Celtics

Jae Crowder on loss to 76ers: 'That’s what happens when you overlook an opponent'

Jae Crowder on loss to 76ers: 'That’s what happens when you overlook an opponent'

No matter how much Boston Celtics players talk about staying in the moment, they’re human. 

They pay attention to the basketball world around them far more than they try to let on. So prior to their two-game weekend trip to Brooklyn and Philadelphia, there was no need to talk to them much about Monday’s matchup against Washington. They knew it was coming which may have proven to be a bit of a distraction in their 105-99 loss at Philadelphia on Sunday.

Boston struggled in so many phases of play, seemingly at their worst to end quarters which gave an already-improving Sixers team more confidence and momentum going forward as they rallied from a 13-point Celtics lead in the third quarter to get the win. 

You can count Jae Crowder among those who believes there were a few bodies inside the locker room who may have had some of their attention and focus away from the Sixers and on to the next game against the Wizards who are right behind the Celtics in the Eastern Conference standings. 

“We were talking about, a few guys overlooking this game; I think so, looking forward to the Washington game,” Crowder told reporters after Sunday’s loss. “That’s what happens when you overlook an opponent, especially these guys.”

The Sixers came in having won two of its previous three games, the last of which was a blowout win over Dallas.

Dario Saric has emerged as their best player with Joel Embiid out for the rest of the season. Saric, a front-runner for the league’s Rookie of the Year award, led the Sixers with 23 points on 10-for-20 shooting on Sunday, in addition to grabbing six rebounds while dishing out four assists. 

Role players like Robert Covington (16 points, eight rebounds, two steals vs. Celtics on Sunday) have found ways to contribute while others such as Richaun Holmes (11 points, seven rebounds, five assists, four blocked shots) provide a specific niche that at the very least allows the Sixers to be more competitive. 

And while the Celtics led through various stretches all game, there was never a sense that they had full control of the game in large part because their level of focus never seemed to reach its peak. 

Now maybe not having Isaiah Thomas (knee) had something to do with that. Prior to Sunday’s game, Boston was 2-3 this season in games in which Thomas did not play. But that’s still no excuse for the team’s overall level of focus to not be high. In fact, one would think that playing without Thomas would have led to an increased level of focus and detail to try and make up for Thomas’ absence. 

“They’re very capable,” Crowder said of the Sixers. “They play so hard. A few of us were overlooking this game, going into tomorrow.” 

Celtics, Jaylen Brown's crucial flub in Game 4 was actually officiating error

Celtics, Jaylen Brown's crucial flub in Game 4 was actually officiating error

BOSTON – The NBA’s two-minute report on Boston’s Game 4 loss at Milwaukee revealed a trio of incorrect non-calls in the closing moments of play, two of which went against the Celtics in their 104-102 loss. 

With Boston ahead 100-99 with less than a minute to play, Jaylen Brown lost the ball on a driving lay-up attempt. 

No call was made on the play, one that Brown thought he was fouled on. 

The two-minute report confirmed “that (Khris) Middleton makes contact to Brown's arm that affects his driving shot attempt.”

Had the call been made, Brown would have gone to the free throw line with 43.5 seconds to play with the Celtics already ahead by one point. 

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But on the ensuing Milwaukee possession following the non-call, Malcolm Brogdon drained a 3-pointer that put the Bucks ahead 102-100.

With 47.9 seconds to play, the two-minute report also indicated that an offensive foul should have been called against Milwaukee’s Giannis Antetokounmpo. The two-minute report indicated that, “Antetokounmpo extends his arm and wards off (Semi) Ojeleye's arm, affecting his ability to contest the shot attempt.”

And with 1:14 to play, Antetokounmpo was fouled by Jayson Tatum although no call was made. On the play, the two-minute report says that, “Tatum clamps Antetokounmpo's arm and pushes him, affecting his (freedom of movement) and ability to receive the pass.

On the ensuing possession following the non-call, Tatum hit a jumper that put the Celtics ahead 100-99 with 52.4 seconds to play. 

Celtics coach Brad Stevens has been asked about officiating quite a bit in the last few days. And his response in each instance remains relatively the same.

"I'm not going to ever say anything bad about referees because they have a really tough job," Stevens said. 

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Five takeaways: Celtics top-rated defense underwhelms vs. Bucks

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Five takeaways: Celtics top-rated defense underwhelms vs. Bucks

MILWAUKEE –  As good as the Boston Celtics have been defensively all season, they’ve had a defensive clunker from time to time. 

But what we’ve seen thus far after four games is a Milwaukee team that Boston has been unable to slow down or limit offensively. 

In the four games thus far, the Bucks have shot 54.2 percent from the field, tops among all playoff teams. And Boston’s defense, which had a league-best defensive rating in the regular season of 101.5, is next-to-last in the playoffs with a defensive rating of 113.9.

When you talk adjustments, none looms any larger for the Celtics than trying to find a way to force Milwaukee into not being quite so efficient. 

Of course the shooting of Giannis Antetokoumpo (62 percent) and Khris Middleton (61.5 percent) skew the numbers somewhat, with both shooting better than 60 percent combined in addition to having taken 43.6 percent of all Milwaukee’s shots. For most defenses in the NBA, you would chalk it up as nothing more than the Bucks being red-hot from the field. But Boston isn’t just any team on defense. 

The Celtics were the league’s best club in several defensive categories during the regular season, so the sight of them being routinely roasted by the Bucks’ shooters is somewhat surprising and to a lesser degree, disturbing as they try to regain control of the series in Game 5. 

Here are five takeaways from Boston’s 104-102 Game 4 loss to the Milwaukee Bucks.

Baynes conundrum

No one had a better defensive rating (97.0) in the NBA than Aron Baynes, and when you watch him play there is no denying his impact. But the Bucks love to run pick-and-rolls where he is switched out on Giannis Antetokounmpo who has been a major problem. Baynes’ defensive rating in the playoffs has is 115.3 which ranks 149th among players who have played in four playoff games. But he has also been one of Boston’s top rebounders which is in part why the Celtics have reason to be hesitant to limit his playing time too much. 

Brown, Tatum ready to shine

Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum have been central figures in Boston’s ascension this season, with both showing noticeable growth in the postseason. They were particularly strong in Boston’s Game 4 loss with Brown scoring a career-high 34 points while Tatum had 21 points with 18 coming in the second half. The future is now for the Celtics, and these two are leading the charge. 

Rozier shooting struggles continue

Terry Rozier has been the ultimate litmus test to how Boston is faring in this series. When he has been good, so have the Celtics. And when he has struggled, Boston followed suit with less-than-impressive play. After averaging 23 points in Boston’s Game 1 and Game 2 wins, his scoring dropped significantly to 9.5 points per game in Game 3 and 4 losses. 

Jabari Parker

After being a non-factor, Parker has delivered the kind of bench production the Bucks have been longing for in this series. After scoring just two points in Games 1 and 2 combined, Parker averaged 16.5 points in Games 3 and 4, connecting on 12-for-22 of his shots from the field. 

Thon Maker

It’s a bit of a head-scratcher that Thon Maker played just one minute in Games 1 and 2 combined and was unleashed at home in Games 3 and 4. To his credit, he was a difference-maker in Game 4 with eight points along with tallying five blocks for the second straight game. Boston has to do a better job of limiting is impact not only as a defender, but also as a 3-point threat. In Games 3 and 4, he was 5-for-9 (55 percent) from 3-point range.