Celtics

Celtics find ways to win with new pieces

191544.jpg

Celtics find ways to win with new pieces

By A.Sherrod Blakely
CSNNE.com

MILWAUKEE Maybe the Boston Celtics have some of that tiger blood Charlie Sheen has been talking about in them, because all they seem to do these days is just keep on winning.

Boston (46-15) rallied for an 89-83 win over the Milwaukee Bucks on Sunday night which extended its winning streak to five.

Beating the Bucks (23-38) is in itself nothing to be overly boastful about.

However, injuries limited the Celtics to having just nine players in uniform on Sunday.

And of those nine player, four -- Nenad Krstic, Jeff Green, Troy Murphy and Sasha Pavlovic -- have been with the team less than two weeks.

While there's no need for players to sport, 'Hello, my name is . . . ' labels, it's clear this group has a long way to go before they truly know how to play well with another.

In the meantime, all they can do is keep learning how to find different ways to win games.

"It's been tough," admitted coach Doc Rivers.

Maybe so, but it certainly hasn't reflected in the Celtics maintaining the best record in the Eastern Conference.

"Like I told you before, it really starts with our core group," said Paul Pierce, who led all Celtics with 23 points. "Until we can find a way to get the other guys adjusted to the system, and how we do things . . . it's taking some time. You could see it in lulls in the offense."

Pierce added, "But at the end of the day, we're finding a way to win."

And because of the many changes, the Celtics are getting it done in ways that should make them an even more dangerous team in the playoffs.

Fans are so used to seeing Pierce or Ray Allen come up with a big shot down the stretch.

Well now you have to worry about guys like Jeff Green, who had 11 points off the bench . . . including a 3-pointer with 4:40 to play that gave the Celtics an 82-77 lead.

"Every time I see Jeff Green I'm just more impressed, more impressed," said Kevin Garnett, who had 14 points and 11 rebounds for his 23rd double-double this season. "He's just helping so much right now. We need the fact that he can play multiple positions and he knows the 3, 4 and 5 positions. He picked it up so fast. Must be that Georgetown education. It's great for us now, because we are undermanned. He's just been big for us."

Prior to Green's big 3-pointer, Sasha Pavlovic saw his first action with the C's.

In addition to playing solid defense, Pavlovic also nailed a 3-pointer - his lone made basket of the game - that gave the Celtics a seven-point lead, their largest of the night.

Of course, Krstic continues to play well with the starting unit.

Krstic finished with 17 points, his highest point total since being traded to the Celtics on Feb. 24, and his highest scoring game since he had a season-high 18 in a 99-90 loss at Chicago on Dec. 6 when he played for the Thunder.

Boston's other newcomer, Troy Murphy, chipped in with four rebounds and two assists.

All involved understand that the Celtics are a work in progress.

But that's no excuse for anything less than success.

And like Sheen, the Celtics are all about . . . winning.

"We're definitely not where we want to be, but we're grinding it out," Pierce said. "Any way we can get the win, we'll take it. We're just finding ways to win."

A. Sherrod Blakely can be reached atsblakely@comcastsportsnet.com.Follow Sherrod on Twitter at http:twitter.comsherrodbcsn

BOSTON SPORTS TONIGHT PODCAST: Jayson Tatum vs. Markelle Fultz debate

best_of_bst_podcast.jpg

BOSTON SPORTS TONIGHT PODCAST: Jayson Tatum vs. Markelle Fultz debate

0:41 - Michael Holley, Tom Giles, and Kayce Smith give their reactions on the Celtics getting their first win of the season and a comparison between Isaiah Thomas and Kyrie Irving in the 4th quarter.

7:17 - Phil Perry joins BST to break down the tale of the tape between the Falcons and the Patriots as he breaks down the quarterbacks, offense, defense, coaching, and intangibles between the two teams.

11:57 - Our crew on BST discuss number 1 overall pick Markelle Fultz and number 3 overall pick Jayson Tatum going up against each other and debate who seems like the better pick so far. 

16:35 - In this segment of Irrelevant Questions, Tom Curran interviews Patriots WR Phillip Dorsett as he asks him a bunch of random questions. 

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE

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.

MORE:

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.”

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE