Celtics found key to slowing Porzingis, but he has quickly adapted


Celtics found key to slowing Porzingis, but he has quickly adapted

BOSTON – One of the first times New York Knicks star Kristaps Porzingis faced the Boston Celtics, he found himself matched up with an unfamiliar defender in Marcus Smart.
Yes, the 6-foot-4 Smart was defensively giving Porzingis fits, never mind the fact that the New York Knicks big man had an 11-inch height advantage.
And so the narrative on how to deal with Porzingis was born.
Put a smaller, stronger defensive-minded player on him and his impact would at a minimum be limited.


“He (Smart) tried to break my knees,” quipped Porzingis about Smart who will not play Tuesday due to a left ankle sprain. “No, it was something I had never experienced before, guy was getting into my knees, playing hard defense. I wasn’t really ready for (that).”
Call it a lesson learned, because these days no defender – tall, short, lanky or strong – seems capable of containing the 7-3 big man.
Indeed, there have been few players in the NBA who have gotten off to better starts when it comes to scoring the ball.
He came into Tuesday’s game against the Celtics averaging 32.0 points in his first two games, and became the first New York Knick to score 30 or more points in back-to-back games to start the season since Patrick Ewing in the 1993-1994 season.
“Now, I’m more prepared for it,” Porzingis said. “I know it’s coming. Every team is going to try and play physical defense against me. I just have to make sure I’m ready for that contact.”
He has done just that, displaying an ability to score both from the perimeter and around the basket regardless of what type of defender teams throw his way.
“He’s really tough to guard,” said Celtics head coach Brad Stevens. “He’s really, he’s super-skilled and obviously super long. It’s hard to put a guard on him. Guards oftentimes don’t affect him, affect the rhythm of his shot. He just shoots it over them. Bigs oftentimes can’t keep up with him.  His ability to put it on the floor, his ability to stretch them out. His ability to cut and do unique cuts. How many guys can cut off a lob and jump over people, and also come off a stagger screen and shoot it from 3? He’s a pretty special talent.”
Which made the rumors of the Knicks potentially open to trading him all the more perplexing this summer.
Porzingis was well aware of the trade speculation surrounding him, as well as what was being said about another big-name talent, Kyrie Irving.
Irving, who wound up being traded to Boston, had reportedly listed New York on his initial preferred destinations to be traded to.
“I saw that,” Porzingis said. “I wasn’t trying to pay too much attention to my own trade talks, even less to other guys.”
Of course, that was under then-GM Phil Jackson who has since been replaced by longtime NBA executive Scott Perry.
The change appears to have done the relationship between Porzingis and the Knicks a lot of good, with Porzingis looking and playing like the face of the franchise which he has become since the Knicks traded Carmelo Anthony to Oklahoma City shortly before training camp started.
But the real challenge lies in Porzingis' ability to maintain his play over the course of an 82-game season.
“That’s the thing for me, getting rest and recovery between games is the most important thing,” Porzingis said. “If I can stay fresh for the 82 games, then I will be fine. I know I will be able to play at a high level.”
The Knicks (0-2) will need that if they are to do what so few anticipate this season, which is to compete for a playoff berth.
New York isn’t thinking that long-term right now, not with a handful of games played.
Regardless, their success this season will be tightly connected with Porzingis’ play, and whether he can withstand the physical pounding teams are eager to administer to him this season.
“I know it’s going to be physical, guys are going to come at me,” he said. “But again, keep it simple for myself. Go out there and play basketball and have fun.”


Celtics push winning streak to 16 games, beating Mavs in OT, 110-102

Celtics push winning streak to 16 games, beating Mavs in OT, 110-102

Flat. Round. Octagon.
It doesn’t matter.
This is Kyrie Irving’s world, one in which he can do some pretty amazing things like lead the Boston Celtics to an improbable comeback that finally ended with a 110-102 overtime win for Boston.
Irving delivered as near-flawless a game scoring the ball as we’ve seen since he became a Boston Celtic.
He finished with a game-high 47 points, which included 10 in overtime as the Celtics (16-2) extended their winning to 16 straight which ties the fourth-longest winning streak in franchise history.
Jumpers. 3-pointers. Lay-ups.
Irving gave the Celtics anything and everything they needed down the stretch for what might have been the toughest win for them during this amazing stretch of success.
We have seen the Celtics blaze their way down the comeback trail before, and Monday was no exception. They closed out the fourth quarter with a 17-7 run over the final 5:22 to force the overtime session.
Boston led for most of the first half, but Dallas opened the third quarter with a 9-0 run to lead 58-53, and continued to surge ahead before the third finally ended with the Mavericks pulling ahead to the fourth quarter with a 77-69 lead.
The Mavericks continued to control the game for most of the fourth quarter and took their first double-digit lead, 83-72, following a driving lay-up by Yogi Ferrell which led to Brad Stevens calling a time-out with 9:19 to play.
Boston’s struggles in the second half were in sharp contrast to what the Celtics were able to do in the first two quarters.

The Celtics went on a 25-8 run in the first quarter which set the tone for the C's 34-22 lead at the end of the first.

Boston went to its bench and they did what we’ve seen them do a lot this season, missing a bunch of wide open to lightly contested shots from the field.

Stevens has been looking for them to develop some kind of flow offensively, and probably kept them on the floor longer than he should have.

Boston’s double-digit lead was all but wiped out in the second quarter, with the Mavericks coming within 44-43 following a 3-poiner by Wesley Matthews. The Celtics managed to take a slimmer-than-expected 53-49 lead into the half.


Celtics thought it would be good . . . but this good?


Celtics thought it would be good . . . but this good?

After arriving in Boston and spending some time with his new teammates, Kyrie Irving felt good about this group doing big things this season. 

But when asked about the experience thus far being what he thought it would be, Irving responded, “It’s probably exceeded that.”

He’s not alone. 

Few would have envisioned the Celtics (15-2) would have the best record in the NBA at this point, let alone be riding a 15-game winning streak which ranks as the fifth-best winning streak in franchise history. 

Irving and his Celtics teammates will try and keep it going tonight when they take on the Dallas Mavericks.

Irving’s ability to mesh with his teammates and still find success was among the many questions out there when the Celtics and Cleveland Cavaliers pulled off the blockbuster trade this offseason. 

Blending in has not been an issue for Irving, bolstered by the reality that his game stands out. 

We saw that in Boston’s 110-99 win over the Atlanta Hawks, which was a game in which Irving had 30 points on an insanely efficient 10-for-12 shooting night. 

There were many factors that went into Irving’s strong night against the Hawks, but he said it really came down to one thing above all else.

“I just made some damn shots for once,” Irving quipped. “That right there kind of made it seem better than I actually been shooting over the start of the season.  It would also contribute to being able to be in the right spots and guys being selfless in their approach driving to the basket or getting into the paint. It’s tell-tale sign of all of us getting more comfortable.”

Here are five below-the-radar story lines to keep an eye on as the Boston Celtics face the Dallas Mavericks, with Boston gunning for its 16th straight win. 


Jaylen Brown has been on a bit of an offensive tear of late, the last being a career-high 27-point performance in Boston’s win over Atlanta. But even more telling is how well things seem to flow with him on the floor. Brown’s plus/minus this season is +146 which is tops among all players in the Eastern Conference. His closest competition in the East? That would teammate Al Horford whose plus/minus this season is +143. In addition, Horford has had a positive plus/minus in every game this season. 


You can count Yogi Ferrell among the ones that got away from Brad Stevens when he was coaching at Butler. Ferrell, who played at Indiana, was a player on Stevens’ radar when he was coaching at Butler. “I recruited Yogi, unsuccessfully,” Stevens told reporters in Dallas. While Ferrell came on strong as an undrafted free agent with the Mavericks last season, Stevens said there’s nothing about Ferrell’s game now that he didn’t see when he tried to woo him to Butler. “He would have been awfully good at Butler,” Stevens said.


While Marcus Smart grew up in Flower Mound, Texas (less than an hour from Dallas), tonight’s game is a homecoming of sorts for another Celtics player – Semi Ojeleye. The 6-foot-7 forward played at SMU which is located in Dallas. A second-round pick by Boston in last June’s NBA draft, Ojeleye has been among the many surprise performers for the Celtics this season. “We knew he could be a versatile defender,” said Celtics head coach Brad Stevens. “Probably has exceeded our expectations in that regard with his ability to guard one (point guard) through five (center) at certain times. And he’s been pretty consistent shooting the ball. Right now, embracing that kind of 3-and-D role is what he has to do and he’s done it well.”


The Boston Celtics struck gold by drafting Jayson Tatum with the third overall pick. But as you look at the teams that had lottery picks in last June’s NBA draft, few come away feeling disappointed or discouraged by the player selected. The Dallas Mavericks are among the teams pleased with their first-round pick, Dennis Smith Jr. who was selected with the ninth overall pick. He has emerged as one of the top rookies this year, averaging 14.5 points, 4.5 assists and 4.2 rebounds per game. And yes, he was a player that was on the Celtics’ radar leading up to last June’s draft. “We had Dennis in and he was really impressive,” said Celtics head coach Brad Stevens. “He’s a guy that’s going to have a great career and he’s got good veteran players around him to help kick it off.”


The numbers aren’t anywhere close to what we’ve seen for the bulk of Dirk Nowitzki’s illustrious career that’s now in Year 20. But there is a demeanor about him that seems to be at peace with where he’s at basketball-wise, even if the wins aren’t nearly as plentiful as he’s accustomed to. “I appreciate his game a ton,” said Celtics head coach Brad Stevens. “Just watching him talk on the court, cheer on the bench, sit at the scorer’s table with a smile on his face. You can’t play this long and be this good this long if you don’t’ love it. Everybody says they love it, but he’s got a different level of passion. You can feel it, you can see it. You root for guys like him to have success.”