Celtics

Celtics-Bulls Game 3 preview: C's need to be 'more focused'

Celtics-Bulls Game 3 preview: C's need to be 'more focused'

CHICAGO –  There’s a pretty lengthy list of “we can do better at …” items for the Boston Celtics to think about heading into Friday night’s Game 3 matchup between the Celtics and the Chicago Bulls.
 
Near the top of that list if not at the top, will be Boston trying to play with an edge that’s closer to what we saw from them during the season.
 
When I asked Jae Crowder about areas the Celtics needed to improve upon, he didn’t hesitate in responding, “play with energy throughout the whole game; sustain it."
 
Crowder added, “I feel like those guys have been playing very hard. And at times we played hard, but they played harder than us.”
 
While there are players on the roster who can provide a boost of energy for Boston, it has to be a collective thing if it’s going to truly work.
 
“All five guys on the court being engaged,” said Crowder when asked about playing with an edge. “Knowing the task at hand and knowing each other and not getting down. Move on to the next play. If something bad happens, try to move on and win the next play.”
 
It’s easier said than done, especially at a time when all of the player’s focus isn’t fully where it should be following the death of Isaiah Thomas’ 22-year-old sister, Chyna J. Thomas, who died after a one-car crash which as one can imagine, has been difficult for Thomas to move forward from.
 
“It’s a lot going on these couple days right before the playoffs with the Isaiah situation,” said Boston’s Marcus Smart. “That’s a lot of burden on him. We feel it too; when he goes through something we all go through it. You can see it.”
 
Thomas was not with the team during their Thursday afternoon practice at the United Center in Chicago. Instead, he was on his way to Chicago on Thursday night to rejoin the team in plenty of time for tonight’s Game 3 matchup.
 
Thomas left the Celtics following their Game 2 loss on Wednesday and spent the day with his family in Takoma, Wash.
 
With the two-time All-Star spending time the past day or so with his family in Tacoma, Wash., the Celtics will get him back soon hopefully with a clear mind and a healthy body.
 
But they all know that they’ll need more than that to win.
 
“We need to be more focused than we were the first two games,” said Boston’s Al Horford. “We need to do all the little things. it’s tough winning on the road. In the playoffs it’s even harder.”
 
But the Celtics don’t have time to worry about that.
 
Instead, their focus has to be on one thing and one thing only – winning tonight’s game.
 
Because without it, they would find themselves in a 3-0 series deficit, something that no team has ever been able to fully overcome to advance in a playoff series.
 
“At the end of the day, it’s about how we play at 6 o’clock [Friday],” Stevens said. “Whenever you get beat, you’re antsy to get out there on the court and play. But we’ve been outplayed the first two games, there’s no question about it. And so you should have a little fire to get out there.”
 

Stars, studs and duds: Celtics want Rozier to be 'ready to fire'

Stars, studs and duds: Celtics want Rozier to be 'ready to fire'

BOSTON – Let’s face it. The way the Boston Celtics’ second unit has shot the ball this season, somebody was due for a breakout performance.
 
On Friday night it was Terry Rozier who scored a career-high 23 points in helping Boston get back on a winning track with a 118-103 victory that wasn’t anywhere close to what the final score might indicate.
 
Boston had five players reach double figures scoring, but arguably the most significant one of the bunch was Rozier.
 
A 33.7 percent shooter from the field and just 32.6 percent on 3’s this season, Rozier was Jacuzzi-hot from the floor on Saturday, connecting on 8-of-11 shots from the field along with five made 3-pointers.
 
While Rozier isn’t known as a lethal shooter, Celtics head coach Brad Stevens’ confidence in Rozier as a shooter remained strong heading into the game regardless of what his shooting percentage might suggest.
 
“Law of averages will play themselves out with him,” Stevens said. “He’s a really good shooter; made some big ones in a lot of different games this year. We want him to be ready to fire when he catches it.”
 
And he was on Friday, providing the kind of offensive punch that Boston’s second unit desperately needs more of this season.
 
“Any way you put it, I’m going to keep shooting,” Rozier said. “I’m going to keep playing. I’m not perfect. I’m going to have tough games. I’ll have games like this.
 
Rozier added, “It feels good to get points as a unit, and like said you just want to keep building off of it, and not lose sight of our team mantra, which is playing defense.”
 
Here are the Stars, Studs and Duds from Boston’s 118-103 win over Orlando.
 
STARS
 
Kyrie Irving

Despite playing in just the first three quarters, Irving still did plenty of damage in leading all scorers with 30 points on an efficient 9-for-15 shooting while also tallying four rebounds, three assists and a steal.
 
 

STUDS
 
Terry Rozier

The bench has come under heat lately for a lack of production. Rozier showed the second unit does have some life offensively as he lit the Magic up for a career-high 23 points which included five made 3-pointers which was also a career-high.
 
Al Horford

His ability to play the role of a facilitator was on display early on Friday night as he tallied seven of his game-high 10 assists in the first quarter.
 
Nikola Vucevic

There wasn’t a lot to cheer about for the Magic, but that shouldn’t take away from what was a solid game for Vucevic who had a double-double of 12 points and 11 rebounds.
 
 
DUDS
 
Orlando’s desire to “play tough”

Before the game, the Magic talked about the need to be a more physical, tougher team. And after getting pummeled by the Celtics for most of Friday night’s game, the need to be tougher was once again the narrative of choice.

“Show more toughness; show more fight,” said Magic head coach Frank Vogel after the loss.

“We weren’t physical enough,” said Orlando’s Terrence Ross.

“Just not being physical enough, not being tough enough defensively, way too comfortable” was how Magic forward Aaron Gordon described his team’s play. It’s great that they recognize what’s clearly an area of weakness. Up next? Do something other than talk about it.

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE

Celtics get off to strong start, cruise to 118-103 win over Magic

Celtics get off to strong start, cruise to 118-103 win over Magic

BOSTON – Well, so much for the Boston Celtics being hungover following their first loss in more than a month.
 
If anything, the loss at Miami on Wednesday served as a wake-up call for the Celtics to avoid easing their way into games.
 
Because the Celtics jumped on the Magic early and never lost control of the game as they cruised to a 118-103 win.

Kyrie Irving led all scorers with 30 points while Terry Rozier came off the Celtics bench to score a career-high 23 points. Nikola Vucevic led the Magic (8-11) with a double-double of 12 points and 11 rebounds.
 
After leading by as many as 32 points, the Magic opened the fourth quarter against Boston’s backups, with a 13-3 run that cut Boston’s lead to 102-82.
 
The Magic would score six of the game’s next eight points before Rozier drained a much-needed 3-pointer that increased Boston’s lead to 107-88 with 6:48 to play.
 
Following an Orlando timeout, Boston continued to play with a huge lead and in doing so, got a big, bounce-back win.
 
One of the issues Boston was having, even during the 16-game winning streak, was that they didn’t get off to the greatest starts evident by them trailing by double digits in the first half of each of their previous four games prior to tonight’s game.
 
But that would not be the case tonight; not even close actually.
 
Leading 22-19 in the first, Boston went on an 18-7 run to take a commanding 40-26 lead
 
The 40 points scored were the most they tallied in the first quarter of a game this season.
 
And while the points weren’t as abundant in the second quarter, Boston’s dominance was just as great.
 
On this night, the Celtics were an equal opportunity destroyer.
 
Kyrie Irving had a very Kyrie Irving kind of night with 17 points in the first half.
 
The Celtics also got an unexpected boost from its bench, led by Rozier who had 13 points in the first half.
 
It seemed no matter who Brad Stevens turned to off the bench, it was a given that they would have a positive impact on this night.
 
Meanwhile, the Magic could muster up little fight or resistance as Boston’s lead peaked at 28 points (68-40) before the half ended with Boston in charge with a commanding 73-47 lead.
 
It’s rare for a team to have such a commanding halftime lead, the kind of lead that makes a team oh-so-vulnerable to a second-half letup.
 
Not the Celtics; not tonight at least.
 
Boston continued to play with a purpose; to not just win but do so in an emphatic, consistently dominant fashion.
 
Sporting a lead of 20-plus points throughout the third quarter, Boston went into the fourth quarter leading 99-69.

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE