Celtics

Celtics overcome slow start, grind out a victory over Kings

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Celtics overcome slow start, grind out a victory over Kings

BOSTON -- The Boston Celtics were down big early as shots continued to clank off the rim.

Meanwhile, the Sacramento Kings were getting what they wanted offensively, with ease. 

It was that kind of night for the Celtics for most of the first half and early portions of the third quarter against the Kings on Thursday night.

But instead of continuing to fight uphill to no avail, the Celtics showed the kind of grit and determination to get back in the game and eventually take control, the kind of play we saw from them during their West coast trip which gave hope that maybe they packed that same brand of basketball in their carry-ons back to Boston. 

The Celtics, down by as many as 17 points to the Sacramento Kings at TD Garden, mounted a third-quarter rally that set in motion what ultimately became a 126-120 win. 

Boston (42-27) was far from perfect in winning for the fourth time in the last five games. But having to lock in for an extended period of time to get back in the game and eventually take over, bodes well in their quest to go into the postseason playing the kind of basketball needed in order to succeed in the playoffs.

“When we got down (13) in the third, we continued to fight back, continued to play hard,” said Boston’s Marcus Morris, who had his fourth double-double of the season with 21 points and 13 rebounds. “We finished the game off strong. As long as we come out with a win, that’s all that matters.”

☘️ CELTICS 126, KINGS 120

Celtics head coach Brad Stevens was pleased with the win, obviously. 

But he also liked the fact that his team had to battle back to get the win. 

“My encouragement comes from just kind of gutting it out and finding a way down 17, staying together,” Stevens said. “Had every excuse to not play well and just . . . that’s more of what we have been fortunate enough to be used to.”

But that familiarity that Stevens speaks of has not been the norm for the Celtics, this season. 

Despite having all of the core guys return from a team that played with an elite level of fight and fortitude most nights, this year’s team has been more inconsistent in that regard which is why they are fighting to have a top-4 seed in the playoffs as opposed to running away with the Eastern Conference the way many had expected. 

In the third quarter, Boston fell behind by as many as 13 points in the quarter after a driving lay-up by De’Aaron Fox made it an 80-67 game with 7:32 to play which led to a Celtics timeout. 

Boston took over from there as the Celtics closed out the third with a 16-2 run capped off by a Gordon Hayward lay-up with 0.2 seconds to play that put the Celtics ahead 93-91 going into the fourth.

The Celtics would lead for the remainder of the game. 

There are games in which the final score isn’t quite as close as the actual game that was played. 

But make no mistake about it. 

The Celtics, which led by as many as 13 points, had to grind this one out; and they’ll be better off in the long run because of playing — and finding a way to win — games like this. 

“It feels good; add it to the win list,” Irving said. “You just have to battle through it; stay the course, stay aggressive, stay tough, make sure we’re not putting the game in the ref’s hands … we just have to go and take it and tonight we did.”

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Kemba Walker: Team USA focused on 'continuing to get better' after loss

Kemba Walker: Team USA focused on 'continuing to get better' after loss

The Boston Celtics make not be playing right now, but some of their core players are getting some nice experience by playing for Team USA.

This year, the Celtics have four players on the international roster including Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, Marcus Smart, and the newly-signed Kemba Walker. With those four in action, many view this a chance for the C's to develop some early chemistry after issues in that department plagued them last year.

However, Team USA isn't exactly off to a great start. They lost an exhibition match against Team Australia over the weekend, marking the first time in over a decade that they had been beaten. Despite the issues, Walker isn't worried about the team's capabilities in the lead-up to their first FIBA World Cup game on Sep. 1, per Eric Nehm of The Athletic.

They say Team USA doesn’t lose, I get it, they haven’t lost in a very long time, which I understand, but it happens. Teams lose. We are just going to take this loss and build from it, that’s all we can do is continue to try our best to get better.

The real thing doesn’t start until China, so we’ve got one more game. We’re going to head to Sydney and focus on Canada and from that point out the real thing starts. That’s all we are worried about, just continuing to get better, continuing to learn each other.

Walker does have a point, and this iteration of Team USA has only been playing together for a short period of time. Still, seeing Team USA succeed and develop chemistry early would likely be a good sign for the Celtics, as it could give their quartet some needed experience playing together while also proving that they can jell with any group of players. So, they will be watching closely to see how Walker, Smart, Tatum, and Brown are able to fit into the squad.

So far, Walker has been solid and led Team USA with 22 points against Australia. He could be counted on as one of their veteran leaders and may have a chance to be the USA's leading scorer.

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Team USA stunned by Australia, 98-94; Marcus Smart debuts for US

Team USA stunned by Australia, 98-94; Marcus Smart debuts for US

Marcus Smart made his debut for Team USA, which saw its 78-game international winning streak end in a 98-94 loss to Australia early Saturday in Melbourne.

Smart,  who had been bothered by a calf injury throughout training camp as the Americans prepare for the FIBA World Cup next week in China, started and scored seven points, had three assists and one rebound in nine minutes. Fellow Celtics guard Kemba Walker led Team USA with 22 points.

The other members of the Celtics contingent - a.k.a. "Team Shamrock" - Jayson Tatum (five points) and Jaylen Brown (eight points) came off the bench as the US, which had a 10-point lead in the third quarter, lost for the first time since 2006 with NBA players on its roster.

Former Celtics big man Aron Baynes, now with the Phoenix Suns, had 13 points for the Aussies, who were led by a 30-point performance from Patty Mills of the San Antonio Spurs. 

With an injury to the Los Angeles Lakers' Kyle Kuzma keeping him out of the World Cup, the 12-player US roster is set and it will include all four Celtics. The Americans open against the Czech Republic on Sept. 1 in China.

The last US loss with NBA players was in the 2006 world championship semifinals to Greece, a team that next week will feature NBA MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo of the Milwaukee Bucks. Team USA enters the World Cup No. 1 in the FIBA rankings 

“They wanted it more than us tonight,” Walker said. “Lesson learned for us.”

 

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