Celtics

Celtics get bench help to stop the Pacers, 92-80

191544.jpg

Celtics get bench help to stop the Pacers, 92-80

By A.Sherrod Blakely
CSNNE.com

BOSTON Before Jeff Green was traded to the Boston Celtics and become a key backup, he spent more than 90 percent of his career as a starter with the Oklahoma City.

And just in case anyone forgot, games like Wednesday's 92-80 win over the Indiana Pacers serve as a reminder.

Green had 19 points off the Celtics bench, including 17 in the first half as the C's pulled away for a much-needed victory.

His play was part of a strong night for the Celtics' bench, which outscored their Indiana counterparts, 39-24.

"The second unit got our energy up," said coach Doc Rivers. "Second unit came and it just played."

And their play, particularly in the second quarter, seemed to inspire Boston's starters - specifically, the Big Three.

Green scored 12 straight points in the second that put the C's ahead, 31-29.

His one-man scoring binge was followed by some big shots from the Big Three - Ray Allen, Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce - who scored all 11 points during an 11-2 Celtics run that put the C's ahead, 42-31.

"They the second unit were great today," said Pierce who led all scorers with 20 points to go with five assists.

One of the biggest questions with the Celtics has been how quickly can their second unit come together with a number of key players either out with injuries or, in the case of Delonte West, just coming back to the fold after being injured.

Even with all the changes and uncertainty as to who will play, Rivers can see their growth into a formidable unit.

"Well, they're more talented now, number one," Rivers said. "The talent is growing with that second unit. You've got Jeff Green in your second unit, Delonte West in your second unit, Glen Davis. Pretty good second unit."

And on Wednesday, their success began with Green, who acknowledges that his role with the C's is still a work in progress.

"I just go out there and just be aggressive," Green said. "I just go out there and play hard. You play hard and it makes up for a lot of things and leads to some good things."

One of Green's strengths has been his ability to beat most players, regardless of whether he's playing small forward or power forward, down the court quickly.

And his hustle has been rewarded with a lot of good looks in transition from Rajon Rondo, who had eight assists on Wednesday night.

He's also benefited from a small lineup that includes him on the floor with the man he was brought in to play behind, Paul Pierce.

"When me and Jeff are out there, it really causes a matchup situation," Pierce said. "He's so good in the post-up area, along with myself, teams have to decide who they're gong to match up with. Usually one of us is going to have the favorable matchup. It's great because teams don't know what to do. It makes us dangerous out there."

Indiana coach Frank Vogel, a former Celtics video coordinator, acknowledges that this new-look Celtics team does present a new set of problems for opponents.

"They got some different dynamics," said Vogel, whose team had its two-game winning streak snapped. "Jeff Green coming in and playing small forward is a different dynamic with him in the post. They now have two 3-point shooting power forwards they can throw at you. There's a little bit of a different dynamic."

And that dynamic in many ways makes this Celtics team one that keeps them in the conversation for winning an NBA title.

"They're going to go deep," Vogel said.

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

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.

MORE CELTICS

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.

MORE:

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.

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE