Fans can bring energy, but Celtics know they have to do their part on court

Fans can bring energy, but Celtics know they have to do their part on court

WALTHAM -- Al Horford has a unique perspective on Game 7’s played at the TD Garden.
A rookie with the Atlanta Hawks in 2008, Horford was looking to be part what he and his then-eighth seeded Atlanta teammates were hoping would be one of the greatest upsets in postseason history against Boston’s Big Three of Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen.

Those dreams were soon dashed as Boston closed out the series with an emphatic 99-65 win.
The Celtics’ players obviously made things rough for Horford and his teammates.
But the TD Garden crowd had a major impact on the game as well, something Horford is hoping will once again happen Monday night when the Celtics host the Washington Wizards in a Game 7 matchup.
“The energy in the Garden was unbelievable,” Horford recalled. “I just felt like they (fans) just kept (pouring it) on. They stayed at it.”
Celtics coach Brad Stevens is a big fan of the TD Garden crowd.
But as pumped up as they may be, he knows that his players have to do a lot of the heavy lifting if the Celtics are to advance to the Eastern Conference finals.
“We have to play well,” Stevens said. “That’s where our focus has to be. There’s no doubt playing in Boston is the best. But it’s about playing well inside those lines. Ultimately that’s what you have to do.”
Boston’s fans won’t log a single minute of court time or block a single shot, but there’s no getting around their value to a team that’s looking for that little extra something to help them put away a pesky Wizards team that staved off elimination with a 92-91 buzzer-beating Game 6 win.
Horford is convinced that the home crowd, particularly one as loud as the TD Garden faithful can be in big games, that could be a difference-maker in a Game 7 environment.

“And opposing teams, players, they feel it for sure,” Horford said. “There’s no question about it. You can talk around it . . . when the fans are into it, they’re giving that energy, other teams feel it.”
He added: “It gives you more energy. It feels like it puts you over the top; just fuels the players. We’re at the point of the year we’ve played a lot of games. Everybody is playing through bumps and bruises. Anything helps. That’s why I keep stressing . . . I’m very happy that we’re here at home for Game 7.”

Doctor: Irving could return in 'three to four weeks'

Doctor: Irving could return in 'three to four weeks'

Kyrie Irving could be back on the court in time for the Celtics to begin the playoffs.

Or not.

Irving will have what the Celts are describing as a "minimally invasive procedure" on his injured left knee Saturday. NBC Sports Boston talked to Dr. Christopher Chihlas from Southcoast Health -- who has not examined Irving but is familiar with his type of injury -- about how long Irving may be sidelined.

"A minimally invasive procedure is basically an arthroscopy," said Dr. Chihlas. "His return to play is mostly dependent on what is done . . . If it's just a cleanout, as we're being told, then -- best-case scenario -- we could see him back playing in three to four weeks."

But, he added, "it could be double that . . . depending upon what exactly is found . . . 

"The key here is the patella fracture (which Irving suffered during the 2015 playoffs). My feeling is that he's suffering a bit of the consequence of the patella fracture, which is a fracture into the knee joint . . . [He] may need to have this done periodically to get him through the rest of his career."


Terry Rozier's rise should continue without Kyrie Irving

AP Photo

Terry Rozier's rise should continue without Kyrie Irving

When it comes to Western Conference powers, the casual NBA fan will immediately think of the defending champion Golden State Warriors, or the Houston Rockets who loom as their biggest threat. 

And then there’s the next-best team in the West, Portland, which has been sneaky good this season with very little fanfare. 

Boston will see first-hand just how talented the Blazers are when these two square off tonight.

Portland’s improved play of late (they’ve won 13 of their last 14 games) is fueled in large part by them taking more 3-pointers. 

Prior to Jan. 1, the Blazers averaged 24.6 three-point attempts which ranked 26th in the NBA. Since then, they have increased their 3-point attempt average to 30.5 which ranks 12th in the league.

Couple that with a defense that has been among the league’s best most of this season, and voila! – you’ve got a team that’s playing great basketball at just the right time. 

But the Celtics on many levels, while undermanned because of injuries, are still an elite team defensively.

And the one area where Boston has been strong all season, is defending the three-point shot.

Opponents are shooting a league-low 34.1 percent against Boston from 3-point range this season.

And while Boston’s defense isn’t the same when you’re talking about not having a Marcus Smart in the lineup, the Celtics are still a formidable foe at that end of the floor. 

In Boston’s last four games, all without Smart, Boston’s defensive rating is 98.8 which is good for the fourth-best in the NBA in that time period. 

“We’ve been a next man up kind of team all season,” Boston’s Semi Ojeleye told NBC Sports Boston. “That’s why it’s important to always stay ready. Because you know at some point on this team, you’re number’s going to be called and you’ll get your opportunity.”

Here are five under-the-radar story lines as the Boston Celtics seek to continue their strong play this season against Western Conference foes, at Portland. 



Terry Rozier has been a different kind of player ever since he got his first start a few weeks ago filling in for Kyrie Irving. The third-year guard has scored in double figures 20 straight games, a career first for him. In that span he has averaged 15.6 points, 5.0 rebounds and 4.3 assists while shooting 41.9 percent from the field and 42.7 percent from 3-point range.


If tonight’s game plays out as expected, points will be at a premium. Boston has the league’s top-ranked defense (101.2) even as its defensive rating has slipped to No. 5 in the league (103.1) since the all-star break. Meanwhile, the Blazers have the seventh-best defensive rating (104.3) this season, but are third (101.0) in the NBA since the all-star break.


You will be hard-pressed to find a player who wouldn’t mind a little rest with the playoffs less than a month away. But are a couple days without games too much rest? It certainly looks that way for the Celtics who are 4-6 this season with two or more days of rest before a game. The Portland Trail Blazers are at the opposite end of the success spectrum with a 10-3 record when they’ve had two days of rest before a game. 


Both Boston and Portland have been among the NBA’s better defensive rebounding teams all season. But they have each stepped up their defensive rebounding play this month. Portland, the fourth-best defensive rebounding team this season, have grabbed a league-best 83.2 percent in March while the Celtics, the sixth-best defensive rebounding team this season, are up to No. 3 (80.6 percent) this month.


Jayson Tatum is nearing the end of one of the best rookie seasons by a Boston Celtic ever, well on his way to statistically cementing himself as one of the franchise’s best first-year players ever. The 6-foot-8 forward is 35 points shy of tallying 1,000 points which would make him the ninth rookie ever to do so for Boston, with the last to do so being Ron Mercer during the 1997-1998 season.