Celtics

Celtics hope to minimize mistakes while picking up the pace

Celtics hope to minimize mistakes while picking up the pace

WALTHAM, Mass. – The 20 or so pounds of weight lost by Marcus Smart from a year ago is expected to help him become an even bigger impact defender this season.

It’ll also help him at the other end of the floor with the Celtics looking to play at a faster pace than we’ve seen under fifth-year coach Brad Stevens.

“With the skillset we have and guys coming off the bench, we definitely have the capability to do that,” Smart said.

Playing at a faster pace has actually been one of the strengths of the Celtics under Brad Stevens.

Boston has advanced to the postseason each of the last three seasons which includes two seasons (2015 and 2016) when they finished fifth and third, respectively, in the league in pace.

Last season was Boston’s most successful campaign since Brad Stevens has been their coach, but the team’s pace ranked only 12th in the NBA (99.32).

Indeed, playing a quicker game while minimizing mistakes, is one of the many challenges Stevens and the Celtics will face this season.

In each of the last three seasons, the Celtics have finished among the league’s top-8 in lowest turnover percentage. Stevens’ rookie season with the Celtics in 2014, Boston’s turnover percentage was .159 which ranked 28th in the league.

“I want us to play faster if we can keep the ball within our team,” said Stevens, referring to the Celtics’ need to limit turnovers. “Faster can be a number of things. For us, pace is the word, right? Pace can be up the floor but it can also be once you get into your half court, being able to move and cut, play together.”

But the goal of playing faster this season is something the Celtics will have to build up to, especially with a roster that’s filled with new faces who are still learning how to play with each other.

“We’re throwing the ball all over the gym some right now and making plays we’ll have to clean up,” Stevens said. “But as far as the intent of what we’re trying to do and the way guys are playing … it’s been good.”

But the Celtics, while eager to get out and run, understand balancing that with being a strong defensive team isn’t easy.

Last season, three of the top-5 teams in pace (Brooklyn, Phoenix and Philadelphia) were in the bottom half of the NBA defensively.

“We want to get the ball out and when we get stops, we want to get the ball up the floor as quick as possible,” Smart said. “Quick buckets, and we want to be able to execute at a fast pace.”

Said Stevens: “We want to do everything with pace; we want to do everything with high motor.”

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

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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. 

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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.

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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.”

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