Celtics

Backcourt stepping in for Rondo

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Backcourt stepping in for Rondo

BOSTON -- The Celtics lost a court vision mastermind when Rajon Rondo suffered a season-ending ACL injury.

They were forced to find a way to fill his absence in the backcourt. They could not replace him -- players like Rondo are unique -- but the remaining backcourt players would have to step up and contribute in their own ways.

On Friday, game number three without Rondo, the guard trio of Courtney Lee, Jason Terry, and Leandro Barbosa combined for 38 points in the Celtics 97-84 win over the Orlando Magic.

"We were able to get some stops at times, and that's the most important thing," said Lee. "Once you get stops, you are able to get out and run, and that's what led to us getting out and running and getting easy layups."

Lee has moved into the starting role since Rondo's injury. He played nearly 40 minutes on Friday, scoring 14 points off of 6-for-13 shooting.

Hes doing great," said Doc Rivers. "Im asking a lot of him.He started the game bringing the ball up at point, then hes guarding JJ Redick, and then at one point he was at the three. Honestly, everyone on our teams going to have to do that every night.

Terry, who struggled with consistency, hit a stride (12 points, 4-8 FG, 28 minutes), and Barbosa thrived in increased minutes (12 points, 6-11 FG, 27 minutes).

"We kind of let them play," said Rivers. "I called the one timeout and they kept asking, What are we running? I said, I have no idea. Just go out and space the floor and play, and play through it.' I think Jason loves to play that way, I think LB clearly likes to play that way, and they just read each other extremely well.We try to keep them on the floor at the same time.

Starting guard Avery Bradley had his praise for his counterparts, who allow him to stay focused on defense where he is most valuable to the Celtics.

"They were aggressive," Bradley said. "They played great tonight. It's hard to beat a team that's as deep as us."

Streak reveals depth even Celtics didn't know they had

Streak reveals depth even Celtics didn't know they had

Coaches in all sports will tell you that winning is not easy.
 
Making the Celtics’ 16-game winning streak even more impressive is that a number of the victories have involved Boston turning to some unlikely sources of production.

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And that has provided a glimpse into a franchise that’s getting the best of both worlds: quality play from its core group while developing reserves who have contributed to the team reeling off 16 straight wins in a variety of ways.
 
Because coach Brad Stevens has gone deeper into his bench this season than past years, it has created a roster with minutes more evenly distributed and with that, less wear and tear on the bodies of key players.
 
And while this team is led by Kyrie Irving and Al Horford, there has been at least one other Celtic to emerge as a top-three performer every night...and often it’s not the same player.
 
“Much more unpredictable now,” a league executive texted to NBC Sports Boston. “That number three guy, is it [Jaylen] Brown? [Jayson] Tatum? Sometimes it’s Marcus [Smart]. You don’t know who it’s going to be because a lot of times, I don’t think they [Celtics] know who it will be. It’s why they’re so good, man.”
 
Here are five under-the-radar storylines heading into tonight’s game in Miami with the Celtics trying to push their winning streak to 17:

KYRIE FOR MVP
It’s one thing for the home crowd to get into the ‘M-V-P’ chants when you’re at the free-throw line. But it’s a completely different matter when those same cheers are being heard on the road. That’s where Irving was following the 110-102 overtime win at Dallas, a game in which Irving dropped 47 points, 10 in overtime. It’ll be interesting to see if another strong game by Irving will lead to another serenading of ‘M-V-P’ chants for the most dominant player on the team with the league’s best record.


 
TURNING DOWN THE HEAT
The streak is the talk of the NBA right now, but streaking was going to be part of the conversation leading up to tonight’s game regardless. The Celtics come into tonight’s game having won eight in a row over the Heat, their longest current winning streak over any team. Boston has dominated this matchup for years, posting a 70-44 record all-time against Miami in the regular season.
 

DUKE CONNECTION
College basketball just kicked off and Duke is once again among the game’s top teams, a school that consistently produces NBA talent at a relatively high level. That’ll be very apparent tonight when you consider this Boston-Miami matchup features three players (Kyrie Irving and Jayson Tatum for Boston, Justise Winslow for Miami) from Duke who will all be in the starting lineup and a fourth (Boston’s Semi Ojeleye) who attended Duke but later transferred to SMU.


 
JUSTISE WINSLOW
Every front-office executive has that one player they tried – and failed – to acquire that, in hindsight, not getting him was a really good thing. Winslow is that guy for the Celtics. While he hasn’t been necessarily a bust, his impact at this level hasn’t been enough to have warranted all the assets Boston was willing to part with on draft night in order to move up and select him. Still, he’s healthy now and starting to play better which is evident by his numbers in most offensive categories on the rise, while his defense has been relatively solid.
 

THREE-POINTERS
The Heat have made the 3-point shot a much bigger part of their offense this season, evident by Miami ranking seventh in the league in 3-point makes (11.2) this season. In Boston, one of the keys to their top-ranked defense has been their length, which has come in real handy defending the 3-pointer. In fact, Boston has limited opponents to just 32.1 percent shooting on 3’s this season, which ranks third in the league.

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WATCH: Celtics vs. Heat

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WATCH: Celtics vs. Heat

Tune into NBC Sports Boston to watch the Celtics play the Heat in Miami. You can also click here to watch the Celtics livestream presented by Nissan on the NBC Sports App. Coverage begins at 7 p.m. with Celtics Pregame Live Presented by ACE Ticket.

- Game preview: Will Celtics be drained by emotional comeback win Monday in Dallas?

- Channel Finder: Make sure you know where to watch

[SHOP: Gear up, Celtics fans!]

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