Celtics

Jabari Bird fighting for Celtics' playoff roster consideration

Jabari Bird fighting for Celtics' playoff roster consideration

BOSTON –  This time of year, it’s hard to put too much stock into what players are doing in games if they haven’t played much all year.

But there is no getting around the impact that Jabari Bird has made, a two-way contract player who is opening a lot of eyes with his overall play and athleticism.

It’s getting to the point where the Celtics have to give some thought to the possibility of having the rookie on their playoff roster, something that can only happen if they waive one of their current players with a guaranteed contract. Bird, who has averaged 11 points in Boston’s last two games, said he’s not thinking beyond the Celtics’ two games remaining in the regular season, knowing he’s got a pretty good shot at playing in both.

“I’m not too concerned with what’s going on as far as my future and things like that,” Bird told NBC Sports Boston after scoring nine points on 4-for-5 shooting Sunday afternoon. “I’m trying to control what I can control, and that’s going out and play hard every game."

Bird added, “I’m just trying to show everyone in this organization that I’m a good ball player.”

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In a recent interview with NBC Sports Boston, Jaylen Brown, who played with Bird at Cal two years ago, talked about how all Bird needed was a chance – a real chance – to showcase his game.

“I’m telling you, he’s a really, really good player,” Brown told NBC Sports Boston. “When he gets his chance, and he’ll get it, he’ll show everyone. You’ll see.”

Indeed, Bird has been given opportunities to play meaningful minutes of late and to his credit, he has made the most of those times.

The 6-foot-6 wing has impressed many with his athleticism which allows him to get open along the baseline for easy baskets, above-the-rim skills and solid play defensively.

It has been a while, so it’s understandable if Celtics fans have forgotten how important Bird was in Boston’s first win of the season, at Philadelphia in October. It was Bird’s pestering defense against Sixers guard J.J. Redick that was pivotal in the Celtics getting the win that night.

While he reflects on that night from time to time, Bird knows it means little if he’s not able to build on that performance going forward.

Bird’s play both with the Celtics and with the Gatorade League’s Maine Red Claws (Boston’s G-League affiliate) has been limited due to injuries. But as we have seen lately, when healthy Bird can indeed be a contributor off the bench.

Celtics head coach Brad Stevens is among those who have been impressed with the play of Bird who was selected by Boston with the 56th pick in last June’s NBA draft. As far as Bird’s future beyond the two remaining regular season games, Stevens is quick to acknowledge that decision won’t be his to make.

“Those aren’t my discussions or my job,” Stevens said before adding, “But at the end of the day, I think he is playing well. He’s doing some good things. I thought offensively he was pretty good, especially early. He’s done a good job in the last couple of games and will probably play some of the next two.”

Said Bird: “Like I said, it’s just a blessing. I had the (back) injury and was out for a long time. So to come back and make an impact on the court, it has been fun. Just have the opportunity to be an NBA player and get some extended minutes for the first time, it’s a true blessing. I’m just looking to get better every game.”

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Celtics vs. Kings Instant Overreactions: C's starting to feel Gordon Hayward's absence?

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Celtics vs. Kings Instant Overreactions: C's starting to feel Gordon Hayward's absence?

The Boston Celtics had their 10-game win streak snapped on Sunday as they fell to the Sacramento Kings, 100-99.

It came down to the final buzzer as Marcus Smart's last-second floater hung on the rim, but failed to fall into the basket.

Here are three instant overreactions from the loss, which brings the C's to 10-2 on the season:

1. The C's are starting to feel Gordon Hayward's absence.

Verdict: Overreaction

The Celtics have looked out of sync offensively in their last couple of games. Friday night's close call vs. the lowly Golden State Warriors left plenty to be desired, and their struggles in Sunday's loss didn't do much to inspire confidence either as they turned the ball over 14 times.

If we see one or two more lackluster performances like this on the West Coast road trip, it may be time to start counting down the days until Hayward's return. But for now, I'm willing to give the C's talented offensive unit the benefit of the doubt.

2. Jaylen Brown and Buddy Hield both are showing they're worth every penny.

Verdict: Not an overreaction

Jaylen Brown finished with 18 points and eight rebounds, going 4-for-7 from 3-point range. Once again, he was one of Boston's standout performers on the offensive side and is backing up his statement about his game improving.

As for Hield, he continues to reward the Kings for signing him to a four-year, $86 million contract extension last month. The Celtics simply had no answer for the Indiana product, who dropped 35 points while going 7-for-12 in 3-pointers. Hield also drilled a key 3 late in the fourth quarter to help Sacramento come out on top.

3. Semi Ojeleye is the new Steph Curry.

Verdict: Not an overreaction

OK, fine, it may be a SLIGHT overreaction. Still, Ojeleye surprised everyone by going 3-for-4 from beyond the arc and tallying 11 points off the bench. He was one of the bright spots in the Celtics' disappointing loss.

Don’t miss NBC Sports Boston's coverage of Celtics-Suns, which tips off Monday at 8:30 p.m. ET with Celtics Pregame Live, and then Mike & Scal have the call of the game at 9 p.m. You can also stream the game through the MyTeams App.

Celtics-Kings Takeaways: C's 10-game win streak snapped in Sacramento

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Celtics-Kings Takeaways: C's 10-game win streak snapped in Sacramento

So. Close. 

Marcus Smart’s potential game-winning floater as time expired hit seemingly every part of the rim, paused for a moment before rolling out as time expired in Boston’s 100-99 loss to Sacramento. 

‘It was a good look in that moment,” Boston’s Brad Stevens told reporters after the loss. 

The loss snapped Boston’s 10-game winning streak, in addition to preventing them from being the first team in NBA history to win 11 in a row after dropping the season opener.

Sacramento (5-7), after dropping their first five games this season, have now won five of their last seven with the lone losses being a road game at defending NBA champion Toronto and a controversial defeat to the Los Angeles Lakers.  

After spending most of the first half playing catch-up, the Celtics — in all-too predictable form — swung the game’s momentum in their favor in the third quarter to take a 75-71 lead into the fourth quarter despite the offensive fireworks put on by Sacramento’s Buddy Hield (game-high 35 points). 

In the fourth, Boston’s slim lead didn’t last long with the Kings tying the game at 75 less than a minute into the quarter, only for Carsen Edwards to drain a 3-pointer to put Boston back on top, 78-75.

Things remained close for the rest of the game before Smart’s potential game-winner rolled out as time expired.  

Here are some takeaways from Boston’s one-point loss at Sacramento.

KEMBA IN THE FOURTH QUARTER

We have come to expect the best from Kemba Walker when the game matters most: the fourth quarter. That was not the case on Sunday, with Walker going scoreless in the fourth quarter to finish with just 15 points. You certainly love the season-high nine assists he tallied, but Walker’s greatest impact on this team night-in, night-out is his scoring down the stretch.

BUDDY HIELD 

The Kings gave Hield a four-year contract extension worth as much as $106 million, and he showed on Sunday why he's worth every penny. Time and time again, he came up with one big shot after another while often being draped by Boston's best perimeter defender — and one of the best in the NBA — Marcus Smart.  Hield led all scorers with 35 points on an efficient 14-for-24 shooting performance from the field.

TURNOVERS

One of the biggest keys to the Celtics’ fast start to the season has been their ability to limit their mistakes. They came into Sunday’s game averaging a league-low 11.7 per game. On Sunday, the Celtics committed 12 of their 15 turnovers in the first half alone.

SEMI (OJELEYE) AUTOMATIC

Ojeleye hit a big 3-pointer in the second quarter, capping off a 7-0 Celtics run to bring Boston within four points (36-32) with 6:30 to play in the first half. He would finish the day with 11 points on 4-for-5 shooting from the field, including a career-high-tying three 3-pointers. It was indeed a breakout scoring game for Ojeleye who came into Sunday’s game having scored just 14 points in Boston’s 11 games this season. 

THEIS IS NICE

While his play doesn’t necessarily find a home on the Celtics’ highlight reel, there’s no getting around the impact that Daniel Theis continues to make on this team. Usually he does it by excelling at intangibles such as setting screens, boxing out and rolling to the basket. But on Sunday, Theis’s impact was made in the more traditional sense: getting points. He finished with a season-high 14 points and 10 rebounds for his first double-double this season. It was also the second time in the last three games Theis has reached double figures scoring. 

LINE ‘EM UP

The Celtics did not shoot the ball well against the Kings, but their aggressive play offensively led to a number of trips to the free throw line, which was a huge difference-maker in the game’s outcome. For the game, the Celtics were 21-for-24 from the line, compared to the Kings who were just 10-for-12 at the free throw line, which included Richaun Holmes’ game-winning free throws with 13.3 seconds to play. 

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Don’t miss NBC Sports Boston's coverage of Celtics-Suns, which tips off Monday at 8 p.m. ET with Celtics Pregame Live, and then Mike & Scal have the call of the game at 9 p.m. You can also stream the game through the MyTeams App.