Celtics

Celtics focused on the fundamentals for Game 3

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Celtics focused on the fundamentals for Game 3

By A.Sherrod Blakely
CSNNE.com

WALTHAM When breaking down video from a loss, there's a tendency to focus on what improvements need to be made from an X's and O's standpoint.

If only it were that simple for the Boston Celtics.

Their problems thus far against the Heat are more about fundamentals. They are the kind of issues that are troubling -- but far from being uncorrectable.

"It's things that we do," said coach Doc Rivers. "I would be more concerned if I was looking at this and saying, 'There's things I don't know if we can fix.' I didn't see one of those on video."

Yes, LeBron James and Dwyane Wade have been the best players on the floor in the first two games, a big reason why the Heat have a comfortable 2-0 lead. But just as important as their scoring has been in this series, a series of minor gaffes by Boston has also played a role in the series being so lopsided.

James was given much love for his 35-point performance in Game 2, including how he dominated play during a critical 14-0 Miami run in the fourth quarter that broke open an 80-80 tie. But one of the keys to that Heat surge that was overlooked was Mario Chalmers, whose wide open 3-pointer gave Miami an 83-80 lead.

Confusion, as well as Celtics players being a step or two late, have been killers for the Celtics' defense throughout this series.

It's a result of the fact that the Celtics haven't played with the kind of consistent force, focus or fire needed to compete -- let alone win a game -- thus far.

When asked what it would take for the Celtics to turn this series around, Boston forward Jeff Green said, "Play harder and just have a sense of urgency. They got to a lot of loose balls last game. They executed better than we did. It's all stuff we can control. We just have to go out there and play harder than they are. That can be done."

It's distressing that the Celtics even need to discuss playing hard and having a sense of urgency at this point in the season. Playing hard and having a heightened sense of urgency should be a given this time of year.

But these Celtics have shown that they aren't like most teams, which is why even with a 2-0 series deficit, it's too soon to count the C's out entirely.

That's why while watching the video from Game 2, there was more a sense of disappointment than despair, a clear sense of frustration at the many lost opportunities they had.

"We know we're a better team, no matter what five guys are on the floor," Green said. "Collectively, we're still the best team in this league. Looking at film, we see our effort we put out and we know we can do better."

Part of that improvement starts with Green, the central figure for the Celtics in their four-player trade with the Oklahoma City Thunder in February.

Like most players in the NBA, Green has had his troubles defensively against James.

Although Green and James are both 6-9, James' significant weight advantage makes defending him an even greater challenge for Green.

Because of James' ball-handling skills, he has the ability to put the ball on the floor and get to the basket as well as any player in the league.

And when he's knocking down jumpers, "he's tough to guard," said Green. He added, "He's a big body, and then you have to respect his shot. And if he gets past you, he can put that body on you. There's nothing you can do about it. You just have to contest every shot, make it tough on him and hope he misses."

The Celtics should also benefit from the return of Shaquille O'Neal, who is expected to play for the first time since April 3.

Looking back on the first two games, the C's squandered a number of scoring opportunities around the basket -- an area that O'Neal should help even if he's on the floor for just a few minutes.

Rivers showed his players a video clip on Thursday that included "35 in-the-paint, inside-the-charge circle misses in two games," Rivers said. "That's a lot."

The Celtics must also do a better job of freeing up their shooters.

After scoring 25 points in Game 1, Ray Allen had just eight points in Game 2 on 2-for-7 shooting from the field.

Setting screens may seem inconsequential to many, but Allen knows all too well that it's one of the intangibles that has to be done well in order to succeed this time of year.

"Just paying attention to the small things," Allen said. "You always need to be reminded, that those . . . setting screens, stutter-stepping one side to the next, those things get your teammates open, those things get screens set. You may not score, but your team scores."

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

Plenty of on-the-job training for Celtics' rookies

Plenty of on-the-job training for Celtics' rookies

BOSTON – With all the changes the Celtics went through over the summer, seeing more rookies on the floor this season was a given.
 
But six?
 
Yes, only three games into the season and the Celtics have played more rookies than any team under fifth-year coach Brad Stevens.

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And in the 102-92 victory at Philadelphia on Friday night, the Celtics (1-2) played almost as many first-year players (five) as veterans (six).
 
The youth movement here in Boston has been sped up a bit by the season-ending injury to Gordon Hayward, compounded by a left ankle sprain to Marcus Smart that Smart said won’t keep him out any more than Friday night in Philly.

Even if Smart is back in the Celtics lineup Tuesday night against New York, that doesn’t change the fact that Boston will continue to need rookies to step up and contribute going forward as they did on Friday.
 
And while there’s an old adage about experience being the greatest teacher, Boston’s youngsters are going to have to fast-forward past some of those on-the-floor growing pains for the Celtics to stay among the top teams in the East.
 
“Everybody talks about young players having to learn by going through experience,” said Stevens. “Why don’t we just watch film and learn? Learn from things we can control and in the interim, let’s beat the age thing. Let’s not talk about the age thing. Let’s talk about how we can be better at what we can control and how we can learn and grow every day and expedite the learning curve.
 
Stevens added, “because they are going to get opportunities all the way down the line, let’s not focus on trying to learn from experience; let’s focus on learning from every day and see if we can get a little bit better every day.”
 
The one rookie who has had no problem adjusting to the NBA game early on has been Jayson Tatum.
 
Selected with the third overall pick last June, Tatum has been among the NBA's most productive rookies in this first week of the season.
 
Tatum’s 35.3 minutes played per game is tops among all rookies. His 12.3 points and 9.0 rebounds rank seventh and fourth among his first-year brethren.
 
Stevens loves what he has seen thus far from Tatum, but believes he’s capable of making an even greater impact sooner rather than later.
 
“I like him to shoot it on the catch more,” Stevens said. “Because he has tremendous touch. When he shoots it in rhythm with confidence, the ball finds the net. He’s one of those guys; he’s a natural scorer. But his ability to read the game … he’s very intelligent. It’s been more evident on the defensive end. He’s gonna pick his spots offensively now. But we want him to be aggressive and first and foremost, be a threat to shoot it every time he catches it.
 
Stevens added, “I guess it should feel pretty good when you’re 19 years old and your coach is begging you to shoot it.”
 
How quickly Tatum and the rest of Boston’s youngsters grow into the roles they will be asked to play this season can do nothing but help the Celtics adapt to what has already been a season with major changes needing to be made.
 
“You saw [against Philadelphia], we had Shane [Larkin], we had Guerschon [Yabusele], we had guys coming in that played the game at a high level and we need them to contribute,” said Boston’s Kyrie Irving. “For me to see that and witness that, it makes me nothing but proud and happy to have teammates that are ready to play. It’s not always going to look perfect because we’re still gaining knowledge about one another. But as long as we’re out there competing, having each other’s backs, that’s all that matters.”
 

Kyrie Irving fined $25,000 for his inappropriate language with a fan

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Kyrie Irving fined $25,000 for his inappropriate language with a fan

BOSTON – As expected, the NBA has fined Celtics guard Kyrie Irving $25,000 for using “inappropriate language” toward a fan at the Friday night game in Philadelphia.
 
The incident occurred at halftime as Irving and his teammates were heading to the locker room, trailing by four. Boston went on to win 102-92 for their first victory of the season.
 
A fan yelled, “Hey, where’s LeBron?” to which Irving replied with a lewd suggestion to the yeller.
 
The Celtics practiced on Saturday with Irving addressing the incident.

When asked if he had any regrets about the incident, Irving replied, “Hell no. Man enough to record it on video, that’s on him. I’m glad he got his ad name out there, and his five seconds of fame and it’s gone viral. That’s social media platform we live on.
 
Irving added, “I take full responsibility for what I said. You move on.”
 
When asked about the incident on Saturday, Celtics coach Brad Stevens said he had not seen the video but was aware of it.
 
“People make mistakes; hopefully learn from them and move on,” Stevens said. “There’s a right and wrong. And if you’re in the wrong you have to own up to it and that’s that.”

It was the second such fine levied by the league in as many days. 

New Orleans center DeMarcus Cousins was fined $25,000 for "inappropriate language" toward a fan when the Pelicans lost 103-91 at Memphis on Wednesday.