Celtics

Celtics need more from their bench vs. Heat

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Celtics need more from their bench vs. Heat

WALTHAM No one expects the Boston Celtics' bench to take over and dominate a game.

But it certainly would be a nice change of pace.

Because at this point Boston's backups have contributed little to the Celtics cause, which is among the many reasons the team is facing a 2-0 series deficit to the Miami Heat in the Eastern Conference finals, with a must-win Game 3 tonight at the TD Garden.

The lack of contributions by the Celtics' bench is in line with what they were able to do -- or rather, not do -- for most of the regular season.

During the regular season, Boston's bench scored 23.2 points which was 29th (out of 30 teams) this season. However, they did so in a league-low 15.6 minutes per game.

As you go across the stat sheet, the C's were at or near the bottom in every statistical category when it came to their bench production.

Boston's bench more often than not, made its impact defensively. During the regular season they gave up the second-fewest bench points (26.5) per game -- but, again, they did it in a league-low number of minutes per game.

And as with most teams, the playing rotation became shorter in the playoffs, thus the impact of the bench to a large degree was expected to be less.

Even with limited chances to play, Boston needs its bench to bring more to the floor than what they have so far.

"Everybody on this team has a certain role, and us bench guys, we have to play our roles and play them better," said guard Keyon Dooling. "It's important for all of us; not just the starters, not just the bench guys; but all of us have to play well in order for us to win."

Production and opportunity, particularly for bench players, go hand in hand. If they don't produce, they don't get to play as much and vice versa.

In the playoffs, the Celtics are averaging a league-low 15.9 points per game. That wouldn't be as big of a deal if the second unit's defense could limit the scoring of opposing team's backups.

C's opponents in the playoffs are averaging 25 points per game off the bench, which creates the kind of point differential that has created a greater need for the starters to build sizable leads before turning to the reserves.

Boston has managed to try and work around that by having at least one starter -- usually Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce or Rajon Rondo -- on the floor most of the time with the backups.

That has worked well at times, but it doesn't truly address what has been shaping up to be one of the Celtics' biggest weaknesses -- an ineffective bench.

Celtics continue comeback narrative with win vs. Hawks

Celtics continue comeback narrative with win vs. Hawks

The Boston Celtics trail by double digits. The Celtics rally to make it relatively close by halftime. Boston continues to gain ground in the third, pull it out in the fourth.

Rinse. Recycle. Repeat.

That has been the Celtics’ mantra this season, with the latest chapter in their comeback narrative being a 110-99 win at Atlanta.

“We need to put an emphasis on playing with space and getting the ball to the other side of the floor,” said Celtics coach Brad Stevens. “It just stuck too much early on. We were staring at some post-ups that if we got it to the other side, maybe you could take advantage of.”

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Boston (15-2) fell behind by as many as 16 points against the Hawks (3-13), the second straight game the Celtics have rallied from a double-digit deficit.

In Boston’s 92-88 win over Golden State on Thursday, the Celtics fell behind by as many as 17 before rallying for their most impressive win of the season.

That said, it still shouldn’t take away from what happened on Saturday against an Atlanta team that despite their record, has shown signs of playing better in their recent games.

Players are aware of the penchant they’ve shown thus far for falling behind only to mount a furious comeback for the win.

“We don’t try to (go down early),” said Kyrie Irving following Saturday’s win which extended their winning streak to 15 straight which is the fifth-longest streak in franchise history. “Some teams, they go on runs and whether that be us giving up some easy ones or giving up some turnovers or doing things we can correct. When we do correct them, it turns into a different game.”

And that is what makes this stretch of play so impressive.

The Celtics have not played a full game; instead they have had stretches of good play that have often masked their mistakes early in the game.

That’s why head coach Brad Stevens, obviously pleased with the team’s success, knows as well as anyone that his team has to become more consistent in their play if they are to get the most out of these wins and continue to build off of them and achieve their ultimate goal – getting back to the NBA Finals.

“We’re going to keep playing,” Stevens said. “But the biggest thing is, we can’t keep digging these holes.”

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Stars, studs and duds: No lack of confidence for Brown

Stars, studs and duds: No lack of confidence for Brown

When it comes to the top backcourts in the NBA, you seldom hear about Kyrie Irving and Jaylen Brown.

That may soon be changing if they have more games like the one they delivered on Saturday as Boston put together a solid second half to pull away from the Atlanta Hawks, 110-99.

Irving had a game-high 30 points which was his second game with at least 30 points scored – both against Atlanta.

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And Brown, who had a strong 22-point performance in Boston’s win over Golden State on Thursday, was even better against the Hawks in tallying a career-high 27 points.

We all know about Irving who has established himself as one of the NBA’s top guards.

But is Brown on the way?

One thing Brown won’t have to develop going forward is, confidence.

He has long maintained that he believes he’ll be among the best in the league. It’s just a matter of him performing at a high level at both ends of the floor, consistently.

“I’ve always had that confidence, I can play with the best in the world,” Brown told NBC Sports Boston’s Abby Chin following the win over Atlanta which extended Boston’s winning streak to 15 in a row. “It’s just a matter of coming out, doing it. My teammates found me tonight. We had a good team win tonight.”

Here are the Stars, Studs and Duds from Boston’s 110-99 win at Atlanta which extended the Celtics’ winning streak to 15 in a row which is the fifth-longest winning streak in franchise history.

 

STARS

Jaylen Brown

Back in his home state of Georgia, Jaylen Brown delivered another monster game for the Celtics by scoring a career-high 27 points on 10-for-13 shooting with four 3-pointers.

Kyrie Irving

Irving had his most efficient game this season for the Celtics, tallying 30 points on 10-for-12 shooting to go with four rebounds and five assists.

Dennis Schroder

Atlanta’s best scorer delivering a strong 23-point, 9-assist performance for the Hawks.

 

STUDS

Jayson Tatum

He only had 14 points, but they all came in the third quarter and they included a few crowd-quieting dunks.

John Collins

He came into the league with the reputation of being a high motor player, and he has not disappointed. His hustle and energy led to him tallying 18 points and seven rebounds.

Marcus Morris

When the offense struggled mightily in the first half, it was Morris’ scoring that kept them within striking distance. He finished with 14 points, 10 of which came in the second quarter.

Kent Bazemore

He was Atlanta’s number two scoring option most of the night, and finished with 19 points.

 

DUDS

Boston’s first quarter defense

The Celtics can’t keep digging themselves these early holes, expecting they will turn it on and find a way to climb out of them. The Hawks led 35-20, fueled in large part by shooting 64.7 percent (11-for-17) in addition to out-rebounding Boston 8-6.

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