Celtics

New Cavs know they need to play up to par

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New Cavs know they need to play up to par

BOSTON – You hear players who find themselves teamed up with LeBron James talk about how great it is to play with arguably the best player on the planet.

But when you’ve won at the levels James has for so many years, there’s an unspoken expectation of success and contributions he expects from those around him.

It’s pretty obvious those expectations weren’t being met, which led to Cavs GM Koby Altman triggering a mass exodus via trades of the roster that James and the Cavs began the season with.

And while there’s going to be some time needed for the new Cavs to find their footing in a new city with a new cast of teammates, they already know the most important relationship to develop is one with James.

George Hill, among the new additions by Cleveland at the trade deadline, has been at both ends of the success spectrum. Drafted by the San Antonio Spurs in 2008, he understands the nuances of being part of a franchise with a winning culture, the kind that Cleveland has tried to cultivate since James returned three years ago. And having been traded to Cleveland from Sacramento (consistently one of the worst teams in the NBA), Hill knows for this to work requires players to buy into whatever role they’re called upon to play.

And when LeBron James is one of your teammates, that role is pretty clear.

"We have one of the best players in the history of the game, I'm sure he's going to dictate the tempo and things like that," Hill told reporters on Saturday. "We just got (to) do our job, be the best role players we can possibly be. He's the Batman, and we got to be all Robins. We got to figure it out."

Here are five under-the-radar storylines heading into this pivotal matchup between the Boston Celtics and Cleveland Cavaliers.

TRIPLE-DOUBLE JAMES

With a roster that has been in a state of influx recently, LeBron James has carried an even heavier load for the Cleveland Cavaliers. And the result has been back-to-back triple doubles coming into today’s game. He has 10 triple-doubles this season, and will try and make it three in a row today which would be the second time this he put together three straight triple-doubles.

SEASON SERIES

It’s hard to believe but we’re only a couple months away from the start of the playoffs, and this game may become a difference-maker in terms of playoff seeding. While Boston has a comfortable 6.5 game cushion over Cleveland, the winner of today’s game will win the head-to-head series which is the first criteria used in breaking a tie.

BEST, WORST OF TIMES FOR ROZIER

This past week or so won’t be forgotten anytime soon for Terry Rozier. He tallied a triple-double in his first start, then followed that up with a career-high 31 points. However, his recent stretch of play includes a 1-for-11 shooting performance in Boston’s 97-91 loss to Indiana on Friday. It was the worst shooting performance of the third-year guard’s career so it’ll be interesting to see what kind of bounce-back performance he’ll have today. And remember, Rozier had a game-high 20 points in Boston’s 102-88 win over the Cavs earlier this season. 

ANTE ZIZIC

Who would have guessed Ante Zizic would be the last man standing in Cleveland as part of the trade with Boston that made Kyrie Irving a Celtic, and sent Isaiah Thomas, Jae Crowder, Zizic and a pair of draft picks to the Cavs. Thomas was traded to the Los Angeles Lakers while Crowder was shipped out to Utah (the same team Crowder’s dad played for). Meanwhile, Zizic, drafted with the 23rd overall pick by Boston in 2016, has appeared in 13 games this season for the Cavs while averaging one point and 1.2 rebounds per game.

TODAY IS A GOOD DAY

Players don’t really notice it that much, but there’s usually one day of the week where wins seem to come at a higher clip than others. For the Celtics, that would be Sundays. This season, they have a 5-1 record on the last/first day of the week (depending on your calendar) with the lone Sunday setback being a 103-95 home loss to Orlando on Jan. 21.

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Smart helps Celtics end three-game losing skid

Smart helps Celtics end three-game losing skid

There were Boston Celtics who had more points, rebounds and assists than Marcus Smart. 

But make no mistake about it. 

The Boston Celtics are a better team with Smart’s return, evident by them cruising to a 110-98 win over Detroit. 

MORE CELTICS

Smart was part of a strong second unit, tallying 12 points in his first game back after missing the previous 11 due to a laceration on his right hand that required 20 stitches to close after he punched a picture frame last month. 

“I felt great,” Smart told NBC Sports Boston following the game. “This training staff did a good job of making sure I was still in shape and ready come back when I did come back.”

Within minutes of entering the game, Smart drained a 3-pointer which was part of a Celtics’ 3-point barrage in which they were collectively 17-for-39 on 3’s.

Said Boston’s Daniel Theis: “He (Smart) was great for us today.”

Here are the Stars, Studs and Duds from Boston’s 110-98 win over Detroit. 

 

STARS

Daniel Theis: The 25-year-old rookie came up with one big hustle play after another. And when all was said and done, he had a career-high 19 points on 8-for-10 shooting to go with seven rebounds.

Ish Smith: For most of the night, he was the best player on the floor for the Detroit Pistons. He would lead Detroit with 20 points on 9-for-11 shooting along with six assists. 

Celtics bench: This was one of the best games we’ve seen from Boston’s backups. Along with doing a solid job defensively, the Celtics’ bench absolutely dominated the game scoring the ball. For the night, they had a season-high 65 points scored.

 

STUDS

Kyrie Irving: Irving did not have the monster game offensively, and the reason was clear: they didn’t need it. He had 18 points on 7-for-14 shooting which included four made 3’s, not to mention six assists.

Andre Drummond: He got off to a slow start, but Drummond’s play around the rim really picked up after the first quarter as he finished with a double-double of 15 points and 17 rebounds.

 

DUDS

Blake Griffin: He had 17 points, but he was non-factor most of the game courtesy of some really strong play defensively by Al Horford. Griffin shot just 5-for-19 from the field and turned the ball over six times. 

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Hayward one step closer to joining Celtics on road trips

Hayward one step closer to joining Celtics on road trips

Gordon Hayward’s return to the Boston Celtics remains a hot topic of discussion, with the C's insisting they plan to have him back next season while Hayward has continued to do all he can to make his return a speedy one. 

The next step in a possible return this season involves Hayward traveling with the team which according to head coach Brad Stevens, is not imminent.

“It doesn’t look like it’s any time in the next couple of weeks,” Stevens told reporters.

Between now and then, Hayward will continue his rehabilitation program which includes the use of an Alter-G anti-gravity treadmill which helps athletes in terms of conditioning in a non or limited, weight-bearing capacity.

“He’s gonna do another Alter-G starting on Sunday where he goes from 60 percent of his body weight all the way to 100,” Stevens said. “Once he can do stuff where he is running or jumping, then it makes (sense) to bring him on the road.”

Hayward suffered a dislocated left ankle injury five minutes into Boston’s season-opener at Cleveland on Oct. 17. Shortly after the injury, the Celtics anticipated him not returning this season, a position that was confirmed by them being granted a disabled player exception which is awarded in part because independent doctors determined that the injury would “likely” keep him sidelined for the rest of the season. 

But Hayward has been aggressive in rehabbing from the injury to the point where there’s still a slim glimmer of hope that he may be able to return this season. 

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