Stevens believes Ojeleye has chance to be one of 'better defenders around'

Stevens believes Ojeleye has chance to be one of 'better defenders around'

BOSTON – Kyrie Irving was having yet another big night scoring the ball. Al Horford was in double-double mode again. Jaylen Brown had rediscovered his shooting touch. Ditto for Terry Rozier, at least at the start of the fourth quarter.

And yet when you talked with Celtics players following Boston’s 108-94 win over San Antonio on Monday night, one of the first names to come up was Semi Ojeleye.

Yes, the second-round pick from SMU selected by the Celtics in last June’s NBA draft has been delivering some first-rate defense in limited doses.


The 6-foot-7 forward first caught the attention of Celtics fans when his man-to-man defense against Milwaukee’s Giannis Antetokounmpo was on display and proved to be critical to Boston’s road win over the Bucks last week.

And on Monday, Ojeleye was at it again defensively, holding his own against another elite scorer, Rudy Gay.

“I think Semi has a chance to be one of the better defenders around,” said Celtics head coach Brad Stevens.

Ojeleye was flattered when told about Stevens’ comments about his defense.

“Those are big shoes to fill,” he said. “With the defenders we have on this team, like (Marcus) Smart already. You want to be like those guys; just try to follow their lead.”

What makes Ojeleye such an unusual talent defensively is his combination of strength, leaping ability and lateral quickness – the kind of defensive trifecta that will continue leading to opportunities to play even in limited minutes.

For Ojeleye, his play defensively has been impressive. But the process to be an impact defender, begins well before Stevens calls his number to enter games.

“I just try to watch film,” Ojeleye said. “Try to prepare. These are great guys. I’m not going to stop every play. You do what you can.”

And that is why he has become a player that Stevens has not shown any hesitation in turning to when he needs a defender who can hold his own in man-to-man coverage, but is agile enough to not get burned in case he has to switch out on another player.

You can count Al Horford among the Celtics players who are big fans of Ojeleye’s defense.

“He really moves his feet really well,” Horford said. “He has a good sense defensively.”

And if Ojeleye's perimeter-shooting game comes along, who knows where that defensive talent combined with a more reliable jumper will take him.

He has struggled with his shot most of this season (he came into Monday's game shooting 14.3 percent from the field, 16.7 percent from 3-point range), but came up with some big shots in the second half and finished with seven points and four rebounds on 2-for-5 shooting.

“It was great to see it go through,” Ojeleye said of his long 3-point make out of four attempts. “I’m thankful. I praise God for that, to be honest.”

Knowing how much his defense has meant to the Celtics already, his teammates were naturally ecstatic for him when he finally got a shot to go down on Monday.

“I feel like that (3-pointer) kind of officially opened the game up,” Horford said.


Celtics are calm, focused, and ready for Game 4

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Celtics are calm, focused, and ready for Game 4

MILWAUKEE – Inside the Boston Celtics locker room, there was an unmistakable calm among the players moments removed from a 116-92 thumping at the hands of the Milwaukee Bucks.

Players talked among themselves about what went wrong, about what they will do different in Game 4 on Sunday but more than anything else, they owned the loss.

There was no finger-pointing or second-guessing the head coaches’ player rotations or not-so-stealth putdowns of an opposing player who had been playing well – all things done by the Bucks thus far in this series.


The post-game highlights were still in heavy rotation, but the Celtics had already moved on mentally to Sunday’s Game 4 matchup.

“They did what they had to do. It is what it is,” Marcus Morris told NBC Sports Boston. “Can’t dwell on it. We’ll see them on Sunday.”

As much as Boston has been a team that’s built upon a “Next Man Up” framework, an “on-to-the-next-game” mindset is also deeply woven into this team’s DNA.

That’s why win or lose, the Celtics don’t spend much time thinking or talking about what just happened.

And it is games like the one we saw on Friday where that approach is absolutely critical to them continuing along a successful path and not let rough nights such as Friday’s beatdown, derail them.

More than anything else, the Celtics have extracted elements beyond the X’s and O’s of Friday’s loss as their takeaways in helping improve their overall play for Sunday.

It’s easy to forget that Friday’s game was the first time this team had played a postseason road game together which any NBA veteran will tell you, is different than what you experience during the regular season.

Boston’s Al Horford believes having gone through that with this group for the first time on Friday, will benefit the Celtics in Game 4.

“We learned what the level of intensity is when you’re playing in the playoffs on the road,” Horford said. “At home, you feel good. You’re comfortable and confident. Even though we’ve been playing on the road all year, it’s different in the playoffs.

Horford added, “it’s a good learning experience for our group.”

And while there are sure to be adjustments made on Boston’s part, don’t expected them to stray too far away from who they have been all season.

“We’re super excited about Sunday,” said Boston’s Jaylen Brown. “(Friday), we dropped the ball. We feel like we could have played a lot better. We can’t wait for Sunday, and we’ll keep doing what we’ve been doing all year.”


Morris fined $15,000 for criticism of officiating

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Morris fined $15,000 for criticism of officiating

MILWAUKEE – Marcus Morris has been fined $15,000 for “public criticism” of officiating relating to Boston’s 116-92 loss to Milwaukee on Friday night.

Following the loss, Morris was asked about the technical foul he received after some brief words with Bucks forward/center Thon Maker.

Morris was the only player whistled for a technical foul for either team.


"I can't even speak on it, man," Morris told reporters when asked about the technical foul. "It's been the same (bleep) all year. I'm expecting it. They knew what they wanted before the game started. They knew who they wanted to go after.”

Morris was ejected in a Celtics win over Toronto on March 31, and afterwards tapped the official on his backside as he left the court.

Since then, Morris has sensed officials were giving him the cold shoulder and to a lesser degree, not giving him the same benefit of the doubt or leeway as other players.

After the ejection, Morris took to Twitter to apologize for making contact with an official.

“Sorry @NBA for smacking the ref ass after getting ejected. I see other refs took offense to it. My apologies

— Marcus Morris (@MookMorris2)”