Celtics-Clippers preview: Celtics look to end first half on high note

Celtics-Clippers preview: Celtics look to end first half on high note

BOSTON – The last game before the NBA All-Star break is an unpredictable time for most teams including the Boston Celtics, with thoughts of dunks and decisive runs interspersed with thoughts of Disney vacations and decadent drinks on an island far, far away.

Good times on the horizon, for sure.

The All-Star break will be even more enjoyable for the Celtics if they can defeat the Los Angeles Clippers tonight.

Boston (40-18) comes into tonight’s game having lost two straight and three of its last four games and yet the Celtics are second in the East by one game to Toronto (40-16). Meanwhile, the Clippers (29-26) have won four of their last five games and trail New Orleans by a half-game for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference.

“We need to understand we need to come out and we have a job to do,” said Al Horford. “We have a game at home that we need to take care of. The mindset has to be to come out, be ready to compete through 48 (minutes). That Clippers team, it’s a different look team with shooters around DeAndre Jordan.”

Ex-Celtic Avery Bradley, traded to Detroit from Boston last summer for Marcus Morris, is among the newest Clippers.

In five games with the Clippers, Bradley has averaged 9.0 points, 4.2 rebounds and 2.0 assists while shooting 44.7 percent from the field.

Boston has their own new guy, Greg Monroe, in the fold as well.

He has appeared in three games for the Celtics, averaging 4.0 points and 5.0 rebounds in 14.3 minutes per game.

Monroe’s playing time is very much a to-be-determined matter.

“It’ll just depend night-to-night, matchup to matchup and how we want to go,” said Stevens who added, “There’s a couple things we have in that fit his skillset well. After the break, those are things we’re looking to do.”

But until then, Stevens will continue to preach to his team the importance of staying in the moment and taking care of the task at hand.

“Guys are going to have to do that, regardless,” said Celtics head coach Brad Stevens. “We all have a job to do. We’re playing a really good team (tonight) ... we’re going to have to be really focused and well-prepared.”

Celtics guard Kyrie Irving has made a point of, as one of the Celtics leaders, to try and make sure his youthful teammates are, “staying laser-sharp for the last game …”

Said Irving: “We got one home game in front of our fans before we take it on the road. It’s a good opportunity for us to come together before we do go on the break. So, I’m looking forward to the game (tonight) and go into the all-star game on a high note.”


Horford knows Celtics need to take it one day at a time

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Horford knows Celtics need to take it one day at a time

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 coach (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.