Celtics

Five things you're probably not thinking about in C's preseason opener

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Five things you're probably not thinking about in C's preseason opener

BOSTON – The preseason opener for the Celtics against the Charlotte Hornets is just a few hours from now. Each team knows tonight’s outcome is no indicator as to how things will play out when these two teams meet in the regular season.
 
Of course, all eyes will be on Boston’s New Big Three of Kyrie Irving, Gordon Hayward and Al Horford, who will take the floor as teammates in a game for the first time. There will also be a decent amount of attention paid to how Charlotte big man Dwight Howard meshes with his new teammates.
 
But this game, like so many others on the horizon for the Celtics, has many layers to it.
 
So here’s a glimpse at five things you’re probably not thinking about for tonight’s game:
 
LIMITED MINUTES FOR CHARLOTTE STARS
For those who came to see Charlotte’s Dwight Howard or former UConn star Kemba Walker, two words for you: arrive early.
 
Hornets coach Steve Clifford said his entire roster will play tonight except for Michael Carter-Williams (knee), and that his starters will play 20 or so minutes.
 
MENTOR MEETS MENTEE
One of Jaylen Brown’s mentors in the NBA is Dwight Howard who like Brown, is from Georgia.
 
The two have also shared the same trainer dating back to Brown’s days in high school. The two have kept a close relationship since then.
 
“I love his progress,” Howard said, referring to Brown. “I love where his head is at. And he’s on a really good team. And he has had an opportunity to shine and I think he’s going to take advantage of it.”
 
ROOKIE BIGS TO WATCH

With Marcus Morris’ trial on assault charges still ongoing, Boston’s young big men will get a few more reps in the preseason than they would if the 6-foot-9 Morris were in training camp. Keep an eye on Guerschon Yabusele and Daniel Theis, a pair of rookies from France and Germany, respectively. Yabusele, a former first-round pick of the Celtics, has shown no signs of being limited following the removal of bone spurs this summer and having done little basketball-wise this summer. Theis, who has won multiple championships overseas in Germany, is a high-energy forward who is going to get time in the preseason as well.
 
SHANE LARKIN
When Shane Larkin signed with the Celtics, Boston’s backcourt was loaded with guards. Even with Avery Bradley (Detroit) and Isaiah Thomas (Cleveland) gone, there’s still no clear path towards playing time. But the 5-11 point guard will compete with minutes as a backup point guard with Terry Rozier and Marcus Smart (although Smart may play more off the ball this season with Larkin around). Look for him to see action tonight and while he’s out there, wish the young fella a happy birthday (he turns 25 today).
 
DOWN UNDER CONNECTIONS
Kyrie Irving is the first player born in Australia to play for the Boston Celtics, but he won’t be the only player with Australian ties on the floor tonight. Charlotte’s Mangok Mathiang is originally from Juba Sudan (now referred to as South Sudan), but his mother and sisters moved to Australia when he was seven years old (his father stayed behind in Sudan). After playing prep ball for two years in the United States, he would go on to play for the University of Louisville. The 6-10 big man went undrafted in last June’s NBA draft but wound up signing a two-way contract with the Hornets.

Celtics hope West Coast swings momentum back in their favor

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Celtics hope West Coast swings momentum back in their favor

LOS ANGELES – In the aftermath of Boston’s 103-95 loss to Orlando, the Boston Celtics did their best to maintain their “on to the next one” mentality.

It’s pretty easy to do when the wins pile up like New England snowbanks.

But that’s not where this team is right now … not even close.

They have lost three in a row for the first time this season, which in itself isn’t all that big a deal.

But it’s how the losses have come about.

The 116-13 overtime loss to New Orleans on Tuesday had a lot to do with a monster game by Anthony Davis. And Boston's 89-80 loss to Philadelphia had more to do with an anemic offense. On Sunday, it was one horrific third quarter of play (Boston was outscored 32-12 in the third) that dwarfed the other three.

The bottom line is simple: the Celtics are not playing good basketball and unlike earlier stretches when that was the case, the pathway to victory of late has been a dead end.

Now comes another challenge – taking their talents out West for four games beginning with the Los Angeles Lakers on Tuesday night.

Boston’s Jaylen Brown said his approach to this upcoming trip isn’t all that different than how he has approached previous games.

“Look at the film, see how we can play better, like we always do, win or lose, and try and come out and get a ‘W,’” Brown said.

Celtics head coach Brad Stevens echoed similar sentiments.

"One game at a time; one meeting at a time,” Stevens said. “Everything else, we’ll figure out how to play better.”

The Celtics (34-13) are in no position to approach any of these games, even against the struggling Lakers (17-29), as a matchup they can just show up and victory will fall in their lap.

“Once we get into games, we have to understand teams are coming for us, said Al Horford. “I’ve felt like we handled it okay throughout the season, but it’s even more evident now.”

Indeed, the Celtics have been among the teams in not just the East but the NBA, that most of the league’s teams have been trying to catch up to this season.

Even with three straight losses, Boston still has a two-game lead in East over Toronto (31-14) and have the third-best overall record in the NBA behind the Golden State Warriors (37-10) and Houston Rockets (32-12).

And while Boston will surely be challenged during its four-game trip out West, the Celtics have every reason to believe they will find success most nights.

For starters, Boston has a 12-3 record against the Western Conference this season  - tops among all teams in the East - which includes wins over the top five teams (Golden State; Houston; San Antonio; Minnesota and Oklahoma City) in the Western Conference.

And of the four teams on the docket – Los Angeles Lakers, Los Angeles Clippers, Golden State and Denver – Boston has a perfect 3-0 record with the only team they have yet to play being the Clippers.

I asked Kyrie Irving how does the three-game losing streak change the mindset of the Celtics heading out West.

“It definitely puts a huge emphasis on the next game,” he said. “What we have to do to put ourselves in great position to win at the end of the day. We’re going to be playing against some hungry teams out in the Western Conference. They’ve come in here and played pretty well against us except for the Clippers. So, this is great for a young developing team like we have. And it’s fun. You can learn so much more about each other. Not that we didn’t learn anything after these last three losses, but going on the road is a test.”

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE

Gordon Hayward already back on the court and draining threes

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Gordon Hayward already back on the court and draining threes

Gordon Hayward had just about the most horrific debut any player could imagine.

We won't get into the details again, but it left many wondering the Celtics would even recover emotionally to compete in the East.

Now it's clear they are more than prepared to make some noise in the playoffs.

The most important recovery is Hayward's and tonight fans scrolled through social media to see encouraging progress.

Still can’t beat me... 🤷🏻‍♀️

A post shared by Robyn Hayward (@robynmhayward) on

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE