Celtics

Celtics-Wizards preview: C's looking to bounce back quickly

Celtics-Wizards preview: C's looking to bounce back quickly

Returning home following a 114-108 loss at Toronto, you always wonder about how a team will respond the second night of a back-to-back, particularly coming off a loss.

“It’s hard. But you know, this is the way the NBA works,” Boston’s Al Horford told reporters following the Toronto game. “We have another one (tonight). A team that beat us pretty bad the first time. We need to get back home, rest up and get ready for (tonight).”

While fatigue is always a concern, the second night of back-to-back games seems to create a greater level of focus which usually results in wins.

Boston comes into tonight’s game against Washington with a 5-3 record on the second night of back-to-back games, with their last second night of a back-to-back being a 117-108 win over New Orleans on Jan. 7.

As far as any residual effect following Tuesday’s loss, a game in which the Raptors closed out the game by outscoring Boston 23-6, that seems unlikely with this team.

“We’ll leave it here,” Thomas told reporters in Toronto following the loss. “Once we get on that plane it’s on to the next one; focus on Washington. This week is big for us. Take care of home court (tonight) and go into Atlanta and get one there.”

While that may be the goal, it’s a lot easier said than done.

This is especially true for tonight’s game against the Wizards (19-18) who are currently eighth in the Eastern Conference after winning six of their last eight games.

During those eight games, Washington has been an effective team at both ends of the floor. Offensively they are shooting 50.1 percent in that span which ranks fourth in the NBA. And the Wizards’ effective Field Goal Percentage (eFG%) is .562.

Defensively, Washington has limited opponents to 36.9 made baskets which is the sixth-lowest total in the last eight games in the league. In addition, the Wizards have a defensive rating of 102.7 which ranks fifth in the league in the last eight games.

And that defense can only be helped by watching the video from Boston’s loss to Toronto on Tuesday.

Toronto did more than just beat the Celtics.

They showed exactly how effective a team can be which makes a strong, conscious effort to keep the ball out of Isaiah Thomas’ hands.

The Raptors didn’t come up with the “Thomas Rules” or anything like that.

After all, Thomas still made an impact scoring the ball as he finished with a team-high 27 points on 8-for-19 shooting. Thomas also had seven assists with just one turnover.

You can rest assured that the Wizards will also try and get the ball out of Thomas’ hands as much as possible, and force Boston’s other players to step up and make plays which was something they did not do enough of on Tuesday.

“We have to figure out how to play when guys do that,” Thomas said. “Guys have to make plays on that end.”

Dissecting all that went wrong in Tuesday’s loss as a precursor to tonight’s game, can be an exhausting endeavor that doesn’t necessarily bring about any closure or improvement for the Celtics.

“My biggest thing is we have to get a lot better,” Stevens said. “I probably saw more encouraging signs of progress than I did negative.”

Larkin rises to occasion, says he's ready when Celtics call his number

Larkin rises to occasion, says he's ready when Celtics call his number

PHILADELPHIA – Near the end of a preseason game against Charlotte, Boston Celtics guard Shane Larkin was killin’ the Hornets with pick-and-roll action.

It was a preseason game that at the time, didn’t seem to have much value other than to get some of the end-of-the-bench guys a little run up and down the court.

But as it turned out, Larkin's play in that game was one of those things head coach Brad Stevens tucked away, knowing at some point he would count on Larkin to provide similar play in a regular season game.

Well, that game was Friday night at Philadelphia, a game in which several players for Boston stepped their games up in helping the Celtics get their first win of the season, 102-92.

But you would be hard-pressed to find a bigger game-changer for the Celtics in this game, than Larkin.

He finished with 10 points off the bench, eight of which came in the decisive fourth quarter when the Celtics rallied from five-down to get a hard-fought, much-needed victory.

“You have to always be ready for your name to be called, especially when you have injuries,” Larkin said. “You never know whose night it’s gonna be.”

Boston was playing without Marcus Smart who suffered a left ankle sprain in their 108-100 loss to Milwaukee on Wednesday. Smart was in the starting lineup having replaced Gordon Hayward who underwent left ankle surgery and is expected to be out for the remainder of this season.

“When coach (Stevens) called my name, I had to go out there and be aggressive, play my game,” Larkin said. “And it worked in our favor.”

And while Stevens had watched Larkin play prior to the Celtics signing him this summer, it was a preseason game against Charlotte that really convinced him that the 5-foot-11 guard could help when called upon.

“You’re always watching,” Stevens said. “And if you remember that exhibition game, he finished out that Charlotte game, just running simple spread pick-and-rolls. He’s such a handful with his speed and quickness, and he allows other guys to play off of him. He’s a small guy, but he makes up for it with his speed and skill.”

Al Horford benefited more than any other Celtic with Larkin’s pick-and-roll play which factored into Horford scoring nine of his 17 points in the fourth.

“Shane is a player who understands the game and for us, it was me trying to set a good screen for him and having him make a play,” Horford said. “He just made the right reads, when to shoot it, when to pass it. He just looked very comfortable in that position.”

And to think that Larkin’s big game came about in part because of how well he performed in a preseason matchup against the Hornets.

“I did not know it was that specific game,” Larkin said. “But whenever I step on the court I try to do my best. That’s offensively, defensively, and do what the team needs me to do.

Larkin added, “Whenever my number is called, if he (Stevens) calls it again, I hope he does. I’ll be ready to go out there and do it again.”

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Stars, studs and duds: Bird 'pretty surprised' to make NBA debut

Stars, studs and duds: Bird 'pretty surprised' to make NBA debut

PHILADELPHIA – Stay ready so you don’t have to get ready.
 
Jabari Bird, in California at the time, took that approach when the Boston Celtics needed him to catch a red-eye flight back to Boston following Gordon Hayward’s left ankle injury.
 
And in his first shot at playing time on Friday, a similar mindset was on display with Bird serving as one of the key contributors to Boston’s 102-92 win over the Sixers

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He played 13 minutes and 38 seconds on the floor, finishing with three points and a rebound.
 
But more important, it was his defense which helped cool off a red-hot J.J. Redick who finished with a team-high 19 points.
 
Bird admits he was caught off guard when he heard his name called to go into the game, and then play a decent amount of minutes.
 
“I was pretty surprised, for it being my first time getting into an NBA game, getting those minutes," Bird said. "I was a little nervous, but I tried to go in there and do the right things on defense and space the floor on offense and try to do what I’ve tried to do my whole career and that’s play the right way.
 
He added, “I … wasn’t supposed to be here, to be honest. The fact that they put me in, in a tough situation like that, means I’ve earned the trust of the coaching staff. I’m just trying to build on it.”
 
The good thing for Bird is that next time he sees action, he’ll likely be calmer and composed than he was on Friday night.
 
When he got the call to enter the game, Celtics assistant coach Micah Shrewsberry had a few words for him.
 
What he’d say?
 
“I honestly couldn’t hear him,” Bird said. “I was so focused, I was happy to be in the game. I didn’t hear what the coaching staff was saying to me.”
 
And while there’s no guarantee that Bird will suit up for Boston’s next game on Tuesday against the New York Knicks, there’s one thing we all know now about Bird.
 
He will be ready.
 
“My mindset is, if you stay ready you don’t have to get ready,” Bird said. “So I try to live by that every time, game day, practice, whatever I’m doing; stay ready and I’ll be prepared for each and every moment.”
 
Here are some other Stars, Studs and Duds from Boston’s 102-92 win over Philadelphia.  
 
 
 
 
STARS
 
Shane Larkin

He only had 10 points with four assists, but make no mistake about it: Boston does not win this game without Larkin’s floor game in the fourth quarter which is when he scored eight of his 10 points absolutely killing the Sixers with a two-man pick-and-roll game with Al Horford.
 
J.J. Redick

The Celtics had problems most of the game with Redick who led the Sixers with 19 points. But Boston made him a non-factor in the fourth, limiting him to just two points on 1-for-4 shooting.
 
Kyrie Irving

He looked a lot more comfortable scoring the ball even as the Sixers blitzed him often with double-teams and tilts defensively. He led all players with 21 points along with six rebounds and four assists.

 

STUDS
 
Al Horford

He had a solid night for three quarters but really came alive in the fourth. That is when he scored nine of his 17 points and wound up with nine rebounds – one shy of a double-double.
 
Jerryd Bayless

Very efficient shooting the ball most of the night, finishing with 18 points on 7-for-12 shooting.
 
Terry Rozier

Good call on Brad Stevens’ part to keep Rozier attached with the second unit. He had 14 points on 6-for-11 shooting to go with seven rebounds and two assists.
 
Ben Simmons

He didn’t shoot the ball particularly well (4-for-11), but still managed a double-double of 11 points, 11 rebounds and five assists.
 
Jayson Tatum

The rookie continues to play with a pace and poise that’s so atypical for a rookie, let alone a 19-year-old. He had yet another near double-double for the Celtics, finishing with 15 points and eight rebounds to go with three blocked shots.
 
Joel Embiid

Boston’s Aron Baynes did a really good job on Embiid, which makes him finishing with a double-double of 11 points and 14 rebounds all that more impressive considering it wasn’t even close to being one of his better games.
 

DUDS
 
Markelle Fultz

The number one overall pick in last June’s NBA draft continues to deliver some not-so-impressive stat lines for the Sixers. He came off the bench and scored six points while missing seven of his nine shot attempts with
 
Boston’s free throw shooting

The Celtics had yet another sub-par night from the line as they shot 68.8 percent (22-for-32) from the line with a pair of players – Jaylen Brown and Terry Rozier – each missing three free throws apiece.

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