Celtics

Celtics-Lakers preview: With contention in Cleveland, C's need to strike now

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Celtics-Lakers preview: With contention in Cleveland, C's need to strike now

LOS ANGELES – The lead-up to tonight’s game between Boston and the Los Angeles Lakers has nothing to do with tradition, or two long-time rivals on the rise or any of the predictable narratives that tend to arise on the cusp of this matchup.

This is about one game; a game that despite their lopsided records, actually means more to the Boston Celtics (34-13) than the Los Angeles Lakers (17-29).

Forget for moment how every Lakers loss brings their first-round pick in June closer to becoming Celtics property courtesy of Boston trading away the number one pick to Philadelphia in last June’s NBA draft, for the No. 3 pick in the draft and a future first-rounder that the Lakers owed the Sixers, which could potentially wind up in Boston’s war chest of draft picks if it falls between the No. 2-5 pick.

That’s important to Boston, obviously.

But of more urgent concern is the team’s play; specifically, their offense.

It was something to make note of earlier this season as the Celtics stockpiled wins, but nothing to worry too much about because, well, they kept winning.

But riding a season-high three game losing streak, it has become a top-shelf concern because 1) they’re not making progress offensively that lasts more than a couple games, and 2) they’re starting to lose in large part because the offense is simply not getting the job done.

Even nights when Kyrie Irving is having a special Kyrie Irving-like game, it’s far from a guarantee that’ll be enough to carry them to victory.

He lit up the Orlando Magic for 40 points on Sunday, and it still wasn’t enough as the Magic won 103-95.  While it wasn’t one of the Celtics’ better games defensively, they did enough good things at that end of the floor to get the win.

“We haven’t played well enough consistently on both ends for a while now,” said Celtics head coach Brad Stevens.

Boston’s offensive struggles have led them to bring in G-League standout Jarrell Eddie on a 10-day contract mainly because of his shooting skills.

And with the trade deadline less than a month away, the Celtics will look even closer at scoring/shooting options in the coming weeks.

Los Angeles Clippers guard Lou Williams is a player on Boston’s radar, but the Clippers’ recent run of success (they’ve won six of seven, 10 of their last 13) coupled with Williams playing at a near all-star level, makes it highly unlikely Doc Rivers and company will be open to parting with him.

A more logical and reasonable player to target is Memphis’ Tyreke Evans.

The Grizzlies are going nowhere and frankly, they would be better off cutting loose a player like Evans and get something in return unless they see him as a potential core player to their franchise going forward which seems unlikely.

Until then they swing a deal or let the deadline pass, the Celtics will get by with the players they have.

They're not bad players, but when you’re having a season like the Celtics are at a time when the Cleveland Cavaliers’ grip on the East hasn’t been this loose since LeBron James returned, the time to strike is now.

Danny Ainge knows this.

Brad Stevens knows this.

And the players one way or another, are going to know this because as we’ve seen with Ainge in the past, he will not hesitate to make a deal that shakes up the roster.

However, Boston’s current team has the potential to at least quiet down some of the increasingly loud calls for at a minimum, a roster tweak.

And it starts with getting a win tonight over the Los Angeles Lakers whose play has improved which is evident by them winning their last two and six of their last eight games.

Because like the Celtics, they too are trying to figure out the best course of direction going forward.

But they have the benefit of playing without real expectations relative to winning.

Boston?

Not so much.

It’s always fun to reminisce about these long-time rivals and how they’re both trying to forge a future for themselves as the latest link to their historically awesome past.

But this game tonight isn’t about nostalgia.

It’s about two teams, both trying to win a game, a game that one of them – the Celtics – needs more.

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE

Hayward one step closer to joining Celtics on road trips

Hayward one step closer to joining Celtics on road trips

Gordon Hayward’s return to the Boston Celtics remains a hot topic of discussion, with the C's insisting they plan to have him back next season while Hayward has continued to do all he can to make his return a speedy one. 

The next step in a possible return this season involves Hayward traveling with the team which according to head coach Brad Stevens, is not imminent.

“It doesn’t look like it’s any time in the next couple of weeks,” Stevens told reporters.

Between now and then, Hayward will continue his rehabilitation program which includes the use of an Alter-G anti-gravity treadmill which helps athletes in terms of conditioning in a non or limited, weight-bearing capacity.

“He’s gonna do another Alter-G starting on Sunday where he goes from 60 percent of his body weight all the way to 100,” Stevens said. “Once he can do stuff where he is running or jumping, then it makes (sense) to bring him on the road.”

Hayward suffered a dislocated left ankle injury five minutes into Boston’s season-opener at Cleveland on Oct. 17. Shortly after the injury, the Celtics anticipated him not returning this season, a position that was confirmed by them being granted a disabled player exception which is awarded in part because independent doctors determined that the injury would “likely” keep him sidelined for the rest of the season. 

But Hayward has been aggressive in rehabbing from the injury to the point where there’s still a slim glimmer of hope that he may be able to return this season. 

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE

Celtics top Pistons in return from All-Star break, 110-98

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Celtics top Pistons in return from All-Star break, 110-98

Having lost three straight and four of their last five games, no one knew for sure what to expect from the Boston Celtics coming out of the All-Star break. 

The time off was just what the Celtics needed to get their timing back at both ends of the floor, taking over in the first half against Detroit in cruising to a 110-98 win. 

Boston’s bench delivered their best performance of the season, tallying a season-high 65 points which included a career-high 19 points from Daniel Theis. Ish Smith led the Pistons (28-30) with 20 points. Blake Griffin had 17 points and Andre Drummond tallied a double-double of 15 points and 17 rebounds.

The Celtics were particularly effective from 3-point range, shooting a solid 17-for-39 that was instrumental in Boston (41-19) beating Detroit for the second time in the third – and final – matchup of the season unless these two square off again in the playoffs. 

Boston trailed 28-23 after the first quarter, but began to establish control in the second by closing the half out with a 24-10 run to lead 61-49 at the half. 

The Celtics refused to allow Detroit back into the game in the third quarter, not allowing the Pistons to get any closer than four points.

And just like they did in the second quarter, Boston closed out the quarter with a nice surge, scoring seven of the last nine points of the quarter to lead 86-77 going into the fourth.

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE