Celtics

Celtics have been on rebound – literally – since losing first two

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Celtics have been on rebound – literally – since losing first two

BOSTON – This run that the Boston Celtics have been on has been nothing short of amazing for so many reasons.
 
For starters, no one saw this coming, not even the most die-hard Celtics fan.
 
It appeared to be even less of a possibility after Gordon Hayward’s left ankle injury which is expected to keep him out of action for the rest of the season.
 
After dropping the season opener when Hayward got hurt and the game against Milwaukee the following night, Boston has since found its groove and has been on the rebound – literally – ever since.

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Boston’s work on the boards has been yet another surprise for a Celtics team that for years has been among the league’s worst rebounding clubs.
 
The Celtics have finished among the bottom-10 in rebounding percentage each of the last three seasons, a trend Boston seems poised to end after what has been a strong start on the boards.
 
Boston has out-scored and out-rebounded each of its last seven opponents. They have only had one streak longer than that in the last 30 years, and that was when they did it 11 straight games in December of 2008.
 
But as they prepare to host the Los Angeles Lakers tomorrow night, several factors will come into play as Boston (9-2) tries to extend its league-best winning streak to 10 in a row.
 
Among those factors?
 
Rebounding, of course.
 
To say that Boston has done a better on the glass doesn’t do justice to how impressive their work around the rim has been this season.
 
Rebounding percentage is far more telling about how good a team is on the glass, than just about any other rebounding-related statistic.
 
Boston has a rebounding percentage of .533 which trails only Portland (.534).

As you delve deeper into those rebounding numbers, you quickly find one of the primary sources to the team’s top-ranked defense is their defensive rebounding percentage.
 
The Celtics rank 4th in the league in this category with a .814 percentage and by the 47.5 rebounds per game that Boston snatches, that ranks as the fifth-highest average.
 
No matter how you crunch the numbers, it adds to a Celtics team that has been an absolute beast on the boards this season – something that seemed highly unlikely considering the team didn’t add a player known to be a significant rebounder.
 
Boston’s success on the glass stems from the fact that they have significantly more length in the lineup which helps them defensively and when it comes to rebounding.
 
Jaylen Brown is 6-foot-7 playing the shooting guard position that was handled by 6-2 Avery Bradley.  At the point, Kyrie Irving is 6-3 and he has replaced a fellow all-star, 5-9 Isaiah Thomas. The defensive void left by Jae Crowder and his muscular 6-6 frame at small forward has been filled by 6-8 Jayson Tatum who also has a 7-0 wingspan. And when 6-10 Aron Baynes starts, he provides significantly more muscle at center than Amir Johnson did last season and his ability to contest shots by way of the rule of verticality, helps himself as well as his teammates swoop in and grab a large share of rebounds.
 
Just about every starter in the Celtics’ lineup now has better length than their predecessor which has made defense and rebounding more manageable for Boston.
 
And maybe more important, provided the Celtics with just what they have needed in order to continue building off the success of last season’s squad by creating a club with a different identity, an identity that’s heavily rooted in strong work on the boards.

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Brad Stevens looks to revitalize reeling Celtics

Brad Stevens looks to revitalize reeling Celtics

WALTHAM, Mass. – When he wasn’t hanging out with the Boston Red Sox during spring training, Brad Stevens was marinating over tweaks that the Boston Celtics need to make in the final 23 games of the regular season.

This reassessment is vital to the team’s success going forward, which makes a lot of sense considering how Boston limped into the all-star break losing three straight and four of five.

“I told the guys any time they come up short you have to evaluate, you have to learn …”

And the lesson Stevens learned going into the break?

“Our defense, it was just, it wasn’t good the last five games obviously,” he said. “Whether it’s a small sample size, whatever the case may be it just wasn’t good and I thought against the Clippers especially, it was as bad as I’ve seen. So that was a red flag.”

The return of Marcus Smart will certainly help, but Stevens knows having Smart back won’t be the one-stop elixir to all that ails his team currently.

“We just need everybody to play to their best ability,” Stevens said. “I mean, we had good games without him defensively but there’s no doubt he’s one of our best defenders.”

Smart has been one of the top on-the-ball defenders this season and has done so even while playing major minutes.

He has a defensive rating of 98.9 which is tops among all NBA players who average at least 30 minutes played per game.

And while it remains to be seen how Boston will incorporate Smart back into the regular rotation, he’s coming back with the kind of focus and motivation that should bode well for Boston’s chances of getting back on a winning track.

“I’m a competitor and I think everybody in this league, any athlete will tell you when you gotta sit on the bench, it’s one thing to sit on the bench because for something that happened you can’t control,” Smart said. “But it’s another for something you can control. I feel like I let my team down.”

Smart suffered a right hand laceration injury on Jan. 24 when he punched a picture that caused a series of cuts that required 20 stitches to close.

When speaking to the media on Wednesday night, Smart said a piece of glass came close to a pair of tendons that had the glass in his hand been an inch or so in either direction, it could have cause significant damage and likely season-ending surgery.

Having Smart back after an 11-game absence will certainly result in Stevens changing his player combinations up.

But there’s likely to be more changes than just the re-insertion of Smart into the mix.

“We’ll definitely rotate a little bit differently,” Stevens said. “I don’t know if that means changes in the starting lineup but we definitely will have some changes; certainly it will be night-to-night but tweaks from when guys enter the game.”

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Marcus Smart is fortunate to be returning this season

Marcus Smart is fortunate to be returning this season

BOSTON – When it comes to sports-related injuries, much like the games that are played, it really does become a matter of inches.

For Marcus Smart, that minuscule a distance was the difference between his right-hand laceration after punching a picture frame keeping him sidelined for a few weeks or ending his season.

Fortunately for Smart, the former proved to be his fate as he rejoined the Celtics for practice on Wednesday after missing the previous 11 games.

“I’m back. It feels good to be back with these guys and the coaching staff,” Smart said.

But after the incident which required 20 stitches, Smart said the doctors explained to him how fortunate he was that the injury wasn’t more severe and wouldn’t require season-ending surgery.

“They pulled a glass piece out of the palm of my hand,” Smart said. “And they said there two tendons that ran along the pinkie and the glass was sitting right in between them.

Smart said if the glass would have hit the tendons he would have most likely had to have season-ending surgery.

Celtics head coach Brad Stevens was aware of how close Boston was at losing Smart for the rest of the season.

“It was … I’m sure he would second this, it wasn’t a very good move,” Stevens said. “You don’t want to put yourself in that risk. Luckily, what happened, happened. His hand looks a lot better and that is encouraging.”

Said Smart: “I felt I let my team down. But I got a second chance to come back and redeem myself.”

As reported by NBC Sports Boston earlier today, Smart has been given the medical clearance to suit up for Boston’s next game which is at Detroit on Friday.

His return comes at a time when the Celtics (40-19) are looking to get back on track after what has been a rough patch of games recently.

Boston has lost three straight and four of its last five games. And the lone victory was an overtime win against the Washington Wizards.

Since Smart’s injury, the Celtics have gone 6-5 in his absence.

And within those 11 games, Boston’s numbers on several fronts have taken a slight dip.

Boston’s top-ranked defense slipped down to No. 11 with a defensive rating of 105.2 within the last 11 games missed by Smart.

And the success Boston has experienced this season has been heavily influenced by the play of Smart.

His defensive rating this season is 98.9 which stands out on several levels, the most notable one being how he stacks up against others defensively that log major minutes.

Among players that average at least 30 minutes per game, Smart’s defensive rating of 98.9 is tops among in the league with teammates Jayson Tatum (99.8, third in the league), Jaylen Brown (100.3, fifth) and Al Horford (101.0, seventh) all ranked among the league’s leaders.

Not surprisingly, Smart’s teammates are excited to have him back in the fold.

“There’s no question having Marcus back, makes our defense a lot better,” Horford said.

Boston’s Kyrie Irving echoed similar sentiments about Smart.

“He adds a very unique understanding of the game, at both ends of the floor,” Irving said. “We all know how great he is defensively, so he adds to our team … it’s great.”

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