Stars, studs and duds: Celtics put on defensive clinic in second half

Stars, studs and duds: Celtics put on defensive clinic in second half

This season the Boston Celtics have shown flashes for a few minutes here and there that they were an elite team defensively. 
But what they did in the second half to the Orlando?


Boston (13-9) put on a defensive clinic that overwhelmed the Magic on every level imaginable as the Celtics cruised to a 117-87 thumping of Orlando.
Celtics head coach Brad Stevens has been even-keeled when it comes to discussing his team’s play, win or lose. 
But even he couldn’t contain how pleased he was to see the way his players defended in the third and fourth quarters. 
“On defense, the second half was as good as we’ve guarded all year,” Stevens told reporters afterwards. “Really focused, really urgent. I felt good about that.”
Setting the tone for the Celtics was Avery Bradley who certainly was impressive with his scoring. 
But as much as he knew the team would need a boost offensively with Isaiah Thomas (right groin) out, that wasn’t his approach to the game. 
“I had a defensive mindset coming into tonight’s game,” Bradley told CSN’s Abby Chin following the win. “Just trying to get my teammates to playing the right way so we could come out and get the ‘W’ tonight. I’m happy with how all the guys played. We all played hard, and we played as a team.”
Here are the Stars, Studs and Duds from Wednesday night’s game.

Avery Bradley

Bradley picked up the scoring with Isaiah Thomas (right groin) out for Wednesday, leading the team with a game-high 23 points to go with four rebounds and three assists.

Jaylen Brown

Arguably the biggest spark off the bench for Boston, Brown had one of his best games as a Celtic. He finished with 13 points which included a dunk over Nikola Vucevic that quieted the Amway Center crowd and just as important, provided a nice energy boost for Boston.
D.J. Augustin

He had the hot hand at the end of the second quarter, but was a non-factor in the second half as Augustin finished with 15 points – all of which came in the first half. 
Terry Rozier

This was a great confidence-booster for Rozier as well as his teammates to see him have a big game and make the most of his increased opportunity to play. He finished with a career-high 16 points off the Celtics bench on 6-for-13 shooting with five rebounds.
Nikola Vucevic

It doesn’t matter if he starts or comes off the bench. Vucevic is always a double-double threat on the floor. He finished with 12 points off the bench along with 10 rebounds for his 13th double-double this season. 

Orlando second half defense

The Celtics got pretty much whatever they wanted, when they wanted it in the second half against the Magic defense which pulled a major disappearing act. Boston shot 61 percent from the field in the second half, and 45.4 percent from 3-point range. 

WATCH: Boston Celtics at New Orleans Pelicans

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WATCH: Boston Celtics at New Orleans Pelicans

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Celtics-Pelicans preview: Can C's slow down Anthony Davis?

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Celtics-Pelicans preview: Can C's slow down Anthony Davis?

As the NBA trade deadline drew near, Celtics Nation was hoping tonight’s matchup between Boston and New Orleans would be Anthony Davis returning to where his pro career began.

He’s still with the Pelicans, doing what Davis has done for most of his career – dominate play.

But there’s a new twist now … he’s also winning. 

That’s why the 6-foot-10 Davis is no longer seen as a player that might be on the move anytime soon. 

He’s not just one of the league’s best players, but a bonafide MVP candidate whose stock as an elite player is even greater since New Orleans lost DeMarcus Cousins (ruptured Achilles tendon) for the season on Jan. 26. 

Since Cousins’ season-ending injury, New Orleans (39-30) has a 12-9 record with Davis averaging 31.1 points, 12.8 rebounds, 3.2 blocks and 2.3 steals per game in that span. 

Davis is also averaging 7.8 free throws per game which ranks fourth in the NBA, although you wouldn’t know he was among the league leaders in that category based on the postgame rant by his coach Alvin Gentry following New Orleans’ 107-101 loss to Houston on Saturday night. 

“A.D. (Anthony Davis) never gets a call,” a visibly angry Gentry told reporters following the loss. “He never gets a call. We talk about them holding him. We talk about them grabbing him on rolls. We talk about them coming under him on post-ups. He never gets a call; not one. And you know why? Because he doesn’t (bleep) complain about it. He just keeps playing the game.”

Regardless of how often he gets to the line, Davis is still putting up MVP-caliber numbers this season in Cousins’ absence. 

But it’s not like Davis’ stat line this season overall – 28.0 points, 11.2 rebounds, 2.3 assists, 2.4 blocks and 1.5 steals – didn’t stand out for all the right reasons, either.

However, Davis’ shine isn’t quite as bright now with the Pelicans losing four of their last five games which has dropped New Orleans (39-30) down to the eighth and final playoff spot and just 1.5 games ahead of the Los Angeles Clippers (37-31).

So, the Celtics come into town facing not only one of the better teams in the West, but a club that is absolutely starving for a win.

While Boston (47-22) certainly wants to come into the Big Easy and get a victory, its impact on the Celtics’ playoff hopes is non-existent. 

Boston has the second-best record in the East and trail Toronto (52-17) by five games with 13 remaining. They face the Raptors two more times this season, but even if they win both of those games and thus the head-to-head series, it likely won’t come into play because of Toronto likely finishing with the best record in the East. 

And behind Boston in the standings is Cleveland (40-29), another injury-riddled team that’s seven games behind the Celtics in the standing and has shown no signs of threatening to gain ground on Boston. 

So regardless of how the Celtics fare, it’s likely they will remain sandwiched between Toronto and Cleveland in terms of playoff seedings are concerned. 

And that might factor into who plays – and who doesn’t – for Boston in these final few games of the regular season. 

Boston’s Daniel Theis suffered a season-ending torn meniscus injury in his left knee, and Marcus Smart’s right thumb injury will keep him out for the rest of the regular season with the earliest he might be back being the latter stages of the first round of the playoffs, or sometime during the second round if the Celtics advance that far. 

Boston must also make sure Kyrie Irving and his sore left knee, are good to go for the playoffs. In addition, the Celtics must work Jaylen Brown back into the fold after he suffered a concussion that has kept him out of Boston’s last three games. 

Celtics coach Brad Stevens has made a point of not allowing himself or his players to use their injury situation as an excuse for not playing good basketball. 

But he knows good basketball for his injury-riddled roster, involves players elevating their play.

“We’re going to be in the process of really looking at ourselves and redistributing responsibility on our team without guys going outside of what they do best,” Stevens said, adding, “We’re going to have to figure out how to play our best basketball.”