better than 8th seed suggests

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Brad Stevens says Wizards are better than 8th seed suggests originally appeared on NBC Sports Washington

It is common for Celtics head coach Brad Stevens to talk up an opponent ahead of facing them. He generally has lots of positive things to say and often about specific players. There may be some strategy to it, to make sure his team doesn't overlook anyone.

On Monday, one day ahead of the Wizards and Celtics play-in tournament game, he sized up the Wizards and said their eighth seed in the Eastern Conference is deceiving.

"We’re not playing a typical 8-seed. You’re playing a team that was not healthy, but is super talented, that hit their stride once they got everybody back. So, it’s going to be a challenge, we know that. So, you could tell that our guys were locked in and ready to practice and prepare for tomorrow’s game," Stevens said.

Stevens seems to be focusing much more on the Wizards who finished the season 17-6 rather than the version that began the year 17-32. The first two-thirds of the Wizards season featured a host of injuries, including to Russell Westbrook, who has since proven he is still one of the best point guards in the NBA and a legend in his prime.

The Wizards had the best record in the NBA from April 6 on, while the Celtics went 5-10 after April 18. Stevens knows the Wizards have momentum on their side.

"So, they’ve got a lot of ways to win. They’ve shown that over the course of the last 23 games or 24 games with the stretch they’re on. It’s a really hot team, a really good team. Regardless of who is available, it’s going to be quite a challenge. They’re a handful," he said.

Stevens cited Westbrook and Bradley Beal as players the Celtics will have to worry about. But he also highlighted the team's three-center lineup and specifically Daniel Gafford, who was traded to Washington after their season series against the Celtics was over.

Gafford was added to a group that already included Alex Len and Robin Lopez. Combined, they have helped transform the Wizards' defense.

"The thing that I like about their team is they can be big and physical and play with great size, but they can also go small and fast. Gafford’s given them a different look besides Len and Lopez, who are both really good players in their own right," Stevens said. 

"But he is a little bit quicker to the rim, he can do a little bit more of the switching and blitzing and those types of things they like to do. That’s a good three guys that they can rotate there at center."

Stevens also had detailed analysis of Chandler Hutchison's cutting ability and Ish Smith's ability to dissect defenses. So, in case you didn't notice, he does his homework.