Celtics

Celtics-Mavericks preview: C's need to play Smart vs. Dallas

Celtics-Mavericks preview: C's need to play Smart vs. Dallas

Get it done. No excuses.
 
That has been how the Boston Celtics have played most of this season.
 
And if there’s one Celtics player who embodies that on this team, it’s Marcus Smart.
 
The fourth-year guard has struggled all season with his shot-making, but when the game is on the line in the fourth quarter you can count on Smart to be on the floor.

THE WINNING STREAK

He has been among the many reasons Boston has won 15 in a row, which is the fifth-longest winning streak in franchise history.
 
And Smart will be among the Celtics looking to keep it going tonight against the Dallas Mavericks.
 
Most likely, Smart will make an impact with his defense, which is among the best in the NBA.

How good?
 
Smart has a defensive rating of 93.4 (points allowed per 100 possessions) which is tops among all guards in the NBA, and ranks third among all players who have played in at least 10 games this season.
 
But in the 110-99 win over the Hawks, Smart knocked down a couple of 3-pointers which was a big deal considering how mightily he has struggled shooting the ball this season.
 
Smart is shooting 27.3 percent from the field as well as from 3-point range – both career lows.
 
However, he’s also averaging career highs in assists (4.5) and rebounds (5.1) this season.
 
And while he certainly doesn’t appear to be affected by the shooting struggles, he acknowledges that it is something that he can’t help but think about from time to time.
 
“It does affect you, especially if you’ve been working (on shooting) all summer,” Smart said. “At the same time, I don’t take as many shots. But like I said, we got other guys who are playing well. My job is to get them the ball and do whatever I can, go back down the floor, play defense and get the ball again.”

In Boston’s win over Atlanta, Smart spent a good amount of time defending Marco Belinelli who had four points on 2-for-10 shooting compared to 19 points on 6-for-10 shooting when these two teams met earlier this month.
 
Coach Brad Stevens pointed to the job Smart did on Belinelli, in addition to the clutch offensive rebound he was able to snag and quickly put back up and in that gave Boston a 103-95 game with about two minutes to play.
 
“He was really good,” Stevens said.
 
The same could be said for most of the Celtics of late.
 
Kyrie Irving is coming off his most efficient game of the season, tallying 30 points on 10-for-12 shooting from the field. Jayson Tatum had a rough start, but he came on strong as well with 14 points – all coming in the second half.
 
But the backbone of Boston’s success lies in what they’re able to get done defensively.
 
So far, Boston’s defense has been as strong as we’ve seen this early, in quite some time.
 
Boston, which has a league-best defensive rating of 95.9, has length, savvy and an overall total buy-in by the players on what Brad Stevens is looking for, from them.
 
Meanwhile, the Mavericks (3-14) are coming off their most impressive victory this season, a 111-79 win over Milwaukee.  Dennis Smith Jr. has been among the more talented rookies this season. He’s averaging 14.5 points, 4.2 rebounds and 4.5 assists per game. Dallas is indeed in a transition period where longtime superstar Dirk Nowitzki (10.3 points, 5.5 rebounds per game) is gradually passing the torch to his younger teammates like Harrison Barnes (18.7 points, 7.1 rebounds) and Smith Jr.
 
Much like the Hawks game, the Celtics must approach this game with a focus on the opponent and not their record.
 
Because the Celtics are no longer just a good team on the schedule. They are a measuring stick for most to see how they stack up against the league’s best.
 
And the Celtics understand how their success has changed how teams see them.
 
“Now that we have a reputation, I think everyone is coming for us,” said Boston’s Jaylen Brown. “Now we have to come play even harder, and I think we can do that. I think we are more than capable.”

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Brown sees 'big difference' trading in goggles for contacts

Brown sees 'big difference' trading in goggles for contacts

BOSTON – Jaylen Brown’s recent eye issues led to him wearing goggles, then changing to a different pair, tossing those when they fogged up, only to come back to wearing contacts for Wednesday’s game against Denver.

“It was a big difference,” Brown said of not having to wear the goggles.

It certainly looked that way in his play, with Brown being among the many players on Wednesday to be in a really good rhythm shooting the ball.

And the timing could not have been any better as Boston outlasted the Denver Nuggets 124-118.

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Brown had 26 points – one shy of tying his career high – on 9-for-12 shooting.

As a team, Boston shot a season-high 59.5 percent from the field.

Ball movement, the sense of urgency to bounce back after a bad loss, trying to fill the void left by not having Al Horford (rest) around … there’s a number of reasons to help explain his impressive shooting night.

But none looms any larger than the fact that he was playing free of any limited vision issues that came up when he played with goggles.

“You take a lot of stuff for granted, and that’s one of them,” said Brown who did wear contacts during the game. “And when your vision is messed up and you try to play through it … I just appreciated being able to see.”

Brown explained the problems he experienced wearing the goggles.

“They were too much in my face,” he said. “I couldn’t see peripheral, and the other ones were just too tight, they kept fogging up. It was just uncomfortable with them, so I thought I was just better off without them. Tonight, I was blessed enough to be able to play with my contacts.”

And now that his vision is no longer an issue, Celtics head coach acknowledged how they can now joke around about the whole situation which began with Brown leaving his contacts in for too long which led to his right eye not being able to open and overall irritation that kept him sidelined for the Dallas game last week.

“We had some laughs in retro-spec,” quipped Stevens. “That’s pretty good; said retro-spec. Been thinking about that all week.”

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Stars, studs and duds: Tatum 'real excited to bounce back'

Stars, studs and duds: Tatum 'real excited to bounce back'

BOSTON – To see Jayson Tatum struggle with his shot the way he did at Chicago was surprising. He’s a 19-year-old rookie, but he has played with a level of consistency and poise that’s just not normal for a player so young.

But the true indicator wasn’t how he struggled, but how would he respond.

Tatum had the kind of bounce-back game the Boston Celtics needed on Wednesday as they held off a hot-shooting Denver Nuggets team 124-118.

Tatum, who had four points on 1-for-7 shooting in Boston’s 108-85 loss at Chicago on Monday, had 15 points against the Nuggets while connecting on six of his nine shot attempts.

“I was just real excited to bounce back,” Tatum told NBC Sports Boston. “I was upset the way I played, the way we played. I was eager to get back and get a win.”

Tatum played just under 28 minutes which is a couple minutes below his average, in part because Boston decided to go small and the Nuggets played long stretches with 6-foot-8 Wilson Chandler at small forward and 6-10 Trey Lyles at power forward.

“When you move Chandler to the 3 (small forward) and Lyles to the 4 (power forward), all of a sudden going small doesn’t feel like the best idea in the world,” Stevens said. “Those are tough matchups, so that’s why his minutes were a little down.”

But the change in Tatum’s minutes allowed him to play more with the second unit which was indeed a plus for the Celtics.

“He came in and gave us a good lift and did most of his damage with the second unit,” Stevens said.

Here are the Stars, Studs and Duds from Boston’s 124-118 win over the Denver Nuggets.

 

STARS

Kyrie Irving

He returned after missing the Chicago game to rest his sore left quad, and boy did the Celtics need him. The Nuggets made this a much higher-scoring affair than Boston is accustomed to playing, but they were able to more than hold their own and Irving’s play was a big reason why. He led the Celtics with 33 points on 12-for-19 shooting along with seven assists and a pair of blocked shots.

Gary Harris

Denver is a long way from Boston, so folks on this side of the basketball world aren’t familiar with just how good Gary Harris is on the floor.  He was a near-unstoppable force Wednesday night, knocking down 3-pointers along with getting to the rim off the dribble with dunks, lay-ups and a few pull-up jumpers. He led all scorers with 36 points on 16-for-25 shooting.

 

STUDS

Aron Baynes

No Al Horford (rest) meant someone in the frontcourt would be getting a few more shots tonight, and Baynes was up to the challenge. He finished with 17 points on 8-for-11 shooting to go with six rebounds. Boston is now 6-1 when the 6-foot-10 center scores in double figures. 

Jaylen Brown

Like most of his teammates, Brown was eager to bounce back from a not-so-great performance at Chicago. He did just that, tallying 26 points on 9-for-12 shooting.

Jamal Murray

The other half of Denver’s starting backcourt, Murray is a spot-on shooter whose playmaking skills are improving with time. He had a double-double of 28 points on 9-for-17 shooting along with 10 rebounds while dishing out four assists and getting his hands on three steals.

Shane Larkin

His ability to shake things up and provide a spark was on full display against the Nuggets. Larkin was a perfect 6-for-6 shooting and finished with 14 points in just under 18 minutes of court time.

 

DUDS

Celtics rebounding

It seemed no matter how many white-and-green clad jerseys were around the ball, it always seemed to find its way into the hands of a Denver Nuggets player. By the time the final horn had sounded, the Celtics were a -18 on the boards with Denver finishing with 48 total rebounds – just 3 short of the season-high 51 Boston gave up against Orlando on Nov. 24.

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