Celtics

Stars, studs and duds: Celtics defense was on 'different level' during rally

Stars, studs and duds: Celtics defense was on 'different level' during rally

BOSTON – The fourth quarter arrived and the Boston Celtics did what we’ve seen them do so often this season.

They went to the reliable one … their defense.

The Celtics and their top-ranked defense put on a defensive clinic in the fourth quarter which helped propel them to a 90-87 win over Charlotte.

Boston (11-2) trailed by as many as 18 points and went into the fourth quarter down by a dozen.

They opened the fourth with a 10-1 run that brought them within 77-74.

The Celtic surge continued with their lead peaking at five points on two different occasions in the fourth.

“Our defense, you know, went up to a different level in that third and fourth quarters,” said Celtics head coach Brad Stevens whose team limited the Hornets (5-7) to just 30 points scored in the second half on 11-for-39 (28.2 percent) shooting.

Stevens added, “Guys battled, and that’s been a consistent theme of this team. It has not been an offensive piece of art by any means; but our defense kind of kept us in it.”

Here are the Stars, Studs and Duds from Boston’s 90-87 win over Charlotte which extended Boston’s winning streak to 11 in a row.

 

STARS

Shane Larkin

With an opportunity to play extended minutes, Shane Larkin did not disappoint. He came off the Celtics bench to score a season-high 16 points on 5-for-8 shooting, providing a much-needed offensive spark on a night when most of the Celtics struggled to make shots.

Kemba Walker

He couldn’t make shots most of the night, but he found ways to still impact the game and kept the Hornets in the game up until the very end. Despite missing 14 of his 19 shots from the field, Walker still had a double-double of 20 points and 11 assists.

 

STUDS

Marcus Morris

His defense on Kemba Walker in the final minute and the shot he made in that span would have been enough to elevate him to stud-status. But he provided more than that, tallying 14 points on 5-for-10 shooting with seven rebounds in 23 minutes, 24 seconds.

Dwayne Bacon

Don’t know much about him? That’ll change in time. Bacon came up with a bunch of big shots in the first half for Charlotte, finishing with 10 points on 5-for-7 shooting off the bench.

Jayson Tatum

The Celtics rookie continues to shine in ways that few expected this soon. He got stronger as the game went on, scoring 11 of his 16 points in the second half.

Jaylen Brown

He’s had a few games this season when his shot for most of the night wouldn’t fall. And yet when the game is on the line, there he is to deliver a much-needed big play for the Celtics. Brown tallied a double-double of 10 points and a career-high 13 rebounds with seven of his 10 points coming in the fourth.

 

DUDS

Dwight Howard

Credit Aron Baynes for once again making life miserable for Howard who had more turnovers (7) than points scored (6). Ouch!

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Increased usage of starters helps fuel Celtics victory over Grizzlies

Increased usage of starters helps fuel Celtics victory over Grizzlies

The Boston Celtics got the win over Memphis, with the team’s second unit chipping in for the victory.

But they still have too many offensive lulls, something head coach Brad Stevens recognizes and to his credit, is continuing to search for ways to address appropriately.

We’ve seen him utilize a starter playing with the backups.

But in Saturday’s 102-93 win at Memphis, Stevens elected to play a pair of starters with the second unit for longer stretches which on this night at least, helped them get the victory to extend their East-leading record to 25-7.

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In fact, Boston had at least two starters on the floor in the fourth quarter for all but the final 28.4 seconds of play.

“It’s one of those things, it’s probably going to go back and forth,” Stevens said. “Based on who’s available.”

A key missing part of the Celtics’ bench rotation is Marcus Morris who continues with rehab on his sore left knee.

Morris, who did not make the trip with the team, is out indefinitely although the Celtics maintain that he’s close to resuming action.

Stevens was asked about his use of Jayson Tatum and Al Horford together, with a trio of reserves.

“If Marcus Morris is here, maybe you don’t play either of them with that group,” Stevens said.

Morris has appeared in 16 games (nine starts) for the Celtics this season, averaging 12.1 points, 5.5 rebounds and 1.6 assists per game.

Indeed, bench production has been an issue for the Boston Celtics all season.

According to hoopsstats.com, the Celtics bench came into tonight’s game averaging 30.5 points per game which ranked 23rd in the NBA. However, Boston’s defense has limited second units to 32.6 points per game which ranks 8th in the league.

Against the Grizzlies, Boston only had three players off the bench score (Marcus Smart, Terry Rozier and Daniel Theis) who combined for 26 points.

But as limited as they were scoring the ball, Memphis was even worse with a second unit scoring total of just 15 points.

Of course, rotations are a season-long, always-evolving process that is dependent heavily on not just who is available, but how those who are available to play are performing.

The Celtics’ second unit has had their moments this season, but by and large the team’s success has been heavily fueled by the play of the starters.

Stevens has made it clear, he’ll continue to find ways for those guys to be put in the best positions to succeed individually as well as for the Celtics.

And as long as Morris remains out, you can expect Stevens will continue to find ways to fill that void with increased usage from his starters.

“As long as Marcus Morris isn’t playing,” Stevens said, “We need to be alert to that and guys are going to have to play different rotations.”

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Stars, studs and duds: Tatum is not your average rookie

Stars, studs and duds: Tatum is not your average rookie

Win or lose, strong play or a night full of struggles, Jayson Tatum’s demeanor seldom changes for the Boston Celtics.

That alone makes him a rather unique rookie.

But then you see him play and have nights like the one he had against Memphis tonight, and you realize why this 19-year-old kid is so cool, calm and collected all the time.

There’s still a lot for him to learn about this league, but his talent, skill and feel for the game is uncanny . . . which against the Grizzlies, helped Boston pull away in the fourth quarter for a 102-93 win.

Tatum had a near double-double of 19 points and nine rebounds with seven points in the fourth, but a deeper dive is required to fully appreciate what he meant to the Celtics on Saturday and what his true value is for this team this season.

“I was trying to be in attack mode, get what the defense was giving me,” Tatum said. “Just trying to bounce back from (Friday’s 107-95 loss to Utah).”

His scoring, rebounding, defense and overall impact was as good as we’ve seen from him this season, a radically different showing than Friday night’s 7-point performance which included him missing six of his seven shot attempts.

“He does a great job of having short-term memory,” said Boston’s Al Horford. “Even in games, he might start a little slow and then he’ll pick it up. That’s a strength of his that’s very rare for a rookie. A lot of times, with rookies, when things don’t go their way, you can’t count on them. With him, it’s the opposite.”

Here are the Stars, Studs and Duds from Boston’s 102-93 win at Memphis.

 

STARS

Marc Gasol

The Grizzlies gave the Celtics all they could handle, and Gasol had a lot to do with it. He led all players with 30 points on 11-for-19 shooting.

Jayson Tatum

There were others who had more points than the 19-year-old, but Tatum was clutch when the Celtics really needed someone to step up. He finished with 19 points which included seven in the fourth quarter, along with grabbing nine rebounds to go with two blocks and two steals.

 

STUDS

Kyrie Irving

Once again, the Celtics’ scoring attack was led by Kyrie Irving who had a quiet 20 points on 7-for-17 shooting to go with six assists.

Al Horford

While his ability to facilitate remains a strength, Al Horford came up with some big shots in the second half as the Grizzlies tried to rally back into the game. He finished with 15 points, seven rebounds and six assists.

Daniel Theis

Playing with a broken nose and an off-the-shelf mask to protect it (he’ll get a fitted one soon), Theis had five points, three rebounds and two blocked shots in 14 minutes while playing good defense and providing some much-needed energy.

Tyreke Evans

The former rookie of the year has made an amazing transformation into a reliable 3-point shooter. That was just part of what was a really strong game from Tyreke Evans who had 25 points.  

 

DUDS

Celtics’ second-quarter play

For the second straight game, the Celtics were at their worst in the second quarter. Fortunately for them, it didn’t cost them the game as was the case on Friday night against Utah. The Celtics were fortunate to only be out-scored 28-17 which allowed them to maintain a 48-40 lead.

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