Celtics

Tatum faces off vs Embiid, Bamba in 1-on-1

Tatum faces off vs Embiid, Bamba in 1-on-1

The Eastern Conference Semifinals have long been over, but Jayson Tatum and Joel Embiid are still going at it.

The two appeared on basketball trainer Drew Hanlen's YouTube series "Unseen Hours," which takes fans behind the scenes of players' offseason training. In the video, Tatum takes on Embiid and Magic first-round draft pick Mohamed Bamba in intense 1-on-1 games

Watch the video below, including 3:45 when Tatum reminds Embiid, "I beat you in the playoffs."

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Celtics have chance to vault forward with 9 of next 12 at home

Celtics have chance to vault forward with 9 of next 12 at home

BOSTON -- In what has been a wildly inconsistent season for the Boston Celtics (28-18), they have found a tremendous amount of comfort in playing in front of their home crowd, having won their last eight at the TD Garden.

And that more than anything else is why this upcoming stretch of games prior to the All-Star game has a make-or-break feel to it for Boston. 

Between now and then, the Celtics have 12 games with nine being at the TD Garden. 

Of those 12 foes, seven are currently among the top eight teams in their respective conferences and are thus a playoff-caliber foe. 

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While that might make most a bit apprehensive about Boston’s chances of success against good competition, here’s what we know about this team. 

The better the opponent, the better they tend to play.

So based on how they have performed this season, this is an ideal slate of opponents for Boston to face heading into the break with what they hope will be some significant momentum as well as a few more wins to close the gap between them and the teams ahead of them in the standings. 

Boston is currently fifth in the Eastern conference, just 1.5 games behind fourth-place Philadelphia and six games behind Conference leaders Milwaukee and Toronto. 

But as we’ve come to know all too well with the Celtics, looking too far down the road can get you in trouble. 

So we’ll keep the focus on this upcoming week which includes a trio of games at home beginning with the Miami Heat on Monday. 

Against the Heat, the Celtics will be looking to exact some revenge following a 115-99 loss which came on the second night of a back-to-back set of games for Boston. 

More memorable than the outcome, was an incident involving Marcus Morris and Jaylen Brown during a time-out in which Morris pushes Brown and Marcus Smart steps in between the two. (If only they could have returned the favor for Smart last night).

That incident was one of a series of developments that raised some concerns as to whether the team meeting the Celtics had earlier this month following a home loss to Milwaukee (their last home loss this season), had in fact resolved the issues that led them beginning the season with a 10-10 start. 

Both players downplayed the incident afterwards, and since then there has been no noticeable beef between the two.

As for the game, doing a better job defending the 3-point shot will be a priority for Boston. 

Miami came into that game averaging 11.7 made three-pointers per game which ranked eighth in the NBA. 

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Against the Celtics, Miami had 18 made 3-pointers compared to just 12 for the Celtics. 

After the Heat game, the Celtics will return to action on Wednesday and host the Cleveland Cavaliers. 

Cleveland (9-38) has the worst record in the NBA, with no signs of improvement on the horizon anytime soon. Their best player, Kevin Love, is still out with a toe injury and it’s looking more like he won’t return until sometime shortly before or after the All-Star break. 

This is a game that the Celtics should win with little problem. 

When the two met earlier this season, the Celtics won by a decisive 128-95 margin with seven players reaching double figures scoring led by Kyrie Irving’s game-high 29 points against his former team. 

That leaves us to the game Celtics fans have been eagerly awaiting to see all season, with the two-time defending NBA champion Golden State Warriors coming to town for a Saturday night battle between two teams many still anticipate will face off in the NBA Finals this spring.

The Warriors are still the best of the best in the NBA this season, with the only real difference being that they don’t dominate as much as they used to. But that could change in the coming weeks, as the Warriors got a major boost this week with offseason signee DeMarcus Cousins seeing his first action of the season after being out with a torn left Achilles injury suffered about a year ago. 

Cousins gives Golden State an inside-outside big man who talent-wise, ranks among the league’s best.  Boston’s depth has been often used to describe what sets them apart from other teams. If they are to close this week out with a win over Golden State, that depth will have to be front and center on Saturday. 

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While Marcus Smart lost his composure, Celtics kept theirs for a change

While Marcus Smart lost his composure, Celtics kept theirs for a change

On a night where Marcus Smart losing his composure will dominate the headlines and highlights, it’s maybe more noteworthy that the rest of the Boston Celtics did not.

Saturday’s visit to Atlanta was exactly the sort of game the Celtics have routinely fumbled away this season. Inferior, well-rested opponent playing against a heavy-legged Boston team on the second night of a back-to-back on the road. It’s been a recipe for disaster.

Which is weird, because these sort of games used to be the ones that Brad Stevens-coached teams feasted on. While much of the league seemed content with so-called “schedule losses,” Stevens never let his team use back-to-backs or travel as a crutch for underperformance. But this year’s team simply hasn’t shown the mental toughness needed to grind through these type of games, and you need only look back to Boston getting stomped in Miami to kickstart a disastrous 0-3 road trip last week for a prime example.


So when Atlanta jumped Boston, scoring 50 points in little more than 15 minutes and opening a 16-point lead, it seemed like the Celtics might be headed for another head-shaking, momentum-breaking loss. Stevens tried desperately to inject some energy into his team, going 11 deep with his rotation, including early second-quarter playing time for third-string point guard Brad Wanamaker.

Ultimately, it was a more familiar savior, with Kyrie Irving’s late first-half offensive outburst singlehandedly dragging Boston back into the game. Smart, before his double-technical fueled ejection, helped ratchet up Boston’s defensive intensity, and the Celtics eventually rallied ahead in the final frame en route to a 113-105 triumph at State Farm Arena.

"We needed that kind of response … no question about it,” said Stevens who deemed Saturday’s triumph a “good win.”

That’s a hard sell with Atlanta’s 14-31 record. But the Hawks entered with recent wins over Philadelphia and Oklahoma City, hanging 142 points on the Thunder before enjoying three days off leading up to Boston’s visit.

There was really no reason that Boston should have been able to rally back to win this game. Especially when typical energy-infuser Smart got the heave-ho for too much gum-flapping (both to referees and opposing players). Smart nearly made a bad situation worse when he tried to charge at Atlanta’s DeAndre’ Bembry while enraged about something that was said as tempers flared following the double technical as players lined up for a jump ball.

Backup point guard Terry Rozier took the intensity baton and continued his recent trend of applying occasional full-court pressure, which disrupted the Hawks’ offense. Rozier brought the same energy to the defensive glass, grabbing a season-high 11 rebounds overall and helping a Gordon Hayward-less bench overcome its shooting woes to change the tenor of the game.

Rozier and Jaylen Brown combined to make just 7 of 22 shots but were about as impactful as any players not named Kyrie. Irving finished with 32 points, 23 of which came in the first half.

The Hawks had an offensive rating of a measly 83.3 when Brown was on the court. His plus-26.7 net rating in 28 minutes of play leaped off the NBA’s advanced stats box score. The bench also got quality minutes from Wanamaker, Semi Ojeleye, and Daniel Theis to fuel the turnaround.

Aron Baynes remains spectacular since returning from a hand injury. Boston's defensive intensity spikes when he’s on the court. In the three games since Baynes' return from a broken hand, the Celtics own an absurd net rating of plus-31.1 during his 53 minutes of court time. That number shrinks to minus-7.7 in his 91 minutes on the bench.

Jayson Tatum shrugged off a dud against Memphis to score 19 points on 7-of-13 shooting, with all his attempts coming inside the 3-point arc. He added some solid defense, most notably intercepting Smart as he charged Bembry. Al Horford also ramped up his second-half defense and could be seen barking at his teammates to finish out the win after a late defensive lapse.

Saturday’s win won’t exactly be featured prominently in the 2018-19 season yearbook but it is another sign of progress for a Celtics team trying desperately to avoid the inconsistencies that plagued it for the first half of the season.

Smart now awaits his fate — be it a hefty fine or, depending on what discipline-deciders see on the tape, a brief suspension from the NBA — and he’ll have to explain how his temper got the best of him again. That’s too bad because Smart has been so solid at both ends of the floor recently that moments like this only detract from the progress he’s making.

He can find solace in the way his teammates reacted to the adversity of his exit. Boston players had every excuse to roll over and, instead, they found a way to grind out a win.

That's progress for a team that’s still shaping its identity and trying to find some of the magic of past seasons.

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