Celtics

Celtics-Grizzlies review: Boston loses by double digits

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Celtics-Grizzlies review: Boston loses by double digits

BOSTON True to form, the Boston Celtics maintained their lopsided-playing ways with a 93-83 loss to Memphis. 
It was Boston's 12th double-digit loss this season out of 17 defeats, reinforcing Doc Rivers' greatest fears about his team.
When they lose, they don't just lose: they get blown out. 
"It's amazing, the difference for us when we win and lose games," Rivers said recently. "The numbers are startling. That's what we have to improve."
In their 14 wins, the C's have won by an average of  9.1 points per game. In the 16 losses prior to Wednesday's game, Boston was getting beat by an average of 12.2 points per game. 
Here are some of the keys identified prior to tonight's game that in some fashion played a role in the C's suffering yet another decisive defeat. 

WHAT TO LOOK FOR: Memphis has one of the best 1-2 frontcourt punches with Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol. Their ability to control the action inside the paint is at the heart of why Memphis ranks among the NBA leaders in points in the paint (43.7, 7th) and rebounds (52.5, 8th) per game.
WHAT WE SAW: The Randolph-Gasol tandem was far from spectacular for the Grizzlies. The duo combined for 11 points on 4-for-15 shooting to go with 15 rebounds.

MATCHUP TO WATCH:  Kevin Garnett vs Zach Randolph: Although Garnett's production as dipped since moving to power forward, the C's remain convinced that this will benefit him and the Celtics over the long haul. Randolph remains one of the more under-rated talents in the NBA, averaging 17 points and 12.5 rebounds per game this season. 
WHAT WE SAW:  Garnett did a better-than-average job defensively on Randolph, but it clearly had an impact on his scoring as Garnett had 12 points on 5-for-14 shooting along with seven rebounds. Randolph had six points on 3-for-8 shooting to go with eight rebounds. 
"I have to balance it out between being more offensively minded and being defensively minded," Garnett said. "I'm playing against one of the best forwards in the world, and that being Zach. I have a lot of respect for him. I knew it was going to be a bear fight; just getting ready for that matchup. I never once really balanced it out as far as being offensive minded so I have to do a better job with that."

PLAYER TO WATCH: Easily it will be Avery Bradley. His long-awaited return should provide a boost of energy -- or at the very least, better play defensively -- that the Celtics are in desperate need right now. 
WHAT WE SAW: His defense was decent, but not exceptional by anyone's standards. He made a couple of baskets on cuts to the basket, which was what got him going offensively last season. He's definitely a work in progress, but certainly showed signs of eventually working his way into delivering the kind of high impact play both he and the Celtics expect from him defensively. He finished with four points in 19 minutes. 
"He's a big addition to what we do," Garnett said. Said Paul Pierce, "It's good to really see him out there tonight."

STAT TO TRACK: Scoring will indeed be at a premium for the Celtics against a stingy Grizzlies defense that's giving up an NBA-low 90 points per game. Boston has failed to score 90 or more points in two of their last three games. 
WHAT WE SAW: Boston was getting its share of points, but there was one problem. Their defense was giving up even more. After shooting better than 60 percent in the first half and better than 50 percent most of the second, Memphis was having one of its better games offensively as they fended off a late Celtics surge to get the win. 
"Percentage-wise we played good defense in the second half," said C's coach Doc Rivers. "We just couldn't score."

Blakely: An early look at some early exits

Blakely: An early look at some early exits

BOSTON – Missouri’s Michael Porter Jr. will undergo back surgery that’s expected to keep him out for the rest of this season, giving him a college career that will likely consist of two points in two minutes of action.
 
Projected as a potential No. 1 overall pick in next June’s NBA draft, his injury sent shock waves throughout the college basketball landscape as well as among NBA executives, who now must weigh the injury in their evaluation regardless of how well he recovers or even he aces the physical tests he’ll surely undergo leading up to the draft.

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You can count the Celtics among those to pay close attention to what’s happening with Porter Jr., a player that may be available to them in June courtesy of the first-round pick from the Los Angeles Lakers (via Philadelphia) that Boston received as part of the Markelle Fultz-Jayson Tatum trade.
 
As talented as Porter Jr. is, he won’t be the only high draft pick counted on to make an impact at the next level.
 
In this week’s Starting Five, we’ll take a look at the top five college freshman (most of whom are expected to turn pro and be in the draft in June) as well as MVP candidates; the top backcourts; the top rookies and my top five teams on the rise.

TOP 5 COLLEGE FRESHMEN
1. Marvin Bagley III, Duke: Has a double-double in four of Duke’s six games this season, averaging 19.0 points and 10.0 rebounds per game.

2. DeAndre Ayton, Arizona: Has impressive numbers, but back-to-back losses by the Wildcats? Not a good look for this future lottery pick.

3. Michael Porter Jr., Missouri: Depending on how his recovery/workouts/physicals go, no shocker if he winds up as the No. 1 pick when all is said and done.

4. Collin Sexton, Alabama: Big-time scorer, Sexton is a tough, tough cover in the half court or in transition.

5. Mohamed Bamba, Texas: 7-footer with a 7-9 wingspan, think Rudy Gobert with better athleticism.


TOP 5 NBA BACKCOURTS 
1. Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson, Golden State: NBA champions two of the last three seasons, Curry and Thompson are the gold standard all NBA backcourts are measured against.
 
2. Chris Paul and James Harden, Houston: The sample size is small, but the three games since Paul’s return have been by an average of 26 points per game which speaks to how well this all-star backcourt has come together.
 
3. John Wall and Bradley Beal, Washington: Wall’s end-to-end speed coupled with Beal’s elite shooting has made this one of the game’s most deadly backcourt duos.
 
4. Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan, Toronto: They’re the next best thing backcourt-wise to Wall/Beal in the East, but Boston’s Kyrie Irving and Jaylen Brown are right on their heels.
 
5. Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum, Portland: You don’t hear a ton about these two because Portland has been a good-but-not-great program that doesn’t garner a ton of attention. But don’t be fooled. Lillard and McCollum are two of the league’s most dynamic scorers.
 
 
TOP 5 MVP CANDIDATES
1. James Harden, Houston: A prolific scorer, Harden leads the NBA in scoring (31.1 points) and assists (9.8) per game while boasting the best record in the West.

2. Kyrie Irving, Boston:  The best player on the team with the best record who has been at his best in the clutch – that’s Kyrie Irving this season.

3. LeBron James, Cleveland: The Cavs are starting to roll up the wins and it is once again due to LeBron James doing LeBron James things.

4. Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee: The MVP front-runner the first couple of weeks of the season, the Greek Freak is still a load for teams to deal with.

5. Kristaps Porzingis, New York:  Among the NBA’s top-5 in scoring and blocked shots, Porzingis’ biggest achievement has been leading a far more competitive Knicks team than what we’ve seen the past couple of years.
 

TOP 5 ROOKIES
1. Ben Simmons, Philadelphia: A triple-double in the making, his statistics combined with Philly winning make him a no-brainer if he can stay healthy.

2. Jayson Tatum, Boston: His numbers are solid, but he moves to the forefront of those being considered because of his two-way play and his team’s success.

3. Donovan Mitchell, Utah: His 14.3 points leads all rookies who average less than 30 minutes played per game.

4. Kyle Kuzma, Los Angeles Lakers: Only Simmons is averaging more points among rookies than Kuzma (16.8 points per game).

5. Lauri Markkanen, Chicago: The Bulls are bad, but Markkanen’s inside-outside is impressive regardless of how his team has fared this season.
 

TOP 5 TEAMS ON THE RISE
1. Cleveland: With Boston’s loss, the Cavs have the longest current winning streak which stands at six wins in a row.

2. New Orleans: Currently with the seventh-best record in the West, the Pelicans have won seven of their last 10 games.

3. Indiana: Only Cleveland has been hotter than the Pacers, winners of four in a row.

4. Philadelphia: Joel Embiid has the Sixers three games above-.500, trending towards entering league MVP conversation.

5. San Antonio: After 4-4 start, Spurs are 7-3 since and very much in the thick of things out West.

Chris Hogan, David Andrews, Marcus Cannon miss full week of practice

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Chris Hogan, David Andrews, Marcus Cannon miss full week of practice

FOXBORO — It's safe to say Chris Hogan, David Andrews and Marcus Cannon won't play Sunday against the Dolphins.:

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The trio was not on the field for the media portion of Friday’s practice, completing a week in which the three did not practice at all. Hogan has been out with a shoulder injury, while Andrews missed last week’s win over the Raiders due to illness and Cannon has been dealing with an ankle injury. 

Martellus Bennett was also absent, making it two straight days in which he did not take the field. Bennett, who was released by Green Bay this season amid questions of whether he would undergo surgery, is listed on the injury report with shoulder and hamstring issues. 

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