Celtics

Trip's biggest benefit? The rest that the Celtics have gotten

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Trip's biggest benefit? The rest that the Celtics have gotten

LONDON -- One of the most talked about takeaways for the Celtics while in London is the benefits they may receive from the extended time off.
 
No one knows for sure how big a lift -- if any -- Boston will receive from the added downtime.
 
But one thing we do know based on how this season has played out: Given time to rest, the Celtics have consistently been the best version of themselves. And that has usually been good enough to win.
 
In fact, the Celtics are 4-1 this season when they have had more than one day of rest in between games.
 
The lone loss? The 102-99 season-opening loss at Cleveland, the game in which Gordon Hayward suffered a gruesome dislocated left ankle injury that has kept him out of action ever since.
 
“We’re a good team,” Marcus Smart told NBC Sports Boston. “But if we get a little rest before games, a chance to tighten up a couple things, we can be really, really good.”
 
Here are five under-the-radar story lines heading into today’s game between Boston and Philadelphia.

TWENTY-FIVE AND COUNTING

When it comes to globe-trotting, one place where the Celtics haven’t spent much time is on the fre- throw line. They've gone a franchise-record 25 straight games without making at least 20 free throws. For the season, Boston is averaging 20.9 free throws made, which ranks 18th in the league.

EMBIID FACTOR

Despite his dominant ways, the Sixers remain cautious in how they use Joel Embiid. That’s why he still doesn’t play in any back-to-back games. But it’s clear that for Philly to clear that next hurdle, which for them would be getting to the playoffs, they are absolutely going to need the big fella. Since he was drafted by the Sixers, Philadelphia has a .500 record (30-30) when he plays. Without him, their record stands at just 45-178, which is a winning percentage of .202. His impact is particularly noticeable defensively. The team’s defensive rating this season is 99.3 when he has been on the floor. It balloons to 107.0 when he’s on the bench.

DEFENSE LEADING THE WAY

Boston comes in having won six straight, which is the longest current winning streak in the NBA. And they’ve done it despite the team’s offense for the most part not being very good. During the six-game winning streak, Boston’s offensive rating has been just 100.3, which ranks 29th in the league during that period of time.

FULTZ RETURN?

Markelle Fultz, the top overall pick in last June’s NBA draft, is with the Sixers here in London after having missed most of this season with right shoulder soreness and muscle imbalance, which affected his shooting mechanics. His presence has prompted some to speculate about him possibly suiting up tonight. That’s highly unlikely to happen, folks. He’s doing more work with the team but he has yet to be cleared for full practice, an absolute precursor to him returning to the court. “It’s good to be out there . . . again,” Fultz told reporters here in London earlier this week. “Just be able to interact with them. Be a competitor again, which I am.” The Sixers used the number one overall pick to select Fultz after trading the No. 3 overall pick and a 2018 Los Angeles Lakers first-round pick, to Boston. The Celtics used the third overall pick to select Jayson Tatum.

BEN SIMMONS

At some point, this guy really should have some kind of endorsement deal with a paint company because that’s pretty much where his points are going to come from. In fact, 89 percent (455 of 514) of his shot attempts are in the paint this season. And in terms of scoring, 496 of Simmons’ points have been in the paint, 103 points from the free throw line with only 28 points scored this season coming from outside the paint.

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE

 

 

Pierce details mental-health struggles after stabbing

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Pierce details mental-health struggles after stabbing

Jackie MacMullan's deep-dive look at the mental health stigma in the NBA on Monday wasn't without a few Celtics anecdotes.

One of the biggest sections of the stories was former Celtic Paul Pierce talking about his struggles after he was stabbed outside a Boston night club in 2000.

"I was stabbed 11 times," Pierce tells ESPN. "I felt like I was trapped in a box. I couldn't go nowhere. I battled depression for a year. The only thing that saved me was basketball."

Pierce played all 82 games after surviving the incident, but that was also a product of his anxiety in the ensuing months.

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"I think that's the reason I got back on the court so fast. Me sitting at home thinking about [the stabbing] didn't work. I went to every practice, sat on the sideline for hours, because that's where I felt safe. I didn't want those practices to end because then I had to go back out there in this world that really scared me."

The Celtics offered consulting with a mental health expert, and Pierce is quoted saying he wished he took the advice.

Celtics general manager Danny Ainge is quoted as well, saying "We can offer all the services in the world, but if they won't use them, we can't help them. Too many of these guys don't realize how badly they need help until it's too late."

The piece also follows Cavaliers center Kevin Love and his mental health struggles in the past year.

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE

Anything is Podable Episode 6: The games behind-the-scenes

Anything is Podable Episode 6: The games behind-the-scenes

It’s hard not to be intense when Kevin Garnett is on your team. For the 07-08 Celtics, that fire extended beyond the court and into every waking moment they spent together.

Episode 6 of NBC Sports Boston’s “Anything is Podable” goes behind-the-scenes with the members of the world champion Celtics to get a never-before-heard glimpse into the games and competitions that brought them all closer together.

“Everything is about competition and we, as a staff, understood that early,” said Doc Rivers. “For practices, if there was no score, it was a bad practice. All you had to do was put a winner and a loser and the practice went from here to here. It was just that type of group.”

Whether it was on road trips, at practice, or in the weight room, everything about the team revolved around competition and an innate desire to win.

“Everything was competitive,” stated Rajon Rondo. “The boxing gloves came out in the weight room.”

As is the case with every great team, the bonding off the court was essential to finding success on it. Anything that could possibly be turned into a competition, was.

Arm wrestling? Check.

Push-upsYou bet.

On a road trip in Miami, Paul Pierce challenged Glen Davis to eat a large piece of bread in under one minute.

“Have you ever tried to eat a piece of bread like that?” Davis asked. “It gets dry. You can’t swallow it. It sounds easy, but people don’t know how dry bread is...I almost like choked and died.”

“You’re talking about a guy who loved to eat,” Pierce joked.

“I couldn’t do it,” Davis responded.

Competition off the court breeds competition on the court and, while the talent helped, little games like the ones played on road trips were vital to the Celtics achieving their ultimate goal.

Anything is Podable is a ten-part series diving into the story of the 2008 Celtics and their championship season, with exclusive, never-before-heard interviews with team executives, former players, and media members.

Narrated by Kyle Draper, it’s the perfect way for Celtics fans to pass time this offseason and get excited for 2018-19, a season in which the Celtics have as good a chance at raising their 18th championship banner as they’ve had since that magical 2008 season.

Fans can subscribe to the podcast through the link below and check out the other nine episodes for a look at this exclusive series.