Celtics-Bucks preview: Regrouped C's want a different ending

Celtics-Bucks preview: Regrouped C's want a different ending

MILWAUKEE – It was only last week that the Celtics faced the Milwaukee Bucks at the TD Garden, a game that's remembered more for what happened the night before in Cleveland when Gordon Hayward suffered a season-ending injury than the outcome, a 108-100 Celtics loss.

But tonight features a different Celtics team, one that comes in with a better focus than what we saw in the eight-point loss to Milwaukee. 


Boston was less than 24 hours removed from Gordon Hayward’s season-ending injury, one that left saw them still in a state of shock.
That’s why tonight’s game between the Celtics and the Bucks would be a greater barometer as to where each stands in the race to the top of the Eastern Conference standings.
Bucks coach Jason Kidd has his team off to a 3-1 start, but he knows the Celtics team that his squad faced last week was in a very different state of mind than the confident bunch that has won its past two. 
“They’re going to be a little bit different team just because of what took place with Hayward and the injury there,” Kidd said. “They have some young, talented players over there playing at a high level.”
Jaylen Brown turned 21 on Tuesday and celebrated it with a 110-89 win over the New York Knicks in which he finished with a career-high 23 points. Also, rookie Jayson Tatum had a big game as well before finishing with a career-high 22 points.
And then there’s Kyrie Irving, a player Kidd has made no secret about being concerned with trying to limit his impact.
“Kyrie is one of the best players on the planet,” Kidd said. “And so, again, they’re playing well. They understand their roles. They were in shock that first time, after that injury.”

Hayward’s injury aside, the Celtics (2-2) know any shot they have at winning will hinge in some part on how well they defend the league’s top scorer, Giannis Antetokounmpo.
He comes into tonight’s game average a league-best 36.8 points per game and is seeking to score 30 or more points for the fifth game in a row.
Only one Bucks player (Marques Johnson) has ever had more than four consecutive games with 30 or more points scored.
Look for the Celtics to throw a number of different players defensively at Antetokounmpo, including Al Horford who has done an exceptional job defensively thus far despite being called upon to defend perimeter-oriented big men such as Philadelphia’s Ben Simmons, to the powerful types like Sixers center Joel Embiid, to New York’s Kristaps Porzingis.
Despite having to try and limit players with an assortment of skills and strengths, Horford has managed to do more than just hold his own.
More often than not thus far this season, he has come out ahead which is evident him having a defensive rating of 93.3, which is tops among all Celtics who averaged at least 10 minutes played per game.
“A lot of names get thrown around, rightfully so, in the defensive talk around the league,” said Celtics coach Brad Stevens. “There’s a lot of really good defenders but Al’s right up there, and doesn’t always get mentioned and that’s okay with Al. He’s okay with just contributing to winning whether he gets talked about or not.”

Horford set on proper career path by 2008 Celtics

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Horford set on proper career path by 2008 Celtics

LOS ANGELES -- Al Horford is credited for consistently being someone whose play contributes heavily to winning games.

But it was in defeat in the playoffs nearly a decade ago to the Boston Celtics that has shaped him into the player we see before us today.

“They were a tough team,” Horford said of the eventual NBA champion Celtics. “Defensively, just as good as they come. They looked like a very together group.”

Horford added, “It helped me tremendously. It helped that team that I was with in Atlanta, a lot. To have that experience, to go against the eventual champions but at that time a veteran team like the Celtics, it really but really made me realize the level I needed to play and the things I needed to do to for the team to be successful.”

And those lessons have helped shape the 31-year-old into being a five-time All-Star whose teams have been to the playoffs every year he has been in the NBA.

“That first year could not have gone any better. It was a great learning experience and I felt it helped set up the rest of my career,” Horford said.

These days, Horford finds himself as the voice of experience on a Celtics team that has been among the NBA’s best squads for most of this season.

Horford has an open-door policy when it comes to doling out advice and tips for improvement, to his younger teammates.

But he knows first-hand the greatest teacher is experience.

“You can say things but you have to live through different things,” Horford said. “The biggest thing I try to emphasize to them and [Brad Stevens] talks about, is embracing the now. It’s about taking advantage of what we have now. 

Horford added, "I've been in the league, this is my 11th year, you never know if you’re going to have the same teammates next year. That happened to us last year. We had a great year and I look around and it’s only four of us remaining. I just think it’s embracing and taking advantage of doing the best you can with the group you have.”


Horford can cross skills challenge off his bucket list

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Horford can cross skills challenge off his bucket list

LOS ANGELES – After making a near-perfect pass during the early stages of the Taco Bell Skills Challenge, Al Horford was feeling good about his chances of winning.

But near the end, the final stage – knocking down a 3-pointer – proved to be Horford’s undoing as Philadelphia’s Joel Embiid eliminated Horford in the first round after Horford missed three consecutive three-pointers.

“It happens. It was fun,” Horford said.

Embiid, who was eliminated in the next round by Chicago’s Lauri Markkanen, said he was nervous before the event.

“I don’t know why. My heart was beating so fast,” Embiid told reporters. “I have no idea. But I thought it was fun.”

Although Horford has been a part of all-star weekend four times prior to tonight, this was the first time he participated in the Skills Challenge.

“It’s different. I normally come as a fan,” he said. “This time it was a little different, just getting your mind set and come out here and compete and win. It’s good to be a part of it. Now I can just scratch that off.”

When I asked him about tips or advice from teammates, he said the only thing they told him was he “had to win it.”

“I let them down so I have to make it up in the season,” said Horford, grinning.

Brooklyn’s Spencer Dinwiddie wound up winning the event, over Markkanen.