Celtics

Celtics need to find No. 2 scorer behind Irving

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Celtics need to find No. 2 scorer behind Irving

BOSTON -- Everyone knows Kyrie Irving’s value to the Celtics is extremely high.
 
But it really hits home on those nights when he’s not in the lineup, as was the case in Boston’s 89-80 loss to Philadelphia on Thursday.
 
Irving didn't play due to a sore left shoulder.He's carried the load offensively for most of this season for a team that has the best record in the Eastern Conference, so it's not surprising the Celts scored the fewest number of points they've scored in any game this year.
 
But it highlights the need for the Celtics to develop a number 2 scorer who can, when needed, step into the more prominent role as the team’s go-to guy.
 
Boston has good players, but none have elevated their play to that of being the next-best scoring option to Irving.
 
Al Horford is a four-time All-Star (with a fifth on the way  this year), but he has never been a player you can turn to for consistent, big-time scoring. That’s because his game is deeply rooted in getting others involved and playing high-level defense.
 
Jaylen Brown has the right mindset most nights, but his all-around game offensively is still evolving. And while he is the team’s number two scorer at 14.2 points per game, that average falls well short of what the No. 2 scorer on most teams isdoing offensively. In fact, Atlanta, Indiana and Sacramento are the only teams in the NBA whose No. 2 scorer has a lower average than Brown.
 
Then there’s Jayson Tatum, a player who has shown all the early stages of superstar-itis. But as talented as he is, the 19-year-old Tatum is similar to Brown from the standpoint of not being ready to emerge as the team’s second-best scorer.
 
“That’s why Gordon (Hayward) was such a good signing for them,” an NBA scout texted NBC Sports Boston. “He gave them a legitimate, high-level second scorer who on some nights would be your best scorer or your best player.”
 
Hayward suffered a dislocated left ankle injury in Boston’s season-opener, and is expected to miss the remainder of this season.
 
Irving’s injury is nowhere close to being that serious. In fact, there’s a very good chance that he will be back in the lineup Sunday when the Celtics host the Orlando Magic.
 
But that doesn’t make up for the team’s lack of a second scoring option.
 
Here are five takeaways from Boston’s 89-80 loss to Philadelphia.
 
 

REBOUNDING

Work on the glass is always going to be a challenge of sorts for the Boston Celtics, making that early run of strong board games a faint memory. Because what we saw against the Sixers was more along the lines of what we’re accustomed to seeing out of the Celtics when it comes to rebounding. The Sixers decisively won the battle on the glass 41-31, serving as a reminder that the narrative surrounding this team when it comes to rebounding hasn’t changed a bit.

TURNOVERS

Brad Stevens described his team’s offense against Philadelphia as being “sloppy” and, truth of the matter, he was being kind. They were hot mess on so many levels against the Sixers. Credit Philly for having a game plan defensively that worked really, for all but the final few minutes of play. No facet of play better illustrated this than the 19 turnovers committed by Boston, which led to 15 points. It’s not the points scored by the Sixers that were the big problem. It’s the fact that those turnovers meant fewer opportunities to score which is the last thing a team without Kyrie Irving needed.

JAYSON TATUM

Against New Orleans, he didn’t take enough shots. And last night against Philadelphia, he didn’t make the ones he usually does. I wouldn’t call what Tatum is going through now hitting the rookie wall. Because he has played so much already, teams have plenty of film and have definitely adjusted the way they have defended him. Now it’s on him to find other ways to impact the game offensively that may not necessarily be his first or second go-to move. He had some nice off-the-dribble moves against the Sixers, finishing with 11 points on 4-for-11 shooting. Tatum needs to continue ratcheting up his aggression at both ends of the floor, which we saw some of that against the Sixers. Now he just needs to keep it going.

SHANE LARKIN

It was just one game, so it would be foolish to get too excited about Shane Larkin’s play against Philadelphia. But there was a lot to like about how he came off the bench and provided some energy and a spark to a team that seemed to be going through the motions. He had eight points on 3-for-6 shooting but more important, he was really aggressive with his drives and decision-making, which is the kind of performance Boston needs others beside Larkin to bring to the floor when their number is called.

JOEL EMBIID

For all that went Philly’s way on Thursday, you still have to give a great deal of credit to Joel Embiid for his play at both ends of the floor. Boston could not stop him on the block or from 15 or so feet out, as he lit the Celtics up for 26 points on 10-for-19 shooting along with 16 rebounds and six assists. It was the second straight game Boston had been dominated by an opposing big man, raising more concerns among Celtics Nation that Boston needs to address its frontcourt by adding another big between now and the playoffs.

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Irving, Horford give seal of approval to All-Star changes

Irving, Horford give seal of approval to All-Star changes

LOS ANGELES -- Kyrie Irving and Al Horford were on different teams for the NBA's All-Star game pitting Team LeBron vs Team Steph, so somebody was coming back a loser.

But considering how competitive the game was for longer stretches than usual, both players came away feeling good in a relatively close All-Star game that ended with Team LeBron edging Team Steph, 148-145.

LeBron James led all scorers with 29 points along with 10 rebounds and 8 assists and walked away with Game MVP honors for the third time.

Irving, who played for Team LeBron, had a near double-double with 13 points and nine assists along with seven rebounds.

And Horford, who came off the bench for Team Steph, had six points and five rebounds along with two assists.  

“This was pretty fun,” Irving said. “I think that we showcased that tonight with an incredible competitive spirit. The game was kind of getting away, but I think a few of us took it a little personal that we wanted to keep the game still competitive and at a high level. Fans and everyone across so many different countries want to see the best players in the world showcase their talent.”

Horford echoed similar sentiments about the game, which had a different format this year. LeBron James and Stephen Curry picked the two teams from the 22-player pool of players from both the Eastern and Western Conferences.

“Early, guys were making [defensive] plays,” Horford said. “Guys were making a point, they weren’t going to let it be a dunk fest.

Horford added, “Even last year and the year before, there was a lot of heat on how bad the game was. I felt like this game was, it was good.”

Irving, a five-time All-Star, also acknowledged how he and some of the players wanted to change the perception of the All-Star Game as being nothing more than a glorified lay-up line.

“I think we all took it kind of personal,” Irving said. “Individually we wanted to come out and be competitive. Last year it was (192-182), that’s just not as fun as communicating with guys that you don’t necessarily play with every single day, bouncing ideas off in the time-outs. It’s just that competitive fire that we all share.”

And then there’s the payday for winning.

Not only will various charities benefit from the game -- LeBron James’ charity of choice gets $350,000 because his team won and Steph Curry’s charity of choice gets $150,000 -- but the players on the winning team get a pretty nice check as well.

The winning team members each get $100,000 while the players on the losing team come away with $25,000.

“There was something that, something that we could look forward to if we got the win,” Irving acknowledged. “You know, they’ll probably bring up the cash prize, but . . . $100,000 to $25,000, I think everybody in this room would be doing the same things we were doing.”

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LeBron James savors first opportunity to build NBA roster

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LeBron James savors first opportunity to build NBA roster

LOS ANGELES – LeBron James had been mum on the process he used in selecting Team LeBron … until now.

Following Team LeBron’s 148-145 win over Team Steph, James revealed how he went about assembling is roster which included Boston’s Kyrie Irving who asked for a trade out of Cleveland last summer.

“I took Kevin (Durant) first, then I took (New Orleans) Anthony Davis, and I followed that with Kyrie and DeMarcus (Cousins).”

While this year’s all-star game had been billed as the ultimate pick-up game, it was clear that James put a tremendous amount of thought into assembling his team akin to what an NBA General Manager might do.

“I know who I like watching and I had a draft board,” James said. “I had a process. Some of it went to … it almost went according to plan. A couple of them fell through, but I was satisfied and happy with all the guys that I got.”

A reporter later asked James where was this draft board.

“Ain’t none of your business,” said James, grinning. “You’re going too far, man.”

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