Celtics

Stars, studs and duds: Scorer like Kyrie 'a luxury' for Celtics

Stars, studs and duds: Scorer like Kyrie 'a luxury' for Celtics

BOSTON – Kyrie Irving dropped 36 points on the Philadelphia 76ers, a key factor in Boston (19-4) adding one more log on to the growing pile of victories this season.
 
And this game was like so many for Irving who made it look way, way easier than it should have been.
 
But those who compete with him and play against him realize how talented the 6-foot-3 guard can be, especially in the fourth quarter.
 
Irving’s fourth-quarter scoring was among the keys to Boston’s 108-97 win over Philadelphia.
 
In the fourth, Irving had nine points and in doing so, dashed away any hopes the Sixers had of an upset win.
 
“I mean, I say all the time how spoiled we are to coach players at this level, and he’s certainly one of the most gifted scorers in the game,” Celtics head coach Brad Stevens said of Irving. “And, you know, he can do things just with a tiny amount of space and make it look easy. And it’s really, really tough. I mean, even the – he made a couple of the one-on-one plays late where he drove it, but even the dribble hand-off shot that he made in the corner, I mean, it was pretty well-defended, and he just has a special ability.”

 Said Al Horford: “It’s a luxury. Not a lot of teams have that. Just his (Irving) will to win and make those shots, when we need it most, just keeps impressing me game by game.”

Here are the other Stars, Studs and Duds from Boston’s 108-97 win over Philadelphia which improves Boston’s record to a league-best 19-4.
 
STARS
 
Kyrie Irving

When it was winning time, Kyrie Irving once again came through when the Celtics needed him most. He led all scorers with 36 points, nine of which came in the fourth quarter.
 
Al Horford

The Sixers were no match for Al Horford whose contributions on Thursday night were everywhere to be seen. He finished with a near double-double of 21 points, eight rebounds in addition to dishing out five assists along with two blocked shots.
 
Dario Saric

With Joel Embiid (rest) out for tonight’s game, the Sixers leaned heavily on Saric who was last season’s runner-up for Rookie of the Year. He had a double-double for Philly, tallying a team-high 18 points to go with 10 rebounds and four assists.
 
 

STUDS
 
Ben Simmons

The 6-foot-10 “point forward” has triple-double potential every time he steps on the floor. But the Celtics did a decent job of limiting his effectiveness. He had 15 points on 6-for-14 shooting, to go with six rebounds and seven assists. He had a game-high five steals but he also had five turnovers which also led all players on Thursday.
 
Marcus Morris

Remember, if Gordon Hayward (ankle) had not suffered a season-ending injury, Morris would be coming off the bench every night for Boston. And that folks, would be a very good thing. Philadelphia had matchup problems with the 6-9 Morris most of the night, which led to him scoring 17 points on 6-for-11 shooting to go with five rebounds, three assists and a steal.
 
J.J. Redick

One of the best shooters of this generation, it was just a matter of time before shots started to fall for Redick. He scored 12 of his 17 points in the second half which included him finishing the game 4-for-6 from 3-point range while grabbing three rebounds to go with five assists.
 
Richaun Holmes

He played less than 20 minutes, but his activity around the rim was a major factor in Philadelphia holding their own with the Celtics for most of the game. He finished with nine points on 4-for-7 shooting to go with seven rebounds (three offensive).
 
 

DUDS
 
Jaylen Brown

There are going to be nights when no matter how hard you try, it’s just not going to be your night. That’s how things played out for Jaylen Brown tonight. He missed five of his six shots from the field and finished with just two points. In addition, Brown was the only Celtics player to finish the game with a negative (-9) plus/minus for the game.
 

Celtics history shows a strong second half is coming

Celtics history shows a strong second half is coming

LOS ANGELES – Dropping three in a row and four of five right before the All-Star break, it’s clear the Celtics did not hit the break playing their best basketball.

But they’re not hitting the panic button either, and for good reason.

As disappointing as they may have been leading up to the All-Star break, the Celtics (40-19) still have the second-best record in the East, which is exactly where they were a year ago this time heading out of the break.

And if recent history is any indicator of the future, you can count on the Celtics putting together a surge after the break that, at worst, will keep them close to where they are in the standings.

Now in his fifth season as the Celtics’ coach, Brad Stevens has won at least 16 regular-season games after the break each of the past three seasons.

And that success helped propel Boston to a playoff berth each season and the Celtics’ postseason seeding improving from one year to the next.

After having had the best record in the East for most of this season, the Celtics are once again counting on a strong finish.

It’s one thing for the Celtics to tout their confidence in getting back on track.

But that belief is shared by others as well.

“They're a very good team,” said Golden State’s Draymond Green. “They're young, this is their first year together. Obviously, Kyrie [Irving] is one of the few guys, if not the only guy, with championship experience. So, it takes a little experience to kind of figure things out.”

Boston is banking on Green’s theory panning out, a theory that will be put to the test considering the Celtics made no moves at the trade deadline other than to sign center Greg Monroe after he agreed to a buyout with the Phoenix Suns.

The talk of the league the past couple of weeks has been Cleveland. The Cavs (34-22, third in the East) engineered three trades that radically changed their roster and the likely trajectory of their season.

“It's been a small sample size so far. But just getting some new energy into the locker room and seeing how those guys play out there has been great,” said Cavs forward Kevin Love. “George Hill has stepped into the starting lineup right away; been super solid for us. Rodney Hood gives us a lefty with a lot of game. Kind of has a quiet confidence about him. Larry Nance is a double-double threat every night. He's a guy with a number of teams playing smaller basketball or position-less basketball in the league. He's a guy that can switch on to multiple positions.

Love added: “Jordan Clarkson is a selfless player and kind of has that swagger about him where he doesn't care if he starts, comes off the bench. He can go out there and give you 20 points and help our bench. I believe in our first two games with those guys, we scored over 50 off the bench in both games against two very good teams. So it's going to be interesting to see what happens because we feel like if we get a couple months under our belt playing together. We could be tough.”

The same is true of the Toronto Raptors, who came into the break with the best record in the Eastern Conference, a first for that franchise.

As well as the Raptors (41-16) have played, their coach, Dwane Casey, hesitates to do too much patting on the back right now.

When asked if his team was the best in the East, he replied, “I don't know. The record says we are, but for me to sit here and say we are the best team...we have confidence, but I'm not going to sit here and say we are the best team. Right now, we're number one. The numbers say that.”

The numbers also indicate that the Washington Wizards are another team that’s on the rise these days. They've won seven of their past nine leading up to the break to re-enter the conversation as one of the East’s top teams.

“It’s crazy. It’s wide open,” said Washington’s Bradley Beal. “We’re all right there, neck-and-neck. Everybody is going to continue to get better. Everyone has 24, 25 games left. They’re going to fly by. It’s definitely going to come down to the playoffs. Anybody can take it.”

And the Celtics will remain among the leaders of that pack, even as they come out of the break struggling to win games.

Green believes more than anything, the Celtics are still figuring out how to handle being a team that’s targeted every night as one of the biggest games on the opposing team’s schedule.

“I think they went from going into the season with Kyrie and Gordon [Hayward] and Al [Horford] kind of expecting to be really good,” Green said. “With young guys like Jaylen [Brown], Jayson Tatum, expected to be really good. Then Gordon went down and then there were no expectations for them. And they completely outplayed that.

Green added, “So, then it's a different thing. Now, all of a sudden everyone is gunning for you and that takes some adjusting to. So, I think they're just adjusting to it, but they'll be fine. Everyone hits that rough patch in the season. I think it's just that's what they're going through right now.”

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ESPN player poll: Celtics give best free agency pitch

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ESPN player poll: Celtics give best free agency pitch

The Boston Celtics have massively changed their reputation around the NBA.

Once known as a team which can't land marquee free agents, the Celtics have landed Al Horford and Gordon Hayward in consecutive seasons. That seems to support an ESPN poll, which ranks the Celtics as the top recruiting team in the NBA.

Here's what ESPN.com wrote on the poll where they quizzed 48 anonymous players.

Which team have you heard makes the best free-agent pitches?

Celtics: 27 percent
Heat: 15 percent
Lakers: 12 percent
Warriors: 9 percent
Other: 37 percent
Others gaining votes: Clippers, Grizzlies, Hornets, Knicks, Mavericks, Pacers, Rockets, Spurs, Wizards

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The Celtics prepared a thorough pitch for Kevin Duran before he joined the Golden State Warriors during the 2016 offseason. The pitch included an appearance from Tom Brady. While Durant didn't pick Boston, he praised the team.

"I met with them and they were really good, and I was really impressed by it," Durant said in Nov. 2016, via ESPN.

He wasn't the only one who appreciated the Celtics' pitches.

"Boston [has the best]. If you bring Tom Brady? That's pretty damn cool," an Eastern Conference guard told ESPN.

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