Celtics

Celtics-Clippers preview: Celtics look to end first half on high note

Celtics-Clippers preview: Celtics look to end first half on high note

BOSTON – The last game before the NBA All-Star break is an unpredictable time for most teams including the Boston Celtics, with thoughts of dunks and decisive runs interspersed with thoughts of Disney vacations and decadent drinks on an island far, far away.

Good times on the horizon, for sure.

The All-Star break will be even more enjoyable for the Celtics if they can defeat the Los Angeles Clippers tonight.

Boston (40-18) comes into tonight’s game having lost two straight and three of its last four games and yet the Celtics are second in the East by one game to Toronto (40-16). Meanwhile, the Clippers (29-26) have won four of their last five games and trail New Orleans by a half-game for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference.

“We need to understand we need to come out and we have a job to do,” said Al Horford. “We have a game at home that we need to take care of. The mindset has to be to come out, be ready to compete through 48 (minutes). That Clippers team, it’s a different look team with shooters around DeAndre Jordan.”

Ex-Celtic Avery Bradley, traded to Detroit from Boston last summer for Marcus Morris, is among the newest Clippers.

In five games with the Clippers, Bradley has averaged 9.0 points, 4.2 rebounds and 2.0 assists while shooting 44.7 percent from the field.

Boston has their own new guy, Greg Monroe, in the fold as well.

He has appeared in three games for the Celtics, averaging 4.0 points and 5.0 rebounds in 14.3 minutes per game.

Monroe’s playing time is very much a to-be-determined matter.

“It’ll just depend night-to-night, matchup to matchup and how we want to go,” said Stevens who added, “There’s a couple things we have in that fit his skillset well. After the break, those are things we’re looking to do.”

But until then, Stevens will continue to preach to his team the importance of staying in the moment and taking care of the task at hand.

“Guys are going to have to do that, regardless,” said Celtics head coach Brad Stevens. “We all have a job to do. We’re playing a really good team (tonight) ... we’re going to have to be really focused and well-prepared.”

Celtics guard Kyrie Irving has made a point of, as one of the Celtics leaders, to try and make sure his youthful teammates are, “staying laser-sharp for the last game …”

Said Irving: “We got one home game in front of our fans before we take it on the road. It’s a good opportunity for us to come together before we do go on the break. So, I’m looking forward to the game (tonight) and go into the all-star game on a high note.”

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Brad Stevens channels Bill Belichick to dodge questions about starting lineup

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File Photo

Brad Stevens channels Bill Belichick to dodge questions about starting lineup

Brad Stevens was utterly Belichickian during the pregame press conference before Game 4.

The Boston Celtics coach fielded and dodged questions about the team's starting lineup. He was asked whether he would be making any changes. And he would not answer.

"We will start five people. I promise," Stevens said with a grin.

Reporters probed him a few times to try to get an answer. When their line of questioning failed, the press conference concluded -- after four questions.

Here's a look at the full transcript.

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Blakely's Game 4 Storylines: Brown knows he's got to be better early

Blakely's Game 4 Storylines: Brown knows he's got to be better early

CLEVELAND – That old basketball adage of “taking it one game at a time” has been modernized by today’s players, who have replaced it with “staying in the moment.”

Jaylen Brown is part of that movement, for sure.

Still, Brown has long exposed us to the reality that he’s a next-level thinker, someone who balances the reality of today with the promise that tomorrow brings, basketball and otherwise.

That’s why for him, the connectivity between tonight’s game and Boston’s ultimate goal – winning a championship – are intertwined in such a way that you can’t realistically look at one without acknowledgement of the other, which is why he’s operating on a level of focus unlike any prior to this point in his basketball career.

“We’re two games away from going to the NBA Finals,” Brown told NBC Sports Boston. “And six [wins] away from doing something special. We’re too close and we came too far to not be focused.”

And Brown knows his play will be among the keys to Boston leaving Cleveland with a Game 4 win and with that, absolute control of the series.

In Boston’s two wins in this series, Brown averaged 13.5 points in the first quarter.

The Game 3 loss saw Brown go scoreless in the first quarter while taking one shot attempt.

“We have to come in and play Celtics basketball and find ways to win,” Brown said.

Here are five other under-the-radar storylines heading into tonight’s Game 4 at Quicken Loans Arena:

HORFORD STREAK SNAPPED


Before scoring just seven points on 2-for-4 shooting in Game 3, Al Horford had reached double figures in points in every playoff game this season. Look for the Celtics to make a more concerted effort to get Horford going offensively tonight.

ROZIER’S RISE


Terry Rozier has had one of the best postseasons ever by a Celtic when it comes to knocking down 3-pointers. He currently has 41 made 3’s in this postseason, which ranks fifth all-time for a single postseason. Boston has at least two more games in this series with Cleveland (tonight and Game 5 in Boston on Wednesday) and at his current rate of 2.7 made 3’s per game, Rozier is on pace to finish this postseason with at least 46 made 3’s which would rank third all-time behind Ray Allen, who made 56 three-pointers in 2010 and 55 in 2008.

IN GOOD COMPANY


Much has been said about the Celtics’ struggles on the road in the playoffs, and justifiably so. They have lost five of six road games in the postseason, which gives them the worst road record among teams still playing. Their struggles aren’t all that different than Boston’s 2008 title-winning team, which also had problems away from the TD Garden. In fact, that team didn’t fare much better than this current Celtics with losses in nine of their 12 road games. That team survived round after round due to having home court advantage, a similar blueprint that has been working for this current crew of Celtics players.

SMART'S POSITIVE CONTRIBUTIONS


Even though the shots falling continue to be sporadic at best for Marcus Smart, you can’t knock the man for what seems to be good things happening most of the time he’s on the floor. Smart has a plus/minus of +18 in this series, which is tops among all players.

POWER OF 3


The 3-point shot has been the ultimate litmus test for whether Cleveland wins or loses in the playoffs. In losses, the Cavs averaged 8.8 made 3-pointers while shooting just 27.3 percent from beyond the arc. In victories, the number of made 3s increases to 11.8 per game while Cleveland’s 3-point shooting also rises, to 39.4 percent.

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