Celtics

Stars, studs and duds: Bird 'pretty surprised' to make NBA debut

Stars, studs and duds: Bird 'pretty surprised' to make NBA debut

PHILADELPHIA – Stay ready so you don’t have to get ready.
 
Jabari Bird, in California at the time, took that approach when the Boston Celtics needed him to catch a red-eye flight back to Boston following Gordon Hayward’s left ankle injury.
 
And in his first shot at playing time on Friday, a similar mindset was on display with Bird serving as one of the key contributors to Boston’s 102-92 win over the Sixers

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He played 13 minutes and 38 seconds on the floor, finishing with three points and a rebound.
 
But more important, it was his defense which helped cool off a red-hot J.J. Redick who finished with a team-high 19 points.
 
Bird admits he was caught off guard when he heard his name called to go into the game, and then play a decent amount of minutes.
 
“I was pretty surprised, for it being my first time getting into an NBA game, getting those minutes," Bird said. "I was a little nervous, but I tried to go in there and do the right things on defense and space the floor on offense and try to do what I’ve tried to do my whole career and that’s play the right way.
 
He added, “I … wasn’t supposed to be here, to be honest. The fact that they put me in, in a tough situation like that, means I’ve earned the trust of the coaching staff. I’m just trying to build on it.”
 
The good thing for Bird is that next time he sees action, he’ll likely be calmer and composed than he was on Friday night.
 
When he got the call to enter the game, Celtics assistant coach Micah Shrewsberry had a few words for him.
 
What he’d say?
 
“I honestly couldn’t hear him,” Bird said. “I was so focused, I was happy to be in the game. I didn’t hear what the coaching staff was saying to me.”
 
And while there’s no guarantee that Bird will suit up for Boston’s next game on Tuesday against the New York Knicks, there’s one thing we all know now about Bird.
 
He will be ready.
 
“My mindset is, if you stay ready you don’t have to get ready,” Bird said. “So I try to live by that every time, game day, practice, whatever I’m doing; stay ready and I’ll be prepared for each and every moment.”
 
Here are some other Stars, Studs and Duds from Boston’s 102-92 win over Philadelphia.  
 
 
 
 
STARS
 
Shane Larkin

He only had 10 points with four assists, but make no mistake about it: Boston does not win this game without Larkin’s floor game in the fourth quarter which is when he scored eight of his 10 points absolutely killing the Sixers with a two-man pick-and-roll game with Al Horford.
 
J.J. Redick

The Celtics had problems most of the game with Redick who led the Sixers with 19 points. But Boston made him a non-factor in the fourth, limiting him to just two points on 1-for-4 shooting.
 
Kyrie Irving

He looked a lot more comfortable scoring the ball even as the Sixers blitzed him often with double-teams and tilts defensively. He led all players with 21 points along with six rebounds and four assists.

 

STUDS
 
Al Horford

He had a solid night for three quarters but really came alive in the fourth. That is when he scored nine of his 17 points and wound up with nine rebounds – one shy of a double-double.
 
Jerryd Bayless

Very efficient shooting the ball most of the night, finishing with 18 points on 7-for-12 shooting.
 
Terry Rozier

Good call on Brad Stevens’ part to keep Rozier attached with the second unit. He had 14 points on 6-for-11 shooting to go with seven rebounds and two assists.
 
Ben Simmons

He didn’t shoot the ball particularly well (4-for-11), but still managed a double-double of 11 points, 11 rebounds and five assists.
 
Jayson Tatum

The rookie continues to play with a pace and poise that’s so atypical for a rookie, let alone a 19-year-old. He had yet another near double-double for the Celtics, finishing with 15 points and eight rebounds to go with three blocked shots.
 
Joel Embiid

Boston’s Aron Baynes did a really good job on Embiid, which makes him finishing with a double-double of 11 points and 14 rebounds all that more impressive considering it wasn’t even close to being one of his better games.
 

DUDS
 
Markelle Fultz

The number one overall pick in last June’s NBA draft continues to deliver some not-so-impressive stat lines for the Sixers. He came off the bench and scored six points while missing seven of his nine shot attempts.
 
Boston’s free throw shooting

The Celtics had yet another sub-par night from the line as they shot 68.8 percent (22-for-32) from the line with a pair of players – Jaylen Brown and Terry Rozier – each missing three free throws apiece.

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE

Marcus Smart is fortunate to be returning this season

Marcus Smart is fortunate to be returning this season

BOSTON – When it comes to sports-related injuries, much like the games that are played, it really does become a matter of inches.

For Marcus Smart, that minuscule a distance was the difference between his right-hand laceration after punching a picture frame keeping him sidelined for a few weeks or ending his season.

Fortunately for Smart, the former proved to be his fate as he rejoined the Celtics for practice on Wednesday after missing the previous 11 games.

“I’m back. It feels good to be back with these guys and the coaching staff,” Smart said.

But after the incident which required 20 stitches, Smart said the doctors explained to him how fortunate he was that the injury wasn’t more severe and wouldn’t require season-ending surgery.

“They pulled a glass piece out of the palm of my hand,” Smart said. “And they said there two tendons that ran along the pinkie and the glass was sitting right in between them.

Smart said if the glass would have hit the tendons he would have most likely had to have season-ending surgery.

Celtics head coach Brad Stevens was aware of how close Boston was at losing Smart for the rest of the season.

“It was … I’m sure he would second this, it wasn’t a very good move,” Stevens said. “You don’t want to put yourself in that risk. Luckily, what happened, happened. His hand looks a lot better and that is encouraging.”

Said Smart: “I felt I let my team down. But I got a second chance to come back and redeem myself.”

As reported by NBC Sports Boston earlier today, Smart has been given the medical clearance to suit up for Boston’s next game which is at Detroit on Friday.

His return comes at a time when the Celtics (40-19) are looking to get back on track after what has been a rough patch of games recently.

Boston has lost three straight and four of its last five games. And the lone victory was an overtime win against the Washington Wizards.

Since Smart’s injury, the Celtics have gone 6-5 in his absence.

And within those 11 games, Boston’s numbers on several fronts have taken a slight dip.

Boston’s top-ranked defense slipped down to No. 11 with a defensive rating of 105.2 within the last 11 games missed by Smart.

And the success Boston has experienced this season has been heavily influenced by the play of Smart.

His defensive rating this season is 98.9 which stands out on several levels, the most notable one being how he stacks up against others defensively that log major minutes.

Among players that average at least 30 minutes per game, Smart’s defensive rating of 98.9 is tops among in the league with teammates Jayson Tatum (99.8, third in the league), Jaylen Brown (100.3, fifth) and Al Horford (101.0, seventh) all ranked among the league’s leaders.

Not surprisingly, Smart’s teammates are excited to have him back in the fold.

“There’s no question having Marcus back, makes our defense a lot better,” Horford said.

Boston’s Kyrie Irving echoed similar sentiments about Smart.

“He adds a very unique understanding of the game, at both ends of the floor,” Irving said. “We all know how great he is defensively, so he adds to our team … it’s great.”

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE

Marcus Smart cleared to play Friday

Marcus Smart cleared to play Friday

According to league sources, Celtics guard Marcus Smart was back in Boston on Tuesday and had a private workout with the team. He has been officially cleared to practice tonight and play Friday when the Celtics return after the All-Star break to play the Pistons in Detroit.

Smart has been out since he lacerated his hand swiping at a picture frame in his hotel room after a Celtics' loss to the Lakers in Los Angeles on Jan. 25.

The Celtics have lost three in a row and four of five heading into the All-Star break to drop behind the Toronto Raptors for the best record in the East and losing Smart's defense has been a key part of their recent slump.