Celtics

Celtics third-quarter play is something to admire

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Celtics third-quarter play is something to admire

BOSTON – If you listen to Brad Stevens and his players, there’s little said inside the locker room at halftime.

If they’re winning, the focus becomes on what’s working and how to build off that for a couple more quarters of play.

But if they are playing from behind, often the source of their problems is self-evident which is half the battle when it comes to making it right.

As we’ve seen this season, how Boston plays in the third quarter is a major indicator of the game’s outcome.

Boston has a winning record when trailing after the first quarter (12-7) and second quarter (13-10) of games this season, but they're just 7-10 when trailing after three quarters of play.

Strong play in the third quarter certainly played a major role in Boston’s 119-110 win over Atlanta on Friday, a game in which the Celtics outscored the Hawks 41-20 in the third.

And it’ll certainly be something to keep an eye on today when the Celtics host the Portland Trail Blazers.

While the 41 points scored stood out, even more significant was the Celtics defense which has been pretty good all season in the third quarter of games.

Boston averages 26.5 points scored in the third quarter which ranks 15th in the NBA, while allowing teams to score 24.2 points in the third which is second only to Memphis (24.1) in the NBA. The +2.3 point differential ranks third in the NBA. Other impressive third quarter stats for Boston include opponent field goal percentage (.431, 3rd in the league) and opponent 3-point percentage (.336, 2nd).

 Here are five under-the-radar story lines heading into Boston’s matchup against the Portland Trail Blazers.

CONQUERING THE WEST

Facing teams from the Western Conference has been a good thing for the Boston Celtics this season. Boston has a record of 14-5 against Western Conference teams which is tops among all teams in the East against their Western Conference brethren. A Brad Stevens-coached team has never won more than 17 games (2015-2016) against the West in a single season.

REBOUNDING CONCERNS

Both Boston and Portland have won four of their last five games. They have each done well in several areas which includes rebounding. The Celtics have been solid during the last five games, grabbing 51.5 percent of available rebounds which ranks 10th in the league during that span. Unfortunately, they’re facing a Blazers team that has been killin’ it during the last five games when it comes to rebounding, evident by them having a league-best .542 rebounding percentage.

ROZIER MILESTONE

Terry Rozier has seen a noticeable spike in his minutes played this season and should surpass his total minutes played a year ago, today. During the 2016-2017 campaign, Rozier played 1,263 minutes in the regular season. This season, he is up to 1,250 minutes.

MASS CONNECTIONS

The TD Garden will have a few more fans cheering for the visiting team today, than usual. And the reason? The Portland Trail Blazers have a roster filled with players from the state of Massachusetts, a group that includes Pat Connaughton (Arlington, MA), Shabazz Napier (Roxbury, MA), Jake Layman (Norwood, Ma) and Noah Vonleh (Haverhill, MA).

WEEKEND WARRIORS

When you’ve won as much as the Celtics have this season, success comes in just about every scenario one can think of. But the weekends have been particularly good for Boston this season. They come into today’s game with an impressive 11-2 record in games played on Saturday and Sunday. The lone losses were to Orlando (103-95) on Jan. 21 and Golden State (109-105) on Jan. 27.

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Celtics-Cavaliers preview: How will C's respond to blowout Game 3 loss?

Celtics-Cavaliers preview: How will C's respond to blowout Game 3 loss?

CLEVELAND – This season has been one lesson learned after another for the Boston Celtics, a team that has taken those teachings and transformed them into better play moving forward. 

It is a trend the Celtics hope to continue tonight as they try and bounce back from a 116-86 Game 3 thrashing at the hands of the Cleveland Cavaliers who now trail Boston 2-1 in the best-of-seven series. 

“All season I feel like we've been learning,” said Boston’s Al Horford. “We've been put in different positions. And now we're in a position that we need to bounce back, and (tonight) we have a good opportunity.”

Boston doesn’t have a ton of experience this season when it comes to suffering double-digit losses. 

In fact, the Celtics only suffered nine losses by 10 or more points this season. 

But here’s the thing: 

You hear players on this team talk all the time about putting the last game quickly behind them, win or lose. 

Well, that has certainly been the case when they have suffered losses by 10 or more points, evident by them posting an impressive 8-1 regular season record in the games that followed double-digit defeats. 

So if the Celtics seem extremely calm right now, that’s why.

“Everybody loses games,” said Boston’s Jayson Tatum. “The NBA is such a quick turnaround that you really can't be down, especially in the playoffs.”

The Celtics will be fine in terms of their approach mentally to Game 4. The bigger issue is doing a better job of executing at both ends of the floor and doing so without being thrown off their rhythm by the crowd noise that’s pumped into the Quicken Loans Arena that players acknowledged made communicating tougher than usual in Game 3.

“It's going to be loud. But that can't be an excuse for us,” said Boston’s Marcus Smart. “The young guys know that. It's alright, it's one game. The one thing about this sport, you get a chance to go out there and do it again, so it's a blessing to have that opportunity.”

And for the Celtics, tonight’s game offers more than just a chance to exact some payback for a dismal Game 3 performance. It also moves them one step closer towards the NBA Final.

But make no mistake about it. 

The sting of how thoroughly the Celtics were outplayed is indeed on the minds of some players heading into tonight’s game. 

“I use it as fuel because I thought it was embarrassing,” said Boston’s Jaylen Brown. “I thought we came out, the way I played, the way I performed, how not aggressive I was in the first half, I look at that as fuel to come out in Game 3 and be excited about it and be ready to play and ready to fight.

Brown added, “We can't look at the last game and get down on ourselves or

think we're out of the series because we lost one game. That's what the world thinks, that's what the world wants us to think, so we're going to come out and play some basketball (tonight), regardless of what anybody got to say.”

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David Ortiz once came through in the clutch for Al Horford's wedding

David Ortiz once came through in the clutch for Al Horford's wedding

David Ortiz doesn't only come through in the clutch when he's in the batter's box.

He also delivers in clutch situations off the field. Take Al Horford's wedding for example. The Celtics big man had a last-minute wedding in the Dominican Republic and desperately needed a car to pick up his wife-to-be. Big Papi saved the day, sending Horford his Phantom and a driver. He even let them keep the car for a couple of days.

Horford told the story to the NBCS Camera Guys, who you should definitely follow on Twitter if you haven't already. . .

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