Celtics

Blakely's takeaways: C's put entire league on notice

Blakely's takeaways: C's put entire league on notice

BOSTON – You had to figure Golden State’s explosive offense would probably come up a little short scoring-wise against the Boston Celtics and their top-rated defense. 

But for them to score 88 points – that’s about 32 below their average – was very one of those, “where the hell did that come from?” moments. 

And it was exactly what the Celtics needed to escape with a 92-88 win that extended their winning streak to 14 in a row but maybe most important, put the entire league on notice that this streak they’re on right now … it’s real. 

“They wrote us off coming in, saying Golden State was gonna beat us, and do this and do that,” said Boston’s Jaylen Brown. “We came out and played basketball. Even though we got down, the make-up of our team is staying in; we’re resilient.”

Here are five takeaways from Boston’s signature win of the season, 92-88 over Golden State which extended Boston’s winning streak to 14 straight. 

 

BROWN’S GROWTH

Jaylen Brown was playing with a heavy heart less than 24 hours after the death of his best friend. But as we’ve seen in this still-young season, Brown is very much one of the league’s emerging talents. He certainly played that role on Thursday in leading Boston with 22 points with seven rebounds, two steals and two blocked shots.  

 

TALE OF TWO HALVES FOR TATUM

There’s something about the second half of games against elite players that brings out the best in Jayson Tatum. When Boston opened the season at Cleveland, Tatum was noticeably better in the second half than the first. And in Thursday’s win over Golden State, it was more of the same. In the first half he had just two points only to finish with a 10-point second half (7 coming in the fourth) for a 12-point game on 2-for-5 shooting. 

 

AL HORFORD

As well as he’s played, a strong case can be made for Horford being a league MVP instead of their leading scorer, Kyrie Irving. Horford tallied a double-double of 18 points and 11 rebounds to go with a pair of assists. Horford now has six double-doubles this season which equals his double-double total from all of last season. 

 

MARCUS SMART

As much as you know Smart makes great effort plays consistently and does indeed make a difference when he’s on the court, his shooting woes are reaching critical mass even as Boston continues to gobble up wins. In the last five games, Smart has averaged 7.6 points. That’s not too bad, right? But then you look and see that he’s shooting 19.2 percent (10-for-52) in that span. Ouch! So far, the Celtics have been able to find success despite his shooting struggles. But you have to anticipate at some point it’ll catch up with them. 

 

SHORTENED ROTATION

For most of this season, pretty much everyone who suits up for the Celtics, have played. But against the Warriors, it had the feel of a playoff-like rotation with head coach Brad Stevens playing 10 guys with nine reaching double digits in minutes played. Considering how the second unit struggled to make shots (they missed 17 of their 19 shot attempts), it’s understandable why head coach Brad Stevens leaned a little heavier than usual on his second unit.

Hayward may ditch the boot for good on Wednesday

celtics_gordon_hayward_092617.jpg

Hayward may ditch the boot for good on Wednesday

BOSTON -- The timetable for Gordon Hayward’s return to the court hasn’t changed as far as the Celtics are concerned. 
 
But try telling that to Hayward, who may be out of his walking boot for good very soon -- like tomorrow soon. 
 
C's coach Brad Stevens gave an update on Hayward’s status in an interview with Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski for Krzyzewski’s SiriusXM show, “Basketball & Beyond with Coach K,” which will air Thursday at 6 p.m. ET (SiriusXM channel 84).
 
“He’s going to the doctor [Wednesday] to potentially get out of his walking boot for good, which he’s jacked about,” Stevens said.
 
Stevens and Danny Ainge, Boston’s president of basketball operations, have reiterated how aggressive Hayward has been in attacking his rehab since suffering a dislocated left ankle injury in the season opener at Cleveland on October 17. 
 
“He is literally in the weight room as we speak,” Stevens said. “Does all the training table [work], just like our guys. Has his own shooting time even when he was in a boot, sitting in a chair. He had his own shooting time and had his own lifting time, just like all our players do before practice.”
 
From the very outset, Stevens and the Celtics have made keeping Hayward as involved as possible a priority.
  
But Stevens is quick to caution that while Hayward is making good progress, the Celtics are still proceeding forward as though they will not have him back until next season.

“His status is, the way that we’ve looked at it the whole time is, we don’t expect him back this year,” Stevens said. “But he shoots for all of his goals, week to week, day to day, to try to expedite it as much as he can. He obviously wants to be back, like any athlete, as soon as he can.”
 
Hayward signed a four-year, $127.8 million contract with the Celtics this summer after spending his first seven NBA seasons with the Utah Jazz. Boston was awarded an $8.4 million disabled player exception for Hayward's injury, the largest DPE ever. Boston was awarded the exception in part because independent doctors determined that it’s “likely” that Hayward will not be able to return prior to June 15.
 
However, Boston will still keep the DPE until it expires (March 10, 2018) even if Hayward returns sooner than expected. 
 

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE


 

A night to forget in Chicago for C's

A night to forget in Chicago for C's

BOSTON – No Kyrie Irving. The fifth game in eight nights. Chicago getting Nikola Mirotic back.
 
There’s a long list of reasons one can surmise in trying to make sense of Boston’s 108-85 loss to the woeful Chicago Bulls on Monday.

MORE CELTICS:

“They came out with more energy, more purpose,” Al Horford told reporters after the loss. “We probably needed more sense of urgency.”
 
He’s right.
 
At no point in the game did the Celtics play with the kind of desperation needed to be competitive, let alone emerge with a win.
 
The loss hurts but doesn’t have much of an impact on the team’s record (23-6) or position as the best team record-wise in the East.
 
Still, it serves as a stark reminder of what can happen when even the best of teams don’t play with some semblance of desperation – they can get crushed.
 
“Chicago dictated the whole game; they played harder than we did,” Stevens said. “They played with more presence than we did; played more competitive than we did. They played with more authority than we did. You’re not going to win many games when you play like that.”
 
Here are five other takeaways from the loss:


JAYSON TATUM
The 19-year-old had one of those back-to-earth moments on Monday. He delivered the kind of sub-par performance we have not seen from him this season, which is pretty amazing considering we’re more than a third of the way through the regular season. Tatum had a season-low four points, missing six of his seven shots along with all four of his 3-point attempts.


 


LACK OF HUSTLE
For most of the game, Chicago simply outworked Boston, which again is something we have not seen much of this season. And this was noticeable at both ends of the floor. Against the Bulls, Boston had a total of seven assists via screens. To put that in perspective, Aron Baynes had eight screen assists by himself in Sunday’s win at Detroit. And with so much length, the Celtics are accustomed to getting their hands on a lot of balls via deflections. Boston’s deflection total against the Bulls? Two. It was that kind of night for the Green Team.


SCHEDULED LOSS?
No team wants to blame the schedule for a loss, but there are certain games in which the degree of difficulty to win is increased in part because of timing. Monday night's game was Boston’s fifth in eight days. No matter how talented or deep a team may be, such stretches of play eventually factor into a not-so-great performance. We’ve seen the Celtics have a few of these this season, but often found a way to muster up enough stretches of good play to escape with a win. But on Monday, they just couldn’t string together enough good plays at either end of the floor to swing the game’s momentum in their favor.


 
KYRIE IRVING
We have thought highly of Irving since he’s joined the Celtics, in large part because of what he does to impact winning. His sitting out Monday night to rest a sore quad muscle created a window of opportunity for his teammates. Instead, the game turned into a referendum on why Irving is an MVP candidate. This team without him, on Monday night at least, was horrible. If he does miss any more games, you can count on the Celtics playing much better than what we saw against Chicago. But in the meantime, they would just as soon leave the Irving-less games to hypothetical scenarios rather than being part of their reality.



BRAD STEVENS
There have been some who have debated whether Brad Stevens is the real MVP of this Celtics team and will use Monday’s loss as an example to debunk that notion. But here’s what you have to remember. A coaches’ game plan is only as good as the players are at executing it. And just like players will have a stinker game here and there over an 82-game regular season, the same goes for coaches. Stevens couldn’t find a matchup against Chicago that worked. And defensively, the players were a step slow most of the night no matter what Stevens called for them to do. Could Stevens have done a better job? Absolutely. He’ll be the first to tell you that. But this loss was more about the Celtics not playing with enough of a sense of urgency, which is a collaborative effort between Stevens and his players. They fell short of accomplishing that against the Bulls.