Celtics

Without Kyrie, Celtics' kids get to show off

Without Kyrie, Celtics' kids get to show off

BOSTON – You won’t find anyone connected with the Celtics that likes the idea of not having Kyrie Irving around.

Still, in the two games he has missed because of a right quadriceps injury, there has been an undeniable silver lining to his absence.

The play of Terry Rozier has stood out, obviously.

But a deeper dive reveals Rozier’s play speaks to a greater reality for this team, one where Rozier is just one of many young Celtics who are making the most of having a more prominent, impactful role.

“I just think when you’re young and you get the opportunity to play, it’s great experience when you have the responsibility of the game on your shoulders instead of just, you know, when you increase your minutes played,” said Celtics coach Brad Stevens.

Indeed, we have seen end-of-the-bench players such as Abdel Nader not only play more but make plays at both ends of the floor to key Celtics victories.

“Maybe Ab [Nader] hasn’t played as much in the middle of the flow of the game, where the swings with the second unit might determine the game,” Stevens said. “Terry hasn’t had as much on his plate where he’s playing four stints now, and that four-stint feels a lot different because you’ve already expended the energy in the first three, and he’s used to playing two. So, it’s just – it’s great experience, obviously, and hopefully, that bodes well, but we’ll see.”

Here are five other takeaways from Boston’s 119-110 win over the Atlanta Hawks that extended the winning streak to three: 

BALANCED SCORING
Without Kyrie Irving, victories for Boston have to come by committee. That’s exactly what we saw on Friday night against Atlanta. The Celtics had all five starters reach double-figures scoring, four of whom had at least 17 points.

TATUM TEARIN’ IT UP
With nearly two-thirds of the regular season in the books now, that rookie wall you hear about all the time appears to have passed Jayson Tatum by Sure, he’s had a few up-and-down stretches of play, but nothing all that different than what his more seasoned teammates have experienced. The biggest adjustment you can see in Tatum’s game lately is how quickly he looks to go with a counter move when his initial approach isn’t readily available. On Friday, he kept the Hawks guessing all game before finishing with a career-high 27 points.

LOW TURNOVERS
The Atlanta Hawks have been a bad team all season, but one thing they have been very good at is forcing turnovers. The Hawks force 15.8 turnovers per game which ranks second in the NBA. Those miscues generate a league-best 18.5 points for the Hawks. Boston kept its mistakes to a relative minimum against Atlanta, turning the ball over 11 times which led to 15 points for the Hawks.

FAST BREAK 
For most of this season, Boston’s transition game has been in neutral. They average 9.7 fast-break points, which ranks 24th in the NBA. Against the Hawks, Boston got in transition to score 16 points - one of the many keys to victory for the Celtics.

THIRD-QUARTER TAKEOVER
It’s a four-quarter game, but the Celtics won this contest in large part due to a dominant third quarter in which they outscored the Hawks 41-20. This was a stretch in which Boston’s defense triggered easy scores at the other end of the floor. But strong defense is not unusual for the Celtics. Boston has been the league’s leader in defensive efficiency most of this season. They have been particularly good defensively in the third quarter with a league-best defensive rating in the third quarter of 97.8.

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Marcus Smart remains cautiously optimistic on return to the Boston Celtics

Marcus Smart remains cautiously optimistic on return to the Boston Celtics

WALTHAM, Mass. — Marcus Smart, less than two weeks away from becoming a restricted free agent, remains cautiously optimistic that he will be back with the Celtics this season.

“I do,” he said at his basketball camp held on the campus of Brandeis University. “I haven’t put too much thought into this off-season, the free agency thing.

He added, “my number one focus is on my family now. I have a lot of stuff going.”

Specifically, Smart’s mother Camellia Smart is battling cancer.

Smart, who has spent a good chunk of the offseason with her in Texas, said her health has been his number one priority this summer.

“Right now, she needs all the positive thinking we can give her,” said Smart who added that she has three kidney stones and has lost the ability to walk due to chemotherapy treatments. 

While basketball is certainly an afterthought for Smart at this time, both he and the Celtics will have to make some tough decisions soon. As a restricted free agent, the Celtics can match any offer he receives. 

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A number of teams, including the New York Knicks and Phoenix Suns are doing their homework on Smart to determine 1) If they want to make an offer to him and 2) what’s a number they can put out there that would dissuade the Celtics from matching.”

Smart, selected by the Celtics with the sixth overall pick in the 2014 draft, has been a mainstay in the Celtics rotation from the moment he joined the team.

Despite often being criticized for his poor shooting, Smart averaged 9.4 points per game throughout his career as a Celtic, appearing in 251 regular season games.

His impact most nights lies at the defensive end of the floor where he has emerged as one of the better on-the-ball defenders in the NBA.

And while most think of good perimeter defense as contesting shots, Smart has shown you can be a difference-maker defensively by being in the right position at the right time as well.

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After rallying back from a 26-point deficit to beat Houston earlier this season, Smart drew a pair of offensive fouls on inbounds plays against James Harden in the closing moments to help secure the win.

And there have been countless dives on the floor for loose balls, deflections, rebounds and of course forcing turnovers, that have made Smart a player that has tremendous value in the eyes of the Celtics.

But in terms of dollars and cents, how much is Smart really worth to the Boston?

There are several teams in the NBA  such as the New York Knicks and Detroit Piston s, that are making calls inquiring about Smart to determine if they will make an offer to the restricted free agent-to-be next month.

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