Celtics

Stars, studs and duds: Looking ahead to 'great challenge' of Warriors

Stars, studs and duds: Looking ahead to 'great challenge' of Warriors

There are some things in life that you know are absolutes.

Talk centering around Golden State within moments of defeating Brooklyn?

Yup, that’s one of ‘em.

The Celtics managed to survive a hard-fought, 109-102 win at Brooklyn which extended their winning streak to 13 in a row, setting the stage for Thursday night’s battle between Boston and Golden State, two teams with the top two records in the NBA.

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Golden State being there?

No surprise.

But the Celtics, especially after losing Gordon Hayward (ankle) for what should be the rest of the season, and then dropping their first two games only to win the next 13 – something no team in NBA history has ever done – has put the Celtics in class of distinction few if any expected this season.

“It’s always a great challenge to go against those guys,” said Boston’s Kyrie Irving who returned to the Celtics lineup after missing the Toronto game on Sunday due to a facial fracture. “They have unbelievable talent. They built an incredible culture there. For us as a young team, trying to come in and be in that number one spot like they are, and that’s being a championship team, we have to face tests like this in the regular season. It’ll only be a chance for us to get better. We understand that they have incredible players. But we have incredible players as well. It’ll be great to see some high-level play, some high-level players.”

Said Celtics head coach Brad Stevens: “We just have to play really solid on both ends and do what we do as well as we can, and see where we stand. Obviously, they are outstanding.”

Here are the Stars, Studs and Duds from Boston’s 109-102 win over Brooklyn which extended their winning streak to 13 in a row with defending NBA champion Golden State up next.

 

STARS

Kyrie Irving

The plastic mask he hates to wear didn’t do much to impact his ability to score. He led all players with 25 points on 8-for-20 shooting along with five assists.

Marcus Morris

He was the man for the Celtics in the fourth quarter, tallying 11 of his 21 points to go with 10 rebounds.

Joe Harris

As the Nets fought their way back from a deficit that peaked at 21 points, Harris’ long-range shooting helped significantly. He led Brooklyn with 19 points which included five 3-pointers.

Brad Stevens

He has been an absolute star thus far this season, pushing all the right buttons, getting the most out of his players and more than anything else, winning games – a lot of games.

 

STUDS

Al Horford

It was yet another highly efficient shooting night for Horford, tallying a double-double of 17 points and 11 rebounds which included him shooting 8-for-10 from the field.

Jayson Tatum

Just when you think you’ve seen the best of Tatum, the 19-year-old shows you a move that leaves you once again slack-jawed that a player so young can be so skilled and have such a feel for the game. He had 19 points on 6-for-9 shooting.

Spencer Dinwiddie

For a third-string point guard (Jeremy Lin and D’Angelo Russell were both out), Dinwiddie did a lot of nice things for the Nets, finishing with a double-double of 12 points and 11 assists.

 

DUDS

Celtics bench

This was one of those nights when they provided very little in terms of actual production or impact. Shooting-wise, they were a collective 4-for-26 from the field while scoring just 13 points. And defensively, three of the four worst defensive ratings for the game came from the second unit (Semi Ojeleye, 151.0; Terry Rozier 108.2; and Marcus Smart 101.1).

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Celtics defense doesn't rise to occasion with Kyrie out vs. Bulls

Celtics defense doesn't rise to occasion with Kyrie out vs. Bulls

New experiences are a given when you have as many new faces as the Boston Celtics have this season.

Monday’s 108-85 loss to the Chicago Bulls?

Yup, that’s a new one.

You can rest assured the Celtics won’t dwell on this loss too long. But that doesn’t mean it’ll be forgotten quickly, either.

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As the Boston Celtics piled up the wins this season (they still lead the East with a 23-6 record), head coach Brad Stevens has tried to keep his team humble, reminding them that if they don’t play well they can be beat by anybody … even the Bulls.

Even in defeat, Boston has managed to at least give themselves a shot at winning with good energy and effort from most if not every player that steps on the court.

“We have a young group, so we usually have a lot of energy,” Boston’s Jaylen Brown told reporters afterwards. “We just couldn’t find it tonight. We start off bad, we usually find a way to come back and rally into the game. We could just never get it going.”

Boston’s Al Horford echoed similar sentiments.

“Credit to our group. We go out, we fight every night,” Horford said. “And tonight, we pushed but they answered back. We never caught a break. There were times there, we could have had a three (3-pointer) and we missed it. And then they come down and hit a three. It was kind of like … one of those nights, everything was working their way. Gotta give them credit. They came out the aggressor. They held it and we didn’t have it tonight.”

Of course, the easy way to explain away what happened was to point out the impact of not having Kyrie Irving (quads injury).

While there’s no question not having the team’s top scorer has a negative impact on the team’s overall play, the Celtics are a team that’s rooted in strong defensive play which should have been on display against Chicago.

Instead of Boston’s defense taking the lead, they were a non-factor most of the night, especially when it came to Nikola Mirotic and Bobby Portis who had 24 and 23 points, respectively.

“We didn’t challenge Mirotic or Portis at all,” said Celtics head coach Brad Stevens. “And they got to the rim whenever they wanted.”

Fortunately for the Celtics, they return home where they can try and get back on a winning track after losing two of their last three games.

“We have to respond against Denver (on Wednesday),” Brown said. “When we come back and play them, we should have more energy.”

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Stars, studs and duds: 'Sometimes you get your butt kicked'

Stars, studs and duds: 'Sometimes you get your butt kicked'

Following Boston’s 108-85 thumping at the hands of the Chicago Bulls, Brad Stevens had a very succinct message for his team after the loss.

“Sometimes you get your butt kicked!” he told them.

While that’s true, it’s rare for an elite team, or least one with an elite-team record, to get beaten so soundly by another squad that while playing better of late, is still the worst team in the league.

“Chicago dictated the whole game; they played harder than we did,” Stevens said. “They played with more presence than we did; played more competitive than we did. They played with more authority than we did. You’re not going to win many games when you play like that.”

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Losing is something that all teams, good and bad, have to deal with and experience. But the way Chicago dominated play for most of the night, was something new for this Celtics team that has consistently come back from huge deficits to win.

But Stevens has cautioned repeatedly how his team was playing with fire making that part of their narrative this season, knowing there would be times when they just wouldn’t be able to muster up the necessary plays at either end of the floor and rally for a victory.

Monday was that night.

“We’ve had a chance to win every game except for this one,” Stevens said. “This one was obvious, even when we were making our run in the third it was kind of back and forth. And they hit every big shot they needed to kind of stem the tide when it was an 11-point game or put it back to 14. We just had too many easy errors from our standpoint. And then, they made plays.”

And in doing so, they absolutely out-played the Celtics in every way imaginable.

“I don’t want to chalk it up to, ‘hey you’re gonna have nights like this,’” Stevens said. “We just got our butt kicked; we’ll take that and move forward.”

Here are the Stars, Studs and Duds from Boston’s 108-85 beatdown at the hands of the Chicago Bulls who despite winning three straight, have now moved up to a tie for the worst record (6-20) in the NBA, with Atlanta.

  

STARS

Nikola Mirotic

The Boston Celtics had no answer for Mirotic who lit the Celtics up for 24 points. “We didn’t do a great job guarding him and he made us pay for that,” Stevens said. “He’s a really good offensive player.”

Bobby Portis

Coming off the bench, Portis gave the Celtics fits from the perimeter as well as around the rim before finishing with a season-high 23 points. “Portis got going from (3-point range),” Stevens said. “We played with no presence.”

 

STUDS

Kyrie Irving

He didn’t log a single minute on Monday, but his presence was definitely felt. Boston looked completely lost and discombobulated with their four-time all-star out of the lineup with a quads injury.

 

DUDS

Every Celtic on the active roster

There’s just not enough space to go through all the players that failed the Celtics miserably on Monday. The starters. The bench. The two-way players called up. This was not just the worst game of the season for the Celtics, but one of the worst ever in Stevens’ four-plus seasons as the Celtics head coach. “It was a collective success for them, and a collective failure for us,” said Celtics head coach Brad Stevens.

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