Celtics

Home cooking once again good for the Celtics

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Home cooking once again good for the Celtics

By Rich Levine
CSNNE.com

BOSTON Last year, the Celtics werent much for home cooking.

They finished the regular season with a 24-17 record at the Garden, which wasnt awful, but mediocre enough to rank them last among the leagues 16 playoff teams. And considering the C's had gone a combined 70-12 at home the previous two seasons, it certainly wasnt up to the lofty standards established by the Big Three.

For most of the Big Three's first two years, the Garden was a place that other teams feared, an arena where opponents took the court hoping to maybe steal a win but knowing that most of the time that hope would result in embarrassment. But last season, as teams like Washington, Memphis, Detroit and New Jersey had their way on the parquet, the mystique surrounding the Celtics home-court advantage slowly started to fade. Teams came to Boston not only hoping, but expecting to win. And often times they did.

The fans booed. The players grumbled. Rasheed Wallace shot a ton of threes.

You remember. It was a mess. And while the team cleaned that up some once the playoffs began and re-established the Gardens Jungle mentality, they knew that coming into this season, there was still work to be done.

Yeah, we talked about it, said Doc Rivers after Wednesday nights win over New Jersey. We knew we had a ton of injuries and we were playing guys strange minutes last year, but one of the things we still expected through all that was to win the home games. And we didnt do that. So obviously this year has been much better."

Much better is an understatement. With Wednesdays win, the Celtics improved to 25-5 at the Garden, already surpassing last years total. The 25 homes wins tie them with San Antonio for the most in the NBA, and leaves the Cs at the All-Star break, well on their way to reaffirming themselves as the leagues pre-eminent home team.

Since Ive been here, home court has always been the emphasis, said Kevin Garnett, who registered his double-double (14 points, 10 boards) of the season. Its always primary. The form which we did in 08 is the form we follow to this day, and home court is a big part of that.

Of course, the fact the Celtics surpassed the mark by barely (the final score is David Blaine-level deceiving) outlasting a struggling Nets team doesnt lend itself to the notion that the Celtics are once again a dominant home team. When a squad like the New Jersey comes to the Garden, you expect the Celtics to make quick, easy work.

But thats not always how it happens. You cant dominate every game in this league, regardless of the opponent. There will always be nights when things start slow, or a lesser team catches you off guard, but the great teams overcome that. And on Wednesday, thats what the Celtics did.

"Listen, not every game's going to be beautiful," Rivers said. "It's the NBA. We just want to win the game."

And that's what they did. But like many games theyve experienced this season, Wednesday nights was one that last years team would have lost. As the Nets fought hard, hung around and led by as many as nine points in the second half, last years Celtics would have folded. They would have let the Nets escape and just thrown the night on the garbage pile with all the rest of the pathetic home losses. But thats not how this years teams built.

"A lot of people came here and beat us last year," said Glen Davis, who played 20 minutes off the bench, "and we didn't like that. We did a better job in the post season but we still lost games. We want to protect home court."

And unlike last year, Davis and the rest of the Celtics know that while not every night can be a cakewalk, what matters especially at home is that the team is ready and willing to get it done in the clutch. And not let anyone run away with a win in Boston's gym.

We took the same approach last year but this is a different team," Davis said. "Were all just different, because of what we went through. We finish games. Thats what its all about. Finishing. But at the same time we know we still need to get better for the second half of the season."

And they do. But unlike last year, they have the luxury of counting on some serious home cooking.

Rich Levine can be reached at rlevine@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Rich on Twitter at http:twitter.comrlevine33

Plenty of on-the-job training for Celtics' rookies

Plenty of on-the-job training for Celtics' rookies

BOSTON – With all the changes the Celtics went through over the summer, seeing more rookies on the floor this season was a given.
 
But six?
 
Yes, only three games into the season and the Celtics have played more rookies than any team under fifth-year coach Brad Stevens.

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And in the 102-92 victory at Philadelphia on Friday night, the Celtics (1-2) played almost as many first-year players (five) as veterans (six).
 
The youth movement here in Boston has been sped up a bit by the season-ending injury to Gordon Hayward, compounded by a left ankle sprain to Marcus Smart that Smart said won’t keep him out any more than Friday night in Philly.

Even if Smart is back in the Celtics lineup Tuesday night against New York, that doesn’t change the fact that Boston will continue to need rookies to step up and contribute going forward as they did on Friday.
 
And while there’s an old adage about experience being the greatest teacher, Boston’s youngsters are going to have to fast-forward past some of those on-the-floor growing pains for the Celtics to stay among the top teams in the East.
 
“Everybody talks about young players having to learn by going through experience,” said Stevens. “Why don’t we just watch film and learn? Learn from things we can control and in the interim, let’s beat the age thing. Let’s not talk about the age thing. Let’s talk about how we can be better at what we can control and how we can learn and grow every day and expedite the learning curve.
 
Stevens added, “because they are going to get opportunities all the way down the line, let’s not focus on trying to learn from experience; let’s focus on learning from every day and see if we can get a little bit better every day.”
 
The one rookie who has had no problem adjusting to the NBA game early on has been Jayson Tatum.
 
Selected with the third overall pick last June, Tatum has been among the NBA's most productive rookies in this first week of the season.
 
Tatum’s 35.3 minutes played per game is tops among all rookies. His 12.3 points and 9.0 rebounds rank seventh and fourth among his first-year brethren.
 
Stevens loves what he has seen thus far from Tatum, but believes he’s capable of making an even greater impact sooner rather than later.
 
“I like him to shoot it on the catch more,” Stevens said. “Because he has tremendous touch. When he shoots it in rhythm with confidence, the ball finds the net. He’s one of those guys; he’s a natural scorer. But his ability to read the game … he’s very intelligent. It’s been more evident on the defensive end. He’s gonna pick his spots offensively now. But we want him to be aggressive and first and foremost, be a threat to shoot it every time he catches it.
 
Stevens added, “I guess it should feel pretty good when you’re 19 years old and your coach is begging you to shoot it.”
 
How quickly Tatum and the rest of Boston’s youngsters grow into the roles they will be asked to play this season can do nothing but help the Celtics adapt to what has already been a season with major changes needing to be made.
 
“You saw [against Philadelphia], we had Shane [Larkin], we had Guerschon [Yabusele], we had guys coming in that played the game at a high level and we need them to contribute,” said Boston’s Kyrie Irving. “For me to see that and witness that, it makes me nothing but proud and happy to have teammates that are ready to play. It’s not always going to look perfect because we’re still gaining knowledge about one another. But as long as we’re out there competing, having each other’s backs, that’s all that matters.”