Celtics

Celtics score season-low 80 points in loss to Sixers

Celtics score season-low 80 points in loss to Sixers

BOSTON – Coaches and players talk all the time about the importance of playing with great energy and effort defensively. 

But what about on offense?

When it’s not there, you get games like the one we saw on Thursday night as Philadelphia held off a late surge by Boston to defeat the Celtics 89-80.

Now the knee-jerk reaction is to praise Philadelphia for playing a great game defensively. And to the Sixers' credit, they did a lot of good things defensively.

But many of Boston’s struggles offensively were of the self-inflicted wound variety. 

“I just didn’t think we played hard enough on offense,” said Celtics coach Brad Stevens who prefaced his statement by praising the Sixers as being a good team defensively. “We played hard on defense. And it’s, I guess, a unique game when you’re playing hard on one end of the floor but not on the other.

Stevens added, “We were very sloppy (offensively), over-dribbled, dribbled didn’t take us anywhere, not moving the ball, not getting to spots.”

Marcus Smart, filling in for the injured Kyrie Irving, had similar thoughts on how the Celtics played against the Sixers (21-20). 

“We need to play harder on both ends,” Smart said. “We were leaving guys on islands and forcing everybody to fend for themselves. On the offensive end we got real stagnant, trying to find it. Instead of being basketball players we became robots.”

Robots void of any plan or script on how to compete effectively at both ends of the floor. 

Said Smart: “We just acted like we didn’t know what we were doing out there.”

Here are the Stars, Studs and Duds from Boston’s 89-80 loss to Philadelphia. 

STAR

Joel Embiid: Not long after Thursday night’s announcement that he was being named a starter in next month’s All-star game, Embiid went out and played like one. He was as dominant as we’ve ever seen him against the Celtics, tallying a double-double of 26 points and 16 rebounds to go with six assists and two blocked shots. 

STUDS

Jaylen Brown: It wasn’t until the fourth quarter did Brown and the Celtics, start to play with a sense of urgency. Brown had 12 points for the game, six of which came in the fourth quarter. 

Shane Larkin: There were more minutes than usual for Larkin to take, and for the most part he made the most of his opportunity. Larkin’s energy was one of the keys to Boston rallying back into the game in the second half, as he finished with eight points on 3-for-6 shooting with two steals in 23 minutes with only Marcus Morris (27 minutes) seeing more action off the Celtics’ bench.

Marcus Morris: On a night when the Celtics needed someone to step their game up offensively with Kyrie Irving out, Morris came closer than any other Celtic to doing that. He had 14 points on 4-for-9 shooting. But just as important was Morris driving to the basket and being rewarded with free throw attempts – the kind of thing that Irving does when on the floor. The scoring, getting to the line four times in addition to grabbing six rebounds, were all important factors in Boston getting within striking distance in the fourth quarter. 

DUDS

Celtics offense: Using Kyrie Irving being out with a sore left shoulder is too convenient an excuse for the struggles Boston had offensively. Boston didn’t take care of the ball (19 turnovers), didn’t play with force at both ends of the floor were bigger factors. But the biggest factor of them all was Philadelphia’s defense which played at a consistently high level most of the night.

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New All-Star format a success, but one tweak could make it even better

New All-Star format a success, but one tweak could make it even better

LOS ANGELES – Both players and coaches involved with Sunday’s All-Star game like the new format, but will surely look to tweak a couple of things.

Among the more likely changes will be the process involved in not just selecting the team, but making the selections known to the public. 

Toronto’s DeMar DeRozan has an idea, one that’s shared by some players, media and maybe most important, NBA fans. 

“Televise it,” DeRozan said. “Give the people what they want to see. I think everybody wants to see it. At the end of the day every single person that gets picked, you are an All-Star, so it doesn’t matter where you really go, so I think televise it.”

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

The new format involved their being two captains – LeBron James and Stephen Curry – who picked their respective teams from the 22 remaining All-Stars regardless of conference affiliation. 

The NBA also increased the amount of money given to each player on the winning team - $100,000 – while the losing team members each received $25,000.

Regardless of what the changes may be going forward, it’s clear that players see this new format as the blueprint for how All-Star games should be structured going forward.

“This kind of changed the culture of it a lot, for the better,” said Minnesota’s Jimmy Butler. “It’s only going to get more and more competitive because guys see how it was for the last five minutes of that game. Everybody wants to compete.”

Here are five takeaways from the 67th NBA All-Star game with Team LeBron defeating Team Steph 148-145. 

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Kyrie Irving

There were others who scored more, had more assists and certainly grabbed more rebounds than Kyrie Irving. But one of the more telling developments in the game was how Irving returned to the game in the fourth down 10 points, and didn’t leave until Team LeBron emerged with the win seven minutes and 16 seconds later. Even in an All-Star setting, Irving’s impact on winning stands out. Along with his 13 points, nine assists and seven rebounds, Team LeBron was a +16 when Irving was on the floor – tops among all All-Star starters. 

 

LeBron James

The calendar says he’s 33 years old. But other than that, there’s nothing about LeBron James that even remotely looks like his time as the best player on the planet will end anytime soon. In a game full of stars on the rise as well as established stalwarts such as himself, James totally crushed it Sunday night in walking away with his third All-Star game MVP trophy after a double-double of 29 points and 10 rebounds to go with eight assists.  

 

DeMar DeRozan

We know him as the king of the mid-range game. But as we saw on Sunday, DeRozan has a lot more offensive versatility that he’s capable of unleashing. He’s arguably the biggest reason why Toronto has the best record in the East right now. Playing for Team Steph, DeRozan tallied 21 points attacking the rim off the dribble and of course, knocking down mid-range jumpers

 

Jimmy Butler

A bit under the weather, Butler never set foot on the court to play. The league’s leader in minutes played this season (37.3), Butler wasn’t expected to play a ton of minutes anyway. Still, it would have been nice to see him out there even if it was for a minute or two. He’s one of the league’s best two-way players whose play has been instrumental to the Timberwolves looking very much like a playoff team this season. “I have to rest,” Butler said. “I have to rest my body up. This Timberwolves season is very, very important to me. I’ve got to make sure I’m ready to roll when I get back there.”

 

Joel Embiid

The ring leader of Philadelphia’s “Trust the Process” movement, Joel Embiid, was impressive in his All-Star debut. For Embiid, it’s one thing to believe you are one of the NBA’s best players. It’s an entirely different matter to step on the floor with the game’s best talent and validate yourself as one of the game’s best players.  “During the season, I thought I was a top-five or top-10 player in the league,” said Embiid who had 19 points and eight rebounds. “And before the game I wanted confirmation of it. I felt like I could hang with them.”

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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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