Celtics

Celtics-Bulls preview: Too many missed jumpers for C's

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Celtics-Bulls preview: Too many missed jumpers for C's

BOSTON NBA teams are no different than other professional clubs.

When it comes to developing a formula for winning, they tend to lean on what they do best.

For the Boston Celtics, that means shooting jump shots - a lot of jump shots, actually.

It has proven to be both a blessing and a burden at times for the Celtics who come into tonight's game against Chicago having won six of their last seven.

The one setback in that span, a 90-78 loss to New Orleans on Wednesday, was a night in which the Celtics' shooters couldn't make shots. They shot 45 percent for the game, but only 30.4 percent in the decisive fourth quarter.

"We shot a lot of jump shots, but that's what we do," said Celtics guard Rajon Rondo. "You know Courtney (Lee), JT (Jason Terry), P (Paul Pierce), Kevin (Garnett), Brandon (Bass), they're all jump-shooters."

But as Rondo pointed out later, they all have the ability to score driving to the basket as well.

Finding an ideal balance between the two remains a challenge at times for the C's.

"There's nothing wrong with taking jump shots if you're making them; if you're open and you're making them," said C's coach Doc Rivers. "But you have to have some kind of regulator of your team and yourself if they're not going in, you have to go to the second or third option and look for a better shot."

While that might appear as though it places the blame on the shoulders of point guard Rajon Rondo, Rivers is quick to clarify that was not the issue.

"It's on everyone," Rivers said. "Rondo is the leader of that to get guys into stuff, but in transition it's his job to throw the ball ahead. We're throwing the ball ahead, they're jacking shots up, it's tough on him. We have to be better."

They will get that opportunity tonight against the Chicago Bulls as the C's try to cap off their five-game homestand with a victory. Here are some of the keys to tonight's matchup.

WHAT TO LOOK FOR: Joakim Noah controlled their last matchup in just about every way imaginable, finishing with a triple-double of 11 points, 13 rebounds and 10 assists. Limiting his impact to one or even two of the major categories will be huge for the Celtics.

MATCHUP TO WATCH: Paul Pierce vs. Luol Deng: Deng's length tends to force Pierce to work a lot harder for good looks than he usually has to. But after struggling against Deng's defense last year (Pierce shot 21-for-59 in the four games against the Bulls), he comes into tonight's game having shot 6-for-10 against Chicago earlier this season.

PLAYER TO WATCH: The trade rumors early in the season about Carlos Boozer have died a slow death, courtesy of him putting together a long string of strong performances. In nine of Chicago's last 10 games, Boozer has had at least 15 points and 10 rebounds. Only three other players (Artis Gilmore, Michael Jordan and Elton Brand) in Bulls history have done that over a 10-game span.

STAT TO TRACK: The C's would do well to keep the free throw differential relatively close. New Orleans had almost twice as many free throw attempts (31) as the C's (16). And tonight, they face a Chicago team that's ranked in the top-10 in free throws made per game (18.3).

Blakely's takeaways: Stevens downplays Celtics' streak

Blakely's takeaways: Stevens downplays Celtics' streak

Brad Stevens likes the fact that the Celtics have shown an unusually strong resolve this season by consistently finding ways to win on nights when they don’t play their best.
 
It’s to the point now where fans, as well as the players, feel no deficit is too steep to overcome.

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That said, there’s a level of expectations on this team now that you would think would bring about a heightened level of pressure, right?
 
They’ve won 16 in a row, the fourth-longest winning streak in franchise history.
 
Pressure?
 
Not according to Stevens.
 
“Coaching basketball is not pressure,” Stevens told reporters after Monday night’s win. “Playing basketball is not real pressure. Sometimes we overdo this stuff. We’re just trying to prepare well for the next game. That’s all we’ve done, that’s all we’ll continue to do. The streak doesn’t mean anything to me; maybe it does to the guys in the room. But it’s about finding ways to get better and finding ways to get the job done.”
 
Here are five other takeaways from the 110-102 overtime win at Dallas that extended Boston’s winning streak to 16:


 
MARCUS SMART
There may not be a player on this team – maybe in the NBA – that’s more difficult to get a read on, than Marcus Smart. He has been a historically bad shooter throughout his career in Boston. And yet when you look at their 16-game winning streak, he’s one of the main reasons for it. He plays with an edge; he’s gritty and defends at a level that few can match. He makes big plays in big moments. But he's having his worst season ever shooting the ball yet his impact when he’s on the floor has never been greater. So, what do you do if you’re Stevens? You keep playing him. Because as much as his poor shooting hurts the team’s overall scoring, he makes so many clutch plays whether it’s facilitating, defending or – wait for it – making shots. He adds tremendous value to winning, even if his shooting numbers might suggest otherwise.


 
KYRIE FOR MVP?
When you’re getting “M-V-P! M-V-P!” chants on the road, you know you’re ballin’ hard. Kyrie Irving wowed the Dallas crowd with 47 points, 10 of which came in overtime as Boston rallied after facing a double-digit deficit in the fourth quarter. If the numbers continue to climb along with the win total, Irving will continue to cement himself as a top-five MVP candidate. 


 
REBOUNDING
One of the few constants in Boston’s string of success has been their rebounding. Against the Mavericks, the Celtics once again won the battle on the boards, 53-45. And it hasn’t been one or two players, either. Against Dallas, the Celtics had five players grab at least four rebounds with no one securing more than nine. That kind of rebounding balance makes Boston an extremely difficult team to out-work on the glass.
 

AL HORFORD
The scoring punch we’ve come to expect lately from Horford just wasn’t there against Dallas. Instead, he seemed more consumed with getting others (mainly Irving) involved offensively. He missed four of his five shots from the field and scored just three points. But he almost had a double-double in rebounds (eight) and assists (seven) along with blocking a couple of shots. And as always, his plus/minus was among the best on the team with the Celtics being +7 when he was on the floor.
 

FOURTH-QUARTER TATUM
While Irving was delivering one big shot after another down the stretch, one of his running partners in late-game situations this season has been Jayson Tatum. He ranks among the league’s best shooters in the fourth quarter and Monday’s victory only solidified his status. Against the Mavericks, Tatum had six points and was a perfect 3-for-3 from the field. According to NBA.com/stats, Tatum is shooting 64.1 percent in the fourth quarter, which ranks eighth in the NBA among players who take at least two field goal attempts per game in the fourth. Right ahead of him is teammate Marcus Morris (65 percent).

'Resilient' Celtics continue to find ways to win

'Resilient' Celtics continue to find ways to win

We have seen the Boston Celtics play less-than-stellar basketball for long stretches, only to turn it on in the second half and escape with a win.

But Monday night’s game at Dallas was different.

Usually it has been Boston’s offense that has kept the game closer than expected, but on Monday it was the team’s defense that struggled more than usual.

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But this team continues to show an ability to withstand all in-game struggles to eventually emerge victorious which was exactly what happened as the Celtics rallied from a double-digit fourth-quarter deficit to knock off the Mavericks 110-102 in overtime.

The Celtics (16-2) have now won 16 in a row which ties the fourth-longest winning streak in franchise history.

But this win, like so many of its predecessors during this historic run, was not one to celebrate afterwards.

“Quite a resilient comeback in the fourth,” said Celtics head coach Brad Stevens. “Not our best foot forward before that. Of all the comebacks, that did not look good for a long time. We found a way to win it.”

Kyrie Irving scored a game-high 47 points, 10 of which came in the overtime period.

But his performance was just one of many Boston needed to extend its winning streak.

“In a game like this, you have to do whatever it takes, both ends of the floor,” Boston’s Jayson Tatum told reporters afterwards.

And he did just that.

In the final seconds of the fourth quarter, Tatum’s defense forced a Harrison Barnes miss that would have won the game for Dallas.

And in the fourth quarter, Tatum’s rebounding was critical to Boston (16-2) extending its stay atop the NBA standings.

The 6-foot-8 rookie had a near double-double with 15 points and nine rebounds, with four of his boards coming in overtime.

Boston also got another strong game from Jaylen Brown (22 points, nine rebounds) and Marcus Smart, whose shooting was well off the mark most of the night (3-for-15) but like he has done too many times to count, Smart managed to make a positive impact on the game.

He led the Celtics with eight assists off the bench, in addition to a slew of hustle plays that included a desperation save of a ball going out of bounds that managed to find its way into the hands of Kyrie Irving, who drained a much-needed 3-pointer late in the game.

“Those are worth more than whatever the shot goes in,” Stevens said. “That’s why it’s hard to quantify Marcus Smart.”

The same can be said about Boston’s winning streak, which has come about despite several stretches, every game seemingly, where the Celtics struggle.

But to their credit, they don’t allow the in-game setbacks take away from their focus night-in and night-out and that’s to find a way, any way possible, to emerge with a victory.

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