Celtics

Scouts identify what C's have to do vs. Heat

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Scouts identify what C's have to do vs. Heat

By A.Sherrod Blakely
CSNNE.com

MIAMI We've heard from Doc Rivers about what the Boston Celtics will need to do in order to win. His players have chimed in with their thoughts as well.

We at CSNNE.com wanted to add a third voice to the discussion - NBA scouts.

In conversations with three different NBA scouts, all from the Eastern Conference, we offer up their take on what the C's have to do in order to defeat the Miami Heat in their second-round playoff series.

Let's get physical

Even though LeBron James has arguably the most physically imposing body among the players in this series not named Shaquille O'Neal, roughing him up a bit early on might be the way to go.

"He hates that," one scout said. "You know he's going to get his. He always gets his. But putting him on his ass, early, sends a message that you're not going to just let him have his way. It also gets him to thinking more about the contact on drives than finishing. A distracted LeBron isn't a very good LeBron."

Make LeBron James and Dwyane Wade defend, honestly

There's a reason why both James and Wade are often seen in highlights making spectacular blocks and steals. Because Miami plays an attacking style of defense, frequently James and Wade tend to help off their defensive assignments in anticipation of another player taking a shot.

"You have to put them in as many pick-and-rolls, screen action plays as possible," another scout said. "Otherwise, they'll just keep on cheating over defensively."

Said another scout, "You look at most of the high-energy plays they make defensively. It's not what they do to the man they're guarding; it's what they do to the guy that didn't see them lurking."

Boston's ball movement will be instrumental in forcing both to play their men more tightly.

Rebound, rebound rebound

Boston's ability to hold its own on the boards will go far in determining how well their transition defense will perform against a Heat team that has two of the game's most explosive finishers in Wade and James.

"Jermaine (O'Neal) has been a really solid defender for the Celtics since he came back, but he has to pick it up on the boards," another scout said. "It's never been one of JO's strengths, but he's had some games where I don't think he even grabbed a single rebound. The Celtics won't win this series unless he picks it up on the boards."

Backup power

While much has been made of Miami's Big Three, one scout said their bench is grossly under-rated.

"They get more from their backups than you might think," he said. "The reason you don't hear about them, is because of the Big Three. But they have at least two or three guys coming off the bench that the Celtics have to be worried about."

Mario Chalmers has shown he can shoot the Heat into and out of a game, at times. His ability to stretch the floor will make him a player the Celtics need to keep tabs on. Although he is a better defender than Mike Bibby, he too has the potential to be exploited by the C's offense.

"When they run cross matches, you can have his man look to post him up," one scout said. "I wouldn't be surprised to see him switching on Ray sometimes, and Ray immediately goes down in the paint looking to post him up."

The player all three scouts mentioned as a player the Celtics had to worry about, was James Jones.

The reigning 3-point shooting champion is arguably the Heat's best long-range scoring option.

Miami is shooting just 28.9 percent on 3s in the playoffs, but Jones has connected on 42.1 percent of his postseason 3-point attempts.

"I'm a shooter," Jones told CSNNE.com. "Coach (Erik Spoelstra) told me that my job is to make shots. That's the best way I can help this team."

One scout viewed Delonte West as the biggest X-factor for Boston off the bench.

"He's the only guy they have off that bench that can defend multiple positions, at a high level," one scout said. "His ability to help out defensively on Dwyane Wade and LeBron James, is going to be a big deal if the Celtics win this series."

Another scout was big on Jeff Green and the potential he has to impact this series.

"Anything you get from him, has to be seen as a positive," the scout said. "He'll defend LeBron some, but he'll also defend Chris Bosh some as well. They need him to step his game up, especially on defense."

A. Sherrod Blakely can be reached at sblakely@comcastsportsnet.com.Follow Sherrod on Twitter at http:twitter.comsherrodbcsn

'Resilient' Celtics continue to find ways to win

'Resilient' Celtics continue to find ways to win

We have seen the Boston Celtics play less-than-stellar basketball for long stretches, only to turn it on in the second half and escape with a win.

But Monday night’s game at Dallas was different.

Usually it has been Boston’s offense that has kept the game closer than expected, but on Monday it was the team’s defense that struggled more than usual.

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But this team continues to show an ability to withstand all in-game struggles to eventually emerge victorious which was exactly what happened as the Celtics rallied from a double-digit fourth-quarter deficit to knock off the Mavericks 110-102 in overtime.

The Celtics (16-2) have now won 16 in a row which ties the fourth-longest winning streak in franchise history.

But this win, like so many of its predecessors during this historic run, was not one to celebrate afterwards.

“Quite a resilient comeback in the fourth,” said Celtics head coach Brad Stevens. “Not our best foot forward before that. Of all the comebacks, that did not look good for a long time. We found a way to win it.”

Kyrie Irving scored a game-high 47 points, 10 of which came in the overtime period.

But his performance was just one of many Boston needed to extend its winning streak.

“In a game like this, you have to do whatever it takes, both ends of the floor,” Boston’s Jayson Tatum told reporters afterwards.

And he did just that.

In the final seconds of the fourth quarter, Tatum’s defense forced a Harrison Barnes miss that would have won the game for Dallas.

And in the fourth quarter, Tatum’s rebounding was critical to Boston (16-2) extending its stay atop the NBA standings.

The 6-foot-8 rookie had a near double-double with 15 points and nine rebounds, with four of his boards coming in overtime.

Boston also got another strong game from Jaylen Brown (22 points, nine rebounds) and Marcus Smart, whose shooting was well off the mark most of the night (3-for-15) but like he has done too many times to count, Smart managed to make a positive impact on the game.

He led the Celtics with eight assists off the bench, in addition to a slew of hustle plays that included a desperation save of a ball going out of bounds that managed to find its way into the hands of Kyrie Irving, who drained a much-needed 3-pointer late in the game.

“Those are worth more than whatever the shot goes in,” Stevens said. “That’s why it’s hard to quantify Marcus Smart.”

The same can be said about Boston’s winning streak, which has come about despite several stretches, every game seemingly, where the Celtics struggle.

But to their credit, they don’t allow the in-game setbacks take away from their focus night-in and night-out and that’s to find a way, any way possible, to emerge with a victory.

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Stars, studs and duds: Kyrie Irving stands tall

Stars, studs and duds: Kyrie Irving stands tall

As NBC Sports Boston’s Kyle Draper talked with Kyrie Irving following his best performance as a Boston Celtic, you could hear the chants “M-V-P! M-V-P! M-V-P!” from the crowd behind him.
 
Considering the way Irving played on Monday night, that’s not just a case of fandemonium people!
 
Irving delivered a performance that won’t be forgotten anytime soon, tallying 47 points in leading Boston to a 110-102 overtime win at Dallas.
 
With the win, Boston has extended its winning streak to 16 in a row which ties the fourth-longest winning streak in franchise history.
 
While there were lots of Celtics who contributed to the victory, no one stood as tall as Irving who tallied 10 of Boston’s 16 points in overtime.
 
“We had to claw, fight our way back for this one,” Irving told NBC Sports Boston’s Kyle Draper. “But we had to earn it. These guys, the Dallas Mavericks, they gave us their best shot.”
 
And the Celtics countered with their best shot – Irving.
 
Even before the edge-of-the-cliff finish, Irving was in a rhythm that made it absolutely clear that he was going to have a big night scoring the ball.
 
“We just have to continue to get better from this point,” Irving said.
 
And as far as those “M-V-P” chants?
 
“It’s pretty awesome,” Irving said of the chants. “But we got a long way to go.”
 
Here’s a look at Stars, Studs and Duds from Boston’s 110-102 overtime win over Dallas which extends Boston’s winning streak to 16 in a row which is the fourth-longest winning streak in franchise history.
 
 
STAR

Kyrie Irving

This wasn’t even close, folks. Irving kept the Celtics afloat for most of the game, then guided them to victory with a dominant performance. He finished with 47 points, the most he has scored as a Boston Celtic. And on a night when most of the team struggled to make shots, they needed everything he had to offer.
 
 
 
STUDS
 
Harrison Barnes

He had a chance to win it in regulation, but failed to knock down the game-winning shot. Still, Barnes had a strong game for the Mavericks while finishing with 31 points and six rebounds.
 
Jaylen Brown

Kyrie Irving’s backcourt mate had yet another strong performance for the Celtics. He had a near double-double of 22 points and nine rebounds.
 
Jayson Tatum

Don’t let the 15-point total fool you. Tatum was a major factor in Boston’s comebacks with his ability to finish in transition and his defense down the stretch on Barnes gave the Celtics a shot as the game went into overtime.
 
J.J. Barea

The former Northeastern star was a huge spark off the bench for Dallas, tallying 16 points.
 
Marcus Smart

You can count me among those who cringed at a lot of those shots Marcus Smart took – and missed. Despite going 3-for-15 from the field, Boston doesn’t win this game without Marcus Smart. He made hustle plays defensively. He set teammates up for easy scores. And as bad as Smart shot the ball, he did make one of the biggest shots of the night, a 3-pointer that cut Dallas’ lead to 96-94 with 1:23 to play.
 
 

DUDS
 
Al Horford

He poked the ball free from Harrison Barnes late in the game which was a huge play, but for the most part Horford’s imprint on the game was non-existent. He missed four of his five shots from the field, tallying 3 points to go with eight rebounds and seven assists.
 
Dennis Smith Jr.

He is an explosive guard and scored six points in the first couple of minutes. From there, he was a non-factor, finishing with eight points on 4-for-16 shooting and maybe most significant, being nothing more than a cool breeze defensively as Kyrie Irving blew by him time and time again.

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