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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Horford knows Celtics need to take it one day at a time

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Horford knows Celtics need to take it one day at a time

LOS ANGELES – Al Horford is credited for consistently being someone whose play contributes heavily to winning games.

But it was in defeat in the playoffs nearly a decade ago to the Boston Celtics that has shaped him into the player we see before us today.

“They were a tough team,” Horford said of the eventual NBA champion Celtics. “Defensively, just as good as they come. They looked like a very together group.”

Horford added, “It helped me tremendously. It helped that team that I was with in Atlanta, a lot. To have that experience, to go against the eventual champions but at that time a veteran team like the Celtics, it really but really made me realize the level I needed to play and the things I needed to do to for the team to be successful.”

And those lessons have helped shape the 31-year-old into being a five-time all-star whose teams have been to the playoffs every year he has been in the NBA.

“That first year could not have gone any better. It was a great learning experience and I felt it helped set up the rest of my career,” Horford said.

These days, Horford finds himself as the voice of experience on a Celtics team that has been among the NBA’s best squads for most of this season.

Horford has an open-door policy when it comes to doling out advice and tips for improvement, to his younger teammates.

But he knows first-hand the greatest teacher is experience.

“You can say things but you have to live through different things,” Horford said. “The biggest thing I try to emphasize to them and coach (Brad Stevens) talks about, is embracing the now. It’s about taking advantage of what we have now. 

Horford added, "I've been in the league, this is my 11th year, you never know if you’re going to have the same teammates next year. That happened to us last year. We had a great year and I look around and it’s only four of us remaining. I just think it’s embracing and taking advantage of doing the best you can with the group you have.”

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Horford can cross skills challenge off his bucket list

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Horford can cross skills challenge off his bucket list

LOS ANGELES – After making a near-perfect pass during the early stages of the Taco Bell Skills Challenge, Al Horford was feeling good about his chances of winning.

But near the end, the final stage – knocking down a 3-pointer – proved to be Horford’s undoing as Philadelphia’s Joel Embiid eliminated Horford in the first round after Horford missed three consecutive three-pointers.

“It happens. It was fun,” Horford said.

Embiid, who was eliminated in the next round by Chicago’s Lauri Markkanen, said he was nervous before the event.

“I don’t know why. My heart was beating so fast,” Embiid told reporters. “I have no idea. But I thought it was fun.”

Although Horford has been a part of all-star weekend four times prior to tonight, this was the first time he participated in the Skills Challenge.

“It’s different. I normally come as a fan,” he said. “This time it was a little different, just getting your mind set and come out here and compete and win. It’s good to be a part of it. Now I can just scratch that off.”

When I asked him about tips or advice from teammates, he said the only thing they told him was he “had to win it.”

“I let them down so I have to make it up in the season,” said Horford, grinning.

Brooklyn’s Spencer Dinwiddie wound up winning the event, over Markkanen.

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