Key Celtics stats, schedule facts from 2018-19 NBA season's first half

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Key Celtics stats, schedule facts from 2018-19 NBA season's first half

The Boston Celtics reached the halfway mark of the 2018-19 NBA season Thursday night in their loss to the Miami Heat.

After a disappointing start to the season that saw them sit at 10-10, the Celtics are now 25-16 thanks to a 15-6 record over the last 21 games. A change in the starting lineup has been the catalyst to the recent surge: Marcus Morris and Marcus Smart entered the starting five, replacing Jaylen Brown and Gordon Hayward.

Bringing two dynamic players in Brown and Hayward off the bench, in addition to C's backup point guard Terry Rozier, has allowed Boston to use its great depth more effectively than it had early in the season.

The C's sit fifth in the Eastern Conference standings, but they are just five games out of first place.

Here are some quick stats and schedule facts you should know about the Celtics' first half of the season.

-- Kyrie Irving leads the Celtics in scoring with 22.6 points per game and in assists at 6.4 per game. His points, assists, rebounds and steals per game, as well as his field goal percentage and 3-point percentage, all are above his career marks. 

-- Brown is starting to hit his stride. He has scored 20 or more points six times in his last 17 games. He had no such games in his first 19 contests of the season.

-- Jayson Tatum leads the Celtics with 6.3 rebounds per game and is second on the team in scoring at 16.2 points per game. 

-- Morris has scored 20 or more points nine times, matching his total from the entire 2017-18 campaign. He's averaging a career-high 15.5 points per game, while shooting career-bests in field goal percentage (50.1), 3-point percentage (45.0) and free throw percentage (88.2). Morris has a very realistic chance of becoming the eighth player in league history to join the 50-40-90 club for elite shooting.

-- The Celtics rank No. 9 in the NBA with a 110.8 offensive rating, and they are fourth with a 104.5 defensive rating. Their 6.3 net rating is the second-best in the NBA, trailing only the Milwaukee Bucks.

-- Boston's offense during its 15-6 stretch over the last 21 games has been the best in the league with a 116.8 offensive rating. The C's also rank first in assist-to-turnover ratio, effective field goal percentage and net rating during this 21-game span. Boston was 27th in offensive rating during the first 20 games of the season. 

-- The Celtics' 106.1 defensive rating over the last 21 games ranks seventh, and their 50.0 rebound percentage in that span ranks 18th. Aron Baynes' absence due to injury and Al Horford's minutes restriction likely are contributing to Boston's recent rebounding struggles.

-- The 3-point shot is a huge focus of today's game, and the Celtics are the sixth-best long-distance shooting team at 36.7 percent. They are the third-best team at defending 3-points shots with an opponents' percentage of 33.4.

-- The C's have the sixth-best free throw percentage at 80.3, but they get to the foul line far fewer than most teams. They rank 28th in free throws attempted with 19.7 per game.

-- Boston scored 135 points in a win over the Indiana Pacers on Wednesday. It was the team's highest-scoring total in regulation since 2004. The C's had scored 110-plus points in nine consecutive games prior to Thursday's loss to the Heat.

-- The Celtics are 5-5 against the top four teams in the East. Here's a breakdown.

Toronto Raptors: 1-1
Milwaukee Bucks: 1-1
Indiana Pacers: 1-1
Philadelphia 76ers: 2-0

-- The Celtics are 15-5 at TD Garden but only 10-11 on the road. Boston had the best road record in the league at 28-13 last season, so there's a lot of improvement to be made in that area. In fact, the C's only have four more road games against Western Conference teams, and all of them come on a March trip to play the Sacramento Kings, Golden State Warriors,  Los Angeles Lakers, and Los Angeles Clippers.

So, the Celtics' remaining road games mostly are against the inferior Eastern Conference. They have yet to play in Orlando, Cleveland, Milwaukee, Philadelphia (more on that below) or Brooklyn. 

-- The Celtics still have some tough road games within the conference, though. They play in Milwaukee on Feb. 21 and the last two games of their season series with the Philadelphia 76ers are in Philly on Feb. 12 and March 20. The C's play in Toronto on Feb. 26.

-- The four-game road trip above is the longest (and likely the toughest) one remaining for Boston. All four of those teams have a shot to make the playoffs, although the Kings have fallen just outside a postseason spot over the last two weeks.

--The Celtics have four more back-to-backs.

-- The Celtics still have yet to play LeBron James and the rival Lakers. They host the Lakers on Feb. 7 and play them in Los Angeles on March 9. 

-- Boston's games against the two-time defending champion Warriors are Jan. 26 at TD Garden and March 5 in Golden State.

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Escape route: Celtics' Marcus Morris and Brad Wanamaker escape mean streets of Philly in getting to NBA

Escape route: Celtics' Marcus Morris and Brad Wanamaker escape mean streets of Philly in getting to NBA

When it comes to speaking the truth, Marcus Morris is about as straight-no-chaser as they come. 

So as Boston gears up to face his hometown Philadelphia 76ers tonight, it’s an ideal time to reflect upon how far the North Philly native has come from THE humble surroundings that could have easily derailed his promising basketball career, as it did so many young men he grew up with at that time. 

“I have a lot of friends that did time in jail at a young age; 17, 18 years old and did five, six years and came home as a grown up,” Morris told NBC Sports Boston.

Those times have helped shape Morris’ outlook on life both on and off the court, forging a level of mental toughness in him that has allowed him to easily shrug off rough basketball nights while not getting too elated over good ones. 

“Basketball has been amazing,” Morris said. “Basketball gave me a platform to go back to the youth and show that it’s possible; it’s possible.”


He’s hoping those amazing times will only get better with the Celtics looking to close out the regular season strong.

Tonight's game would indeed be another step in that direction as they attempt to sweep the season series from Philadelphia for the third time in the last four years.

While such dominance makes talk of a rivalry difficult to palate, Boston guard Brad Wanamaker knows it's always special whenever these two Eastern Conference foes hook up. 

Like Morris, Wanamaker is also from North Philly.  And like Morris, basketball became his escape from troubled surroundings as well. 

Crime. Drugs. Violence. Wanamaker had seen it all at a young age.

“My family . . . they were heavy in the drug game,” Wanamaker told NBC Sports Boston.


But that all changed courtesy of his older brother, James Samuel. 

“My older brother was the first one that I really saw that had a job; like a 9-5 job. That was like a positive in my life. My twin brother (Brian) and my sisters (Crystal and Latisha),  we used him as our role model in a way that . . . we don’t have to go down that other path.”

For Wanamaker, the path towards success involved playing basketball. 

After a standout career at Philadelphia’s Roman Catholic High School, Wanamaker went on to the University of Pittsburgh, where he established himself as one of the Big East's top players along with being an honorable mention All-American. 

But the NBA wasn't sold on his talent and he went undrafted in 2011. 

He would eventually take his talents overseas where he found tremendous success, racking up championships and MVP honors in the process. 


Still clinging to his dream of playing in the NBA, the 29-year-old Wanamaker spoke about how those tough times as a youth, the prospect of not being drafted and now being on an NBA roster but playing sparingly, has tested his mental resolve in ways he would have never dreamed of before. 

“It’s the toughest [expletive] I’ve had to deal with in my life,” Wanamaker, referring to not playing much for the Celtics, told NBC Sports Boston. “Basketball is my escape from everything.”

This season, Wanamaker has appeared in 30 games for Boston, averaging 3.4 points and 1.3 assists while shooting 44.3 percent from the field and 50 percent on 3's in 8.7 minutes per game. 

However, having seen and lived through some of the many challenges that kids who grow up in North Philly endure, Wanamaker isn’t tripping at all about not playing more. 

“I’ve seen a lot worse than not playing in a basketball game,” he said. 

And whenever he’s feeling down about his lack of playing time, Morris is often the first to cheer him up or, at a minimum, reminisce about their days playing together on the same AAU team.

Back then, they were playing to win for their team and showcase what they could do as players. These days, both acknowledge that they play the game for something bigger than their own personal agenda.

"There's so few of us in the NBA from Philadelphia, every time I step on the floor I gotta represent," Morris said in a separate interview with NBC Sports Boston.

Wanamaker echoed a similar sentiment.

“Not only am I playing for myself, but I’m playing for my family back home,” Wanamaker said. “My family back home and a lot of my homies who picked up the game and didn’t make it this far. I always tell people all the time, it’s bigger than me. I put the work in day-in, day out, to try and keep working to get out on the court. But I’m doing this for more than just me; I never forget that, never.”

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What advice did Celtics' Jayson Tatum give the Kings' De'Aaron Fox?

What advice did Celtics' Jayson Tatum give the Kings' De'Aaron Fox?

Jayson Tatum has found both individual and team success early in his NBA career. The Celtics forward was third in rookie of the year voting last season and his team reached Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals.

So, with one playoff run under his belt, he's passing on advice that an NBA postseason is a different animal to the Sacramento Kings' De'Aaron Fox, a player whose team - until a recent slump - was hoping to snag the final Western Conference spot and get him his first taste of the playoffs.

On the "Road Trippin'" podcast with ex-NBAer Doug Christie, now a Kings broadcaster, Fox, selected two picks after Tatum at fifth overall out of Kentucky in 2017 by Sacramento, said his fellow 21-year-old imparted his playoff wisdom while the two were on a tour of China last summer with Nike.

"All these old cats saying, 'Oh the playoffs is night and day. It's not the same,' " Fox said. "And I'm like, 'yeah, whatever.' But now that I have a peer that went through it, he's like, 'Man, playoffs is crazy.' And he went to Game 7, conference finals! He's like, 'the playoffs and regular season, it's NOT the same." 

Here's a clip via uninterrupted.com: 

It appears Fox may have to wait at least another season to see the difference after the Kings (34-35) have dropped seven of their past 10 and began Tuesday six games behind the Clippers for the eighth spot in the West.

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