Serge Ibaka

Effectiveness of zone defense vital to growing Celtics streak

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Effectiveness of zone defense vital to growing Celtics streak

BOSTON – The Boston Celtics have dabbled at times this season with a zone defense. But we haven’t seen quite as much of it as we did on Saturday.

And for all the things that Boston did to come away with a 110-99 win against Toronto, the Celtics’ use of an effective zone defense was a critical component to Boston extending its winning streak to six straight games.

Celtics head coach Brad Stevens recognized its value and importance to the win, but he was reluctant to dole out too much praise for its impact on the game.


“Well, when we play those big lineups, with (Jayson) Tatum at the top of that, it’s pretty – it’s a pretty good guard at the top of a 2-3 zone when he puts his arms out,” Stevens said. “We ran it a couple times in the first half with mixed results. But it – a lot of our issues were late in the clock, so it was something we could go back to if we needed to.

Stevens added, “sometimes they just miss shots. I’ll have to go back and look and see what it looked like, but it felt like we were active in the middle of it. Did get some deflections on drives and cause some turnovers out of it.”

Boston doesn’t play a lot of zone, but the Raptors were quick to say it wasn’t something that caught them off-guard.

“We were ready for it,” said Raptors head coach Dwane Casey. “We executed against it, we had some open looks against it, Kyle (Lowry) made one so we were ready for it, wasn’t anything we were surprised by. We got what we wanted out of it, we just got to make the shots.”

DeMar DeRozan, who had a game-high 32 points, echoed similar sentiments about Boston’s zone defense.

“We expected it, but I think it slowed down our momentum offensively, kind of (got) a little bit stagnant,” DeRozan told reporters. “We still got to play the same way, aggressively, and we didn’t do that. Now I’m pretty sure we will be well prepared next time we are in that same situation.”

Here are five takeaways in Boston’s 110-99 win over the Toronto Raptors.

Morris’ toughness

Even before the late-game bruhaha involving Morris and Toronto’s C.J. Miles, the veteran forward had already put his imprint on the game. He wound up leading the Celtics in scoring with 25 points, reaching the 20-point plateau for the fourth straight game which is the first time he’s done that in his NBA career.

Rozier’s future

The more you see Terry Rozier with Boston’s starting unit, the clearer it becomes he’s talented to play with the first unit of a lot of teams in the NBA. Rozier came through once again for Boston when it mattered on Saturday to finish with 21 points and seven assists.  His ability to balance being a scoring guard with that of a facilitator, serves both him and the Celtics well as they forge ahead to what’s shaping up to be a down-to-the-wire battle for the top spot in the East.

DeMar DeRozan

He’s a four-time all-star whose doing what all the greats do – find ways to get better. It has been well chronicled how DeRozan has expanded his offensive game with the 3-point shot. But what he doesn’t get enough credit for, is how he has improved as a defender. He had a number of nice plays defensively that certainly aided Toronto’s efforts on Saturday.

Serge Ibaka’s value

Often the forgotten man, Serge Ibaka’s absence during a critical stretch in the fourth quarter serves as a reminder of what he means to this Raptors team. When he picked up his fifth personal foul with 5:58 to play, the Celtics had a slim 94-92 lead. By the time he returned with 4:18 to play, the Celtics were up 100-94 which included a three-point play by Al Horford – the man Ibaka would have been defending had he been in the game. Boston’s control of the game was not an issue afterwards.

Aron Baynes

Anytime you can get a 3-pointer from Aron Baynes, you’re doing well. Get two 3-pointers from him, which is what we saw on Saturday? You’re playing with house money now! The 3’s certainly drew lots of attention, but more significant was how Baynes’ perimeter shooting began to open the floor for Boston. He doesn’t have to become a 3-point threat, but being able to knock down mid-range, pick-and-pop jumpers goes a long way towards keeping teams honest defensively. His face-up game shooting the ball will be something to keep an eye on not only when these two play in Toronto on Wednesday, but also going forward with the playoffs around the corner.


30 teams in 30 days: Management makeover for Magic


30 teams in 30 days: Management makeover for Magic

We’ll take a look at all 30 teams in the next 30 days as they prepare for the 2017-2018 regular season, which is when the real fireworks begin! Today's team: The Orlando Magic.

The Orlando Magic by no means would be considered NBA royalty or a perennial juggernaut, but the past five years have literally been the worst in the franchise’s history.
So it wasn’t all that surprising to see (now former) GM Rob Hennigan sent on his way.

The players, for the most part, are the same as the ones from a year ago, but the Magic are banking on a more seasoned front-office being exactly what’s needed in order to make those losing ways for so many years, disappear.
The Magic brought in Jeff Weltman as their president of basketball operations and John Hammond as the GM.
Both worked together in Detroit as well as Milwaukee, although with the Bucks it was Weltman reporting to Hammond.
The two bring more than familiarity to the table, but also a track record of success in building lottery teams into legit playoff contenders.
One of the first challenges they will face is trying to make sense out of a roster that on many levels, doesn’t fit in with today’s NBA landscape.
Orlando paid big money to land Serge Ibaka after having already signed Bismack Biyombo who joined a front line featuring Nikola Vucevic.
Like most of the Orlando roster, the Magic’s Big three big men never meshed on the floor with any kind of consistency.
And in their efforts to make it work, it to some degree stunted the growth of promising forward Aaron Gordon, who is one of the more athletic players in the NBA.
Still, one thing we know about teams assembled by Hammond is that he loves length, athleticism and versatility.
That’s why the Magic didn’t hesitate to go out and sign former San Antonio Spur Jonathan Simmons to a three-year, $20 million contract.
Simmons, 28, had a solid season with San Antonio, but really made a name for himself  (and a few dollars along the way) by the job he did at both ends of the floor when Kawhi Leonard was hurt and he had to contend with Houston’s James Harden.
No one would put Simmons in the same class as Leonard as far as being a two-way talent, but there was no mistaking how well Simmons held his own against the always-explosive scoring of Harden.
And the Magic, which picked sixth in the June NBA draft, once again looked to add a player with tremendous length and versatility in selecting Florida State’s Jonathan Isaac.
It was a no-brainer pick for a front office that while in Milwaukee, surprised some in selecting Giannis Antetokounmpo at a time when many felt the Greek Freak would take a number of years before making an impact. And in Hammond’s last draft with the Bucks, he selected Thon Maker with the 10th overall pick.
Like previous skinny-as-a-rail picks, Maker showed promise as a rookie that he can, in fact, be an early contributor who can improve with more time and experience which was instrumental in Milwaukee’s steady improvement.
But can they replicate that success in Orlando?
It remains to be seen but one thing is clear: It’ll be difficult for them to sink any lower than where the franchise was when they assumed their current positions.
Key free agent/draft/trade additions: Arron Afflalo (Sacramento); Mo Speights (Golden State); Jonathan Simmons (San Antonio).
Key losses: Jeff Green (Cleveland); Jodie Meeks (Washington)
Rookies of note: Jonathan Isaac; Wesley Iwundu.
Expectations: 37-45 (Fourth in the Southeast Division, 10th in the East)

UPDATE: Ibaka, Lowry re-sign with Raptors

UPDATE: Ibaka, Lowry re-sign with Raptors

The Raptors have re-signed power forward Serge Ibaka to a three-year, $65 million deal, per ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski.

Now that Ibaka has rejoined Toronto, the next step for the Raptors likely will be attempting to bring back guard Kyle Lowry.

Ibaka, Lowry, and the Raptors made it to the second round of the 2017 playoffs before being swept by the Cavaliers.

UPDATE: Kyle Lowry has announced via The Players Tribune he will indeed re-sign with the Raptors. The deal is for three years and $100 million, according to Adrian Wojnarowski.