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5 things we learned as Celtics can’t keep pace with Spurs 11.30.14 at 3:31 pm ET
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After another collapse at home on Friday, the Celtics played their second afternoon game of the holiday weekend against the Spurs on Sunday at the TD Garden. Similar to Friday, the Celtics dropped another one in which they remained competitive until late. This time, however, the Spurs’ hot second half led to a 111-89 victory for the road team.

The Celtics high man was Jeff Green with 16 points. He was one of five Celtics in double figures, while Tyler Zeller ripped down 10 rebounds. The Spurs also had five players in double figures, led by Danny Green with 18 points. San Antonio had much deeper contributions than Boston, though, as 10 of their players scored five or more points.

(Click here for a complete box score and recap.)

Here are five things we learned in another home loss for the Celtics:

BRAD STEVENS IS NOT AFRAID TO PLAY MATCHUPS

 Stevens told the media prior to the game that Zeller would be getting the start at center over the struggling Kelly Olynyk.

The coach felt that the decision was based more on a need for Zeller in this particular game more than anything. When asked why the choice to start Zeller was made, Stevens simply responded, “Defending Tim Duncan would be the obvious answer.”

Although the move may last only one game, Stevens didn’t close the door on Zeller remaining in the starting lineup in the future.

“I look at this as a very temporary thing,” Stevens said before tip-off. “I don’t look at this as a full-time thing, nor do I look at it as something that our guys will over-blow. I just think it makes sense today and we’ll reevaluate things on Tuesday.”

The move may not have paid off exactly how Stevens wanted it too right away — Duncan had six points and two rebounds in the first quarter. However, Zeller was able to neutralize him in a sense, finishing with four points and five rebounds of his own.

In the end, the matchup was almost meaningless. Duncan played only 24 minutes and scored 14 points, while Zeller played only 18 minutes before finding himself on the court during garbage time.

THE CELTICS PLAYED DEFENSE IN THE FIRST HALF

The Celtics entered Sunday’s game ranked 28th in the NBA in opponent points per game, giving up 107.3 through 13 games. It’s safe to say that defense has been a struggle for Boston all season long.

Sunday was a different story. The Celtics kept the Spurs to 45 points in the first half, but it was how they did it that was most impressive. The C’s forced 10 turnovers in the half, blocked four shots and held San Antonio to 39.5 percent shooting. The second quarter swung the game significantly, as the Spurs shot just 29.4 percent and committed seven of their turnovers. The Celtics were able to outscore the Spurs in the second quarter by seven points, 27-20.

THE CELTICS DIDN’T PLAY DEFENSE IN THE SECOND HALF

After managing just 20 points in the previous quarter, the Spurs came out and scored 17 in the first six minutes of the third. San Antonio finished the period scoring 33 points, just 12 fewer than they had in the entire first half.

Even if you are good enough to stop the Spurs for a portion of the game, they also brought the league’s best defense to town, allowing only 92.7 points per game. Still …

THE CELTICS FOUND WAYS TO SCORE ON THE LEAGUE’S BEST DEFENSE FOR THREE QUARTERS

As they have all season, the Celtics found ways to score the ball. Through three quarters, the Celtics put up 73 points on 44 percent shooting — not great, but not bad. It was enough to keep the Celtics in the game (along with their early defense), as the Spurs shot 44 percent through three quarters as well. An 18-4 Boston run in the second quarter showed what they are capable of when playing their best on both ends of the floor.

However, as we know, basketball is a sport where you play four quarters. The fourth one can be tricky for these Celtics.

THE CELTICS LET ANOTHER ONE SLIP AWAY IN THE FOURTH QUARTER

As they have against the Raptors, Thunder, Cavaliers, Suns, Blazers, Bulls, and now Spurs, the Celtics lost a home game that was close in the fourth quarter.

All seven of those loses have either gone down to the wire, or have been winnable at the start of the fourth quarter on the Celtics’ home floor. Good teams win games in situations like that. Even bad teams win some of those games. But the Celtics couldn’t find a way to win any of them.

Boston only managed 16 fourth quarter points, while the Spurs scored 33 again, as they had in the third quarter. The Spurs’ 66 second half points are everything that is wrong with how the Celtics have played at home this year.

The Celtics have shown they have potential this season. None of it will matter until they prove they can close out a tight game at home.

Marcus Smart returns to practice, Avery Bradley tries to focus on being aggressive 11.26.14 at 4:37 pm ET
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Marcus Smart

Marcus Smart

The Celtics‘ main focus during their practices on Wednesday and Thursday will be on preparing to battle a tough Bulls team when Chicago arrives in Boston for a Black Friday matinee. However, a share of the spotlight will be on Marcus Smart’€™s return to practice, with the hope that he can suit up after missing seven games with a sprained left ankle.

“It’€™s just a matter of him getting back out here, and it’€™s more about conditioning than it is about anything else right now,” offered Brad Stevens. “€œJust because he hasn’t done anything on the court physically, as far as five-on-five in the last three weeks, or whatever it’€™s been.”

One thing the team certainly will not do is rush Smart,€“ especially after Avery Bradley attempted to return prematurely from an ankle injury just last season.

“I don’€™t know [if Bradley can offer Smart any help on returning],”€ Stevens said. “Again, I trust our medical team and medical staff, and I think that Marcus and Avery, I’€™m sure, will share that discussion and talk about that. We don’€™t want anybody to come back before they’€™re physically able, because, obviously, you don’€™t want to put yourself in a bad spot.”

Bradley knows he put himself in a bad spot last year, so his advice to Smart was simple.

“€œIt’€™s tough. This is his first year. Obviously he wants to help our team out and he’€™s a little disappointed that he hasn’t been able to every single game,” Bradley said. “He’€™s back, but one thing everyone’€™s been telling him is just make sure that your body feels good, listen to your body.”

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Read More: Avery Bradley, Brad Stevens, Marcus Smart,
5 things we learned in the Celtics’ win over the winless 76ers 11.19.14 at 9:39 pm ET
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The Celtics arrived in Philadelphia on a three-game losing streak, but they had to feel confident knowing they would be facing off against a horrid 0-10 76ers team.

In the end, it wasn’€™t pretty, but the Celtics got the job done with a 101-90 victory for their second road win of the season, improving to 4-6 overall.

Here are five things we learned in the victory:

THE CELTICS PLAYED DOWN TO THE COMPETITION IN THE FIRST HALF

The Celtics came into the game sporting the third-best offense in the NBA, but the scoreboard read just 46-46 at halftime. The C’€™s matched the 76ers with 10 turnovers while getting outrebounded 27-19 by Philly — never good things when facing a winless opponent that ranks last in the league in rebounding.

Had it not been for 12 points from Brandon Bass off the bench, this one could have slipped away early. Bass was really the only player that put forward a noteworthy performance in the first half — he shot 5-for-8 in his 13 minutes.

THE BENCH VETERANS WERE KEY

Brad Stevens would have been in a whole lot of trouble in this one without key contributions from veterans off the bench. Bass’€™ strong first half carried over to the second half, while Marcus Thornton came up big as well.

Bass wound up with a game-high 23 points to go along with six boards, and Thornton finished with 13 points while also coming up with four steals.

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Tyler Zeller rarely misses a shot these days 11.18.14 at 7:50 pm ET
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Tyler Zeller

Tyler Zeller

Tyler Zeller has always had the trust of coach Brad Stevens, but his minutes have yet to put that trust on display — until Monday night.

Zeller had his coming out party in the Celtics‘ 118-114 home loss to the Suns, playing a total of 27 minutes. Although Boston came up short in the win column, Zeller surely was not at fault, while Stevens was rewarded for trusting his fellow Indiana native.

The UNC product finished Monday’s game with 19 points, seven rebounds and three assists, to go along with a block and a steal. However, it was how Zeller got those numbers that made it so impressive. Besides playing with unmatched hustle — whether is be changing a shot on the defensive end or tipping a rebound to a teammate — Zeller shot an incredibly efficient 8-for-9 from the field.

As crazy as it sounds, that has been an average game in terms of shooting the ball for Zeller this season, just in smaller samples due to playing fewer minutes.

As of Tuesday, Zeller is shooting an eye popping 25-for-29 from the field in nine games this season. That’s good for 86.2 percent — tops among players in the NBA who have attempted more than four shots on the year.

“Some of it’s [knowing what you can and can’t do],” Zeller said following the loss. “Some of it’s my teammates, again, do a great job of getting the ball to me on time where I have time to make plays.”

“Some of it’s just taking easier shots,” he added.

So, will we see any bad shots from the seven-footer this season?

“Give it time, it will happen,” joked Zeller. “But, I mean, you’ve just got to take smart shots and make the plays you can.”

In case you were wondering, Cedric Maxwell shot 60.9 percent from the field in the 1979-80 season, which is the Celtics‘ single-season record for field goal percentage.

Read More: Tyler Zeller,
Jeff Green has been remarkably consistent so far this season 11.18.14 at 9:43 am ET
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Last year, Jeff Green began the season with a 25-point effort against the Raptors. “Maybe this will be the year that Green pulls it all together,” many said.

Green then scored 13 points in the second game of the year, followed by just seven points in his next game. Concerns about Green were answered early; he still couldn’t preform with the type of consistency that many hoped and believed he would upon arriving in Boston.

Coming into this season, there was no reason to believe anything would change, but clearly, Green has found his groove.

The season is still young, but nine games in, Green has been remarkably consistent, despite the Celtics‘ 3-6 record. Green has scored no less than 14 points in a game, and has carried the load on offense most nights —  like his season-high of 35 points in the Celtics‘ failed comeback in Dallas or the 28 he scored in Monday’s loss to the Suns.

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5 things we learned in a wild Celtics loss to the Suns 11.17.14 at 10:06 pm ET
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Rajon Rondo and the Celtics came up short once again. (Getty Images)

Rajon Rondo and the Celtics came up short once again. (Getty Images)

We were expecting an exciting game from the Celtics and Suns at the TD Garden on Monday night, and that’€™s exactly what we got.

In the end it was an Avery Bradley turnover that led to an Eric Bledsoe fast break dunk with 29.5 seconds remaining that sealed the Suns’ 118-114 victory. (Click here for a complete box score)

The Celtics had trouble finding a shot on their final possession again, as a whole lot of dribbling and fumbling the ball around eventually led to three Rajon Rondo free throws, and Rondo went on to miss all three attempts.

Jeff Green was the high-scorer for the Celtics yet again, as he is beginning to find the consistency he has long lacked. Green totaled 28 points on the night and had a pair of monster dunks in the game.

Goran Dragic and Markieff Morris carried the load for the Suns. Dragic finished with 22 points, six rebounds and seven assists, while Morris dropped 30 to go with seven boards and five helpers.

THE FAST PACE CONTINUED

The Celtics have been an elite offensive team all season. So when they welcomed the run-and-gun Suns to town, a wild game was to be expected. As has been the case with many games this year, the score at the end of the third quarter looked like it could have been the final score (89-88).

The teams got up a combined 91 shots in the first half, while also combining for 24 free throw attempts. The up-and-down pace typically favors the C’€™s, but in this scenario, both teams were playing the way that they wanted to. 

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Read More: Avery Bradley, Jeff Green, Rajon Rondo,
James Young, Dwight Powell impress in D-League debuts 11.17.14 at 1:19 pm ET
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James Young

James Young

The Celtics sent rookies James Young and Dwight Powell to the Maine Red Claws of the NBA D-League this past weekend. Both players made their debuts Sunday and showed why the Celtics feel so strongly about them.

Young and Powell were in the starting lineup and played big minutes as expected (36 and 38, respectively). They shared the role of leading scorer, each dropping 21 points, but in far different fashion.

Young stayed mostly on the perimeter, shooting 3-for-11 from downtown and 7-for-19 from the field overall. He added five rebounds, two assists and two steals while showing some hustle on the defensive side of the ball. We already know that Young is gifted offensively, so it was good to see him display so much effort on his defense — something that he will need to earn minutes in Boston.

Powell, on the other hand, was a force around the rim. He shot 9-for-16 while ripping down 17 boards to go along with a pair of assists. It was nice to finally see what Powell is capable of, as he has had literally no chance to do so outside of practice with the Celtics (Young has at least played limited minutes on occasion). He also was very strong on defense, displaying great quickness for a 6-foot-11 player. Powell has the ability to defend in the paint but also get out and cover the perimeter, something that could be valuable when he gets the chance to try to earn minutes in the NBA.

The Red Claws beat the Fort Wayne Mad Ants, 81-80, if you care about the final outcome.

It’s just one game, but it was a strong first showing for both Young and Powell, who figure to be back and forth between Boston and Maine this season. Both were recalled back to the Celtics on Monday morning.

Read More: Dwight Powell, James Young,
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