Celtics

A trip home should help shots fall for Celtics youthful core

A trip home should help shots fall for Celtics youthful core

BOSTON – The youthful energy of the Boston Celtics has been a constant this season and is one of the main reasons why the Celtics are still among the teams still with games to play.

But being too excited has its downside, something we have seen more of in Boston’s last two games against Cleveland – both losses.

That exuberance on the part of some of the Celtics’ young players manifested itself into missed dunks, blown lay-ups and some bad defensive sequences that have factored heavily into this series being tied at two games apiece after Boston jumped out to a 2-0 series lead.

Boston is hoping the comforts of home will settle down the young troops in tonight’s Game 5 matchup.

Jaylen Brown led the Celtics with 25 points in Game 4, but his point tally could have been even higher if not for missed dunks and lay-up attempts driving towards the basket.

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“Just … going too fast, too excited,” said Brown, in his second NBA season. “I just need to slow down; missed a bunch of easy opportunities. Made some bad turnovers, things like that.”

In the first quarter of Game 4, Brown had two points but missed six of his seven shot attempts and played all but 20 seconds in the first. And rookie Jayson Tatum, the team’s leading scorer (18.0 points per game) in the playoffs, was scoreless after missing all three of his field goal attempts in the first quarter of Game 4 before finishing with 17 points. Their struggles were a reflection of the Celtics as a team which shot a collective 26.9 percent (7-for-26) from the field in the first quarter. But the point made by Brown about being in a rush, is what you come to expect from a team that’s strength lies heavily in something as unstable as youth.

It hasn’t been an issue this season, but with what’s at stake and most of these guys having never been in this deep in the postseason, it’s understandable how their anxiousness to do well might at times get the best of them.

That said, don’t think for a minute that the struggles they had at times in Game 3 or 4 will do anything to dent their confidence coming into tonight's game.

“Sometimes you just miss shots,” said Tatum who was named to the NBA’s all-rookie first team on Tuesday. “Some of the dunks, the lay-ups we missed, more than likely will go in next time.”

And as far as being sped up by the Cavs, Tatum believes that had a lot to do with the Celtics being in catch-up mode.

“We been through that sometimes,” he said. “On the road, once you get down it gets loud. You get in a hurry, trying to get the lead back. We have to understand that we can’t get it back in one play."

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Or with one player.

Because for Boston to get regain a series edge with a Game 5 win tonight, it won’t be one or two players to get it done.

Boston will have to do it the way they’ve been doing it all season, and that’s with a collection of players chipping in with whatever it is they do best.

Many of those contributions will most likely come from their youthful core as they continue to help pave the way for more success for the Celtics and with that, sustain the youth movement that has been instrumental in Boston's unexpectedly deep playoff journey. 

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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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Did J.R. Smith call Marcus Smart a "bum" for DeAndre' Bembry incident?

Did J.R. Smith call Marcus Smart a "bum" for DeAndre' Bembry incident?

J.R. Smith appeared to call out one of two players Saturday night on Instagram.

We think we have a pretty good guess.

After ESPN's "SportsCenter" Instagram account posted a video of Marcus Smart charging at DeAndre' Bembry during Saturday night's Boston Celtics-Atlanta Hawks game, the former Cleveland Cavaliers guard chimed in by writing "such a bum" in the comment section.

Technically, Smith's "bum" jab could be directed at Smart or Bembry. But Smith and Smart have serious history.

A quick recap: During the 2018 NBA playoffs, Smart confronted Smith after the Cavs guard pushed Al Horford while he was in the air attempting to catch an alley-oop. When Boston and Cleveland met this preseason, Smart and Smith scuffled again, and their beef continued off the court with some nasty postgame remarks and tweets.

So, it's safe to say Smith's comments aren't directed at Bembry.

Smart has bigger problems to worry about, though: His Celtics will aim for their fourth consecutive win Monday, while Smith has stepped away from the Cavs while seeking a trade.

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Celtics easily on your device.