Stars, studs and duds: Jae Crowder does just enough defending James Harden

Stars, studs and duds: Jae Crowder does just enough defending James Harden

BOSTON – You won’t find a book, manual or pamphlet on how to effectively defend Houston’s James Harden. 

But the game plan used by the Boston Celtics? 



Their ability to not let Harden ever get into a good flow was one of the biggest factors in Boston’s 120-109 win over the Rockets. Harden, who ranks among the NBA’s top-five in points per game (28.6) and assists (11.6), had to work extremely hard to get to his season average. He finished with 30 points on 6-for-18 shooting while dishing out 12 assists but also turning the ball over seven times.

Celtics head coach Brad Stevens decided to put rookie Jaylen Brown in the starting lineup and had him defending Harden early on. 

While this led to Brown picking up a lot of early fouls, the 6-foot-7 Brown’s length and athleticism made Harden work for his shots early on. And that paved the way for Jae Crowder, Marcus Smart and Al Horford on switches, to limit one of the most explosive scorers in the NBA who is on everyone’s short list for the league’s MVP award.

“He (Brown) did his part on him and wore him down,” Smart said. “And Jae came in and then I did and we mixed it up on him and kept him guessing.”

Of the trio, Crowder probably spent the most possessions defending the MVP candidate which might seem a bit odd considering Crowder is the Celtics' starting small forward while Harden plays the point. 

“One of the things that people don’t realize is how big he (Harden) is,” Stevens said. “I don’t know what he weighs, but he’s got to be 6-6, 240. I mean, he’s a strong guy. So it’s hard for small guys to guard him. We wanted to be bigger. I thought we would have Jaylen on him a little bit more, but we wanted to be Smart and Jae and then we knew we would switch late.”

Said Crowder: “He’s going to score the ball. I just tried to make it as tough as possible. A few possessions I would like to have back, but at the end of the day I just wanted to contain him as much as possible. I felt like he never really took over the game. That’s what it’s all about with a guy like him.”

Here are the Stars, Studs and Duds from Wednesday night’s game.


Isaiah Thomas: This was one of Thomas’ most balanced performances this season, as he scored a game-high 38 points to go with nine assists.

James Harden: Credit Boston’s defense for making this a tougher-than-usual night for Harden. Despite shooting just 6-for-18 from the field, he still managed to score 30 points and dish out 12 assists while grabbing six rebounds.

Jae Crowder: This was one of Crowder’s best games at both ends of the floor. He was an impact performer in being the primary defender on Harden, and he still managed to tally his second double-double this season with 23 points and 10 rebounds while dishing out four assists. 


Al Horford: We’re used to seeing Horford fill up the stat sheet, but tonight’s game also featured a series of multiple effort, all-out hustle plays that played a huge role in Boston getting the win. He had a near double-double of 20 points and nine assists with three rebounds and three steals with a pair of blocked shots. 

Jonas Jerebko: This was not a big night scoring-wise for Jerebko, but he was definitely an integral part of this win. Making his first start of the season, Jerebko had seven points on 3-for-3 shooting to go with seven rebounds and a blocked shot.


Patrick Beverley: I didn’t expect him to shut down Isaiah Thomas, but I did anticipate Beverley would make Thomas work harder for his points. Not only did Thomas have a big scoring game while shooting the ball efficiently, but Beverly missed five of his six shots (he dished out eight assists which was a positive), and wound up fouling out with three points in 32 minutes.

Gordon Hayward rips back a morning workout while repping his Butler Bulldogs

File Photo

Gordon Hayward rips back a morning workout while repping his Butler Bulldogs

There hasn't been all positive news surrounding Gordon Hayward as of late.

The Celtics have been shooting down rumors of Hayward returning this season. Recent news has detailed a minor setback in his recovery.

But it's always good to see the C's superstar up early crushing a workout in the weightroom.

We might not see him back in 2018, but his dedication during recovery is something to admire.


Celtics look to continue rolling on the road

AP Photo

Celtics look to continue rolling on the road

It seems all season we’ve talked about the Boston Celtics overcoming adversity, whether it be a bad injury to a key player or a blown assignment leading to a loss.

Nowhere is this more apparent than their play on the road this season which ranks among the best in the NBA.

The Celtics will look to continue on their road warrior-like ways tonight at New Orleans, a team that’s fighting for playoff position in the tighter-than-usual Western Conference.

In recent years, the terrain has been rough for teams from the East venturing into Western Conference territory.

For this year’s Celtics?

Not so much.

Boston comes into tonight’s game with a 17-7 record against Western Conference teams, tops among all teams in the East.

And while Boston has eight road games left this season, they are on pace to finish with one of the best road records in franchise history.

Currently 24-9 away from the TD Garden (tops in the East, third overall in the NBA), that’s a winning percentage of .727 which is the fourth-highest in franchise history.

Here are five under-the-radar story lines to keep an eye on when the Boston Celtics take on the New Orleans Pelicans tonight.


It’s a given that Al Horford will spend time defending Anthony Davis tonight. And while Davis will likely have a strong night scoring the ball, you can count on Horford making it extremely tough on him. When the two teams met on Jan. 16, Davis was 8-for-19 shooting for 16 points in 52 possessions when defended by Horford. For the game, Davis had 45 points on 16-for-34 shooting.


We’ve seen “Playoff" Rondo and “National TV" Rondo deliver some impressive performances in the past. What will we see from “Well-Rested” Rondo? The Pelicans gave the ex-Celtic the night off on Saturday as to not play him in back-to-back games. Of the two games, it made sense to sit him against the Rockets and have him ready to roll against a Boston Celtics team that will not have its full complement of players available.


Pelicans head coach Alvin Gentry had some choice words about the officiating in New Orleans’ 107-101 loss to Houston on Saturday that he clearly felt cost his team a better chance at winning. The only cost in play now is how big will the check be that he’ll pay the league for his comments about the officiating. His issue was that Anthony Davis doesn’t get enough calls based on the physical abuse he takes per game. Davis ranks fourth in the NBA in free throw attempts (7.8) per game, but only had four attempts against the Rockets. It’ll be worth watching whether the Pelicans, 16th in the league in free throw attempts (21.4) per game, will get to the line significantly more or less than their season average.


One of the keys to Boston’s improved play since returning to the floor since the all-star break, has been their ability to begin games with strong play. Boston has outscored their opponent in the first quarter each of the last eight games, and 10 of 11. In addition, Boston has been ahead at the half in each of their 10 games since the all-star break, which comes on the heels of trailing at the half in the seven games prior to the break.


Jayson Tatum has been one of the most impactful rookies in the NBA this season which will likely land him a spot on the NBA’s all-rookie first or second team. One of the strengths of Tatum has been his durability, evident by him being one of just two first-year players to appear in each of his team’s games played this season. He is joined by Memphis’ Dillon Brooks.