Celtics

WATCH: Ex-Celtic Isaiah Thomas gets warm welcome in Boston return

WATCH: Ex-Celtic Isaiah Thomas gets warm welcome in Boston return

BOSTON -- Isaiah Thomas was right.

The Washington Wizards guard said earlier in the week he expected to hear cheers from Celtics fans at TD Garden on Wednesday in his return to Boston.

Thomas heard those cheers and then some, receiving a strong ovation from the Boston crowd when he was introduced as Washington's starting point guard.

Thomas also caught up with old friend Marcus Smart and other Celtics teammates before the game.

The 30-year-old became a fan favorite in his two-plus seasons in Boston from 2015 to 2017, earning a place in Celtics lore with an incredible 2016-17 campaign capped by Boston's run to the 2017 Eastern Conference Finals.

Thomas has played in Boston once since leaving in the 2017 offseason but saw just seven minutes of action and didn't score in the Denver Nuggets' March 2018 game against the Celtics.

He's very much involved for the Wizards this season, though, averaging 13.2 points per game and starting in Washington's past three contests.

Don’t miss NBC Sports Boston's coverage of Celtics-Warriors, which tips off Friday at 9:30 p.m. ET with Celtics Pregame Live, and then Mike & Scal have the call of the game at 10:30 p.m. You can also stream the game through the MyTeams App.

Celtics-Pelicans Takeaways: NBA suffered massive loss in Kobe Bryant's death

Celtics-Pelicans Takeaways: NBA suffered massive loss in Kobe Bryant's death

The Boston Celtics’ 123-108 loss to New Orleans hurt for sure. 

But the Celtics and the entire basketball world were suffering a much greater pain following the death of Kobe Bryant and his 13-year-old daughter Gianna, who were among nine people reportedly killed in a helicopter crash in California on Sunday. 

Several teams honored Bryant’s memory on Sunday, with other franchises looking to do so going forward. 

Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban said no player will ever wear No. 24 again for the Mavericks. Bryant wore jersey No. 24 and No. 8 during his 20 seasons with the Los Angeles Lakers.

LIVE stream the Celtics all season and get the latest news and analysis on all of your teams from NBC Sports Boston by downloading the My Teams App.

As for the Celtics, they found themselves in catch-up mode most of the night and went into the half trailing by 20 points. 

Boston was able to cut the deficit in half by the time the game moved on to the fourth quarter. 

But down the stretch, the Pelicans came up with all the big plays at both ends of the floor to secure what would be Zion Williamson’s first victory in a regular season NBA game. 

The loss snapped Boston’s three-game winning streak.

But the truth is, few Celtics fans - or fans in general - were giving much thought to wins and losses on this night. 

Regardless of who won or lost, Bryant’s death sent shockwaves throughout the basketball community that are still being felt and will continue to be felt for some time.

ZION WILLIAMSON

He still didn’t play major minutes, but that didn’t keep him from making a major impact. Williamson, in his third NBA game, tallied a double-double of 21 points and 11 rebounds in just 27 minutes. 

The scary part about Williamson's game is that he’s dominating the action in limited minutes while still learning lots of ins and outs of play. 

As he gets older and matures and better understands how to use his vast array of skills to be impactful, he'll become an even bigger nightmare for foes to deal with. 

KEMBA’S IN-GAME BOUNCEBACK

After a rugged start (zero points, 0-for-6 shooting in the first quarter), Walker bounced back with a strong night that put the Celtics within striking distance in the fourth quarter. 

But Walker couldn’t quite muster up enough big shots in order for the Celtics to get the win, despite leading all scorers with 35 points to go with five rebounds and four assists with two steals and a blocked shot.

The slow start by Walker (he wasn’t the only one struggling early on by the way) was among the factors that forced the Celtics to play from behind most of the night. 

INJURY ROULETTE

Jaylen Brown comes back to the lineup, but Jayson Tatum (groin) and Enes Kanter (hip) remain out. 

Sunday’s game was yet another night of injury roulette for the Celtics who continue to play most games short-handed with the missing player being one of their core, go-to guys. 

It makes it extremely difficult for the Celtics to develop continuity, or determine if a change roster-wise needs to be made.

Don't miss NBC Sports Boston's coverage of Celtics-Pelicans, which begins Sunday at 5:30 p.m. with Celtics Pregame Live, followed by tip-off at 6 p.m. You can also stream the game on the MyTeams App.

Celtics-Pelicans Instant Overreactions: How big of a problem is the C's rebounding?

Celtics-Pelicans Instant Overreactions: How big of a problem is the C's rebounding?

After trailing by 20 points at halftime against the New Orleans Pelicans, the Boston Celtics were able to cut the Pelicans lead to single digits a handful of times in the second half.

But ultimately, they weren't able to overcome the deficit and fell to the Pelicans.

The Celtics got 20+ point outings from Kemba Walker (35), Gordon Hayward (23), and Jaylen Brown (20), but they weren't able to get enough from the rest of the team to stay competitive against Zion Williamson and a rejuvenated-looking Pelicans squad.

Here are three instant overreactions from the C's loss, which drops them to 30-15 on the year.

1. Rebounding is a major issue for the Celtics

Verdict: Overreaction

The Celtics struggled mightily on the glass against the Pelicans. And two defensive possessions showcase that very well.

At one point in the game, Zion Williamson got to the rim and put up a shot. He missed it but kept putting up shots after getting three or four consecutive offensive rebounds. Williamson didn't ultimately get a bucket on the play, but the fact that he had so many chances was certainly a negative.

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And later in the first half, the Pelicans did convert on some of those offensive boards. On one possession, the team, once again, combined to grab three or four consecutive offensive boards and got up multiple shots before Josh Hart made a 3-pointer. It was a demoralizing possession for the Celtics and afforded the Pelicans a chance to continue to extend their already-growing lead.

For the game, the Pelicans had 54 boards while the Celtics just had 37. So on the surface, this would appear to be an issue.

However, there's one big counterpoint. Enes Kanter didn't play in the game. And neither did Jayson Tatum. The duo makes up the Celtics' best rebounding tandem and they combine for 15.1 boards per game. Without them, the Celtics have to play smaller, so that could explain why they struggled against a lanky Pelicans squad.

It's fair to want the Celtics to perform better on the glass. But they're less than a week away from outrebounding the Los Angeles Lakers by 12 when their team was almost fully healthy. They should overcome this issue when Kanter and Tatum are back.

2. Celtics need another scorer off the bench

Verdict: Not an overreaction

Obviously, there's a case to be made that the bench is stronger than they showcased on Sunday night. After all, when Tatum plays, Smart comes off the bench. And Kanter is one of the team's best scorers off the bench.

But still, the Celtics seem to be one contributor short when they have their full rotation available. And when they're not fully healthy, things can get ugly.

The Celtics bench scored just eight total points against the Pelicans. They shot 4-of-10 from the field and made zero of the four 3-point shots they attempted.

While guys like Javonte Green, Grant Williams, and Semi Ojeleye have upside, they haven't yet shown an ability to be consistent and willing scorers night in and night out.

It will be interesting to see if the Celtics try to make any trades before the Feb. 6 trade deadline. They are rumored to have an interest in Washington Wizards stretch-four Davis Bertans, but can they open up a roster spot to make a deal? And at what cost? We'll soon find out.

3. Vincent Poirier should see more playing time as long as Kanter is out

Verdict: Not an overreaction

As mentioned, one of the Celtics' biggest weaknesses in this contest was their inability to rebound. Part of that was their lacking size against a long Pelicans team.

That said, when the team put in Vincent Poirier to try out some new things in the third quarter against the Pelicans, the move paid dividends. Poirier played hard and his size bothered the Pelicans at the rim.

Poirier totaled two points, three boards, and a block in nine minutes of action. And that was huge for the team as they made their comeback push.

Poirier may be an NBA rookie, but he has Euroleague experience and was the league's leading rebounder before coming over to the Celtics. He may not always play perfectly, but in small spurts, he could help the Celtics offset their lacking length as long as Kanter is out.

If Poirier plays 10 minutes or so off the bench, that may help the Celtics have a better presence on the glass and on defense. Brad Stevens should at least consider getting Poirier into the game a bit earlier against the Miami Heat if the C's have issues again under the basket again.

And given that Stevens said Poirier was "excellent" after the contest, it seems likely that he will see more playing time.

Don't miss NBC Sports Boston's coverage of Celtics-Heat, which begins Tuesday at 6:30 p.m. with Celtics Pregame Live. You can also stream it on the MyTeams App.