Celtics

Halftime stars, studs and duds: Smart brings pesky defense, much-needed offense

Halftime stars, studs and duds: Smart brings pesky defense, much-needed offense

The Boston Celtics, courtesy of some red-hot shooting in the second quarter, were able to rally from an early deficit and lead Toronto 55-46 at the half.

Two of the league’s better teams offensively got off to a surprisingly slow start scoring the ball in the first quarter which ended with the Raptors ahead 23-18.

Both teams picked up their play offensively in the second quarter which was good for the Celtics who went on a 7-0 run that put them ahead 49-43 – their biggest lead of the game – with 2:31to play in the half.

After a Toronto time-out, the Celtics continued to surge ahead after a lay-up by Marcus Smart following a breakaway dunk by Jae Crowder which gave Boston its first double-digit lead, 53-43.

The Celtics shot 52.2 percent in the first half, fueled heavily by a second quarter in which they connected on 66.7 percent (16-for-24) of their shots.

Here are the Stars, Studs and Duds from the first half of tonight’s game.

 

STARS

Marcus Smart

He was playing his usual pesky defense for the Celtics, in addition to bringing some much-needed offensive punch. He led the Celtics with 14 points to go with three rebounds, two assists and two steals.

Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan

These two deserve their own line because 1) their impact is pretty much the same for the Raptors and 2) they each had the same point total in the first half. They each scored 10 points, but DeRozan had four rebounds while Lowry chipped in with an additional five assists.

 

STUDS

Gerald Green

Once again Green was delivering instant offense to the Celtics, scoring nine points off the bench in under 12 minutes of court time.

Isaiah Thomas

Toronto was intent on getting the ball out of Thomas’ hands as much as possible. He still made an impact in the first half, scoring nine points while dishing out three assists.

Jonas Valanciunas

Foul trouble (he had three in the first half) limited him from being even more impactful. Still, he managed to score six points to go with 10 rebounds.

 

DUDS

Patrick Patterson

He’s usually a Celtics killer, but has been a non-factor in the first half. He was scoreless, missing both of his field goal attempts  which were each 3-pointers.

Marcus Smart upgrade to questionable for Game 5

Marcus Smart upgrade 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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