Celtics

Larkin rises to occasion, says he's ready when Celtics call his number

Larkin rises to occasion, says he's ready when Celtics call his number

PHILADELPHIA – Near the end of a preseason game against Charlotte, Boston Celtics guard Shane Larkin was killin’ the Hornets with pick-and-roll action.

It was a preseason game that at the time, didn’t seem to have much value other than to get some of the end-of-the-bench guys a little run up and down the court.

But as it turned out, Larkin's play in that game was one of those things head coach Brad Stevens tucked away, knowing at some point he would count on Larkin to provide similar play in a regular season game.

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Well, that game was Friday night at Philadelphia, a game in which several players for Boston stepped their games up in helping the Celtics get their first win of the season, 102-92.

But you would be hard-pressed to find a bigger game-changer for the Celtics in this game, than Larkin.

He finished with 10 points off the bench, eight of which came in the decisive fourth quarter when the Celtics rallied from five-down to get a hard-fought, much-needed victory.

“You have to always be ready for your name to be called, especially when you have injuries,” Larkin said. “You never know whose night it’s gonna be.”

Boston was playing without Marcus Smart who suffered a left ankle sprain in their 108-100 loss to Milwaukee on Wednesday. Smart was in the starting lineup having replaced Gordon Hayward who underwent left ankle surgery and is expected to be out for the remainder of this season.

“When coach (Stevens) called my name, I had to go out there and be aggressive, play my game,” Larkin said. “And it worked in our favor.”

And while Stevens had watched Larkin play prior to the Celtics signing him this summer, it was a preseason game against Charlotte that really convinced him that the 5-foot-11 guard could help when called upon.

“You’re always watching,” Stevens said. “And if you remember that exhibition game, he finished out that Charlotte game, just running simple spread pick-and-rolls. He’s such a handful with his speed and quickness, and he allows other guys to play off of him. He’s a small guy, but he makes up for it with his speed and skill.”

Al Horford benefited more than any other Celtic with Larkin’s pick-and-roll play which factored into Horford scoring nine of his 17 points in the fourth.

“Shane is a player who understands the game and for us, it was me trying to set a good screen for him and having him make a play,” Horford said. “He just made the right reads, when to shoot it, when to pass it. He just looked very comfortable in that position.”

And to think that Larkin’s big game came about in part because of how well he performed in a preseason matchup against the Hornets.

“I did not know it was that specific game,” Larkin said. “But whenever I step on the court I try to do my best. That’s offensively, defensively, and do what the team needs me to do.

Larkin added, “Whenever my number is called, if he (Stevens) calls it again, I hope he does. I’ll be ready to go out there and do it again.”

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Celtics get back to work, but are thinking ahead

Celtics get back to work, but are thinking ahead

Earlier this week, Celtics big man Al Horford referred to the matchups following the All-Star break as “rehearsal games” for what really matters – the playoffs.

As important as it is to win, it’s even more vital to start building good habits at both ends of the floor, the things that become absolutely essential to a team’s pursuit of going deep into the playoffs.

And as much as the Celtics try to stick to the “one day at a time” mantra that all teams talk about incessantly, they are no different than most teams near the top of the standings.

They want to get to the playoffs and are well aware that how they handle themselves and grow in the coming weeks will have a major impact on their postseason success or struggles.

“I believe this is the time where you start doing this now in preparation for the playoffs,” said Jaylen Brown. “I remember with the group we had last year, everybody started making sacrifices mentally, physically, and prepared themselves for the long haul. And now you can see the same thing happening with this team. Especially physically, just knowing what we have to do to be a team that plays in the long, long end part of the season.”

HOMECOMING (OF SORTS) FOR HORFORD
Al Horford is proud of his Dominican Republic roots, but often it’s forgotten that he played his prep basketball in Michigan. The big man and his family moved to Michigan in 2000 where Horford played for Grand Ledge (Mich.) High School and become a four-star recruit before taking his talents to the University of Florida where he helped lead the Gators to back-to-back national championships.

Grand Ledge is about 90 minutes northwest of Detroit.

BAYNES FACTOR
Despite playing fewer minutes than any of Boston’s starters, there’s no getting around the impact Aron Baynes has had when he plays. This season, the Celtics have a defensive rating of 96.4 when he’s on the floor. That number jumpers to 103.5 for a team-best differential of 7.1.

CLOSE CALLS
Celtics fans definitely come away feeling they got their money’s worth when the Green Team plays most nights. This season, Boston has won a league-high five games by one point. The last time they had more one-point wins in a season was the 1995-96 season when they won six games by a single point. The franchise record of one-point victories (seven) was set in the 1981-82 season.

MORE BUCKETS FOR BROWN
When Jaylen Brown scores, good things tend to happen for the Celtics. This season, Boston is 8-1 when he scores at least 18 points.

KYRIE ON THE ROAD
Kyrie Irving loves to get baskets at the TD Garden, but has shown an ability to elevate his scoring even more on the road. His numbers in several categories are indeed better on the road than they are at home. He’s averaging 23.7 points at home, but that number increases to 25.8 on the road. His shooting on the road is a strong 50.3 percent, up from 46.8 at home. And from 3-point range, Irving connects at 42.8 percent rate on the road compared to just 36.6 percent at home.

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WATCH: Boston Celtics vs. Detroit Pistons

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WATCH: Boston Celtics vs. Detroit Pistons

Tune into NBC Sports Boston to watch the Celtics host the Clippers at TD Garden. You can also click here to watch the Celtics livestream presented by Nissan on the NBC Sports App. Coverage begins at 6:30  p.m. with Celtics Pregame Live Presented by ACE Ticket.

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