Celtics

Was this an emotional decision Doc will re-think?

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Was this an emotional decision Doc will re-think?

By Rich Levine
CSNNE.com

MIAMI On Wednesday morning, at Celtics shoot around, Doc Rivers was asked a question about Shaquille ONeal.

Shocking, right?

No, of course not. After all, since the playoffs began, questions about ONeal had become as commonplace as a Dwyane Wade free throw attempt.

But this was different.

In this case, it wasnt the typical Will he or wont he play? Shaq-related question that Rivers was accustomed to. In fact, hed already all but ruled ONeal out for that nights game with the Heat. Instead, the question was about Shaqs long-term future. With his Achilles showing no signs of healing, and the big man certainly not getting any younger, had we seen the last of ONeal?

Was he ready to hang them up?

I think it's too early to even talk about it, Rivers said. I've learned, personally, you never try to make any decision during the heat of the battle. Emotionally, you're always going to make the wrong choice.

A mere 12 hours later, in the heat of battle, an emotional Rivers stepped to the post-game podium and was asked about his own future . . .

Well get back to that in a second.

Heading into Game 5 with the Heat, Celtics fans biggest fear wasnt that their team might lose. In fact, all things considered, that was probably the expectation.

Instead, the nightmare that hung over the city was what that loss might represent.

Not only the end of one of the most schizophrenic and emotional seasons in franchise history, but also, the end of an era.

The end of these Celtics. The team that delivered Bostons first basketball title in 22 years, that remained in contention for the last four, and that (aside for a few apathetic stretches) brought Celtic Pride back from the dead and inspired a new generation of fans.

With a loss, there would be questions. Big questions, and were not talking about Shaq or even Glen Davis. Or, more importantly, Kevin Garnett, who looked especially worn down towards the end of the season and subtly hinted at retirement a few times over its course. And also, Ray Allen, who has an option for next season. While hed love to stay in Boston, he'd also love to win, and would have to listen if the Celtics situation dissipated and the right opportunity came along.

But of all the questions, much like last summer, there would be none more important than Doc Rivers.

While these Celtics will always be remembered as the second coming of The Big Three, now more than ever, these Celtics are defined by the Big One. Rivers was originally looked upon as merely the lucky guy who just happened to be around when this super team was assembled, but in the four years since, hes become the glue that holds them together. Hes the only one these Celtics want to play for. The only guy theyre comfortable calling coach. And there's a lot of indecision surrounding his future: The fact that he almost walked away last year, has admitted a desire to take some time off from coaching, and hasnt signed an extension for next season. A loss on Wednesday in Miami would once again throw Celtics Nation into that state of limbo that couldn't be remedied until Rivers announced his intentions.

And as the Cs walked off the court, after dropping a 97-87 decision to Miami, thats where everyone stood. Upset over the loss, for sure, but just as uneasy over what would come next. Where everyone would go, what everyone would do.

That is, until Rivers took the podium, mere minutes after one of the most emotional losses of his career, and was asked about his future:

Im leaning heavily towards coming back, he said. I havent made that decision, but I can tell you I probably will. Ive kind of come to that over the last couple of weeks. Im a Celtic and I love our guys. I want to win again here, and Im competitive as hell. I can tell you that is where I am today, tomorrow I may change my mind, but thats where I am today.

And suddenly, the loss didnt hurt quite as badly. The present still burned, but the future didnt look quite as bleak. Now, maybe the Celtics still had one more run . . .

Or maybe Rivers let his emotions get the best of him.

Either way, over the next few weeks, months or however long it takes for Doc to make his final decision on where he and the Celtics will go from here, there will be a lot of people who will come out and claim that they know what he should, could or will do, but when it comes down to it, no one knows better than Rivers himself.

And in this case, unlike all those others, hopefully he'll decide that the emotional choice is also the right one.

Rich Levine's column runs each Monday, Wednesday and Friday on CSNNE.com. Rich can be reached at rlevine@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Rich on Twitter at http:twitter.comrlevine33

'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.

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE