Houston Rockets

NBA fines Smart $15,000 for 'public criticism of the officiating'

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NBA fines Smart $15,000 for 'public criticism of the officiating'

Marcus Smart is a little lighter in the wallet after the NBA fined him $15,000 for “public criticism of the officiating” following Boston’s 123-120 loss at Houston on Saturday.
 
The league didn’t spell out exactly what Smart said that landed him a $15,000 fine -- on his birthday, of all days. 
 
But it’s likely to have come from a series of comments he made in relation to what he perceived as favorable calls for James Harden, who is once again having an MVP-caliber season. 
 
“It happens all around the league,” Smart told the Boston Globe following the game. “You get certain players who get calls that other guys just wouldn’t get. We all know the rule. We all understand it. Superstars are going to be superstars. We get it. It is what it is. We’ve just got to play.”
 
 

Celtics look past tough loss and attempt to make a run

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Celtics look past tough loss and attempt to make a run

Getting fired up for Saturday’s game at Houston was easy for the Boston Celtics.

They both rank among the top teams in the NBA this season and waged one of the most memorable games of the year.

When they met earlier this season, Boston had an epic comeback from 26 points down in the second half to beat the Rockets 99-98. And in the rematch on Saturday, Boston had Houston on the brink of defeat once again before the Rockets (49-13) -- owners of the best record in the NBA -- rallied in the final minutes of play for a 123-120 win.

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Up next for Boston (44-20) is Chicago (21-41), a team that is a far, far cry from the Celtics’ last opponent and for that matter, most of Boston’s opponents this season.

“We need to have a great sense of urgency,” said Boston’s Al Horford. “The last time we went into Chicago, they blew us out. We have to make sure we’re really engaged.”

Horford is referring to Boston’s 108-85 loss at Chicago on Dec. 11 which is still the Celtics’ most lopsided defeat this season.

But both Chicago and Boston will field very different-looking teams tonight than what was on display back in December.

The Bulls no longer have Nikola Mirotic who has since been traded to New Orleans. And Zach LaVine, who was out while recovering from an ACL injury, is back in the fold.

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And Boston didn’t have Kyrie Irving (quad bruise) or Marcus Morris (left knee rehab), their top scorer overall and top scorer off the bench, respectively.

Regardless, the Celtics have to approach this game with a similar mindset that we’ve seen since their return from the all-star break.

“We can’t disrespect no teams,” Morris said. “Everybody’s an NBA player, so we have to approach the game the same way. Obviously, they’re not as good as the Rockets but we’re fighting for something bigger than that.”

Boston has its sights on finishing with the top overall record in the East for the second straight season.

But it won’t be easy, not with the Toronto Raptors continuing to play good basketball.

Toronto (45-17) has won four straight and 11 of its last 12 and currently lead Boston by two games in the East.

With the regular season winding down and the Celtics continue to fight for the best possible playoff seeding, every game regardless of the opponent, is of great value.

And the Celtics need to continue playing that way.

“We don’t have any time to waste, so to … go into Chicago, feel them out, we don’t have time for that,” said Kyrie Irving. “We put our identity on the game and go from there. We execute at a high level and live with the results after that. It’s no time for this, trying to learn and try to figure out. Who cares what their record is? They’re playing hard. It’s our job to go out there and play hard as well.”

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Kyrie Irving has matured under Brad Stevens

Kyrie Irving has matured under Brad Stevens

HOUSTON – My plan was to write about Kyrie Irving and how his impact in the regular season differs from what he does in the playoffs.

And as I started to crunch the numbers, it hit me … numbers don’t matter anymore with this dude!

Kyrie Irving is going to score.

We know this.

Hell, even when he’s trying not to get shots to go down the basketball gods are like, ‘What are you doing? We got you!’

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No matter who he has played with, no matter where he’s played, Irving has always proven himself as a scorer who can fill the stat sheet in other areas as well.

Points don’t matter now; winning does.

And as we saw from the loss at Houston, Irving is going to have some help – serious help – when it comes to winning in the playoffs.

To look at the season-high 67 points scored by Boston’s bench against the Rockets as a one-off moment would be to ignore what has been brewing ever since this crew returned from the break.

Irving is the ultimate destroyer of defenses.

But what we’re starting to see of late is a second unit that can inflict some serious pain as well.

Marcus Morris is healthy now, and he’s posing major problems for defenses. Big men can’t guard him because of his ability to create space off the dribble. Defenders his size don’t have enough strength to handle his low-post game.

And then there’s Terry Rozier and Marcus Smart who are bringing it more consistently at both ends of floor, than what we saw earlier this season.

Let’s not forget about the high-energy play from Daniel Theis and inside scoring Boston appears to be on the cusp of getting from Greg Monroe who lit up the Rockets for 18 points on Saturday.

And as important as it will be for the Celtics to get a strong playoff performance from Irving, the play of those around him will be even more vital.

Irving is going to draw attention.

He’s going to score points.

And as we’ve seen from him in the past, his numbers have historically been consistent with what he did in the regular season.

But there’s a plot twist with that theory this year.

Irving has been riding shot-gun in the past in Cleveland with LeBron James, compared to now where he’s behind the wheel, the one driving Boston into the postseason.

And that position of power is one that no one knows for sure how Irving will handle.

Will he look to put his imprint on the game more aggressively at the start of games, or will he make a point of getting his teammates involved earlier while planning to carry the team more so down the stretch?

And how will Brad Stevens handle having one or two other guards playing extremely well for the game, but sit for large chunks of the fourth in lieu of Irving?

And if Stevens goes with a Terry Rozier or a Marcus Smart instead of Irving, how will that play out going forward?

These are just some of the scenarios that the Celtics may encounter in the postseason, that no one has a true feel for how any of the participants involved will deal with it.

Here’s a theory based on what I’ve seen, heard and suspect is at the heart of who Irving is as a player.

Irving is going to do whatever Brad Stevens asks him to do.

Period.

Up to this point, Irving has been a stable, consistent, engaging leader – qualities that he has never had in any one of the slew of coaches he had in his time with the Cavs.  

In his first season as a proven talent leading a talented team, Irving has increased his understanding of how part of becoming a great leader is embracing when to do what’s best for the collective group even if it’s at your own detriment.

We have seen games this season that Boston has won in part because Irving didn’t press to score when other teammates had it going.

I suspect he’ll buy into that approach even more in the playoffs than we’ve seen already.

Because at the end of the day, Irving’s numbers don’t matter.

For him to drop 20 points in a win is a far more impressive feat than 30 or 40 in a loss.

Irving’s talent no longer defines him.

It’s winning.

And with the playoffs only a month or so away, the Houston game should serve notice that Irving won’t be alone.

He’s got a posse of ballers with him getting better by the day, that’s itching to join him in the fight.

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