Celtics

Green, Sullinger show great promise for Celtics

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Green, Sullinger show great promise for Celtics

ISTANBUL Even in the preseason, the Boston Celtics are not a team that's about moral victories.

But there were plenty of positives they could take away from their 97-91 loss to Turkish power Fenerbahce Ulker on Friday.

None stood out more than Jeff Green, who came off the bench to score 16 points with most coming in the fourth quarter as Boston tried to rally back.

Green's play was impressive when you consider it was the first game he has played in more than a year.

The 6-8 forward underwent season-ending heart surgery after a routine physical showed he had a heart abnormality.

Despite missing all of last season, the C's still gave him a four-year contract this summer worth about 36 million.

And while it may seem a bit high, Green's play on Friday gives Boston hope that such a lofty price tag will ultimately be viewed as a steal along the same lines as the five-year deal Rajon Rondo signed in 2009.

"I was tired," Green said. "But it felt good."

He was very comfortable; played with great speed," said C's coach Doc Rivers. "

While Green's play certainly was a show-stealer, Boston was also pleased with the solid support they got from Jared Sullinger who like Green, had 16 points off the bench.

"He was terrific," said Rivers, who added that he will look for more ways in the future to play Sullinger with the Celtics starters.

Despite playing a relatively strong game, Sullinger spoke about the need for him to get in better shape and continue to grow on the floor and embrace the role he will be called upon to play for Boston.

"I played well, but I can do a lot better," he said. "I'm a little out of shape; just being able to sustain long minutes."

He added, "I just play hard. I'm not always searching for the ball."

But following this loss, the Celtics will seek out ways to cut down on their turnovers.

They finished with 25 for the game.

Rivers said the C's try to keep turnovers to around 14 a night, a number the C's were flirting with by halftime.

But this is the preseason, a time for growth, experimentation and if you're lucky, a player to emerge as a major contributor.

It's still early, but the C's may have found a couple in Green and Sullinger.

Green's play wasn't all that surprising when you consider many of his baskets came on straight-line drives to the basket, something he's adept at doing because of his quickness.

And when you throw in the fact that he's looking more comfortable at both small forward and the power forward position, he gives Boston the kind of versatility that they have envisioned him delivering.

As for Sullinger, a lottery-pick talent who fell to the C's at No. 21 in last June's NBA draft, he continues to play with a chip on his shoulder that bodes well for his future with the Celtics.

But one good game, a preseason one at that, does not make a career.

Both players had their share of miscues that contributed in some fashion to the loss.

But the problems don't override the promise each showed in the C's first game this season.

Streak reveals depth even Celtics didn't know they had

Streak reveals depth even Celtics didn't know they had

Coaches in all sports will tell you that winning is not easy.
 
Making the Celtics’ 16-game winning streak even more impressive is that a number of the victories have involved Boston turning to some unlikely sources of production.

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And that has provided a glimpse into a franchise that’s getting the best of both worlds: quality play from its core group while developing reserves who have contributed to the team reeling off 16 straight wins in a variety of ways.
 
Because coach Brad Stevens has gone deeper into his bench this season than past years, it has created a roster with minutes more evenly distributed and with that, less wear and tear on the bodies of key players.
 
And while this team is led by Kyrie Irving and Al Horford, there has been at least one other Celtic to emerge as a top-three performer every night...and often it’s not the same player.
 
“Much more unpredictable now,” a league executive texted to NBC Sports Boston. “That number three guy, is it [Jaylen] Brown? [Jayson] Tatum? Sometimes it’s Marcus [Smart]. You don’t know who it’s going to be because a lot of times, I don’t think they [Celtics] know who it will be. It’s why they’re so good, man.”
 
Here are five under-the-radar storylines heading into tonight’s game in Miami with the Celtics trying to push their winning streak to 17:

KYRIE FOR MVP
It’s one thing for the home crowd to get into the ‘M-V-P’ chants when you’re at the free-throw line. But it’s a completely different matter when those same cheers are being heard on the road. That’s where Irving was following the 110-102 overtime win at Dallas, a game in which Irving dropped 47 points, 10 in overtime. It’ll be interesting to see if another strong game by Irving will lead to another serenading of ‘M-V-P’ chants for the most dominant player on the team with the league’s best record.


 
TURNING DOWN THE HEAT
The streak is the talk of the NBA right now, but streaking was going to be part of the conversation leading up to tonight’s game regardless. The Celtics come into tonight’s game having won eight in a row over the Heat, their longest current winning streak over any team. Boston has dominated this matchup for years, posting a 70-44 record all-time against Miami in the regular season.
 

DUKE CONNECTION
College basketball just kicked off and Duke is once again among the game’s top teams, a school that consistently produces NBA talent at a relatively high level. That’ll be very apparent tonight when you consider this Boston-Miami matchup features three players (Kyrie Irving and Jayson Tatum for Boston, Justise Winslow for Miami) from Duke who will all be in the starting lineup and a fourth (Boston’s Semi Ojeleye) who attended Duke but later transferred to SMU.


 
JUSTISE WINSLOW
Every front-office executive has that one player they tried – and failed – to acquire that, in hindsight, not getting him was a really good thing. Winslow is that guy for the Celtics. While he hasn’t been necessarily a bust, his impact at this level hasn’t been enough to have warranted all the assets Boston was willing to part with on draft night in order to move up and select him. Still, he’s healthy now and starting to play better which is evident by his numbers in most offensive categories on the rise, while his defense has been relatively solid.
 

THREE-POINTERS
The Heat have made the 3-point shot a much bigger part of their offense this season, evident by Miami ranking seventh in the league in 3-point makes (11.2) this season. In Boston, one of the keys to their top-ranked defense has been their length, which has come in real handy defending the 3-pointer. In fact, Boston has limited opponents to just 32.1 percent shooting on 3’s this season, which ranks third in the league.

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WATCH: Celtics vs. Heat

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WATCH: Celtics vs. Heat

Tune into NBC Sports Boston to watch the Celtics play the Heat in Miami. You can also click here to watch the Celtics livestream presented by Nissan on the NBC Sports App. Coverage begins at 7 p.m. with Celtics Pregame Live Presented by ACE Ticket.

- Game preview: Will Celtics be drained by emotional comeback win Monday in Dallas?

- Channel Finder: Make sure you know where to watch

[SHOP: Gear up, Celtics fans!]

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