Celtics

Beyond The Numbers: Late-game production is key to C's, Raptors success

Beyond The Numbers: Late-game production is key to C's, Raptors success

When it comes to late-game production, tonight's battle between two of the NBA's best in that regard -- Boston and Toronto --is about as good a matchup as you’ll find. 
 
Both teams rank among the best in the NBA, and are separated by just one game record-wise. And one of the keys to both team’s success is their ability to produce in the fourth quarter. 

RELATED

In fact, the Celtics and Raptors are the top two teams in the NBA when it comes to scoring in the fourth quarter.
 
Boston averages a league-best 29.4 points per game in the fourth, while Toronto is right on its heels with a 28.4 points per game average in the fourth. 
 
And within those numbers you’ll find Isaiah Thomas, who is averaging 9.5 fourth-quarter points per game . . . which trails only Oklahoma City’s Russell Westbrook (9.7).
 
“He’s the best player in the NBA in the fourth quarter,” Toronto coach Dwane Casey said of Thomas. “He’s proven that. Your high beams better be on when you’re going into the fourth against Thomas. He’s an example  of what this league should be about. Kid drafted, what 60th? Back against the wall his whole career; now look at him. He’s one of the best players in this league,  a lot like Kyle [Lowry]. Those two guys should be what our league is about. It’s not about where you’re drafted, it’s where you are now, where you propelled yourself to be. They have propelled themselves to be in the elite level of our league. Because of hard work and not looking at  . . . almost living with a chip on their shoulder. That’s what has made them what they are.”
 
Lowry acknowledges he likes what he sees when watching Thomas play. 
 
“He’s unbelievable,” said Lowry who ranks third in the NBA with 7.8 fourth-quarter points. “I’m a big fan of his. Watching him now a couple years, he’s growing into the confident player that he is. I think he’s averaging 9.3 in the fourth quarter? (It’s actually 9.5.) That’s big stuff. I would say the other word (besides stuff) but you have to write this. He’s just becoming such a vital player to his team. He’s been a vital player overall in what they do. You gotta find a way to stop him and slow him down.”
 
Lowry has left many teams feeling that way about him, especially the Celtics. In their last matchup, Lowry finished with a then-season high of 34 points, which included five of the Raptors’ last six points as they escaped with a 101-94 win. 
 
While there’s no doubt that Thomas and Lowry lead the way when it comes to fourth-quarter play, the contributions they get from their teammates are just as vital. 
 
Both teams are making 9.8 field goals in the fourth, which is more than any other team. And they’re doing so at a fairly high rate, with the Celtics making 47 percent of its fourth quarter shots compared to 47.6 for Toronto. Boston ranks fourth in the league in that category while the Raptors are No. 2 at 47.6.
 
Both teams rank high in other categories as well when you start examining their play in the fourth quarter. 
 
As important as it may be to statistically be among the best in various categories, the bottom line to all this is winning games. And that's something both teams have done a good bit of this season, in part because of how well they were able to close out games in the fourth quarter. 

Stevens: Marcus Smart 'feeling great,' will play in Game 5

cp-celtics-marcus-smart-092517.jpg
File photo

Stevens: Marcus Smart 'feeling great,' will play in Game 5

BOSTON — Barring an unexpected setback, all indications are that Marcus Smart will make his postseason debut tonight against Milwaukee.
 
Celtics coach Brad Stevens said Smart did some 1-on-1 and 2-on-2 work following Boston’s morning shoot-around and came out of it “feeling great.”
 
Smart has been out with a surgically repaired right thumb injury since March.
 
“He hasn’t played in six weeks, so it’s hard to say how much (time he will get) but will certainly play,” Stevens said.
 
Stevens said there would not be a minutes restriction on him, but added that the fourth-year guard wasn’t going to play 35 minutes.
 
Smart averaged 29.9 minutes in 54 games played this season, along with 10.2 points, 4.8 assists and 3.5 rebounds.
 
Even before Stevens acknowledged Smart would play tonight, the Bucks began planning for him to play as soon as Smart's status went from being “out” to “questionable” on Monday. 
 
“We know how he plays, we know how he plays within their system,” said Milwaukee interim head coach Joe Prunty. “He’ll definitely add an element for them. If he does play, we’re prepared for that.”
 
In an interview with NBC Sports Boston, Milwaukee’s Khris Middleton made it clear that the Bucks weren’t going to treat Smart any different, knowing he hasn’t played in nearly six weeks. 
 
“He’s still been working,” Middleton told NBC Sports Boston. “You can’t disrespect him just because he hasn’t played in a while. You have to play him like he’s been playing all year long or this whole series, which is, get after him some too.”
 
Bucks center Thon Maker added, “He does a good job for them at both ends of the floor, by defending and on offense, moving the ball, facilitate a lot on the offensive end for them. With us, we have to find a way to match his energy if he does play tonight.”