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Fast Break: Al Horford (26 points), strong fourth quarter leads Celtics past Kings

12.02.16 at 10:40 pm ET
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Dec 2, 2016; Boston, MA, USA; Sacramento Kings center DeMarcus Cousins (15) goes up for a shot against Boston Celtics center Al Horford (42) during the first half at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

DeMarcus Cousins (15) goes up for a shot against Celtics center Al Horford during the first half Friday at TD Garden. (Winslow Townson/USA Today Sports)

For the first time in four games, the Celtics held their opponent to under 100 points, defeating the Kings 97-92 and snapping a 3-game home losing streak.

The Kings couldn’t get much going throughout the game, shooting 37.9 percent from the field, highlighted by a disastrous 6-of-26 from behind the 3-point line.

The Celtics weren’t much better, as they shot 40.9 percent from the field, but their 3-point shooting (39.3 percent) is what proved to be the difference.

Al Horford led the way for the C’s, scoring 26 points (including 4-of-7 from 3-point range), grabbing eight rebounds and blocking six shots, including the game-winner. Jae Crowder also played well, shooting 6-of-12 from the field for 16 points.

Despite shooting 10-of-26 from the field, DeMarcus Cousins was the only reason the Kings were in the game down the stretch, making several key plays, including scoring 5 points in the final minute of the game.  Cousins took a nasty elbow to his face, resulting in a nasty gash above his right eye. He missed two minutes of the fourth quarter while he was being treated on the bench. 

The C’s jumped out to a 29-16 lead, led by a 5-of-7 12-point first quarter from Al Horford—two more shots than he took all of last game.

The Kings responded with a 13-0 run to close the quarter however, and the margin would stay within 8 the rest of the game.

Down 2 coming into the fourth quarter, the C’s outscored the Kings 28-20 in the final period, with the biggest play coming from Horford: blocking a potential game-tying three from Demarcus Cousins with 5.8 seconds left in the game. Free throws from Isaiah Thomas and Horford helped seal the deal.

In an ugly game featuring 23 lead changes, the Celtics found a way to get it done. 

For a complete box score, click here.


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Friday pregame notes: Celtics preparing for the boogie monster that is DeMarcus Cousins

12.02.16 at 7:14 pm ET
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Nov 28, 2016; Washington, DC, USA; Sacramento Kings center DeMarcus Cousins (15) shoots over Washington Wizards center Marcin Gortat (13) during the second half at Verizon Center. Mandatory Credit: Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

DeMarcus Cousins is the most dominant offensive big man in basketball. (Brad Mills/USA Today Sports)

The Celtics will get an up close-and-personal look at the player many believe is the biggest hope for them to transform their roster into an instant contender. 

DeMarcus Cousins entered Friday’s game fifth in the NBA in points (28.7) and rebounds (10.4) points while dishing out 3.2 assists per game. Before making just one of six from 3-point range against the Wizards last Monday, Cousins was on fire from deep, hitting 15-of-25 in his previous four games. He’s doing every any NBA team would want from a big man. In fact, he is arguably the most versatile big man in basketball. 

“He’s playing in space and attacking the basket and I think his 3-point percentage is pretty high in the last four games also so it becomes a kind of pick your poison deal when he’s out on the perimeter,” Kings coach Dave Joerger said. 

“He’s a tough guy to guard,” added Brad Stevens. “A good example is, in a simple pick-and-roll what do you do? Usually with guys who shoot 40 percent (from three) you switch or mix in switches. With his size it becomes a lot more difficult because he can bury you in the post. He’s a great low post scorer and a good offensive rebounder, especially against guys who are smaller. He’s a handful.”

Cousins is under contract for this season and next, averaging $17.5 million per season. Cousins is averaging 20.5 points and 10.8 rebounds in his eight-year career. That puts him in hall of fame company over the last 20 years. Only Charles Barkley, Karl Malone, Hakeem Olajuwon, Shaquille O’Neal and David Robinson have averaged 20 points and 10 rebounds for their career. 

After giving up 121 points on Wednesday to Detroit, Brad Stevens was asked before Friday’s game how comfortable he is with his team’s overall defense. 

“In the last three weeks we’ve actually been a little bit better,” Stevens said. “We were better on Wednesday than the score indicated, after I watched it. There were a few missed contests, a couple of moments in transition that were poor. But I thought it was pretty good. Detroit made great plays. Looking at it objectively with the sound off it was pretty obvious they played a hell of a game and we didn’t play quite as well. We’re focused on the things we can control. We have to shore up the rebounding. Then there’s little correctible things.”

Don’t blame the Kings if they were looking at the parquet a little suspiciously before Friday’s game. The last time they tried to play the court in Philadelphia was too wet from condensation to hold a game and the game with the Sixers had to be postponed. As a matter of fact, the Kings haven’t played since Monday when they lost in overtime at Washington, 101-95.

“We hadn’t played in two days so tried to scrimmage a little bit and keep our timing as much as possible,” Kings coach Dave Joerger said. 

Joerger also praised the play of Celtics star Isaiah Thomas, who entered play Friday averaging 26.1 points, ninth in the league.

“He’s a good player. I’m very impressed with what he’s become as a player,” Joerger said. “He plays in a lot of space because their bigs kind of invert the floor being able to step out and shoot. So they have an open court. They don’t post up a lot. They play their post-up game and scoring in the paint off of drives and playing in space.”

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Kelly Olynyk ‘playing with a lot of confidence’ off the bench

12.01.16 at 12:24 pm ET
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Kelly Olynyk drives against Andre Drummond (0) during the third quarter Wednesday at TD Garden. (Greg M. Cooper/USA Today Sports)

Kelly Olynyk drives against Andre Drummond (0) during the third quarter Wednesday at TD Garden. (Greg M. Cooper/USA Today Sports)

Don’t look now, but Kelly Olynyk has become an integral part of the Celtics offense.

Now the second-longest tenured player on the Celtics in his fourth season in the league, it appears as if the growing pains are starting to diminish by the game, with Olynyk finding ways to execute on both ends of the floor.

He furthered validated his value in the Celtics’ loss to the Pistons Wednesday night at the TD Garden. With 19 points, he was second-highest on the team in points, behind only Isaiah Thomas. In the process, he went 7-for-9 from the field and 3-for-4 from 2-point territory.

“Felt good, got some open looks and kept rolling from there,” Olynyk said following the loss.

The 25-year-old Canadian’s style of play has always been something of an enigma. Standing at 7-feet, Olynyk has always been best utilized as a perimeter player. He led the Celtics in 3-point percentage last season, but can still pose a threat in the paint. That is often lost when judging Olynyk, largely because of the unsettling feeling of a 7-footer being best served as a perimeter player, especially on a team that gets dismantled nearly every night on the glass.

With that in mind, Olynyk’s game has never been to be a massive body in the paint. From his days at Gonzaga through his time in Boston, he’s a perimeter player who can stretch the floor and sidle into the paint and make plays.

“His ability to stretch the floor is big for us and he’s doing a pretty good job of picking his spots as well on seals and different post ups,” said coach Brad Stevens. “But at the end of the day what makes him different is his ability to stretch the floor.”

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WEEI is how you listen to Celtics coverage. JBL cutting-edge wireless headphones and speakers are how you feel like you’re there. As the official Sound of the Celtics, Isaiah Thomas and the NBA, JBL is Made for the Biggest Stage.

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Why Al Horford taking just 5 shots in a game is ‘unacceptable’

12.01.16 at 11:14 am ET
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After Wednesday’s loss to the Pistons, the first stat that jumped out at Brad Stevens when he looked at the white piece of paper with the box score on it was in the middle of the line for his $113 million man. 

The Celtics were able to get Horford just five shots in 31 minutes of play in his first game back from becoming a father for the second time. He wasn’t tired. He just didn’t get the ball. Why?

“That’s a good question, and that’s the first thing I saw when I looked at the stat sheet,” Stevens said following a 121-114 loss to the Detroit Pistons at TD Garden. “It’s not enough. I know that. So we need to do a better job of making sure that we help put him in position to be successful.”

Jae Crowder termed five shots for his fellow big as “unacceptable,” noting the team has to find better ways for Horford to get his shots. 

Horford had one most assist (4) than shots made (3). Horford’s a great passer for a big man but that’s not what they’re paying him for. 

“Yeah that has happened before,” Horford said. “I think that I probably could’ve got more shots but at the end of the day we needed to be better on the defensive end and we just didn’t get the job done on defense.”

The last time Horford playing a full game and took so few shots was last March 4 with the Hawks on the road against the Lakers. He was 2-for-5 in 26 minutes.  

The Celtics took a stunning 42 3-point field goal attempts on the night, including 10 from Crowder (2 made) eight apiece from Marcus Smart (2) and Avery Bradley (4). Horford sensed that Detroit, with its bigs like Andre Drummond, were intent on doubling him in the post and allowing the Celtics to fire away from deep.

“It was probably the way that they were playing us a little more,” Horford said. “They would double me a lot and forcing me to pass the ball out or on the pick and pops when we’ve been able to give me the ball up top their guards were even switching that tonight. I think it was just a mixture of that. As a team we just have to make sure that we move the ball. When we have high assists usually we have good nights.”

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WEEI is how you listen to Celtics coverage. JBL cutting-edge wireless headphones and speakers are how you feel like you’re there. As the official Sound of the Celtics, Isaiah Thomas and the NBA, JBL is Made for the Biggest Stage.

Read More: Al Horford, Boston Celtics,

NBA Power Rankings: Warriors take top spot, ahead of Cavs, Spurs

12.01.16 at 10:02 am ET
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The Warriors are currently the best team in the NBA. (Kyle Terada/USA Today Sports)

The Warriors are currently the best team in the NBA. (Kyle Terada/USA Today Sports)

Here are this week’s NBA power rankings (as of Nov. 30).

1. WARRIORS (16-2): The collective fears of the 29 other NBA franchises upon Kevin Durant’s signing have all seemed to be well founded. This team looks superior to the 2015-16 version that set the NBA regular season wins record. The dubs have ripped off 12 straight wins, and sit firmly atop my power rankings.

2. CAVALIERS (13-3): The defending champions certainly have a strong argument for the top spot in the power rankings. Kevin Love has had a basketball renaissance of sorts, averaging 22.3 points per game, six points higher than last season. This team is far and away the class of the Eastern Conference.

3. SPURS (15-4): The retirement of Tim Duncan has had seemingly no affect on the Spurs in terms of them being right in the thick of the best teams in basketball conversation. Kawhi Leonard is a top-five player in the NBA, and few players can impact the game on both sides of the ball like he can.

4. CLIPPERS (14-5): The Clips hot start has taken a hit with a three game road losing streak, including an inexplicable double OT loss to the lowly Nets. Despite that, the Clippers have too much talent and are too well coached to not bounce back.

5. RAPTORS (12-6): Demar Derozan has come back down to Earth a little bit after a torrid scoring start to the season. The Raptors boast perhaps the second best backcourt in the NBA to the Warriors, and will go as far as Lowry and Derozan can take them.

6. ROCKETS (11-7): The James Harden point guard experiment is off to a rousing success. The Beard is averaging a league best 11.9 assists per game, and scoring in the top-five as well. The problem for Houston though is after Harden, the cupboard is pretty bare.

7. THUNDER (12-8): Oklahoma City’s success begins and ends with Russell Westbrook. Fortunately for them, Westbrook is in the midst of what could be a historically great individual season in the NBA. Westbrook is averaging a triple-double, something that has not been done this late into a season since the great Oscar Robertson in the 1963-64 season.

8. CELTICS (10-8): An up-and-down start to the season due mostly to injuries to Al Horford and Jae Crowder seems to be turning itself around as the C’s have won four of their last six games. Isaiah Thomas and Avery Bradley are enjoying career years, but the Celtics inability to rebound could prove to be this team’s undoing.

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WEEI is how you listen to Celtics coverage. JBL cutting-edge wireless headphones and speakers are how you feel like you’re there. As the official Sound of the Celtics, Isaiah Thomas and the NBA, JBL is Made for the Biggest Stage.

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Mike Petraglia, Josue Pavon on Al Horford not getting shots and Celtics not getting stops in loss

11.30.16 at 11:11 pm ET
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The Celtics take a remarkable 42 3-point shots and play little defense and a home-court loss to the Pistons Wednesday night at TD Garden. Mike Petraglia and Josue Pavon have your recap inside TD Garden.

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WEEI is how you listen to Celtics coverage. JBL cutting-edge wireless headphones and speakers are how you feel like you’re there. As the official Sound of the Celtics, Isaiah Thomas and the NBA, JBL is Made for the Biggest Stage.

Read More: Al Horford, Boston Celtics, Detroit Pistons, Josue Pavon

Fast Break: Celtics threaten but come up short against Pistons

11.30.16 at 9:53 pm ET
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Nov 30, 2016; Boston, MA, USA;  Boston Celtics point guard Isaiah Thomas (4) takes a shot while guarded by Detroit Pistons forward Tobias Harris (34) during the second quarter at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports

Isaiah Thomas takes it to the basket Wednesday night against Detroit. (Greg M. Cooper/USA Today Sports)

The Celtics pushed and pushed, but couldn’t break through enough to take control, falling to the Pistons at home Wednesday night 121-114.

Defense was lacking throughout the game on both sides, but the Celtics’ defensive woes stood out through the entirety of the game, letting all five of the Pistons’ starters into double figures before the start of the fourth quarter.

“In a game like [Wednesday’s] you’ve got to be even more in their airspace and you’ve got to capitalize even more on the offensive end, otherwise you’re probably in trouble,” said coach Brad Stevens.

Per usual, Isaiah Thomas drove the bus for the Celtics offense, dropping 27 points to go with his four assists. Kelly Olynyk had a solid night of his own, going 3-for-4 from deep and 7-for-9 from the field for 19 points.

Regardless of any Celtics offensive effort, they were lost defensively, getting worked over by whichever member of the Pistons stepped up at a given moment. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope led the charge with 25 points while Tobias Harris put away 21 points. The Pistons shot 55-percent from the field as a team.

All the while, Andre Drummond was a force in the paint, topping off his 20 point performance off with 17 rebounds — eight of which coming on the offensive end.

“They’re a hard team to match up with,” said Stevens. “But again, if you’re playing a team that feels good about themselves, which they do, and is physical, you’ve got to really get in their airspace. And we just didn’t quite do it enough of the time, but I don’t want to take away from their play, their level of play was high tonight”

As has been the story all season, the Celtics could not find a way to grab a rebound, getting outrebounded 51-33. In the early stages of the game, it looked as if rebounding issues would potentially be circumvented, with Amir Johnson grabbing four boards in the first two minutes. But as time went on the Celtics continued to struggle on the glass.

“I think they just wanted it more,” said Avery Bradley. “They played hard the entire game.”

The Celtics never truly went away throughout the game, but never found enough answers on the defensive end to make a series of stops to let them push ahead. They went ahead by one with 7:26 left in the game, but never had the fortitude to push away.

For a complete box score, click here.

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WEEI is how you listen to Celtics coverage. JBL cutting-edge wireless headphones and speakers are how you feel like you’re there. As the official Sound of the Celtics, Isaiah Thomas and the NBA, JBL is Made for the Biggest Stage.

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