Celtics

Strong fourth quarter propels Celtics to 97-90 win over Mavericks

Strong fourth quarter propels Celtics to 97-90 win over Mavericks

BOSTON – The Boston Celtics once again saved their best for last, putting together a strong fourth quarter which once again proved to be just enough to propel them to a 97-90 victory over Dallas that was yet another reminder of just how clutch this team can be when challenged. 

Kyrie Irving had a game-high 23 points on 10-for-18 shooting. Al Horford continued his nightly flirtation with a triple-double, tallying 17 points along with eight rebounds and eight assists. Jayson Tatum (17 points) along with Terry Rozier (12 points) and Shane Larkin (11 points) off the bench also finished in double figures for the Celtics.

The Mavericks (7-18) were led by Harrison Barnes’ 19 points with Dirk Nowitzki chipping in with 16 points and six rebounds.

Dallas came in having won four of its last six games, so the Mavericks’ confidence was high. Making the game even more difficult for the Celtics was that they were playing without Jaylen Brown (eye) and Marcus Morris (left knee rehabilitation).

Despite being without a starter (Brown) and a key rotation player (Morris), Boston still managed to get a tough, hard-earned victory prior to hitting the road for a three-game road trip that begins on Friday against San Antonio.

After lackluster starts to the first three quarters, Boston opened the fourth quarter with a 10-0 blitz to take an 80-73 lead before a Dallas time-out was called.

The Mavericks came out of the time-out with a focus on getting the ball to Nowitzki as often as possible.

It was a good strategy for the Mavericks who scored eight of the next nine points of the game to tie the score at 81 which is when Boston called a time-out with 7:23 to play.

Boston would regain the lead, but they just couldn’t shake this Mavericks team that once again, was giving them all they could handle.

When the two met earlier this season, the Mavericks had the Celtics on the brink of defeat only for Boston to rally in the fourth, force overtime and eventually prevail 110-102.

Boston didn’t dig itself as deep a hole in the fourth on Wednesday as they did when the two met last month, which made pulling away in the final minutes of play a smoother path towards victory.

Getting it done in the closing moments once again was Kyrie Irving, whose 3-point play that made it an 92-85 game brought about the all-too-familiar “M-V-P” chants from the Celtics faithful in attendance.

He wasn’t done.

After being nearly stripped in the paint, he tossed up a bank shot off the glass to make it a 95-87 game.

Moments later, he came up with a steal and got the outlet pass up court to Terry Rozier whose dunk put the Celtics ahead 97-87, their first double-digit lead of the night.

And from there, the Celtics (22-4) were able to manage the game clock and come away with their fourth straight win and sixth in the last seven games.

It also improved Boston’s record against Western Conference teams to a perfect 8-0 on the season.

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Increased usage of starters helps fuel Celtics victory over Grizzlies

Increased usage of starters helps fuel Celtics victory over Grizzlies

The Boston Celtics got the win over Memphis, with the team’s second unit chipping in for the victory.

But they still have too many offensive lulls, something head coach Brad Stevens recognizes and to his credit, is continuing to search for ways to address appropriately.

We’ve seen him utilize a starter playing with the backups.

But in Saturday’s 102-93 win at Memphis, Stevens elected to play a pair of starters with the second unit for longer stretches which on this night at least, helped them get the victory to extend their East-leading record to 25-7.

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In fact, Boston had at least two starters on the floor in the fourth quarter for all but the final 28.4 seconds of play.

“It’s one of those things, it’s probably going to go back and forth,” Stevens said. “Based on who’s available.”

A key missing part of the Celtics’ bench rotation is Marcus Morris who continues with rehab on his sore left knee.

Morris, who did not make the trip with the team, is out indefinitely although the Celtics maintain that he’s close to resuming action.

Stevens was asked about his use of Jayson Tatum and Al Horford together, with a trio of reserves.

“If Marcus Morris is here, maybe you don’t play either of them with that group,” Stevens said.

Morris has appeared in 16 games (nine starts) for the Celtics this season, averaging 12.1 points, 5.5 rebounds and 1.6 assists per game.

Indeed, bench production has been an issue for the Boston Celtics all season.

According to hoopsstats.com, the Celtics bench came into tonight’s game averaging 30.5 points per game which ranked 23rd in the NBA. However, Boston’s defense has limited second units to 32.6 points per game which ranks 8th in the league.

Against the Grizzlies, Boston only had three players off the bench score (Marcus Smart, Terry Rozier and Daniel Theis) who combined for 26 points.

But as limited as they were scoring the ball, Memphis was even worse with a second unit scoring total of just 15 points.

Of course, rotations are a season-long, always-evolving process that is dependent heavily on not just who is available, but how those who are available to play are performing.

The Celtics’ second unit has had their moments this season, but by and large the team’s success has been heavily fueled by the play of the starters.

Stevens has made it clear, he’ll continue to find ways for those guys to be put in the best positions to succeed individually as well as for the Celtics.

And as long as Morris remains out, you can expect Stevens will continue to find ways to fill that void with increased usage from his starters.

“As long as Marcus Morris isn’t playing,” Stevens said, “We need to be alert to that and guys are going to have to play different rotations.”

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Stars, studs and duds: Tatum is not your average rookie

Stars, studs and duds: Tatum is not your average rookie

Win or lose, strong play or a night full of struggles, Jayson Tatum’s demeanor seldom changes for the Boston Celtics.

That alone makes him a rather unique rookie.

But then you see him play and have nights like the one he had against Memphis tonight, and you realize why this 19-year-old kid is so cool, calm and collected all the time.

There’s still a lot for him to learn about this league, but his talent, skill and feel for the game is uncanny . . . which against the Grizzlies, helped Boston pull away in the fourth quarter for a 102-93 win.

Tatum had a near double-double of 19 points and nine rebounds with seven points in the fourth, but a deeper dive is required to fully appreciate what he meant to the Celtics on Saturday and what his true value is for this team this season.

“I was trying to be in attack mode, get what the defense was giving me,” Tatum said. “Just trying to bounce back from (Friday’s 107-95 loss to Utah).”

His scoring, rebounding, defense and overall impact was as good as we’ve seen from him this season, a radically different showing than Friday night’s 7-point performance which included him missing six of his seven shot attempts.

“He does a great job of having short-term memory,” said Boston’s Al Horford. “Even in games, he might start a little slow and then he’ll pick it up. That’s a strength of his that’s very rare for a rookie. A lot of times, with rookies, when things don’t go their way, you can’t count on them. With him, it’s the opposite.”

Here are the Stars, Studs and Duds from Boston’s 102-93 win at Memphis.

 

STARS

Marc Gasol

The Grizzlies gave the Celtics all they could handle, and Gasol had a lot to do with it. He led all players with 30 points on 11-for-19 shooting.

Jayson Tatum

There were others who had more points than the 19-year-old, but Tatum was clutch when the Celtics really needed someone to step up. He finished with 19 points which included seven in the fourth quarter, along with grabbing nine rebounds to go with two blocks and two steals.

 

STUDS

Kyrie Irving

Once again, the Celtics’ scoring attack was led by Kyrie Irving who had a quiet 20 points on 7-for-17 shooting to go with six assists.

Al Horford

While his ability to facilitate remains a strength, Al Horford came up with some big shots in the second half as the Grizzlies tried to rally back into the game. He finished with 15 points, seven rebounds and six assists.

Daniel Theis

Playing with a broken nose and an off-the-shelf mask to protect it (he’ll get a fitted one soon), Theis had five points, three rebounds and two blocked shots in 14 minutes while playing good defense and providing some much-needed energy.

Tyreke Evans

The former rookie of the year has made an amazing transformation into a reliable 3-point shooter. That was just part of what was a really strong game from Tyreke Evans who had 25 points.  

 

DUDS

Celtics’ second-quarter play

For the second straight game, the Celtics were at their worst in the second quarter. Fortunately for them, it didn’t cost them the game as was the case on Friday night against Utah. The Celtics were fortunate to only be out-scored 28-17 which allowed them to maintain a 48-40 lead.

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