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.

Marcus Smart upgraded to questionable for Game 5

Marcus Smart upgraded to questionable for Game 5

BOSTON –  Once considered a long shot to return by Game 7 of Boston’s first-round series with the Milwaukee Bucks, Marcus Smart may be on the floor as soon as Tuesday night's Game 5 matchup.

Celtics head coach Brad Stevens said there was no update on Smart following the team’s practice on Monday, but the team has since upgraded Smart's status to “questionable” for Game 5 – the first time he has been listed as anything other than “out” since he had his right thumb surgically repaired last month.

In the past couple of weeks, Smart has increased his workload and made it clear that he was inching closer to getting back on the floor possibly ahead of schedule. 

Prior to Boston’s Game 4 loss, Smart discussed his potential return. 

“I feel ready, I feel strong enough to get back out there,” Smart said at the time. “I’m just waiting for the OK.”

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It appears his most recent visit to the doctor went as planned with Smart now likely cleared to practice – and with that clearance, available to play. 

The return of Smart would be a huge plus for a Celtics team that has struggled mightily in this first-round series against Milwaukee from a defensive standpoint. 

During the regular season, Boston had a league-best defensive rating of 101.5. But against the Bucks, Boston’s defense has slipped to second-to-last among playoff teams which has heavily factored into the series now being tied at two games apiece. 

You can count Boston's Jaylen Brown among the Celtics eager to get Smart back into the fold. 

“When he gets in there he changes the whole game on defense,” Brown said. “He’s definitely missed so when he comes back that’ll make a lot of our jobs a whole lot easier.”

Stevens had similar sentiments about Smart. 

“Marcus is one of our most reliable players for the last four years,” Stevens said. “No question Marcus as been a huge part of us.”

Smart has appeared in 54 games for the Celtics this season, averaging 10.2 points, 4.8 assists and 3.5 rebounds while playing 29.9 minutes per game.

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

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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