Tag: Al Horford

Tensions Flare In Boston, As the Celtics Loss Again

The roller coaster of a season for the Boston Celtics goes on as tensions continue to raise amongst players, and in last night’s 105-103 loss to the Orlando Magic a brief disagreement was caught between head coach Brad Stevens and superstar point guard Kyrie Irving.

First it was Marcus Morris and Jaylen Brown’s brief scuffle during a timeout in Thursday’s loss to the Miami Heat, and last night an argument was witnessed between Stevens and Irving over a drawn up play for the last shot of the game. At the end, Gordon Hayward inbounded the ball to Jayson Tatum, who then attempted a fade away over Magic guard, Wesley Iwundu, with 2.7 seconds remaining in regulation. After the game, Irving seemed frustrated over Hayward’s decision to give the ball to Tatum for the last shot, Irving can be seen telling Hayward, “You had Al,” who was open at the top of the key.

Irving Critical of Young Teammates over Lack of Experience

After the game Irving and Al Horford both questioned their young teammate’s inconsistent play, “We play hard at times. We don’t play hard all the time,” Horford said.

We’ve reached the mid-way point of the season and the Celtics continue to show inconsistency on both sides of the floor. Boston seemed to have figured it out after their team meeting occurred after their loss to Milwaukee on December 21. The Celtics won 7 of their last 9 games after the meeting took place, but their losses to non-playoff teams in the Heat and Magic over the week have the players thinking if the problem has resurfaced.

Irving was critical of his young teammates and how they’ve played this season, “The young guys don’t know what it takes to be a championship-level team. And if they think it is hard now, what do they think it will be like when we’re trying to get to the finals?” said Irving.

Time heals all Wounds

Even throughout these low points in the season Irving still believes in this team’s potential, “I know from the majority of the fact that we’re better than most teams in this league,” said Irving. “It’s just going out and proving it every single night and demanding it and actually showing it.”

Irving emphasized how experience has been a major issue to why this club hasn’t lived up to their potential. This is the most stacked team in the NBA and Brad Stevens has to find a way to mesh the egos of nine legit starting players into accepting new roles, which includes less playing time, low productivity and bench roles. Guys like Terry Rozier, Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum who were playing at an All-Star level last season have seen their productivity decline since Irving and Hayward returned this season.

Time will tell if the Celtics can bounce out of their inconsistency and FINALLY make a run at the number one seed. Home court advantage is going to play a major role in the playoffs with teams like Milwaukee, Toronto, Philadelphia and Indiana gunning for a spot to represent the East in the Finals since LeBron James departure to the West. We’ll see if Boston can get it together before it’s too late.

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Are the Boston Celtics Finally Ready to Steamroll through the East?

Last night’s showdown between two red-hot Eastern Conference teams seemed to be no problem for the Boston Celtics as they rolling through the Indiana Pacers 135-108.

The four game home stand was something the Celtics needed after winning one out of four games on their West coast road trip two weeks ago. Boston have now won four straight and are 15-5 at TD Garden. They play a back-to-back today as they take their talents to South Beach and play the Miami Heat.

Boston’s Depth on Full Display

At the start of the season the talk around the league was the amount of talent the Celtics have, they have eight legit starting caliber players and last night’s victory showed that. The Pacers were out gunned yesterday, even with their talented duo of Victor Oladipo and Domantas Sabonis. Boston had seven players that reached double figures, which now makes it four consecutive games where at least five players have scored in double figures.

The team was led by Marcus Morris and Jaylen Brown, who each scored 22 points to go along with eight and seven rebounds. Jayson Tatum showed out offensively as he scored 20 points while shooting 60 percent from the field on 9-of-15 shots. Another positive takeaway was the performance of Gordon Hayward, who has been more consistent on the offensive end over the last couple of games. He finished with 14 points on 5-of-7 from the field.

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Starters, Kyrie Irving and Marcus Smart celebrate with teammates as they cruise by the Indiana Pacers. (Photo credit: NBA.com)

It was one of those games that allowed Kyrie Irving to take a break offensively, he played only 24 minutes and scored only 12 points. Al Horford also had a laid-back night, playing only 18 minutes and chipped in with six points and eight assists.

The True Test for Boston Begins in the Coming Weeks

Since airing out their frustrations after the loss to Milwaukee back in December, the Celtics are now 7-2 over their last nine games with their only losses coming to the Houston Rockets and San Antonio Spurs. The home stretch provided an extra boost of confidence for the Celtics, but in the upcoming weeks they will play legit championship contenders like the Toronto Raptors, the Golden State Warriors, the Los Angeles Lakers and the Oklahoma City Thunder.

The Celtics and Raptors will square-off on Wednesday at TD Garden. Their even at 1-1 over their last two meetings with Boston taking the second game in overtime when Irving exploded for 43 points.

A potential NBA Finals match-up with the Warriors will take place on Saturday the 26th, as both teams continue to get back to playing championship level basketball. Although the Celtics could be one of the first teams to face a returning DeMarcus Cousins with Golden State, as he’s scheduled to return from an Achilles tear in mid-to-late January.

Three Things Boston has to do to get by Streaking Nets

The Boston Celtics are currently riding a two game win streak with wins over western conference opponents in the Timberwolves and Mavericks, but tonight Boston will face a scrappy Brooklyn Nets team who are sitting in the seventh spot in the east. The Nets have won eight of their last 10 games and find themselves in the playoff picture for the first time since the 2014-15 season. They also have six players averaging double digit scoring.

These are three major points Boston has to do if they want to come away with a win.

Get Jarrett Allen in Foul Trouble

Since Aron Baynes went down with a broken hand last month the Celtics have had a hard time defending the paint. The team is averaging 34.4 defensive rebounds a game, but their undersized big men in Al Horford, Daniel Theis and Guerschon Yabusele have been getting pounded down low. We saw that in their loss against the Houston Rockets as Clint Capela finished the game with 19 rebounds. The Timberwolves didn’t go down easy either, Karl-Anthony Towns gave Boston trouble in the paint putting up 28 points and grabbing 12 rebounds.

Brooklyn’s Jarrett Allen is in the conversation for defensive player of the year averaging 1.4 blocks per game (BPG). Allen has been a force in the paint for the Nets all season, he’s had some impressive blocks against MVP caliber players in LeBron James, Anthony Davis and Giannis Antetokounmpo. With Baynes and Robert Williams out, Boston’s undersized big men are going to have to control Allen in the paint, which is easier said than done considering Allen is averaging 8.3 rebounds a game (RPG). Boston’s guards will have to get Allen into foul trouble so they can get easy buckets against backup center Ed Davis in switches and in the pick-n-roll.

Slow Down PG Duo of Dinwiddie and Russell

With Caris LeVert going down with a nasty ankle injury in November, in what seemed to be a similar injury that Gordon Hayward suffered last season, D’Angelo Russell has took it upon himself to carry the team offensively. He’s had helped from back-up point guard Spencer Dinwiddie, who’s also in the conversation for sixth man of the year, averaging 17.2 points per game (PPG) off the bench. Russell himself is putting up 18.4 PPG and dishing out 6.4 assists per game (APG).

Marcus Smart and Kyrie Irving, who is returning from an eye injury after missing two games, are going to have to play tight defense against Russell and Dinwiddie who over the season have shown to be a match-up problem on the offensive end. Dinwiddie and Russell have respectively put up over 30 points on multiple occasions. The 6’6 Dinwiddie is going to be a match-up problem against the smaller Boston point guards in Smart, Irving and Terry Rozier.

Out Hustle Brooklyn

If we were talking about last season’s Boston Celtics we wouldn’t be having this discussion in terms of hustle plays, but that’s not the case for this season team. The Celtics ability to overcome deficits last season was the team’s identity, they had an 8-5 winning record after trailing by at least 13 points and 5-4 in games when they were down by at least 17 points. But this season Boston’s only has had a few gritty comeback victories against the Philadelphia 76ers on Christmas day, Phoenix Suns and Oklahoma City at the start of the season.

Brooklyn is obviously the underdog going into Monday’s match-up, but under head coach Kenny Atkinson they’re grinding out victories against big time playoff opponents. They picked up wins over the Sixers, Denver Nuggets, Toronto Raptors, Los Angeles Lakers and Charlotte Hornets. Brooklyn are top ten in the NBA in offensive rebound percentage at 29.7 percent, which can play can be a big key if they want to steal a win in Boston.

Celtics Win Wire-to-Wire Game Against Minnesota, Hayward Drops 35

It seems that Gordon Hayward loves to play against the Minnesota Timberwolves, in their December meeting Hayward scored a game high 30 points and in yesterday’s match-up he dropped a season high 35 points. Hayward torched the Timberwolves defense all game scoring as he shot 14-of-18 from the field to go along with five assists to lead Boston to a 115-102 victory at home.

“He’s going to make a lot of shots, because he’s got a lot due,” said Celtics head coach Brad Stevens. “He was disappointed in how he shot the ball, obviously, in San Antonio and got back in the gym this morning.”

Hayward is still working his way back from the gruesome leg injury suffered on opening night of the 2017-18 season that sidelined him all of last season. “When you see the ball go through the hoop, and it give you a little bit of confidence. Getting stuff in transition, some easy ones, kinda get yourself going, that stuff always feels good,” said Hayward after the game.

Terry Rozier stepped up in Irving’s absence

From the start of the game you can see Terry Rozier had that bounce in his step, as he started for the injured Kyrie Irving. In the first quarter Rozier was a perfect 5-of-5 from the field with some impressive shot making and fancy lay-ups to the basket. He would finish the game with 16-points and five assist on 32 minutes of action.

NBA: Boston Celtics at Toronto Raptors

There’s no denying that Rozier is a true starting point guard in the league, his numbers as a starter differ from those when he comes off the bench. Rozier’s numbers are noticeably higher as a starter than as a reserve, in 22 minutes off the bench this season he’s averaging 8.1 points per game (PPG), 2.5 assists per game (APG), 3.8 rebounds per game (RPB) all while shooting 36.8 percent from the field and 34.8 percent from three-point range.

In his three games as a starter this season Rozier is averaging 16 PPG, 4.7 APG, 5.3 RPB, is shooting 56.7 percent from the field and 47.1 percent from behind the arc. Rozier’s confidence as a start results in a greater impact on the floor for Boston, before Wednesday’s game his mentality was simply to “go out there and kill.”

Third Quarter Problems Continue For the Celtics

For the second straight game the third quarter was a problem for Boston, in their prior game against San Antonio they gave up 46-points in the third. Against the Timberwolves last night the same issue came into play, the Celtics were up by 18 at the half and in the third quarter Minnesota punished Boston in the paint scoring 39 points in the quarter.

Center, Karl-Anthony Towns stuffed the stat sheet in the second half, with only four points at the half Towns finished with 28-points, 12 rebounds and seven assists. A lot of it had to do with the absence of Aron Baynes for Boston and their undersized big men in Al Horford, Daniel Theis and Guerschon Yabusele.

The Celtics continue their home stretch as Luka Doncic and the Mavericks visit TD Garden on Friday, a game Boston would very much like to win after losing their first meeting in November.

Kyrie Lights up TD Garden in OT win over 76ers

Down by two with less than 30 seconds to go in regulation the Boston Celtics turned to their closer/superstar in Kyrie Irving. With Jimmy Butler playing air tight defense on him, Irving used his signature turn around fade away jumper to send the game into overtime. In overtime Irving would carry the Celtics to a 121-114, victory over Philadelphia, finishing the game with 40-points and 10-rebounds.

“I’m about used to it now,” said Marcus Morris, “when he first came, it was crazy. But some of the s— don’t even surprise me no more with how often he does it.”

It would be the second time in a Christmas Day match-up against a playoff opponent where Irving would lead his team to victory. In 2016, Irving hit a similar shot over Golden States Klay Thompson, to give Cleveland the victory. Even before the game Irving told his teammates he was going to be “acting up”, “I told my teammates, ‘My family is here to watch me play. I have 20-lpus people from my family here, so I’m acting up,” said Irving. “

“I don’t really get a chance to have family all in one place, and most my family came tonight, so it means a lot to me. To have them here on Christmas, I was like a kid…. its Christmas spirit, man, and I missed it.” 

To Embiid there is no Rivalry with Boston

The second meeting between these two teams ended in the same result as the Celtics once again overcame the Sixers in a thriller, Joel Embiid once again reiterated his comments that the Sixers and Celtics isn’t a rivalry. “We lost again. Like I said at the beginning of the season, I don’t know what a rivalry is. I think I do, but this is clear as day, this is no rivalry,” said Embiid.

Embiid first made those comment on opening night at Boston, when he said that he does not consider the Sixers and Celtics a rivalry because they always lose. Despite the loss, Embiid was still his usual self, notching 34-points and 16-rebounds.

Players and Coaches Praise Kyrie’s Performance

Even Philadelphia head coach Brett Brown had to praise Irving’s clutch performance, “Kyrie was elite tonight,” said Brown. “That’s what people, and there aren’t many, in his sort of weight class do.”

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Kyrie shows emotion after scoring a game high 40-points in a win over the Sixers. (Photo credit, NBC Sports)

For teammate Al Horford he’s glad Irving is now in his team and is doing it for their club, “I remember Kyle Korver when we played with Kyrie (in Cleveland), one of the things he told me was he makes shots in big moments,” Horford said. “He’s the guy that we would go to here, and it’s just great because Ky, taking those big shots, making the right play, just having the ball in his hands. It was a lot of fun. The crowd went crazy for the second (overtime 3-pointer). So just emotions running high.”

Irving is no stranger to big time moments, his 41-points in Game 5 of the 2016 NBA Finals to force Game 6, his 57-point performance against Greg Popovich and the San Antonio Spurs in 2015 and who can forget his shot over Stephen Curry in Game 7 of the 2016 NBA Finals that brought a championship to Cleveland.

“I always talk about being on those big stages, said Irving. “It’s just so much fun. It’s competition at its highest. I love going against the best.”

 

 

Boston Shakes off Three Game Skid with Win over Hornets

The return of Al Horford into the lineup was a much needed boost for Boston’s frontcourt after getting blown out by the Milwaukee Bucks on Friday. Boston picked up a wire to wire victory on Sunday against Kemba Walker and the Charlotte Hornets, 119-103, it was a big victory to get them back on track before their Christmas Day showdown with Philadelphia.

Kyrie Irving led the way for Boston with 25 points, 17 of those points came in the first quarter where he shot 7-9 from the field. Horford picked up 10 points and six rebounds in his return, while Marcus Morris had 12 points and eight rebounds in his first game back.

The Celtics Air out Frustration

After getting run off their home floor on Friday the Celtics closed their locker room doors for 36 minutes following the 13 point loss. They held a player only meeting to clear the air and find solutions to what can be done to improve their poor performances. Irving spoke gave little to no detail on the meeting, “I think everyone can see that we’ve obviously had some inconsistencies regarding our play, so I think it was just time to address it,” said Irving. He pointed out some critical points about the team’s recent play saying a lack of “cohesion” and there being “some selfish plays” among his teammates.

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The point of emphasis for Boston has been their lack of ball movement and too much iso-plays, and coming out the gates on Sunday you can just see a different Boston team. The Celtics dished out 30 assists as a team against Charlotte, compared to their 22 against the Bucks on Friday. The play of the night for Boston had to be the alley-oop play between Gordon Hayward and Terry Rozier, a similar play that Irving and Hayward ran last year that resulted in Hayward’s season ending injury.

Boston improves to 19-14 with the win and sit in the fifth spot in the east. The Christmas Day match-up with the 76ers is a huge test for Boston, the 76ers are coming off a huge win against the top seeded Toronto Raptors on Saturday.