Celtics happy to have Horford on their side this time around

Celtics happy to have Horford on their side this time around

BOSTON – The Celtics are just days away from a third consecutive trip to the playoffs. And for the first time in the Brad Stevens Era, Boston will play with the pressure of increased expectations.
That’s how it is when you’re the No. 1 seed.
And while that in itself should breed a certain level of confidence, Boston is feeling good about its chances of advancing through the postseason for another reason – Al Horford.


For all the record-setting milestones Isaiah Thomas has eclipsed this season for the Celtics, the addition of Horford has been the single-most important factor in Boston’s success this season.
They hope to keep it going on Sunday (6:30, CSN) in Game 1 of their best-of-seven first round series with the Chicago Bulls.
Thomas, who led the East in scoring this season at 28.9 points per game and was third overall, recalled Boston’s postseason run last season which lasted just six games courtesy of Horford and his ex-teammates in Atlanta, who eliminated the Celtics in the first round.
“I remember him doing all the little things,” Thomas said. “When we were watching film and seeing what they were doing well against us he was in every play. Offensively, he was making plays … one thing that stood out the most was how good he was as a [shot] contester. He contested shots every time down. I’m glad he’s on our team now. He can do that to the Bulls.”
Celtics coach Brad Stevens echoed similar sentiments about Horford.

“Obviously, we’re thrilled that he’s here,” Stevens said of Horford. “Like all of our other guys, we need him to play at a good level. I know he’s preparing the way he always prepares. We’re looking forward to competing.”

Horford was asked about what he remembered from playing against the Celtics in the postseason last year.
“It was a very physical, hard-nosed playing series,” he said. “Throughout the games, it was very competitive. It was a tough series.”
And Horford expects more of the same this weekend when the Celtics take on the Chicago Bulls who are led by Jimmy Butler in addition to a pair of veteran All-Stars in Dwyane Wade and ex-Celtic Rajon Rondo.
Butler was once again one of the top two-way players in the NBA this past season, while Wade and Rondo had their ups and downs this season.
Still, both Wade and Rondo have shown the ability to elevate their play in the postseason, which is reason enough for the Celtics to maintain a relatively high level of focus.
“We have to do the things that we do, right?” Horford said. “Watch film, go over coverages, look at tendencies, things that will help us. But we know what they’re capable of. We know that they’ve played in big games before and they’re comfortable in that. For us, it’s making sure we help each other, stay together.”
And that approach, “staying together,” in lots of ways embodies the glue-like role that Horford has played in Boston and,  truthfully, has been at heart of who he has always been as a player.
At the University of Florida, Horford was a central figure in the Gators winning back-to-back national titles.
Drafted by Atlanta, which had very little tradition in terms of sustained success, Horford led the Hawks to the postseason for nine years until he signed a four-year, $113 million contract in the summer to play for Boston.
And in his first season with the Celtics, Boston (53-29) finished with the best record in the Eastern Conference, which had not happened for the C’s since the 2008 title team.
“Al’s about winning,” Stevens said. “That’s what he’s about.

Stevens added, “he helps you win because he does every little thing at both ends of the court, and the way that he carries himself off the court. He talks, people listen; he says the right things and all those other things. That was a short answer earlier, but it’s about as good a compliment as I can give.”


Greg Monroe looks comfortable as bigger offensive focal point

Greg Monroe looks comfortable as bigger offensive focal point

BOSTON – Jayson Tatum dropped 23 points, snatched 11 rebounds and Boston’s injury-riddled roster squeaked out a 100-99 upset win over Oklahoma City.

It was a good game for Tatum, but teammate Marcus Morris wasn’t moved one bit by Tatum’s historical performance.

“Now it’s not. … I’m not even impressed no more,” Morris said. “It’s to the point where I know what he’s going to bring, I know what he’s capable of. So it’s more like, I expect that now just being around, watching him play day-in and day-out, practicing with him.”

Teammates agree that the 20-year-old Tatum is growing up right before our eyes.

“With Jaylen and Kyrie being out, he’s looking to be more aggressive,” said Boston’s Al Horford. “Everybody is going to talk about offense, but on the defensive end he didn’t have an easy matchup, going against Paul George. I felt like he did a great job.”

Here are five other takeaways from Boston’s 100-99 comeback win over the Oklahoma City Thunder.


Boston’s second unit is still getting the job done even as injuries rob it of its core group that includes Marcus Morris and Terry Rozier who are now both starters. The Celtics’ new-look second unit was still impactful in Boston’s 100-99 squeaker past the Oklahoma City Thunder. Against the Thunder, Boston’s bench outscored Oklahoma City 35-10.


The big man continues to come up big for the Boston Celtics off the bench. Injuries have forced other key reserves into the starting lineup which has led to Monroe becoming an even bigger focal point offensively when he’s on the floor. Against the Thunder, he had 17 points on 6-for-12 shooting with six rebounds.


You never really know what you’re going to get from the Boston Celtics when it comes to rebounding the basketball. Well, Tuesdaynight was the good rebounding Celtics whose ability to control the glass was a huge factor in the victory as Boston out-rebounded Oklahoma City 52-44.


Remember how Marcus Smart would struggle to make shots, and still play major minutes and still make a meaningful impact? Well, Semi Ojeleye had that kind of game for the Celtics. The 6-foot-6 rookie missed all six of his field goal attempts, but showed some serious versatility against the Thunder with defensive stints on each of Oklahoma City’s Big Three of Carmelo Anthony, Paul George and Russell Westbrook.


Marcus Morris made the game-winner and Jayson Tatum was as strong on the floor as we’ve ever seen him. But arguably the biggest X-factor in Boston’s win was the play of Larkin. His ability to control the flow of the game, getting his teammates in and out of sets was critical to the win, as was his offense. For the game, Larking had 13 points on 5-for-9 shooting from the field.

NBA: Congrats to the Celtics on the win, but they for sure should not have won

File Photo

NBA: Congrats to the Celtics on the win, but they for sure should not have won

The NBA officials' Last Two Minute report for Tuesday is out, and boy did the Celtics get away with one!

The league admitted to missing two infractions -- both committed by Marcus Morris -- on the possession on which Morris hit a game-winning three-pointer against the Thunder. 

The C's began the possession with Morris inbounding the ball, but a stopwatch revealed to the league that Morris did not release the ball within the five seconds allotted on an inbounding play. Had the correct call been made, the ball would have been turned over to the Thunder, who at the time held a two-point lead with 7.7 seconds remaining. 

Furthermore, video replay led the league to determine that Morris traveled prior to taking the shot. The video evidence that suggested this was that Morris was wearing an NBA jersey in the video, but also he moved his pivot foot prior to the release of his dribble. That call would have also given the Thunder the ball. 

What these nerds didn't consider is that the basketball gods have more power than their stopwatches. What a win.