Charles Barkley thinks the Milwaukee Bucks are going to eliminate the Boston Celtics in the first round of the NBA playoffs.
“They’re going to beat ’em,” Barkley said during the TNT halftime show Sunday. “They’re just better with all the injuries.”
The Celtics are competing in the postseason without Gordon Hayward, Kyrie Irving, Marcus Smart, and Daniel Theis. The Bucks, on the other hand, had no players to list on their injury report before Game 1. The absence of Boston’s veterans means young players, like Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown, are going to have to step up on both ends of the floor.
But Barkley isn’t necessarily convinced that’s going to happen.
“What’s interesting about Boston is those players that guys talk about who are good players — Horford, Brown, and Tatum — they have to cook their own meals now,” he said. “It ain’t the same when you have a Kyrie out there or a Gordon Hayward, who hasn’t been there. People don’t understand everybody can’t just get the ball and say, ‘Score.’ That’s what makes guys superstars and stars. Those guys are having to get those own shots and it’s not that easy.”
Brown, Horford, Terry Rozier, and Tatum seemed to prove Barkley wrong with their performances Sunday (and the majority of the regular season, for that matter). Each scored in double digits against Milwaukee, with Horford and Tatum both notching double-doubles. Barkley pinpointed one player, however, who needs to out-perform the rest for the Celtics to win three more games against the Bucks.
“If Boston is going to win this series, it’s not going to be Jaylen Brown or Tatum, it has to be Al Horford,” he said. “He’s a max player. He’s a veteran guy. He’s the guy to me who has to step up if the Celtics are going to win.”
When TNT host Kenny Smith pointed out that Horford was technically supposed to be Boston’s “third-best player” on the roster, Barkley said the onus is now on him to be the team’s “best player.”
“Hey, listen,” he said. “The guy made the All-Star team, why shouldn’t you expect an All-Star to be an All-Star?”
Barkley said Horford “has to average over 20 points,” for the Celtics to have a chance in the series. His expectations are significantly higher than Horford’s season average of 12.9 points per game.
“They made me retired when I was averaging that many points,” he said of Horford’s numbers. “If you’re a good player, your numbers should go up during the playoffs. Your numbers should go up.”
Barkley played 16 seasons in the NBA. He averaged 22.1 points over the course of his career. The 55-year-old was an 11-time All-Star and named the 1993 NBA MVP, but he never won a championship.