Celtics

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. 

MORE CELTICS

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.”
 

Morris out, Brown questionable for Pacers game Saturday

Morris out, Brown questionable for Pacers game Saturday

BOSTON – Boston made strengthening their depth at the wing position a priority during the offseason.

Well, that depth will be put to the test with the possibility of at least one and maybe two of their top wing players being out for Saturday’s game at Indiana.

Shortly after Boston’s 118-103 win over Orlando on Friday night, Celtics head coach Brad Stevens announced that Marcus Morris (left knee) would not travel with the team for Saturday’s game against the Pacers.

Also, Jaylen Brown will be attending the funeral of his best friend (Trevin Steede) in Georgia on Saturday and isn’t sure if he’ll be back with the team in time for Saturday’s game.

“My intention is to make it back. If I can, I’ll definitely be playing,” Brown said. “But we’ll see.”

The absence of Brown would be a huge blow for the Celtics.

Boston only returned four players from last season’s team, none of whom have improved their overall game as much as Brown did during the offseason.

He came into the season focused on being a lock-down defender.

But Gordon Hayward’s left ankle injury was a game-changer for all the Celtics, including Brown.

Not only would Brown be charged with being an elite defender, but Boston now needed the second-year wing player to become more of a scoring threat.

And to Brown’s credit, he has risen to the challenge.

In 20 games (all starts) this season, Brown has averaged 15.9 points per game which is second on the team to Kyrie Irving (22.9). In addition, Brown’s defense has been among the keys to Boston’s 17-3 start which is the best record in the NBA thus far this season.

His defensive rating of 95.0 is fifth among players to appear in at least 10 games this season, and tops among all second-year players. And of the four players ahead of him, two – Aron Baynes and Marcus Smart – are teammates.

But just like the Celtics gave Isaiah Thomas all the time he needed in dealing with the death of his sister right before the playoffs last season, a similar approach has been taken with Brown which he is admittedly appreciative of the organization for doing.

“Brad (Stevens) has been great in this process,” Brown said. “Just somebody to talk to, allowing me to deal with it in the best way our family and their family feels we can deal with it. He’s been great; we’ll see how it goes. Hopefully I can make it to Indiana; if not, I just have to re-group with my family and I’ll see you guys next game (against Detroit on Monday).”

While there's a chance that Brown will play against Indiana, the same can not be said for Morris who is definitely out.

Morris, who missed the first eight games of the season with left knee soreness, has been on a minutes restriction all season in addition to not being allowed to play in back-to-back games.

Following Friday’s game, Morris said the knee feels good but he understands the need to be cautious.

“It’s frustrating,” said Morris who acknowledged the decision was made by the coaching and medical staff. “I’m a competitor, so I want to be out there.”

He added, “Like I said, at this point I pretty much don’t have control over it when I’m playing. It’s a long season. I just want to be ready for June.”

With Morris out and Brown potentially out as well, the Celtics will be extremely thin and inexperienced at the wing position. Look for Marcus Smart and Aron Baynes to be in the starting lineup if Brown is out along with Morris.

Also, Stevens will likely use Terry Rozier and first-year forward Semi Ojeleye more in addition to increased spot-duty for another rookie, Abdel Nader. On Friday, Rozier had a career-high 23 points while Ojeleye and Nader had seven and three points, respectively.

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE

Stars, studs and duds: Celtics want Rozier to be 'ready to fire'

Stars, studs and duds: Celtics want Rozier to be 'ready to fire'

BOSTON – Let’s face it. The way the Boston Celtics’ second unit has shot the ball this season, somebody was due for a breakout performance.
 
On Friday night it was Terry Rozier who scored a career-high 23 points in helping Boston get back on a winning track with a 118-103 victory that wasn’t anywhere close to what the final score might indicate.
 
Boston had five players reach double figures scoring, but arguably the most significant one of the bunch was Rozier.
 
A 33.7 percent shooter from the field and just 32.6 percent on 3’s this season, Rozier was Jacuzzi-hot from the floor on Saturday, connecting on 8-of-11 shots from the field along with five made 3-pointers.
 
While Rozier isn’t known as a lethal shooter, Celtics head coach Brad Stevens’ confidence in Rozier as a shooter remained strong heading into the game regardless of what his shooting percentage might suggest.
 
“Law of averages will play themselves out with him,” Stevens said. “He’s a really good shooter; made some big ones in a lot of different games this year. We want him to be ready to fire when he catches it.”
 
And he was on Friday, providing the kind of offensive punch that Boston’s second unit desperately needs more of this season.
 
“Any way you put it, I’m going to keep shooting,” Rozier said. “I’m going to keep playing. I’m not perfect. I’m going to have tough games. I’ll have games like this.
 
Rozier added, “It feels good to get points as a unit, and like said you just want to keep building off of it, and not lose sight of our team mantra, which is playing defense.”
 
Here are the Stars, Studs and Duds from Boston’s 118-103 win over Orlando.
 
STARS
 
Kyrie Irving

Despite playing in just the first three quarters, Irving still did plenty of damage in leading all scorers with 30 points on an efficient 9-for-15 shooting while also tallying four rebounds, three assists and a steal.
 
 

STUDS
 
Terry Rozier

The bench has come under heat lately for a lack of production. Rozier showed the second unit does have some life offensively as he lit the Magic up for a career-high 23 points which included five made 3-pointers which was also a career-high.
 
Al Horford

His ability to play the role of a facilitator was on display early on Friday night as he tallied seven of his game-high 10 assists in the first quarter.
 
Nikola Vucevic

There wasn’t a lot to cheer about for the Magic, but that shouldn’t take away from what was a solid game for Vucevic who had a double-double of 12 points and 11 rebounds.
 
 
DUDS
 
Orlando’s desire to “play tough”

Before the game, the Magic talked about the need to be a more physical, tougher team. And after getting pummeled by the Celtics for most of Friday night’s game, the need to be tougher was once again the narrative of choice.

“Show more toughness; show more fight,” said Magic head coach Frank Vogel after the loss.

“We weren’t physical enough,” said Orlando’s Terrence Ross.

“Just not being physical enough, not being tough enough defensively, way too comfortable” was how Magic forward Aaron Gordon described his team’s play. It’s great that they recognize what’s clearly an area of weakness. Up next? Do something other than talk about it.

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE