Celtics

Energy and focus puts Celtics back on track

Energy and focus puts Celtics back on track

WASHINGTON – There are certain lessons that no matter how much they’re talked about, have to be experienced first-hand in order to fully appreciate them.

The Boston Celtics know they are a marked team, the standard that most teams in the East measure themselves against.

With that comes responsibility and added pressure, the kind of pressure that if not handled properly can result in 20-point beatdowns like the one they got in Toronto earlier this week.

But when handled with the right amount of focus and attention to detail, you find a way to win games like Thursday’s 110-104 overtime win against Washington, a game in which the Celtics played well enough to win.

Celtics head coach Brad Stevens acknowledged he was disappointed in how Boston closed out the fourth quarter (Boston had a double-digit lead with 5:23 to play).

"But I thought for the most part we were pretty locked-in all night,” Stevens said.

They have to be in order to survive the seemingly never-ending challenges that await them from teams focused on knocking them off their perch atop the Eastern Conference standings.

“Every team is coming,” said Boston’s Jaylen Brown. “They look at the East and think it’s wide open, and rightfully so. Everyone is coming with their best; everyone talks about the Celtics and we’re the number one team in the East, and we’ve been number one for a while now.

Brown added, “There are teams on our heels and we know that, so every game we need to come out and bring the same energy because every night is like a Super Bowl. We can’t take nights off." 

Here are the Stars, Studs and Duds from Boston’s 110-104 overtime win at Washington.

STARS

Kyrie Irving: Big free throws in the fourth quarter to force overtime was just part of a strong performance by Irving. He led all scorers with 28 points along with six rebounds and six assists.

Otto Porter Jr.: He was a problem for the Boston Celtics in the playoffs last season, and he continues to be a player Boston struggles to match up against effectively. He led all Wizards scorers with 27 points on 9-for-18 shooting to go with 11 rebounds, two assists and two steals.

STUDS

Jaylen Brown: His defense on Bradley Beal was impressive, in addition to playing a strong game offensively which included scoring five of Boston’s last seven points in overtime. Brown had 18 points to go with four rebounds and three assists.

Bradley Beal: This was not one of his better games, but Beal’s ability to score is impressive. He had 18 points, shooting just 7-for-27 from the field to get it.

Daniel Theis: The numbers don’t do justice to the impact Theis had on the game for Boston. He had seven points and six rebounds, but more telling was how he wound up playing 28 minutes.

Greg Monroe: Making his Celtics debut mere hours after officially signing with the club, Monroe came off the bench and played 20 minutes, tallying five points on 2-for-5 shooting to go with six rebounds, two assists and two steals.

DUDS

Celtics composure: There were a total of four technical fouls called, three of which went against the Boston Celtics. In a game that came down to the wire in regulation and went to overtime, the +2 points for the Wizards via technical foul calls against Boston loomed large and would have stood out even more if the Celtics didn’t get the win in overtime.

Wizards turnovers: Boston’s defense was instrumental in the Wizards turning the ball over 22 times.

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Irving, Horford give seal of approval to All-Star changes

Irving, Horford give seal of approval to All-Star changes

LOS ANGELES -- Kyrie Irving and Al Horford were on different teams for the NBA's All-Star game pitting Team LeBron vs Team Steph, so somebody was coming back a loser.

But considering how competitive the game was for longer stretches than usual, both players came away feeling good in a relatively close All-Star game that ended with Team LeBron edging Team Steph, 148-145.

LeBron James led all scorers with 29 points along with 10 rebounds and 8 assists and walked away with Game MVP honors for the third time.

Irving, who played for Team LeBron, had a near double-double with 13 points and nine assists along with seven rebounds.

And Horford, who came off the bench for Team Steph, had six points and five rebounds along with two assists.  

“This was pretty fun,” Irving said. “I think that we showcased that tonight with an incredible competitive spirit. The game was kind of getting away, but I think a few of us took it a little personal that we wanted to keep the game still competitive and at a high level. Fans and everyone across so many different countries want to see the best players in the world showcase their talent.”

Horford echoed similar sentiments about the game, which had a different format this year. LeBron James and Stephen Curry picked the two teams from the 22-player pool of players from both the Eastern and Western Conferences.

“Early, guys were making [defensive] plays,” Horford said. “Guys were making a point, they weren’t going to let it be a dunk fest.

Horford added, “Even last year and the year before, there was a lot of heat on how bad the game was. I felt like this game was, it was good.”

Irving, a five-time All-Star, also acknowledged how he and some of the players wanted to change the perception of the All-Star Game as being nothing more than a glorified lay-up line.

“I think we all took it kind of personal,” Irving said. “Individually we wanted to come out and be competitive. Last year it was (192-182), that’s just not as fun as communicating with guys that you don’t necessarily play with every single day, bouncing ideas off in the time-outs. It’s just that competitive fire that we all share.”

And then there’s the payday for winning.

Not only will various charities benefit from the game -- LeBron James’ charity of choice gets $350,000 because his team won and Steph Curry’s charity of choice gets $150,000 -- but the players on the winning team get a pretty nice check as well.

The winning team members each get $100,000 while the players on the losing team come away with $25,000.

“There was something that, something that we could look forward to if we got the win,” Irving acknowledged. “You know, they’ll probably bring up the cash prize, but . . . $100,000 to $25,000, I think everybody in this room would be doing the same things we were doing.”

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LeBron James savors first opportunity to build NBA roster

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USA TODAY Sports Photo

LeBron James savors first opportunity to build NBA roster

LOS ANGELES – LeBron James had been mum on the process he used in selecting Team LeBron … until now.

Following Team LeBron’s 148-145 win over Team Steph, James revealed how he went about assembling is roster which included Boston’s Kyrie Irving who asked for a trade out of Cleveland last summer.

“I took Kevin (Durant) first, then I took (New Orleans) Anthony Davis, and I followed that with Kyrie and DeMarcus (Cousins).”

While this year’s all-star game had been billed as the ultimate pick-up game, it was clear that James put a tremendous amount of thought into assembling his team akin to what an NBA General Manager might do.

“I know who I like watching and I had a draft board,” James said. “I had a process. Some of it went to … it almost went according to plan. A couple of them fell through, but I was satisfied and happy with all the guys that I got.”

A reporter later asked James where was this draft board.

“Ain’t none of your business,” said James, grinning. “You’re going too far, man.”

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