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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Celtics continue to look for ways to rest Morris' knee

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Celtics continue to look for ways to rest Morris' knee

BOSTON – Al Horford is back in the Boston Celtics’ lineup for tonight’s game against the Utah Jazz. But the news isn’t as encouraging for Marcus Morris.

Horford (rest) missed Boston’s 124-118 win over the Denver Nuggets on Wednesday, a decision the Celtics had decided on several weeks prior due to the way the Celtics’ schedule was breaking down.

Put it like this: the Celtics will be at game No. 41, the official halfway point of the season, on Jan. 3 when they host the Cleveland Cavaliers.

And with the 31-year-old Horford being the oldest member on the team and leading them in minutes played, it made sense for the Celtics to have a strategic rest plan in place for the four-time All-Star.

As for Morris, the Celtics will continue to seek out ways to provide him enough downtime to help strengthen his left knee, while also getting him on the floor.

“We don’t have an update on a timeline for him,” said Celtics head coach Brad Stevens. “He’s feeling better as the week has gone on.”

I asked Stevens what does Morris have to do at this point to get back on the floor.

“The biggest thing is, feeling better consistently, day to day and not having these setbacks,” Stevens said. “With the schedule we’re in the midst of now, playing every day would not be the answer. I think getting him to feel as good as he can … he’s had a couple different opinions, everybody has come up with the same result and that is strengthen it, work diligently on it, and it shouldn’t be a long-term thing. But let’s make sure that we rest over the next couple of weeks, appropriately.

Stevens added, “He’s had a little bit of a setback here, but it doesn’t sound like it’s going to be long-term.”

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Jerebko hoping for a winning return to Boston

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Jerebko hoping for a winning return to Boston

When Jonas Jerebko was with the Celtics, his play and performance often drew very little fanfare or notice from anyone other than his teammates and coaches. 
 
Now with the Utah Jazz and back in Boston for the first time, he is once again a low-key -- but important -- contributor. 

And it's a role that Jerebko doesn’t mind playing, in part because of his time in Boston. 

“It’s all about winning over there,” Jerebko told the Deseret News recently. “I had three great seasons there, going to the playoffs, Eastern Conference finals and a lot of winning, so I just learned that this league is about winning and that’s it.”
 
While that’s true, Jerebko’s role with the Jazz appears to be slightly more prominent than it was in Boston. 
 
In his two-plus seasons in Boston, Jerebko made six starts. We’re not even at Christmas yet in his first season in Utah and the 6-foot-10 forward has already had 10 starts for the Jazz.  He’s also averaging 6.3 points, which is more than he ever averaged in a full season for the Celtics. And he’s shooting a career-high 44.4 percent from 3-point range. 
 
The numbers are better in Utah, but Jerebko is more concerned with helping the Jazz (13-14) rack up a few more wins.
 
“It’s all about that win in that column, so that’s really what I learned in spending my time [in Boston],” Jerebko said. “It was a good time.”
 
Here are five under-the-radar story lines leading up to tonight’s game between the Boston Celtics and Utah Jazz. 


 
ROOKIE SHOWCASE
 
Fans are in for a treat tonight when two of the NBA’s top rookies will be on the floor. Boston’s Jayson Tatum, the NBA’s top 3-pointer shooter this season, has established himself as one of the top rookies in most categories. Meanwhile, Utah’s Donovan Mitchell has made a name for himself as one of the league’s best first-year players, evident by him averaging 17.8 points per game, which is tops among all rookies. 


  
3-POINT DEFENSE
 
Keep an eye on Boston’s 3-point defense. The Celtics come into tonight’s game limiting opponents to 33.8 percent on 3’s, which is the second-lowest average in the NBA. They face a Utah team that has been among the league’s best this season. The Jazz are shooting 38.3 percent from 3-point range, which ranks fifth in the league.


 
POINTS OFF TURNOVERS
 
Limiting their mistakes will once again be a key for the Celts because few teams capitalize on mistakes as well as Utah. The Jazz force 16.5 turnovers per game, which ranks second in the NBA. But more impactful is the points those turnovers produce. The Jazz come into tonight’s game having averaged 19.1 points off turnovers, which ranks fifth in the NBA. 


 
GORDON HAYWARD
 
This was supposed to be his first time facing his old team, but the dislocated left ankle injury he suffered on Oct. 17 has put him on the shelf for what’s expected to be the rest of this season. Still, that won’t prevent his former teammates from playing with a little extra something. As for the Celtics, they have had a tremendous amount of success against Utah at home which can only enhance their chances of winning tonight. 


 
KILLER SCHEDULE
 
While the Celtics are playing a ton of games before most teams in the NBA, the Jazz have their own scheduling nightmare to deal with. Specifically, the caliber of opponents that they have ahead of them is pretty daunting. They play the Celtics tonight followed by a road game against Cleveland on Saturday. From there, they face Houston and Oklahoma City on the road, then come home to take on the San Antonio Spurs (who now have Kawhi Leonard back in the mix). Including the Celtics game tonight, seven of Utah’s remaining games in the calendar year 2017 are against teams with an above-.500 record.

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