Celtics

Heat-Celtics Takeaways: Jaylen Brown's breakout performance (31 points) carry Celtics

Heat-Celtics Takeaways: Jaylen Brown's breakout performance (31 points) carry Celtics

BOSTON -- The Miami Heat have ended more than their share of home winning streaks this season, proving themselves to be one of the NBA’s best road teams. 

Well, that killer road success did nothing for them against the Celtics on Wednesday night as the Celtics had them looking more like roadkill as they sped away in the second half for a 112-93 win. 

Jaylen Brown delivered yet another gem of a performance, tallying a season-high 31 points. Leading scorer Kemba Walker (22 points, seven assists) and Jayson Tatum (19 points, five rebounds) also had strong games for Boston (15-5). 

The Heat, having pulled out an overtime win at Toronto less than 24 hours earlier, had a strong start to the game but soon faded and, while chipping away at Boston’s lead, never really threatened Boston’s control of the action in the second half. 

Miami’s best player, Jimmy Butler, did a little bit of everything for the Heat while scoring a game-high 37 points to go with six rebounds and four assists. 

Still, the story of this game was the Celtics, playing without their defensive ace Marcus Smart, who was out due to an illness in addition to dealing with some still-lingering oblique soreness suffered in a win at New York on Sunday.

We have seen them do well when one of their core guys is out and Wednesday’s game was no exception. 

While some will point towards the Heat being on the second night of a back-to-back, the Heat are one of the more resilient teams in the NBA and came out playing to do more than just compete. 

As the game wore on, Boston’s defense steadily wore them down. And down went the talented Heat, one of the best teams in the NBA on the road who, on this night, weren’t road warriors but were more like roadkill. 

Here are some other takeaways from the win:

JAYLEN BROWN 

It seems at least once or twice a week, Jaylen Brown delivers a performance that stands out for all the right reasons. Boston had a lot of bodies step up on Wednesday and contribute to the win, but Brown’s play was arguably the best.

It’s easy to get caught up in his season-high 31 points, but Brown did more than just get buckets. He moved without the ball, kept the ball moving when he had it in hand and did all he could defensively to at least contest many of those big shots that Butler was draining all night. 

It was a strong all-around game for Brown, the kind that we’re getting accustomed to seeing from him on a night-in, night-out basis. 

FREE THROWS

Don’t let the final numbers fool you. The Celtics absolutely dominated this category, fueled by an extremely lopsided first half in which Boston was 13-for-18 from the line compared to the Heat, who missed their only free-throw attempt in the first half. For the game, Boston was 26-for-32 from the line, Miami 11-for-17.

SECOND-QUARTER DEFENSE

The Celtics played good defense for most of the game, but the turning point came in the second quarter. Boston closed out the second quarter with a 26-7 run fueled in large part by their defense, which limited the Heat to 7-for-21 shooting. 

Boston’s defense has not been nearly as good the past week or so as it was earlier this season. Several factors have contributed to their struggles, but the bottom line is they have to play more consistently. 

What we saw in the second quarter on Wednesday was exactly what the Celtics have to do defensively going forward. 

They were as connected as we’ve seen them defensively this season, which will come in handy in a couple of days when they face a Denver Nuggets squad that has the depth that will challenge Boston at both ends of the floor.

FIRST-HALF KEMBA

We’ve seen Kemba Walker save his best play for the second half most of this season but Wednesday night against the Heat being the exception. Walker scored 17 of his 28 points in the first half, doing so on an efficient 5-for-10 shooting. On top of that, he had four assists in the first half with zero turnovers. 

Walker’s playmaking more so than his playmaking was huge for the Celtics who were playing without Smart, their top playmaker this season. 

The way he adapted his play to still be impactful but certainly help fill the void left by Smart’s absence was huge.

JIMMY BUTLER

The second half brought about an entirely different, far more aggressive Butler. The Heat got down by as many as 16  in the third quarter before Butler put the Heat on his back and rallied them to get within single digits. He would finish with a game-high 37 points, six rebounds and four assists.

This was yet another night in which the Celtics had their struggles limiting a good scorer from having a great night. Still, to their credit, Boston didn’t allow Butler's supporting cast to get into any kind of major rhythm offensively, which softens the blow of again being lit up by an opponent. 

Don't miss NBC Sports Boston's coverage of Celtics-Nuggets, which tips off Friday at 7 p.m. with Celtics Pregame Live, and then Mike & Tommy have the call at 8 p.m. You can also stream the game on the MyTeams App.

 


 

There's a lot to love about what Romeo Langford is doing defensively for Celtics

There's a lot to love about what Romeo Langford is doing defensively for Celtics

MINNEAPOLIS -- Within seconds of stepping on to the floor in the first quarter Friday night against Minnesota, the Celtics' Romeo Langford knew he was going to be tested. 

“Put him in action,” Langford heard one of the Timberwolves players tell a teammate when he saw Langford was the primary defender.

That’s basketball lingo for, “go at that dude!”

LIVE stream the Celtics all season and get the latest news and analysis on all of your teams from NBC Sports Boston by downloading the My Teams App.

The Celtics rookie has seen limited playing time this season, so he’s more than accustomed to being challenged shortly after checking into a game. 

“They can try me; a lot of people try me,” Langford told NBC Sports Boston following the 127-117 win over the Timberwolves. “It’s just funny to me. Because I know what I can do defensively.”

And fortunately for the Celtics, so does coach Brad Stevens, who has shown no hesitation in putting Langford into the game sooner rather than later. 

“When [teams] isolate him late, I feel really good about Romeo being isolated,” said Stevens. “He’s got great length, great agility.”

And tremendous confidence, courtesy of the time spent preparing for opponents with Celtics assistant Joe Mazzulla. 

That confidence was on display Friday night, with Langford showing the ability to consistently contest shots, which led a strong night defensively. 

Langford defended 10 Minnesota players who combined to shoot just 1-for-7 against him, with the lone made basket coming in transition in the first quarter by Malik Beasley, who had a team-high 27 points.

And when Jaylen Brown fouled out in the fourth quarter, Stevens didn’t hesitate to turn to Langford to close out the game. 

"It's great experience coming in like that," Brown told NBC Sports Boston. "I don't ever want to foul out, obviously. But it's good that we can turn to Romeo and he can hold it down for us when he gets his chance."

A series of injuries kept Langford out for large chunks of the season making it more challenging for Stevens to know what he could expect when Langford did play.

Still, through stints with the Maine Red Claws and limited time with the Celtics, Stevens has seen the progress made by Langford particularly when it comes to defense.

“He’s starting to trust me now,” Langford said of Stevens. “Especially early in the game and towards the end of the game. It shows like, I’m doing something right. I need to keep it up now.”

To see Langford being praised for his defense is a far cry from where he was at the start of the season when all the talk about the lottery pick was centered around his ability to score. 

When it comes to defense, Langford said his approach is pretty simple. 

“Just embraced it,” Langford said. “Brad says and everyone on the team says, 'the way you play on this team at a young age, is by defense.' So, I like to play and I want to play so I focus on defense so I can get some run in.”

Don't miss NBC Sports Boston's coverage of Celtics-Lakers, which begins Sunday at 2:30 p.m. with Celtics Pregame Live followed by tip-off at 3:30 p.m. You can also stream on the MyTeams App.

Daniel Theis among the Celtics to put up big scoring numbers against Minnesota

Daniel Theis among the Celtics to put up big scoring numbers against Minnesota

MINNEAPOLIS -- The Boston Celtics had four players score at least 20 points in their 127-117 win at Minnesota on Friday night.

Although it hasn’t happened by a Celtics team since 2015, it’s not all that surprising with this group when you consider the Celtics’ roster and the amount of above-average scorers they have.

But when you see that the quartet of big-time scorers on Friday included Daniel Theis … now that’s surprising.

It was indeed a career night for Theis who tallied his fifth double-double of the season with 25 points and 16 rebounds - both career highs.

LIVE stream the Celtics all season and get the latest news and analysis on all of your teams from NBC Sports Boston by downloading the My Teams App.

Theis credits his strong play to his teammates finding him when he rolled to the basket (over and over and over again) or on last-minute passes when the defense collapsed and left Theis open at the rim.

“So that’s what I kept doing,” Theis said. “Just roll. If they shoot it, go for the rebound.”

Theis’ strong game came after a lackluster start for the 6-foot-9 center.

You can count head coach Brad Stevens among those surprised at Theis having a career night considering how he began the game. 

It started off when he lost the opening tip. 

Soon after that, the man he was sorta, kinda, but not really defending early on, Naz Reid, had four points in just 53 seconds. 

As far as Theis having a career night, “The first couple of possessions I would not have predicted that,” Stevens said. “He got beat up pretty good. But he was great; he was a threat at the rim.”

Theis is also a much tougher cover for opponents that try and go small, often having the size to overpower them in the post if they are smaller while still having a nice enough touch from the perimeter to make teams pay from distance as well.

“They were pretty small in there and he did a great job of getting behind (the defense),” Stevens said. “He also protected us at the rim in critical times there.”

For Theis, fielding questions about scoring is something that he’s not accustomed to doing. 

But this night was indeed an unusual one, even for a Celtics team that on paper has several players with high-scoring potential on a night-in, night-out basis.

“It shows how good and how deep our team is,” Theis said. “We have guys who can score 20 points every night; Kemba (Walker), JT (Jayson Tatum), Jaylen (Brown), Gordon (Hayward), (Marcus) Smart … today I was in that mix, too.”

And while Theis’ points were certainly important ones for Boston, don’t look for him to all of a sudden become a shot-chucker. 

“At the end, everybody knows I don’t care about the scoring,” Theis said. “I care about the defensive part; we have to get better on defense, we gave up a lot of stuff.”

Indeed, the Celtics know the defense that they played against the Timberpups (16-38 this season) has to be better going forward, not just against the Los Angeles Lakers on Sunday but also against other teams down the road that will be better than Minnesota. 

But it’s good to know that on any given night, Theis can do more than just run the floor, rebound and defend. 

He can also score which only enhances the value he has to this team.

“Theis played great. He doesn’t always get a lot of attention,” said Jayson Tatum who had 28 points and 11 rebounds for his eighth double-double this season. “But he’s very vital to our team’s success night-in, night-out and capable of big games like this.”

Being an All-Star, Tatum is accustomed to the added attention defenses will pay him now. 

That attention tends to open things up for teammates such as Theis whose only 3-pointer made came on an assist from Tatum in the third quarter.

“I get a lot of buckets off of Theis setting screens,” Tatum said. “So I always make sure I say thank you.”

Don't miss NBC Sports Boston's coverage of Celtics-Lakers, which begins Sunday at 2:30 p.m. with Celtics Pregame Live followed by tip-off at 3:30 p.m. You can also stream on the MyTeams App.