Celtics

Stars, studs and duds: Larkin helps swing momentum for Celtics

Stars, studs and duds: Larkin helps swing momentum for Celtics

BOSTON – The energy level seemed low, multi-effort plays were virtually non-existent and for the most part, the Boston Celtics weren’t playing as hard as the Dallas Mavericks for long stretches of play on Wednesday.

And so Brad Stevens turned to Shane Larkin, a player who has shown the ability to swing the tide of a game in Boston’s momentum.

That’s exactly what Larkin did on Wednesday, having his best game in weeks as Boston rallied for a 97-90 win over Dallas.

Larkin had 11 points for Boston, shooting 4-for-8 from the field and 3-for-5 from 3-point range.

The numbers aren’t exactly eye-popping; that is, until you factor in Larkin hadn’t scored in double figures since tallying 16 points on Nov. 10 against Charlotte.

Coming into Wednesday’s game, the number of games Larkin played in (6) was equal to the number of DNP-CDs (did not play-coaches decision) since the 16-point scoring outburst.

And in those six games he did see time, he missed 14 of his 15 shot attempts.

“Mentally, I think I’m prepared for whatever comes to me,” Larkin said. “That’s what I do every single game.”

Larkin’s opportunity to play came about in part because the Celtics were missing Jaylen Brown (eye inflammation) and Marcus Morris (left knee rehabilitation).

“If I get called on, I just try to go and do my thing,” Larkin said.

And while he may go long stretches without seeing any time, Celtics head coach Brad Stevens remains confident in Larkin when he puts him on the floor.

“You know what he’s going to be able to do,” Stevens said. “When he goes in, he can change the tempo. He can get into people on defense. He’s a good basketball player. And when we got him, to me it’s all about … games where it’s not going great, he can change the tempo of that. And nights where you don’t have all your bodies, you feel great about him with the ball.”

Here are the Stars, Studs and Duds from Boston’s 97-90 win over the Dallas Mavericks.

 

STARS

Kyrie Irving

When it comes to getting it done the stretch, Kyrie Irving continues to set himself apart from the masses. He led all scorers on Wednesday with 23 points which included nine in the fourth quarter.

Al Horford

He didn’t shoot the ball as well as we’ve seen in recent games, but Horford was nonetheless effective for the Celtics.

Harrison Barnes

The Celtics by and large did a good job of contesting Barnes’ shots, but that still didn’t stop him from having an effective scoring night. He led the Mavericks with 19 points on 8-for-15 shooting to go with seven rebounds and three assists.

 

STUDS

Jayson Tatum

With both Jaylen Brown (eye) and Marcus Morris (left knee) out, the Celtics needed the 19-year-old rookie to carry a little more of the load scoring and rebounding the ball. He would tally his second double-double of the season, with 17 points and 10 rebounds with one steal.

Dirk Nowitzki

It wasn’t dominant Dirk from years past, but the 7-footer is still really good. He had 16 points and six rebounds.

Shane Larkin

Having missed 14 of his last 15 shots coming into Wednesday’s game, Larkin made the most of his opportunity to play. He had 11 points off the bench – that’s only the third time he has scored 10 or more points this season – on 4-for-8 shooting which included him shooting 3-for-5 from three-point range.

Daniel Theis

His energy and all-out hustle on the glass has been one of the more pleasant surprises for the Celtics this season. On Wednesday he finished with seven points on 3-for-6 shooting to go with a career-high 11 rebounds, two assists, two steals and a blocked shot.

Maxi Kleber

If you didn’t know his name before Wednesday’s game, you do now. He was a major factor at both ends of the floor, finishing with 13 points on 5-for-8 shooting along with five rebounds and five blocked shots.

 

DUDS

Dennis Smith Jr.

Similar to their first meeting, Smith got off to a great start only to struggle for the bulk of the game shooting the ball. He had 12 points, but did so on 4-for-16 shooting.

Marcus Smart

This was not one of Smart’s better games, for sure. The fact that he finished with two points on 1-for-5 shooting wasn’t the problem. His playmaking was off all game, evident by him tallying as many turnovers (4) as assists (4).

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WATCH: Boston Celtics vs. Chicago Bulls

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WATCH: Boston Celtics vs. Chicago Bulls

Tune into NBC Sports Boston to watch the Celtics play the Bulls in Chicago. You can also click here to watch the Celtics livestream presented by Nissan on the NBC Sports App. Coverage begins at 7:30 p.m. with Celtics Pregame Live Presented by ACE Ticket.

- Game preview: Tatum getting lots of helping hands in his rookie season

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Celtics-Bulls preview: Tatum benefitting from teammates, environment

Celtics-Bulls preview: Tatum benefitting from teammates, environment

Leading Detroit 84-79 on Sunday, Boston’s Jayson Tatum drained a 3-pointer with less than two minutes to play that gave the Celtics necessary cushion to push back the Pistons’ late-game surge.

It feeds into the narrative that aside from Kyrie Irving, Jayson Tatum is as clutch a shooter as you’ll find on this Boston Celtics roster in the fourth quarter.

Tatum’s ability to knock down big shots was instrumental in Boston’s 91-81 win over Detroit on Sunday, but it remains to be seen if his late-game clutch play will be needed tonight as the Celtics try and close out their three-game road trip at Chicago which has been among the worst teams in the NBA this season.

And while Philadelphia’s Ben Simmons has been the odds-on favorite for this year’s rookie of the year, Tatum has been a player who has received a significant amount of praise all season.

But in examining Boston’s win over the Pistons, which was aided in part by Tatum’s only make and take in the fourth, Celtics coach Brad Stevens was quick to remind folks afterwards why he was so open. 

“Obviously, the shot he hit, that was off a lot of attention on other guys on the other side of the floor,” Stevens told reporters.

On the play, Marcus Smart had the ball on the court opposite Tatum. Al Horford and Tatum set what looked like a double-screen for Kyrie Irving who made a sharp dive towards the basket. Avery Bradley looped around Horford as Detroit center Andre Drummond reacted to Irving’s dive towards the basket. Horford popped out behind the 3-point line and received a pass from Smart. Tobias Harris, who was defending Tatum, slid over towards a wide-open Horford who then quickly swung the ball to – who else? - a wide open Tatum who did what he does as well as anyone in the NBA and that’s make pressure-packed, fourth-quarter 3-pointers.

“That’s why he was open,” Stevens said. “He (Tatum) benefits from that. And obviously, he’s a good player that we think will get a lot better.”

The same can be said for Bulls rookie Lauri Markkanen who is averaging 14.3 points and 7.9 rebounds which ranks fifth and second, respectively, among rookies this season.

There hasn’t been much buzz about his play this season in large part because the Bulls (5-20) have been so bad.

There are lots of words used to describe Tatum – “bad” certainly isn’t one of them.

This season, he has logged 193 minutes in the fourth quarter according to NBA.com/stats. He’s shooting 66.7 percent from the field in the fourth which is tops among all players who have logged at least 150 minutes in the fourth quarter.

And among players who have taken at least 10 3-pointers in the fourth this season, Tatum is shooting a league-best 71.4 percent from the field.

Kyrie Irving, who has been watching Tatum play since the 19-year-old was a junior in high school, believes Tatum’s unexpected penchant for making 3’s – he’s shooting an NBA-best 52.3 percent on 3’s this season – has more to do with his environment than anything else.

“Coach (Mike Krzyzewski of Duke) utilized him the best he could in the offense last year. I think it was predicated on iso-basketball where he caught it on the elbow and was able to play three (small forward), four (power forward) spot,” said Irving who like Tatum, also played for Duke and under Krzyzewski. “And in high school, he was just bigger than everybody. So, why would he need to shoot threes? So, when you’re as skilled as he is, and you’re now in a high-intense, high-talented offense, you get a lot of open looks where you get your feet set. And I think he’s doing a great job of realizing that teams can run him off the line but he can still get a great look off of penetrating or relocating (behind) the three-point line.” 

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