Celtics

Celtics-Spurs preview: Same records, but trending in different directions

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Celtics-Spurs preview: Same records, but trending in different directions

BOSTON – The last time Boston walked off the parquet with a win over the San Antonio Spurs (Jan. 5, 2011), Rajon Rondo dropped 23 dimes, Ray Allen had 31 points and the starting center for the Celtics?

His name is Shaquille O’Neal.

Since then, the Spurs have reeled off six straight wins on the Celtics’ home floor.

None of the Celtics today were on the roster back then, the kind of clean slate the Celtics hope will result in a different ending tonight when the two teams, each boasting a 4-2 record, face off at the TD Garden.

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While their records are the same, each team is trending in a very different direction.

Boston comes in having won its last four games. Meanwhile, the Spurs have dropped two in a row, the last of which being a 97-94 loss at Indiana that wasn’t decided until the final seconds of play.

Regardless of the record, the Celtics will have their hands full against a San Antonio team that, like the Celtics, is missing at least one key player.

San Antonio All-Star Kawhi Leonard remains out with a quadriceps tendon injury. The Spurs will also be without point guard Tony Parker who is on the mend from a torn quadriceps tendon injury. San Antonio is finishing up a four-game road trip tonight. While they have been on the road, Parker was assigned to the Spurs’ Gatorade affiliate the Austin Toros who are having their training camp in San Antonio.

Of course, the Celtics have had their own injury woes, the biggest being Gordon Hayward whose left ankle injury is expected to keep him sidelined for the rest of this season. The Celtics are also short-handed to some degree with Marcus Morris (left knee soreness) out. He was hoping to play tonight, but head coach Brad Stevens didn’t sound too optimistic about Morris playing tonight.

“He needs to have at least a day of hard practice with our guys before he would play in a game,” Stevens said. “That’s probably a little bit optimistic for (tonight). Hopefully at some point in the very near future (this) week.”

Usually, when the Spurs come to town, the talk centers around their players who have for years showed a timeless talent that made them effective despite their advanced ages.

Manu Ginobili and Pau Gasol who are 40 and 37 years of age, respectively, are mainstays in the Spurs’ rotation which has become more youthful this season.

But the Celtics are the story of this game; specifically, the play of their young players like Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown.

Tatum is averaging 15.3 points, 6.3 rebounds and 1.7 assists while shooting 50.9 percent from the field. In his first six games, he has had a pair of 20-point performances. Among the five greatest scorers in Celtics history, only one of them (Larry Bird in five games) had multiple 20-point games quicker than the 19-year-old Tatum.

And while Brown has struggled of late shooting the ball, he has an offensive rating of 105.1, which is tops among all Celtics who play 30 or more minutes per game. And his defense has been strong as well, evident by a defensive rating of 95.2.

Boston is also being led by Kyrie Irving who has had 24 points in each of the Celtics’ last two games. And in their 96-90 win at Miami on Saturday, Irving scored nine of Boston’s last 10 points for the win.

“More often than not when he gets the ball, something good is going to happen offensively,” said Tommy Heinsohn, a two-time Naismith Basketball Hall of Famer and NBC Sports Boston basketball analyst.

The Celtics are certainly hoping for that tonight against the one team that on the TD Garden floor at least, has had their number for years.

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Gordon Hayward already back on the court and draining threes

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Gordon Hayward already back on the court and draining threes

Gordon Hayward had just about the most horrific debut any player could imagine.

We won't get into the details again, but it left many wondering the Celtics would even recover emotionally to compete in the East.

Now it's clear they are more than prepared to make some noise in the playoffs.

The most important recovery is Hayward's and tonight fans scrolled through social media to see encouraging progress.

Still can’t beat me... 🤷🏻‍♀️

A post shared by Robyn Hayward (@robynmhayward) on

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Irving: Struggling Celtics must 'weather the storm'

Irving: Struggling Celtics must 'weather the storm'

BOSTON – While it’s too soon to hit the panic button on the Boston Celtics’ season, Sunday’s 103-95 loss to Orlando is disturbing on multiple fronts. 

For starters, the Magic (14-32) have been in the NBA basement most of the season, so for them to see the light towards victory, on the road nonetheless, against the Celtics is bothersome for the Green Team. 

MORE - Blakely's stars, studs, and duds from C's-Magic

Boston came into Sunday’s game with an impressive 17-3 record against teams with a sub-.500 record.

Making matters even worst, it was Boston’s third straight loss – a first for the Celtics this season - with all three defeats coming at the TD Garden. 

Celtics big man Al Horford said the team needs a “Fight for our lives’” mentality heading into Tuesday’s game against the Los Angeles Lakers. 

While no one wants to lose game, having to overcome some hurdles along the journey isn’t always a bad thing.

“Gotta have some adversity,” said Kyrie Irving who led all scorers with 40 points - the second time he has reached the 40-point plateau this season (47 points, Nov. 20 at Dallas). “We need it as a team. There’s a lot more adversity down the road. You have to be able to weather the storm no matter what.”

Aside from Gordon Hayward’s dislocated ankle injury in the season-opener, dropping three straight is probably the biggest adversity the Celtics have had this season. 

And this latest setback came against an Orlando franchise that the Celtics have absolutely owned at home. 

Prior to Sunday’s loss, Boston had not lost to the Magic at home since Feb. 7, 2010 with 14 straight wins.

"We didn't underestimate them," said Boston's Jaylen Brown who had 17 points. "They've been playing a lot better than they've been playing all year."

Al Horford echoed similar sentiments.

“You can’t underestimate any team,” Horford said. “I don’t think we necessarily did, but we need to have that sense of urgency like we started the game and be able to hold that throughout the game. That’s important.”

So is making the most of transition scoring opportunities which was an area of play in which the Celtics struggled mightily all game. 

Boston wound up with six, fast-break points on just 3-for-9 shooting. 

“We had some transition opportunities that we didn’t covert,” acknowledged Celtics head coach Brad Stevens. 

Failing to capitalize on those easy scoring opportunities came back to hurt Boston and in hindsight, proved to be one of the key differences in the game’s outcome. 

“Whether you’re doing things at an optimum level as you would like, that’s part of the game of learning one another,” Irving said. “Being able to figure out how to respond from that. Us as a group, we’ve come together in the last four months, five months, it’s new. We need to hit something like this in order for us to grow. It’s part of the game; part of being on a team, part of being a professional. Any team, any environment, you have to have stuff like this where you have to figure it out.”

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