Celtics

Tom Thibodeau on Celtics: 'They're going to be dangerous in the playoffs'

Tom Thibodeau on Celtics: 'They're going to be dangerous in the playoffs'

As a former Boston Celtics assistant coach, Tom Thibodeau was one of the chief architects behind a Celtics defense that ranked among the best in the league.

That defensive mindset remains strong in Boston, although you wouldn’t know it by the way the Celtics have been playing at that end of the floor recently.

Fired in January by the Minnesota Timberwolves as their head coach and president of basketball operations, Thibodeau has been making the rounds, visiting former colleagues and organizations that he has worked with previously.

He was in town recently to catch a Celtics shoot-around and later a game against the Miami Heat.

Celtics head coach Brad Stevens was asked about having the defensive-minded Thibodeau around and getting his take on the team’s defense.

“He’s probably so mad at watching it,” Stevens said.

While there’s no question Boston’s defense has undergone some slippage the past couple of months, you can count Thibodeau among those who believes they will be fine at that end of the floor come playoff time.

“They have length defensively, with multiple guys that can defend multiple positions at a high level,” Thibodeau told NBC Sports Boston. “They have great leadership at that end of the floor with Al (Horford), (Marcus) Smart and Aron Baynes. They have all the pieces that are necessary. They have great talent, great coaching, management, ownership, everything they need is here… they’re going to be a very dangerous team in the playoffs.”

That’s the goal of course, even if their regular-season play suggests otherwise.

After spending the early stages of this season ranked among the top two or three teams in the league defensively, the Celtics are now sixth in the league with a defensive rating of 105.1.

But since the All-Star break, Boston’s defense has taken a major nosedive to rank 20th overall with a 109.4 defensive rating.

Even though Boston’s defense is trending in the wrong direction, Thibodeau wasn’t in town offering up any kind of defensive elixir to what ailed the Celtics.

Quite the opposite of that, actually.

Thibodeau’s time in Boston was about him picking up tips for himself going forward, as much if not more than anything else.

“You always look to see if there’s something you like that you can add to what you’re doing,” Thibodeau said. “Is there a way to do something better? We always pick each other’s brains to see what we can add. So, this is a great place to do it. There’s a number of great coaches on this staff besides Brad, who is a great coach."

Thibodeau added, “Like I said, we’re always looking at what everybody’s doing. You’re always trying to learn and grow.”

And for Thibodeau, that growth will likely include a return at some point to coaching.

“We’ll see,” he said. “Just whatever your circumstances are you want to make the best of those. For me now it’s traveling around, relaxing, enjoying the time off, recharging and see what happens down the road.”

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Team USA stunned by Australia, 98-94; Marcus Smart debuts for US

Team USA stunned by Australia, 98-94; Marcus Smart debuts for US

Marcus Smart made his debut for Team USA, which saw its 78-game international winning streak end in a 98-94 loss to Australia early Saturday in Melbourne.

Smart,  who had been bothered by a calf injury throughout training camp as the Americans prepare for the FIBA World Cup next week in China, started and scored seven points, had three assists and one rebound in nine minutes. Fellow Celtics guard Kemba Walker led Team USA with 22 points.

The other members of the Celtics contingent - a.k.a. "Team Shamrock" - Jayson Tatum (five points) and Jaylen Brown (eight points) came off the bench as the US, which had a 10-point lead in the third quarter, lost for the first time since 2006 with NBA players on its roster.

Former Celtics big man Aron Baynes, now with the Phoenix Suns, had 13 points for the Aussies, who were led by a 30-point performance from Patty Mills of the San Antonio Spurs. 

With an injury to the Los Angeles Lakers' Kyle Kuzma keeping him out of the World Cup, the 12-player US roster is set and it will include all four Celtics. The Americans open against the Czech Republic on Sept. 1 in China.

The last US loss with NBA players was in the 2006 world championship semifinals to Greece, a team that next week will feature NBA MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo of the Milwaukee Bucks. Team USA enters the World Cup No. 1 in the FIBA rankings 

“They wanted it more than us tonight,” Walker said. “Lesson learned for us.”

 

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2019 FIBA World Cup live stream: How to watch Team USA vs. Australia exhibition

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USA TODAY Sports photo

2019 FIBA World Cup live stream: How to watch Team USA vs. Australia exhibition

After drawing the largest crowd for a basketball game ever in Australia on Thursday (51,218), Team USA and Australia return to Marvel Stadium late tonight (2 p.m. Saturday in Melbourne) to play another tuneup for the FIBA World Cup.

A trio of Celtics - part of "Team Shamrock" for the US - all played key roles in helping the US defeat the Aussies 102-86. Kemba Walker scored a game-high 23 points, and Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown each scored 11. The fourth Celtic on Team USA, Marcus Smart, who hasn't played because of a calf injury, didn't play in that game but has been cleared to return and could be back tonight.

Team Australia includes a former Celtic, Aron Baynes.

The Americans have one more tuneup in Australia, Monday against Team Canada, before the FIBA World Cup opens in China against the Czech Republic on Sept. 1. 

Here's how to watch tonight's game:

When: Saturday, Aug. 24, midnight
TV Channel: NBA TV
Live Stream: Twitch and NBA.com

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