Celtics

Celtics won't be celebrating any moral victories

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Celtics won't be celebrating any moral victories

OAKLAND, Calif. – For most teams, taking the Golden State Warriors down to the wire before losing at Oracle Arena would be seen as a success.

But the Boston Celtics are well past “Good try, good effort” performances, particularly because they are one of the few teams that has actually had success on Golden State’s home floor in recent years.

That’s why for them, their brand of disappointment in Saturday’s 109-105 loss was very different than most teams.

Simply put, the Celtics came away feeling as though they let one get away.

“We had them right where we wanted them,” said Jaylen Brown. “We just came up short. Really good team on the other side and they got the win.”

And while Saturday’s loss was the last regular season matchup between these two, the Warriors made no secret about believing that if they get back to the NBA Finals for what would be a fourth straight year, the team representing the East could very well be the Boston Celtics.

“They’re a good team,” Golden State’s Shaun Livingston told NBC Sports Boston’s Kyle Draper. “This is a good matchup for us. Looking at it, it’s obviously a team we could see in June.”

Here are five takeaways from Boston’s 109-105 loss to the defending NBA champion Golden State Warriors.

KYRIE IRVING

Most games, Kyrie Irving makes a conscious effort to get his teammates going as much as possible to start games, knowing he can get his points against pretty much any defense out there. Knowing the magnitude and caliber of opponent the Celtics were facing in Golden State on the road, we saw Irving looking to score at the start of the game more than usual. He scored 14 of is team-high 37 points in the first quarter while shooting 7-for-8 from the field. It will be worth monitoring if what we saw was just an approach exclusively for Golden State, or whether we’ll see more of this brand of Irving basketball in the near future.

JAYLEN BROWN

We’ve seen Brown locked in before, but rarely have we seen the kind of focus and attention to detail at both ends of the floor, that we saw on Saturday night. His defense was really solid all game. And his offensive game?

Even better, as he scored 20 points while shooting 6-for-9 from the field which included 14 points in the first quarter.

You can’t expect him to shoot that well all the time. But the aggression level he played with, that needs to be more of a constant with him. Because as we saw on Saturday night, an aggressive Jaylen Brown is a better version of Jaylen Brown.

NO MARCUS SMART

Whenever you have to play without a key defender like Smart, it’s going to impact the game at some point. And when you look at how the Celtics had no answer for cooling off Stephen Curry you have to wonder how much they might have benefited from having Smart (right had laceration) who will miss about two weeks with his non-basketball related injury.

DEFENDING THE BIG FOUR

One of the reasons why Boston split the head-to-head series with Golden State this season, was their ability to limit at least two of Golden State’s all-stars – Stephen Curry, Draymond Green, Klay Thompson and Kevin Durant. In Boston’s win over Golden State in November, it was Curry, Green and Thompson who struggled while combining to shoot 25.6 percent (11-for-43) from the field. On Saturday, it was another bad shooting night for Green, Thompson and Durant who shot 34.1 percent on 14-for-41 shooting from the field. Limiting the bulk of Golden State’s Big Four is something Boston has done consistently and could come into play if the two were to meet in the NBA Finals.

THREE-POINT SHOOTING

It has truly been a trial and error process for the Boston Celtics find the right balance between taking 3’s and not becoming too reliant on it in order to win. Boston went 14-for-28 from 3-point range against the Warriors, which was a decent number of makes and attempts that at a minimum, gave them a decent shot at winning. Going forward, there will be games in which they will need to take more and other nights when they might be better served taking fewer than usual. But the bottom line is that the 3-pointer is a valuable part of what they want to do as an offense. Figuring out when to use it appropriately remains an ongoing challenge, one that the Celtics have shown themselves more nights than not, to be up for.

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Celtics set to play with greater sense of urgency in return to action

Celtics set to play with greater sense of urgency in return to action

WALTHAM, Mass. – The road to getting back atop the Eastern Conference standings for the Boston Celtics following the All-Star break will begin – where else? – on the road.

And that’s a good thing.

Boston, which plays its first two games after the break on the road beginning at Detroit tonight and New York on Saturday, has been among the league’s best all season when it comes to winning on the road.

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Only two teams, Golden State (22-7, .759 winning percentage) and Houston (21-7, .750 winning percentage), have a better road winning percentage than the Celtics (19-8, .703 winning percentage) this season.

“Our schedule is really hard as we hit this last home stretch 23 games,” said Celtics head coach Brad Stevens. “And that’s a good thing with us. We are going to have to have that urgency.”

Boston (40-19) has lost three straight and four of its last five games.

Aware of how quickly a couple of losses can snowball into a full-blown losing skid, Boston players understand the importance of playing with a greater sense of urgency.

“I think we have a sense of urgency about ourselves,” Brown said. “I think we understand the second half of the season and the importance of it, getting ready for playoffs. And how you can see some of the older guys, Kyrie (Irving), Al (Horford), the attention to detail, the stress about the little things is becoming more evident.” 

Said Irving: “We hit a little bit of a stretch where we haven’t been playing our type of basketball. Not necessarily being as consistent as we’d like to be. We just want to get back to being consistent and doing the right things.”

Stevens added, “Hopefully these little hiccups that we have had prior to the break, which more pertains to who we are playing … hopefully benefit us down the road.”

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Al Horford said more than anything, the Celtics have to ratchet up their attention to details in all phases of play.

“The focus is really now more than any point in the season taking it day-to-day,” Horford said. “And I felt like we got better, today was a good practice. This is a good start, so now for us it’s just to keep building that and just take it game-to-game because these are … the rehearsal games, if you want to call them that. That’s what I like to call it with this group. So, getting everything straightened out for when the playoffs come around.”

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CELTICS TALK PODCAST: Anthony Davis opening the door for a trade?

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CELTICS TALK PODCAST: Anthony Davis opening the door for a trade?

Kyle Draper and A. Sherrod Blakely start off this week's episode talking about the return of Marcus Smart following the All-Star break, and how much the team missed him in their recent skid. Will head coach Brad Stevens make a lineup change, and with more practice time under his belt, will Greg Monroe see his minutes increase?

(9:50) Sherrod talks about his article on NBCSportsBoston.com this week on Kyrie Irving needing to have a 'special' finish to his first season with the Celtics.

(14:15) Would the rumored changes to the NBA Playoff format would be good or bad?

(16:45) Kyle and Sherrod (plus producer Jason Levine joining the fray) have a great debate on the latest tidbit of trade rumblings surrounding New Orleans Pelicans superstar Anthony Davis. Is the door finally open for the Celtics to swoop in?

(30:40) The guys also talk about the latest news with Kawhi Leonard and the Spurs....could he become available this offseason?

(33:10) Finally, Kyle sits down with Brad Stevens to talk about his trip to Red Sox Spring Training during the break, plus the terrible end to his own baseball career.

CLICK HERE TO LISTEN

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