Celtics, Clippers play thriller at Garden as All-Star point guards go head to head.

The Celtics were coming in hot, winning 9 of their last 11 but a one point loss to the Bucks the night before left a bitter taste. A chance for redemption, at home, against Doc, Pierce & the Los Angeles Clippers was todays challenge. A team who were also hot, winning 7 of their last 8.

gettyimages-509442200_master

The first quarter didn’t start as planned when Pierce & Reddick knocked down back to back 3’s to give the Clippers a 10-4 advantage. The Celtics would fight back through Sullinger, Thomas & Crowder (who had all of Boston’s points apart from 3) to tie things at 19. Not much defence was being played & the Celtics had already started to Hack-a-Jordan, who made both of the free throws as Los Angeles would take a 37-33 lead into the 2nd.

Smart

The Clippers scored 4 points to start the quarter but Boston was hanging tough, attacking the rim & getting to the free throw line before a Marcus Smart 3 pointer gave the Celtics their first lead of the night. Bradley & Smart both hit 2 3’s, with a pair of Jae Crowder free throws in-between to extend the lead to 60-54. The Celtics once again ended the quarter with Hack-a-Jordan, who proceeded to make both free throws again but Boston took a 71-64 advantage at the half.

IT

The Celtics started the 3rd on a 10-4 run to go up 13 before the Clippers would make their own run by getting to the line, as 6 straight Clipper free throws had cut the Boston lead to 81-85. Over the final 3:40 of the quarter, Crowder & Thomas were the only Celtics to score, putting in 13 points to extend the lead back to 10 before a Chris Paul 3 beat the buzzer as the Celtics took a 91-98 lead into the 4th.

gettyimages-509443636_master

Olynyk was announced out for the remainder of the game with a shoulder injury as Zeller took the floor to star the 4th. Tyler quickly knocked down a shot but a 9-2 Clippers run had the game at 100 apiece. Paul & Jerebko would exchange 3’s before Lance Stephenson also hit a 3, but a stare down of the Celtics bench got Lance a technical foul as the resulting free throw, made by Avery Bradley, gave Boston the one point lead. Crawford, Reddick & Stephenson all scored in the midst of an 8-2 Clippers run as Los Angeles took the 114-109 lead. The Celtics went back to Hack-a-Jordan, who went 3-4 over the next minute to put the Clippers up 5 with only 1:16 left in regulation. Thomas would score the basket out of the timeout & get a foul but he missed the free throw that Marcus Smart would fight & get the rebound for. The Clippers were called for another foul but Marcus could only manage to make 1 of the 2 foul shots & would immediately pick up his 6th & final foul after the missed free throw. Los Angeles were up 2 with Jordan heading to the line with under 24 seconds left, DeAndre failed to make either of the 2 free throws & Isaiah Thomas would tie things up before Chris Paul missed the game winning shot as time expired.

Overtime started with Avery Bradley fouling Reddick on back to back 3 point shots, one a 4 point play, the other Reddick went 2/3 from the line. Bradley quickly made up for the mistake, knocking down a 3 to bring Boston within 2. Crawford, Jordan & Paul all went 1 of 2 from the line in their next 3 possessions as a Sullinger 3 pointer got Boston back down only 1. 7 straight points for Evan Turner put Boston up 3, the Clippers had 2 chances to tie the game but failed on both as Jerebko hit the final 2 free throws to lead the Celtics to a 139-134 win over the Clippers heading into the All-Star weekend, where Isaiah Thomas will be in the Skills Challenge & the All-Star game.

gettyimages-509444440

The Celtics head into ASW with a 32-23 record which has them sitting 3rd in the Eastern Conference.

Statistics:
Isaiah Thomas – 36 points & 11 assists (11-12 on free throws) Jared Sullinger – 21 points & 11 rebounds Jae Crowder – 19 points & 8 rebounds Evan Turner – 14 points, 6 rebounds & 6 assists Avery Bradley – 18 points Marcus Smart – 17 points
If that was Paul Pierce’s final game in Boston he finished with 6 points, 3 rebounds & an assist, shooting 50% from 3.

LeBron, Cavs take down ice cold Boston

After a tough back to back against the Warriors & Hornets where the Celtics went 1-1, they had a few days off before facing LeBron & the Cavs at home.

After how last year’s game 4 ended, in chippy fashion, many expected this game to be very similar. The referees were letting the game play for the most part as Boston jumped out to an 11-6 lead after a Johnson dunk. 7 straight Cleveland points scored by Kevin Love had the game tied back up at 13. The Cavs got out to a 3 point lead before Avery tied it up with a 3 that sparked a little Celtics run to take a 25-23 lead at the end of 1.

The 2nd quarter started with a foul, defensive 3 seconds & a jump ball all in 15 seconds. Some great hustle plays by James Young, most noticeably his rebound over Tristian Thompson & pass to Lee that gave Boston a 3 point lead. LeBron went into attack mode scoring back to back baskets before a little spark by the Celtics, capped off by a Jae Crowder 3 had Boston’s lead at 39-34. The end of the half got chippy as LeBron & Thomas got to the line on back to back trips. Isaiah scored his 10th point in the final second to put Boston up 6 at halftime.

The Celtics started the 2nd half shooting 2-14 as Cleveland went on a 12-0 run to take a 7 point lead. Evan Turner stopped the bleeding for the short time but the Celtics only had 6 points in the quarter as Cleveland had opened up a 62-52 lead but 5 quick points by Avery Bradley cut the deficit in half. Cleveland immediately answered the run as Boston trailed 61-69 at the end of 3.

Olynyk started the 4th with 5 points for Boston but the Celtics couldn’t get stops as Shumpert hit two 3’s & LeBron’s finger roll put them up 13 & forced Boston into a timeout.  A 6-0 Boston run was quickly stomped by Love who scored 5 straight to put Cleveland back up 12. The rest of the quarter was a formality as Cleveland took down the Celtics with an 89-77 win.

Cleveland outscored Boston in the paint 44-24. The Celtics shot 32% from the field, 28% from 3. Avery was Boston’s best scorer finishing with 17.

5 takeaways from the Warriors loss

So, we very nearly got the win, and lost it in double overtime. Is there a medal for moral victories, for being able to hang with the Warriors for this long?

Having missed most of the game live, I went back and caught the full game on replay (gotta love League Pass). Here’s the box score for reference.

Have to say, the team has taken a serious step forward in growth this season. We’re not fully there yet; defensive rotations stutter at times, ATO plays look wonky, and there’s the occasional hero ball (hello there 7-for-22!), especially when the ball stops moving. BUT, we’re making huge strides as far as defense is concerned, and like all of us know by now, it’s got to be a 48 minute operation with all hands on deck. A few lapses could have us earning another loss easily.

First off, top props to Bradley for the first quarter onslaught, and to guys like Crowder, KO, Lee, Turner, Sully and Lee for doing their part. Young too, but more on that later.

1. We got slaughtered on the glass

Box out, people. If we can’t defend our own rebounds, we don’t deserve to win.

The Warriors out-rebounded us this game, 67-51. The differential in defensive rebounding was +10 to Golden State, and they got 17 offensive rebounds.

SEVENTEEN.

I like the number 17 when it refers to the number of championship banners, not the amount of offensive boards we surrendered in a game.

Sidetracking a little, I’m thinking of coach Steven’s spoken preference towards small ball. That in turn calls for a lot of aggressive gang rebounding, something Golden State has been able to accomplish even with their small ball lineup of death.

We have to get this rebounding thing right, before our small ball becomes a real weapon.

2. Transition defense did not exist

21 fast break points for the Warriors, plenty of ill-defended (or even undefended) layups were made.

We can’t afford to give points away like that.

3. The Warriors are a scary outfit

Captain Obvious here, but the point was just highlighted once more this game.

Brandon Rush looked comfortable out there as a starter, and Livingston/Barbosa were playing their roles to perfection. Despite missing two key players in Thompson and Barnes, the Warriors still looked pretty good. Good enough to close the game out anyway.

And of course: Draymond Green who clinched a 5×5 (24 points, 11 rebounds, 8 assists, 5 steals, 5 blocks) while chucking 3-pointers, defending guards and forwards with equal ease.

I guess it’s different if Green was the missing player, but seriously, solid contribution from the reserves.

4. Still loving the good times with Mike and Tommy

mike_tommy

I’m not sure how many more seasons we got, but from the bottom of my heart, thanks to you two fine gentlemen for all these years of commentating, it’s been a lot of fun listening to you.

Hey, what can I say? I’m a C’s fan, and I love listening to Celtics homer talk, raging on lousy whistles and the like.

5. Bradley is still getting killed by whistles while playing elite defense

ab_whistle

Yep. That’s a foul, come on. I feel like AB’s earned a reputation over the years for getting quick whistles on his aggressive defense, which in turn has made him less effective.

Nothing we can do about it, but it just frustrates me when he gets quick whistles and loses playing time.


P.S. James Young actually looked better than I thought he would be

He gave good effort on defense and on moving the ball the right way during offense this game.

The numbers look decent too. 5 points on 2/3 shooting, 4 rebounds, 2 assists, and only 1 turnover in nearly 20 minutes of play? It’s not All-Star, but I’ll take it.

Keep it up Young!

To wrap things up, here’s a moment I thought was pretty fun: IT snatching a rebound away from Bogut, and dishing it out to AB for a quick three.

Onwards to the next game.

Sullinger & Thomas help C’s by the Davis led Pelicans.

The Celtics would be looking to bounce back after a tough loss to the Spurs & close out this 5 game road trip 3-2.

Anthony Davis started the first quarter with 6 straight points for the Pelicans but Isaiah Thomas & Boston were able to keep up the pace taking a 13-10 lead as Davis picked up his 2nd foul early. Anderson & Holiday wouldn’t let the Celtics capitalise without Davis on the floor as 13 points between them had the game tied at 25 apiece.

575727971_celtics_pelicans_lmj_0094-w800

The Pelicans had extended the run & had a 32-27 lead when Davis returned to the floor. 3 straight Boston baskets by Olynyk had the game tied again at 38-38. The defence led to offence as Isaiah exploded for 10 points across the final 5 minutes of the half, including 2 3’s that led Boston to a 53-44 lead at the half. Thomas had 19 points on 8-9 shooting while Sullinger kept up his solid season with 10 rebounds.

575727971_celtics_pelicans_lmj_0059-w800

The Pelicans started the 2nd half with an and 1 basket through Gee which started a trend of fouls for the next few possessions as New Orleans would shoot 5 free throws in the first 4 minutes. That however didn’t stop Boston from scoring as they had extended the lead to 19 after three straight 3 point baskets from Bradley, Thomas & Crowder. Crowder extended the lead into the 20’s after getting fouled on a 3 point attempt. The Pelicans closed the quarter on a 14-8 run to cut the Celtics lead down to 14.

575727971_celtics_pelicans_lmj_0060-w800

The Pelicans cut the lead to 10 before Crowder hit a 3 that sparked a lighting quick 10-2 run by Boston. With less than 5 minutes to play the Celtics had extended the lead to 20 points on the back of 19 rebounds & some stellar defence by Jared Sullinger. The rest of the quarter was just a formality as the Celtics would answer every Pelicans attempted run to take a 111-93 win & finish this tough road trip with a 3-2 record.

Key performances:

Jared Sullinger: 20 rebounds, 11 points, 3 assists & a team high +32
Isaiah Thomas: 22 points (9-13 & 4-4 from 3) 5 assists & 1 steal
Kelly Olynyk: 21 points (8-13, 2-5 from 3 & 3-3FT) 3 assists & 2 steals
Jae Crowder: 17 points
575727971_celtics_pelicans_lmj_0089-w800

 

2015/16 player previews: Kelly Olynyk

Kelly Olynyk had an impressive off-season with the Canadian national team and looks ready to be a large part of the Celtics rotation this season.

Although Olynyk hurt his knee in late August playing for his country, he bounced back and played some huge games as they attempted, but ultimately failed, to qualify for the 2016 Rio Olympics.

Olynyk had the best game of his career against Venezuela, as he dominated and finished with 34 points (11/13 from the field) and 13 rebounds. Olynyk’s efficiency had all Celtics fans excited for what may be in store for the upcoming season.

Obviously Olynyk isn’t going to make 11/13 shots every night, but his improved offensive game gives the Celtics another option and keeps the opposition guessing.

A huge part of his role this season will be to space the floor for his scoring guards. Olynyk will need to create open spaces for Isaiah Thomas to operate in, and this will be made easier if Olynyk can prove to be a consistent threat that needs to be treated with respect on the offensive end.

Being able to give Thomas, Avery Bradley and Evan Turner room to create their own shots and also being ready to shoot when open is huge for the Celtics moving forward. After his summer experiences, Olynyk looks ready to perform for the Boston Celtics in his third season.

You won’t be seeing Olynyk on opening night against the Sixers though, as he is serving a one-game suspension after that incident with Kevin Love.

2015/16 player preivews: R.J. Hunter

The Boston Celtics selected R.J. Hunter with pick 28 in this years NBA Draft. In each of his three seasons with Georgia State he was able to increase his production on the offensive end, and averaged 19.5 points per game last season.

Hunter is known for that famous game-winner in the 2015 NCAA March Madness against Baylor, in which Baylor were the heavy favourites to advance.

Hunter was seen by many as the best pure shooter in this year’s draft and after what he displayed in the Summer League’s and preseason that looks like a pretty safe bet.

Hunter’s form through the preseason has he seen him force his way into the rotation and we should see him getting plenty of minutes early in this season.

Hunter isn’t going to kill defenders with explosiveness, but his unlimited range forces defenders to be right on him on the offensive end.

Hunter’s frame is far too small to be a good defender in the league, and defence is a concern for him entering his rookie season. Having said that, he showed he can be a decent defender in the preseason, and this will need to be even better come the regular season.

Hunter looks like he will be the backup shooting guard to Avery Bradley, with Evan Turner also able to play the two-guard position, as well as the point. The competition for guard minutes will be strong, so Hunter will may see some time on the bench if he struggles to find his shot.

2015/16 player previews: Marcus Smart

Marcus Smart is a fierce competitor. If that wasn’t a takeaway for you after last season, you clearly weren’t watching the Celtics enough.

With his relentless defence Smart solidified himself as the Celtics point guard of the future and started 41 games in his rookie campaign. Smart demonstrated that he can do much more than just play tough defence as he proved to be able to make clutch shots when the Celtics desperately needed him to.

I’m sure you all remember the amazing buzzer beating, game-winner against the Raptors in Toronto that silenced the crowd.

Smart, as with any rookie, struggled with consistency for parts of the season. His three-point shot, whilst dangerous, was overused at times.

The competition between Smart and Isaiah Thomas for the starting point guard role will drive both of them to be better and compete every single night. That is what depth does, it creates competition for spots which is healthy for a team.

Smart averaged just over 3 assists per game last season, this will need to improve if he wants to keep his starting position. From what we’ve seen in the preseason, in particular against the Knicks when he dropped 9 dimes, this improvement will come. He is not where he needs to be yet, but time is most certainly on his side as he enters his second season.

Another season alongside Bradley will only improve Smart’s defence as he can learn in every practice and every game. Playing under Brad Stevens is another key in unlocking Smart’s potential, as we all know Stevens is the master in bringing out the best in his players.