Celtics

Milicic may have finally found right fit with Celtics

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Milicic may have finally found right fit with Celtics

No matter where he has played, Darko Milicic can't shake the expectations.

Being drafted with the No. 2 overall pick by Detroit in the star-studded 2003 NBA draft, big things were supposed to be forthcoming from the then-18-year-old Milicic.

It didn't happen.

Never came close to happening, truth be told.

No one will argue over the fact that he has failed to live up to what is expected from a player selected from such a lofty perch, especially when you consider some of the superstar players (Carmelo Anthony, Chris Bosh, Dwyane Wade, even Kirk Hinrich has had a better career than Milicic) chosen after him.

But for most of Milicic's career, it was hard to call him a bust because high draft pick busts play bad. Milicic didn't play much at all, which is an even bigger indictment of his struggles.

Despite his end-of-the-bench status during his early NBA years, the 7-foot center continues to search for basketball bliss in the NBA.

He may have finally found a worthwhile basketball marriage in Boston, which would be a change from his previous basketball unions that had the longevity of a Zsa Zsa Gabor nuptial.

With Milicic and the C's agreeing to a one-year deal for the veteran's minimum that's worth about 1.3 million, he walks into a relatively pressure-free role with a title contender - two things he never had at the same time with any of the five teams he played for previously.

As a rookie in 2004, Milicic was a member of a Detroit Pistons squad that needed just five games to eliminate the Los Angeles Lakers in the NBA Finals. However it was a nondescript, easily forgotten chapter in Milicic's basketball odyssey because he seldom played.

And when he did get on the court, he was often referred to as the "Human victory cigar," a reference to his playing time only coming about when the Pistons had a game all but won and were simply trying to run out the clock.

So it came as no surprise that Milicic has tried to distance himself from those days, even going so far as to auction off his championship ring last year.

When it came to winning, Milicic's two-plus seasons in Detroit were the best in his career. But with weaker teams came more opportunities to play which is what most young players need.

In Detroit, Milicic averaged 1.6 points, 1.2 rebounds in 5.8 minutes per game with two starts. His numbers following his Detroit years (7.2 points, 5.0 rebounds in 21.8 minutes per game with 206 starts) were better, but well short of a high lottery pick with his level of experience.

The more you watched him play, the clearer it became that Milicic was a defensive-minded, shot-blocking role player.

In his nine NBA seasons, he has averaged 1.3 blocks per game. During the 2010-2011 season, he swatted a career-high 2.03 per game which ranked fifth in the NBA.

His shot-blocking prowess was among the reasons Boston was the first team to contact his agent when the Minnesota Timberwolves waived him under the league's amnesty clause in July.

But in Boston, Milicic has yet another opportunity to play with a team that's on track for a long, deep playoff run. And for a change, he has a shot - a legit shot - at being part of that success.

"That was certainly one of the factors that led him to choose Boston," his agent Marc Cornstein told CSNNE.com in a phone interview. "He sees an opportunity in Boston where he might be able to contribute."

Winning a role on the floor won't be easy.

Winning over the likes of Kevin Garnett, might be even more daunting.

If this were five or six years ago, Milicic would have no shot. He would have been too young, too immature to handle the intensity that Garnett brings to the floor whether it's practice or a game.

But the experiences he has gone through since being traded away from Detroit, the ups and downs he experienced in later stops in Orlando, Memphis, New York and Minnesota have made him eager to resume his career in a winning environment.

"That's one of the things that attracted both of us to the Celtics situation," Cornstein said. "He has proven himself to be a solid NBA player in recent years. And this opportunity in Boston, is a chance for him to build on that. He's looking forward to it."

Celtics continue comeback narrative with win vs. Hawks

Celtics continue comeback narrative with win vs. Hawks

The Boston Celtics trail by double digits. The Celtics rally to make it relatively close by halftime. Boston continues to gain ground in the third, pull it out in the fourth.

Rinse. Recycle. Repeat.

That has been the Celtics’ mantra this season, with the latest chapter in their comeback narrative being a 110-99 win at Atlanta.

“We need to put an emphasis on playing with space and getting the ball to the other side of the floor,” said Celtics coach Brad Stevens. “It just stuck too much early on. We were staring at some post-ups that if we got it to the other side, maybe you could take advantage of.”

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Boston (15-2) fell behind by as many as 16 points against the Hawks (3-13), the second straight game the Celtics have rallied from a double-digit deficit.

In Boston’s 92-88 win over Golden State on Thursday, the Celtics fell behind by as many as 17 before rallying for their most impressive win of the season.

That said, it still shouldn’t take away from what happened on Saturday against an Atlanta team that despite their record, has shown signs of playing better in their recent games.

Players are aware of the penchant they’ve shown thus far for falling behind only to mount a furious comeback for the win.

“We don’t try to (go down early),” said Kyrie Irving following Saturday’s win which extended their winning streak to 15 straight which is the fifth-longest streak in franchise history. “Some teams, they go on runs and whether that be us giving up some easy ones or giving up some turnovers or doing things we can correct. When we do correct them, it turns into a different game.”

And that is what makes this stretch of play so impressive.

The Celtics have not played a full game; instead they have had stretches of good play that have often masked their mistakes early in the game.

That’s why head coach Brad Stevens, obviously pleased with the team’s success, knows as well as anyone that his team has to become more consistent in their play if they are to get the most out of these wins and continue to build off of them and achieve their ultimate goal – getting back to the NBA Finals.

“We’re going to keep playing,” Stevens said. “But the biggest thing is, we can’t keep digging these holes.”

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Stars, studs and duds: No lack of confidence for Brown

Stars, studs and duds: No lack of confidence for Brown

When it comes to the top backcourts in the NBA, you seldom hear about Kyrie Irving and Jaylen Brown.

That may soon be changing if they have more games like the one they delivered on Saturday as Boston put together a solid second half to pull away from the Atlanta Hawks, 110-99.

Irving had a game-high 30 points which was his second game with at least 30 points scored – both against Atlanta.

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And Brown, who had a strong 22-point performance in Boston’s win over Golden State on Thursday, was even better against the Hawks in tallying a career-high 27 points.

We all know about Irving who has established himself as one of the NBA’s top guards.

But is Brown on the way?

One thing Brown won’t have to develop going forward is, confidence.

He has long maintained that he believes he’ll be among the best in the league. It’s just a matter of him performing at a high level at both ends of the floor, consistently.

“I’ve always had that confidence, I can play with the best in the world,” Brown told NBC Sports Boston’s Abby Chin following the win over Atlanta which extended Boston’s winning streak to 15 in a row. “It’s just a matter of coming out, doing it. My teammates found me tonight. We had a good team win tonight.”

Here are the Stars, Studs and Duds from Boston’s 110-99 win at Atlanta which extended the Celtics’ winning streak to 15 in a row which is the fifth-longest winning streak in franchise history.

 

STARS

Jaylen Brown

Back in his home state of Georgia, Jaylen Brown delivered another monster game for the Celtics by scoring a career-high 27 points on 10-for-13 shooting with four 3-pointers.

Kyrie Irving

Irving had his most efficient game this season for the Celtics, tallying 30 points on 10-for-12 shooting to go with four rebounds and five assists.

Dennis Schroder

Atlanta’s best scorer delivering a strong 23-point, 9-assist performance for the Hawks.

 

STUDS

Jayson Tatum

He only had 14 points, but they all came in the third quarter and they included a few crowd-quieting dunks.

John Collins

He came into the league with the reputation of being a high motor player, and he has not disappointed. His hustle and energy led to him tallying 18 points and seven rebounds.

Marcus Morris

When the offense struggled mightily in the first half, it was Morris’ scoring that kept them within striking distance. He finished with 14 points, 10 of which came in the second quarter.

Kent Bazemore

He was Atlanta’s number two scoring option most of the night, and finished with 19 points.

 

DUDS

Boston’s first quarter defense

The Celtics can’t keep digging themselves these early holes, expecting they will turn it on and find a way to climb out of them. The Hawks led 35-20, fueled in large part by shooting 64.7 percent (11-for-17) in addition to out-rebounding Boston 8-6.

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE