Celtics

Trap defense 'paying dividends' for Celtics

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Trap defense 'paying dividends' for Celtics

BOSTON The numbers don't lie -- at least not this time.
The Boston Celtics' trapping defense, much like their entire squad, has been a work in progress with various ups and downs along the way.
But it wasn't until Wednesday night's 117-115 double overtime win over Dallas did the use of the team's trap defense pay off in a big way.
And the timing of its success could not be any better as the Celtics gear up for a Texas two-step of Houston and San Antonio, who are led by talented guards James Harden and Tony Parker, respectively.
Having to deal with Mavericks guard O.J. Mayo on Wednesday served as a good tune-up for what's on tap the next couple of games for Boston's defense which will surely look to trap and double team both of those players at various points in the game.
"We just had to keep him (Mayo) in a box," Celtics coach Doc Rivers said after the win. "He's good. I mean, he's really good. He's strong as an ox, and he makes difficult shots."
That same description can apply to Harden, who has emerged as one of the NBA's top scorers since he was traded from Oklahoma City to Houston.
The reigning Sixth Man of the Year award winner is averaging 25 points per game which ranks fifth in the NBA. Parker and his 19 points per game isn't too far behind at No. 12.
Both will have the ball in their hands a lot, similar to Mayo, who had 24 points against Boston, but also turned the ball over nine times.
"I've been talking about it a lot over the past seven games," said Rivers, referring to the C's trapping defense. "It's been paying dividends for us. It's been terrific."
It certainly was against the Mavericks, a team that averages 15.6 turnovers per game this season. They turned it over 28 times against Boston and that led to 34 points.
Yes, it's the holiday season when everyone seems to show a little more generosity than normal.
But Mayo would have much rather seen himself and his teammates be more Scrooge-like when it came to all those turnovers.
"We had 28 turnovers so that says a lot right there," Mayo said. "I take the most fault for it because I had nine."
The key to Boston's trap being successful hinges heavily on the play of the Celtics big men, who are asked to come out and trap, and then hustle back to get in position to rebound or match back up with the man they were previously guarding.
It makes for a pretty exhausting night.
"You telling me," said C's big man Kevin Garnett. "You telling me. It's nothing easy about being a big here. It's hard work; that's what it is."
It also creates some switches at times that involve Celtics big men matched up briefly with quicker, more athletic guards.
Although Brandon Bass is the C's starting power forward, he doesn't shy away from switches like some he had on Wednesday that paired him with Mavericks ultra-quick guard Darren Collison.
And to Bass' credit, he more than held his own in just about every instance.
"I was always able to switch out on guards," Bass said. "Growing up, my workout partner was a point guard. We used to play one-on-one, so I was always comfortable guarding guards here and there -- not the whole game -- but here and there. I'm able to."
And with the bigs showing an ability to hold their own on traps and still get back in position defensively, it takes some of the pressure off of Boston's guards in terms of dribble penetration.
"It's tough, but we're doing what we gotta do to get the win," Bass said.
And their work is not lost on the play of C's point guard Rajon Rondo, who is the team's first point of attack defensively while Garnett serves as the anchor.
"We're asking a lot of our bigs," Rondo said. "That's what we need."

All signs point to LeBron James playing against Celtics Tuesday

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All signs point to LeBron James playing against Celtics Tuesday

INDEPENDENCE, Ohio -- A sprained left ankle injury kept LeBron James out of all but one of the Cleveland Cavaliers’ preseason games, and has created a certain element of uncertainty as to whether he’ll play against the Boston Celtics on Tuesday night. 
 
While it has yet to be determined for sure if he’ll play, all indications are that the 15-year veteran will be in the starting lineup as the Cavs kick off their quest to remain the team to beat in the East.

“I never hide stuff from you guys. I really don’t know,” Cavs coach Tyronn Lue said when asked if James would play against the Celtics. “Depending on how he feels, but I really don’t know.”
 
However, James looked pretty comfortable shooting the ball after practice with a trio of former Celtics in Isaiah Thomas, Jae Crowder and Jeff Green. 
 
And if you listen to the man who would likely start in James’ place -- J.R. Smith -- there’s nothing to worry about Cavs Nation. 
 
According to Smith, James will play. 
 
“We were talking about it, he’s never missed, since he was 8 years old and he started playing, he’s never missed a first game,” Smith said. “I’m preparing for him to play.”
 
Despite having played more than 41,000 minutes -- only 33 players in NBA history have done so -- James has been one of the game’s more durable players. Last season James he sat out only eight games, and that was the most he has missed in a single season.
 
 "He's gonna go [Tuesday]," Smith said. "He's gonna go, trust me [on] that. I don't care what he's gotta do, he's gonna play."
 

Celtics may spend a good part of the year playing 'Getting To Know You'

Celtics may spend a good part of the year playing 'Getting To Know You'

INDEPENDENCE, Ohio -- It’s hard to believe the Celtics are just hours away from their first regular-season game after having been together for less than a month. 
 
The quick turnaround isn't all that different than it is for the other 29 teams in the NBA.  But the Celtics, who advanced to the Eastern Conference finals last season, are returning only four players -- and just one starter -- from last year.
 
Training camp was indeed a crash course called Getting to Know My Teammates 101.
 
But listening to the players, and coach Brad Stevens, it’s clear there will be lessons learned all season long.

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“We have a good feel about how things can look, in the preseason,” said Al Horford. “But it is the preseason. Now it all starts. And right away we face a tough test (in the Cavaliers). But yeah, we’ll start learning even more. We’ve already learned a good amount, but even more when Tuesday rolls around.” 
 
That's when the Celtics kick off the regular season at Cleveland, which will once again be the favorite to advance to the NBA Finals.
 
Not too far behind (right behind them, by most accounts) are the Celts, whose season ended in the Conference finals a year ago in a five-game loss to the Cavs.
 
And the Boston players collectively feel that, despite the short amount of time together, they’ve developed a good sense of chemistry and understanding of how to play effectively with one another. 
 
Having said that, they also understand that there’s still plenty of room to grow. 
 
“I don’t expect it to be perfect by any means at all,” said Gordon Hayward. “We’ll definitely have some ups and downs this season. Like I said, one thing is we’ll be able to compete every night. We’ll be able to play together. Those things should stay the same.”
 
In many respects, the Cavaliers are going through a similar challenge this season.  They've added Derrick Rose, Isaiah Thomas and Jae Crowder -- and, when he recovers from his hip injury, Isaiah Thomas -- to a core group that’s led by LeBron James. 
 
While the increase in talent is undeniable, it’ll take some time before they too develop the kind of on-the-court cohesiveness that comes with time. 
 
“It’s gonna take time,” Rose said. “It’s going to be a process for everybody to learn their roles, learn everybody’s tendencies, and not think while they’re out there.”
 
And while there’s a heightened level of uncertainty as to how things will play out with the Celtics this season, Stevens embraces the unknown. 
 
“I think we're going to be learning about ourselves through the middle of the season,” Stevens said. “I think you do that with every team, but I think that's especially the case now. But this is, I've said this before, like, the first week, the first 10 days, the first few weeks, we have such great and unique challenges that it's gonna be really good for this team regardless."
 
Stevens added: “Because, to have to go into Cleveland with that level of intensity, with that level of attention, distraction, etc., is great. It's great to experience that in game one. A tremendous learning experience for our group. So, we're preparing to play as well as we can. And we know that they're really, really good. But this is, I'm looking forward to it because I want to find out where we are.”

Hayward added, “It’s a fun first game to start the year. Regardless of what happens, we’ll have some improving to do and things to get better at.”
  
 

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