Celtics

Blakely: Regardless of venue, Celtics have to play better

Blakely: Regardless of venue, Celtics have to play better

BOSTON — The narrative of being back home is one Brad Stevens understands all too well. Up to this point, it has been the key to Boston’s ability to navigate some of the choppier waters of the postseason as they fight to sail another day.

Still, as important as it to be back at the TD Garden, ultimately Boston’s chances of extending their home winning streak in the playoffs to 10 in a row lies in how they play.

“Get ready to play well,” Stevens said. “That’s what we have to prepare to do. We have to prepare to play as well as we can. It’s exciting to be able to compete at this level of the discussion. Certainly in this venue, in front of our fans. But at the same time, we have a job to do once we get between those lines.”

And doing that job has been a lot easier for the Celtics on their home floor.

“We want to come back in front of our crowd and our fans, and get a ‘W’ tonight,” said Jayson Tatum.  

Here are five below-the-radar storylines to keep an eye on tonight in this pivotal Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Finals against the Cleveland Cavaliers.

HORFORD USAGE


The importance of getting Al Horford involved can't be said enough in Boston’s quest to regain an edge in this series. Horford’s usage rate (the percentage of team plays used by a player when he’s on the floor) in Game 1 and 2 wins was 20.0 and 18.1 percent. In the Game 3 and 4 losses, that number dipped to 9.8 and 16.1. The Celtics ensuring as best they can that Horford remain engaged as the main cog in their offense is huge tonight.

FIRST SIX MINUTES


The Celtics don’t necessarily need to come out with a fast start, but they have to do something about how they have been consistently outplayed in the early going this series. Boston has been outscored the first six minutes in all but one game of this series and that was Game 1 when they opened with a 15-7 run.

FIFTH GAME SUCCESS


Game 5's at the TD Garden have been a really good thing for the Celtics. They come in having won 10 straight home Game 5's of series tied at two. Boston’s all-time record in Game 5's series tied at two, is 32-12.

TIGHT POINT TOTALS


Even though the scores in the four games, by and large, haven’t been that close, the total points scored by both teams is surprisingly razor-thin. Cleveland has scored a total of 404 points in this series. The Celtics? Right behind them with 403 points scored.

SEMI OJELEYE


Brad Stevens is considering making a potential lineup change to the first unit. While most have talked about Stevens possibly replacing Marcus Morris with Aron Baynes, there’s another possibility to consider: Semi Ojeleye.

Stevens shocked many earlier in the postseason when he inserted Ojeyle into the starting lineup for Boston’s first-round series against Milwaukee right before...wait for it...GAME 5!

Ojeleye was plucked to be a starter primarily as a means of slowing down Giannis Antetokounmpo. He definitely helped as Boston eliminated the Bucks in seven games. Stevens has to give some thought to having Ojeleye start especially when you consider how well he has done guarding James this season. Ojeleye has defended James on 47 possessions in this series, according to NBA.com/stats. Against Ojeleye, James is shooting 2-for-7 (29 percent) from the field while having scored nine points to go with eight assists and two turnovers.

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE

 
 

Watch the teaser for Kevin Garnett's upcoming Showtime documentary

Watch the teaser for Kevin Garnett's upcoming Showtime documentary

The first teaser for Kevin Garnett's upcoming Showtime documentary dropped Monday, and it looks like a must-watch for basketball fans.

In the trailer, KG tells a story about encountering NBA legends Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen at a gym in Chicago in 1995 and how that was where he found out he could enter the NBA Draft straight out of high school.

"We get in there, Mike Jordan in there. Scottie Pippen was in there," Garnett says.

"I jumped in, I tied my [shoes] up, and then Jordan was like 'let's go.' I just remember Pippen saying that I was too young to be out here ... and it was Isiah Thomas like, 'I saw you play Scottie Pippen, you could play in the league right now. And when he said that, the world stopped ... He said, 'Boy, do you know you can go to the league from high school?'"

Watch below (video contains explicit language):

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Knowing how great of a storyteller Garnett is, this documentary definitely won't lack in entertainment value.

The last couple of weeks certainly have been notable for KG. On Feb. 13, the Celtics revealed they will retire his No. 5 jersey. The following day, Garnett was named as a finalist for the 2020 Basketball Hall of Fame class.

Showtime's Garnett documentary is set for a Fall 2020 release.

NBA Power Rankings: How things change after All-Star weekend

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NBC Sports Boston Illustration

NBA Power Rankings: How things change after All-Star weekend

BOSTON -- The 69th NBA All-Star delivered something we haven’t seen in quite a while - a competitive game. 

The final score, a 157-155 win for Team LeBron, underscores how the NBA found the cheat code in balancing entertaining basketball with a legitimately competitive game. 

There will likely be some tweaks made for next year’s game (suggestion: Games have to end on a field goal made, and if a team fouls a player when the game is within one possession, the player has to go to the bench for the rest of the game).

Now that the All-Star game is in the rearview mirror of the season, the focus for many shifts almost entirely towards the postseason. 

The last week leading up to the All-Star break did little to shake up the upper chambers of the NBA standings, but the jockeying among teams with middle-of-the-pack status, as well as those on the outside of the playoff picture looking to get in, will provide much of what we saw in the All-Star game - a competitive, entertaining brand of basketball.

Click here for A. Sherrod Blakely's NBA Power Rankings