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.

Celtics defense doesn't rise to occasion with Kyrie out vs. Bulls

Celtics defense doesn't rise to occasion with Kyrie out vs. Bulls

New experiences are a given when you have as many new faces as the Boston Celtics have this season.

Monday’s 108-85 loss to the Chicago Bulls?

Yup, that’s a new one.

You can rest assured the Celtics won’t dwell on this loss too long. But that doesn’t mean it’ll be forgotten quickly, either.

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As the Boston Celtics piled up the wins this season (they still lead the East with a 23-6 record), head coach Brad Stevens has tried to keep his team humble, reminding them that if they don’t play well they can be beat by anybody … even the Bulls.

Even in defeat, Boston has managed to at least give themselves a shot at winning with good energy and effort from most if not every player that steps on the court.

“We have a young group, so we usually have a lot of energy,” Boston’s Jaylen Brown told reporters afterwards. “We just couldn’t find it tonight. We start off bad, we usually find a way to come back and rally into the game. We could just never get it going.”

Boston’s Al Horford echoed similar sentiments.

“Credit to our group. We go out, we fight every night,” Horford said. “And tonight, we pushed but they answered back. We never caught a break. There were times there, we could have had a three (3-pointer) and we missed it. And then they come down and hit a three. It was kind of like … one of those nights, everything was working their way. Gotta give them credit. They came out the aggressor. They held it and we didn’t have it tonight.”

Of course, the easy way to explain away what happened was to point out the impact of not having Kyrie Irving (quads injury).

While there’s no question not having the team’s top scorer has a negative impact on the team’s overall play, the Celtics are a team that’s rooted in strong defensive play which should have been on display against Chicago.

Instead of Boston’s defense taking the lead, they were a non-factor most of the night, especially when it came to Nikola Mirotic and Bobby Portis who had 24 and 23 points, respectively.

“We didn’t challenge Mirotic or Portis at all,” said Celtics head coach Brad Stevens. “And they got to the rim whenever they wanted.”

Fortunately for the Celtics, they return home where they can try and get back on a winning track after losing two of their last three games.

“We have to respond against Denver (on Wednesday),” Brown said. “When we come back and play them, we should have more energy.”

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Stars, studs and duds: 'Sometimes you get your butt kicked'

Stars, studs and duds: 'Sometimes you get your butt kicked'

Following Boston’s 108-85 thumping at the hands of the Chicago Bulls, Brad Stevens had a very succinct message for his team after the loss.

“Sometimes you get your butt kicked!” he told them.

While that’s true, it’s rare for an elite team, or least one with an elite-team record, to get beaten so soundly by another squad that while playing better of late, is still the worst team in the league.

“Chicago dictated the whole game; they played harder than we did,” Stevens said. “They played with more presence than we did; played more competitive than we did. They played with more authority than we did. You’re not going to win many games when you play like that.”

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Losing is something that all teams, good and bad, have to deal with and experience. But the way Chicago dominated play for most of the night, was something new for this Celtics team that has consistently come back from huge deficits to win.

But Stevens has cautioned repeatedly how his team was playing with fire making that part of their narrative this season, knowing there would be times when they just wouldn’t be able to muster up the necessary plays at either end of the floor and rally for a victory.

Monday was that night.

“We’ve had a chance to win every game except for this one,” Stevens said. “This one was obvious, even when we were making our run in the third it was kind of back and forth. And they hit every big shot they needed to kind of stem the tide when it was an 11-point game or put it back to 14. We just had too many easy errors from our standpoint. And then, they made plays.”

And in doing so, they absolutely out-played the Celtics in every way imaginable.

“I don’t want to chalk it up to, ‘hey you’re gonna have nights like this,’” Stevens said. “We just got our butt kicked; we’ll take that and move forward.”

Here are the Stars, Studs and Duds from Boston’s 108-85 beatdown at the hands of the Chicago Bulls who despite winning three straight, have now moved up to a tie for the worst record (6-20) in the NBA, with Atlanta.

  

STARS

Nikola Mirotic

The Boston Celtics had no answer for Mirotic who lit the Celtics up for 24 points. “We didn’t do a great job guarding him and he made us pay for that,” Stevens said. “He’s a really good offensive player.”

Bobby Portis

Coming off the bench, Portis gave the Celtics fits from the perimeter as well as around the rim before finishing with a season-high 23 points. “Portis got going from (3-point range),” Stevens said. “We played with no presence.”

 

STUDS

Kyrie Irving

He didn’t log a single minute on Monday, but his presence was definitely felt. Boston looked completely lost and discombobulated with their four-time all-star out of the lineup with a quads injury.

 

DUDS

Every Celtic on the active roster

There’s just not enough space to go through all the players that failed the Celtics miserably on Monday. The starters. The bench. The two-way players called up. This was not just the worst game of the season for the Celtics, but one of the worst ever in Stevens’ four-plus seasons as the Celtics head coach. “It was a collective success for them, and a collective failure for us,” said Celtics head coach Brad Stevens.

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