Celtics

On 10th anniversary of Garnett trade, C's maintain championship mindset

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On 10th anniversary of Garnett trade, C's maintain championship mindset

BOSTON – This upcoming season for the Boston Celtics will be one of a celebratory nature, regardless of how Brad Stevens’ squad performs.

It will mark the 10th anniversary of the franchise’s 17th NBA title.

And while that in itself is reason to celebrate, the good vibes and success generated by that team would have never come about if not for what happened 10 years ago today.

It was on July 31, 2007 that the Celtics pulled off the blockbuster of all blockbusters at the time, acquiring Kevin Garnett from Minnesota.

The addition of Garnett, who would later go on to become a league MVP as well as the driving force behind Boston’s 2008 NBA title run, proved to be the ultimate game-changer for this franchise.

And having acquired Ray Allen on draft night of that year to team up with still-in-his-prime Paul Pierce, formed a Big Three in Boston that won a title in its first year together and remained one of the top teams in the East for years to come.

But what’s often overlooked in that team was the commitment on the part of Boston’s front office to not just talk about winning a title, but literally put their money where their mouth was at that time.

Bringing Garnett aboard meant signing him to an extension. Couple that with Ray Allen and Pierce’s contracts, and it was clear that the Celtics weren’t afraid to journey into the world of being a luxury-tax payer, for a team that they felt – and most of the NBA agreed – was a title contender. 

Fast forward 10 years and the Celtics on many levels are in a similar spot.

Isaiah Thomas has been an all-star each of the last two seasons for the Celtics. Last summer they signed Al Horford via free agency to a four-year, $113 million contract. And earlier this month, they inked Gordon Hayward to a max contract over four years that’s worth 127.8 million. 

While the 2007 Big Three is considered the better threesome, it’s clear that the Celtics’ mindset now isn’t all that different from what it was back then – compete for a championship.

Boston’s chances this season on paper at least appear to be better than they were a year ago.

While Golden State is easily at the top of the NBA food chain, the Celtics have made inroads with the addition of Hayward and the turmoil that seems to be engulfing the cream of the East, Cleveland Cavaliers.

The Cavs couldn’t come to terms with then-GM David Griffin on a new deal, and parted ways just before the NBA draft in June.

Cleveland added Derrick Rose via free agency, but his history with injuries is more than enough reason for Cavs to be cautiously optimistic about his chances of being a significant contributor over the course of the season.

And then there’s Kyrie Irving demanding a trade which, if it came to pass, would certainly weaken a Cleveland team that still has LeBron James around for another year, at least. He can hit the free agent market in the summer of 2018 and while he has not indicated what his plans are far down the road, most league executives anticipate James will join the Los Angeles Lakers.

Those are issues that the Celtics don’t have to deal with, and yet Boston has to keep abreast in part because of its potential impact on their chances at success this season.

And if Boston is able to take that next step from last season when they advanced to the Eastern Conference finals, it will be similar to the KG trade from 10 years ago as far as being yet another accomplishment by this franchise that’s worth celebrating.

Kyrie's 47 points help Celtics push winning streak to 16 games

Kyrie's 47 points help Celtics push winning streak to 16 games

Flat. Round. Octagon.
 
It doesn’t matter.
 
This is Kyrie Irving’s world, one in which he can do some pretty amazing things like lead the Boston Celtics to an improbable comeback that finally ended with a 110-102 overtime win for Boston.
 
Irving delivered as near-flawless a game scoring the ball as we’ve seen since he became a Boston Celtic.
 
He finished with a game-high 47 points, which included 10 in overtime as the Celtics (16-2) extended their winning to 16 straight which ties the fourth-longest winning streak in franchise history.
 
Jumpers. 3-pointers. Lay-ups.
 
Irving gave the Celtics anything and everything they needed down the stretch for what might have been the toughest win for them during this amazing stretch of success.
 
We have seen the Celtics blaze their way down the comeback trail before, and Monday was no exception. They closed out the fourth quarter with a 17-7 run over the final 5:22 to force the overtime session.
 
Boston led for most of the first half, but Dallas opened the third quarter with a 9-0 run to lead 58-53, and continued to surge ahead before the third finally ended with the Mavericks pulling ahead to the fourth quarter with a 77-69 lead.
 
The Mavericks continued to control the game for most of the fourth quarter and took their first double-digit lead, 83-72, following a driving lay-up by Yogi Ferrell which led to Brad Stevens calling a time-out with 9:19 to play.
 
Boston’s struggles in the second half were in sharp contrast to what the Celtics were able to do in the first two quarters.

The Celtics went on a 25-8 run in the first quarter which set the tone for the C's 34-22 lead at the end of the first.

Boston went to its bench and they did what we’ve seen them do a lot this season, missing a bunch of wide open to lightly contested shots from the field.

Stevens has been looking for them to develop some kind of flow offensively, and probably kept them on the floor longer than he should have.

Boston’s double-digit lead was all but wiped out in the second quarter, with the Mavericks coming within 44-43 following a 3-poiner by Wesley Matthews. The Celtics managed to take a slimmer-than-expected 53-49 lead into the half.

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Celtics thought it would be good . . . but this good?

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Celtics thought it would be good . . . but this good?

After arriving in Boston and spending some time with his new teammates, Kyrie Irving felt good about this group doing big things this season. 

But when asked about the experience thus far being what he thought it would be, Irving responded, “It’s probably exceeded that.”

He’s not alone. 

Few would have envisioned the Celtics (15-2) would have the best record in the NBA at this point, let alone be riding a 15-game winning streak which ranks as the fifth-best winning streak in franchise history. 

Irving and his Celtics teammates will try and keep it going tonight when they take on the Dallas Mavericks.

Irving’s ability to mesh with his teammates and still find success was among the many questions out there when the Celtics and Cleveland Cavaliers pulled off the blockbuster trade this offseason. 

Blending in has not been an issue for Irving, bolstered by the reality that his game stands out. 

We saw that in Boston’s 110-99 win over the Atlanta Hawks, which was a game in which Irving had 30 points on an insanely efficient 10-for-12 shooting night. 

There were many factors that went into Irving’s strong night against the Hawks, but he said it really came down to one thing above all else.

“I just made some damn shots for once,” Irving quipped. “That right there kind of made it seem better than I actually been shooting over the start of the season.  It would also contribute to being able to be in the right spots and guys being selfless in their approach driving to the basket or getting into the paint. It’s tell-tale sign of all of us getting more comfortable.”

Here are five below-the-radar story lines to keep an eye on as the Boston Celtics face the Dallas Mavericks, with Boston gunning for its 16th straight win. 

BROWN’S POSITIVE PLAY

Jaylen Brown has been on a bit of an offensive tear of late, the last being a career-high 27-point performance in Boston’s win over Atlanta. But even more telling is how well things seem to flow with him on the floor. Brown’s plus/minus this season is +146 which is tops among all players in the Eastern Conference. His closest competition in the East? That would teammate Al Horford whose plus/minus this season is +143. In addition, Horford has had a positive plus/minus in every game this season. 

YOGI FERRELL

You can count Yogi Ferrell among the ones that got away from Brad Stevens when he was coaching at Butler. Ferrell, who played at Indiana, was a player on Stevens’ radar when he was coaching at Butler. “I recruited Yogi, unsuccessfully,” Stevens told reporters in Dallas. While Ferrell came on strong as an undrafted free agent with the Mavericks last season, Stevens said there’s nothing about Ferrell’s game now that he didn’t see when he tried to woo him to Butler. “He would have been awfully good at Butler,” Stevens said.

HOMECOMING

While Marcus Smart grew up in Flower Mound, Texas (less than an hour from Dallas), tonight’s game is a homecoming of sorts for another Celtics player – Semi Ojeleye. The 6-foot-7 forward played at SMU which is located in Dallas. A second-round pick by Boston in last June’s NBA draft, Ojeleye has been among the many surprise performers for the Celtics this season. “We knew he could be a versatile defender,” said Celtics head coach Brad Stevens. “Probably has exceeded our expectations in that regard with his ability to guard one (point guard) through five (center) at certain times. And he’s been pretty consistent shooting the ball. Right now, embracing that kind of 3-and-D role is what he has to do and he’s done it well.”

DEEP DRAFT CLASS

The Boston Celtics struck gold by drafting Jayson Tatum with the third overall pick. But as you look at the teams that had lottery picks in last June’s NBA draft, few come away feeling disappointed or discouraged by the player selected. The Dallas Mavericks are among the teams pleased with their first-round pick, Dennis Smith Jr. who was selected with the ninth overall pick. He has emerged as one of the top rookies this year, averaging 14.5 points, 4.5 assists and 4.2 rebounds per game. And yes, he was a player that was on the Celtics’ radar leading up to last June’s draft. “We had Dennis in and he was really impressive,” said Celtics head coach Brad Stevens. “He’s a guy that’s going to have a great career and he’s got good veteran players around him to help kick it off.”

DIRK NOWITZKI

The numbers aren’t anywhere close to what we’ve seen for the bulk of Dirk Nowitzki’s illustrious career that’s now in Year 20. But there is a demeanor about him that seems to be at peace with where he’s at basketball-wise, even if the wins aren’t nearly as plentiful as he’s accustomed to. “I appreciate his game a ton,” said Celtics head coach Brad Stevens. “Just watching him talk on the court, cheer on the bench, sit at the scorer’s table with a smile on his face. You can’t play this long and be this good this long if you don’t’ love it. Everybody says they love it, but he’s got a different level of passion. You can feel it, you can see it. You root for guys like him to have success.”

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