Crowder fouling out 'a big blow' to Celtics' ability to defend down stretch

Crowder fouling out 'a big blow' to Celtics' ability to defend down stretch

When the fourth quarter rolled around, the Oklahoma City defense made some defensive switches; OK, they made a ton of defensive switches, like damn near every possession. 

And in doing so, they switched up the game which proved to be just what they needed as they handed the Boston Celtics a 99-96 loss. 


It was a game that the Celtics (13-11) for the most part played with a lead, only to see Oklahoma City throw a ton of smaller lineups at them in the fourth that gave Boston major problems. 

Oklahoma City 6-foot-3 guard Semaj Christon played the entire fourth quarter, joined by 6-4 Russell Westbrook for the final 8:45 with versatile 7-foot center Stevens Adams playing just six seconds less than Westbrook. Joffrey Lauvergne, a 6-11 big who plays inside and out off the Thunder bench, saw more than eight minutes of action in the fourth. 

And the fifth lineup spot was split between seven other players who logged between 1:39 (Jerami Grant) and 4:54 (Anthony Morrow) of playing time. 

That versatility, particularly on the defensive end, was a huge factor in the Thunder's ability to keep the Celtics from getting into any kind of flow in the pivotal fourth quarter.

One of the keys to Boston’s ability to deal with smaller lineups in the past has been Jae Crowder, but the 6-foot-6 forward was on the bench for a large chunk of the fourth quarter after fouling out after having scored 18 points on 7-for-9 shooting. 

“That was a big blow,” Boston’s Al Horford told reporters following the loss. “That sixth foul hurt us. We needed to find another way and we couldn’t get it done.”

Head coach Brad Stevens is well aware of the importance of Crowder to this team regardless of the lineup his club faces, but he wasn’t in the mood to hear about what the C’s lacked down the stretch. 

The bottom line is once again, they didn’t get it done when it mattered. 

“It is what it is,” Stevens told reporters when asked about not having Crowder down the stretch. “You got 15 guys on your team.”

He’s right, although you wouldn’t have known that by his use – or lack of use depending on you how look at it – of his bench. 

Boston only played nine players the entire game.

The Thunder?

They played 11 players all night, which included all 10 playing in the fourth. The only player who saw action that didn’t play in the fourth was Victor Oladipo who suffered a sprained wrist injury in the first quarter and was unable to return afterwards. 

While there were a number of reasons contributing to Boston’s struggles against Oklahoma City’s smaller defenders, the biggest problem identified by the Celtics as to why their offense stalled down the stretch was lack of ball movement. 

“That’s pretty much all I can say really,” said Boston’s Marcus Smart.

Boston had 28 assists for the game, with six coming in the fourth quarter. 

But the bigger problem for Boston’s offense was because the ball movement had slowed down considerably, it allowed the Thunder to force more turnovers. 

“We just stopped moving the ball,” said Boston’s Avery Bradley. “We took some bad shots and we weren’t able to score the ball.”

Boston committed just 14 turnovers for the game, but five game in the fourth. Meanwhile, the Thunder had five assists in the fourth with just one turnover, while shooting 60 percent from the field and 50 percent (2-for-4) on 3’s.

The late-game struggles, the problems with handling smaller lineups effectively, it’s all foreign to a Celtics team that’s trying to figure out how to better close out games; particularly those on nights when they played well enough to give themselves a shot at success.

“We gotta get back to it,” Crowder told reporters after the game. “I feel like we have too many possessions late where all the guys aren’t on the same page. That’s very rare for us. It’s kind of like a trending thing for us late in games when we need all five guys on the court to be on the same page. After we keep watching film and getting better, we’ll have better communication on the court. But that’s been the main thing that we didn’t have in the past, that we’re having now.” 

Horford helps Celtics get back on track

Horford helps Celtics get back on track

Aggressive Al Horford was on the floor Friday night for the Boston Celtics, a good sign for a Celtics team that has been battered by injuries. 

As the oldest member of the team, the 31-year-old’s leadership has to become more example-driven as well as existing in the spoken word.

CELTICS TALK PODCAST  - Smart's importance to C's, dissecting the East

Horford was on point for most of Friday’s 92-83 win over Orlando, a game that was far more lopsided in Boston’s favor than the final score might indicate.

The 6-foot-10 forward/center had a near double-double with 15 points and nine rebounds. 

What was more telling was that Horford took a team-high 18 shots from the field, as clear a sign as you will find that Horford’s mindset on Friday was to attack Orlando’s defense early and often. 

And while it’s true that the Magic are one of the worst teams in the NBA, that doesn’t diminish the way Horford executed the plays called by head coach Brad Stevens as Horford played the role of primary scorer more often than usual, instead of being a major facilitator.

Having missed Boston’s previous two games, Horford was admittedly concerned if the lay-off might affect his conditioning. 

“Wind-wise I felt good,” Horford told reporters after Friday night’s win. “A little rusty on offense. But defensively I felt great. I felt our team came out with energy; just a good win.” 

A win that became a lot easier to get with Aggressive Al on the floor. 

 Here are the Stars, Studs and Duds in Boston’s 92-83 win over Orlando.



Terry Rozier: He continues to provide the Celtics with really solid guard play, with all-star guard Kyrie Irving (left knee soreness) missing. Rozier had a game high-tying 17 points along with seven rebounds and five assists. 

Greg Monroe: The third quarter was when Monroe really began to take over the game. He finished with 17 points, 10 of which came in the third. 

Shelvin Mack: Not a lot to cheer about for Mack and the Magic who once again struggled in so many phases of the game. But Mack still managed to score 16 points. 



Al Horford: Having missed the two previous games, Horford was back in full force on Friday. He had 15 points on 6-for-18 shooting to go with nine rebounds

Boston rebounding: The Celtics control of the glass began from the outset and never really eased up. For the game, Boston grabbed 55 rebounds compared to just 40 by Orlando. 



Fourth-quarter Celtics: The only real blemish on an otherwise impressive performance by Boston, was the team’s overall play in the fourth quarter. Boston was outscored 31-17 and turned the ball over 10 times in the quarter. 


Celtics snap skid with dominant win over Magic, 92-83

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Celtics snap skid with dominant win over Magic, 92-83

The Orlando Magic are one of the few teams already eliminated from playoff contention. 

And on Friday, it didn’t take long to see why.

CELTICS TALK PODCAST - Smart's importance, dissecting the Eastern Conference

The Boston Celtics didn’t waste any time taking control of the game and never letting up as they cruised to a 92-83 win.

Terry Rozier and Greg Monroe led the Celtics with 17 points each and Shelvin Mack had 16 points and seven rebounds for Orlando.  

With the win, the Celtics (47-22) snapped a two-game losing skid and improved their record since returning from the All-Star break to 7-3. 

Getting back on a winning track was just part of Boston’s motivation heading into Friday night’s game. 

With several key players out with injuries, the Celtics’ depth was once again on display from the opening tip to the final horn. 

In the first half, reserve guard Shane Larkin led the team in scoring with 10 points. 

And in the third quarter, backup center Greg Monroe was too much for the Magic to handle around the basket.

In the third, Monroe scored 10 of his 17 points off Boston’s bench. 

This was a game that the Celtics showed few signs of the kind of let-up we have seen them display against bad teams from time to time. 

But Orlando opened the fourth quarter with a 9-2 run that cut Boston’s lead down to 77-61 with 9:18 to play. 

Celtics head coach Brad Stevens had seen enough and called a time-out. 

Orlando was able to chip away a little more at Boston’s lead which peaked at 24 points but was down to single digits in the fourth which provided a glimmer of hope that maybe just maybe, the Magic could get back in the game.

But when it mattered, Boston made the plays in the game’s closing moments to secure the victory. 

For the Celtics, the goal on Friday night was two-fold: find a way to win and come away healthy. 

Boston found success on both fronts, a refreshing change the Celtics hope to do more of going forward. 

Marcus Smart underwent surgery on his right thumb earlier in the day, which is expected to keep him sidelined for 6-8 weeks which would put his return to the floor at the earliest, sometime near the end of the first round of the playoffs or early into the second. 

Daniel Theis underwent season-ending surgery recently for a meniscus tear in his left knee.

And Boston played without Kyrie Irving (left knee soreness), but he might back in the lineup for Sunday’s game against New Orleans.

Al Horford returned to the lineup after missing the previous two games due to an illness, and he didn’t disappoint in finishing with a near double-double of 15 point and nine rebounds.