Celtics

Boston Celtics find good vibes out west

Boston Celtics find good vibes out west

Of all the encouraging moments in the Boston Celtics’ win over the Golden State Warriors on Tuesday night — and there was no shortage of them — one of the more notable sequences came with the game well in hand and offered a rare glimpse of the team’s togetherness.

DeMarcus Cousins had just dropped Aron Baynes with a lowered shoulder while trying to back his way to the basket. Cousins took exception to Baynes selling the whistle he drew by going to the ground hard, and Cousins stomped over to bark at Boston’s reserve center.

As Cousins started to walk away, Jayson Tatum, giving up at least 75 pounds, shoved Golden State’s big man. After Cousins gave an emphatic shove back, Terry Rozier, giving up at least 10 inches, rushed over ready to scrap as referees scrambled to separate the players.

It might not have seemed like much, but given all the scrutiny about the chemistry of these Celtics and whether these guys actually enjoy playing with each other, it was notable the way Rozier and Tatum stood up for Baynes.

For a Boston team that pledged to stay together amid a tumultuous stretch in a drama-filled season, the sequence suggested that players might truly have each other’s back. As Boston’s locker room was fighting off a “toxic” label after Jaylen Brown used that word to describe the lingering impact of Boston's losing ways, it was a tiny glimpse into the bonds that do seem to exist.

☘️ CELTICS 128, WARRIORS 95

Yes, Celtics players have spent the season frustrated by the team’s inability to play to its championship potential. Yes, finger-pointing caused some hard feelings for a young roster that has struggled to identify why things have so frequently gone awry.

It would be absurd to suggest that all of Boston’s issues and locker room strife could be washed away by a single win. But winning does tend to cure what ails a team, and maybe the Celtics found something they can build upon with Tuesday’s statement victory. Kyrie Irving suggested after the game that Boston’s six-hour plane ride, coming immediately after Sunday’s disheartening loss to the Rockets, might have been a blessing in disguise.

Before Tuesday’s game, Celtics coach Brad Stevens referenced the “good vibes” the team was feeling since arriving out west. Irving noted how the team put an emphasis on “being connected” and “being together.”

Even TNT’s Players Only broadcast made note of the difference in Irving’s demeanor on the bench Tuesday. A week earlier he had stewed in Toronto as the Celtics fell behind by 30+ points. This time around, Irving laughed and smiled as Boston put together one of its most inspired efforts of the season, building as much as a 35-point lead and emerging with the sort of win it can cling to when the playoffs roll around.

When Guerschon Yabusele — maybe the happiest player on Boston’s roster — hit a 3-pointer in the waning moments of the final frame, the entire bench erupted in celebration, with Jaylen Brown emphatically replicating Yabusele’s bow-and-arrow celebration. Alongside, Irving and Horford looked genuinely thrilled for Yabusele (who had been deactivated for Sunday’s game with Boston’s roster at full strength).

The Celtics could very easily get steamrolled in Sacramento on Wednesday night and all the bad energy could rush back in. Maybe everyone will be sulking again by the end of the trip. But, at least for one night, the Celtics seemed to genuinely enjoy each other. There wasn’t anything toxic about them.

And they looked a lot like the team most of us expected to see earlier this season. The lingering question remains: Can they bottle up those good vibes and lean on it when the games truly matter in the postseason?

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Celtics Talk Podcast: Can Celtics, Raptors burst Bucks' title hopes in NBA bubble?

Celtics Talk Podcast: Can Celtics, Raptors burst Bucks' title hopes in NBA bubble?

The Milwaukee Bucks will resume play with a league-best record of 53-12.

But just as we saw the Bucks burst onto the scene as one of the league’s better teams, how will they be impacted by the time off as the league’s restart begins this month?

Will their title hopes burst inside the bubble? One longtime NBA scribe certainly thinks so.

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“I think the two best teams in the East are Boston and Toronto,” veteran Toronto Raptors beat writer Doug Smith of the Toronto Star, said on the Celtics Talk Podcast on Thursday. “I like Milwaukee a lot, but they’ve never been there. And I think that’s a big, big concern. The Raptors' experience and their adaptability in games … I don’t think it gives them an edge, but it’s a big plus for them.”

The Celtics have been talked about often as one of the teams that can potentially upend the Bucks and get out of the East. 

To a lesser extent, the same can be said for the defending NBA champion Raptors, who have been able to successfully navigate through a season filled with injuries to key players to enter the bubble in Orlando with the NBA’s third-best record. 

But you wouldn’t know they were that good by the minimal talk surrounding them as potential repeat champions — which was fueled by the departure of last year's NBA Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard, who now plays for the Los Angeles Clippers, and 3-and-D ace Danny Green, who now plays for the Los Angeles Lakers. 

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Even with Leonard and Green moving on, Toronto has been a ruggedly tough team in the East. 

Pascal Siakam has emerged as an All-Star this season. Outside of maybe Boston’s Kemba Walker, there’s not a more underrated point guard in the NBA than Kyle Lowry. Serge Ibaka and Marc Gasol give Toronto the kind of veteran presence in the frontcourt that all title-contenders long to have on their roster. 

And let’s not forget about head coach Nick Nurse, who will surely get some serious love when the season is over when it comes to Coach of the Year voting. 

While a lot of attention has been paid to how impressive the Raptors have been for years at home, this season they posted an identical 23-9 record on the road as well as on their own home floor. 

Smith said home-court advantage would likely determine the winner of a Boston-Toronto playoff series. But with that being off the table now that all games will be played at a neutral site, Smith still envisions what would potentially be a hard-fought, down-to-the-wire series. 

“I think it’s a seven-game series if they played it in Boston, Toronto, Orlando or on Mars,” Smith said. “These teams are very evenly matched. They’re both very good. They can beat you in a lot of ways. That’s a big thing in the postseason.”

So what would decide the series?

“It comes down to the wings. The wings determine the series,” Smith said. “Can OG Anunoby contribute? Can Norm Powell contribute? How do Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum handle that kind of thing? I think that’s where the series is won or lost.”

Enes Kanter, Celtics offer inside look at NBA bubble meals, hotel rooms

Enes Kanter, Celtics offer inside look at NBA bubble meals, hotel rooms

The Boston Celtics have entered the bubble.

The Celtics flew to Orlando on Wednesday and reported to Walt Disney World's Gran Destino Tower, where they'll stay throughout the NBA's restarted 2019-20 season.

Other NBA teams arrived earlier than the Celtics, and some players complained about the underwhelming meals they received and some less-than-ideal living conditions.

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A few C's players had a different experience, however. Here's Celtics big man Enes Kanter showing off a solid Wednesday night dinner spread that included steak, sweet potatoes and greens:

Kanter also took a video of his breakfast Thursday morning, shouting out the NBA for giving him halal food in accordance with his observation of Islam.

Jayson Tatum, meanwhile, called in reinforcements, as his mother apparently came through to feed her 22-year-old son: 

As for their living arrangements, Kanter gave fans a tour of his living quarters at the Gran Destino:

Life in a single suite can get lonely, but the C's already are finding ways to connect and stay entertained. Celtics forward Semi Ojeleye hopped on Twitch on Wednesday night for a video game session, while big man Vincent Poirier shared his own gaming setup on Instagram.

The 22 teams in the NBA bubble have to adhere to strict safety protocols (sorry, no doubles ping pong) to limit the spread of COVID-19. But they're all playing by the same rules, so the teams that best adapt to their new environments may have the best chance of succeeding once games start later this month.

The Celtics will play three scrimmage games beginning July 24 before opening their "seeding round" schedule July 31 against the Milwaukee Bucks.