Celtics

Celtics need to find No. 2 scorer behind Irving

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Celtics need to find No. 2 scorer behind Irving

BOSTON -- Everyone knows Kyrie Irving’s value to the Celtics is extremely high.
 
But it really hits home on those nights when he’s not in the lineup, as was the case in Boston’s 89-80 loss to Philadelphia on Thursday.
 
Irving didn't play due to a sore left shoulder.He's carried the load offensively for most of this season for a team that has the best record in the Eastern Conference, so it's not surprising the Celts scored the fewest number of points they've scored in any game this year.
 
But it highlights the need for the Celtics to develop a number 2 scorer who can, when needed, step into the more prominent role as the team’s go-to guy.
 
Boston has good players, but none have elevated their play to that of being the next-best scoring option to Irving.
 
Al Horford is a four-time All-Star (with a fifth on the way  this year), but he has never been a player you can turn to for consistent, big-time scoring. That’s because his game is deeply rooted in getting others involved and playing high-level defense.
 
Jaylen Brown has the right mindset most nights, but his all-around game offensively is still evolving. And while he is the team’s number two scorer at 14.2 points per game, that average falls well short of what the No. 2 scorer on most teams isdoing offensively. In fact, Atlanta, Indiana and Sacramento are the only teams in the NBA whose No. 2 scorer has a lower average than Brown.
 
Then there’s Jayson Tatum, a player who has shown all the early stages of superstar-itis. But as talented as he is, the 19-year-old Tatum is similar to Brown from the standpoint of not being ready to emerge as the team’s second-best scorer.
 
“That’s why Gordon (Hayward) was such a good signing for them,” an NBA scout texted NBC Sports Boston. “He gave them a legitimate, high-level second scorer who on some nights would be your best scorer or your best player.”
 
Hayward suffered a dislocated left ankle injury in Boston’s season-opener, and is expected to miss the remainder of this season.
 
Irving’s injury is nowhere close to being that serious. In fact, there’s a very good chance that he will be back in the lineup Sunday when the Celtics host the Orlando Magic.
 
But that doesn’t make up for the team’s lack of a second scoring option.
 
Here are five takeaways from Boston’s 89-80 loss to Philadelphia.
 
 

REBOUNDING

Work on the glass is always going to be a challenge of sorts for the Boston Celtics, making that early run of strong board games a faint memory. Because what we saw against the Sixers was more along the lines of what we’re accustomed to seeing out of the Celtics when it comes to rebounding. The Sixers decisively won the battle on the glass 41-31, serving as a reminder that the narrative surrounding this team when it comes to rebounding hasn’t changed a bit.

TURNOVERS

Brad Stevens described his team’s offense against Philadelphia as being “sloppy” and, truth of the matter, he was being kind. They were hot mess on so many levels against the Sixers. Credit Philly for having a game plan defensively that worked really, for all but the final few minutes of play. No facet of play better illustrated this than the 19 turnovers committed by Boston, which led to 15 points. It’s not the points scored by the Sixers that were the big problem. It’s the fact that those turnovers meant fewer opportunities to score which is the last thing a team without Kyrie Irving needed.

JAYSON TATUM

Against New Orleans, he didn’t take enough shots. And last night against Philadelphia, he didn’t make the ones he usually does. I wouldn’t call what Tatum is going through now hitting the rookie wall. Because he has played so much already, teams have plenty of film and have definitely adjusted the way they have defended him. Now it’s on him to find other ways to impact the game offensively that may not necessarily be his first or second go-to move. He had some nice off-the-dribble moves against the Sixers, finishing with 11 points on 4-for-11 shooting. Tatum needs to continue ratcheting up his aggression at both ends of the floor, which we saw some of that against the Sixers. Now he just needs to keep it going.

SHANE LARKIN

It was just one game, so it would be foolish to get too excited about Shane Larkin’s play against Philadelphia. But there was a lot to like about how he came off the bench and provided some energy and a spark to a team that seemed to be going through the motions. He had eight points on 3-for-6 shooting but more important, he was really aggressive with his drives and decision-making, which is the kind of performance Boston needs others beside Larkin to bring to the floor when their number is called.

JOEL EMBIID

For all that went Philly’s way on Thursday, you still have to give a great deal of credit to Joel Embiid for his play at both ends of the floor. Boston could not stop him on the block or from 15 or so feet out, as he lit the Celtics up for 26 points on 10-for-19 shooting along with 16 rebounds and six assists. It was the second straight game Boston had been dominated by an opposing big man, raising more concerns among Celtics Nation that Boston needs to address its frontcourt by adding another big between now and the playoffs.

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Horford named to NBA All-Defensive second team

Horford named to NBA All-Defensive second team

BOSTON – For most of his career, Al Horford has been regarded as one of the league’s better defensive big men, even if he didn’t have the accolades or league-wide acknowledgment… until now. 

The veteran forward/center was named to the NBA’s All-Defensive Second team on Wednesday, a first for the 11-year veteran. 

Utah’s Rudy Gobert and New Orleans’ Anthony Davis were the headliners on the first team which included Philadelphia’s Robert Covington, New Orleans’ Jrue Holiday and Indiana’s Victor Oladipo.

Along with Horford, the second team consisted of Jimmy Butler of Minnesota, Joel Embiid of Philadelphia, Golden State’s Draymond Green and San Antonio’s Dejounte Murray. 

What aided Horford’s selection was the fact that he showed a level of defensive versatility that we had not seen during his time with the Atlanta Hawks or with the Celtics last season. 

Look no further than this postseason run by the Celtics, one in which Horford has defended versatile wings like Milwaukee’s Giannis Antetokounmpo as well as big point guards like Philadelphia’s Ben Simmons.

 “In the past I was probably guarding the bigger centers,” Horford said.

The addition of Aron Baynes in the offseason was instrumental in Boston’s ascension to the top of the NBA defensive pile with a league-best defensive rating of 101.5.

And Baynes had a defensive rating of 97.0 which led the NBA among players to appear in at least 50 games this season. 

“Baynes being here really gave me freedom to defend out on the perimeter, do different things,” Horford said. “It was a challenge that I was really excited about going into the season.”

Boston’s Marcus Smart and Jaylen Brown were among those to receive votes but not named to the first or second team. 

Celtics head coach Brad Stevens was pleased for Horford being acknowledged for what he did for the Celtics defensively but added there were a number of others on the Celtics roster that deserved consideration for all-NBA honors defensively with chief among them being Baynes and Smart. 

“I realize you can’t take multiple people from one team,” Stevens said. “But those guys all, along with our young guys, everybody was really committed on that end of the floor all year, and it was led by those three (Baynes, Horford and Smart).”

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Bean: Let LeBron get his points, but stop Korver

Bean: Let LeBron get his points, but stop Korver

Entering the Eastern Conference Finals, we thought a lot of things that have proven to be incorrect. Or I did, at least. 

I thought the Cavaliers were going to win in six games. They still could, of course, but watching the series has changed my mind to think it will be Celtics in seven. 

The other big thing was that it was LeBron James, Kevin Love and nobody else. Through two rounds, that seemed generally correct. 

So, it seemed that if you let LeBron get his points and focus on the other guys, you'd be all set. Yet, the other guys have gotten their points here and there this postseason, and that's why, after four games, Kyle Korver is actually a talking point.            

Here are the Cavs records by how many non-LeBrons had decent scoring nights: 

WHEN NO PLAYER OTHER THAN LEBRON SCORES 15+ POINTS: 2-1, but the two wins came when the Cavs had five and three other scorers with at least 10 points, respectively. 

WHEN ONE PLAYER OTHER THAN LEBRON SCORES 15+ POINTS: 4-4

WHEN TWO PLAYERS OTHER THAN LEBRON SCORE 15+ POINTS: 2-0

WHEN THREE PLAYERS OTHER THAN LEBRON SCORE 15+ POINTS: 2-0 

Now, let's look at it by player. The Cavaliers actually have a better record when Love doesn't score 15+ (6-2) than when he does (4-3). So no, it hasn't necessarily been about the two best players on the team. For some super-duper weird reason, it's been more about 37-year-old Kyle Korver than a lot of people expected. 

The Cavaliers are 5-0 this postseason when Korver scores at least 15 points. And of those five games, he was the only non-LeBron Cavalier with at least 15, so it's not like all of those wins came because Korver cleaned up in garbage time or something. 

Now, let's scale back the parameters from 15 points to 10. The Cavaliers are 8-1 this postseason when Korver scores 10 points. That's an even better record than they have when LeBron scores 40 points (5-1). 

So, the home court should help the Celtics tonight. They haven't lost a game at TD Garden this postseason. Know what else would help them? Stopping that super old occasional bench player/occasional starter.  

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