Celtics

Stars, studs, and duds: Improving on perfection

Stars, studs, and duds: Improving on perfection

The Boston Celtics ran the tables in the preseason which they capped off with a 108-100 win over the Charlotte Hornets to finish with a 4-0 preseason record. 

While they clearly played well enough to win every time they stepped on the floor, they are by no means blinded by that success.

"It's good," Marcus Smart told reporters afterwards. "We gotta keep going. It's good to take away. We still have a lot to learn, a lot to go through."

While that is true, there's no escaping the fact that the Celtics have shown a level of cohesiveness at both ends of the floor, that has them maybe ahead of where most - including players - expected them to be at this point in the season.  

"I think so," Smart said. "We have a lot of guys, a lot of new guys. Everybody playing off one another getting great touches and great looks." 

STARS

Kyrie Irving: It’s clear that Irving is very much rounding into regular season form, delivering another strong performance in helping lead Boston to victory. He finished with a double-double of 16 points and 10 assists without playing a single minute in the fourth quarter, in addition to grabbing five rebounds. 

Gordon Hayward: He’s gradually finding his way as a scorer for Boston, in addition to doing all the little things necessary to win. He had 13 points, six rebounds and four assists. 

Malik Monk: The rookie is coming off the bench now, but don’t be surprised if he’s in the starting lineup at some point this season – sooner rather than later, most likely. He led all scorers with 21 points with six rebounds while shooting 4-for-10 from 3-point range. 

STUDS

Al Horford: Quiet. Efficient. Successful. That has been at the core of Horford’s basketball career, and Monday’s preseason game was no exception. He finished with a near double-double with 15 points on 6-for-7 shooting with eight rebounds and four assists. 

Jaylen Brown: He had 12 points on 4-for-7 shooting, but it was his versatility as a defender that really stuck out as he held his own defensively against a quicker Kemba Walker, and yet still had enough strength to deal with Marvin Williams. 

Dwight Howard: He didn’t play a ton of minutes, but Howard looked pretty good when he was on the floor. He had 12 points on 6-for-10 shooting with six rebounds in just under 23 minutes. 

DUDS

Marvin Williams: Nicolas Batum’s elbow injury will keep him sidelined for at least six weeks, which means Hornets fans will see more of Williams. That’s not a good thing he plays like he did on Wednesday, scoring two points while missing seven of his eight shot attempts. 

Celtics continue comeback narrative with win vs. Hawks

Celtics continue comeback narrative with win vs. Hawks

The Boston Celtics trail by double digits. The Celtics rally to make it relatively close by halftime. Boston continues to gain ground in the third, pull it out in the fourth.

Rinse. Recycle. Repeat.

That has been the Celtics’ mantra this season, with the latest chapter in their comeback narrative being a 110-99 win at Atlanta.

“We need to put an emphasis on playing with space and getting the ball to the other side of the floor,” said Celtics coach Brad Stevens. “It just stuck too much early on. We were staring at some post-ups that if we got it to the other side, maybe you could take advantage of.”

MORE:

Boston (15-2) fell behind by as many as 16 points against the Hawks (3-13), the second straight game the Celtics have rallied from a double-digit deficit.

In Boston’s 92-88 win over Golden State on Thursday, the Celtics fell behind by as many as 17 before rallying for their most impressive win of the season.

That said, it still shouldn’t take away from what happened on Saturday against an Atlanta team that despite their record, has shown signs of playing better in their recent games.

Players are aware of the penchant they’ve shown thus far for falling behind only to mount a furious comeback for the win.

“We don’t try to (go down early),” said Kyrie Irving following Saturday’s win which extended their winning streak to 15 straight which is the fifth-longest streak in franchise history. “Some teams, they go on runs and whether that be us giving up some easy ones or giving up some turnovers or doing things we can correct. When we do correct them, it turns into a different game.”

And that is what makes this stretch of play so impressive.

The Celtics have not played a full game; instead they have had stretches of good play that have often masked their mistakes early in the game.

That’s why head coach Brad Stevens, obviously pleased with the team’s success, knows as well as anyone that his team has to become more consistent in their play if they are to get the most out of these wins and continue to build off of them and achieve their ultimate goal – getting back to the NBA Finals.

“We’re going to keep playing,” Stevens said. “But the biggest thing is, we can’t keep digging these holes.”

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE

Stars, studs and duds: No lack of confidence for Brown

Stars, studs and duds: No lack of confidence for Brown

When it comes to the top backcourts in the NBA, you seldom hear about Kyrie Irving and Jaylen Brown.

That may soon be changing if they have more games like the one they delivered on Saturday as Boston put together a solid second half to pull away from the Atlanta Hawks, 110-99.

Irving had a game-high 30 points which was his second game with at least 30 points scored – both against Atlanta.

MORE:

And Brown, who had a strong 22-point performance in Boston’s win over Golden State on Thursday, was even better against the Hawks in tallying a career-high 27 points.

We all know about Irving who has established himself as one of the NBA’s top guards.

But is Brown on the way?

One thing Brown won’t have to develop going forward is, confidence.

He has long maintained that he believes he’ll be among the best in the league. It’s just a matter of him performing at a high level at both ends of the floor, consistently.

“I’ve always had that confidence, I can play with the best in the world,” Brown told NBC Sports Boston’s Abby Chin following the win over Atlanta which extended Boston’s winning streak to 15 in a row. “It’s just a matter of coming out, doing it. My teammates found me tonight. We had a good team win tonight.”

Here are the Stars, Studs and Duds from Boston’s 110-99 win at Atlanta which extended the Celtics’ winning streak to 15 in a row which is the fifth-longest winning streak in franchise history.

 

STARS

Jaylen Brown

Back in his home state of Georgia, Jaylen Brown delivered another monster game for the Celtics by scoring a career-high 27 points on 10-for-13 shooting with four 3-pointers.

Kyrie Irving

Irving had his most efficient game this season for the Celtics, tallying 30 points on 10-for-12 shooting to go with four rebounds and five assists.

Dennis Schroder

Atlanta’s best scorer delivering a strong 23-point, 9-assist performance for the Hawks.

 

STUDS

Jayson Tatum

He only had 14 points, but they all came in the third quarter and they included a few crowd-quieting dunks.

John Collins

He came into the league with the reputation of being a high motor player, and he has not disappointed. His hustle and energy led to him tallying 18 points and seven rebounds.

Marcus Morris

When the offense struggled mightily in the first half, it was Morris’ scoring that kept them within striking distance. He finished with 14 points, 10 of which came in the second quarter.

Kent Bazemore

He was Atlanta’s number two scoring option most of the night, and finished with 19 points.

 

DUDS

Boston’s first quarter defense

The Celtics can’t keep digging themselves these early holes, expecting they will turn it on and find a way to climb out of them. The Hawks led 35-20, fueled in large part by shooting 64.7 percent (11-for-17) in addition to out-rebounding Boston 8-6.

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE