Celtics

Horford's heroics give C's their fourth-straight win

Horford's heroics give C's their fourth-straight win

BOSTON – So often when it comes to late-game heroics, Al Horford is often the Boston Celtics' set-up man. Someone else takes the shot for the win that Horford’s screen or his pass for the game-winner, helped arrange. 

The Portland Trail Blazers prepared for this, which is why they were caught off guard when head coach Brad Stevens called Horford's number and he didn't disappoint in drilling a buzzer-beating jumper that lifted Boston to a 97-96 win.  

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Players acknowledged afterwards that the initial call was for Jaylen Brown, but head coach Brad Stevens called an audible at the last second, for the shot to be taken instead by Horford. 

“They (Blazers) read it perfectly because I wanted to hand him (Brown) the ball and they stayed tight on him,” said Horford who tallied his team-leading 13th double-double with 22 points and 10 rebounds to go with five assists. “So once that happened I was very aggressive, went to a go-to move.”

Yes, the step-back fade-away jumper that Horford has drained time and time again, swished through the net when it really mattered. 

Horford’s ability to deliver when it counted most, speaks to the depth of this Celtics team particularly when it comes to winning games despite not playing their best basketball. 

“We were hoping, or I was hoping, to get Jaylen a look,” Horford said. “They made it clear from the beginning they were taking that away, so I just made a play for the team and I’m glad the shot went down.”

So are the Celtics (39-15), winners of four in a row as they head out for a two-game road trip that begins in Toronto which is the team closest to Boston in the standings. 

“That shot epitomizes the work he’s been putting in all year,” Brown said. “Al’s been playing really well for us, making plays and defending at a really high level.”

It was fitting that the game was decided by a Horford basket. 

Because for most of the night, Horford’s ability to impact the shot-making of both Boston and Portland, was a major factor. 

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Combine that with him running more at the point, defending big men and switching out on perimeter players looking to attack off the dribble, and it all adds up to a strong performance by Horford under some less-than-ideal challenges. 

“It’s a lot to ask of him,” Brown said. “But he embraces it, steps up to the challenge and he does it with class and elegance. That’s why we love Al, because Al is Al, every day of the week.”

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Who will be the Celtics' leader on the boards this season?

Who will be the Celtics' leader on the boards this season?

BOSTON – This Celtics team is built to play position-less basketball, a style that lends itself to offensive mismatches.

But the downside lies in rebounding, which can be more difficult with players on the floor for whom board work may not be one of their strengths.

That brings us to the Celtics, who showed most of last season that they can find success on the boards even with players who may not traditionally be viewed as big-time rebounders.

So, who will be the chairman of the boards for Boston this season?

AL HORFORD
He led the team in rebounding last season at 7.4 per game and comes in as the odds-on favorite to repeat. The 32-year-old’s versatility to play both around the basket and on the perimeter will keep him on the floor a ton. And that will give him the best shot at making his presence felt on the glass, which will be one of the areas Boston has to find success to have the kind of season they believe they're capable of delivering. He had 14 double-doubles in points and rebounds last season and came within one rebound of a double-double on 10 other occasions.

DANIEL THEIS


This is my pick to lead in rebounding, if it’s not Horford. Minutes more than anything else are what I believe would keep Theis from leading this team in rebounds. As a rookie last season, he led the team in rebounding percentage (.160) while grabbing 4.3 rebounds in 14.9 minutes per game. The 26-year-old started to show signs of becoming a 3-point threat, which bodes well for his chances at seeing as much playing time or even more, this season. And with increased minutes come a more impactful role, a role that will surely include him doing a strong job rebounding.

TERRY ROZIER


When you think of rebounding, 6-foot-2 combo guards don’t come to mind. But Rozier has already shown himself to be among the better rebounding guards in the NBA. With Boston having so many perimeter threats on the roster, that creates gaps and seams towards the rim that Rozier could easily slip into and do what he does as well as any guard in the NBA not named Russell Westbrook – and that’s rebound.

JAYSON TATUM
His length, deceptive athleticism and basketball smarts make him a player who could factor in the team’s rebounding efforts on a grander level this season. With Gordon Hayward (ankle) back in the mix along with Kyrie Irving, there’s a very real possibility that Tatum could be looked upon to become a better rebounder after averaging 5.0 per game last season. The key to Tatum’s improvement in this area will lie in his rebounding percentage numbers. Although he was fifth on the team in rebounds per game last season, his rebounding percentage (.091) was seventh among players who began the season in Boston and played more than half the season. Improvement in this area would do wonders for the Celtics.

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Gordon Hayward close to new sneaker deal

Gordon Hayward close to new sneaker deal

Celtics star Gordon Hayward is close to coming to terms on a multi-year sneaker deal after being courted by a number of shoemakers.

Sports shoe and apparel giant Nike, Chinese company Anta and Boston-based New Balance, which has a sponsorship deal with the C's new Auerbach Center training facility, are pursuing Hayward.

Anta reportedly made Hayward an offer about a month ago, according to ESPN's Nick DePaula:

Former Celtics Kevin Garnett and Rajon Rondo had deals with Anta. Hayward, coming back this season after missing nearly all of last season after an injury five minutes into Celtics debut, has been with Nike, including wearing the company's Kobe 11 shoe.

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