Celtics

West re-injures ankle; no timetable on return

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West re-injures ankle; no timetable on return

By A. Sherrod Blakely
CSNNE.com

WASHINGTON -- Another day, another Celtics injury to a key performer.

Delonte West hurt his right ankle in the third quarter, the same ankle that sidelined him for a couple of weeks earlier this month.

"I was worried," said coach Doc Rivers, who added that there's no timetable for when West will return.

West had to be helped off the court by Ray Allen and team trainer Ed Lacerte.

At first he sat on the bench, but moments later West headed back to the locker room with Lacerte.

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

Davis steps up his defense on Celtics rumors

Davis steps up his defense on Celtics rumors

BOSTON – You would have thought Anthony Davis was having visions of a double-team coming at him the way he consistently pivoted away from questions about the Celtics’ interest in him.

The 6-foot-10 forward has been the subject of trade rumors involving the Celtics for some time now; enough time for the four-time All-Star to spin away from such questions the way he does most wannabe defenders.

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When asked about whether he pays attention to the Celtics fans who want him donning a C's uniform soon, Davis responses with comments focused specifically on tonight’s game.

“We got a big one tonight,” he said. “It’s a great Celtics team. Kyrie [Irving], Jaylen Brown, Jayson Tatum, Al [Horford], a lot of isolation basketball so we have to load up, be loud defensively and talk. It’ll be a good one for us.”

And Davis would be a good one for the Celtics, something that seemed a far-fetched fantasy at first which remains a longshot of happening, ever.

New Orleans (22-20) comes in having won three of its past four and finds itself just one game behind Oklahoma City for the fifth-best record in the Western Conference.

NBA executives have repeatedly indicated the only shot that Boston or any other team seriously have at landing Davis, 24, is for the Pelicans to fail to make the playoffs, which many expect would lead to wholesale changes that may include but not be limited to, finding a new home for Davis.

But such speculation is a moot point now, not with the Pelicans playing some of their best basketball of the season.

And a big part of that success has been Davis who is averaging a team-leading 26.7 points along with 10.5 rebounds, 2.1 assists and 2.1 blocked shots per game.

He and fellow All-Star DeMarcus Cousins form what many consider the most talented frontcourt tandem in the NBA.

“Davis and his ability to score the ball, his ability to roll to the rim, transition, all that stuff … they’re both very, very good,” said Celtics coach Brad Stevens.

And as much as fans would love to see him in a Celtics uniform, tonight’s game will likely be the only time this season you’ll see Davis in Boston.

Even though Davis tactfully went about avoiding all questions linking him with the Celtics, that doesn’t diminish the fact that he has a tremendous amount of respect for the Celtics team and the organization as a whole.

“They’ve been playing very well; especially start of the season,” Davis said of the Celtics. “They kind of started to slip a little bit toward the end of the beginning. But they got it back, won seven in a row, still number one in the NBA right now. Everyone thought they would slip when Gordon [Hayward] went out [with a dislocated left ankle]; it’s kind of like they picked it up. When one of your star guys go out, guys have to step up and they’ve been doing that all year.”

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Challenges big and small for Celtics tonight

Challenges big and small for Celtics tonight

BOSTON – In the NBA, some teams are built to play small ball with three guards as starters.

Others are constructed to go big with talented, high-impact big men.

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And then there’s the New Orleans Pelicans, who seem to start games with both at the same time.

Dealing with New Orleans’ non-traditional starting lineup will be one of the many challenges awaiting the Celtics tonight.

While the Pelicans’ atypical starting five may not necessarily be ideal, there’s no arguing against its effectiveness.

New Orleans starts games with a three-guard lineup that includes 6-foot-1 Rajon Rondo with Jrue Holiday and E’Twaun Moore who are both 6-4 guards. They are joined by the twin terrors – to opposing defenses at least – of 6-11 DeMarcus Cousins and 6-10 Anthony Davis.

They have been New Orleans’ most successful five-man unit, posting a 12-8 record this season. It’s one of the biggest reasons they are come in sixth in the Western Conference at 22-20, trailing Oklahoma City (24-20) by one game.

Boston has played its share of non-traditional lineups under fifth-year coach Brad Stevens.

Like the Pelicans, the key for Boston to do so successfully lies in the versatility of their power forward.

For New Orleans, that would be Davis.

The Celtics rely on Al Horford to provide a similar element of versatility.

“Last year, we started Amir [Johnson, now with Philadelphia] with Al,” said Celtics head coach Brad Stevens. “Kelly [Olynyk, now in Miami] played a lot with Al. I think what Al allows you to do, is he gives you another guy that shoots like a traditional guard so he can play both spots and his ability to defend fours [power forwards] allows him to play with anybody.”

How Horford handles his rotating assignments defensively will be among the challenges Boston will contend with tonight.

Here are five under-the-radar storylines to keep tabs on tonight:

REUNION TIME
We have seen this season how former Celtics return to the TD Garden to light up the Green Team, and tonight’s game is full of potential candidates to keep the tradition set by Olynyk and Jonas Jerebko (Utah) alive and well. Among the ex-Celtics on the Pelicans roster are E’Twaun Moore and Rajon Rondo who are both slated to start tonight. New Orleans roster also includes former Celtics Tony Allen (left fibula fracture) and Jameer Nelson (personal) who are both listed as out tonight.

PASSING BIG MEN
You won’t ever mistake Horford for Cousins, but the two big men do have at least one thing in common: passing. While both have shown the ability to score (Cousins on a much grander, more consistent scale for sure), one of their biggest strengths is their ability to get teammates involved offensively. Horford averages 5.3 assists per game, which would be tops among all centers, but most of Horford’s playing time this season has come as a power forward. Still, 5.3 assists per game are impressive enough to rank fifth among all forwards this season. As for centers, Cousins’ 5.1 per game is indeed the pace-setter for the rest of the league’s centers.

ANTHONY DAVIS
With Davis’ size, athleticism and versatility, he is one of the select few players whose game has very few holes in it. And while he can score from just about any spot on the floor, keeping Davis in the mid-range zone offensively is key. According to nba.com, Davis is shooting 39.3 percent on mid-range shots this season. That’s not horrible, but it is a noticeable drop-off from what he does at the rim in the restricted area (75.8 percent), in the paint non-restricted area (50.8 percent) and on corner 3’s (54.5 percent).

ON THE REBOUND
Often the clearest indicator of Boston’s success lies in how well the Celtics rebound. In their current seven-game winning streak, rebounding – surprise, surprise – has been one of their strengths. In the past seven games, Boston has averaged 47.9 rebounds per game. The only team with a higher average in that span is the Los Angeles Lakers (49.3). In addition, Boston is grabbing 50.9 percent of available rebounds, which ranks ninth in the NBA during the seven-game winning streak.

TATUM MINUTES ADD UP
As a rookie last season, Jaylen Brown logged 1,341 regular-season minutes, which was pretty good for a first-year player on a team pegged before his arrival as a playoff-caliber club. Fast forward to this season and another Celtics rookie Jayson Tatum. Despite having played in 44 games this season (Brown appeared in 78 games as a rookie last year), Tatum has literally played more than Brown, with 1,362 minutes already logged. The left knee stiffness that kept him out of practice Saturday was determined to not be an issue, but it’s worth monitoring his health as his impact – and minutes played – continue to rise.

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