Celtics youngsters continue to play with veteran-like confidence


Celtics youngsters continue to play with veteran-like confidence

BOSTON – Jaylen Brown spent Thursday’s “snow day” doing what most young people do on such days – he was playing in the snow.

Jayson Tatum was basking in his first (and probably won’t be his last) Eastern Conference Rookie of the Month Award, for December.


These are fun-loving times for the Boston Celtics (31-10) and their young, dynamic duo which has been one of the keys to Boston sitting atop the Eastern Conference standings which includes them winning each of their last four games.

 “I just think that they just play with a lot of confidence,” said Celtics big man Al Horford. “That’s the biggest thing that impresses me. When a rookie comes in, or you’re on a new team, sometimes you’re trying to feel yourself out, don’t want to step on any toes, you’re not sure about certain things. They’re very assertive, aggressive offensively, knowing when to take shots. And on defense they just keep getting better. So that’s a really good … for our team.”

Here are five under-the-radar storylines heading into tonight’s game between Boston and Minnesota.



Remember all those rumors about Boston’s pursuit of Jimmy Butler? While there was indeed serious interest on Boston’s part to trade for Butler when he played in Chicago, you can chalk that one up to yet another deal that the Celtics benefited from in not doing because it may have taken the Celtics out of the Kyrie Irving sweepstakes which as we can see, has worked out really well for both Boston and Minnesota.



The former Duke guard has filled in admirably at the point for Jeff Teague (knee). In the four games he has filled in as a starter, Jones has averaged 7.0 points, 4.3 assists, 2.3 rebounds and an impressive 3.0 steals per game.



Boston loves to score at the basket, and have done so this season with more options besides Kyrie Irving. As a team, Boston is shooting 59.7 percent in the restricted area which ranks third in the NBA. And tonight, they face one of the NBA’s worst at defending in the restricted area. Minnesota has allowed opponents to shoot 66.4 percent inside the restricted area which ranks 29th in the NBA.



While a lot of attention has been paid to Boston’s 3-point shooting, they’ve actually been one of the better teams in the league when it comes to knocking down mid-range jumpers. They come into tonight’s game shooting 42.2 percent on mid-range jumpers which ranks fifth in the NBA. Meanwhile, the Timberwolves are allowing teams to shoot a league-high 43.3 percent on mid-range shots.



Tonight’s game will be one of extremes when it comes to the 3-point shot. Boston loves it. Minnesota? Not as much. Boston takes 31.2 three-pointers per game which ranks seventh in the NBA. The Timberwolves are taking 22.7 which ranks 28th in the league. That helps explain the huge gap between Boston’s 11.7 made 3’s per game which ranks fifth in the league, and Minnesota which averages 7.9 made 3’s which ranks 29th in the NBA.


Isaiah Thomas isn't ruling out return to Celtics

File Photo

Isaiah Thomas isn't ruling out return to Celtics

Isaiah Thomas back in green? Maybe there's a chance after all.

The former Celtics guard, now with the Lakers, started a Q&A session on Twitter and was asked whether he'd consider returning to Boston this offseason. This was his answer...

That's not a no.

Thomas has had a rough go of it since leaving the Celtics. His brief tenure in Cleveland didn't go according to plan, and things haven't gotten a whole lot better out in L.A. The 29-year-old is averaging 15.3 points per game just a year after averaging 28.9 with Boston.

Let the speculation begin.


Horford not making any excuses after C's rough outing vs Pelicans

Horford not making any excuses after C's rough outing vs Pelicans

Al Horford understands that there’s plenty of blame pie to go around following Boston’s 108-89 loss to New Orleans. 

Considering how Pelicans stud Anthony Davis dominated the game on so many levels Sunday night, Horford was quick to acknowledge his role in the loss. 

“He (Davis) was able to get behind our defense a lot,” Horford told reporters after the loss. “Some mistakes on my end; gotta give him credit. He dominated tonight. I’ll definitely take the blame for that.”

Davis finished with a double-double of 34 points and 11 rebounds, a total that would have been higher if not for the game being so lopsided which allowed Davis to head to the bench early in the fourth. 

MORE - Blakely's stars, studs, and duds from C's-Pelicans

And Horford’s struggles defensively were just as problematic on offense as the five-time All-Star tallied just six points on 3-for-11 shooting to go with four rebounds and three assists. 

Boston has been a team whose collective sums have fueled their success. 

But Horford understands he has to be a high impact performer, a job that’s even more vital when key starters like Kyrie Irving (left knee soreness) and Jaylen Brown (concussion) are out as well as top reserves Marcus Smart (right thumb) and Daniel Theis (torn meniscus). 

And by Horford’s own admission, he just didn’t bring it on Sunday at a level to give him and the Celtics a legit shot at winning the game.

“Defensively we had too many breakdowns,” Horford said. “And the game got away from us in the second half. So there’s no excuses. I didn’t give us a chance, either; missing a lot of looks offensively. I just need to be better.”

And he’ll have to be if Boston (47-23) is to get back on track with a win on Tuesday against a talented Oklahoma City squad led by Russell Westbrook, Paul George and Carmelo Anthony. 

At full strength, the Thunder would be a significant challenge for the Celtics. 

But having a roster with a number of key players out with injuries, it becomes even more imperative for Boston’s top players to elevate their play. 

And as you scan this Celtics roster and examine those who are healthy enough to play, it’s clear that Horford more than any other Boston player, has to find a way to become more impactful.

Certainly, more points and rebounds would help. 

But as we’ve seen time and time again with Horford, often his greatest contributions to winning games don’t necessarily show up in the final box score. 

That being said, a six-point, four-rebound game doesn’t cut it. 

Horford has to be better, something he knows better than anyone. 

“I’ll definitely look at the film and see how I can be better individually,” Horford said. “The good thing about the NBA, is we have a chance to play on Tuesday. Hopefully we’ll learn from this game and be ready to go Tuesday at home.”