Celtics

Three Pointers: Celtics' season of destiny looking more like death march following another blowout loss

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Three Pointers: Celtics' season of destiny looking more like death march following another blowout loss

BOSTON -- This was supposed to be the Boston Celtics’ season of destiny. 

Instead it's looking more like a death march with the team’s stretch of futility continuing on following Sunday’s 115-96 loss to the San Antonio Spurs. 

Boston (43-31) has now lost four straight which stands as the Celtics’ longest losing streak of the season. 

Now the argument that Boston was missing players with injuries (Al Horford, Jayson Tatum and Robert Williams III) will be a common justification to help explain how thoroughly throttled they were by the Spurs. 

But missing open shots, not boxing out for rebounds and playing shoddy defense for the bulk of the game against a team like the Spurs, will get your butt kicked every time regardless of who is available. 

This was an embarrassing loss not because the margin of defeat, but the margin of compete level that was even more lopsided than the final score. 

Here are three pointers to take away from yet another disappointing performance by the Celtics.

Hayward start over Brown

With Jayson Tatum (back) out, Brad Stevens decided to start Gordon Hayward ahead of Jaylen Brown. 

It was a surprising call considering how well Brown has been playing, and  it being Hayward’s first game back after missing the previous three due to being in the league’s concussion protocol program.

But the move worked out well for Hayward who gave Boston’s starting five a much-needed offensive punch before finishing with a double-double of 13 points and 10 rebounds along with three assists.

However, the move didn’t exactly work out in Brown’s favor. 

He would tally just seven points, which was only the fourth time in the last 14 games he has failed to reach double figures off the bench. 

DEFENSIVE DISAPPEARING ACT

It can’t be said enough how disappointing Boston was defensively against the Spurs. Yes, LaMarcus Aldridge had it going all game with a blistering 48 points for San Antonio on 20-for-31 shooting in addition to grabbing 13 rebounds while dishing out six assists. But it wasn’t the stats that Aldridge tallied hurt the most; it was how easily he got them all game long. 

Having no Al Horford hurt, obviously. Horford does the best job of any of the Celtics when it comes to defending Aldridge.

But Aron Baynes who usually plays at an elite level defensively, had arguably his worst game defensively as a Celtic. 

He was about as insignificant defensively as we’ve seen him since coming to Boston.

And while he’s not the most fleet-footed player, he looked a step or two slow even by his usual standards which isn’t that big a stretch considering it was his first game back following a foot injury that many - including head coach Brad Stevens - was going to keep him out for a significantly longer period of time. 

But at no point did Baynes do anything of significance to make Aldridge the least bit uncomfortable on the floor. Aldridge is just too talented a player to have so many open to lightly contested mid-range jumpers and shot attempts at the rim. 

However, Baynes’ troubles were more symbolic of the Celtics’ entire defense which seems to be going from bad to worst as we inch closer towards the playoffs. 

KYRIE IRVING

He has said on more than one occasion that so much of what this team does starts with him. 

He’s right. 

And when he’s not making shots, gambling on defense - and losing badly - it reflects poorly and unfortunately for Boston, becomes contagious. 

He had a double-double of 11 points and 12 assists, shooting just 5-for-17 from the field. 

It was his 21st double-double of the season, and maybe the weakest of the bunch. 

Because his numbers on this night rang about as hollow as the cavernous hole we see as the Celtics defense. 

There are eight games left to play and while that’s not enough time for them to change the identity of who they are as a team, they can at least start trending in the direction of being more competitive. 

Because the crap show we’re witnessing now … this team won’t get out of the first round of the playoffs if they don’t find a greater compete level AND FAST!!!

UP NEXT

Boston will hit the road for a Tuesday night matchup at Cleveland, at 7 p.m.

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Round 2, here come the Celtics

Round 2, here come the Celtics

INDIANAPOLIS -- As fans made their way into BankersLife Field House, some came wearing summery shirts with flamingos and palm trees.

It would be in many ways a sign of what was to come as the Boston Celtics sent the Pacers vacationing for the summer with a 110-106 win.

The Celtics swept the first-round series against the Pacers, becoming the first team this season to advance to the next round of the playoffs.

And by doing it in just four games, this Celtics team became only the sixth in franchise history to pull off a sweep in a best-of-seven series, and the first under sixth-year coach Brad Stevens.

Boston could not have begun the game any better, scoring the game’s first eight points before Pacers head coach Nate McMillan had seen enough and called a time-out.

During the time-out, the Jumbotron showed Indiana all-star Victor Oladipo who suffered a season-ending injury in January.

The time-out, his presence, it doesn’t matter.

Moments after the Jumbotron sighting, Indiana came out and played better and eventually did enough damage to lead 23-21 after the first quarter.

But the second quarter looked eerily similar to the first as Boston opened with an 8-2 run only for the Pacers to come back and eventually take a slim 49-47 lead into the half.

As the two teams went back and forth, there was an undeniable flatness about the usually-vocal Pacers fans who had the kind of energy you expect in a preseason game and not a playoff one.

The second half saw the Pacers faithful come alive as their team opened the quarter by scoring five of the quarter’s first seven points.

But the Celtics, as we’ve seen time and time again in this series, put together a strong third quarter to go into the fourth ahead 73-72 following a pair of free throws by Marcus Morris.

The fourth quarter saw the Celtics make just enough plays to escape with the win and with it, move on to the next round of the playoffs while the Pacers as well as their flamingo, palm tree-wearing fans are now officially on vacation.

Here are the standouts in Game 4 of the Boston-Indiana first-round series.

MVP

Gordon Hayward: He played with a steady level of aggression that we had not seen at any point in this series. There were drives to the basket, aggressive play defensively and overall, Hayward doing a lot of little things that really stood out. He was Boston’s go-to guy when it mattered most in the fourth quarter as he finished with 20 points on 7-for-9 shooting.

MOST IMPROVED

Terry Rozier: This has been a tough series for Rozier, who came into Game 4 shooting 5-for-18 from the field and 3-for-11 on 3’s. On Sunday, Rozier tallied 11 points while connecting on 4-for-6 shooting from the field.

Al Horford: He had a double-double game for Boston, but they can’t afford to have him struggle like this in the next round when he has so many open to lightly contested shots. Still, Horford made a number of key plays whether it was defense or passing in the second half that would play a role in Boston getting the win, finishing with 14 points, 12 rebounds and five assists.

SIXTH MEN

Domantas Sabonis: Other than an occasional tug on Marcus Morris’ shorts or a nudging of Terry Rozier into a Pacers shooter to create a foul, Sabonis played a clean, hard-fought, well-played game before finishing with 14 points and eight rebounds.

Marcus Morris: He closed out the series similar to how it began - knocking down big shots. Morris would finish with a near double-double of 18 points and eight rebounds.

MR. NOT-SO-GREAT

Wes Matthews: It’s never good when a guy brought in to help with shooting, goes 1-for-7 in the biggest game of the season. But that was indeed the stat line on Wes Matthews which included him missing four of his five shots from 3-point range.

TURNING POINT

With Indiana ahead 82-81, the Celtics force a turnover as Terry Rozier gets the ball up court and into the hands of Jayson Tatum for a likely dunk. Indiana’s Corey Joseph, trailing on the play, fouls Tatum with the contact that included a blow to the head resulting in a Flagrant-1 penalty. Boston would not trail for the remainder of the game.

UP NEXT: The Celtics move on to face the winner of the Milwaukee-Detroit series which the Bucks lead 3-0.

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Celtics injury report: Marcus Smart, Guerschon Yabusele both out

Celtics injury report: Marcus Smart, Guerschon Yabusele both out

The Boston Celtics' injury report isn't very long, but they are going to be without a couple of players against the Indiana Pacers on Sunday.

The Celtics are operating without Marcus Smart, who could be out for the first two playoff series after suffering an oblique injury late in the year, but the team also won't have Guerschon Yabusele. Yabusele is dealing with a sore back, so he will be out.

In his place, Jonathan Gibson, who was signed by the C's late in the year, will suit up.

Yabusele's absence won't have much of an impact on the Celtics in this series. He has only played 28 seconds so far through three games in the series, and it's likely that he would stay buried on the bench. He is behind big men like Aron Baynes, Daniel Theis, and probably rookie Robert Williams in the pecking order, but still, losing interior depth is notable.

Gibson played in four games for the Celtics last season and averaged 8.5 points per game in those contests. However, he is likely to be the last man off the bench, so he probably won't play unless the game turns into a blowout.

How to watch Celtics vs. Pacers online>>>

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