Lopez outperforming Horford, and in more ways than just scoring

Lopez outperforming Horford, and in more ways than just scoring

CHICAGO – Going into Boston’s first-round series with Chicago, the matchup between Al Horford and Robin Lopez was seen as one Horford should win in order for the Celtics to take this series.
Well, we’re two games into it with the Bulls taking both Games 1 and 2 in Boston.
And while the factors contributing to that have been many, among them has been Lopez getting the best of Horford in both games.
The lazy comparison would to be focus solely on their scoring and rebounding numbers which tell a story.
In two games, Lopez is averaging 16 points and 9.5 rebounds while shooting 67 percent (14-for-21) from the field.
Horford’s numbers - 13 points 9.5 rebounds, 6.5 assists on 52.4 percent (11-for-21) from the field – aren’t bad.

But the narrative for this matchup goes a little deeper statistically. 
“We need to play our best basketball,” Danny Ainge, Celtics president of basketball operations, said on Thursday on his weekly call-in to 98.5 the Sports Hub’s Toucher & Rich show. “We need to play like the basketball we were playing in the middle of March. And I still think we have that in us.”
If they do, chances are it’ll manifest itself in the play of Horford, who is one of the NBA’s better-passing big men, who can also score around the basket as well as from 3-point range.
All those skills need to on display in Game 3 on Friday if the Celtics are to have any shot at getting back in this series with a Game 3 win.
Because up until now, the best big man in this series has been the 7-foot Lopez.
He came into this series with a well-earned reputation as a solid defender and rebounder. But what hasn’t been talked about much when it comes to Lopez is his offensive game.
Playing with All-Stars Jimmy Butler, Dwyane Wade and Rajon Rondo doesn’t exactly lend itself to their being bountiful opportunities for Lopez to get buckets.
But what the Bulls have done a brilliant job of most of this series is putting Lopez in position to play off of Chicago’s Big Three while taking relatively wide open to lightly contested mid-range jumpers, which he is more than capable of knocking down.
Lopez doesn’t necessarily fit the “stretch center” profile because he doesn’t shoot 3-pointers. But as the Celtics can attest to, he can do more than just score around the rim.
This past season, he shot 43.8 percent on mid-range jumpers – an identical percentage to Horford’s regular-season average from the same shooting zone.
But in the playoffs, Horford has shot 20 percent while missing four of his five mid-range jumpers in this series, while Lopez has been nearly flawless with the mid-range jumper, connecting on seven of his eight attempts, or 87.5 percent.
Here’s a closer look at Horford-Lopez matchup heading into Game 3 on Friday:

Points 16.0
9.5  Rebounds 9.5
.524  FG%  67.0

Def. Rating  112.4 

Off. Rating 117.7
13.8   Reb. %  15.8


Jayson Tatum comes up big vs Paul George, Thunder

Jayson Tatum comes up big vs Paul George, Thunder

BOSTON – Jayson Tatum had another strong performance for the Boston Celtics, doing so against the Oklahoma City Thunder and Paul George, a player Tatum has acknowledged on more than one occasion he has looked up to. 

That admiration didn’t get in the way of Tatum delivering a big-time performance in helping Boston rally from six points down with 12.7 seconds to play, to knock off the Thunder 100-99.

Tatum tallied a double-double of 23 points and 11 rebounds. And doing so at 20 years and 17 days old, Tatum became the youngest player in franchise history to tally at least 20 points and 10 rebounds in the same game.

“It feels good,” Tatum said when asked about his first 20-plus point, 10-plus rebound game in the NBA. “But honestly, I’m just glad we won. That was a big win against a great team and it was fun playing out there today.”

Impacting the game on multiple levels offensively along with being a defensive and rebounding force are qualities often associated with George who became familiar with Tatum prior to last June’s NBA draft which is when the Celtics selected him with the third overall pick. 

“I reached out to him before he was coming into this draft and I got to talk to him,” said George, who had 24 points and a game-high 13 rebounds against the Celtics. “It’s an honor when you see young talent. I‘ve been inspired by many in this league so it’s great to inspire the younger generation in this league.”

And while Tatum may be young, he continues to prove himself up for whatever challenges await him. 

“We are going to keep throwing to the wolves and keep going to him in those moments,” said Celtics head coach Brad Stevens.

Boston closed out the game with an 8-1 spurt in the final 24.7 seconds, with Tatum either scoring or assisting on five of those points which includes assistant on Marcus Morris’ game-winner.

Tatum’s composure down the stretch comes from being influenced by many, including George who considers it “an honor” that Tatum holds him in high regard. 

“At the end of the day, us veteran guys want the younger guys to take the game further and advance much farther than what I was,” George said. “There’s going to be kids looking up to Jayson (Tatum) that are probably already looking up to Jayson (Tatum).”


NBC Sports Boston Breakfast Pod: Kyrie Irving getting second opinion on injured knee

NBC Sports Boston Photo

NBC Sports Boston Breakfast Pod: Kyrie Irving getting second opinion on injured knee

1:15 - A. Sherrod Blakely joins Gary Tanguay and Trenni Kusnierek to discuss Kyrie Irving getting a second opinion on his injured knee and what the Kyrie’s options are for the remainder of the season.

5:53 - Kyle Draper and Brian Scalabrine break down the Celtics stunning last second comeback win over the Thunder with multiple key players sitting out.

10:27 - Tom Curran and Jerod Mayo stop by Early Edition to play a game of Fill in the Blank that involves Gronkowski’s contract and the Patriots best offseason acquisition.