Celtics

Will Celtics get clipped at the line again in LA?

Will Celtics get clipped at the line again in LA?

LOS ANGELES – The carefully chosen words spoken by Brad Stevens on most nights provide insight into what he’s seeing on the floor.

That was certainly the case following the Celtics' 108-107 loss to the Lakers on Tuesday night when he was asked about the huge free-throw disparity between the teams.

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The Lakers went to the line 36 times compared to Boston’s 10 free-throw attempts, which is fertile fodder for a Tommy Heinsohn-esque rant about officiating. Particularly after the Celtics' losing streak reached a season-high four in a row.

Stevens wasn’t going to go there.  

“You know how that goes,” Stevens said. “I’m not going to say anything about that. We need to get to the line better by our own doing. We need to do a better job of finishing at the rim and we need to do a better job of drawing contact there.”

Shooting a low number of free throws has become the new normal for the Celtics this season.

Boston averages 20.3 free throws per game, which ranks 20th in the NBA.

However, the Celtics have made less than 20 free throws in a franchise-record 30 consecutive games. The last time Boston made 20 or more in a game was against the Dallas Mavericks on Nov. 20, which was an overtime win for Boston. Only three NBA teams in the past 50 years have had longer free throw droughts of less than 20 made than the current Celtics.

Making matters worse, Boston takes on a Los Angeles Clippers team tonight that’s playing some of its best basketball of the season in large part because of their ability to get to the free-throw line a lot.

In fact, the Clippers average 25.3 free-throw attempts per game, which ranks second in the NBA only to Dwight Howard and the Charlotte Hornets and their 27.3 attempts per game.

But the good news for the Celtics - potentially - is that the Clippers’ opponents typically spend a good deal of time at the free-throw line as well.

They allow 24.0 free throw attempts per game, which ranks 25th in the league.

Prior to the game, Stevens talked about the need for the Celtics to do a better job of breaking the defense down and attack closeouts, rather than attack defenders before the closeout comes.

But after yet another sub-par game at getting to the free throw line, Stevens will go back to the drawing board to see what can be done scheme-wise, to better position Boston to get more free throw attempts.

“I have to go back and watch and determine if there’s something different we can do,” Stevens said after the loss. Obviously, it was a huge key to the game, just shooting 10 [free throws]. We need to...it’s a part of our offense we need to improve.”

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Celtics notebook: C's and Warriors fall out of top spots

Celtics notebook: C's and Warriors fall out of top spots

LOS ANGELES – For most of this season, the Boston Celtics and the Golden State Warriors stood atop teir respective conferences record-wise. 

And yet here we are at the All-Star break with neither the Celtics or Warriors able to boast having the best record in the East and West, respectively. 

The Toronto Raptors (41-16) have a two-game lead over Boston in the East while the Rockets (44-13) have won 10 straight and now have a half-game lead over the Warriors.

Although Toronto has been among the top teams in the East most of this season, there has been little talk about them being on the short list of title contenders. 

“At the end of the day, people have their own opinions,” said Raptors All-Star guard Kyle Lowry. “We've got to go out there and do our job. At the end of the day, we're going to go out there, play basketball and not worry about anybody else.”

A big factor in their success has been winning at home. They enter the break with a league-best 24-4 record at home. 

So the importance of the top spot in the East and the home court advantage that comes with it, is critical to their postseason fate.

As for Houston, the Rockets have also put a high premium on finishing with the best overall record in the West. 

“It's important,” said Rockets All-Star James Harden. “That's why we're going to take it one game at a time and try to be the best we can be.”

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GSW'S GREEN ON THE CELTICS: ‘THEY’LL BE FINE’

While the Celtics naysayers are lining up now that the team has lost four of their last five games and are no longer tops in the East record-wise, there’s at least one prominent player in the NBA – Golden State’s Draymond Green – who still has a great amount of confidence in the Celtics.

I mean, they're a very good team,” he said. “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.”

He points out how the level of expectations changed after Gordon Hayward’s ankle injury in the opener, and how they exceeded those modified expectations most of this season. 

“Now all of a sudden everyone is gunning for you, and that takes some adjusting to,” Green said. “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.”

DONOVAN MITCHELL TURNING HEADS

Even before he wowed fans by winning the Verizon Slam Dunk competition, Utah’s Donovan Mitchell was the talk of All-Star weekend.

I think a lot of people are talking about him because you didn't expect that to happen,” said Washington’s John Wall. “Nobody expected Gordon Hayward to leave (for Boston), and then he (Mitchell) went into a situation to lead right away, and he's been showing it every game.”

Portland’s Damian Lillard admits he’s a fan of Mitchell’s game. 

“I think obviously every draft pick that comes into the league has talent, a lot of confidence, usually,” Lillard said. “But it's different when they're able to perform, not only from starting in the league, but to be able to do it consistently all the way up to this break we've had. We've played at least 60 games, and he's still going strong and getting better. Not just individually, but their team has won 10 or 11 games straight. So I think that says a lot about the type of player he is.”

Houston’s James Harden added, “He's in attack mode all times. He doesn't shy away from anything. Once you have that mindset as a young rookie, that will ride you out for your whole career. He doesn't shy away. Big game, steps up, makes big shot, and he leads the team.”

QUIRKY QUESTIONS

An All-Star weekend wouldn’t be complete without a few “where did that come from” questions. 

Here’s a small sampling. 

With the winter Olympics in full swing now, Golden State’s Klay Thompson was asked who would he put together on a bobsled team.

“Oh, probably, you need speed, so I would put John Wall, Russell Westbrook, and those are just purely fast, and Giannis Antetokounmpo,” Thompson said. “That's a good team right there.”

LeBron James said he plans to do a remake of the movie, “House Party.” Toronto’s Kyle Lowry was asked if he could remake or star in a ‘90s sitcom or movie, what would he do?

"Fresh Prince of Bel-Air," Lowry said. 

And the character he would play?

For sure, Geoffrey (the butler). He was the funniest guy to me.”

DOMINICAN REPUBLIC WELL REPRESENTED BY HORFORD, TOWNS

Al Horford is used to being the Domincan Republic’s lone all-star this weekend. But now Horford has company with Minnesota’s Karl-Anthony Towns being named to his first all-star team.

It's huge. For the Dominican Republic, we have two All-Stars,” Towns said. “I don't think many people, when they look at the Dominican Republic, they think about basketball talent. They're always thinking about baseball and Albert Pujols and Robinson Cano, whatever the case may be. They never think about the basketball side. The Dominican Republic has been doing an amazing job bringing up its talent and giving them the right resources so they may have a chance to be in the NBA.

Towns added, “I'm just very fortunate that me and Al could be that kind of inspiration for these kids to understand that. No matter what the circumstances, especially in the Dominican Republic, are for them, they can achieve their dreams if they just put their mind, soul and their will into every single day.”

WALL OK WITH WIZARDS PLAY IN HIS ABSENCE

Since undergoing left knee surgery, the Wizards have won seven of nine games in his absence. One of the two losses was an overtime thriller to the Boston Celtics. 

“Oh, they've been playing great,” Wall said. “Everybody expects me to be mad or upset. That's what you're supposed to do when somebody goes down. The next man is supposed to step up. So I'm happy for them. Tomas (Satoransky) has been great for us. Everybody's been playing well. Brad (Beal) has been leading the team. It makes my job easy so I don't feel like I have pressure to come back. The way these guys are playing like they are, it makes my job easier.”

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Irving and James look forward to being All-Star game teammates

Irving and James look forward to being All-Star game teammates

LOS ANGELES – When Kyrie Irving arrived in Boston, the questions surrounding him and his relationship with LeBron James kept coming. 

Irving no longer wanted to play with arguably the best player on the planet, for a Cleveland team that would be heavily favored to make it to the NBA Finals for what would have been a fourth-straight year. 

And just like Irving kept his words to a minimum back then when talking about him and James, he’s no different now that they are once again teammates, for one night at least. 

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The new All-Star format involved LeBron James and Stephen Curry, the top vote-getters in the Eastern and Western Conferences, respectively, picking their teams from the remaining 22 All-Stars. 

Irving was chosen by James which did not come as a surprise to Irving. 

“I kind of had a feeling which team I was going to be on,” Irving said. “I don’t think Steph would have chosen me with the first pick in the draft. He would have probably chosen bigger size to go with his team. But either way, I was cool with it.” 

And playing with James?

“It’ll be awesome man; it’s great,” Irving said.

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When James was named an All-Star captain, he said he immediately had a plan for Irving. 

“If he was available, I was taking him,” James said.

And while both players understand much has been made of their parting of ways, James continues to squash any talk of there being any lingering beef between them. 

“Listen, anytime I get an opportunity to be with a fellow teammate of mine on the same court, and then you add on the fact of what we were able to accomplish in the three years … you automatically start thinking about the moments,” James said, referring to the Cavs winning it all in 2016.

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Even before the two joined forces in Cleveland, James acknowledged having thought about what it would be like someday to play with Irving.

“There was a time when I was in Miami when I thought about if there was a chance for me to be Kyrie's teammate at All-Star Weekend,” James recalled. “I thought about that. I didn't think it would be possible, and then we became teammates. We were on the same All-Star court together as teammates.

James added, “then, now, being opponents once again, but those thoughts still go into my head of how great it was to break the drought in our city, over 50-plus years, when the both of us had magical, magical Finals runs. So it's always special.”

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