Celtics

Has Brad Stevens finally found his 'microwave' in Celtics rookie Carsen Edwards?

Has Brad Stevens finally found his 'microwave' in Celtics rookie Carsen Edwards?

Maybe fellow rookie Tremont Waters best summed up what it was like to watch Carsen Edwards erupt for eight third-quarter 3-pointers in the Celtics' exhibition finale Tuesday night in Cleveland.

“I didn’t want to get burnt, so I tried to stay away from him,” Waters (half-) joked to reporters.

Edwards scored 26 third-quarter points behind his 3-point barrage, all of which came in little more than a five-minute span. Maybe more staggering was the distance of his 3-point makes in the quarter, including four of 30-plus feet and an average distance of 29.1 feet on the eight makes.

Edwards nearly matched Klay Thompson’s regular-season record of nine 3-pointers in a quarter. He did match Boston’s regular-season record of nine 3-pointers in a game, a feat accomplished by both Isaiah Thomas and Antoine Walker.

Celtics coach Brad Stevens was present for Thomas’ outburst and Edwards’ offensive explosion still left him searching for the right words.

"I don't know if I've ever seen anything like that,” Stevens told reporters in Cleveland. "Those were deep, hard 3s. And how many? Eight? In like five minutes? I've never seen anything like that. I don't know that I have any reference points. He was pretty special.”

For his part, Edward shrugged off his part. He credited his teammates with finding him open shots. He suggested that he slipped into a similar shooting zone against top-seeded Virginia during the NCAA Tournament (that day, Edwards scored 42 points on 14-of-25 shooting with ten 3-pointers as Purdue nearly produced the upset).

What Stevens liked best was how Edwards, who took a hard shot to the nose in the opening minutes of the game, shook off an uneven first half to erupt in the second.

"I think the most encouraging part of the whole performance was I didn't think he was very good in the first half. And for him to be able to recenter and play and come out of the gates like that in the second, that's a great thing for a coach to learn about somebody,” Stevens told reporters. "Sometimes guys don't have it on a given night ... but you always know that he's probably one time from hitting the net away from getting hot.

"He lives on heat checks.”

The bigger picture here for the Celtics is that, in summer league and the preseason, Edwards has shown that his scoring skills should translate to the NBA. He might just be the microwave bench scoring option that the team has long coveted in the Stevens era.

It’s fair to want to see it in regular-season play. But it would also seem logical that Edwards might see even easier shots if he’s got talents such as Jayson Tatum or Gordon Hayward on the court and opposing teams can’t send their best defenders at him.

Not that it would deter him, anyhow. In the preseason, 31 of Edwards’ 43 field goal attempts came beyond the arc. He shot 45.2 percent from 3-point land and 51.2 percent overall. He scored 61 points in 73 minutes and the Celtics had an offensive rating of 112.6 when he was on the court.

Edwards’ usage percentage was 28.8 percent this preseason, a number driven slightly higher by his six turnovers. Still, he accounted for a staggering 34.1 percent of Boston’s points in his floor time.

This suggests that he won’t be particularly bashful when Stevens puts him into regular-season games. There’s backup guard minutes to be had with the departure of Terry Rozier and Edwards will get plenty of reps if he shoots like he has since arriving in Boston.

It’s a good sign for Boston if players like Waters need a bit of zinc oxide to combat any burns they get from being too close to Edwards moving forward.

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.

Gordon Hayward's return will help Celtics the most in these four areas

Gordon Hayward's return will help Celtics the most in these four areas

BOSTON — With Gordon Hayward set to return possibly as early as Monday night’s game against Cleveland, he’ll be rejoining a squad that’s playing great basketball which has them among the NBA’s top teams.

But here’s the thing. 

Before suffering a fourth metacarpal fracture in his left hand which has been surgically repaired, Hayward and the Celtics were playing the best basketball of any team in the league. 

Can they get back to where they were with Hayward?

If they do, look for Boston to make notable strides in the following areas of play. 

OFFENSIVE OPTIONS

Now keep in mind, even when Hayward was healthy, the Celtics weren’t exactly killin’ the game with a ton of points or red-hot shooting. 

What they did more than anything else was create a pick-your-poison scenario on a game-to-game basis for defenses.

While there’s some element of that still around in his absence, there’s no debate that Hayward’s presence makes Boston a much more dangerous team to defend. 

And upon his return, the Celtics will be even more dangerous, thanks to the emergence of Jaylen Brown, who has been delivering All-Star quality production with Hayward out, along with the solid contributions Boston has been getting all season from Jayson Tatum and Kemba Walker. 

DEFENSIVE VERSATILITY

The NBA is all about creating mismatches on the floor, so teams with the ability to switch effectively on defense will find success. The return of Hayward gives Boston another body who has the size, strength and mobility to defend multiple positions. 

When he was healthy, the Celtics' defensive rating of 101.5 was the fifth-best mark in the NBA, which was surprising when you consider they lost defensive anchors Al Horford (Philadelphia) and Aron Baynes (Phoenix) in the offseason.

Boston’s defensive rating without Hayward dipped to 104.7, which still ranks seventh in the NBA. 

And while Hayward’s defensive ability has been questioned in the past, his defensive rating of 100.6 stacks up well relative to his teammates. 

WING DEPTH

If you want to win in the NBA, you better have wings — and that’s plural, not singular. And the Celtics have more than their share of talented ones, which is why the return of Hayward is so vital to the team’s overall success. 

Hayward has the ability to do many things on the floor, evident by his stats this season which touch on all the key categories. 

In addition to averaging 18.9 points per game, Hayward is also grabbing 7.1 rebounds to go with 4.1 assists per game.

Those are good numbers for sure. 

But what makes the Celtics so dangerous is they have not one but two others delivering similar production or better from the wing position, in Jayson Tatum (21.2 points, 7.0 rebounds) and Jaylen Brown (20.0 points, 6.9 assists).

STRONGER BENCH

The Celtics’ second unit has taken its share of hits this season because they don’t score as much as some — OK, most — other reserve groups. Of course that’s partly because Boston has one of the highest-scoring starting fives in the NBA, which means limited opportunities for the backups and thus, less points. 

Because of that, it puts a greater premium on their bench players to come in and impact the game at the defensive end of the floor. 

And the return of Gordon Hayward will provide that group some much-needed depth with what will likely be the return of defensive ace Marcus Smart back to that unit which has been solid this season. 

According to hoopsstats.com, Boston has allowed opposing second units to score 33.4 points per game which is the fourth-fewest allowed in the NBA this season.  

That number will likely take a drop with Smart directing that group more than he is currently. 

Don't miss NBC Sports Boston's coverage of Celtics-Cavaliers, which tips off Monday at 7 p.m. with Celtics Pregame Live, and then Tommy & Mike have the call at 7:30 p.m. You can also stream the game on the MyTeams App.

Celtics injury report: Robert Williams ruled out vs. Cavaliers

Celtics injury report: Robert Williams ruled out vs. Cavaliers

The Boston Celtics will be missing some size on their bench for Monday night's game vs. the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Robert Williams has been ruled out with left hip soreness, the team announced Sunday. Rookie Romeo Langford was also ruled out as he continues to recover from the ankle injury he suffered during a game with the Maine Red Claws.

On the bright side for Boston, Gordon Hayward could make his long-awaited return to the court after missing the last month with a fractured left hand.

Hayward originally was slated to return from his injury around Christmas.

The Celtics (16-5) and Cavaliers (5-17) will face off at 7:30 p.m. ET on Monday.

Don't miss NBC Sports Boston's coverage of Celtics-Cavaliers, which tips off Monday at 7 p.m. with Celtics Pregame Live, and then Tommy & Mike have the call at 7:30 p.m. You can also stream the game on the MyTeams App.