Celtics

Game 5 preview: Composed Celtics ready to leave chippy, sloppy play behind

Game 5 preview: Composed Celtics ready to leave chippy, sloppy play behind

BOSTON – It was a sight you rarely ever see – Brad Stevens being whistled for a technical foul.

The only thing that would have been more surprising than the Stevens’ technical in Game 4, would have been for Stevens to complain about it afterwards.

“At the end of the day, we didn’t play well enough to beat Philadephia,” Stevens said. “That has nothing to do with anything but Philadelphia and us and we need to do better.”

Boston will get that opportunity tonight as they try to once again close out their second-round series with Philadelphia which they currently lead three games to one.

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And they’ll get to do it at home where the Celtics have consistently played with a much sharper edge and sense of urgency, than on the road in the playoffs.

“We are pit bulls,” said Marcus Smart. “This is a dog fight and we are going straight for the neck.”

Officiating was definitely a factor in Boston’s Game 4 loss at Philadelphia, but there was a much greater problem at hand – the Celtics themselves. 

Philadelphia was the more aggressive team, evident by the way they controlled the boards. The Sixers forced more turnovers (15 turnovers for 16 points) which factored heavily in Boston not getting into any kind of consistent offensive rhythm.

But the biggest surprise was how Game 4 showed a rare collapse in composure by the Celtics players who were noticeably bothered by the way the game was being called, which had a number of key Celtics players in foul trouble most of the game. In the second quarter alone, Boston was called for 12 personal fouls compared to just one by the Sixers.

“It’s tough,” said Marcus Morris. “I felt like there was a lot of pushing and shoving on both sides. I thought it was physical. They got the benefit of the whistle. It is what it is.”

In addition to the Stevens’ technical foul, Jaylen Brown was whistled for a technical foul moments prior to that.

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“I was very surprised,” Brown said of his technical foul. “I don’t have a bad reputation with talking to the officials or anything, but I’m going to go back and look at it and contact somebody to see what was going on there. But it is what it is. We will figure it out.”

Throw in the back-and-forth woofing between Marcus Morris and Joel Embiid, combined with the double technical fouls called on Terry Rozier and Embiid for their face-to-face dustup, and it was clear that Boston wasn’t its usual cool, calm and collected self in Game 4.

But that’s what makes this Celtics team so special.

Maybe more than any team in the league, their calling card has been their ability to turn the next page and not let whatever happens, good or bad, dwell in their minds or more important, affect their play.

When asked about the lessons taken from the Game 4, loss, Terry Rozier replied, “Win the next one."

Indeed, the Celtics seemed like an antsy bunch to get back on the floor following the Game 4 loss, clearly focused on making amends from the defeat.

“I’m ready to go now,” Morris said Monday night following Boston's Game 4 loss. “They had a lot to say in (Philadelphia). They did what they were supposed to do. They got one (win). We did what we were supposed to do, and we got one so we go back 3-1. Hopefully we put it away.”

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Danny Ainge has established a good track record of getting the best player available

Danny Ainge has established a good track record of getting the best player available

The last couple of years have answered the question of whether Danny Ainge can draft. When making his first choice in 2016 and 2017, he was higher on his guy than most. In both cases, he was right. 

No major publication considered Jayson Tatum the best player last year; Ainge would have taken him No. 1 but was able to trade down because the Sixers were trading up for Markelle Fultz and the Lakers for some reason wanted to sign up for the Lonzo Ball life.

Jaylen Brown at No. 3 in 2016? You remember the boos, and you can understand why they happened. Fans were confused. If they'd been checking nbadraft.net like we all did, they expected him to be the ninth pick. 

Yet in both cases, Ainge and Co. were clearly right. Holding a high pick with no consensus option awaiting him, they wound up with the best player available. 

What's more impressive is that they've also done it later in the draft, and the further down the board you go to make your first pick, the easier it is to take a guy who won't amount to anything, let alone prove to be the best possible selection. 

That's what the Celtics did three years ago with Terry Rozier at No. 16. At the time, Bleacher Report Senior NBA writer Howard Beck deemed that selection the "biggest reach" of the draft; at the very least, the Celtics were heavily criticized for taking him where they did.

Go look at that draft and the players who were selected after Rozier. Would you rather any of those guys over Rozier? Maybe Josh Richardson? Maybe? Probably not, though? 

Now, here's where we need to note that the 2015 draft, for as good as it looks now for the Celtics, could have greatly derailed what's been an excellent rebuild. As the legend goes, Ainge intended to trade a whole lot to get from No. 16 to No. 9 in order to select Justise Winslow, who just had a worse third NBA season than Rozier. 

How badly did Ainge want to move up? According to ESPN's Chris Forsberg that summer, Ainge offered Charlotte "as many as six draft picks, including four potential first-round selections," only to have the deal rejected. Keep in mind that the Celtics still had three Brooklyn picks (which would turn into Brown, Tatum and Kyrie Irving) at that point. 

At any rate, the basketball gods saved Ainge from himself and he followed it up by making the right selection. The latter has happened three straight years now. 

Before that, the Celtics looked more human at the draft. Using 2010 as the cutoff (they didn't have a first-round pick in 2009, so 2010 seemed like a good place to keep it semi-recent), the Celtics have had their fair share of not-quite-misses-but-not-quite-home-runs. The Marcus Smart pick (No. 6 overall in 2014) could have been better spent on Dario Saric. Jared Sullinger (21st overall in 2012) could have instead been Draymond Green (No. 35). Three picks after the Celtics took JaJuan Johnson at 27 (via New Jersey), the Bulls took Jimmy Butler.

Of course, there's no more devastating "what if?" to play than looking back at 2013, when the Celtics got Kelly Olynyk at No. 13 (via Dallas), only to later learn they'd passed on the best player in that draft (Giannis Antetokounmpo). 

Yet that three-year run on not getting the best player has been sandwiched by stronger drafting. In 2010, the C's' selection over Avery Bradley at No. 19 proved to be the best pick they could have made. 

The Celtics are slotted to pick at No. 27 Thursday, a spot that promises very little, though they've got more than enough ammunition to move up. Even if they get whoever proves to be the best NBA player of the guys on the board, there's no promise that said player will have much of an NBA career. Their last three top picks have shown that if they do jump up, they'll get the right guy. 

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NBC Sports Boston Breakfast Pod: What's the ideal draft night for the Celtics?

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NBC Sports Boston Breakfast Pod: What's the ideal draft night for the Celtics?

1:26 - With the NBA Draft finally here, it’s still a mystery exactly what Danny Ainge's Celtics are going to do, whether it’s trade up or stand pat with the 27th overall pick. A. Sherrod Blakely reveals his pipe dream for the draft as well as his top five players the C’s could realistically end up taking at 27.

6:27 - Tom Curran, Michael Holley and Danielle Trotta debate if Eric Decker would be a good fit in New England after the veteran receiver said that he’d love to play for the Patriots.

9:26 - We went to you the fans in a Twitter poll to get the scoop on who is the most entertaining team in Boston and Tom Curran and Michael Holley discuss the results.

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