Celtics

Should Kanter start or come off the Celtics bench?

Should Kanter start or come off the Celtics bench?

BOSTON -- Enes Kanter is easily the most accomplished big man among the consortium of bigs the Celtics collected over the summer. 

And while his role will be an important one, there are plenty of indicators pointing towards Kanter beginning the season as a key performer coming off the Celtics bench. 

The 6-foot-11 center came off the bench in all three of his preseason appearances  Kanter averaged 17.2 minutes, 6.3 points and 6.3 rebounds, along with shooting 53.3 percent from the field in the three games. 

From the time Kanter signed with Boston, the Celtics have made no secret about him playing a significant role as a scorer in the low post. 

“He just knows how to score around the basket,” Kemba Walker told NBC Sports Boston. “As long as I’ve been in the league, that’s what Enes does; he’s a scorer, for sure.”

His strength and Boston’s need for more scoring at the rim led to many assuming he would be the starting center. 

But coach Brad Stevens has hinted on multiple occasions that he sees Kanter being most useful coming off the bench - something Kanter says he’s on board with, if that’s what Stevens wants to do. 

“Throughout my career, I play as a starter and as a player coming off the bench,” Kanter told NBC Sports Boston. “I’m OK either way.”

The eight-year veteran has appeared in 583 regular-season games, with 216 of those as a starter. 

That’s why the idea of starting or being a key reserve doesn’t change anything for him as far as how he approaches games. 

“If we’re winning, everything is cool,” Kanter said. “I know where coach is going. Obviously, first unit everybody can score. With me and [Marcus] Smart with the second unit, we can come in and … we have another level to go to.”

According to Hoopsstats.com, the Celtics averaged 38.4 bench points last season, which ranked 10th in the NBA. 

With Terry Rozier in Charlotte via sign-and-trade, Marcus Morris in New York and Jaylen Brown and Gordon Hayward back in the Celtics’ starting lineup, Boston’s second unit will look dramatically different than a year ago. 

Kanter coming off the bench provides the Celtics with a legit, proven scorer with the second unit with career averages of 11.7 points and 7.6 rebounds while shooting 54.1 percent from the field.

Starting or not, the focus for Kanter remains the same - make an impact as soon as he can once he enters the game. 

Achieving that becomes easier if there’s a heightened level of comfort with his teammates. It's something Kanter has made a priority in his first training camp with the Celtics. 

“We know how to score the ball, how to play basketball,” Kanter said. “For the preseason the most important thing for us is to build that chemistry. Whenever we go out there, we’re trying to communicate, we’re trying to trust each other and try to get used to playing with each other. 

Kanter added, “That’s the most important thing. Off the court is so important. That’s going to make us better teammates, better friends. So, right now, all I care about what’s going on off the court. Once we get in there, we’ll be fine.”

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Celtics-Pacers Takeaways: Kemba Walker's hot, Gordon Hayward's hurt (again)

Celtics-Pacers Takeaways: Kemba Walker's hot, Gordon Hayward's hurt (again)

INDIANAPOLIS -- For the first time in a long time, Kemba Walker had one of those games we saw time and time again in Charlotte.

You know the kind; the ones where he would put the team on his back for most of the night, have a really high scoring night, only to come up short. 

Despite a season-high 44-point night by Walker, it wasn’t enough for them to fend off a fourth-quarter surge by the Indiana Pacers that ended with the Celtics losing 122-117 to the Pacers.

Walker eclipsed the 39 points he scored in his first game back from a neck strain Nov. 27 for his best output as a Celtic.

From the opening tip to the final horn, Walker was in a good rhythm shooting the ball. And he wasn’t limiting himself to scoring in one particular fashion, either. 

Drives to the basket in transition, drives to the basket in half-court sets; pull-up jumpers and, of course, 3-pointers. 

Walker, who was 16-for-28 from the field, was giving the game all that he had to offer on a night when the usual contributors for Boston early on weren’t chipping in at the usual high level he and the Celtics were used to. 

And what made the night all that more impressive for Walker is even with shot after shot falling, you never got the feeling he was forcing the action or taking shots that he normally doesn’t take. 

Still, in the end, Walker’s impressive performance was reminiscent of those big-time performances he delivered in Charlotte which, much like Wednesday, ended with a loss for Walker and his teammates. 

HOLIDAY SEASON

No, this isn’t about Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer or mistletoe or a peppermint latte from your favorite barista. 

We’re talking about the Indiana Pacers’ family affair better known as Aaron and Justin Holiday, teammates this season for Indy and brothers for life. 

They did their part in trying to ruin this nice run the Celtics (17-6) are on with some strong play at both ends of the floor that time and time again either helped extend a Pacers run or slow down a C's surge. They finished with a combined 35 points (18 for Aaron, 17 for Justin) on 15-for-23 shooting.

Limiting the impact of the bench was not something the Celtics should have been overly concerned with against the Pacers, who came in averaging just 31 points per game from its reserves, which ranks in the bottom 10 of the NBA this season. 

Keeping the backups from going off was a problem for the Celtics against Indiana, and if they’re not careful, it will be an issue Thursday night when they face the Philadelphia 76ers, who, like the Pacers, have a bench that doesn’t generate a ton of points. Still, as we saw on Wednesday night, it could be an issue. 

FREE THROWS

The final numbers didn’t tell the true story of how dominant the Pacers were from the free-throw line. Cashing in from the charity stripe was instrumental in Indiana going into the half with the lead and would later be a major factor down the stretch. 

Indiana was 30-for-36 from the line compared to the Celtics who were 17-for-22, the kind of differential that proved to be huge in a game that was so nip-and-tuck for most of the night. 

Keeping that margin close will be huge on Thursday night against a Sixers team that ranks among the league leaders in free throw attempts per game. 

GORDON HAYWARD

It seems like Gordon Hayward’s luck when it comes to whacky injuries is alive and well. He had nine points on 4-for-8 shooting against the Pacers, but left in the third quarter after taking a hard palm to the nose from Doug McDermott that sent him to the locker room for the rest of the game. 

He’s just been back two games after having missed about a month following a left-hand injury. 

It’s unclear the extent of Hayward’s injury, which comes at a time when the Celtics are already down Marcus Smart (eye infection) and Robert Williams III (hip), with no clear sense of when either will return. 

With both Smart and Williams’ status for Thursday night against Philly unclear, the possibility that Boston will be without all those two and Hayward will make an already daunting challenge that much tougher and put the C's 10-game home winning streak in legit jeopardy. 

Don't miss NBC Sports Boston's coverage of Celtics-76ers, which tips off Thursday 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.

Celtics-Pacers Instant Overreactions: Marcus Smart's absence the difference-maker in C's loss

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File photo

Celtics-Pacers Instant Overreactions: Marcus Smart's absence the difference-maker in C's loss

The Boston Celtics' four-game win streak came to an end on Wednesday night as they fell to the Indiana Pacers, 122-117.

Kemba Walker was sensational, dropping a season-high 44 points in the loss. Unfortunately for Boston, their sluggish second and fourth quarters proved costly.

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Here are three instant overreactions from the Celtics' loss, which brings them to 17-6 on the year:

1. Marcus Smart's absence was the difference-maker.

Verdict: Not an overreaction

NBC Sports Boston's own Abby Chin said on the broadcast in the second quarter that both Jaylen Brown and coach Brad Stevens pleaded for the C's to turn up the physicality and aggressiveness. That wouldn't have been an issue had Smart been out there.

Smart missed the game with a left eye infection. Boston will hope to have their spark plug back in the lineup Thursday night vs. the 76ers, as his absence certainly was noticeable throughout the first half and for most of the game.

2. Kemba Walker can carry C's when necessary.

Verdict: Not an overreaction

The Celtics somehow nearly pulled off the victory despite everyone not named Kemba Walker or Jaylen Brown struggling to make shots. Brown nearly had a triple-double, but it was Walker taking over with a season-high 44 points on 16-of-28 shooting (7-of-15 from 3-point). His previous season-high was 39 vs. the Brooklyn Nets on Nov. 27.

This was Walker's fifth 30+ point game as a Celtic. He doesn't normally need to, but he's shown the potential to carry the C's to victory when called upon. Even if this one resulted in a loss.

3. Maybe we jumped the gun on Gordon Hayward being "back like he never left."

Verdict: Overreaction

OK, let's not all panic just yet.

Hayward exited Wednesday's game after taking an inadvertent shot to the face from Doug McDermott in the fourth quarter. All the Celtics are saying right now is Hayward took a "blow to the nose," so we don't know the extent just yet.

Before the injury, Hayward again looked like himself. He finished with 9 points (4-of-8 from the field) and 3 assists.

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Don't miss NBC Sports Boston's coverage of Celtics-76ers, which tips off Thursday 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.