Celtics

Stars, studs and duds: Starting five delivers for Celtics

Stars, studs and duds: Starting five delivers for Celtics

BOSTON – The record and the reality of the Boston Celtics’ season doesn’t really add up.

They have been bruised and battered bunch most of this season, a team whose preferred starting five came into Wednesday’s game having played 27 games together … all season.

While they haven’t played together a lot this season, that hasn’t stopped them from being one of the better starting five units in the NBA this season.

Wednesday’s 117-104 win over Minnesota was yet another night in which the Celtics’ preferred starting five – Isaiah Thomas, Avery Bradley, Jae Crowder, Amir Johnson and Al Horford – delivered in a big way for the Celtics (43-25).

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Thomas led all scorers with 27 points. Bradley had 18. Crowder played great defense on Andrew Wiggins while Amir Johnson and Al Horford took turns taming Minnesota’s Big K.A.T., Karl-Anthony Towns who had 17 points and 14 rebounds. Towns’ 17 points snapped a 21-game streak, dating back to Jan. 24, in which he scored at least 20 points.

Balanced scoring.

Lock-down defense.

That is what this Celtics’ starting five can do for you.

“For us it’s keep getting as familiar as we can,” Horford said. “I feel like our defense is really solid and just keep building. Only 28 games, hopefully we can play the remainder as many games as we can untl the playoffs.”

Amir Johnson, who has started more games (64) than any other Celtic this season, was surprised when he learned that the team’s preferred starting five has only played 28 games together this season.

Regardless of who starts, Johnson believes all the Celtics have a job to do when they get an opportunity to play.

“If we stick to our defensive principles which we work on every day in practice, no matter what starting five we have in, everyone is doing the same thing, staying on a string,” Johnson told CSNNE.com. “I think we’re hard to beat.”

Here are the Stars, Studs and Duds from Wednesday night’s game between the Boston Celtics and the Minnesota Timberwolves.

 

STARS

Al Horford: We’re used to seeing him fill up the stat sheet, but Horford was on a different level Wednesday night. The Timberwolves had no answer for Horford who flirted with a triple-double before finishing with 20 points, nine rebounds, eight assists and a pair of blocked shots.

Karl-Anthony Towns: It’s a matter of when, not if, this kid will be a legit contender for the league’s MVP award. The Celtics made limiting him their number one priority, but he still managed a double-double of 17 points on 7-for-14 shooting with 14 rebounds and four assists.

 

STUDS

Isaiah Thomas: Just another ho-hum performance for Thomas who continues to score at an amazingly high level. He had a game-high 27 points on 8-for-15 shooting, along with three rebounds and four assists.

Andrew Wiggins: Jae Crowder did not have a great game shooting the ball (1-for-8), in part because he put so much effort into making Wiggins a high-volume shooter. Wiggins still had 21 points but did so on 9-for-23 shooting.

Avery Bradley: In the fourth, Bradley came up with big shots to keep the Timberwolves’ comeback from ever getting close. He finished with 18 points which included a team-high seven points in the fourth quarter.

Ricky Rubio: Known primarily as a defender and passer, Rubio made a huge impact shooting the ball for the Timberwolves. He finished with a team-high 23 points on 8-for-14 shooting to go with seven assists and a steal with just one turnover.

 

DUDS

Minnesota’s second-chance points

The Celtics kept the rebounding totals fairly close (Timberwolves 42, Celtics 37), but Minnesota’s best offense was often the missed shot which they frequently rebounded and put back in for a score as the Timberwolves outscored the Celtics 20-6 in second-chance points.

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.”

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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.”

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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.

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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.

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