Celtics

Celtics implode in fourth quarter, lose to Raptors, 114-106

Celtics implode in fourth quarter, lose to Raptors, 114-106

The Boston Celtics have been one of the league’s best fourth quarter teams most of this season.

So there was indeed a bit of irony to their 114-106 loss at Toronto, a game in which the Raptors closed out the night with a decisive 23-6 run.

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With the loss, Boston (23-15) is now two games behind Toronto (25-13) in the Atlantic Division standings. Even more significant is that the Celtics have now lost both of their head-to-head matchups with the Raptors, with two more to play this season.

That could come into play if these two finish with an identical regular season record, which is very possible especially when you consider half of the teams in the East that made it to the playoffs finished the regular season with a 48-34 record.

But playoff position was the last thing on the Celtics mind following Tuesday’s loss, a game in which they went into having a chance to tie the Raptors record-wise and with that, move into the No. 2 spot in the East.

Toronto All-Star DeMar DeRozan took over in the second half which is when he scored 31 of his game-high 41 points which included 19 points in the third quarter which is when the Raptors swung the game’s momentum in their favor.

Isaiah Thomas led the Celtics with 27 points, nine coming in the fourth quarter. Boston got a nice lift off the bench from Gerald Green who had 14 points and five rebounds off the bench.

It was a sluggish start for both teams offensively in the first quarter which ended with Toronto ahead 23-18.

But the second quarter was an entirely different game for the Celtics who pulled ahead by as many as 10 points.

And like most of their success, it was far from a one or two-man show, either.

Marcus Smart, filling in for Avery Bradley (Achilles injury) for the second straight game, had nine points in the quarter along with a couple rebounds and a couple steals. He would finish with 15 points, five assists and four steals.

And off the bench, Green didn’t waste any time heating up from the field with nine points while playing all but 35 seconds in the second.

Meanwhile, the Celtics were able to keep DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry from having big quarters in the first half as each scored five points in the second quarter which was equal to what they delivered scoring-wise in the first.

At the half, Boston had a solid 55-46 lead that they increased to as many as 16 in the third quarter before the Raptors began to make their all-too-predictable surge.

Toronto’s shooters began to heat up, but didn’t cut into Boston’s lead until the latter stages of the third quarter.

Boston’s double-digit lead was down to just 80-76 with 1:06 to play as Toronto went on an 8-0 run.

Celtics coach Brad Stevens brought Thomas back into the game earlier than usual.

And Thomas didn’t waste much time, getting to the free throw line within seconds of returning to the floor as the Celtics went into the fourth quarter ahead 84-80.

But Thomas' usual fourth quarter heroics just weren't enough to withstand a strong finish by the Raptors who remain the best team in the East besides Cleveland.

Celtics might not have a choice in getting Robert Williams III more minutes

Celtics might not have a choice in getting Robert Williams III more minutes

BOSTON -- It was something most Boston Celtics fans didn’t expect to see this time of year -- rookie Robert Williams III mobbed by media after a game in which he played a career-high 26 minutes and contributed to a Boston win.


But his play in Boston’s win over New Orleans warranted some post-game love, the kind that may become more of a regular occurrence going forward. 


One of the main reasons Williams saw so much playing time was because Al Horford did not play due to what head coach Brad Stevens described as patellar tendinitis. 


It is a condition where often the best treatment for it is rest, which means there’s a pretty good chance that Horford will miss a few more games this season to deal with the ailment. 


And that could mean more nights like Monday when the Time Lord graced us with his presence and play that included not one, but two rejections of shots from perennial All-Star big man (and target of Celtics Nation) Anthony Davis. 


More time for the Time Lord is seemingly on every Celtics fan’s wish list this holiday season.


But the Celtics have been overly cautious in their approach to bringing along Williams, the 27th pick in last June’s NBA draft who weeks prior to that was seen as a lottery (top-14) pick by many experts. 


He too has had some tendinitis issues that he and the Celtics staff have been managing since he arrived.


Boston will take a similar approach with Horford going forward.

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“He’s (Horford) been dealing with (patellar tendinitis) for a while,” said Celtics head coach Brad Stevens. “So, we’re going to see how this goes. He’s day-to-day now, but we may go slowly with him.”


Which may result in a speeding up the Time Lord’s workload beyond practice and playing in the Development League with the Maine Red Claws. 


Whatever Williams is called upon to do, there’s a different kind of confidence he has in himself in part because of his own personal growth since becoming a Boston Celtic. 


Being late for a conference call, missing his first practice, losing his wallet on more than one occasion … Williams did not get off to the best of starts after being drafted by Boston. 


If there was a turning point for him, it would have to be the conversation he had with Brad Stevens shortly after he missed his first practice. 


Williams said the meeting lasted about a half hour, with Stevens making his feelings on the matter crystal clear to Williams. 


“It’s a job; this ain’t college,’” Williams, in an interview with NBC Sports Boston earlier, recalled being the gist of Stevens’ message. “It ain’t time for them (expletive) ups; that was basically what he was saying. I understood him. I heard him loud and clear.”


Stevens declined to go into details about that conversation with Williams, but made it clear that he has been pleased with his overall effort and approach to things since they got past those early season gaffes on Williams' part. 


“He’s done a really good job of just working, doing all the little things you need to be a professional in this league. I like where he’s at and where he’s going as a player, as a person.”

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And depending on how injuries play out, he may be going straight up the Celtics depth chart to the point where steady minutes become the norm and not the exception. 


Playing time is something Williams knows he has no control over. 


It’s what he does when called upon, that serves as a driving force for him now. 


Williams knows the way he began his career as a Celtic brought about a lot of uncertainty as to how reliable a teammate he can be. 


But Williams has made a point of doing all he can to not just gain but solidify the trust of his teammates as well as his head coach. 


“I looked at it as another blessing,” Williams said. “Any coach could have easily be done with me already. But Brad gave me another chance. I’m trying to stay on track, do everything I can to help the team.”
 

Having the support of his teammates has also been one of the many blessings Williams is proud of since becoming a Celtic. 


“It motivates me to want to do everything the correct way now,” Williams said. “It’s another blessing. I don’t want him (Stevens) or my teammates to feel they can’t trust me. I keep that in the back of my mind; don’t give him or them any negativity about me.”

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Warriors' Kevin Durant enjoys watching film of "best friend" Kyrie Irving

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Warriors' Kevin Durant enjoys watching film of "best friend" Kyrie Irving

Golden State Warriors forward Kevin Durant is a student of basketball.

When he's not playing basketball and winning championships, he's probably watching basketball, either a live game or film on some of his favorite players. 

In a recent interview with The Athletic's Shams Charania, Durant revealed three players who've really impressed him while watching film, and one of them is Boston Celtics point guard Kyrie Irving.

“Kobe (Bryant), MJ (Michael Jordan) and Kyrie,” Durant said. “Just the way they move, I don’t understand why people don’t realize what they’re seeing in these three, especially Jordan and Kobe. Kyrie is younger than me, and that’s one of my best friends, so I watch his stuff. I get to play with Steph every day so I know his game inside and out. But watching Kobe and Mike, I’m like, ‘How do you not realize how good these dudes are?’ How do you not say they’re by far better than anybody who’s played the game? Just by the way they move, how fluid they are."

Later in the interview, Durant added: “I can’t do what MJ does. I can’t palm the ball. I wish. I can’t shoot the turnaround, pump-fake spin, half-spin fadeaway like Kobe. Or crossover like Kyrie. I can’t do it. But I can try it. I can do it in my version, do it in my way. It keeps me creative and my excitement level for the game.”

In fairness to KD, there are many players who cannot do what he does, especially at 7-feet tall. He's one of the most unique and most talented players in NBA history. 

It's interesting, though, that Durant considers Irving one of his "best friends." Of course, Durant can become an unrestricted free agent next summer, with rumors and speculation linking him to the Los Angeles Lakers, Los Angeles Clippers, New York Knicks and other teams.

He met with the Celtics in free agency in 2016 before ultimately signing with the Warriors. Would he consider the C's again if he decides to leave the Warriors? If he would, the Celtics should have one of his "best friends" try to convince him to take his talents to Boston.

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