Celtics get moving toward starting another streak

Celtics get moving toward starting another streak

BOSTON – Near the end of their 16-game winning streak, there were noticeable areas of slippage that you knew would catch up with the Celtics sooner or later.
Near the top of that list was ball movement, something this team did as well as any team in their run to the top of the Eastern Conference standings.


This team doesn’t move the ball like last season's team, in part because Boston has a deeper stable of talented scorers who can score in isolation.
Still, ball movement has to become contagious once again and it certainly was in the first quarter of the 118-103 win over Orlando.
Headlining the renewed emphasis on sharing the ball from one side of the floor to the other was Al Horford, who tallied seven of his career-high-tying 10 assists in the first quarter.
“The guys were knocking down the shots,” Horford said. “Early in the game, we wanted to play with a little more pace. I was being aggressively, but Orlando helped [defensively] and I was able to find guys and they were able to knock shots down.”
It was the kind of effort that far too often gets overlooked when talking about what Horford brings to the table.
“Probably the most underrated guy in the league,” said Orlando coach Frank Vogel.
Here are five below-the-radar storylines to keep an eye on as Boston hits the road tonight to face the Indiana Pacers:

It’s always a good time for Brad Stevens to return to Indiana, where he grew up and coached at nearby Butler. And lately, things have been good for the Celtics as well on the road against the Pacers. Boston won both road games against the Pacers last season, a major improvement under Stevens, who had previously lost five of his first six at Indiana.

The Celtics made a conscious effort to start Friday against Orlando playing with a better pace. For the season, Boston’s pace of 98.76 ranks 22nd in the NBA. But in the first half of Friday’s win over Orlando, Boston had a pace of 104.68 which would rank fifth in the NBA if it were their season average. Meanwhile, the Pacers have played with a good pace all season. They come into tonight’s game with a pace of 101.41 which ranks eighth in the NBA.

You always hear about how important it is to win the rebounding battle. But for Boston and Indiana, it literally means winning tonight. The Celtics come in with a spotless 14-0 record when they out-rebound an opponent. Indiana? They come in with a 7-0 record when they corral more boards than their opponent. The only other undefeated team when it comes to winning the rebounding category is the Milwaukee Bucks (3-0).

The Cleveland Cavaliers seem to have figured out whatever they needed to right themselves as evidenced by their league-best seven-game winning streak. Right behind them? That would be the Pacers, who are currently riding a five-game winning streak. 

Winning is on the rise for Kyrie Irving since he came to Boston, and the same can be said for his shooting. On the heels of a 30-point, 9-for-15 shooting night against Orlando, Irving is now shooting a career-best 47.6 percent from the field which is slightly up from last season in Cleveland when he connected on 47.3 percent of his shots. In the month of November, he’s shooting 49.8 percent from the field while averaging 23.6 points per game.

Jayson Tatum comes up big vs Paul George, Thunder

Jayson Tatum comes up big vs Paul George, Thunder

BOSTON – Jayson Tatum had another strong performance for the Boston Celtics, doing so against the Oklahoma City Thunder and Paul George, a player Tatum has acknowledged on more than one occasion he has looked up to. 

That admiration didn’t get in the way of Tatum delivering a big-time performance in helping Boston rally from six points down with 12.7 seconds to play, to knock off the Thunder 100-99.

Tatum tallied a double-double of 23 points and 11 rebounds. And doing so at 20 years and 17 days old, Tatum became the youngest player in franchise history to tally at least 20 points and 10 rebounds in the same game.

“It feels good,” Tatum said when asked about his first 20-plus point, 10-plus rebound game in the NBA. “But honestly, I’m just glad we won. That was a big win against a great team and it was fun playing out there today.”

Impacting the game on multiple levels offensively along with being a defensive and rebounding force are qualities often associated with George who became familiar with Tatum prior to last June’s NBA draft which is when the Celtics selected him with the third overall pick. 

“I reached out to him before he was coming into this draft and I got to talk to him,” said George, who had 24 points and a game-high 13 rebounds against the Celtics. “It’s an honor when you see young talent. I‘ve been inspired by many in this league so it’s great to inspire the younger generation in this league.”

And while Tatum may be young, he continues to prove himself up for whatever challenges await him. 

“We are going to keep throwing to the wolves and keep going to him in those moments,” said Celtics head coach Brad Stevens.

Boston closed out the game with an 8-1 spurt in the final 24.7 seconds, with Tatum either scoring or assisting on five of those points which includes assistant on Marcus Morris’ game-winner.

Tatum’s composure down the stretch comes from being influenced by many, including George who considers it “an honor” that Tatum holds him in high regard. 

“At the end of the day, us veteran guys want the younger guys to take the game further and advance much farther than what I was,” George said. “There’s going to be kids looking up to Jayson (Tatum) that are probably already looking up to Jayson (Tatum).”


NBC Sports Boston Breakfast Pod: Kyrie Irving getting second opinion on injured knee

NBC Sports Boston Photo

NBC Sports Boston Breakfast Pod: Kyrie Irving getting second opinion on injured knee

1:15 - A. Sherrod Blakely joins Gary Tanguay and Trenni Kusnierek to discuss Kyrie Irving getting a second opinion on his injured knee and what the Kyrie’s options are for the remainder of the season.

5:53 - Kyle Draper and Brian Scalabrine break down the Celtics stunning last second comeback win over the Thunder with multiple key players sitting out.

10:27 - Tom Curran and Jerod Mayo stop by Early Edition to play a game of Fill in the Blank that involves Gronkowski’s contract and the Patriots best offseason acquisition.