Celtics turning things around with defense


Celtics turning things around with defense

BOSTON If the Celtics continue to run through teams, many will point to Rajon Rondo's season-ending torn right ACL injury as the Celtics' turning point.

Truth be told, the C's began to get their act together well before their current four-game winning streak.

When the calendar flipped to 2013, it not only ushered in a new year, but around here it brought a new (but familiar) brand of Celtics basketball.

The C's went from being an across-the-board liability defensively, to one that could take the NBA champion Miami Heat to double overtime, win the game, and still keep them from scoring 100 points.

So while the Celtics offense has improved and they are getting much more production from their bench, it has been the collective efforts of the team defensively that has made them a much more competitive team in 2013.

"And it's not one thing; it's all the little things we thought we would do earlier in the year (defensively) that we're starting to do now," said C's coach Doc Rivers.

And the numbers make this emphatically clear.

This season, opponents are shooting 44.3 percent against the Celtics.

In the month of January, the C's limited teams to just 42.1 percent from the field, second only to Chicago in terms of field goal percentage defense in January.

And that stingy defense has also brought about a slight increase in turnovers. For the season, Boston ranks third in the league with 16 forced turnovers per game. In January, it went up to 16.3, which in that span ranks second only to the Denver Nuggets.

That number has been even better in Boston's two games this month, with the C's forcing opponents into 17.5 turnovers per game.

And more turnovers have led to an increase in points off those turnovers, which bodes well for a team playing a lot more "small ball" because of injuries.

"That's how we have to play now," C's guard Avery Bradley told CSNNE.com. "We have to make teams pay for turning the ball over. The best way to do that is score."

But with smaller lineups, the Celtics tend to play a more athletic bunch most nights which has helped cut down on the amount of dribble penetration that killed the C's earlier this year.

Dribble penetration often creates shot attempts inside the lane but not necessarily in the restricted paint area. Since January, those shots have been difficult to convert into points for most opponents.

Opponents shot just 33 percent in the non-restricted area against Boston in January, with only the Los Angeles Clippers and the Milwaukee Bucks doing a better job defensively in that category.

But there's a big difference. The Clippers have DeAndre Jordan and the Bucks have Larry Sanders, two of the NBA's better shot-blockers. Their presence on the court is a deterrent for many.

But the C's have been getting it done the old fashion way -- contesting shots.

And another favorite shot for teams is the corner three-pointer, in part because it's the shortest distance to the basket that can earn you three points.

Boston stepped its game up in defending that shot as well in January. Opponents nailed just 34.6 percent of their corner threes against Boston, which was the sixth-lowest mark in January.

The improved play defensively in 2013 is not that surprising to Rivers.

"Honestly, I thought we'd be able to pick this up earlier," he said. "When you make changes of nine players. It's just taken longer than I personally thought it should have."

Ray Allen tells court he was 'catfished'


Ray Allen tells court he was 'catfished'

ORLANDO, Fla. — Retired NBA star Ray Allen said he is a victim of “catfishing,” and has asked a court to throw out a case where he is accused of stalking someone he met online.

Allen filed an emergency motion in Orange County, Florida, on Tuesday, one day after Bryant Coleman told the court he is being stalked by the 10-time All-Star and two-time NBA champion.

Allen said Coleman is the one who is stalking.

“Coleman pretended to be a number of attractive women interested in Ray Allen,” read the motion filed on Allen’s behalf. “Ray believed he was speaking with these women and communicated with them.”

Attorney David Oscar Markus released a statement saying Allen took legal action in an effort to put an end to threats against him and his family, and that Allen was the victim “of an online scheme to extract money and embarrass him by someone who appears to be troubled.”

In the filing, Allen said Coleman threatened to reveal details of their conversations, and that the sides eventually struck a deal to keep everything private. Allen said that deal has been violated and that Coleman has continued to harass him and his family through several social-media accounts.

“He posted about Ray’s wife, Ray’s children, Ray’s dog, Ray’s homes, Ray’s wife’s restaurant, and numerous other personal items,” read the motion. “Coleman not only posted about these things, he would actually post while physically located inside Ray’s wife’s restaurant in Orlando. And he would make sure they knew it, tagging Ray and his wife on those posts.”

Allen asked the court to stop Coleman from “cyber-stalking.” It was not clear if Coleman has an attorney, and a working phone number for him could not be found.

“Ray regrets ever engaging with this person online and is thankful they never met in person,” Markus said. “This experience has negatively impacted Ray, and he hopes that others might use his mistake to learn the dangers of communicating online with strangers.”

Allen is the NBA’s all-time leader in 3-pointers made. He starred in college at UConn and won championships with the Celtics in 2008 and Miami in 2013, the second title coming after he made one of the most dramatic shots in playoff history — a game-tying 3-pointer with 5.2 seconds left in regulation of Game 6 of The Finals against San Antonio, a game that the Heat would win in overtime to extend the series to a seventh game.

Allen also played for Milwaukee and Seattle, and last appeared in the league in 2014. He and his family have lived in the Miami area since.

© 2017 by The Associated Press 

Blakely's takeaways: Stevens downplays Celtics' streak

Blakely's takeaways: Stevens downplays Celtics' streak

Brad Stevens likes the fact that the Celtics have shown an unusually strong resolve this season by consistently finding ways to win on nights when they don’t play their best.
It’s to the point now where fans, as well as the players, feel no deficit is too steep to overcome.


That said, there’s a level of expectations on this team now that you would think would bring about a heightened level of pressure, right?
They’ve won 16 in a row, the fourth-longest winning streak in franchise history.
Not according to Stevens.
“Coaching basketball is not pressure,” Stevens told reporters after Monday night’s win. “Playing basketball is not real pressure. Sometimes we overdo this stuff. We’re just trying to prepare well for the next game. That’s all we’ve done, that’s all we’ll continue to do. The streak doesn’t mean anything to me; maybe it does to the guys in the room. But it’s about finding ways to get better and finding ways to get the job done.”
Here are five other takeaways from the 110-102 overtime win at Dallas that extended Boston’s winning streak to 16:

There may not be a player on this team – maybe in the NBA – that’s more difficult to get a read on, than Marcus Smart. He has been a historically bad shooter throughout his career in Boston. And yet when you look at their 16-game winning streak, he’s one of the main reasons for it. He plays with an edge; he’s gritty and defends at a level that few can match. He makes big plays in big moments. But he's having his worst season ever shooting the ball yet his impact when he’s on the floor has never been greater. So, what do you do if you’re Stevens? You keep playing him. Because as much as his poor shooting hurts the team’s overall scoring, he makes so many clutch plays whether it’s facilitating, defending or – wait for it – making shots. He adds tremendous value to winning, even if his shooting numbers might suggest otherwise.

When you’re getting “M-V-P! M-V-P!” chants on the road, you know you’re ballin’ hard. Kyrie Irving wowed the Dallas crowd with 47 points, 10 of which came in overtime as Boston rallied after facing a double-digit deficit in the fourth quarter. If the numbers continue to climb along with the win total, Irving will continue to cement himself as a top-five MVP candidate. 

One of the few constants in Boston’s string of success has been their rebounding. Against the Mavericks, the Celtics once again won the battle on the boards, 53-45. And it hasn’t been one or two players, either. Against Dallas, the Celtics had five players grab at least four rebounds with no one securing more than nine. That kind of rebounding balance makes Boston an extremely difficult team to out-work on the glass.

The scoring punch we’ve come to expect lately from Horford just wasn’t there against Dallas. Instead, he seemed more consumed with getting others (mainly Irving) involved offensively. He missed four of his five shots from the field and scored just three points. But he almost had a double-double in rebounds (eight) and assists (seven) along with blocking a couple of shots. And as always, his plus/minus was among the best on the team with the Celtics being +7 when he was on the floor.

While Irving was delivering one big shot after another down the stretch, one of his running partners in late-game situations this season has been Jayson Tatum. He ranks among the league’s best shooters in the fourth quarter and Monday’s victory only solidified his status. Against the Mavericks, Tatum had six points and was a perfect 3-for-3 from the field. According to NBA.com/stats, Tatum is shooting 64.1 percent in the fourth quarter, which ranks eighth in the NBA among players who take at least two field goal attempts per game in the fourth. Right ahead of him is teammate Marcus Morris (65 percent).