Celtics

Celtics lose 5th straight, fall to Thunder, 119-104

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Celtics lose 5th straight, fall to Thunder, 119-104

OKLAHOMA CITY The Boston Celtics had one of their best nights offensively in the first half, and there they were still getting smashed by the Oklahoma City Thunder.

With key Celtics out with injuries (Chris Wilcox, Jermaine O'Neal, Brandon Bass) and suspension (Rajon Rondo), the Thunder treated the wounded Celtics for most of the first half just how you would a team that's hurting -- put them down emphatically, quickly.

But this is a veteran Celtics team, one with players with lots of come-from-behind wins and a ton of pride.

It came through in the second half, but it wasn't enough, as the Thunder pulled away for a 119-104 win.

After trailing by as many as 27 points in the third quarter, the Celtics closed out the third with a 24-11 run and trailed, 94-80, going into the fourth.

Boston continued to chip away, making it a six-point game after Paul Pierce made one of two free throws.

But a pair of free throws by Oklahoma City's James Harden and a Kevin Durant bank-shot pushed the Thunder's lead back to double digits with 2:46 to play.

From there, the Thunder's control of the game was never an issue.

Boston has too much pride, too much tradition to make a big deal out of playing the Thunder close.

But there's no mistaking that this team, for all their flaws, showed the kind of fight that makes you wonder just how they would have fared had they had one, maybe two more bodies available.

The strong play at the end of the third by Boston and into the fourth, was similar to how they began the game.

Boston opened the game playing surprisingly well, jumping out to a 22-12 lead.

The double-digit deficit may have been just the wake-up call the Thunder needed, as they responded with a furious 23-3 run to close out the first quarter which ended with them ahead, 35-25.

Oklahoma City continued to pour on the points in the second before gong into the half with a commanding 72-49 lead.

Kevin Garnett, who returned to the Celtics lineup after missing a pair of games to attend to a personal family matter, was very productive for the C's.

At the half, he had 15 points on 6-for-7 shooting with eight rebounds.

Now the C's hit the All-Star break after going 0-for-the-road in what players and coaches alike said would be a telling trip.

Truthfully, it only confirmed what we have seen play out most of the season in Boston.

This team can't stay healthy. And because of that, no one -- not Rivers, not Danny Ainge, not the players -- has a true feel for whether this team will ever reach its potential.

That puts Ainge, president of basketball operations, in a tough spot. He has said that he wants to see how this team, when healthy, functions on the floor.

But if they can never stay healthy enough to play, the pursuit of potential trades between now and the NBA trading deadline will only increase.

"It's tough, especially when you go on this road trip, and you just want to be healthy," Rivers said recently. "And you just haven't had that opportunity. This is a road trip I've really been looking forward to. We thought a week ago, Kevin was going to be good and Brandon (Bass) was going to be healthy and now you don't have either ... that makes it a tough trip."

HOT SHOT

Kevin Garnett returned from a two-game absence attending to a personal matter, and didn't seem to miss a beat. Despite being the Celtic's primary big man -- which made targeting him defensively a no-brainer for the Thunder -- Garnett had 23 points along with 13 rebounds for his team-leading ninth double-double of the season.

"He was terrific to watch and compete," said Celtics coach Doc Rivers.

IN-N-OUT

It was a good thing that Paul Pierce was getting to the free throw line. For most of the game, Pierce struggled mightily to make shots before finishing with a 5-for-15 shooting line. Him getting into early foul trouble, however, posed an even bigger problem for Boston.

"I hurt us by getting into foul trouble," Pierce acknowledged. "But overall, I saw positive things from this game."

Like his success at beating his man off the dribble and getting into the paint which, more often than not, resulted in free throws. Despite his poor shooting, Pierce still managed to score 23 points, good enough to share team-high scoring honors with Garnett.

SUPER SUB

James Harden continues to be the best backup in the NBA, a major cog in the Thunder's machine-like precision when it comes to winning. Harden finished with 17 points on 6-for-10 along with seven assists and two steals.

TURNING POINT

With Oklahoma City leading 108-101 with 3:31 to play, Paul Pierce went to the free throw line with a chance to make it a five-point game. He missed the first, but made the second. The Celtics could not get any closer as the Thunder finished the game with an 11-2 run.

BY THE NUMBERS

4: That would be the number of starters (Jermaine O'Neal, Rajon Rondo) or rotation players (Brandon Bass, Chris Wilcox) the Celtics were missing against the Thunder.

QUOTE TO NOTE

"This effort we played with tonight is what we need to do every game from here on out."- Celtics guard Ray Allen.

Celtics get off to strong start, cruise to 118-103 win over Magic

Celtics get off to strong start, cruise to 118-103 win over Magic

BOSTON – Well, so much for the Boston Celtics being hungover following their first loss in more than a month.
 
If anything, the loss at Miami on Wednesday served as a wake-up call for the Celtics to avoid easing their way into games.
 
Because the Celtics jumped on the Magic early and never lost control of the game as they cruised to a 118-103 win.

Kyrie Irving led all scorers with 30 points while Terry Rozier came off the Celtics bench to score a career-high 23 points. Nikola Vucevic led the Magic (8-11) with a double-double of 12 points and 11 rebounds.
 
After leading by as many as 32 points, the Magic opened the fourth quarter against Boston’s backups, with a 13-3 run that cut Boston’s lead to 102-82.
 
The Magic would score six of the game’s next eight points before Rozier drained a much-needed 3-pointer that increased Boston’s lead to 107-88 with 6:48 to play.
 
Following an Orlando timeout, Boston continued to play with a huge lead and in doing so, got a big, bounce-back win.
 
One of the issues Boston was having, even during the 16-game winning streak, was that they didn’t get off to the greatest starts evident by them trailing by double digits in the first half of each of their previous four games prior to tonight’s game.
 
But that would not be the case tonight; not even close actually.
 
Leading 22-19 in the first, Boston went on an 18-7 run to take a commanding 40-26 lead
 
The 40 points scored were the most they tallied in the first quarter of a game this season.
 
And while the points weren’t as abundant in the second quarter, Boston’s dominance was just as great.
 
On this night, the Celtics were an equal opportunity destroyer.
 
Kyrie Irving had a very Kyrie Irving kind of night with 17 points in the first half.
 
The Celtics also got an unexpected boost from its bench, led by Rozier who had 13 points in the first half.
 
It seemed no matter who Brad Stevens turned to off the bench, it was a given that they would have a positive impact on this night.
 
Meanwhile, the Magic could muster up little fight or resistance as Boston’s lead peaked at 28 points (68-40) before the half ended with Boston in charge with a commanding 73-47 lead.
 
It’s rare for a team to have such a commanding halftime lead, the kind of lead that makes a team oh-so-vulnerable to a second-half letup.
 
Not the Celtics; not tonight at least.
 
Boston continued to play with a purpose; to not just win but do so in an emphatic, consistently dominant fashion.
 
Sporting a lead of 20-plus points throughout the third quarter, Boston went into the fourth quarter leading 99-69.

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Grzelcyk's first goal for hometown Bruins 'a jolt through the system'

Grzelcyk's first goal for hometown Bruins 'a jolt through the system'

BOSTON – Bobby Orr’s iconic, leaping goal that clinched a Stanley Cup for the Bruins was memorable enough to earn its own statue outside the TD Garden, and will always be No. 1 in the hearts and minds of hockey fans around New England.  

But it’s been bumped down to No. 3 for longtime TD Garden Bull Gang member John Grzelcyk for understandable reasons, and both of those preferred favorite moments involve his hockey-playing son, Matt. One was a game-winning goal vs. Northeastern to secure a Beanpot when he played for Boston University, but the newest one was all about his burgeoning career with the Black and Gold. The Bruins rookie defenseman did his Zamboni-driving papa proud on Friday afternoon when he snapped home his first career NHL goal in a 4-3 B’s win over the Pittsburgh Penguins at TD Garden in their annual Black Friday matinee.

“I feel bad for Bobby Orr, but he’s my son,” said the elder Grzelcyk, beaming with pride. “Sorry.”

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The 5-foot-9, 174-pound Grzelcyk’s goal ended up being a pivotal one in Boston’s fourth win in a row as it arrived in the second period amid a flurry of three goals from the Penguins, and allowed the game to still be tied entering the third period. Jake DeBrusk had slipped a centering pass to David Krejci in the slot for a one-time opportunity, and the playmaking center fanned on the shot attempt with the puck drifting over to Grzelcyk crashing toward the net.

The quick change of puck direction opened up a shooting seam for the 23-year-old Grzelcyk, and he snapped the puck past Matt Murray for his first goal of the season at either the NHL or AHL level this season. The first NHL career goal would have been welcomed no matter when it happened for Grzelcyk, of course, but to have it go down on national TV in an NBC game had to make it extra special.

You couldn’t tell any of that, of course, because the younger Grzelcyk was trying to act like he’d been there before after the score. But it was clear how excited his teammates were for him as Kevan Miller quickly retrieved the puck for his D-partner, and they gathered around him for the time-honored hockey hug celebration.

“It was pretty special, obviously. It brings back memories of skating [on the Garden ice] as a kid and stuff like that. It hasn’t really set in yet, it was pretty cool to get that out of the way,” said Grzelcyk, who has a goal and two points along with a plus-4 rating in three games with Boston this season. “It was kind of a jolt through my system. I didn’t really know what was going on. I was trying to hide it the best I could. I think the rest of the guys were trying to make me smile. I was really happy.”

Part of the reason Grzelcyk got to remain in the lineup was Bruce Cassidy’s choice to go with seven defensemen against the Penguins, a game lineup look the Bruins haven’t used in an awfully long time. It allowed the Bruins to ease Torey Krug back into the lineup after missing the last couple of games with an upper-body injury, keep Robbie O’Gara active in case they needed more of a big-bodied presence in the D-zone and let Grzelcyk keep playing given how good he’s looked in his NHL appearances this season.

Cassidy indicated that plugging both Grzelcyk and Krug in among a 7 D-men formation, for a greater puck-moving dimension to the team, is something they may tinker with more moving forward.  

“We don’t mind that 11 forwards, seven D. It may be something we look at more often if you have Krug and Griz [Matt Grzelcyk] in there. But they both played well, well enough Robby [Rob O’Gara] didn’t see a lot of ice. I thought he was fine when he was in there, to be honest with you. It’s not easy to sit there,” said Bruce Cassidy. “But adding Griz into the mix does give you another puck mover with Charlie [McAvoy] and Krug if all three are in there. I think that’s important.

“That’s not being disrespectful to the other – when we have more heavy guys. It really helps our penalty kill. When you have four guys– makes it tough to get inside. We are finding that balance. And I think it’s something that we’ll tinker with for a while, and the more Griz plays consistent hockey, the easier the decision it makes.”

Either way, it will take quite a bit for Grzelcyk’s next big hockey accomplishment to live up to a pretty cool setting for his first NHL goal, or be enough to finally edge Bobby Orr out of the old man’s top-3 favorite hockey moments of all time.  

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