Celtics hope to make home sweet once again, starting tonight

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Celtics hope to make home sweet once again, starting tonight

BOSTON -- Upon first glance, it looks like the basketball gods did the Boston Celtics a solid heading into this week with a stretch of games coming up against teams that on paper at least, are all very beatable.

But the Celtics know better.

The caliber of opponents in this upcoming three-game home stand don’t look all that different than the ones they faced in the three consecutive games they had upon returning from London earlier this month.


And those three games?

Boston lost all of them.

The Celtics (36-15) hope to avoid a repeat beginning tonight against the New York Knicks (23-28), who are coming off a 111-95 win over Brooklyn on Tuesday.

Since Boston’s 114-103 win over Philadelphia in London on Nov. 21, the Celtics have lost five of last seven games.

Jet lag? Fatigue? Lack of focus? Loss of rhythm?

While there’s no clear-cut explanation as to why Boston has struggled lately, the players and coaching staff are starting to feel a little better about the team’s direction following wins in two of their last three, over the Los Angeles Clippers and Denver, respectively.

Brad Stevens has maintained all season that as much as he wants the Celtics to win every time they step on the floor, adding growth and experience is just as important.

And that message is not lost on the players, who have bought into it with little to no resistance.

That’s why despite the recent losing, the Celtics aren’t the least bit deterred.

Kyrie Irving is a dynamic scorer, but the ability for Boston to continue evolving into a title contender hinges in part on the development of a No. 2 scoring threat.

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Jaylen Brown has shown the ability to impact the game at both ends of the floor, in transition and from beyond the 3-point line as was the case in Boston's 111-110 win over Denver which included him making the game-winning shot from 3-point range.

Rookie Jayson Tatum has cooled off some lately, but he’s still among the best first-year players in the NBA in addition to being one of Boston's primary scorers --- especially in the fourth quarter. 

And off the bench you’ve got Marcus Morris, whose health (he missed several games this season due to a sore left knee) doesn’t seem to be an issue that keeps him in and out of the lineup, anymore.

As good as Irving is, he knows as well as anyone that Boston’s success has to involve the aforementioned players, and others. 

“We understand it’s a long process to figure things out as a team,” he said. “If we have the same focus that we’ve had over the last three games, even though they haven’t resulted everyone in a win, I feel we’ll be in a great position to be successful.”



Celtics-Cavaliers preview: How will C's respond to blowout Game 3 loss?

Celtics-Cavaliers preview: How will C's respond to blowout Game 3 loss?

CLEVELAND – This season has been one lesson learned after another for the Boston Celtics, a team that has taken those teachings and transformed them into better play moving forward. 

It is a trend the Celtics hope to continue tonight as they try and bounce back from a 116-86 Game 3 thrashing at the hands of the Cleveland Cavaliers who now trail Boston 2-1 in the best-of-seven series. 

“All season I feel like we've been learning,” said Boston’s Al Horford. “We've been put in different positions. And now we're in a position that we need to bounce back, and (tonight) we have a good opportunity.”

Boston doesn’t have a ton of experience this season when it comes to suffering double-digit losses. 

In fact, the Celtics only suffered nine losses by 10 or more points this season. 

But here’s the thing: 

You hear players on this team talk all the time about putting the last game quickly behind them, win or lose. 

Well, that has certainly been the case when they have suffered losses by 10 or more points, evident by them posting an impressive 8-1 regular season record in the games that followed double-digit defeats. 

So if the Celtics seem extremely calm right now, that’s why.

“Everybody loses games,” said Boston’s Jayson Tatum. “The NBA is such a quick turnaround that you really can't be down, especially in the playoffs.”

The Celtics will be fine in terms of their approach mentally to Game 4. The bigger issue is doing a better job of executing at both ends of the floor and doing so without being thrown off their rhythm by the crowd noise that’s pumped into the Quicken Loans Arena that players acknowledged made communicating tougher than usual in Game 3.

“It's going to be loud. But that can't be an excuse for us,” said Boston’s Marcus Smart. “The young guys know that. It's alright, it's one game. The one thing about this sport, you get a chance to go out there and do it again, so it's a blessing to have that opportunity.”

And for the Celtics, tonight’s game offers more than just a chance to exact some payback for a dismal Game 3 performance. It also moves them one step closer towards the NBA Final.

But make no mistake about it. 

The sting of how thoroughly the Celtics were outplayed is indeed on the minds of some players heading into tonight’s game. 

“I use it as fuel because I thought it was embarrassing,” said Boston’s Jaylen Brown. “I thought we came out, the way I played, the way I performed, how not aggressive I was in the first half, I look at that as fuel to come out in Game 3 and be excited about it and be ready to play and ready to fight.

Brown added, “We can't look at the last game and get down on ourselves or

think we're out of the series because we lost one game. That's what the world thinks, that's what the world wants us to think, so we're going to come out and play some basketball (tonight), regardless of what anybody got to say.”


David Ortiz once came through in the clutch for Al Horford's wedding

David Ortiz once came through in the clutch for Al Horford's wedding

David Ortiz doesn't only come through in the clutch when he's in the batter's box.

He also delivers in clutch situations off the field. Take Al Horford's wedding for example. The Celtics big man had a last-minute wedding in the Dominican Republic and desperately needed a car to pick up his wife-to-be. Big Papi saved the day, sending Horford his Phantom and a driver. He even let them keep the car for a couple of days.

Horford told the story to the NBCS Camera Guys, who you should definitely follow on Twitter if you haven't already. . .