Celtics

Celtics-Pacers Review: What we saw

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Celtics-Pacers Review: What we saw

BOSTON Once again the Boston Celtics were short-handed, and once again it didn't really matter as Boston won its fourth straight with a 94-87 win over the Indiana Pacers. This was one of those games that C's coach Doc Rivers knew would be difficult to win after he saw it on the schedule. Playing a nationally televised game at Orlando on Thursday night, only to return home in the wee hours of the morning to host a young, athletic Indiana Pacers team.

"Oh, it was a trap game," Rivers said. "Make no mistake about it."

The thing is, somebody forgot to tell his players that the scheduling gods had lined this one up as one the C's were supposed to lose.

Come to think of it, Friday's win was just another night when the Celtics defied the odds stacked against them, to emerge victorious.

To win a game like this, a number of things have to break right.

With that said, we'll look at some of the factors identified prior to the game, that worked out in the Celtics' favor.

WHAT TO LOOK FOR - Dead legs have to be a huge concern for the Celtics tonight. The best indicator of this is usually in how a team shoots from the field. Jumpers don't have the same lift, and lay-ups tend to roll in and out more often. That becomes an even bigger deal tonight against an Indiana team that's ranked No. 1 in the NBA in field goal percentage defense (41.2 percent).

WHAT WE SAW: Shooting the ball was not an issue for the Celtics, which was unexpected. Older teams coming home on the back end of a back-to-back set of games, aren't supposed to shoot better than 45 percent from the field. But the C's continue to defy conventional thinking with their penchant for winning games despite being without key players. "It was one of those games that you know mentally you're drained," said Boston's Paul Pierce. "It was a big win, an emotional win last night (at Orlando)." But it would not have been as sweet if they couldn't come home and handle business. "I'm proud with the way we stepped u tonight and really got the job done," Pierce said.

MATCHUP TO WATCH - Paul Pierce vs Danny Granger. It's obvious that Pierce is feeling like his old self - and not just old - lately. During the C's three-game winning streak, Pierce has averaged 25.7 points, nine assists and 6.3 rebounds in addition to playing solid defense. "I am starting to get my legs back. I am playing better basketball," Pierce said. Granger has also picked his game up recently, averaging 19.3 points and 5.7 rebounds in Indiana's last three games.

WHAT WE SAW: You can add Granger to the growing list of talented players that are being outplayed by Pierce right now. While there are certainly a number of players who are having a better overall season than Pierce, he has been easily one of the league's top players during the Celtics' four-game winning streak. Why? Because he's hurting teams in so many ways. Scoring, rebounding, passing, defense you name it, and Pierce is bringing it to the floor. He led all scorers with 28 points, along with 10 rebounds and eight assists."Ya know that's my role on the team, to just continue to be aggressive, trying to get to the basket, mix it up with the outsideinside play, make plays and that's it," Pierce said. As for Granger, he had 21 points and six rebounds.

PLAYER TO WATCH: Roy Hibbert is arguably the second-best center in the East behind Dwight Howard, but poses a different - and in some ways, tougher - matchup problem. Unlike Howard who relies heavily on his strength and athleticism, Hibbert's length is what will give the Celtics problems. Don't be surprised that if Jermaine O'Neal (left knee) can't play, C's Doc Rivers goes with rookie Greg Stiemsma as the starting center instead of having Brandon Bass start at power forward and sliding Kevin Garnett over to defend Hibbert. To the C's credit, they made things tough for Hibbert offensively in both games this season. In each of the two games this season, the 7-foot-2 center shot 5-for-15 from the field.

WHAT WE SAW: Although a right ankle injury certainly slowed Hibbert down some, he really wasn't that effective even prior to the injury. He finished with 11 points and seven rebounds while shooting 5-for-13 from the field. Garnett started at center again, and once again turned in a defensive gem of a performance. Boston also got strong play from Chris Wilcox, who had a season-high 14 points off the Celtics bench along with grabbing six rebounds. Dealing with Hibbert was a major point of emphasis for Wilcox when he was on the floor. "We just had to control Hibbert on the block and contest all the shots and make it hard for them and them make other guys scorers," Wilcox said.

STAT TO TRACK: If the Celtics are to have a real shot at winning tonight, they have to keep the Pacers off the offensive boards. Indiana outscored the C's by 14 points in each of the two previous matchups. The C's may catch a break of sorts with Indiana's Jeff Foster (back) expected to not play. Also, Indiana comes into tonight's game having been outscored each of the last three games in second-chance points, something that had not occurred at any point prior.

WHAT WE SAW: This was the one area that Boston had to find a way to at least be competitive in to have any shot at success. They were more than that. Boston not only kept Indiana from dominating the offensive boards, but they actually won the offensive boards battle which led to 14 second-chance points compared to just six for the Pacers.

Celtics, Jaylen Brown's crucial flub in Game 4 was actually officiating error

Celtics, Jaylen Brown's crucial flub in Game 4 was actually officiating error

BOSTON – The NBA’s two-minute report on Boston’s Game 4 loss at Milwaukee revealed a trio of incorrect non-calls in the closing moments of play, two of which went against the Celtics in their 104-102 loss. 

With Boston ahead 100-99 with less than a minute to play, Jaylen Brown lost the ball on a driving lay-up attempt. 

No call was made on the play, one that Brown thought he was fouled on. 

The two-minute report confirmed “that (Khris) Middleton makes contact to Brown's arm that affects his driving shot attempt.”

Had the call been made, Brown would have gone to the free throw line with 43.5 seconds to play with the Celtics already ahead by one point. 

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But on the ensuing Milwaukee possession following the non-call, Malcolm Brogdon drained a 3-pointer that put the Bucks ahead 102-100.

With 47.9 seconds to play, the two-minute report also indicated that an offensive foul should have been called against Milwaukee’s Giannis Antetokounmpo. The two-minute report indicated that, “Antetokounmpo extends his arm and wards off (Semi) Ojeleye's arm, affecting his ability to contest the shot attempt.”

And with 1:14 to play, Antetokounmpo was fouled by Jayson Tatum although no call was made. On the play, the two-minute report says that, “Tatum clamps Antetokounmpo's arm and pushes him, affecting his (freedom of movement) and ability to receive the pass.

On the ensuing possession following the non-call, Tatum hit a jumper that put the Celtics ahead 100-99 with 52.4 seconds to play. 

Celtics coach Brad Stevens has been asked about officiating quite a bit in the last few days. And his response in each instance remains relatively the same.

"I'm not going to ever say anything bad about referees because they have a really tough job," Stevens said. 

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Five takeaways: Celtics top-rated defense underwhelms vs. Bucks

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Five takeaways: Celtics top-rated defense underwhelms vs. Bucks

MILWAUKEE –  As good as the Boston Celtics have been defensively all season, they’ve had a defensive clunker from time to time. 

But what we’ve seen thus far after four games is a Milwaukee team that Boston has been unable to slow down or limit offensively. 

In the four games thus far, the Bucks have shot 54.2 percent from the field, tops among all playoff teams. And Boston’s defense, which had a league-best defensive rating in the regular season of 101.5, is next-to-last in the playoffs with a defensive rating of 113.9.

When you talk adjustments, none looms any larger for the Celtics than trying to find a way to force Milwaukee into not being quite so efficient. 

Of course the shooting of Giannis Antetokoumpo (62 percent) and Khris Middleton (61.5 percent) skew the numbers somewhat, with both shooting better than 60 percent combined in addition to having taken 43.6 percent of all Milwaukee’s shots. For most defenses in the NBA, you would chalk it up as nothing more than the Bucks being red-hot from the field. But Boston isn’t just any team on defense. 

The Celtics were the league’s best club in several defensive categories during the regular season, so the sight of them being routinely roasted by the Bucks’ shooters is somewhat surprising and to a lesser degree, disturbing as they try to regain control of the series in Game 5. 

Here are five takeaways from Boston’s 104-102 Game 4 loss to the Milwaukee Bucks.

Baynes conundrum

No one had a better defensive rating (97.0) in the NBA than Aron Baynes, and when you watch him play there is no denying his impact. But the Bucks love to run pick-and-rolls where he is switched out on Giannis Antetokounmpo who has been a major problem. Baynes’ defensive rating in the playoffs has is 115.3 which ranks 149th among players who have played in four playoff games. But he has also been one of Boston’s top rebounders which is in part why the Celtics have reason to be hesitant to limit his playing time too much. 

Brown, Tatum ready to shine

Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum have been central figures in Boston’s ascension this season, with both showing noticeable growth in the postseason. They were particularly strong in Boston’s Game 4 loss with Brown scoring a career-high 34 points while Tatum had 21 points with 18 coming in the second half. The future is now for the Celtics, and these two are leading the charge. 

Rozier shooting struggles continue

Terry Rozier has been the ultimate litmus test to how Boston is faring in this series. When he has been good, so have the Celtics. And when he has struggled, Boston followed suit with less-than-impressive play. After averaging 23 points in Boston’s Game 1 and Game 2 wins, his scoring dropped significantly to 9.5 points per game in Game 3 and 4 losses. 

Jabari Parker

After being a non-factor, Parker has delivered the kind of bench production the Bucks have been longing for in this series. After scoring just two points in Games 1 and 2 combined, Parker averaged 16.5 points in Games 3 and 4, connecting on 12-for-22 of his shots from the field. 

Thon Maker

It’s a bit of a head-scratcher that Thon Maker played just one minute in Games 1 and 2 combined and was unleashed at home in Games 3 and 4. To his credit, he was a difference-maker in Game 4 with eight points along with tallying five blocks for the second straight game. Boston has to do a better job of limiting is impact not only as a defender, but also as a 3-point threat. In Games 3 and 4, he was 5-for-9 (55 percent) from 3-point range.