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Brad Stevens knows road success depends on C’s finding ‘outstanding’ defense

11.15.13 at 8:38 pm ET
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As the Celtics embark on a four game/six night stretch, Brad Stevens is looking forward to the opportunity to see some of the Western Conference’s elite clubs. He is fully aware that his team will need to extremely sharp on the defensive end to keep their head above water against this type of elite type of competition.

“We’re going to have to be outstanding on the defensive end to have a chance to win these games,” said Stevens. “There’s no question about it. It’s one of those deals where you’re playing teams that you’ve got to play well against to have a chance to win. Defensively, every detail matters, every effort play matters, everything adds up.”

The Portland TrailBlazers, Minnesota Timberwolves, Houston Rockets, and San Antonio Spurs all present a multitude of challenges, yet the one consistent is an explosive guard and a dominating presence inside the post. Portland’s Damian Lillard/LaMarcus Aldridge precedes Minnesota’s Ricky Rubio and Kevin Love, and the beat goes on in Texas with the likes of James Harden, Dwight Howard, Tony Parker, and Tim Duncan.

“I watched a few of our preseason games,” Stevens said, “just to kind of get a gauge of if they’re improving at the rate we’d like them to, and they’ve improved quite a bit defensively. Offensively, we’ve had our moments. I think we’ve improved, maybe more so, just because of our shifts and rotations. We still have a long way to go. We’re getting a lot better on the basketball. We were a lot better at defending the paint, even though we got back cut a few times in the first half [against Charlotte]. We’ve been good all year defending the 3-point line, knock on wood, so I think it’s one of those deals where we’ve got some strengths to us. But we’ve got to foul less and we’ve got to make sure we’re as good defending the post as we possibly can.”

Without Rajon Rondo, the Celtics lack a true NBA superstar yet still present a balanced team. The roster is full of capable players at the offensive end, so when the C’s move the ball, they can get a lot of people involved.

In order to be successful in this upcoming trip, they will need to continue to play hard defensively, remaining active on the ball and creating steals. Without a true point guard, the Celtics understand the value of scoring in transition. The biggest surprise this season is the team’s ability to move the basketball on offense. Stevens has this team moving the ball from side-to-side and playing an enjoyable brand of team basketball. Any time a team that moves the ball, that presents a major challenge. Another bonus for these upcoming games is the return of post presence Jared Sullinger, who the Celtics missed desperately with right knee soreness during this past Wednesday night’s loss to the Bobcats.

“We’re not as good on the block [without Sullinger], obviously,” confirmed Stevens. “Throwing it into the post [Monday] night against Orlando, we went on a 4-0 run when we were down [by] throwing him the ball. He gives us a little more flexibility playing inside-out, and that’s been when we’ve been at our best. He is probably our best low post player.”

Beginning with tonight’s game against the Blazers, the Celtics will have an opportunity to show the league their early success is no fluke, but instead the result of hard work and the team buying into the Stevens system.

Read More: Boston Celtics, Brad Stevens, Jared Sullinger, NBA

Jeff Green, Gerald Wallace: ‘Cocky’ Celtics not ready

11.14.13 at 1:35 am ET
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The Celtics fell behind by 10 within the first five minutes and never led the Bobcats. Not good.

Afterward, Jeff Green (team-high 19 points) said the Celtics “just didn’t come out ready.”

Meanwhile, Gerald Wallace (10 points) offered a few Gerald Wallace-isms in dubbing the “cocky” C’s “passive,” too “cool” and lacking “oomph.” “It was just like we were just chilling.” Hey, at least they weren’t selfish.

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MarShon Brooks: ‘I don’t have a role’

11.14.13 at 12:55 am ET
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As the Celtics failed to shoot 40 percent for the second time in a week, one of the few players on the roster capable of creating his own shot watched from the bench for the eighth time in nine games.

Admittedly, MarShon Brooks is frustrated. He’s played seven minutes all season and none since being on the floor for a 13-1 run that erased a double-digit deficit against the Pistons two weeks ago. Other than that, he’s been a DNP.

“I’m trying not to get frustrated, because I know my time’s going to come,” said Brooks, “and if I’m frustrated, then I’m playing against myself, so all I can do is just stay in shape and be ready.

“Right now, I’m not playing at all. I don’t have a role. I’m just cheering right now, trying to cheer my teammates on and let them know what I see. That’s about it.”

Brooks isn’t complaining. He would’ve been content letting Jeff Green in the next locker over answer all the questions after the C’s first loss in five games. Brooks was just being honest. The Providence product started 47 games and dropped 12.6 points a night for the Nets during his rookie campaign two years ago. Any player, especially one who tasted individual success so early, would crave playing time again on a young team.

“What goes through my head? I just want to go in,” said Brooks. “And then from there, I’ll just take care of my business, man. When my opportunity comes, I’m going to try to go out there, just be solid, not do too much and just play ball. I’ll run into points. I’m just going to play hard on defense. The scoring will come.”

Of course, Brooks understands the flip side of the NBA coin. Once the Nets acquired Deron Williams and Joe Johnson for their move to Brooklyn, he took a backseat. His minutes were slashed in half, and his production went with it. The trade to the Celtics seemed like a fresh start full of opportunity that just hasn’t presented itself yet.

“It’ll come,” said Brooks. “I’ll have my opportunity to play. It’s a long season.”

Read More: Boston Celtics, Marshon Brooks, NBA,

Fast Break: Big Al’s Bobcats end Celtics win streak

11.13.13 at 10:05 pm ET
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The Bobcats clawed their way to a double-digit lead in the first five minutes, and while the Celtics climbed within two in the game’s final minute, they never regained the lead. Charlotte walked off the Garden floor with an 89-83 victory, snapped the C’s four-game winning streak and ended their short-lived tenure atop the Atlantic Division.

Jeff Green‘s 19 points led the Celtics (4-5), but he added just one rebound and zero assists to that line. Jordan Crawford (16 points), Gerald Wallace and Courtney Lee (10 apiece) also reached double figures on a night the C’s shot just 38 percent as a team. Kelly Olynyk grabbed a career-high 11 rebounds.

WHAT WENT WRONG

Live by the Crawford: After submitting his finest performance in a Celtics uniform on Monday — a line of 16 points, 10 assists and zero turnovers against the Magic that brought the “better without Rondo” folks out of the woodwork — it took all of 64 seconds for Crawford to commit his first turnover against the Bobcats. The de facto point guard improved in the second half, as did the Celtics. He finished with six assists and two turnovers.

Digging a hole: Meanwhile, the Bobcats backcourt wreaked havoc early, jumping out to a 22-12 lead on 9-of-11 shooting in the first 7:21 and sucking the life out of an already quiet Garden crowd. Charlotte guards Kemba Walker and Gerald Henderson either scored or assisted on seven of those nine buckets, feeding Al Jefferson for eight early points. As a result, Stevens yanked Crawford, Bradley and Brandon Bass in favor of Phil Pressey, Lee and Kris Humphries — who helped trim the deficit to six by the end of the first quarter.

Big Al: Add Jefferson to the list of talented bigs who carved up the C’s interior defense. He finished with 22 points and 11 boards. Likewise, the Celtics allowed double-digit offensive rebounds for the seventh time in nine games. Vitor Faverani and Kelly Olynyk helped keep the C’s from completely getting wiped off the boards.

WHAT WENT RIGHT

Puncher’s chance: As has been the custom under Brad Stevens, the Celtics didn’t fold. Trailing by 16 midway through the second quarter, Green scored eight points during a 15-4 run that slashed Charlotte’s lead to five. Green came in shooting 4-of-5 from the right corner and 21-of-33 in the restricted area — his two most efficient locations — and did his damage from those spots in keeping the C’s within striking distance.

Vitor fever: For much of the game, Faverani was the lone Celtics player in the plus/minus black, and he was in double digits. One of few C’s interested in banging on the boards, he successfully got under the skin of just about everyone in Charlotte’s frontcourt while contributing seven points and nine rebounds in 22 minutes off the bench.

Defending their life: While the offense struggled mightily, the Celtics kept themselves in the game on the defensive end, holding the Bobcats to 37 percent from the field. Bradley racked up five fouls chasing Walker, holding Charlotte’s point guard to three points (1-13 FG). The rest of the Bobcats shot 42 percent.

Read More: Boston Celtics, Charlotte Bobcats, NBA,

Larry Bird at Indiana State statue dedication: ‘Boston has the best sports fans I’ve ever seen’

11.13.13 at 2:30 pm ET
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Larry Bird is quick to remind you he is only human. Incapable of any superpowers or magic, he promises, French Lick’€™s Larry Joe Bird’s talent is simply the product of a man who worked incredibly hard to become one of the greatest basketball players of all time.

‘€œI was always told I wasn’€™t big enough or strong enough to compete against the best,’€ Bird said. ‘€œI heard it in high school, I heard it in college and I heard it in the pros, so I’€™d keep working harder. That’€™s what pays off. I guess things worked out pretty well.’€

This past weekend, Indiana State University recognized Bird’€™s contributions to the game of basketball by unveiling his 15-foot bronze statue on campus outside ISU’€™s Hulman Center. While the day was tremendous for the Sycamores, the city of Terre Haute, and the basketball-crazed state of Indiana, Bird admitted that a big piece of his heart still belongs to Boston.

‘€œBoston has the best sports fans I’€™ve ever seen,’€ Bird said. ‘€œThey live it and breathe it. I was so honored to be able to put on a jersey and play at a place where they cared. One of the best lines I ever heard, I think it was in ‘€™86 against Houston, and we were going into Game 6 [of the NBA Finals]. The crowd was absolutely going berserk, and this was an hour before the game. Some of the guys were still shooting before they came back into the locker room. One of them said, ‘€˜I’€™m telling you, them fans want blood out there and they don’€™t care whose it is. We lose, and it’€™s our blood!’€™ And man, was he right, the place was rocking that night.’€

Before the statue unveiling on Saturday morning, Indiana State first honored Bird with a ‘€œLarry Legend’€ scholarship dinner on Friday night. Hosted by Jackie MacMullan, the program was broken into four quarters focused on Bird’€™s career in high school, college and the NBA, and his time as a coach and an executive as team president of the currently undefeated Pacers.

Bird’€™s statue was unveiled a week after the city of Boston recognized Bill Russell with his own monument. As the two most famous Celtics of all time, Bird feels a connection to Russell, but he was quick to point out that, while both men wore the Celtics jersey for 13 seasons in their careers, only one earned 11 championship rings.

‘€œIf anybody deserves a statue, it’€™s Bill Russell,’€ Bird said. ‘€œWe all looked up to him. He set the bar so high for all of us. He’€™s had such a great career and a lot of success. I’€™m really happy for Bill, not only for his statue, but for Bill the man. He’€™s a great man.’€

The ceremony started with a look back at Bird’€™s roots with the game of basketball, a connection that now is more deeply intertwined than ever. Bird’€™s coach at Springs Valley High School, Jim Jones, served as a mentor, and Bird noted that lessons his coach taught him in 1970 still hold true today.

‘€œCoach Jones spent a lot time with us as young kids and showed us how to play the game the right way,’€ Bird said. ‘€œHe was telling us, no matter how long you stay out here or how many jump shots you shoot, there’€™s always somebody out there doing a little bit more. That guy in my life was Magic Johnson. Maybe that’€™s why he got the ring from the NCAA tournament back in 1979.’€

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Read More: Bill Russell, Bill Walton, Larry Bird, Red Auerbach

Irish Coffee: A look at Andrew Wiggins, Jabari Parker, Julius Randle and the 18 prospects Danny Ainge scouted in Chicago

11.13.13 at 12:07 pm ET
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When word got out that Danny Ainge attended Tuesday night’s Champions Classic in Chicago — an event that featured the likely top three players in the 2014 NBA draft and four of college basketball’s best five teams — the Celtics president’s presence brought out the Riggin’ for Wiggins folks in full force.

While Andrew Wiggins, Jabari Parker and Julius Randle didn’t disappoint, combining for 76 points (65 TS%) and 30 rebounds, the reality is those two games (Kansas 94, Duke 83; Michigan State 78, Kentucky 74) featured as many as 18 picks in June’s draft. Ainge would be a fool not to show up. Here are the stat lines he saw from those 18 players in order of performance — complete with each prospect’s mixtape and a link to his DraftExpress profile.

18. Tarik Black SR PF Kansas (6 MIN): 0 PTS, 1 REB, 3 PF

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Read More: Andrew Wiggins, Boston Celtics, Danny Ainge, Jabari Parker

Fast Break: Balanced Celtics effort stops the Magic

11.11.13 at 9:52 pm ET
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Seven Celtics scored in double figures as they shot 60 percent as a team and stopped the Magic, 120-105.

Avery Bradley led the way with 24 points; Jeff Green, Jordan Crawford and Kelly Olynyk each netted 16; Courtney Lee dropped 12 and Brandon Bass contributed 10 in a balanced effort that improved the C’s record to .500 (4-4) for the first time in the Brad Stevens era.

WHAT WENT RIGHT

The Steez knees: Believe it or not, Crawford actually looked like a point guard. Submitting by far his best half of basketball in a Celtics uniform, he reached triple-double watch by halftime: 12 points (5-7 FG), six assists and four rebounds. More importantly, he entered the break with zero turnovers in 17 first-half minutes and owned the C’s best plus/minus number (+13) in staking them to a 59-50 advantage.

On the range: Bradley’s jumper from 15-19 feet has steadily improved since his rookie season, rising from to 26 percent in 2010-11 to 41 percent in his sophomore season and 44 percent last year. After knocking down his first three attempts from that range against the Magic — and finishing 7-of-9 on long 2’s — he’s started 13-of-24 (54 percent) from that range this season. Avery Bradley is officially a shooting guard.

Kelly O’Sully: By replacing Vitor Faverani in the starting lineup, Brad Stevens broke up the unselfishly entertaining Olynyk-Sullinger frontcourt combination that had helped produce 105.1 points per 100 possessions through the first seven games. And the two talented young bigs responded by providing consistent production throughout a thorough dismantling of the Magic, totaling 30 points on remarkable 14-of-18 shooting to go along with 12 rebounds, eight assists, three blocks and three steals as Jelly Sullynyk.

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Read More: Avery Bradley, Boston Celtics, Jordan Crawford, NBA
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