Celtics

Celtics-Knicks review: What we saw

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Celtics-Knicks review: What we saw

BOSTON Kevin Garnett probably said it best in describing Boston's 91-89 win over New York on Friday night.

"It don't have to be pretty to win," he said.

Garnett's words rung loud and true on Friday night as the C's fell behind by as many as 12 points before rallying for the victory which puts them at 12-10 - the first time they have been more than one game above .500 all season.

There were a number of factors that came into play, some of which we outlined prior to Friday's game.

We'll take a look at those areas and see how the Celtics and Knicks fared in those respective areas.

WHAT TO LOOK FOR - Much has been said about New York's woes stemming from not having a true point guard in the regular rotation. With Baron Davis still out with a back injury - he hasn't played in an NBA game since April 10 of last season - that's not going to change anytime soon. The point-guard problems are evident when you look at a Knicks team that's middle-of-the-road in scoring with 95 points per game (that ranks 14th in the league), but is ranked No. 23 in assists off made field goals.

WHAT WE SAW: The Knicks kept true to form, with a relatively low percentage for field goals that come by way of an assist. Coming into Friday's game, 55 percent of the Knicks' made baskets came by way of an assist. On Friday, New York had 19 assists on 34 made baskets. That breaks down to 55.9 percent of their baskets on Friday coming via an assist.

MATCHUP TO WATCH - Paul Pierce vs. Carmelo Anthony: Pierce's right heel injury prevented this matchup from occurring on opening night. Pierce is indeed back to playing like himself. In Boston's last seven games, he's averaging 22.8 points, 7.7 assists and 6.4 rebounds per game. As for Anthony, he's just getting back into his All-Star form after missing two games with sprained right ankle, sprained left wrist and sprained right thumb. Keeping him under control, especially in the fourth quarter, will be huge for the Celtics.

WHAT WE SAW: Without question, Pierce had the edge in this matchup. He finished with 30 points compared to 26 by Anthony. Even more telling was how the C's essentially took Anthony out of plays and forced the Knicks to rely on other players to come up with baskets in the game's final moments. "We knew what we had to do," said Boston's Chris Wilcox. "We went and pressured him and got the ball out of his hand and make somebody else make plays." Clearly that didn't work for the New York, as rookie Iman Shumpert was among those who had opportunities to put New York ahead late in the game, but he was unable to make the clutch play.

PLAYER TO WATCH: Without question, it has to be Rajon Rondo. After participating in the team's morning shootaround, all indications are that Rondo will return to action after missing the previous eight games with a right wrist injury. In addition to Rondo, it'll be worth keeping an eye on what his return means to Avery Bradley who has filled in for him with the first unit, and E'Twaun Moore who seems to keep improving the more he plays. In the season opener against the Knicks, Rondo had 31 points, 13 assists and five rebounds.

WHAT WE SAW: No one believes the Rajon Rondo we saw on Friday is going to be who we see moving forward. His wrist injury was further complicated by a black eye that was swelling up. He finished with seven points, seven assists and five rebounds. "I thought he played well," said coach Doc Rivers. "He was rusty, obviously."

STAT TO TRACK: Rebounding will once again be an issue with tonight's game featuring two of the league's worst. The Knicks are ranked No. 21 in rebounds with 49.9 per game. The C's are once again near the bottom of the NBA standings, averaging 46.1 per game which ranks 29th in the league.

WHAT WE SAW: Boston's ability to crash the boards not only allowed the Celtics to control the game's tempo, but ultimately positioned them to take over Friday night's game. At the half, the Celtics were minus-4 on the boards only to reverse that and go plus-six which would put them at plus-two on the boards. For the game, Boston had 40 rebounds compared to 37 for New York.

Celtics' cup has runneth over so far this season

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Celtics' cup has runneth over so far this season

BOSTON -- The Boston Celtics are no different than the rest of us. They have a lot to be thankful for.
 
There’s the usual good health, family and friends. But they have a few more things to be thankful for, as well.
 
So as you take a brief time-out today from the turkey, stuffing and cranberry sauce, here’s a look at five things the Celtics are thankful for this season.


 
KYRIE IRVING
 
The Celtics have had some solid players in recent years, but the addition of Kyrie Irving was a game-changer. He provides Boston with an unmistakable superstar who has a proven track record of success on all levels -- he's won an NBA championship and an Olympic Gold medal, and is also a four-time All-Star. Did I mention he’s just 25 years old?


 
AL HORFORD
 
His numbers will never adequately measure the impact Horford has had on the Celtics. The big plus with Horford was him simply agreeing to be a Celtic. For years this franchise has been built on the success of developing draft picks or trading for talented players. But rarely have they had the financial flexibility or, to be frank, the kind of appeal to free agents to go out and acquire a proven All-Star like Al Horford. His arrival has enhanced an already-established winning culture, one that has become a player on the free agency market ever since.


 
DANNY AINGE
 
Other than Oklahoma City’s Sam Presti, it’s hard to imagine another front office executive having as good an offseason as Ainge. He rolled the dice to go down two spots in last June’s NBA draft, and wound up with arguably the most NBA-ready player (Jayson Tatum) among those selected in last June’s NBA draft. (Remember, the likely rookie-of-the-year Ben Simmons did not play last year after Philadelphia drafted him with the top overall pick in 2016.) The free-agent pickups of Aron Baynes, Daniel Theis and Shane Larkin have all had moments where they carried the team to victory. Even second-round picks like Semi Ojeleye and two-way players like Jabari Bird have contributed to wins this season. Fans may not like some of Ainge’s decisions in the moment but he deserves a lot of credit for the team we see today, one that has played at a level few envisioned they'd reach this quickly.


 
BRAD STEVENS
 
And to think, the Big Three (Kyrie Irving, Gordon Hayward and Al Horford) Boston was planning to build around this season has played less than five minutes together. Stevens has been pushing all the right buttons, putting guys in unexpected positions to succeed with a cast that’s long on talent and well, well short on experience. Boston’s first win of the season came at Philadelphia, a game in which the Celtics played six different rookies. It’s not unusual for teams to use first-year players frequently, but for a team that was built to contend for a championship? That’s highly unusual. The biggest thing is despite the lack of experience on the floor, Stevens hasn’t allowed them to use that as a reason to fail. Instead, Stevens has had them lean heavily on film study and the wisdom of veterans, as well as empowered them to have a “next-man-up” mindset with one goal regardless of what they are tasked with doing: Get it done. No excuses.


 
ROOM FOR IMPROVEMENT
 
Boston has spent most of this season atop the NBA standings, fueled in large part by a 15-game winning streak -- the longest of the Brad Stevens era and the fifth-longest ever by a Celtics team. But within that winning streak, there have been some noticeable areas of concern (i.e., bench scoring) that have made games more challenging. And that's what makes these Celtics so scary to the rest of the league. If they’re beating teams consistently now, how much better will they be when the offense catches up or, at a minimum, gains some ground on what has been an impressive stretch of play defensively? That’s why as good as this first full month of the season has been, there's reason to believe they’ll only get better. The Celtiheircs have seen  share of adversity. They've played without their All-Stars. They have fought back from double-digit deficits to emerge victorious. This is a young squad, but battle-tested already. Because of all that, they have a certain level of confidence that regardless of the situation, regardless of the score, they feel they will find a pathway to success. And that, Celtics Nation, is something to be thankful for.

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE


 

Blakely's takeaways: Moving on without the streak

Blakely's takeaways: Moving on without the streak

The streak is over! The streak is over!

We now return the Boston Celtics to their regularly scheduled pursuit of success without the growing pressure that comes with a historically relevant winning streak.

The 104-98 loss at Miami on Wednesday night brought an end to what had been one of the more unlikely winning streaks we’ve seen in the NBA for quite some time.

Boston reeled off 16 straight wins, many of which were the come-from-a-double-digit-deficit variety. In the end, the Celtics’ winning streak ranks as the fourth-longest in this storied franchise’s history.

“I told you, we’re not as good as the 16-game win streak,” Stevens said following the loss. “But we do have a lot of resolve.”

That resolve will surely be challenged with the Celtics taking Thanksgiving off, only to return and play three games in the next four nights beginning with Orlando on Friday, followed by a road game at Indiana on Saturday and a home date against the Detroit Pistons on Monday.

Here are five takeaways from the Boston Celtics’ 16-game winning streak.

KYRIE FOR MVP?

When the Boston Celtics traded for Kyrie Irving during the offseason, there was a sense that his presence would be a plus in some capacity, at some point. But few envisioned Irving would not only have a relatively seamless fit with the Celtics, but deliver in such a way that would catapult them to the top of the NBA standings and in doing so, establish him as one of the early front-runners for the league’s MVP award. This season, Irving is averaging a team-best 22.5 points and 5.2 assists while shooting 47 percent from the field but most important, the Celtics (16-3) have the best record in the NBA.

WANTED: BENCH SCORER

If you are a fan of good defenders, you probably love the Boston Celtics’ second unit. Terry Rozier and Marcus Smart are both ball-hawking defenders who can make some miserable times for opponents when they are on top of their game. Daniel Theis provides great energy on the glass and defensively. But the second unit needs a jolt offensively. Because as good as they can defend collectively, the Celtics have to have at least one starter on the floor most of the time because the bench doesn’t have an adequate collector of buckets that they can rely on consistently. Marcus Morris looks like an ideal choice for that role, but the left knee soreness that kept him out for eight games seems to be flaring up from time to time. Whether they address this with a trade or possibly with a player bought out, the lack of a second-unit scorer is very much an issue for this team.

BROWN EMERGES AS TWO-WAY TALENT

The plan was for Jaylen Brown to be an elite, shut-down defender this season. He has shown himself to be a good defender this season, but what has really made him stand out is the growth in his game offensively. The second-year wing has scored 20-plus points in three of Boston’s last four games. Doing that along with continuing to play good defense has him looking like one of the NBA’s promising young two-way talents.

TATUM’S GROWTH A SILVER LINING IN HAYWARD INJURY

You never want to see the Boston Celtics or any team for that matter, lose a player for the season let alone one who meant as much as Gordon Hayward to the Celtics. But if there is a silver lining in his ankle injury which is expected to keep him out all season, it is the opportunity it created for Jayson Tatum. The 19-year-old has been arguably the best player from last June’s draft class, playing major minutes with a major role for the team with the best record in the NBA. The opportunity to play around 30 minutes a game would not have been there for Tatum if Hayward didn’t get hurt. The challenge for Tatum going forward is to stay consistent, because now that teams have seen him for almost a quarter of the season, you can expect they will make some adjustments in how they defend him as well as try to attack him when he’s defending.

WE TALKIN’ ABOUT PRACTICE

During Boston’s 16 game winning streak, the Celtics played the last eight games in 16 nights. That’s a game every other night for more than two weeks. In that time, there’s little to no time for practice which has been a factor in Boston not being quite as sharp in the last few games, as they were at the start of the streak. After Thanksgiving, Boston plays three games in four nights with a pair of days off to follow before they return to action. There’s a very good chance that the Celtics will use one of those two days to practice, something this team desperately needs to clean up some of the minor mistakes that were big problems in their loss to the Heat on Wednesday.

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE