Celtics

Good try, good effort doesn't cut it with Stevens

Good try, good effort doesn't cut it with Stevens

BOSTON – Win or lose, Brad Stevens isn’t a big rah-rah guy when it comes to speaking to his team.

And while he knows better than most the factors that go into a game’s outcome, he has maintained from the time he arrived in Boston in 2013 that attributing losses to not having this player or that player was a non-negotiable item that he refused to ever entertain.

That’s why as impressed as many were with how well the injury-riddled Celtics played in a 125-124 double-overtime loss to Washington, Stevens made his sure his postgame comments centered around his players not getting too caught in the good-try, good-effort sentiment many had for them.

“Coach [Stevens] came in after the game and said he doesn’t really care if we don’t have all of our starters or our players,” said Terry Rozier. “Our job is to go out there and win.”

And they came oh-so-close to doing that on Wednesday night, having led by as many as 20 and seemingly being a defensive stop at the end of regulation and a made basket at the end of both OTs away from getting the win.

But this game, like all of the rest, was a teachable moment, the kind that will pay dividends for the Celtics at some point down the road.

Here are five takeaways from the loss: 

BENCH
Even with a reconfigured bench that wasn’t nearly as deep on talent or scorers, the second unit still managed to make its share of plays and impact the game positively for Boston. And by the end of the night, the bench actually wound up outscoring the Wizards’ second unit 42-41, which may not seem like that big a deal until you see the second unit consisted of two rookies (Abdel Nader and Semi Ojeleye), a center the Celtics picked up after he was bought out a couple weeks ago (Greg Monroe) and an undersized guard who wasn’t in the NBA last year (Shane Larkin).

BRAD STEVENS
He has been praised often for his coaching acumen and X’s and O’s, but what really stood out in the Wizards loss was his ability to motivate and inspire his team. Nader. Ojeleye. Guerschon Yabusele. All have had a limited role this season and yet played with a high level of poise and focus when their opportunity to play meaningful minutes arrived. Give the players credit, for sure. But some of the credit needs to go to Stevens, who kept them engaged and because of that, ready to play when their opportunity arrived.

HOME (NOT SO) SWEET HOME
The Celtics are going to have home-court advantage for most of the postseason, but is that a good thing? The loss was yet another TD Garden defeat for the Green Team. It brings their home record since Jan. 1 to 7-8. To put Boston’s play at home in perspective, of the 15 other teams that would be in the playoffs if the season ended today, 10 of them have a better home record than the Celtics, whose overall record is the fourth-best in the league.

MORRIS’ ROLE
The Celtics came up short, but one of the silver linings was the play and presence of Marcus Morris. We’ve seen him go to work on second unit guys, but it was refreshing to see how he would handle himself as the team’s go-to guy. He lit the Wizards up for a season-high 31 points which helped position them for the potential win.

TERRY ROZIER
Most would agree, including Rozier, that there’s still room for him to grow as a scoring playmaker. But the more he plays, the clearer his progress becomes to all. Rozier’s confidence as a scorer just grows by leaps and bounds from one game to the next. But it's his ever-improving game as a playmaker that will ultimately land him a job as a starter whether it’s in Boston or elsewhere. He showed the ability to deliver both in getting his shot as well as getting others involved by tallying a near double-double of 21 points and nine assists to go with five rebounds and a career-high three blocked shots.

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Blakely: Jaylen Brown evolving into high-impact player before our eyes

Blakely: Jaylen Brown evolving into high-impact player before our eyes

BOSTON – Jaylen Brown can still hear the murmurs from draft night two years ago shortly after his name was called. 

It was the pinnacle for every kid who has ever dreamed of being an NBA player, and yet Brown’s moment of great adulation from fans became a dream deferred with a mix of cheers and jeers from Celtics fans who felt the team would have been better off packaging the No. 3 pick used on Brown to acquire a more proven talent. 

That would serve as one of the many boulder-sized chips on Brown’s shoulders that has brought him to where he is now, as one of the biggest breakout performers in the playoffs. 

He is coming off a career-high 30 points in Boston’s 120-106 win, making the 21-year-old the youngest player in Celtics history to score 30 or more in a playoff game.

Brown comes into Friday night’s Game 3 matchup leading the Celtics (2-0 in best-of-seven series) averaging a team-high 25 points per game on 51.2 percent shooting from the field and 41.2 percent from 3-point range. 

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What Brown is doing now is a direct reflection of the progress made in his overall game from where it was a year ago, even if it doesn’t seem like that big a deal to him.

“To be honest, I don’t even pay attention to it. I’ve just been playing basketball all year,” Brown said following Tuesday’s win. “My teammates help me out a lot by finding me. Terry (Rozier) found me a lot throughout the course of the game and I was able to take some shots. Ultimately, we just want to win games, so that’s the only thing that we are concerned with. We are confident as ever. Teams have been writing us off all year and we just keep proving people wrong, so that’s what we’re going to do.”

Proving folks wrong is part of the narrative that is Brown’s story. 

When he came into the NBA, folks loved his athleticism. But his jumper, ball-handling and defensive awareness needed work. There’s an expectation that with time and experience, young players will get better. But what we’ve seen in Brown is more than just growth. It’s the byproduct of a young man who's extremely motivated to do more than just get better. 

He wants to be the best player on the floor, every minute he’s out there. While it is a goal that he’ll fall short of achieving, Brown is developing into a major, high-impact player before our very eyes. 

“Well I think Jaylen loves the moment,” said Celtics head coach Brad Stevens. “I think he really appreciated the opportunity like to – to compete on this stage and at this level and we’ve seen him against the better teams in the league all year be able to really raise his level in some of the biggest games. And, you know, I think that obviously he’s gaining more experience by the minute and he – he lived quite a lot last year. And so, he’s one of our more experienced guys in some ways in this setting.”

It is a setting Brown has always felt that it was a matter of when, not if, he would be here. And while he has certainly become a fan favorite, he knows he still has a few skeptics out there.

“I love it. I thrive off it,” Brown told NBC Sports Boston. “When people say this, say that, tell you what you’re gonna do, tell you how successful you are going to be, I smile and keep it moving.”

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Terry Rozier, Jaylen Brown showing up Bucks veterans

Terry Rozier, Jaylen Brown showing up Bucks veterans

BOSTON – When this Boston-Milwaukee playoff series began, there were legitimate questions about how Boston’s youthful backcourt tandem of Terry Rozier and Jaylen Brown would hold up against the Bucks and their more experienced tandem led by Eric Bledsoe and Tony Snell.

Two games and two Celtics wins later, this hasn’t even been marginally close with Boston’s 1-2 backcourt punch delivering one big shot after another which has been among the keys to Boston taking a 2-0 series lead as Games 3 and 4 shift to Milwaukee.

In two games, Rozier and Brown have outscored Milwaukee’s starting backcourt 96-25.

Celtics head coach Brad Stevens believes those numbers are a bit skewed because they don’t take into account the scoring of Khris Middleton whom Stevens considers as being part of the Milwaukee backcourt.

Ok, coach.

Add Middleton’s 56 points scored in the first two games and that brings the Bucks’ perimeter point total up to 81.

“We’re trying a lot of different bodies on Middleton,” Stevens said. “Bledsoe’s a handful because of his ability to drive the ball and knock down shots off screens. And Snell as always been a guy that’s been able to make open shots.”

But if you’re gonna factor in Middleton’s points for Milwaukee, you have to throw in Jayson Tatum’s 23 points in two games which would bring the final tally to 122-81, a staggering lopsided figure as well. 

Stevens knows all too well that the road for his perimeter players and his entire team for that matter, will only get rougher in time.

“We know we have our hands full and our guys are preparing ever game like that’s the case,” Stevens said.

And even with the lopsided nature of the scoring thus far from the starting perimeter players by Boston, there’s still a sense that some Bucks – ok, one Bucks player – isn’t quite ready to put some respect on what the Celtics were able to do perimeter-wise in Games 1 and 2.

Bledsoe, who is averaging 10.5 points in this series, was asked about Rozier’s play after two games which in addition to averaging 23.0 points also includes him failing to turn the ball over once in more than 78 minutes of action.

“Who?” was Bledsoe’s initial responded which was followed by, “I don’t even know who the (expletive) that is.”

Stevens was aware of Bledsoe’s comments about Rozier but made it clear that he was not going to get into anything that might he constructed as a war of words.

“I heard that,” said Stevens about the comments in regards to Rozier before adding, “Our team is just focused on Game 3.”

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