Celtics

Blakely's takeaways: The streak's most improbable win

Blakely's takeaways: The streak's most improbable win

BOSTON – Even with a healthy Kyrie Irving, the Celtics struggled to score Friday night. To lose him less than two minutes into Friday’s game against Charlotte, you knew points would indeed be at a premium.
 
But the Celtics did what we’ve seen them do all season - look adversity in the eye, grin, and keep moving with a “no worries, we got this” mindset that has been critical to them winning 11 in a row and continuing to boast the best record in the NBA (11-2) following a 90-87 victory over the Hornets.

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Irving was unable to play after catching an elbow to the face from teammate Aron Baynes that knocked him to the ground. He is being monitored for concussion-like symptoms. That has his availability for the game Sunday afternoon against Toronto at TD Garden very much up in the air.
 
However, within the disappointment of Irving’s injury comes with the reality that the Celtics managed to once again overcome a key personnel loss by rallying for a victory despite the odds being heavily stacked against them.
 
“We just got a lot of fight in us,” said Shane Larkin who finished with a season-high 16 points. “A lot of resilient guys. We believe in our team. We believe in each other. We just go out there and play together. There’s not one guy that took it upon himself to say, ‘all right I’m gonna bring us back.’ We kind of played together. Played the right way and when we do, it’s hard to guard all of us.”
 
Here are five takeaways from the C's 11th consecutive victory: 
 
SHANE LARKIN
For a team with several players who stepped up in the second half, few elevated their play the way Larkin did for the Celtics. He wasn’t just making shots; he was making them at critical times as Boston worked towards erasing an 18-point deficit. Larkin finished with a season-high 16 points on 5-for-8 shooting.
 
STATS ARE FOR LOSERS
Patriots coach Bill Belichick gets a lot of praise for the “stats are for losers” line, but what often gets ignored is what he said after that. “The final score is for winners and that’s what it’s really about,” Belichick said. The play of Marcus Smart and Jaylen Brown are good examples of that. They combined to shoot just 6-for-30 from the field, and yet there was Smart tallying almost half (seven) of Boston’s 15 assists. And it was Brown’s driving lay-up in the fourth quarter that gave Boston a one-point lead that it would not relinquish, not to mention he grabbed a career-high 13 rebounds.  The numbers weren’t great for either player, but their ability to impact winning – which as Belichick says, is what it’s all about – is undeniable.

BRAD STEVENS
As this winning streak of the Celtics rolls along, Stevens becomes a bigger part of the team’s success. He’s putting guys in position to be great, keeping the spirits high of guys at the end of the bench who know he’ll give them a shot at some point. Most significant? The Celtics just keep on winning. A number of different faces have emerged which helps, but the one constant in the team’s run of success has been Stevens. “He’s a guru,” said Marcus Morris. “He’s putting us in the right spots, calling out the plays. He’s doing really good, utilizing everybody.”
 
BAYNES FACTOR

For those who wonder just how good a defender Aron Baynes can be, Friday night was like a Baynes highlight reel. He blocked three shots, contested others and made his presence inside the paint defensively his own personal no-fly zone for Hornets players. He spent more time than anyone guarding Dwight Howard, playing a critical role in Howard missing six of his eight shots. On top of that, Howard wound up with more turnovers (seven) than points (six).
 
MARCUS MORRIS

He only has a handful of games under his belt this season, but it’s clear why the Celtics viewed him as someone who could help them this season. The final 23.8 seconds Friday served as a reminder as to his value to this team. After draining a 21-footer that put Boston ahead 88-85, he followed that with the defensive play of the night. With Boston clinging to an 88-87 lead, he forced ultra-quick Kemba Walker into a really tough miss that would serve as Charlotte’s last shot at victory. The big shot and clutch defensive play were only part of what made it such a good game for Morris. Afterwards, he indicated that he did not have any major soreness in his left knee, which was not the case after his previous game. His improving health combined with his talents at both ends of the floor, bode well for Boston’s chance to continue along its winning ways on Sunday against Toronto.

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NBC Sports Boston Breakfast Pod: Celtics draft big man Robert Williams in first round

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NBC Sports Boston Photo

NBC Sports Boston Breakfast Pod: Celtics draft big man Robert Williams in first round

1:24 - A. Sherrod Blakely, Brain Scalabrine and Kyle Draper break down the Celtics' selection in the 2018 NBA Draft and are joined by the man who made the pick himself, Danny Ainge.

7:49 - The Nets and Dwight Howard have begun buyout talks, which means the veteran center could soon be a free agent. Michael Holley, Danielle Trotta and Luke Bonner debate if Howard would be a good fit in Boston.

11:59 - Brad Stevens fields questions from the media immediately following the Celtics selection of Williams.

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Ainge stays patient in draft by standing pat at No. 27

Ainge stays patient in draft by standing pat at No. 27

BOSTON – Danny Ainge went through his customary routine of making calls up and down the draft, looking for any and every opportunity to make a deal that would strengthen the Boston Celtics roster. 

And while he was open to getting a deal done and move away from the team’s late first-round pick, Ainge said he went into Thursday night’s draft intent on standing pat with the 27th overall pick that was used to select Robert Williams.

The past few weeks were spent by Ainge and his front office staff examining what the price would be for them to move up in the draft. 

That price proved to be too steep for Ainge’s liking. 

His assessment afterward?

“We were preparing for the 27th pick,” Ainge said. “We were preparing for opportunities to move up; not all the way to the top of the draft but somewhere in the middle and we were preparing for guys we didn’t like, and move back in the draft. It’s the same thing we do every year, prepare for any situation that comes up.”

But this draft felt different, in part because the Celtics were beginning further back than recent years in which includes Boston having the No. 3 overall pick in back-to-back drafts. 

And just like Boston seemed to get great value out of Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum from the last two drafts, they are hoping for continued draft success in adding Williams who at one point was considered a player with lottery (top-14) pick talent. 

“Robert will have opportunities to play, but that will depend on how well he plays, what he does,” Ainge said.

Williams’ head coach Billy Kennedy echoed similar sentiments.

“He’s a special talent,” Texas A&M head coach Billy Kennedy told Boston Sports Tonight. “He can do things some of the other guys in the draft can’t do.”

Which made staying patient and not aggressively trying to move up in the draft, a worthwhile decision for Ainge in Boston landing a player that they did not go into the draft anticipating would be available to them if they stood pat with the 27th overall pick.

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