Celtics

Celtics-Nets review: Where's the pride?

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Celtics-Nets review: Where's the pride?

BOSTON Once upon not that long ago, the TD Garden really was like a jungle; a place where team after team would be devoured upon entry.

These days?

Not even close.

The Brooklyn Nets became the latest team to make themselves at home in the C's digs, as they delivered a 95-83 loss to the Celtics Wednesday night.

Rajon Rondo's ejection after fighting with Kris Humphries may be what most will take away from Wednesday's game.

But for the C's, this loss serves as yet another reminder that whatever home court advantage they thought they had, does not exist.

"We have to have more pride playing at home," said Boston's Kevin Garnett. "Since I been here, we take a lot of pride in ... putting these jerseys on. Sometimes I question if we really understand what it means."

Celtics coach Doc Rivers had similar thoughts on his team's play.

"You know, Kevin, Paul (Pierce) and Rondo and a couple other guys - it's not everyone - it's almost like they think because they put the jersey on that they are something. You've got to earn it here."

The C's certainly didn't play well enough to warrant a win on Wednesday. Here are some other key factors identified prior to the game, and how they ultimately played out in the Celtics' loss.

WHAT TO LOOK FOR: Brooklyn has the ability to post-up teams at just about every position within their starting five, the kind of luxury that makes keeping their points in the paint low. The Nets average 43.4 points in the paint which ranks 10th among NBA teams. That would be a pretty average night against a Celtics defense that ranks 28th in allowed points in the paint, at 43.6.

WHAT WE SAW: Although Boston only gave up 38 points in the paint, this was a game in which Brooklyn's interior play was overwhelming at times for the Celtics who gave up 23 second-chance points while generating just 11 of their own.

MATCHUP TO WATCH: Kevin Garnett vs. Brook Lopez: The Big Ticket will have his hands full against Lopez who has been arguably the best center in the East this season. Lopez is averaging 19.2 points, 6.5 rebounds and 2.7 blocks per game.

WHAT WE SAW: Garnett had the better of Lopez most of the night, both in terms of statistics and impact on the game. Garnett had 16 points and 10 rebounds for his fourth double-double this season. while Lopez had nine points and 10 rebounds in part because of early foul trouble.

PLAYER TO WATCH: Brandon Bass has emerged as a solid rebounding presence for the Celtics, something he'll need to continue doing against a Brooklyn team that's among the NBA's best rebounding squads. Bass is averaging 5.7 rebounds per game this season, but has snatched eight per game during the C's last three games.

WHAT WE SAW: Bass had a nice game shooting the ball (16 points, 7-for-12 shooting), but they needed so much more from him in terms of rebounding. He grabbed just three rebounds which was among the factors leading to the C's being minus-10 on the boards.

STAT TO TRACK: Boston's fourth quarter offense will be put to the test against a Brooklyn team that has made life difficult for most teams during the game's most critical moments. The Nets are giving up 21.3 points per game in the fourth quarter, the NBA's third-lowest total in the fourth. Meanwhile, the Celtics' fourth-quarter offense is churning out 25.3 points in the fourth, No. 5 in the NBA.

WHAT WE SAW: Fourth quarter scoring didn't really mean much on Wednesday, not with the Nets going into the quarter with a 15-point cushion. Brooklyn played the C's to a near-standstill most of the quarter as the Celtics could only trim Brooklyn's lead by three points (28-25).

Celtics, Jaylen Brown's crucial flub in Game 4 was actually officiating error

Celtics, Jaylen Brown's crucial flub in Game 4 was actually officiating error

BOSTON – The NBA’s two-minute report on Boston’s Game 4 loss at Milwaukee revealed a trio of incorrect non-calls in the closing moments of play, two of which went against the Celtics in their 104-102 loss. 

With Boston ahead 100-99 with less than a minute to play, Jaylen Brown lost the ball on a driving lay-up attempt. 

No call was made on the play, one that Brown thought he was fouled on. 

The two-minute report confirmed “that (Khris) Middleton makes contact to Brown's arm that affects his driving shot attempt.”

Had the call been made, Brown would have gone to the free throw line with 43.5 seconds to play with the Celtics already ahead by one point. 

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But on the ensuing Milwaukee possession following the non-call, Malcolm Brogdon drained a 3-pointer that put the Bucks ahead 102-100.

With 47.9 seconds to play, the two-minute report also indicated that an offensive foul should have been called against Milwaukee’s Giannis Antetokounmpo. The two-minute report indicated that, “Antetokounmpo extends his arm and wards off (Semi) Ojeleye's arm, affecting his ability to contest the shot attempt.”

And with 1:14 to play, Antetokounmpo was fouled by Jayson Tatum although no call was made. On the play, the two-minute report says that, “Tatum clamps Antetokounmpo's arm and pushes him, affecting his (freedom of movement) and ability to receive the pass.

On the ensuing possession following the non-call, Tatum hit a jumper that put the Celtics ahead 100-99 with 52.4 seconds to play. 

Celtics coach Brad Stevens has been asked about officiating quite a bit in the last few days. And his response in each instance remains relatively the same.

"I'm not going to ever say anything bad about referees because they have a really tough job," Stevens said. 

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Bruins know they 'have to be better defensively' to close out Leafs

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Bruins know they 'have to be better defensively' to close out Leafs

TORONTO – The Bruins have scored less than three goals exactly once in their playoff series with the Toronto Maple Leafs. Offense really hasn’t been an issue against a Toronto team that can’t consistently stop the Black and Gold. No, it’s much more about defense and slowing down the Maple Leafs while keeping preventable goals out of the back of their net. 

Some of it is about effectively cutting down the transition, stretch passes that Toronto likes to use to kick-start their offense, and that’s about minimizing the risk-taking offensively while also taking care not to allow leaking, sneaking opponents behind their defense. Some of it is just about good, fundamental defense as the Bruins simply didn’t play 2-on-2 situations very well on rushes from the Toronto forwards in their Game 5 loss at TD Garden. 

All of it is about holding players like Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner and Nazem Kadri in check as the Bruins have done for long stretches of the series with a steady diet of Zdeno Chara greeting the Leafs franchise center wherever he goes.

“In games like that we have to be a little better defensively,” said Brad Marchand, referring to Game 5’s defeat where they scored three goals. “We can’t expect to score five goals every game, so we can’t be giving up four [goals]. If we’re a little bit better there and continue to pepper away with the shots, hopefully things will work in our favor.”

Bruce Cassidy went through each of the first three goals allowed by the Bruins in their Game 5 loss last weekend, and each of them needed better “rush defense” executed by the Bruins. The first was a simple one-man rush into the zone by Matthews, the second was Andreas Johnsson getting behind the Bruins defense before connecting with Kadri on a perfect pass, and the third was a backbreaking Tyler Bozak score from the slot after the Bruins had just scored and grabbed momentum in the game. All of them arrived via Toronto’s speed and aggressive mindset entering the offensive zone, and that’s something Boston has stifled to a much more effective degree until Saturday night.  

“They make a play up the wall where we’re normally there to contest that, slide and have the appropriate adjustment between the forward and the ‘D.’ We didn’t slide until the rush. That will be addressed and was addressed. That’s what we need to do against Toronto when we have the numbers and we didn’t do it,” said Bruce Cassidy. “Then they won a puck at the net where we’re generally good there, but they got it to the net. Give them credit, they got it there. They got it to the net and won a battle by going to the dirty areas. 

“The second goal was a 2-on-2 and a good play, but still a 2-on-2. We need to defend it better from our end. From their end, it’s a nice play. The third goal was a quick up, we were a little late trying to kill it. … We were a little late in every area, we needed a save there and we didn’t get it. So those are the three goals I look at, and I look at the rush defense that could have been better.”

Given that the Bruins have scored 20 goals in the five playoff games vs. Toronto and hit the 40 shots on net three different times in the best-of-seven series, it’s about holding the Leafs down a little more effectively as they’ve done in their three wins. If the Bruins can play sound defense and once again slow down the Maple Leafs track meet on the ice, then it’s highly doubtful this series will be going back to Boston for a Game 7. 

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