Celtics

Shaq not worried about Dwight

191544.jpg

Shaq not worried about Dwight

By A. Sherrod Blakely
CSNNE.com

BOSTON The schedule says that the Orlando Magic are up next on the Boston Celtics' docket.

That means Dwight Howard, the most dominant big man in the game, will be on the floor for Monday night's tilt between these two Eastern Conference powers.

Insert yawn from Shaquille O'Neal right about here.

He was asked following Friday's 99-94 win over Charlotte about what it would be like facing Dwight Howard.

"Nothing," said O'Neal, who had 23 points and a season-high five blocks against the Bobcats.

You would think that the Magic were starting Dwight Yoakam at center and not Dwight Howard, based on O'Neal's laissez-faire attitude towards the matchup between the league's top centers of the not-that-long-ago past (O'Neal) and present (Howard).

"The only thing that motivates me is 1825," said O'Neal, who was referring to the Celtics' quest for an 18th NBA title, the core group of Celtics from 2008 trying to win their second NBA title and himself searching for NBA title No. 5. "I'm done with individual matchups. Too old for that."

He's right.

At 38 years old, looking for him to dominate Howard isn't going to happen.

Will he hold his own?

For sure.

But what's overlooked during this stage in which O'Neal's game is on the decline, is how his presence can impact those around him.

To focus on what he does statistically doesn't do justice to what having Shaq has meant to this veteran team.

When you look at Paul Pierce and Ray Allen enjoying career seasons shooting the ball, something you rarely see from true scorers nearing the end of their career, Shaq in the starting lineup has been a big part of that success.

"Teams have to account for him, usually with two people either double-teaming or tilting," Allen told CSNNE.com. "That creates more space for guys like Me and Paul to do what we do. In a lot of ways, he really has made the game a lot simpler in terms of getting good looks."

Allen is on track to become the NBA's all-time leader in 3-pointers made prior to the all-star break next month. He's also shooting a career-best 47.3 percent from 3-point range. Pierce, the reigning 3-point shooting champion, has connected on 41.2 percent of his 3s while shooting a career-high 51.1 percent from the field.

Point guard Rajon Rondo is averaging a career-high 13.4 points per game while shooting 52.1 percent from the field, which is also a career-best.

O'Neal being less than enthused about his matchup with Howard may in part be fueled by what happened the last time these two teams played on Christmas in which the Magic prevailed, 86-78.

Scoring was a challenge for both teams that night, especially for Boston which played most of the game with O'Neal on the bench in foul trouble.

He finished with a season-low 13 minutes of action, while Howard, also hampered to some degree by foul trouble, played 33 minutes which is below his season average.

Not only did the Celtics lose, but O'Neal had to fork over 35,000 to the league for his comments about the way the game was officiated.

"I guess they came out to see number 26 today," said O'Neal, who was referring to official Bob Delaney. "He (No. 26) was a great player out there today."

Still, their presence will be a matchup most fans will be looking forward to seeing.

"If both of them could stay out of foul trouble," said Rajon Rondo. "It's a big, I would say, round 2. I know he's (O'Neal) is up for the challenge. I don't know if he's psyched, but he's a competitive guy. He's not going to back down."

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

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.”

MORE:

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.”

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE

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.

MORE:

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