Celtics

Has Celtics offense caught up with defense?

Has Celtics offense caught up with defense?

BOSTON – In the early days of training camp, it was pretty obvious that the Celtics defense had a much more effective, efficient flow in comparison to the offense.
 
And once they started playing games that mattered, the difference was even more pronounced.

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Boston’s defense is still ahead of the offense, but that gap is quickly closing.
 
And that makes the Celtics, owners of a league-best 19-4 record after their 108-97 win over Philadelphia on Thursday night, an even more dangerous team going forward.
 
Against the Sixers, the Celtics shot 50.6 percent from the field, which marked their third consecutive game where they connected on at least 50 percent of their shots. That’s a huge contrast to the first 20 games, which featured not a single game in which the Celtics made at least half of their field-goal attempts.
 
Boston also made 41.4 percent (12-for-29) of its 3-pointers, which marked the fourth consecutive game where the C’s connected on at least 40 percent of their 3s after doing it only four times through the first 19 games.
 
And yes, Boston’s defense delivered yet another strong game.
 
But it is an improving offense that makes an already promising future, look even brighter for the Celtics.
 
“We were playing the Boston Celtics, the best team in basketball,” said Sixers coach Brett Brown.
 
Here are five takeaways from the victory:


 
KYRIE IRVING

It didn’t take Irving leaving Cleveland for folks to realize just how lethal a scorer he is in the NBA. Still, the departure has created a slightly different narrative, one that now includes Irving making those around him better. The two-man game that he and Al Horford run together, has created major problems for teams. And as we saw against the Sixers, he has a great feel for when to take advantage of defenses that on a lot of nights, aren’t sure how to defend him. If you double-team or blitz him too soon, he’s capable of finding teammates. And if you don’t provide defensive help, he’ll crush with his near-unstoppable one-on-one moves. “No question,” said Horford. “He forces a couple people and yeah, there are a lot of opportunities that he creates. If teams don’t double him he’ll make them pay.”
 

MARCUS MORRIS
If not for Gordon Hayward’s season-ending ankle injury, we might be talking about Morris as a serious candidate for the Sixth Man of the Year. It’s no secret that he sees himself as a starter on this team. But to his credit, his production and impact aren't tied to whether he’s with the first or second unit. “I think that he was the difference for us early in the fourth when we couldn’t really score the ball,” said Horford. “He got us going, he hit some big baskets; it’s his ability to post, his mid-range and also he’s able to shoot the three. He made some timely shots.”
 

AL HORFORD
Speaking of Horford, he continues to play at an All-Star level with fewer peaks and valleys statistically this season. He was about as efficient as we’ve seen him this season, tallying 21 points on 9-for-12 shooting to go with eight rebounds, five assists and two blocked shots. “Horford probably doesn’t get enough credit for how good he is offensively,” Philadelphia’s J.J. Redick told reporters after the game. “One of the reasons is because of the way he pops and sort of the problems that presents; whether that’s shooting threes, or attacking closeouts, or catching and running into another pick and roll… As good as Kyrie is offensively, it’s almost like Horford is the sort of the hub of everything they do – and because he’s so versatile, it creates all sorts of issues.”
 

BENCH STAYS POSITIVE
Boston’s reserve unit had varying levels of success in terms of shooting the ball against the Sixers, ranging from Morris and his 17 points, to Semi Ojeleye, who missed his lone field goal attempt. That said, all five players off the Celtics bench – Morris, Ojeleye, Marcus Smart, Terry Rozier and Daniel Theis – had moments of solid play for Boston. In fact, each of them had a positive plus/minus when they were on the floor against the Sixers, ranging from Ojeyle and Theis who were each +1, to Marcus Smart who had a team-best plus/minus of +15.
 


ROOKIE DEFENDERS
There has been a lot of talk about how Boston’s rookies have played with a level of maturity that’s well, unusual. Making their play all that more uncommon is that their greatest impact, for the most part, comes on defense. Jayson Tatum has been an impressive offensive force for the Celtics. But his defense has been pretty special, too. In fact, Tatum’s defensive rating of 98.5 is tops among all NBA rookies to log at least 10 minutes per game and appear in at least 10 games this season. He’s not alone when it comes to defensive standouts among Celtics rookies. Theis is third on that list with a 99.5 defensive rating and second-round pick Semi Ojeleye is fifth with a defensive rating of 100.2.


 

Horford out, Irving probable for Wednesday's game vs Nuggets

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Horford out, Irving probable for Wednesday's game vs Nuggets

BOSTON – The days of playing short-handed continue for the Boston Celtics who will be without at least one all-star when they host the Denver Nuggets on Wednesday. 

The Celtics announced on Tuesday that Al Horford (rest) will not play. A knee collision with Detroit’s Anthony Tolliver on Sunday made Horford a game-time decision prior to Boston’s 108-85 loss at Chicago on Monday. Horford played but like most of his teammates, didn’t play as well as he would have liked before finishing with 15 points, four rebounds and five assists which included him missing all four of his 3-point attempts. 

Kyrie Irving is probable with a quad injury that kept him out of the Bulls loss. 

Marcus Morris (left knee) will miss his third straight game (14th this season) and remains out indefinitely. Also, Gordon Hayward (left ankle fracture) remains out although he may get some good news tomorrow.

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Hayward may ditch the boot for good on Wednesday

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Hayward may ditch the boot for good on Wednesday

BOSTON -- The timetable for Gordon Hayward’s return to the court hasn’t changed as far as the Celtics are concerned. 
 
But try telling that to Hayward, who may be out of his walking boot for good very soon -- like tomorrow soon. 
 
C's coach Brad Stevens gave an update on Hayward’s status in an interview with Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski for Krzyzewski’s SiriusXM show, “Basketball & Beyond with Coach K,” which will air Thursday at 6 p.m. ET (SiriusXM channel 84).
 
“He’s going to the doctor [Wednesday] to potentially get out of his walking boot for good, which he’s jacked about,” Stevens said.
 
Stevens and Danny Ainge, Boston’s president of basketball operations, have reiterated how aggressive Hayward has been in attacking his rehab since suffering a dislocated left ankle injury in the season opener at Cleveland on October 17. 
 
“He is literally in the weight room as we speak,” Stevens said. “Does all the training table [work], just like our guys. Has his own shooting time even when he was in a boot, sitting in a chair. He had his own shooting time and had his own lifting time, just like all our players do before practice.”
 
From the very outset, Stevens and the Celtics have made keeping Hayward as involved as possible a priority.
  
But Stevens is quick to caution that while Hayward is making good progress, the Celtics are still proceeding forward as though they will not have him back until next season.

“His status is, the way that we’ve looked at it the whole time is, we don’t expect him back this year,” Stevens said. “But he shoots for all of his goals, week to week, day to day, to try to expedite it as much as he can. He obviously wants to be back, like any athlete, as soon as he can.”
 
Hayward signed a four-year, $127.8 million contract with the Celtics this summer after spending his first seven NBA seasons with the Utah Jazz. Boston was awarded an $8.4 million disabled player exception for Hayward's injury, the largest DPE ever. Boston was awarded the exception in part because independent doctors determined that it’s “likely” that Hayward will not be able to return prior to June 15.
 
However, Boston will still keep the DPE until it expires (March 10, 2018) even if Hayward returns sooner than expected. 
 

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