Celtics

Win vs. 76ers another example of Horford's stealth impact on Celtics

Win vs. 76ers another example of Horford's stealth impact on Celtics

BOSTON – Kyrie Irving was dominant as ever with 36 points in Boston’s 108-97 win over Philadelphia. Marcus Morris provided some major scoring punch off the bench with 17 points – one short of equaling his season high with the Celtics.
 
But lost in the success of Boston’s victory was the play of Al Horford, an all-too-common occurrence when it comes to the Celtics and their veteran big man.
 
Horford was once again having one of those stat-stuffing kind of nights, finishing with 21 points on an efficient 9-for-12 shooting. He battled around the rim and finished with eight rebounds. He was once again getting his teammates involved whenever he could, finishing with five assists, which was tops among Boston’s starters. He also blocked a couple shots and had a plus/minus of +10 which led all Boston starters.

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The numbers don’t wow you, but they serve as yet another reminder of how stealth Horford’s impact can be on winning.
 
But make no mistake about it.
 
The play of Horford does not go unnoticed, especially by opponents.
 
Following the Sixers loss, Philadelphia’s J.J. Redick was asked about the 1-2 punch of Irving and Horford.
 
“Kyrie is obviously amazing, but Horford probably doesn’t get enough credit for how good he is offensively,” said Redick who had 17 points which included shooting 4-for-6 from 3-point range. “One of the reasons is because of the way he pops and sort of the problems that presents; whether that’s shooting threes, or attacking close outs, or catching and running into another pick and roll.”
 
The Sixers know all about Horford’s versatility.
 
When the two met earlier this season, Horford wound up defending Joel Embiid at various points in the game, and would later switch out and guard Ben Simmons who is the front-runner for the league’s Rookie of the Year award. He also managed a near double-double with 17 points and nine rebounds.
 
Earlier tonight, Horford and the Celtics caught a break with Embiid (rest) not with the team.
 
But that still didn’t stop Horford from having to defend multiple players with varying levels of athleticism, quickness and size.
 
And Horford’s ability to do so effectively has been among the reasons why the Boston Celtics have been one of the best teams in the NBA this season.
 
“We were playing the Boston Celtics, the best team in basketball and I give them credit on doing some good things defensively,” said Sixers head coach Brett Brown.
 
And that defense, much like most of what the Celtics have done well this season, originates in large part by what Horford has brought to the game this season.
 
“As good as Kyrie is offensively, it’s almost like Horford is the sort of the hub of everything they do,” Redick said. “And because he’s so versatile, it creates all sorts of issues.”

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Celtics bench needs to keep improving

celtics_grizzlies_takeaways_121717.jpg

Celtics bench needs to keep improving

When you look at the Boston Celtics’ bench, you’re not going to find many (any?) players who are consistent shot-makers.

But defensively, in this small-ball era we live in, the potential for Boston’s second unit to put the clamps on teams defensively is apparent.

We saw that in Boston’s 102-93 win over Memphis in the fourth quarter when the Celtics opened with a 16-0 run that put them ahead for good.

During the run, the Celtics forced four turnovers along with creating seven straight misses by the Grizzlies to start the quarter.

“Shane (Larkin) and Terry (Rozier) did a great job on the ball,” said Celtics head coach Brad Stevens. “We had to change some coverages because of (Marc) Gasol. And then just kind of stayed with it.”

The Grizzlies wound up shooting 33.3 percent (6-for-18) in the fourth quarter which was heavily impacted by Boston's fourth quarter defensive rating being an impressive 90.1.

And while the play of starters Jayson Tatum (19 points, seven in the fourth quarter), Kyrie Irving (team-high 20 points) and Al Horford (15 points, seven rebounds, six assists) was key to the victory, the second unit’s play defensively to start the fourth was ultimately what paved the way for Boston to improve its East-leading record to 25-7.

In a interview with NBC Sports Boston prior to Saturday’s game, Rozier discussed the need for the bench to step up in every aspect of the game.

“When the starters are doing good, we have to keep it going and when they struggle a little bit, we have change the game up, get the momentum back on our side,” said Rozier who in addition to playing good defense on Saturday, also had 10 points and four rebounds.

Here are five takeaways from Boston’s 102-93 win at Memphis on Saturday.

FAST START

This was one of the more dominant starts to a game we’ve seen from the Celtics all season. They had 31 points in the first quarter, which was one of the higher scoring starts for them this season. But more telling was that they allowed just 12 points, the fewest given up by the Celtics in the first quarter of play this season.

TERRY ROZIER/MARCUS SMART TANDEM

 When it comes to the Boston’s bench being effective, Rozier and Smart are often the barometers for that success. They had their ups and downs against Memphis, but really locked in at both ends of the floor in the second half. And maybe most significant, they provided some much-needed bench scoring as they combined for 21 of Boston’s 26 points off the bench.

JAYSON TATUM

Like the Boston Celtics, back-to-back bad games doesn’t seem to be part of his DNA. Against the Grizzlies, he had 19 points – seven of which in the fourth quarter – which was a major improvement upon the seven points he scored against Utah on Friday while missing five of his six shot attempts.

MARC GASOL

This has been a horrible, injury-riddled season for the Memphis Grizzlies. And while Marc Gasol doesn’t dominate games as consistently as he did a couple years ago, he’s still an extremely talented big man who would plenty of potential suitors if the Grizzlies ever felt inclined to put him on the trading block which is not the case currently. The Celtics had major problems limiting him on Saturday before Gasol finished with a double-double of 30 points and 10 rebounds.

CELTICS DOMINATE THE WEST

Beating the Grizzlies in itself isn’t all that impressive. But it continues what has been a season-long trend for the Celtics in being able to beat on teams from the Western Conference. This season, Boston has a 10-2 record against the West. And Boston’s .833 winning percentage against Western Conference foes is tops among Eastern Conference teams.

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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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