Celtics

Boston Celtics are high on center Vincent Poirier for these reasons

Boston Celtics are high on center Vincent Poirier for these reasons

The Boston Celtics have had a changing of the guard at the center position this offseason. Last season, Al Horford and Aron Baynes handled the primary duties at the spot in the lineup, but both will find themselves elsewhere during the 2019-2020 season. And the Celtics will have to find a way to replace the duo.

While much of the attention has been given to free-agent acquisition Enes Kanter, 2018 first-round pick Robert Williams, Daniel Theis, and the 7-foot-7 summer league star Tacko Fall, the Celtics may have another option on the roster that could surprise.

According to Ben Rohrbach of Yahoo Sports, the Celtics are high on Vincent Poirier. The French center signed with the team after finding success in the Euroleague, and Rohrbach pointed out what the team liked about him on Twitter.

And that seemingly echoes what a Celtics executive recently said about acquiring Poirier this offseason.

"(Vincent) Poirier is a guy we’ve had eyes for a while," an anonymous Celtics executive told Keith Smith of Celtics Blog. "He was at Summer League a couple of years back and caught our eye with the way he moved for his size. He’s got the potential to be a big-time defender and rebounder."

Poirier averaged 11.9 points, 8.3 rebounds, and 0.8 blocks per game playing for Baskonia in the Euroleague last year. If the 7-footer can continue to showcase that rebounding prowess in the NBA, he could quickly emerge as a quality role player for the Celtics. But given that he turned down more money in Europe to come to the NBA, the Celtics can be sure that he'll be hungry to prove himself.

While Poirier will have to compete with a lot of seasoned NBA players for minutes -- namely Kanter, Theis, and Williams -- it does seem like the battle for playing time at center is wide open. It will be interesting to see if Poirier can showcase enough in the offseason to earn some minutes.

What one Celtics executive thinks of Tacko Fall>>>

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Celtics' Marcus Smart again comes up with 'unbelievable' key plays late that shouldn't be overlooked

Celtics' Marcus Smart again comes up with 'unbelievable' key plays late that shouldn't be overlooked

MIAMI — Stop us if you’ve heard this one before: Marcus Smart labors through a rough shooting night and is uncharacteristically sloppy handling the ball for the better part of three quarters. Then, crunch time rolls around and Marcus Smart morphs into the most valuable player on the court.

It’s a tale as old as time. But it played itself out again on Tuesday night in Miami. Smart missed nine of his first 10 shots and matched his season-high with four turnovers.

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Still, with the game in the balance, Smart did Smart things. Like calmly knocking down a straightaway 3-pointer with 1:50 remaining on a kick out from Kemba Walker. Like swatting down what should have been an easy Bam Adebayo dunk a short time later. Like flinging himself into a trio of baby-blue jerseys and out-jumping the springy Adebayo for an impossible offensive rebound in the final minute.

A cursory glance at the box score will have most dismissing Smart’s night. He finished with 11 points on 3-of-13 shooting — missing all five of his shots inside the arc and five more of eight beyond it — with the four turnovers. 

But he balanced it out with eight rebounds, four assists, and three blocks in 36:29. All while being absolutely everywhere down the stretch as the Celtics picked up one of their best road wins of the season in Miami.

What was going through Smart’s mind late in the game?

“Win,” said Smart. "To me, it’s just what can I do to help my team? And, [on the offensive rebound], I saw a loose ball. I just thought, first one to get it, whatever happens, happens.

"I’m in the air, so I was hoping I didn’t get flipped or get hit in the face like I usually do. But you can’t think of that in the moment. You gotta go, and go hit the ball. First person to the floor, first person to the ball wins.”

Walker marveled at the way Smart makes all the key plays in high-pressure situations.

"Man, that dude. I love that dude,” said Walker. "I love his passion for the game. I love his energy. I love how he competes each and every night. He makes me want to compete just like him.

"He’s just so tough. He’s not scared of the moment. He made so many huge plays down the stretch. I know everybody will probably say the 3 that he made, but Adebayo had an open basket, he blocked his shot. I missed a shot, he got a huge [rebound]. He’s unbelievable. Unbelievable.”

Smart seemed smitten to learn of Walker’s praise. He noted it carries additional heft because of Walker’s All-Star status and the intensity that Walker brings to the floor.

“It’s a great feeling. I love Kemba, that’s my brother,” said Smart. “Just like all these guys in this locker room. But to hear somebody of his caliber just really really really give you praise and the recognition that you probably never get, it means a lot.”

Smart said he couldn’t allow missed shots to impact his energy. In fact, the missed shots only caused him to lock in a bit more defensively and find other ways to impact the game.

And all the struggles of the first 46 minutes will be forgotten because of his efforts in the last two.

“Continue to do what I normally do. I don’t really let shots not falling affect how I play, energy-wise,” said Smart. “Times like that, when your shot's not falling, your defense has to be at an all-time high. So, for me, just making sure guys are in the right spots on the defensive end and just really really really getting guys like [Jaylen Brown] and Gordon [Hayward] — they were the hot guys tonight, so we were trying to find them as much as we can.”

Still, teammates marvel at the way Smart can just take over a game with nothing more than grit and desire.

“Getting that tip-out…when he tipped it out and we were able to shoot free throws, that was a big momentum play, a huge play, at the end of the game,” said Grant Williams, who has affectionately dubbed himself a "Smart Mini-Me” and left a similar energy-filled stamp on the game Tuesday night. Williams noted that Smart’s play undoubtedly rubs off on the rest of the team.

Said Williams: “Just following his lead.”

Don't miss NBC Sports Boston's coverage of Warriors-Celtics, which begins Thursday at 7 p.m. with Celtics Pregame Live, followed by tip-off at 8 p.m. You can also stream the game on the MyTeams App.

Celtics-Heat Takeaways: Hayward comes up big as C's finally beat a good team on road

Celtics-Heat Takeaways: Hayward comes up big as C's finally beat a good team on road

The Boston Celtics needed this one. 

Sure, beating the Miami Heat 109-101 improves Boston to 31-15.

Yes, it gives them a 2-0 lead in the head-to-head series, which could come into play if the two finish with identical regular-season records. 

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Still, the win Tuesday night did more than anything, was show that the Celtics could beat a quality team on the road. 

Boston came in having lost six of their eight road games this season against teams with a .500 or better record. 

And they did it against Miami (32-15), the best home team record-wise this season. 

Making the victory more impressive was that they did so without Jayson Tatum (groin) and Enes Kanter (hip) sat out with injuries. 

Gordon Hayward led the way with a game-high 29 points, with Jaylen Brown (25) and Kemba Walker (16) chipping in. 

Speaking of Gordon Hayward… 

Hayward was as aggressive as we’ve seen him on Tuesday, attacking the rim over and over and over again as he finished with a near double-double (29 points, nine rebounds) - his third game in a row with 20 or more points, the first time he's done that with the Celtics.

A key part of Hayward’s big night was he and the Celtics recognizing the mismatch Hayward had on offense when against Miami’s Duncan Robinson. 

Off the dribble. 

Pull-up jumper off the drive. 

Hayward got anything and everything he wanted offensively as he built confidence as the game went on and in doing so, helped build a lead down the stretch that Boston refused to relinquish. 

JAYLEN BROWN

There was a stretch in the second quarter in which Brown scored seven consecutive points as part of his 25-point night. 

With Tatum and Kanter out, Brown’s ability to score in bunches was wanted and needed desperately by the Celtics. 

It was the kind of performance we have seen from time to time from Brown when the Celtics were without one of their other key players, reminding us all why he's often talked about as a potential first-time All-Star when the reserves are announced on Thursday. 

CELTICS ZONE OFFENSE

The Miami Heat utilized an effective zone defense in the second quarter that limited Boston to just 17 points. 

Halftime afforded the Celtics a chance to regroup and refocus on what they had to do to be more effective against the zone.  

“We had to change our attack at halftime,” said Celtics coach Brad Stevens.

Overall, Boston did a better job of attacking the Miami defense before the Heat could set up, which resulted in easy baskets on more than one occasion. 

And against Miami’s zone, Boston also improved its off-the-dribble attack by either kicking the ball out for a wide-open shot or finishing at the rim if the defense didn’t collapse on the ball-handler in the paint. 

GRANT WILLIAMS

Williams wasn’t on the floor in the final minutes, but there was no getting around the impact he made Tuesday. 

Williams kept balls alive with his activity on the offensive glass, rebounding at both ends of the floor, making deflections … he provided the Celtics with the kind of energy that they absolutely needed. 

His final stats for the game were five points to go with seven rebounds (three offensive) in 23 minutes.

DANIEL THEIS

Without Kanter or Robert Williams III (hip), the Celtics didn’t have many options to turn to at center. 

But on this night, Theis was more than enough as he tallied his third double-double of the season by finishing with 10 points on 4-for-7 shooting to go with a game-high 11 rebounds, along with a pair of blocked shots.  All in just 30 minutes.

The energy and multiple-effort plays that he made time and time again were a major plus for the Celtics to close out there three-game trip with a win. 

Don't miss NBC Sports Boston's coverage of Warriors-Celtics, which begins Thursday at 7 p.m. with Celtics Pregame Live, followed by tip-off at 8 p.m. You can also stream the game on the MyTeams App.