Before heading to London, Celtics have business in Brooklyn

Before heading to London, Celtics have business in Brooklyn

BOSTON – For most of the season, the Celtics have played with a tunnel-like focus, not allowing anything to take their eyes off the ultimate nightly prize - victory.

Still, with a schedule that eases up considerably from here on out, that focus, that edge that they have managed to seemingly sharpen from one game to the next, is in jeopardy tonight when they play at Brooklyn.


Boston, the team that has been the NBA’s pacesetter in games played this season, will have two opponents the following nine days – Philadelphia on Jan. 11 in London is one, and boredom is the other.

But the big takeaway for Boston following tonight’s game is the extended period of rest that both players and coaches are eager to embrace.

However, it comes at a time when the Celtics seem to have gone back to being the team whose choked the life out of opponents on a nightly basis.

The 91-84 win over Minnesota on Friday was the second consecutive game the Celtics have held an opponent to less than 90 points.

And remember, the Timberwolves came into the game as a top 10 scoring team, led by a trio of dynamic scorers in All-Star Jimmy Butler, Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins.

The defense not only shows what the Celtics can do, but also their ability to stick to a defensive game plan that has worked well all season.

“It’s a great feeling for this coaching staff,” said Marcus Smart. “They spend a lot of time on offense, but also on the defensive end trying to make sure we’re in places to succeed. So, if shots aren't falling, the coaching on the defensive end is big.”

On the Celtics defense of late, Kyrie Irving added that it’s about “staying locked in for the full shot clock, just being a more physical team, bringing the fight to teams, making it more difficult and understanding that there are some great players in this league that can make some unbelievable plays but if we stay disciplined we put ourselves in great position.”

We saw against Minnesota just how impactful a little rest and relaxation can be to the Celtics, who have also benefited from having a couple of practice days, which was a rare treat during the first half of the season.

Irving has made no secret the past couple of weeks about how eager he is to get to the London portion of the Celtics’ schedule.

And that makes an already tough-playing Brooklyn team a dangerous foe tonight.

Having edged them 108-105 at the TD Garden on New Year’s Eve only confirmed what we know about the Nets – they play hard, all the time.

And while Boston (32-10) and Brooklyn (15-23) may be miles apart record-wise, the Celtics know closing out the pre-London portion of their schedule won’t be easy.


Isaiah Thomas isn't ruling out return to Celtics

File Photo

Isaiah Thomas isn't ruling out return to Celtics

Isaiah Thomas back in green? Maybe there's a chance after all.

The former Celtics guard, now with the Lakers, started a Q&A session on Twitter and was asked whether he'd consider returning to Boston this offseason. This was his answer...

That's not a no.

Thomas has had a rough go of it since leaving the Celtics. His brief tenure in Cleveland didn't go according to plan, and things haven't gotten a whole lot better out in L.A. The 29-year-old is averaging 15.3 points per game just a year after averaging 28.9 with Boston.

Let the speculation begin.


Horford not making any excuses after C's rough outing vs Pelicans

Horford not making any excuses after C's rough outing vs Pelicans

Al Horford understands that there’s plenty of blame pie to go around following Boston’s 108-89 loss to New Orleans. 

Considering how Pelicans stud Anthony Davis dominated the game on so many levels Sunday night, Horford was quick to acknowledge his role in the loss. 

“[Davis] was able to get behind our defense a lot,” Horford told reporters after the loss. “Some mistakes on my end; gotta give him credit. He dominated tonight. I’ll definitely take the blame for that.”

Davis finished with a double-double of 34 points and 11 rebounds, a total that would have been higher if not for the game being so lopsided which allowed Davis to head to the bench early in the fourth. 

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

And Horford’s struggles defensively were just as problematic on offense as the five-time All-Star tallied just six points on 3-for-11 shooting to go with four rebounds and three assists. 

Boston has been a team whose collective sums have fueled their success. 

But Horford understands he has to be a high impact performer, a job that’s even more vital when key starters like Kyrie Irving (left knee soreness) and Jaylen Brown (concussion) are out as well as top reserves Marcus Smart (right thumb) and Daniel Theis (torn meniscus). 

And by Horford’s own admission, he just didn’t bring it on Sunday at a level to give him and the Celtics a legit shot at winning the game.

“Defensively we had too many breakdowns,” Horford said. “And the game got away from us in the second half. So there’s no excuses. I didn’t give us a chance, either; missing a lot of looks offensively. I just need to be better.”

And he’ll have to be if Boston (47-23) is to get back on track with a win on Tuesday against a talented Oklahoma City squad led by Russell Westbrook, Paul George and Carmelo Anthony. 

At full strength, the Thunder would be a significant challenge for the Celtics. 

But having a roster with a number of key players out with injuries, it becomes even more imperative for Boston’s top players to elevate their play. 

And as you scan this Celtics roster and examine those who are healthy enough to play, it’s clear that Horford more than any other Boston player, has to find a way to become more impactful.

Certainly, more points and rebounds would help. 

But as we’ve seen time and time again with Horford, often his greatest contributions to winning games don’t necessarily show up in the final box score. 

That being said, a six-point, four-rebound game doesn’t cut it. 

Horford has to be better, something he knows better than anyone. 

“I’ll definitely look at the film and see how I can be better individually,” Horford said. “The good thing about the NBA, is we have a chance to play on Tuesday. Hopefully we’ll learn from this game and be ready to go Tuesday at home.”