Celtics

Celtics-Magic preview: Time for Streak 2.0?

Celtics-Magic preview: Time for Streak 2.0?

BOSTON – The last time the Celtics were coming off a loss, they bounced back and won their next 16 games.
 
Could tonight trigger winning streak 2.0?

MORE CELTICS:

If so, Boston’s defense will once again lead the way because the Orlando Magic (8-10) have been one of the better offensive teams in the NBA this season.
 
They come into tonight’s game shooting 46.7 percent from the field, which ranks seventh in the NBA. They also average 11.6 made three-pointers per game, which ranks fourth in the league.
 
One of the keys to Orlando’s offense is to play with a pace (103.16) that ranks among the league’s best.

Still, the Celtics have seen their share of elite offenses this season and more often than not, they have been up to the challenge.
 
For Boston, their defensive success begins with a starting unit that has been among the best in the league most of this season.
 
Boston has utilized a number of different starting lineups, but the one that has logged the most minutes (79) together – Kyrie Irving, Jaylen Brown, Jayson Tatum, Al Horford and Aron Baynes – has a defensive rating of 85.8, which is tops in the league among all five-man lineups which have logged as many or more minutes than Boston’s five-man group.
 
But as well as the Celtics played defensively as the wins piled up, there were clear and undeniable signs that a game such as Wednesday night's 104-98 loss at Miami was on the horizon.
 
Of the 16 wins, the Celtics were down by double digits in each of the past three victories and five overall in the streak.
 
But getting behind consistently and finding a way to rally spoke volumes about this team’s ability to handle adversity.
 
“Obviously winning is good,” said rookie Jayson Tatum. “Just the fashion that we did it in and the adversity that we had to overcome. It brought us closer together and made us a tougher team.”
 
But it seemed self-inflicted adversity by way of slow starts, which was starting to become part of the narrative to this Celtics team.
 
The past three wins - games in which the Celtics trailed by 13 at Dallas, 16 at Atlanta and 17 at home against Golden State - collectively they were a clear indicator that Boston still had room to improve despite finding ways to win.
 
 “We have to get better, we have to get better at what we’re trying to do,” said Celtics head coach Brad Stevens. “It’s a little bit, looking at the 16 straight [wins], as I said, it was a little bit of a mirage. We know we have to get better.”
 

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE

Theis to play with mask, Stevens 'can’t keep track of all our facial gear'

celtics_daniel_theis_121617.jpg

Theis to play with mask, Stevens 'can’t keep track of all our facial gear'

Despite suffering a broken nose less than 24 hours ago, Daniel Theis is with the Boston Celtics and will be available to play tonight against the Memphis Grizzlies.

“He’s cleared to play,” said Celtics coach Brad Stevens, adding that Theis will wear a non-fitted mask tonight if he does see action off Boston’s bench. “It’s not a fitted mask but it’s as close as they could make it.”

Following Boston’s 107-95 loss to Utah on Friday night, Theis was initially not expected to travel with the team. But soon after, it was determined that the 25-year-old rookie would indeed be on the flight to Memphis to potentially play.

Boston’s Kyrie Irving suffered a facial fracture against Charlotte on Nov. 10 and played 13 games with the mask.

More recently, Jaylen Brown missed a game due to right eye irritation and had to wear goggles for three games.

“I can’t keep track of all our facial gear right now,” quipped Stevens. “We’re just glad he (Theis) is OK.”

Stevens said Theis will have to get his nose re-set at some point soon which would result in him likely missing a day or two.

Still, it says a lot about Theis’ willingness to still play despite an injury that for most players, results in them missing a game or two right away.

“It looked like he may have just got hit on the bridge,” Stevens said. “He feels good otherwise, he says.”

While Theis doesn’t put up eye-popping numbers off the Celtics bench, the energy that he tends to play with on a night-in, night-out basis for Boston is important for this team.

“I just want to come in, bring energy, defend, rebound, do whatever to help the team,” Theis recently told NBC Sports Boston. “Whatever to win, I want to do.”

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE

Time for Celtics to shake off the blues in Memphis

Time for Celtics to shake off the blues in Memphis

As the Celtics’ players gathered their belongings and headed out for tonight’s game in Memphis, Gordon Hayward took a seat at his locker stall, the first one you come across when you enter the Celtics’ locker room.

MORE CELTICS:

Like most of us trying to make sense of Boston’s 107-95 loss to Utah, Hayward could sense the disappointment among his teammates. 

He offered a few words of encouragement to teammate Semi Ojeleye, whose locker was next to his, soon followed by a few more words for Jaylen Brown whose mindset was already on to the next game tonight at Memphis.

“We’re going to come out, respond, play as hard as we can,” said Brown, who added, “just come out and get a win against Memphis.”

That “on-to-the-next-one” mantra has served Boston well this season and they'll look to continue along those lines against the Grizzlies tonight.

Despite losses in three of their past five, the Celtics (24-7) still have the best record in the East – two games ahead of Cleveland (21-8).

“We got a big one [tonight],” said Terry Rozier. “We just have to pay attention to the details and take care of business.”

Here are under the radar storylines heading into tonight’s game against Memphis.

THE AL AND KYRIE SHOW
We have seen these two work in sync with one another for a good chunk of this season, so it was not all that surprising to see both play well against the Jazz. They combined to score 54 of Boston’s 95 points, or 56.8 percent of their scoring. And when it came to setting up teammates, they had 13 of Boston’s 20 assists, or 65 percent. They don’t have to be that dominant tonight, but putting up comparable numbers – and maybe getting one or two players to chip in as well – would go far in Boston getting back on a winning track.

THE "NEW" COACH
J.B. Bickerstaff became Memphis’ interim head coach after the organization fired David Fizdale after a 7-12 start. Like any interim head coach, he’s trying his best to make a favorable impression so that the "interim" tag will be dropped. So far? Not great. The Grizzlies have lost eight of 10 since Fizdale’s firing in large part because of injuries – which was among the factors that contributed to Fizdale’s struggles. This isn’t Bickerstaff’s first go-around as an NBA head coach. As an assistant coach with the Houston Rockets, he was named the interim coach when Kevin McHale was fired in 2015. Bickerstaff went 37-34 and led the Rockets to the first round of the playoffs where they were eliminated in five games by the Golden State Warriors.


 
REBOUNDING
Talent, timing and effort all go hand-in-hand when it comes to rebounding success, with effort being the most critical component. And against the Jazz, Boston just didn’t seem to bring it at any point in the game. And the end result was a 55-31 rebounding advantage for the Jazz. Boston may catch a break tonight against the Grizzlies, who come into tonight’s game with a rebounding percentage of .478 which ranks 27th (out of 30 teams) in the NBA.


 
D ON THE DECLINE
Friday night’s game against Utah was yet another underwhelming performance by Boston’s defense. The Celtics had a defensive rating of 109.3.  For the season, the Celtics still have the league’s top defense – barely. Their 100.6 defensive rating is just a smidge better than Oklahoma City (100.7). And once again, Boston might get some relief tonight against a Memphis team that has struggled offensively all season. They come into the game with an offensive rating of 101.4, which ranks 27th in the league.

JAYSON TATUM
It’s still too soon to say if Tatum has hit the rough patch all first-year players endure – better known as the rookie wall – but there’s no question his scoring of late has been off. The past three games, Tatum, 19, has scored a total of 26 points, which is the fewest he has scored in a three-game stretch as a pro. The rookie had seven points on 1-for-7 shooting against the Jazz, bringing his shooting numbers in the past three games to a not-so-great 8-for-22 (36.4 percent).

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE