Celtics

If any rookie can handle playoff pressure, it's Jayson Tatum

If any rookie can handle playoff pressure, it's Jayson Tatum

BOSTON – For most of this season, Jayson Tatum has played with the kind of poise you don’t see in a rookie. 

But as the 20-year-old will soon find out, the playoffs require a different level of focus and attention to detail – areas Tatum has thrived in all season. 

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That’s why despite the first-year forward getting his first taste of playoff basketball this afternoon, there’s no concerns among those around him that the moment will be too much for him. 

“You know, I just believe in him,” said Celtics head coach Brad Stevens. “He’s a winner, he’s a competitor. He’s got a good emotional maturity to him. And he’s a very talented basketball player.”

Tatum averaged 13.9 points, 5.0 rebounds and 1.6 assists per game while shooting 47.5 percent from the field and a rookie-best 43.4 percent from 3-point range. 

Speaking of 3’s, Tatum finished the regular season with a franchise-record 105 made three-pointers. 

Marcus Morris has been a mentor of sorts for Tatum this season.

When it comes to the playoffs, Morris’ advice to Tatum has been pretty succinct.

“I told him to just do what he do, continue to play,” Morris said. 

Tatum said his approach to his first playoffs series is to basically stick to what has worked for him already. 

“Try to be aggressive, space the floor and we all have to defend out there, use our length,” Tatum said. 

Here are five under-the-radar story lines heading into today’s Game 1 matchup between Boston and the Milwaukee Bucks.

 

The ‘If only …’ Game

It’s hard for Celtics fans to see Giannis Antetokounmpo do so many amazing things on the floor and not think about how he could have been a Celtic. Antetokounmpo was selected with the 15thoverall pick in the 2013 draft, one in which the Celtics had the 16th overall pick. However, Boston traded up three spots with the Dallas Mavericks to No. 13, to select Kelly Olynyk. The 7-foot Olynyk, who now plays for Miami,  has had a decent NBA career but … he ain’t the Greek Freak!

 

STREAKING NOT ALWAYS A GOOD THING

Boston comes into today’s game having lost the first game in each of their last five trips to the playoffs, a streak they are focused on snapping today. The last time Boston began the postseason with a win was an 87-85 win over New York on April 17, 2011. 

 

MOOSE FACTOR

Boston is the third team Greg Monroe has played for this season, the first being the Milwaukee Bucks. Even though the Bucks have a different coach in Joe Prunty who replaced Jason Kidd in January, Monroe said the Bucks’ play calls are essentially the same as they were when he played which could be one of those things from time to time today, may result in the Celtics making a read on a play that gets you thinking, ‘how did they know that was coming?’ Well, Greg Monroe may be the reason. 

 

TRANSITION GAME

Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Milwaukee Bucks have made a habit out of getting out and scoring in a hurry. They have been really good since the All-Star break, averaging 17.6 points which ranks third in the NBA. Boston has no choice but to try and limit that with their defense, because the Celtics aren’t built to match them point-for-point in transition especially when you realize that since the all-star break, Boston has averaged a league-worst 8.8 fast-break points. 

 

SECOND-CHANCE POINTS  

Boston has had its issues this season when it comes to rebounding the basketball, but they have been among the better teams since the All-Star break when it comes to getting second-chance points. They come into today’s game averaging 13.1 second-chance points since the break which ranks ninth in the NBA in that span.

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Brad Stevens visits Red Sox camp and reflects on Boston coaching fraternity

Brad Stevens visits Red Sox camp and reflects on Boston coaching fraternity

If Boston were a college campus, the hottest fraternity to join right now would be the coaching one. The chapter president, of course, is Bill Belichick, but right behind him in the ranks are Brad Stevens and Alex Cora.

Which is why for the second year in a row Stevens made his way to Fort Meyers to watch batting practice and bullpen sessions while picking the brains of his Red Sox equivalent Alex Cora and FOB (friend of Bill), Tony LaRussa.

“It’s one of the great benefits of being the Celtics coach. You get a chance to meet these people and learn a great deal from them,” Stevens said. “Whether it’s those guys or {Bill} Belichick or Bruce {Cassidy} or whoever. We’re really blessed to have a lot of people to pick the minds of in Boston.”

The way Stevens sees things, he learns as much or more from the men who lead teams in sports other than basketball. 

“You are all dealing with the same things on a day to day basis. The challenges of a team. The challenges of being the best that you can be.”

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Cora views the opportunity in a similar light. He feels he can learn a little something from everyone that in turn makes his job a little easier in a tough market like Boston. 

A place that becomes a lot tougher when you aren’t cruising to a team record 108 wins in the regular season and a World Series title. 

“It’s not that I’m expecting them, {bad stretches} but when it comes, I know how the city reacts to it,” Cora explained, “and how the media reacts to it. It’s a good learning experience.”

Although Cora marveled at how Bill Belichick can stand in front of a room of reporters and say almost nothing, Cora conceded with a laugh he doesn’t quite have that clout yet.

“I can’t do it yet with you guys,” Cora admitted, “But it’s pretty cool he is the way he is with the media. But then you talk to him and he’s a real person and he’s funny and obviously very smart.”

At the end of the day both Cora and Stevens understand that every coach and manager in town is aiming for the same thing. 

“I think that ultimately we all want to improve,” Stevens said. “We all want to get better.”

CELTICS NOTES

Stevens also touched on a few basketball topics on Sunday afternoon. 

On Jayson Tatum’s All-Star Game Challenge win:

“Yeah, he made a big shot, from deep. That challenge always seems to come to down to whether you make that shot or not. Jayson did a great job finishing it with a little flair. That’s what the All-Star game is all about.”

Anthony Davis comments:

“I can’t talk about all that stuff. As far as just generally in regards to rumors, we do talk about as a team, focusing on what we can control. Danny does a great job of handling all that.”

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2019 NBA All-Star Game live stream: Watch Team LeBron vs. Team Giannis online

2019 NBA All-Star Game live stream: Watch Team LeBron vs. Team Giannis online

The world's best basketball players have come to Charlotte for Sunday night's 2019 NBA All-Star Game at the Spectrum Center.

Team LeBron, led by Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James, will take on Team Giannis, captained by Milwaukee Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo. These All-Star rosters were made fantasy draft style for the second consecutive year and should make for an exciting, competitive matchup.

Kyrie Irving is the lone Boston Celtics player on the All-Star squads. He was drafted by his former teammate, James, for the second year in a row. Irving scored 13 points with nine assists and seven rebounds in last year's game as Team LeBron defeated Team Giannis 148-145 in Los Angeles.

Sunday's contest will mark the sixth career All-Star appearance for the Celtics point guard. Irving won the game's MVP award in 2014 as a member of the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Here's how to watch the 2019 NBA All-Star Game online.

When: Sunday, Feb. 17 at 8 p.m. ET
TV Channel: TNT
Live Stream: NBA on TNT

Click to view best All-Star performances in Celtics history

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.