Celtics

Celtics-Pacers Review: What we saw

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Celtics-Pacers Review: What we saw

INDIANAPOLIS It's going to take some time for both the Boston Celtics and Ray Allen to work out the kinks now that he's coming off the bench. His play in Boston's 86-72 win over Indiana was certainly a good start. Allen powered a Celtics bench with 19 points, nine of which came in the decisive fourth quarter.

Saturday's game was Allen's second straight after missing the previous six with a right ankle injury.

"I told him, 'it's going to take a couple games,'" said C's coach Doc Rivers. "You're still trying to get your legs back."

But his arms and wrists seem to work just fine, as Allen launched up 11 shots in the first half - nearly twice as many as the next Celtics' shooter.

He only had four made shots, but it was clear that as the game went on, his play steadily improved at both ends of the floor.

"In the second half, you could see that he had a breakthrough," Rivers said. "I thought that was terrific."

And while the number of shots Allen got does seem a bit high - he led all players with 18 shots taken - Rivers has no problem if they continue to come the way they did against the Pacers.

"He doesn't search for them (shots) now," Rivers said. "With the second unit, he's the go-to, him and Kevin (Garnett). Kevin couldn't buy a shot for a while, so we went with Ray. And Ray made some shots."

Indeed, Allen's ability to knock down jumpers was an important part of Boston's much-needed victory over Indiana on Saturday. Here are a few other keys outlined prior to the game, and how they played out as the Celtics (31-24) look to extend their lead in the Atlantic Division on Sunday against the Philadelphia 76ers.

WHAT TO LOOK FOR The Boston Celtics got a rare day off on Friday, having played back-to-back games against San Antonio and Chicago, respectively, the two previous nights. They day off could not have come at a better time. Not only do the C's look as though they could have used the rest, but playing with one day off between games has usually been a good sign of things to come for Boston. This season, the Celtics are 20-10 in games in which they have one day of rest. That is far and away their best winning percentage in terms of how they perform following off days. You can count Paul Pierce among the C's who believes the day off will bode well for the Celtics' chances of winning tonight. "This is a tough schedule at this point," Pierce said. "We need the rest; we need to try and regroup ourselves and bounce back from two tough losses."

WHAT WE SAW: The Celtics were indeed the fresher team, and came out playing like it. They broke open a 15-all tie in the first with a 9-4 run to end the quarter. And in the second quarter, the C's pulled ahead by as many as 17 points before settling on a 10-point halftime lead. Indiana chipped into the Celtics lead in the third quarter, but Boston continued to make all the big shots and get all the necessary defensive stops to keep a nice cushion between them and the Pacers. Once the fourth quarter rolled around, Boston continued to play with a lead that the C's were once again able to push into double digits.

MATCHUP TO WATCH - Avery Bradley vs. Paul George: Avery Bradley is used to guarding bigger players, but Paul George will be a handful, for sure. Besides the six-inch height difference, Bradley's also dealing with a guy that's more than 30 pounds heavier. On top of that, George is coming off a career night in which he grabbed 16 rebounds. It was the most rebounds grabbed by an Indiana guard since 1977 - a span of 35 years. And it was the second-highest rebounding total for a guard in a game this year. The top spot belongs to Rajon Rondo, who grabbed 17 rebounds as part of a triple-double of 18 points and 20 assists in Boston's 115-111 win over New York on March 4.

WHAT WE SAW: Neither player contributed much in terms of scoring, but the edge has to go to Bradley simply because he did a better job of playing the role he has with the Celtics. He is a defensive pest which was a contributing factor in George scoring just two points which included him missing all seven of his shots from the field. "First of all, Paul George is a very good player," Bradley said. "He had an off-night tonight, and I tried to make everything hard on him. Like he said, he didn't make shots tonight. But they are a good team."

PLAYER TO WATCH: Kevin Garnett hasn't been his usually consistent self lately. In the month of April, Garnett has shot jus 36.1 percent from the field - that's about 15 percent points below his season average. Celtics coach Doc Rivers has said he will give some thought during this current stretch coming up, to sit a player or two. Do not be shocked if Garnett misses a game in the coming days that's non-injury related.

WHAT WE SAW: Garnett once again had his share of stretches in which he struggled to score, missing a number of shots he normally makes. Part of that can be attributed to him having to defend Roy Hibbert who had nine points on 3-for-9 shooting, but also grabbed a game-high 17 rebounds. As for Garnett, he finished with 15 points on 6-for-15 shooting, and he grabbed seven rebounds.

STAT TO TRACK: When you look back at what went wrong in the Celtics' loss at Chicago on Thursday, without question it was their struggles defensively in the third quarter. Tonight they face an Indiana team that is at its best in the third quarter of games. The Pacers average a league-best 25.8 points per game in the third quarter. Boston will try and counter with a defense that has been very strong in the third quarter, giving up just 21.8 points in the third which ranks second in the NBA and has been the C's best quarter defensively in terms of limiting opponents scoring.

WHAT WE SAW: The third quarter was a struggle for both teams, which actually worked out in the Celtics' favor. Having went into the half with a 10-point lead, the C's were more than happy to have been able to maintain a comfortable lead - eight points - going into the fourth.

BOSTON SPORTS TONIGHT PODCAST: Celtics drop back-to-back games

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BOSTON SPORTS TONIGHT PODCAST: Celtics drop back-to-back games

0:41 - Michael Holley, Tom Giles, and Kayce Smith give their thoughts on Kyrie Irving’s struggles, not having Gordon Hayward, and the Celtics losing for the 2nd time in as many nights.

6:31 - A. Sherrod Blakely joins BST to discuss the message delivered by Hayward to the fans before the game, what was going on with Kyrie’s shot, and why they failed in stopping The Greek Freak.

10:33 - Albert Breer joins BST to preview the Falcons/Patriots Sunday night game and if Atlanta is in the middle of a Super Bowl hangover.

15:40 - In a new game called On The Clock, each person gets 40 seconds to rant on their selected subject including if Red Sox fans can root for the Yankees if the playoffs and how painful the Bruins season will be. 

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE

Celtics 'don’t have time for square one' moving on without Hayward

Celtics 'don’t have time for square one' moving on without Hayward

BOSTON – When Kyrie Irving asked Cleveland to trade him this summer, he did so in part to be more of a navigator when it comes to charting out the rest of his basketball career.

But he knows for him to achieve the kind of individual and team success that he wants, he can’t do it alone.

And that maybe more than anything else, is why Irving has struggled in these first two games as far as shooting the ball.

In Boston’s first two games – both losses – Irving has averaged 19.5 points, 4.0 assists and 6.5 rebounds. Those are decent numbers but pale in comparison to what the 25-year-old has been able to do most of his NBA career.

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And while the team is committed to moving on and focus on winning the next game, there’s no getting around the emotional tug they all feel towards Hayward.

“You can throw as many emotions in there as you want, man,” Irving said. “We know how much G (Gordon Hayward) meant to this team and means to this team. Without him on the floor creating those opportunities we were going over in practice, and we saw in preseason and in the first game, that’s a big void to fill. When you think of it in that aspect, of course you want to be frustrated and disappointed. I’m pretty sure that’s not what G wants. So, for us, you just have to continue to exude confidence in the young guys and be ready to step up to the plate. It’s going to be even higher expectations on our guys in this locker room now to try and fill that hole that G (Hayward) left for us. As one of the leaders on this team, it’s my job to pick us up, as well as with Brad and the team with all the guys. We have to look each other in the eyes and know what to expect every single night.”

That’s a lot easier said than done, especially when you consider how quickly things changed for the Celtics at least in the short term with Hayward’s energy.

“I just … as you can see its’ not an ideal situation,” Irving said. “So, as cliché as it is, everybody is probably going to say that’s life. But it is, man. [expletive] happens. Excuse my language. But it does, man. The individual that we have in Gordon, he’s very special. He’s going to fight like hell to get back on the floor. I know he’s already … there’s a fire burning inside of him. You see the amount of support he got. That should tell you the type of person he is. Not only to the Boston Celtics but to the rest of the league. We want him to get back healthy but we all understand that his health comes first. He’s going to do everything possible to get back on the floor and it’s our job to lift him up.”

Irving was asked whether the team would need to go back to Square One due to Hayward’s injury which will keep him out indefinite at this point.

“No. We don’t have time for square one,” Irving said. “I can tell you that right now. We don’t have time to go back to square one. It’s time to just figure it out, moment to moment, and we’ll be alright. I’ve had the unique opportunity to be in some situations that test your character and this is one of those times.”

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE