Celtics

'Resilient' Celtics continue to find ways to win

'Resilient' Celtics continue to find ways to win

We have seen the Boston Celtics play less-than-stellar basketball for long stretches, only to turn it on in the second half and escape with a win.

But Monday night’s game at Dallas was different.

Usually it has been Boston’s offense that has kept the game closer than expected, but on Monday it was the team’s defense that struggled more than usual.

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But this team continues to show an ability to withstand all in-game struggles to eventually emerge victorious which was exactly what happened as the Celtics rallied from a double-digit fourth-quarter deficit to knock off the Mavericks 110-102 in overtime.

The Celtics (16-2) have now won 16 in a row which ties the fourth-longest winning streak in franchise history.

But this win, like so many of its predecessors during this historic run, was not one to celebrate afterwards.

“Quite a resilient comeback in the fourth,” said Celtics head coach Brad Stevens. “Not our best foot forward before that. Of all the comebacks, that did not look good for a long time. We found a way to win it.”

Kyrie Irving scored a game-high 47 points, 10 of which came in the overtime period.

But his performance was just one of many Boston needed to extend its winning streak.

“In a game like this, you have to do whatever it takes, both ends of the floor,” Boston’s Jayson Tatum told reporters afterwards.

And he did just that.

In the final seconds of the fourth quarter, Tatum’s defense forced a Harrison Barnes miss that would have won the game for Dallas.

And in the fourth quarter, Tatum’s rebounding was critical to Boston (16-2) extending its stay atop the NBA standings.

The 6-foot-8 rookie had a near double-double with 15 points and nine rebounds, with four of his boards coming in overtime.

Boston also got another strong game from Jaylen Brown (22 points, nine rebounds) and Marcus Smart, whose shooting was well off the mark most of the night (3-for-15) but like he has done too many times to count, Smart managed to make a positive impact on the game.

He led the Celtics with eight assists off the bench, in addition to a slew of hustle plays that included a desperation save of a ball going out of bounds that managed to find its way into the hands of Kyrie Irving, who drained a much-needed 3-pointer late in the game.

“Those are worth more than whatever the shot goes in,” Stevens said. “That’s why it’s hard to quantify Marcus Smart.”

The same can be said about Boston’s winning streak, which has come about despite several stretches, every game seemingly, where the Celtics struggle.

But to their credit, they don’t allow the in-game setbacks take away from their focus night-in and night-out and that’s to find a way, any way possible, to emerge with a victory.

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Theis to play with mask, Stevens 'can’t keep track of all our facial gear'

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Theis to play with mask, Stevens 'can’t keep track of all our facial gear'

Despite suffering a broken nose less than 24 hours ago, Daniel Theis is with the Boston Celtics and will be available to play tonight against the Memphis Grizzlies.

“He’s cleared to play,” said Celtics coach Brad Stevens, adding that Theis will wear a non-fitted mask tonight if he does see action off Boston’s bench. “It’s not a fitted mask but it’s as close as they could make it.”

Following Boston’s 107-95 loss to Utah on Friday night, Theis was initially not expected to travel with the team. But soon after, it was determined that the 25-year-old rookie would indeed be on the flight to Memphis to potentially play.

Boston’s Kyrie Irving suffered a facial fracture against Charlotte on Nov. 10 and played 13 games with the mask.

More recently, Jaylen Brown missed a game due to right eye irritation and had to wear goggles for three games.

“I can’t keep track of all our facial gear right now,” quipped Stevens. “We’re just glad he (Theis) is OK.”

Stevens said Theis will have to get his nose re-set at some point soon which would result in him likely missing a day or two.

Still, it says a lot about Theis’ willingness to still play despite an injury that for most players, results in them missing a game or two right away.

“It looked like he may have just got hit on the bridge,” Stevens said. “He feels good otherwise, he says.”

While Theis doesn’t put up eye-popping numbers off the Celtics bench, the energy that he tends to play with on a night-in, night-out basis for Boston is important for this team.

“I just want to come in, bring energy, defend, rebound, do whatever to help the team,” Theis recently told NBC Sports Boston. “Whatever to win, I want to do.”

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Time for Celtics to shake off the blues in Memphis

Time for Celtics to shake off the blues in Memphis

As the Celtics’ players gathered their belongings and headed out for tonight’s game in Memphis, Gordon Hayward took a seat at his locker stall, the first one you come across when you enter the Celtics’ locker room.

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Like most of us trying to make sense of Boston’s 107-95 loss to Utah, Hayward could sense the disappointment among his teammates. 

He offered a few words of encouragement to teammate Semi Ojeleye, whose locker was next to his, soon followed by a few more words for Jaylen Brown whose mindset was already on to the next game tonight at Memphis.

“We’re going to come out, respond, play as hard as we can,” said Brown, who added, “just come out and get a win against Memphis.”

That “on-to-the-next-one” mantra has served Boston well this season and they'll look to continue along those lines against the Grizzlies tonight.

Despite losses in three of their past five, the Celtics (24-7) still have the best record in the East – two games ahead of Cleveland (21-8).

“We got a big one [tonight],” said Terry Rozier. “We just have to pay attention to the details and take care of business.”

Here are under the radar storylines heading into tonight’s game against Memphis.

THE AL AND KYRIE SHOW
We have seen these two work in sync with one another for a good chunk of this season, so it was not all that surprising to see both play well against the Jazz. They combined to score 54 of Boston’s 95 points, or 56.8 percent of their scoring. And when it came to setting up teammates, they had 13 of Boston’s 20 assists, or 65 percent. They don’t have to be that dominant tonight, but putting up comparable numbers – and maybe getting one or two players to chip in as well – would go far in Boston getting back on a winning track.

THE "NEW" COACH
J.B. Bickerstaff became Memphis’ interim head coach after the organization fired David Fizdale after a 7-12 start. Like any interim head coach, he’s trying his best to make a favorable impression so that the "interim" tag will be dropped. So far? Not great. The Grizzlies have lost eight of 10 since Fizdale’s firing in large part because of injuries – which was among the factors that contributed to Fizdale’s struggles. This isn’t Bickerstaff’s first go-around as an NBA head coach. As an assistant coach with the Houston Rockets, he was named the interim coach when Kevin McHale was fired in 2015. Bickerstaff went 37-34 and led the Rockets to the first round of the playoffs where they were eliminated in five games by the Golden State Warriors.


 
REBOUNDING
Talent, timing and effort all go hand-in-hand when it comes to rebounding success, with effort being the most critical component. And against the Jazz, Boston just didn’t seem to bring it at any point in the game. And the end result was a 55-31 rebounding advantage for the Jazz. Boston may catch a break tonight against the Grizzlies, who come into tonight’s game with a rebounding percentage of .478 which ranks 27th (out of 30 teams) in the NBA.


 
D ON THE DECLINE
Friday night’s game against Utah was yet another underwhelming performance by Boston’s defense. The Celtics had a defensive rating of 109.3.  For the season, the Celtics still have the league’s top defense – barely. Their 100.6 defensive rating is just a smidge better than Oklahoma City (100.7). And once again, Boston might get some relief tonight against a Memphis team that has struggled offensively all season. They come into the game with an offensive rating of 101.4, which ranks 27th in the league.

JAYSON TATUM
It’s still too soon to say if Tatum has hit the rough patch all first-year players endure – better known as the rookie wall – but there’s no question his scoring of late has been off. The past three games, Tatum, 19, has scored a total of 26 points, which is the fewest he has scored in a three-game stretch as a pro. The rookie had seven points on 1-for-7 shooting against the Jazz, bringing his shooting numbers in the past three games to a not-so-great 8-for-22 (36.4 percent).

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