Celtics-76ers preview: Bench plays a big piece of C's puzzle


Celtics-76ers preview: Bench plays a big piece of C's puzzle

BOSTON – For most of the preseason, questions have lingered surrounding the Boston Celtics as to who would join their Big Three – Kyrie Irving, Gordon Hayward and Al Horford – in the starting lineup.
But for Boston to find itself playing well into May and early June this season, a key piece to that puzzle will be the play of their bench.
Like most of what the Celtics have been doing this preseason, figuring out the second unit has indeed been a work in progress.
That will continue tonight as the Celtics (2-0) host the Philadelphia 76ers (0-2) at the TD Garden.
“There’s a few of us, but it’s very fun,” said Boston’s Aron Baynes, one of 10 new faces on the Celtics roster. “We’re getting into the rhythm of things. The more we play with each other, the more comfortable we feel.”
While it’s unclear who will make up Boston’s second unit, there’s little doubt about Marcus Smart being the leader of that unit.
“He’s always going to give the bench a lift,” said Celtics guard Terry Rozier. “He’s a guy that’s going to work hard to make those guys around him work hard.”
Baynes echoed similar sentiments about Smart.

“Marcus is a special defender,” Baynes said. “He’s shown that in the first few games. I think it’s gonna be fun playing with him.”
While the second unit has to play well, there will be times when head coach Brad Stevens will go with combinations that mix starters with second unit players.
In fact, don’t be surprised if you see Gordon Hayward or Kyrie Irving on the floor for the bulk of most games.
For that to happen, it means that both players will have to work on not only meshing their games with the starting group but also with key role players off the bench.

“You want to play the game the same,” Hayward said. “The personnel changes a little bit; you’re trying to help guys maximize their strengths. You have to be conscious of that when different guys come in, or when you’re with a different group, knowing what those guys like to do.”
Kyrie Irving vs Markelle Fultz
In the third quarter of Boston’s 110-102 win at Philadelphia on Friday, Irving got into a nice shooting rhythm and wound up leading all scorers with 21 points. A sore shoulder injury kept Fultz from playing in that game, but it’s clear he’s eager to face another former No. 1 pick (Irving) such as himself.  “Any chance you get the chance to test yourself against one of the best point guards in the NBA, I love to do that so I can see where I am, see what I need to improve on," Fultz told reporters.
Key storyline
 If Marcus Morris makes his debut for the Celtics tonight, will he be in the starting lineup? And if so, how long will he play?
“Quote, Unquote”
 “These games, they’re a good tune-up. It’s about being ready for Cleveland October 17.” – Celtics forward Marcus Morris.


BEST OF BST PODCAST: C's back from All-Star break, how will Stevens change rotations?

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BEST OF BST PODCAST: C's back from All-Star break, how will Stevens change rotations?

(1:00) A. Sherrod Blakely joins Boston Sports Tonight to discuss Brad Stevens hinting that he will change the Celtics rotations after All-Star break, and what changes he thinks Brad will make. (4:30) How will Marcus Smart’s return impact Terry Rozier?

(5:40) Evan Drellich and Lou Merloni discuss why the J.D. Martinez announcement was delayed another day as doctors review his physical, and whether Red Sox fans should be concerned.

(11:50) DJ Bean reacts to the Bruins trading Frank Vatrano to the Panthers and Anders Bjork being out for the season following shoulder surgery.

(14:40) Mike Flynn joins Kayce Smith and Tom E. Curran to discuss Sports News article that says that the Denver Broncos could possibly release Aqib Talib. We debate what it would take to get Talib back to New England and how well he would fit in with the Patriots defense. 



Celtics set to play with greater sense of urgency in return to action

Celtics set to play with greater sense of urgency in return to action

WALTHAM, Mass. – The road to getting back atop the Eastern Conference standings for the Boston Celtics following the All-Star break will begin – where else? – on the road.

And that’s a good thing.

Boston, which plays its first two games after the break on the road beginning at Detroit tonight and New York on Saturday, has been among the league’s best all season when it comes to winning on the road.


Only two teams, Golden State (22-7, .759 winning percentage) and Houston (21-7, .750 winning percentage), have a better road winning percentage than the Celtics (19-8, .703 winning percentage) this season.

“Our schedule is really hard as we hit this last home stretch 23 games,” said Celtics head coach Brad Stevens. “And that’s a good thing with us. We are going to have to have that urgency.”

Boston (40-19) has lost three straight and four of its last five games.

Aware of how quickly a couple of losses can snowball into a full-blown losing skid, Boston players understand the importance of playing with a greater sense of urgency.

“I think we have a sense of urgency about ourselves,” Brown said. “I think we understand the second half of the season and the importance of it, getting ready for playoffs. And how you can see some of the older guys, Kyrie (Irving), Al (Horford), the attention to detail, the stress about the little things is becoming more evident.” 

Said Irving: “We hit a little bit of a stretch where we haven’t been playing our type of basketball. Not necessarily being as consistent as we’d like to be. We just want to get back to being consistent and doing the right things.”

Stevens added, “Hopefully these little hiccups that we have had prior to the break, which more pertains to who we are playing … hopefully benefit us down the road.”


Al Horford said more than anything, the Celtics have to ratchet up their attention to details in all phases of play.

“The focus is really now more than any point in the season taking it day-to-day,” Horford said. “And I felt like we got better, today was a good practice. This is a good start, so now for us it’s just to keep building that and just take it game-to-game because these are … the rehearsal games, if you want to call them that. That’s what I like to call it with this group. So, getting everything straightened out for when the playoffs come around.”