Celtics

Celtics more than comfortable at home

Celtics more than comfortable at home

BOSTON – For the third year in a row the Celtics had a homestand of five games or longer. And just like the previous two extended homestands, the Celtics closed it out with a victory as they pulled away for a 97-90 win over Dallas on Wednesday.
 
The Celtics went 4-1 on the homestand, similar to the 5-1 stretch they had last March which helped propel them to the best in the Eastern Conference at 53-29.
 
The Celtics improved to 12-2 at home, which is tied with San Antonio for the most home wins in the NBA this season.
 
“This is good. We obviously want to keep building on it,” said Al Horford. “We’re doing a good job, playing at a high level.”
 
Here are five takeaways from Wednesday’s win over the Mavericks:


 
CELTICS DEPTH
Players go down, someone emerges. It has been the unspoken narrative of this Celtics team all season. They play as though no adversity is too great, no hurdle too steep, to be overcome. And a big part of that confidence stems from having a second unit that’s starting to deliver more consistency. That was indeed the case on Wednesday night when they outscored their backup brethren, 36-23.

KYRIE IRVING
We talk a lot about his fourth-quarter impact, but not nearly enough about how efficient he is in that part of the game. He ranks fifth in the NBA in fourth-quarter scoring, doing so by literally scoring a point for every minute he’s on the floor in the fourth. Yes, Irving averages seven points scored and seven minutes played in the fourth Only LeBron James and Kristaps Porzingis average as many or more points scored per minute played in the fourth, as Irving. Against Dallas, Irving had nine points in the fourth while playing just 6:46 in the quarter.


 
AL HORFORD
The stat sheet continues to get stuffed on a nightly basis by Horford. But the one category to keep an eye on is field-goal attempts; specifically, when Horford gets at least 10 shot attempts. The Celtics are 13-2 this season when Horford takes at least 10 shots from the field. Against the Mavs, he had 17 points on 7-for-17 shooting, along with eight rebounds, eight assists and three blocked shots.


 


JAYSON TATUM
It really does feel awkward game after game talking about Tatum and what he’s doing. And yet, he doesn’t really leave you much of a choice because of his play. Without Jaylen Brown (eye inflammation) and Marcus Morris (left knee rehabilitation) against Dallas, the Celtics needed one of their main guys to bring a little more to the game than usual. Tatum once again rose to the challenge, finishing with 17 points and 10 rebounds for his second double-double of the season.


 
THE LOB DUNK

The Celtics have been great about making high energy plays with their defense all season. But lately, they’re figuring out ways to get the fans pumped up with exciting plays offensively like the alley-oop. Against the Mavericks, Marcus Smart hooked up with Horford for an alley-oop dunk that cut Dallas’ lead to 59-55 in the third. The two hooked up later on to put Boston ahead 64-63 with 5:44 to play in the third. The reserves got into the act early in the fourth when Shane Larkin connected with Daniel Theis for a play that cut Dallas’ lead to 73-72.

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.”

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE

Marcus Smart cleared to play Friday

Marcus Smart cleared to play Friday

According to league sources, Celtics guard Marcus Smart was back in Boston on Tuesday and had a private workout with the team. He has been officially cleared to practice tonight and play Friday when the Celtics return after the All-Star break to play the Pistons in Detroit.

Smart has been out since he lacerated his hand swiping at a picture frame in his hotel room after a Celtics' loss to the Lakers in Los Angeles on Jan. 25.

The Celtics have lost three in a row and four of five heading into the All-Star break to drop behind the Toronto Raptors for the best record in the East and losing Smart's defense has been a key part of their recent slump.