Celtics

Celtics youngsters continue to play with veteran-like confidence

cs_wolves_spark.jpg

Celtics youngsters continue to play with veteran-like confidence

BOSTON – Jaylen Brown spent Thursday’s “snow day” doing what most young people do on such days – he was playing in the snow.

Jayson Tatum was basking in his first (and probably won’t be his last) Eastern Conference Rookie of the Month Award, for December.

MORE CELTICS

These are fun-loving times for the Boston Celtics (31-10) and their young, dynamic duo which has been one of the keys to Boston sitting atop the Eastern Conference standings which includes them winning each of their last four games.

 “I just think that they just play with a lot of confidence,” said Celtics big man Al Horford. “That’s the biggest thing that impresses me. When a rookie comes in, or you’re on a new team, sometimes you’re trying to feel yourself out, don’t want to step on any toes, you’re not sure about certain things. They’re very assertive, aggressive offensively, knowing when to take shots. And on defense they just keep getting better. So that’s a really good … for our team.”

Here are five under-the-radar storylines heading into tonight’s game between Boston and Minnesota.

 

JIMMY BUTLER

Remember all those rumors about Boston’s pursuit of Jimmy Butler? While there was indeed serious interest on Boston’s part to trade for Butler when he played in Chicago, you can chalk that one up to yet another deal that the Celtics benefited from in not doing because it may have taken the Celtics out of the Kyrie Irving sweepstakes which as we can see, has worked out really well for both Boston and Minnesota.

 

TYUS JONES

The former Duke guard has filled in admirably at the point for Jeff Teague (knee). In the four games he has filled in as a starter, Jones has averaged 7.0 points, 4.3 assists, 2.3 rebounds and an impressive 3.0 steals per game.

 

FINISHING AT THE RIM

Boston loves to score at the basket, and have done so this season with more options besides Kyrie Irving. As a team, Boston is shooting 59.7 percent in the restricted area which ranks third in the NBA. And tonight, they face one of the NBA’s worst at defending in the restricted area. Minnesota has allowed opponents to shoot 66.4 percent inside the restricted area which ranks 29th in the NBA.

 

MID-RANGE SHOOTING

While a lot of attention has been paid to Boston’s 3-point shooting, they’ve actually been one of the better teams in the league when it comes to knocking down mid-range jumpers. They come into tonight’s game shooting 42.2 percent on mid-range jumpers which ranks fifth in the NBA. Meanwhile, the Timberwolves are allowing teams to shoot a league-high 43.3 percent on mid-range shots.

 

WORLDS APART ON 3-POINT SHOTS

Tonight’s game will be one of extremes when it comes to the 3-point shot. Boston loves it. Minnesota? Not as much. Boston takes 31.2 three-pointers per game which ranks seventh in the NBA. The Timberwolves are taking 22.7 which ranks 28th in the league. That helps explain the huge gap between Boston’s 11.7 made 3’s per game which ranks fifth in the league, and Minnesota which averages 7.9 made 3’s which ranks 29th in the NBA.

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