Celtics

Celtics notebook: C's and Warriors fall out of top spots

Celtics notebook: C's and Warriors fall out of top spots

LOS ANGELES – For most of this season, the Boston Celtics and the Golden State Warriors stood atop teir respective conferences record-wise. 

And yet here we are at the All-Star break with neither the Celtics or Warriors able to boast having the best record in the East and West, respectively. 

The Toronto Raptors (41-16) have a two-game lead over Boston in the East while the Rockets (44-13) have won 10 straight and now have a half-game lead over the Warriors.

Although Toronto has been among the top teams in the East most of this season, there has been little talk about them being on the short list of title contenders. 

“At the end of the day, people have their own opinions,” said Raptors All-Star guard Kyle Lowry. “We've got to go out there and do our job. At the end of the day, we're going to go out there, play basketball and not worry about anybody else.”

A big factor in their success has been winning at home. They enter the break with a league-best 24-4 record at home. 

So the importance of the top spot in the East and the home court advantage that comes with it, is critical to their postseason fate.

As for Houston, the Rockets have also put a high premium on finishing with the best overall record in the West. 

“It's important,” said Rockets All-Star James Harden. “That's why we're going to take it one game at a time and try to be the best we can be.”

MORE CELTICS

 

GSW'S GREEN ON THE CELTICS: ‘THEY’LL BE FINE’

While the Celtics naysayers are lining up now that the team has lost four of their last five games and are no longer tops in the East record-wise, there’s at least one prominent player in the NBA – Golden State’s Draymond Green – who still has a great amount of confidence in the Celtics.

I mean, they're a very good team,” he said. “They're young, this is their first year together. Obviously, Kyrie (Irving) is one of the few guys, if not the only guy, with championship experience. So, it takes a little experience to kind of figure things out.”

He points out how the level of expectations changed after Gordon Hayward’s ankle injury in the opener, and how they exceeded those modified expectations most of this season. 

“Now all of a sudden everyone is gunning for you, and that takes some adjusting to,” Green said. “So, I think they're just adjusting to it, but they'll be fine. Everyone hits that rough patch in the season. I think it's just that's what they're going through right now.”

DONOVAN MITCHELL TURNING HEADS

Even before he wowed fans by winning the Verizon Slam Dunk competition, Utah’s Donovan Mitchell was the talk of All-Star weekend.

I think a lot of people are talking about him because you didn't expect that to happen,” said Washington’s John Wall. “Nobody expected Gordon Hayward to leave (for Boston), and then he (Mitchell) went into a situation to lead right away, and he's been showing it every game.”

Portland’s Damian Lillard admits he’s a fan of Mitchell’s game. 

“I think obviously every draft pick that comes into the league has talent, a lot of confidence, usually,” Lillard said. “But it's different when they're able to perform, not only from starting in the league, but to be able to do it consistently all the way up to this break we've had. We've played at least 60 games, and he's still going strong and getting better. Not just individually, but their team has won 10 or 11 games straight. So I think that says a lot about the type of player he is.”

Houston’s James Harden added, “He's in attack mode all times. He doesn't shy away from anything. Once you have that mindset as a young rookie, that will ride you out for your whole career. He doesn't shy away. Big game, steps up, makes big shot, and he leads the team.”

QUIRKY QUESTIONS

An All-Star weekend wouldn’t be complete without a few “where did that come from” questions. 

Here’s a small sampling. 

With the winter Olympics in full swing now, Golden State’s Klay Thompson was asked who would he put together on a bobsled team.

“Oh, probably, you need speed, so I would put John Wall, Russell Westbrook, and those are just purely fast, and Giannis Antetokounmpo,” Thompson said. “That's a good team right there.”

LeBron James said he plans to do a remake of the movie, “House Party.” Toronto’s Kyle Lowry was asked if he could remake or star in a ‘90s sitcom or movie, what would he do?

"Fresh Prince of Bel-Air," Lowry said. 

And the character he would play?

For sure, Geoffrey (the butler). He was the funniest guy to me.”

DOMINICAN REPUBLIC WELL REPRESENTED BY HORFORD, TOWNS

Al Horford is used to being the Domincan Republic’s lone all-star this weekend. But now Horford has company with Minnesota’s Karl-Anthony Towns being named to his first all-star team.

It's huge. For the Dominican Republic, we have two All-Stars,” Towns said. “I don't think many people, when they look at the Dominican Republic, they think about basketball talent. They're always thinking about baseball and Albert Pujols and Robinson Cano, whatever the case may be. They never think about the basketball side. The Dominican Republic has been doing an amazing job bringing up its talent and giving them the right resources so they may have a chance to be in the NBA.

Towns added, “I'm just very fortunate that me and Al could be that kind of inspiration for these kids to understand that. No matter what the circumstances, especially in the Dominican Republic, are for them, they can achieve their dreams if they just put their mind, soul and their will into every single day.”

WALL OK WITH WIZARDS PLAY IN HIS ABSENCE

Since undergoing left knee surgery, the Wizards have won seven of nine games in his absence. One of the two losses was an overtime thriller to the Boston Celtics. 

“Oh, they've been playing great,” Wall said. “Everybody expects me to be mad or upset. That's what you're supposed to do when somebody goes down. The next man is supposed to step up. So I'm happy for them. Tomas (Satoransky) has been great for us. Everybody's been playing well. Brad (Beal) has been leading the team. It makes my job easy so I don't feel like I have pressure to come back. The way these guys are playing like they are, it makes my job easier.”

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE

Anything is Podable podcast Episode 7: Bumpy playoff road through the East

Anything is Podable podcast Episode 7: Bumpy playoff road through the East

Episode 7 of NBC Sports Boston’s “Anything is Podable” podcast looks back at the playoff road the revitalized Celtics took to their first NBA Finals appearance since 1987. 

Boston breezed through the regular season winning 66 games, the third-most in team history. When the playoffs started, the road was not as easy. The Celtics found a surprisingly difficult test in the first round against a young Atlanta Hawks team.

"The crowd was like something I had never seen in Atlanta before," Paul Pierce said of the fans at Games 3 and 4 and 6 at Phillips Arena, where the Hawks beat the C's to force a Game 7 at TD Garden. 

Back at the Garden, order was restored, as it usually is for the Green at home in seventh games. "Game 7 was an absolute annihilation," said Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge. 

In the second round, the Cleveland Cavaliers and their young superstar, LeBron James, awaited. That also went seven. Pierce (41 points) and James (45) went toe-to-toe in one of the best Game 7 duels in NBA history. 

"That was one of the great games in the history of NBA basketball," said Ainge of the Celtics' 97-92 victory. 

When you've got a great player like LeBron anything can happen in a Game 7. He can be special and he was. Unfortunately for him, I was able to be special, too." 

The conference finals featured the changing of the guard in the East from the veteran Detroit Pistons. The Celtics overcame a 10-point deficit in the fourth quarter to capture Game 6 on the road and head back to the Finals. 

Anything is Podable is a ten-part series diving into the story of the 2008 Celtics and their championship season, with exclusive, never-before-heard interviews with team executives, former players, and media members.

Narrated by Kyle Draper, it’s the perfect way for Celtics fans to pass time this offseason and get excited for 2018-19, a season in which the Celtics have as good a chance at raising their 18th championship banner as they’ve had since that magical 2008 season.

Fans can subscribe here or through the link below and check out the other nine episodes for a look at this exclusive series.

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE

Morris says Ainge, Stevens encouraged him to seek help for anxiety and depression

Morris says Ainge, Stevens encouraged him to seek help for anxiety and depression

Marcus Morris opened up about his mental health issues and says the Celtics were instrumental in encouraging him to seek help.

In the first part of Jackie MacMullan's series on the mental health stigma in the NBA, Paul Piece detailed his battle with depression after being stabbed at a nightclub in 2000. On Tuesday, the second part of MacMullan's series was published and included some eye-opening anecdotes from Morris, who dealt with anxiety and depression issues of his own.

Morris discussed he and his brother Markieff Morris' (currently on Wizards) rough childhoods growing up in North Philadelphia, and how their childhoods led to mental health issues later on in life.

“Honestly, I didn't feel like I could trust anybody -- not even the people in my neighborhood, who I knew my whole life,” Morris told ESPN. “We just walked out stressed all the time. I said to my brother once, 'You know, this is no way to live.'"

After being traded from the Suns to the Pistons in 2015, Morris began questioning whether professional basketball was really meant for him.

"I start asking myself, 'Is this for me?'" Morris told ESPN. "Growing up, I loved the game so much -- it was the only thing that made me happy. But now it's stressing me out. It's all negative. It's all business, and I'm having trouble with that. So you start flipping back and forth. The money is great, but is it good for me as a human? Shouldn't that matter more than anything?"

When Morris was traded again, this time to Boston, things changed for the better. GM Danny Ainge and coach Brad Stevens helped Morris get help, referring him to psychologist Dr. Stephanie Pinder-Amaker.

"She has helped me so much," Morris told ESPN. "It may sound silly, but just closing my eyes in a dark room and breathing for 10 minutes a day helps me. I know lots of guys who are dealing with some kind of anxiety and depression -- not knowing if they have a job next season, not knowing if they're going to get traded. It's so stressful. Everyone is pulling at you. They want your time, your money, a piece of your fame...If you have depression, you should be trying to get rid of it instead of bottling it up and letting it weigh on you and weigh on you and weigh on you.”

You can read MacMullan's entire piece here.

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE