Celtics-Warriors preview: Defense can’t rest in fourth quarter

Celtics-Warriors preview: Defense can’t rest in fourth quarter

Isaiah Thomas has etched a place for himself in the Celtics record books scoring the ball.
As a team, the Celtics are scoring more than any team in the Eastern Conference.
But for all the highlight-worthy shots they are knocking down on a nightly basis, there season will be over sooner rather than later if they don’t shore up their fourth-quarter defense.
Thursday night’s 116-109 loss at Portland was yet another game in which Boston failed to make the necessary defensive plays in the closing minutes to get the win.
A 3-pointer by Jae Crowder with 68 seconds to play gave Boston a 109-108 lead.
But in the final 1:08, the Blazers got a step-back 13-footer from C.J. McCollum, a transition dunk by Al-Farouq Aminu and four free throws by Damian Lillard and the Celtics could not get stops defensively or force enough turnovers when the game was on the line.
This loss was yet another reminder that while the Celtics have their share of issues to work through, scoring enough points to win isn’t one of them.
“We were able to score, but only in stretches,” Avery Bradley told reporters after the loss. “We have to continue to get stops. We have to be able to get stops at the other end of the floor. That has to be our focus. We have to get stops on a consistent basis.”
Of course that’s much easier said than done, especially when you’re talking about playing the defending NBA champion Golden State Warriors.
Reigning league MVP Stephen Curry has already made an NBA-record 361 3-pointers and his backcourt mate Klay Thompson has established himself as an All-Star as well.
“It’s going to be a war [tonight],” said Thomas. “Five guys collectively have to contain them two.”
Throw in Draymond Green being Golden State’s glue guy. coupled with contributions from Harrison Barnes, Andrew Bogut and NBA Finals MVP Andre Iguodala, and you have the makings of the basketball equivalent of pick-your-poison.
In the Blazers loss, the Celtics made a conscious effort to limit as much as possible the scoring of McCollum (who had 17 points) and All-Star guard Damian Lillard (14 points).
They did a decent job on both players, but that paved the way for Aminu to have a career-high 28 points, which included 6-for-11 on 3s.
“As a team we worked hard to stop those guys,” Bradley said. “It’s unfortunate we let other guys make big plays the whole game.”
In the Warriors, the Celtics face a similar challenge with one twist: Golden State has far more offensive weapons than Portland, which should make this game even more daunting for Boston.
“It’s fun to me,” Bradley said. “That’s what I play basketball for; every night to go up against the best players. Definitely get a chance to do that [tonight].”

NBCSB Breakfast pod: How Jayson Tatum compares to Paul Pierce

NBC Sports Illustration

NBCSB Breakfast pod: How Jayson Tatum compares to Paul Pierce

1:25 - With half of the Celtics roster on the shelf, we’ve been able to see just how great a scorer Jayson Tatum can be. A. Sherrod Blakely, Mike Girardi and Trenni Kusnierek discuss how Tatum compares to Celtics legend, Paul Pierce.

5:35 - The NFL Competition Committee is giving it their best shot at modifying the ‘catch rule’ and Tom Curran, Kyle Draper and Hardy try to wrap their heads around the proposed changes.

11:02 - The Bruins clinched a playoff berth despite losing to the St. Louis Blues in overtime. Joe Haggerty joins Tom Giles to break down the game, which included another goal by Ryan Donato and a questionable call on a high hit on David Krejci.

Report: Kyrie Irving to undergo knee exam Thursday


Report: Kyrie Irving to undergo knee exam Thursday

The second opinion on Kyrie Irving’s sore left knee will be done on Thursday, according to the Boston Herald's Steve Bulpett.

Irving, who has missed the last four games, is expected to decide between having a surgical procedure performed to help alleviate some of the soreness, or continue to manage it with rest.


During the 2015 NBA Finals, Irving suffered a fractured left kneecap injury which was the beginning of Irving’s left knee issues.

While Irving has had soreness of some form during various stretches of play this season, Celtics coach Brad Stevens has seen him making progress recently.

“That knee is still sore,” Stevens said. “He’s worked really hard to manage it throughout the entire season. He’s had some pretty good days recently. I’m encouraged by the big picture.”

But Stevens has made it clear that he supports Irving getting a second opinion, adding that Irving’s absence is due to the knee being too sore for him to play at a level he’s accustomed to.

“He’s out because of knee soreness, not because we’re choosing to rest him,” Stevens said. “That’s the bottom line. Again, we want him to feel 110 percent. He wants to feel 110 percent. Obviously, we’re fortunate we created a cushion early on in the year with playoffs and everything else. This is not one of those situations where we’re choosing to rest someone; it’s because he has a sore knee.”