Celtics

Celtics continue to struggle with turnovers

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Celtics continue to struggle with turnovers

BOSTON -- In baseball, players are often instructed to put the ball in play instead of swinging for the fences.

So in basketball it would only make sense to keep the ball in motion instead of looking for the home run play, right?

Sometimes a simple approach doesnt seem so, well, simple.

The Boston Celtics have struggled this season with execution and turnovers. Flashy passes have landed out of bounds or in the hands of defenders. Basic fundamentals have fallen to the wayside at times, with the Celtics averaging 15.6 turnovers per game this season.

The Cs look to clean up these frustrating errors in the second half of the season.

I think too often were trying to make the home run play, said Ray Allen. We just have to be simple out there, just moving the ball to the guy in front of you and that guy moving and penetrating and moving. For us, you might have one home run play out of ten and we just have to know that we have to take care of the ball and weve got to make the simple play, the simple pass 90 percent of the time.

The Celtics committed 14 turnovers on Wednesday night in their 102-96 win over the Milwaukee Bucks, two less than Tuesday against the Cleveland Cavaliers and four less than last weeks game against the Oklahoma City Thunder before the All-Star Break.

Allen believes the turnovers are related to the Celtics offensive struggles this season, with errors preventing them from getting the ball in the basket. While the Celtics entered Wednesday's game ranked third in the NBA in opponents scoring (88.4 points per game allowed), they also ranked 26th overall in scoring (89.3 points per game).

Our struggles are a source of aggravation for me because I know we have a lot of scorers on this team and a lot of time we just are in our own way, Allen said. You over dribble or you turn the ball over, those are two things that keep us from putting the ball in the hole. We can play defense but we have to score.

Even though it is a team effort, Rajon Rondo looks to himself to set the execution in motion as the point guard. This season he is averaging 3.8 per game, up from 3.4 last season.

It starts with me, he said. I try to keep my turnovers down. When theyre high, my team is high. Tonight I think I only had three, which is ok except for the turnover in the fourth quarter. We want to get better.

Kevin Garnett believes one way to help solve the Celtics problem is by having more practices. Those opportunities have been hard to come by in this shortened season, and players have had less chances to run through plays and fix their errors on the practice court.

Its being smart, Garnett said. One of the things we talk about is cutting our turnovers down. I think we have a lot of times to blow a lot of teams out, but the reason why teams are in some games is because we turn the ball over.

Im going to continue to say this in another outfit, as you rewind the tapes and see it again, you just cant step on the floor without practice. Practice cleans all this up. It gives you a rhythm as a whole and it makes you better. It makes you a lot more confident in your teammate and knowing where his spots are and just a different kind of continuity.

When you know you turn the ball over, some of those fancy passes are not so motivating. Weve just to continue to take care of the ball and win these games and continue to see just how many games we can win through all this.

Now in the second half of the season, how can the Celtics focus on simple basketball and cut back on turnovers without having the luxury of practice time to do so? It has to be a concerted effort each and every game.

If I had that (answer) then I dont think wed be going through what were going through, said Garnett. I know Doc (Rivers), if he had it, he would put it in a jar and give it to everybody to drink.

Celtics need to let Morris continue feasting on seconds

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Celtics need to let Morris continue feasting on seconds

It gets harder to find problematic areas when a team wins 15 straight, like the Boston Celtics have.
 
But there are some. Boston’s inability to develop a consistent scoring threat when the second-unit players are on the floor hasn’t cost them a game yet, but you can see it coming if they don’t address this at some point.
 
Well, the answer to their second-unit struggles may be staring them right in the face – Marcus Morris.
 
While he does go back and forth as a starter, keeping him on the floor in the second quarter with the second unit makes sense for all involved.
 
Morris is a better scorer than many expected, but opportunities aren’t as plentiful with the first group. Kyrie Irving and Al Horford are the top two options. The team’s young wings, Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum, probably stack up slightly higher in the scoring pecking order than Morris.
 
So for him to get quality looks with the second unit in the second quarter not only helps the team offensively, but it keeps Morris even more engaged than he already is.
 
We saw that in Saturday’s win over the Hawks.
 
Morris had 14 points, with 10 coming in the second quarter when he was surrounded primarily with players off the bench.
 
 “We need Marcus quite a bit,” said coach Brad Stevens. “We’re still managing his minutes appropriately as he comes back.”
 
Morris missed the first eight games of the season because of a sore left knee. Since his return, his minutes have been capped at around 25 or less, in addition to not playing back-to-back nights..

But as he continues to play a more significant role, look for his minutes -- and his role as a primary scorer in the second quarter -- to increase.
 
“He brings us scoring," Stevens said. "He brings us defense, he brings us toughness, and we really needed his scoring (against Atlanta), his ability to shoot the ball both off broken plays and off movement.”
 
Here’s a look at five other takeaways from Boston’s 110-99 win at Atlanta to extend the team’s winning streak to 15 in a row which is the fifth-longest streak in franchise history.



 
JAYLEN BROWN'S EMERGENCE

The improvement in Jaylen Brown has been evident all season, but it's really spiked the last two games. The second-year wing player dropped 22 points on Golden State Thursday, then followed that up with a career-high 27 Saturday. Conventional wisdom tells you not to bank on Brown delivering like that on a consistent basis. But as a former No. 3 overall pick who works as hard as Brown does . . . would anyone be surprised if this becomes a new-norm when it comes to Brown?


 
HORFORD STREAK CONTINUES
 
Early foul trouble and an overall lack of flow offensively had Al Horford looking at having his first game of the season with a negative plus/minus. At the half he was at -16. Then came the Celtics’ second half surge which saw them turn a 16-point deficit in the first half into a double-digit victory. And Horford’s plus/minus? For the game he stood at +2, keeping his streak alive of having a positive plus/minus in every game played this season.

KYRIE IRVING
 
An efficient scoring Kyrie Irving is an NBA team’s worst nightmare. One of the league’s well-established scorers, Irving was just too much for the Atlanta Hawks to handle. And the end result was one of the most efficient scoring nights in Irving’s career as he tallied a game-high 30 points on 10-for-12 shooting.


 
TATUM'S SECOND-HALF SURGE
 
For the second straight game, Jayson Tatum did not begin playing his best basketball until the second half. Against the Hawks, Tatum scored all of his 14 points in the second half. And in Thursday’s win over Golden State, 10 of his 12 points came in the second half. “For whatever reason he was pretty tentative (in the first half),” said Stevens. “He’s a good player, so struggles aren’t going to last long. He’ll figure it out.”


 
SMART'S SHOOTING (SLIGHTLY) BETTER
 
There’s plenty of room for improvement when it comes to Marcus Smart’s shooting. Against the Hawks, he had 10 points on 3-for-8 shooting. Now the numbers won’t wow you, but they are a huge step in the right direction in comparison to how he has been chucking up shots lately. In Boston’s previous five games, Smart was a face-cringing 10-for-52 shooting, or 19.2 percent from the field. Even with all the impact he makes consistently with his defense and effort, that number has to continue to improve if Boston is able to continue along its winning ways.

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With Andrews out, who's next man up for the Patriots at center?

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With Andrews out, who's next man up for the Patriots at center?

Continuity along the offensive line was one of the reasons the Patriots were able to have the season they had in 2016. They tossed aside the early-season experiementation that Bill Belichick favored at times in order to establish a starting five that could be relied upon, if healthy, start to finish. 

They attacked 2017 with the same approach, but because of injury the consistency simply has not been the same. Both starting tackles, Nate Solder and Marcus Cannon, have missed time injured this season, and Cannon will sit out again on Sunday as he continues to deal with an ankle injury. 

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The interior of the line has remained largely in place until this week when center David Andrews came down with an illness, missed two practices, and was ruled out. 

On a line where familiarity is key, where the center is the one making the calls, the one in constant communication with Tom Brady, what now?

The Patriots will likely turn to second-year man Ted Karras, who has the ability to play both guard spots and also backed up Andrews for the vast majority of training camp. The 6-foot-4, 305-pounder was released at the end of camp, quickly signed to the Patriots practice squad, and then he re-signed to the active roster in Week 1 when Malcolm Mitchell was placed on injured reserve.

Karras, drafted in the sixth round in 2016 out of Illinois, was named a practice player of the week earlier this year and he earned some praise from Belichick before the Patriots took off for Mexico City.

"Ted works hard," Belichick said. "He loves football. He gets there early, stays late."

Belichick noted that Karras (nine snaps, all against the Broncos) hasn't played much this season, but he did see plenty of work early last season when he filled in for an injured Shaq Mason. He was the Week 1 starter at right guard in a win ver the Cardinals and he played 41 snaps in Week 2 against the Dolphins. 

The Patriots offensive line could also potentially turn to Joe Thuney at center. He's practiced there before and got some experience at the position during his time at NC State. This seems like the less likely move since the Patriots would then have to deal with two new players at different spots -- center and left guard (whether the player replacing Thuney would be Karras or rookie Cole Croston) -- which could have a domino effect on the rest of the line. 

However the Patriots choose to handle it, they'll face an interesting test south of the border. The Raiders feature a pair of talented pass-rushers in Bruce Irvin and Khalil Mack, who Belichick says play all over the offensive line, yet Oakland is tied for last in the league in sacks. 

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