Celtics-Pacers preview: C's won't have another cakewalk

Celtics-Pacers preview: C's won't have another cakewalk

BOSTON -- There was a collective sigh of relief in Celtics Nation following Friday night’s 115-87 thumping of the New York Knicks.
But the problems that have plagued the Boston Celtics won’t be cured with just one game, which is why you won’t find them going into tonight’s game against Indiana thinking it’ll be another cakewalk.
The Pacers (4-5), coming off a 109-105 overtime loss at Philadelphia on Friday night, will certainly look to avenge a bad loss to the then-winless Sixers (1-7).
While it’s easy make the (humungous) leap and believe that their defense is back on track now, players and coaches on this team know better.
Friday night’s game was a victory that still exposed many of the symptomatic conditions that have factored in Boston (4-4) being a .500 team thus far.
Boston got smashed again on the glass, being out rebounded 57-53 which would not have been that close if not for both teams clearing the bench in the fourth quarter which allowed Boston to close the rebounding gap some as the Celtics were +5 (19-14) on the glass in the fourth.
You can add head coach Brad Stevens to those who see plenty of room for improvement despite the win.
“We started off well,” Stevens said. “And we gave up 11, I think … did we give up 15 rebounds, offensive rebounds in the first half?”
Nope, but he wasn’t that far off as Boston gave up 14 offensive rebounds to the Knicks who have been one of the worst offensive-rebounding teams in the NBA this season. 

The Knicks came into Friday's game averaging 9.1 offensive boards per game which ranked 22nd in the NBA, and had a rebounding percentage of .482 which was 25th in the league.
No shocker, the Celtics came into the game as the worst rebounding team in the league with a rebounding percentage of .453 which is dead-last in the association.
“So we’re not where we need to be,” Stevens said. “We’ve got to be better. Regardless of resolve, we have to play better.”
But the way Friday’s win came about, was certainly a good start towards Boston getting back to playing the kind of basketball that made them one of the better defensive teams a year ago.
On Friday Boston had its best start in four games, a beginning that came about courtesy of a lineup change in which Marcus Smart and Kelly Olynyk replaced Jaylen Brown and Tyler Zeller with the first unit.
Smart brought about added toughness, experience and an edge Boston desperately needed to inject into that first unit with Al Horford (concussion) and Jae Crowder (ankle) still out with injuries. Smart finished with his first double-double of the season, tallying 12 points and 10 assists.
Olynyk’s ability to help space the floor and be in great position defensively to contest shots was also huge for the Celtics.
But maybe more than anything else, Boston played with a level of physicality and attention to detail that had been missing in so many games recently.
“We came out on a mission,” said Boston’s Avery Bradley who had his fourth double-double of the season with 15 points and 10 rebounds. “We wanted to play defense for one another and that’s what we did and that’s what won the game for us.”
Now comes to hard part -- doing it again tonight.
“I thought that our whole team played better (on Friday),” Stevens said. “But we still have work to do.”

Isaiah Thomas isn't ruling out return to Celtics

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Isaiah Thomas isn't ruling out return to Celtics

Isaiah Thomas back in green? Maybe there's a chance after all.

The former Celtics guard, now with the Lakers, started a Q&A session on Twitter and was asked whether he'd consider returning to Boston this offseason. This was his answer...

That's not a no.

Thomas has had a rough go of it since leaving the Celtics. His brief tenure in Cleveland didn't go according to plan, and things haven't gotten a whole lot better out in L.A. The 29-year-old is averaging 15.3 points per game just a year after averaging 28.9 with Boston.

Let the speculation begin.


Horford not making any excuses after C's rough outing vs Pelicans

Horford not making any excuses after C's rough outing vs Pelicans

Al Horford understands that there’s plenty of blame pie to go around following Boston’s 108-89 loss to New Orleans. 

Considering how Pelicans stud Anthony Davis dominated the game on so many levels Sunday night, Horford was quick to acknowledge his role in the loss. 

“He (Davis) was able to get behind our defense a lot,” Horford told reporters after the loss. “Some mistakes on my end; gotta give him credit. He dominated tonight. I’ll definitely take the blame for that.”

Davis finished with a double-double of 34 points and 11 rebounds, a total that would have been higher if not for the game being so lopsided which allowed Davis to head to the bench early in the fourth. 

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And Horford’s struggles defensively were just as problematic on offense as the five-time All-Star tallied just six points on 3-for-11 shooting to go with four rebounds and three assists. 

Boston has been a team whose collective sums have fueled their success. 

But Horford understands he has to be a high impact performer, a job that’s even more vital when key starters like Kyrie Irving (left knee soreness) and Jaylen Brown (concussion) are out as well as top reserves Marcus Smart (right thumb) and Daniel Theis (torn meniscus). 

And by Horford’s own admission, he just didn’t bring it on Sunday at a level to give him and the Celtics a legit shot at winning the game.

“Defensively we had too many breakdowns,” Horford said. “And the game got away from us in the second half. So there’s no excuses. I didn’t give us a chance, either; missing a lot of looks offensively. I just need to be better.”

And he’ll have to be if Boston (47-23) is to get back on track with a win on Tuesday against a talented Oklahoma City squad led by Russell Westbrook, Paul George and Carmelo Anthony. 

At full strength, the Thunder would be a significant challenge for the Celtics. 

But having a roster with a number of key players out with injuries, it becomes even more imperative for Boston’s top players to elevate their play. 

And as you scan this Celtics roster and examine those who are healthy enough to play, it’s clear that Horford more than any other Boston player, has to find a way to become more impactful.

Certainly, more points and rebounds would help. 

But as we’ve seen time and time again with Horford, often his greatest contributions to winning games don’t necessarily show up in the final box score. 

That being said, a six-point, four-rebound game doesn’t cut it. 

Horford has to be better, something he knows better than anyone. 

“I’ll definitely look at the film and see how I can be better individually,” Horford said. “The good thing about the NBA, is we have a chance to play on Tuesday. Hopefully we’ll learn from this game and be ready to go Tuesday at home.”