Celtics-Pistons preview: Big challenge continues for C's

Celtics-Pistons preview: Big challenge continues for C's

WALTHAM, Mass. – Size has been an issue the Boston Celtics have had to contend with all season. 

But you will be hard-pressed to find another stretch like the one the Celtics are in right now that features so many elite-level big men. 

It began Monday night with Miami’s Hassan Whiteside and will continue Wednesday against a Detroit Pistons team that’s led by former UConn star Andre Drummond. 

After that, the Celtics host DeMarcus Cousins and the Sacramento Kings followed by a road game at Philadelphia against Joel Embiid and the Philadelphia 76ers on Friday and Saturday, respectively. 

The Celtics passed their first big man test on Monday’s 112-104 win at Miami. 

Whiteside had a big game with 25 points and 17 rebounds, but most of his points came after Boston had firm control of the game. 

Making the win even more impressive was it came with Al Horford out while being with his wife for the birth of their second child. 

Filling in for Horford was Tyler Zeller who will likely see a spike in his playing time this week. 

Against the Heat, Zeller had 10 points on 4-for-7 shooting along with seven rebounds – tops among Boston starters. 

With Horford back in the fold, Zeller will once again find himself coming off the bench. 

But with the size of the Celtics’ upcoming opponents, look for a spike in Zeller’s playing time this week. 

“In the back of your mind, you know you’ve got a good chance to play,” Zeller told CSNNE.com. “I just have to continue to produce when I get out there, help my teammates any way possible.”

Amir Johnson said the key to the Celtics being able to limit some of the upcoming big men will be in how well they contest their opponent’s pick-and-roll offense. 

“Most of these teams, they run pick and rolls and bigs dive to the basket for lobs, just like Whiteside did and in (tonight’s) game Drummond will look to do the same thing,” Johnson told CSNNE.com. “So just being locked in … it’s going to be a team effort.”

And while the Celtics (10-7) will be seeing the Pistons (9-10) on the back end of a Detroit back-to-back, it won’t make dealing with Drummond any easier. 

The 6-foot-11 center had three points and six rebounds in just 13 minutes after he was hit with a flagrant-2 foul (an automatic ejection) in the second quarter of Detroit’s 112-89 win at Charlotte. 

“He’s a load,” Zeller said. “Big, strong; he’s a good player. Defending him isn’t going to be just me or Amir or Al or any player. It has to be a team effort defensively. And it has to be like that really against every team, not just the ones we have coming up that have really good centers.”

And it can’t just be for most of the game, which was the case against Whiteside who had just two points and five rebounds in the first half on Monday. 

“We have to stay under control,” Johnson said. “Sometimes we can get out of hand and we don’t do our job. We have to for 48 minutes. We have to be defensively sound, play our defense and do that for the rest of the game.”

Rozier gets a big test tonight against Thunder

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Rozier gets a big test tonight against Thunder

BOSTON -- Terry Rozier has stepped up his game this season. There’s no disputing that point. 
And the Celtics have rewarded him with increased playing time, which he has proven he deserves. 
While he has made the most of his opportunity with an increased role due to injuries, at some point Rozier’s minutes should go back to being 20 or so per game. 
It’s amazing how far Rozier has come in such a short period of time, from a first-round pick many questioned as being a reach on Boston’s part, to an integral part of the team’s quest towards Banner 18.
And it is games like tonight’s against the Oklahoma City Thunder that will put the experience gained by Rozier as a major contributor, to the ultimate test when he faces off against reigning league MVP Russell Westbrook.
No one expects Rozier to put up Westbrook-like numbers . . . but would anyone be shocked if he did?
Remember, Rozier’s first NBA start came this season and he racked up his first career triple-double. The next game out, he dropped a career-high 31 points. 
But as we get deeper into the season, he’s no longer viewed as a backup or a role player, They see him as a player that has to be accounted for, regardless of whether he’s starting or coming off the bench. 
“There’s a lot of teams in this league you could easily see him starting for,” a league executive told NBC Sports Boston via text. “He’s not Kyrie [Irving] obviously, and he’s a different kind of player than Marcus [Smart], but he can play. If teams didn’t know it before, they know it now.”
Rozier may not be a secret anymore, but here are five under-the-radar story lines to keep an eye on tonight as the Celtics go for the season sweep against the Oklahoma City Thunder. 


If the Celts expect to win tonight, they better get it done in four quarters of play. Because overtime has been a good time for the Thunder. They come into tonight’s game with a 3-0 record in overtime this season. They are one of eight teams with an unblemished overtime record, and no other team in the league this season has as more wins (3) in overtime without a single defeat. 


The NBA hit Marcus Morris up for $15,000 following “verbal abuse of a game official” at the end of Boston’s 108-89 loss at New Orleans.  Morris will be lighter in the wallet, obviously. But it also might get him even more fired up tonight which could lead to him lighting up the Thunder. 


Scoring around the basket has not been a strength of the Celtics, but with key players on the perimeter hurt, Boston has to generate points in other ways. Doing so against the Thunder, a team that has allowed 43.1 points in the paint per game --10th-fewest allowed in the league this season -- will be a challenge.


At some point tonight, Boston will be challenged to get back on defense and not allow Russell Westbrook to score on the break. The Celtics have been one of the league’s better transition defense teams in allowing 10.2 fast-break points, which is the fourth-fewest allowed per game this season. Meanwhile, the Thunder average 14.1 fast-break points, which ranks third in the league. 


The Celtic players talk all the time about how great the TD Garden crowd can be. But at the end of games lately, they haven’t let them much to cheer about. The C's come into tonight’s game against the Oklahoma City Thunder with losses in five of their last seven home games with the lone wins coming over Memphis and Charlotte – two teams currently out of playoff seeding. Boston’s last home win over a team that’s currently in the top 8 was a 97-96 win over Portland on Feb. 4, a game in which Al Horford hit a game-winning, fadeaway jumper as time expired.


Report: Kyrie Irving may need screws removed from knee

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Report: Kyrie Irving may need screws removed from knee

BOSTON — Kyrie Irving is reportedly going to get a second opinion on his sore left knee which may result in him having season-ending surgery.

98.5 The Sports Hub’s Tony Massarotti reported on Tuesday that Irving will get a second opinion as early as Wednesday.

Irving suffered a fractured left knee cap during the 2015 NBA Finals.

He underwent surgery that sidelined him for the rest of the playoffs.

The surgical procedure performed on his knee involved the insertion of screws to aid the stabilization of the  kneecap.

The Celtics have already been ravaged by injuries this season. They lost Gordon Hayward just five minutes into the season due to a left ankle injury. Daniel Theis is out for the season with a torn meniscus injury to his left knee. Marcus Smart recently had right thumb surgery that will keep him out for the rest of the regular season, with there being a chance he will return at some point for the playoffs. And Jaylen Brown suffered a concussion that has him sidelined, as well.