Celtics

Celtics Spotlight: Could Carsen Edwards be the Celtics' X-factor?

Celtics Spotlight: Could Carsen Edwards be the Celtics' X-factor?

One by one, the shots kept going up and then down, through the net for Boston Celtics guard Carsen Edwards. For the folks at Cleveland’s Q Arena, Edwards was delivering the kind of shooting clinic that you don’t often see from guys in an open gym let alone in a game. 

The second-round pick dropped 30 points on the Cavs in a preseason win for Boston, highlighted by Edwards’ 26-point third quarter onslaught that got props from his teammates as well as NBA legends such as Dwyane Wade on Twitter.

It was a reminder as to why there was a joyful noise coming out of the Celtics’ offices on draft night moments before the trade for Edwards in the second round of last June’s NBA draft, became official. 

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There was a period of time during training camp when Edwards’ lights-out shooting was hotter than usual, prompting head coach Brad Stevens to say at the time that Edwards has, “been making shots the last five days.”

But hearing his words out loud, Stevens quickly added, “He’s been making shots forever.”

It’s a successful season for Edwards if … 

He continues to do what we’ve seen thus far in the preseason. He appeared in all four games and averaged 18.1 minutes of court time, which is probably more than he will average this season. A big emphasis for Edwards to play this season lies in his ability to be solid defensively, a part of his game that’s often overshadowed by his offensive prowess. While undersized at 6-foot-1, he makes up for that with a 6-6 wingspan. But of course, it is the promise he has shown as an instant-offense, catch-and-shoot scorer who can get hot offensively at any time. He had an offensive rating in the preseason of 112.6 which was tops among all Celtics who appeared in all four games and averaged at least 10 minutes of court action. 

It’s a disappointing season for Edwards if … 

He becomes the latest summer league/preseason sensation whose game doesn’t translate nearly as well when it matters. There’s a lot of attention paid to what he does offensively, which is understandable. But if he struggles defensively, that will significantly limit his opportunities on the floor. And even if he’s doing a decent job defensively, he will see better defenders as the season progresses. Can he still manage to free himself up for shots? And if his shots aren’t falling, what can he provide? The answers to those questions will go far in determining the success of this season for Edwards.  

2019-2020 Outlook

We knew coming out of Purdue that Edwards was a big-time, high-volume scorer who could light up the scoreboard at any time. No one expects him to be that prolific scoring the ball this year for Boston. But what we’ve seen in the preseason and in summer league, certainly bodes well for him being a difference-maker for the Celtics this season off the bench. His size will certainly work against him as a defender in some instances. But that has been a concern at every level of play for him, and it never has prevented him from being an impact performer. If he can play at a level comparable to what we’ve seen thus far, Edwards may wind up being the X-factor the Celtics need in order to solidify their place as one of the top teams in the East. 

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A. Sherrod Blakely's Takeways from Celtics' bounce-back win over Suns

A. Sherrod Blakely's Takeways from Celtics' bounce-back win over Suns

Well, the losing didn’t last very long. 

The Celtics shook off their second loss of the season from 24 hours earlier and came away with a solid 99-85 win in Phoenix led by Jayson Tatum’s 26-point, 11-rebound performance for his second double-double of the season. 

It was relatively close until the Celtics closed out the second quarter with a 20-4 run to lead 57-42 at the half. 

Boston (11-2) continued to pull away in the second half in what was a surprisingly cushy win over a Suns team that had won five of its past seven and was playing some of the best basketball in the NBA. 

However, the victory could be bittersweet if Marcus Smart is lost for an extended period with an ankle sprain suffered in the fourth quarter, although postgame comments from Smart and coach Brad Stevens make it sound as if the injury was not as severe as it looked. Smart left after scoring 17 points to go with four assists, two steals and a blocked shot.

Boston’s success on Monday was similar to what they had done in their 10-game winning streak but wasn't apparent in their 100-99 loss in Sacramento on Sunday, a game in which Smart’s potential game-winning shot hung on the rim for what seemed like an eternity before rolling out as time expired. 

On Monday, the Celtics’ defense forced turnovers early on, which took the Suns out of running their offense as efficiently as they are accustomed to. And that kept Devin Booker, who came in having averaged more than 42 points against the Celtics, from ever getting into any kind of rhythm. 

It was a quality win over a quality opponent on the road, a victory that came about by Boston getting back to doing the things that had allowed them to run off their impressive winning streak. 

Here are a few more takeaways: 

MARCUS SMART

We often talk about Marcus Smart as being the heart and soul of this team. It’s hard to imagine anyone being more locked into Monday night than Smart, who knew he had to lead the defensive focus on limiting the high-scoring Booker. Still, as we’ve seen with Smart this season more than any other, he’s intent on showing he can impact the game at both ends of the floor. In addition to leading the defensive efforts, Smart also had a strong game scoring with 17 points. However, the ankle injury makes him questionable for Wednesday against the Clippers in Los Angeles.

DEFENDING BOOKER

Considering how Booker has torched the Celtics for an average of 42.5 points in the previous four games against them, the Celtics had to feel really good about limiting him to just 20 points. And they did so with a multitude of defenders coming at Booker from a multitude of angles via double-teams, triple-teams, tilting in his direction … if it involved defense, chances are high that the Celtics tried it at some point in limiting Booker. Whether Smart is available Wednesday or not, the Celtics will have to employ a similar all-hands-on-deck approach defensively if they are to somehow limit the Clippers’ two best players, Kawhi Leonard and Paul George. 

CELTICS BENCH 

This group doesn’t score a ton of points, but they are starting to make the most of their chances to impact what matters most to the Celtics - winning. Brad Wanamaker continues to be their most consistent guard off the bench, scoring 10 points to go with six assists and three steals. Grant Williams, who picked up his first DNP-CD (Did not play- coach's decision) in the loss in Sacramento, maxed out his opportunity to play with four points, two blocks and a slew of hustle plays that Boston absolutely needed from him tonight. The C's also got solid contributions from Robert Williams and Carsen Edwards. 

FIRST-HALF KEMBA

It has been well documented how Kemba Walker has struggled offensively in the first half of most games this season. 

Not Monday.

The Celtics got late-game Kemba, in the first half for a change. He wound up with 19 points, 13 of which came in the first half on 6-for-11 shooting with all five of his misses coming from 3-point range.  

The Celtics really needed Walker to put his imprint on the game early so they could get off to a good start, establish control of the game and pull away in the end. 

“I try to come out and make the right plays,” Walker told NBC Sports Boston’s Abby Chin after the win.

Don’t miss NBC Sports Boston's coverage of Celtics-Clippers, which tips off Wednesday at 9 p.m. ET with Celtics Pregame Live, then Mike & Scal have the call of the game at 10 p.m. You can also stream the game through the MyTeams App.

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Celtics easily on your device.

 


 
 

NBA Highlights: Celtics bounce back with win 99-85 over Suns

NBA Highlights: Celtics bounce back with win 99-85 over Suns

FINAL SCORE: Celtics 99, Suns 85

IN BRIEF: Jayson Tatum scores 26 points and has 11 rebounds and Kemba Walker scores 19 points as the Celtics bounce back from a loss in Sacramento a night earlier and beat the Suns in Phoenix, 99-85. BOX SCORE

CELTICS RECORD: 11-2

HIGHLIGHTS

ARON BAYNES RE-INTRODUCING HIMSELF TO HIS OLD FRIENDS:

SMART FINDS BROWN FOR THE ALLEY-OOP:

HELLO AGAIN, MR. BAYNES:

NO 3 IS SAFE WITH ROBERT WILLIAMS AROUND:

MARCUS SMART, SHARPSHOOTER:

KEMBA HITS, TAKES A SEAT:

KEMBA CLOSES OUT THE HALF STRONG:

A SCARY-LOOKING MARCUS SMART INJURY:

A BIG NIGHT FOR TATUM:

UP NEXT:

@ L.A. Clippers, Wednesday, 10 p.m., NBC Sports Boston
@ Denver Nuggets, Friday, 9 p.m., NBC Sports Boston 
 

Don’t miss NBC Sports Boston's coverage of Celtics-Clippers, which tips off Wednesday at 9 p.m. ET with Celtics Pregame Live, then Mike & Scal have the call of the game at 10 p.m. You can also stream the game through the MyTeams App.