Celtics

Celtics come home focused on finishing Sixers

Celtics come home focused on finishing Sixers

PHILADELPHIA – Despite dropping Game 4 Monday night, the Celtics return home feeling good about the trip as a whole.

That’s because, despite the loss, the Celtics still have a firm grip on this series up 3-1 in the series rather than it being tied at two games apiece.

“We knew what kind of game this was going to be coming into this game,” said Marcus Smart. “We knew that they weren’t going to let us sweep them. We knew we were going to have to battle; we knew it. We did our job. We got one. Now, it’s back to the crib!”

Boston will have a second crack at closing this series out on Wednesday night and moving on to the Eastern Conference finals for the second consecutive season to face LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers.

There was no mistaking the disappointment among the Celtics, well aware that a golden opportunity to get a couple more days of rest before the next series was there for the taking.

But really, has anything come easily to this team this season?

That said, it only makes sense and keeps true to the season narrative that the path towards basketball success is anything but a smooth one for Brad Stevens and his players.

“Things didn't go our way this game and we are not going to complain. We're not going to make excuses for it,” said Jaylen Brown. “It was unfortunate, but we are going to come out Game 5 and do what we have to do.”

And that is...

“Finish the game,” Brown said. “Finish the game. Get it done. Advance and do what we were supposed to do.”

Here are five takeaways from the 103-92 Game 4 loss to the 76ers:

T.J. McCONNELL


He had been the plus/minus darling of the Sixers through the first three games, so it made a lot of sense to get him on the floor with their season on the line. McConnell delivered a career-high 19 points, but don’t expect the Celtics to overreact to his strong Game 4 performance. He’ll likely get a little more attention from the Celtics defenders – namely Smart – in Game 5.

FOUL MOOD


Brad Stevens did his part to not complain about the officiating in Game 4, but there’s no getting around its impact on the game. Jayson Tatum wasn’t nearly as aggressive defensively as we’ve seen in the past and that had a lot to do with trying to avoid fouling out. In the second quarter alone, there were 13 foul calls made by the officials – 12 against the Celtics. I hate the whole referees-are-trying-to-cheat-us mentality that permeates among all fan bases. Still, at a minimum, the Celtics have to do a better job at defending without fouling so much.

THE LEGEND OF TATUM


With each playoff game, Tatum’s assault on the Celtics rookie record book continues. He drained a late 3-pointer that left his scoring line at 20 points. He has now scored at least 20 in six consecutive playoff games, extending his franchise record. 

LOST COMPOSURE


The Celtics have been one of the more unflappable teams in the NBA, but Boston lost more than a game on Monday. For the first time in a long time, they unraveled before our very eyes. There was Tatum and the frequent shoulder shrugs after driving to the basket, getting knocked to the ground and no call was made. Both Brown and Stevens were whistled for technical fouls after voicing their disagreement with some of the calls made.

CHIPPY PLAY


Joel Embiid and Terry Rozier had an on-the-floor run-in that, at a minimum, will result in fans at the TD Garden booing Embiid every time he touches the ball in Game 5. Embiid also exchanged some verbal barbs with Marcus Morris, who reminded Embiid on more than one occasion that, at that time, Boston had a 3-0 series lead.

Morris acknowledged he was surprised to hear Embiid chirping considering where the series stood at the time they were jawing with one another.

“That’s reality,” Morris said when asked about flashing the 3-0 sign with his fingers to Embiid. “It’s hard. I know I wouldn’t say a damn word if I was down 3-1 but hey, we all different. It is what it is.”

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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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