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Al Horford on Wednesday’s shooting struggles: ‘It just wasn’t going for me’ 01.18.17 at 11:19 pm ET
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The Celtics didn’t bring Al Horford to Boston so he could blow everyone away with his perimeter shooting. But he’s proven at times to be more than adept with a jump shot.

Wednesday just wasn’t his night.

In the Celtics’ 117-106 loss to the Knicks at TD Garden, Horford looked lost from the perimeter, missing wide open looks. When he clanked a 3-point attempt with 4:31 left in the game and the Celtics down by 10, the Garden was not afraid to hammer him with some boos.

Horford can’t remember ever having a night this bad offensively — especially in a Celtics uniform.

“I struggled bad offensively,” Horford said. “I tried to do everything I could to help us, but it just wasn’t going for me.”

The bigman ultimately went 1-for-8 on the night from distance, 2-for-14 overall from the field.

“It was just bad, and I have to be better,” he lamented after the game.

Horford was aware of how bad his perimeter shooting was getting. Later in the game, he started to try and help more in the post and with both on- and off-ball screens.

The problem was, the looks he was getting were just too good to pass up. 

“One thing I noticed was I kept missing short,” Horford said. “And I try to remind myself that it was at the point that I didn’t have it, and that was tough. So I try to impact the game in other ways, whether it was setting screens, giving people shots, stuff like that. But that was definitely tough for me because they were good looks, I even felt good about a few of them, they just didn’t go in.

Horford has always been equipped with a short memory. He acknowledged that it wasn’t a permanent flaw, rather just a bad showing. He’s bought into Brad Stevens’ system since day one, and knows that when the TrailBlazers come to town on Saturday, it will be a clean slate.

“I think we just need to keep trusting and running our offense, making sure that we play with a little more energy and refocus,” Horford said. We have a big one on Saturday here at home and we’ll have a chance to redeem ourselves and be better.

“I’ll come in tomorrow, do some work. I’ll look at the film, see which way I can get better. It’s just one game, I’ll be fine.”

Read More: Al Horford,
Celtics learn lesson the hard way that Isaiah Thomas won’t save them every fourth quarter 01.18.17 at 11:09 pm ET
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It was his time to shine.

Down 88-84 entering the fourth quarter, it was the prime moment for Isaiah Thomas to again take control and carry the Celtics to a victory over the lowly Knicks.

The problem was, he didn’t. It’s not his fault, it was simply human nature, he couldn’t save the Celtics seemingly every game. And while there was anxious anticipation that someone would step up and pick up the slack, no one did. Instead of taking control and ending the game with a bang, it ended quietly, with the Knicks running out the clock as players shook hands with time still remaining. The Celtics had dug themselves an an 11-point hole and never climbed out of it.

While not a great effort, the Celtics aren’t ready to believe it is because they rely purely on Thomas to take care of things late in the game.

“I don’t know, I didn’t get that impression necessarily,” said head coach Brad Stevens. “But I think that we didn’t play at a level of flying around that we need to for the first three or the fourth, maybe there was some of that. I don’t know.”

Thomas finished with eight points in the quarter, 39 on the night. A far cry from a poor performance by any measure.

From big man Al Horford’s perspective, there seemed to come a point where things ultimately became more chaotic than structured.

“I don’t know if [we were] necessarily discouraged, but towards the end, yeah. Like two or three minutes to go it was hard,” said Horford. “But I think that we, I guess we kind of steer away from our stuff and executing and we kind of start doing our own stuff a little bit. That’s a little normal sometimes, when adversity hits everybody wants to pick it up and do their part, and I think that could’ve been the case tonight.”

Thomas, not one to run from blame, acknowledged his shortcomings. After a mesmerizing first three periods in which he seemed to never be able to miss what looked like impossible layups, he eventually went quiet.

He went 2-for-9 in the fourth quarter, never finding the rhythm that led him to such success early on.

“It happens,” Thomas said. “I can’t make every shot, [but] I’m going to keep being aggressive, that’s what my team needs. I missed a few shots I usually make.”

Read More: Isaiah Thomas,
Avery Bradley could end up ‘missing a little bit more time’ with achilles soreness 01.18.17 at 10:55 pm ET
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Avery Bradley

Avery Bradley

Mere minutes prior to tipoff in the Celtics’ 117-106 loss to the Knicks on Wednesday, they discovered they would be without guard Avery Bradley.

Bradley, initially scheduled to start, was scratched after some soreness in his right achilles tendon. He missed four games leading up to Monday’s matchup against the Hornets with the injury, but played 33 minutes in that game and five points in the win. However warmups on Wednesday proved to be too much.

“He was really sore, went through our walk-through and then came out to the court and did some stuff, and was more sore today than he has been,” said head coach Brad Stevens, noting that Bradley did treatment the whole game.

In the interest of caution, Wednesday may not be the only time Bradley misses.

“I can see him missing a little bit more time. I think maybe he came back a little too early, whatever the case may be. But he was more sore today. But nothing structurally bad. Just still a pulled achilles,” said Stevens.

It was also a surprise for teammates, as Al Horford didn’t even notice Bradley’s absence until warmups.

Said Horford, “Literally when we were out there in warmups I didn’t see Avery. I didn’t realize he wasn’t going to play.”

Read More: Avery Bradley,
Despite loss to Knicks, Jae Crowder proves he’s more valuable to Celtics than Carmelo Anthony could ever be 01.18.17 at 9:53 pm ET
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Jae Crowder was one of the few bright spots in the Celtics' loss Wednesday night. (David Butler II/USA Today Sports)

Jae Crowder was one of the few bright spots in the Celtics’ loss Wednesday night. (David Butler II/USA Today Sports)

When Phil Jackson divulged over the summer that his biggest regret as president of the Knicks was not taking Jae Crowder when he had the opportunity to do so, it was as intriguing as it was dumbfounding.

With the Knicks now 43 games into their season — 19-24 after their 117-106 win against the Celtics on Wednesday — it’s become more clear why.

Part of the concern, a legitimate one at that, was his reluctance to make a move for Crowder because he would sit behind Carmelo Anthony. He instead took a second-round pick the Mavs owed the Celtics and turned it into Cleanthony Early, a decision in hindsight that would make even the biggest optimist cringe.

Despite the Celtics losing, Wednesday night proved a clear indication as to why the indecision was not only so frustrating for Jackson, but also why Crowder is so valuable to the Celtics.

Anthony, currently knee-deep in conflict with Jackson, put together 13 points on 5-of-14 shooting on Wednesday. He added four rebounds and three assists. Crowder, on the other hand dropped 21 points on 7-of-13 shooting with five rebounds and an assist.

(For a complete recap, click here)

And while it’s nonsense to look at one game as a basis comparison, the differences amongst the two has been lurking all season.

As Crowder helped take control of the game, the difference between him and Anthony became borderline palpable as they guarded one another. Crowder, ever intense, yet composed, guarded Anthony, who looked apathetic and nonexistent on the floor, hardly ever running more than a few steps at a time. A hard fall from the presence he used to own on the floor.

The 32-year-old Anthony, once a top player in the league, was essentially nonexistent on both sides of the ball, and has been visibly on the decline for the majority of the season. And while his supporting cast hasn’t exactly been shining around him, a team that boasts Anthony, Joakim Noah, Derek Rose and Kristaps Porzingis is vastly underperforming from where they should be.

This is where Crowder comes back into play. New York Post writer Marc Berman toyed with the idea of a Melo to Boston trade. Melo and $3 million to the Celtics, with the Knicks getting Crowder, Amir Johnson, Jonas Jerebko and the Celtics’ 2018 first round pick.

The idea of such a deal nestled the line of lunacy before the Knicks even took the TD Garden floor. But Wednesday was as much validation as necessary for the 26-year-old Crowder to stay around. While there is no such thing as untouchable, Crowder, along with Isaiah Thomas and Al Horford are about as untouchable as they get — especially with the core they’ve established.

The Celtics may be one more piece or “star” away from being true contenders, but Melo isn’t that piece. Especially not at the expense of Crowder.

As frequent of a target as Anthony has been to the Celtics every time he was being shopped around or an impending free agent, it’s tough to resist the idea of him in green. But given his current on and off the court state, it’s become clear as ever that wherever he ends up, it shouldn’t be Boston.

Crowder is probably the biggest noisemaker off the court, but a tweet chastising fans for cheering an opposing player pales in comparison to locker room tirades.

The Celtics have made their calling card this season a blue collar and chemistry-heavy type of play. They aren’t going to match up with the top teams in the East from a skills perspective, but the way they can grind has kept them in the conversation as one of the East’s toughest teams. The addition of Anthony or subtraction of Crowder — or both — would ruin that.

Read More: Carmelo Anthony, Jae Crowder,
Celtics Pregame Notes: Despite recent skid, Celtics not about to take Knicks lightly 01.18.17 at 6:32 pm ET
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Brad Stevens

Brad Stevens

Dragging themselves into TD Garden Wednesday night will be the 18-24 Knicks, losers of 11 of their last 13 games. There’s been drama and injuries among other plight, but it’s still not enough for the Celtics to consider Wednesday’s tilt a win before tipoff. 

The Celtics had their work cut out for them last time the two met, with a five-point win on Christmas Day. Prior to that, they dismantled the Knicks 115-87 after Carmelo Anthony got himself a double technical in the early going. The C’s are catching the Knicks at a prime time, with New York losing their most recent game against the Hawks on Monday by two points. The Knicks will also be missing 7-foot-1 star Kristaps Porzingis, who is averaging 19.4 points.

“I think we understand it’s hard to win a basketball game,” said coach Brad Stevens. “This is a strange profession when you base how you feel for two straight days based on whether or not a ball rolls in the basket or not. 

“If New York hits that game winner against Atlanta … they should feel good, but it doesn’t change how they played the rest of the game, which is pretty well. But that’s the way you kind of feel in these situations, you recognize whether you’re on the end that lost the last one or won the last one, the next one is a brand new game and you’ve got to play really well to win. This team, we’ve had good games against almost every time we’ve played them in the past, and it’s going to be a hard one to win.”

With a team like the Knicks in town, it becomes easier to appreciate the situation the Celtics have found themselves in. 11 games over .500 at 26-15, the C’s — albeit with some exceptions — have exhibited balance on both sides of the ball, and have gotten key contributions from a number of players.

The most notable example of their good fortune is the fourth quarter performances of Isaiah Thomas. The point guard has bailed the Celtics out a number of potential losses, and while he’s been helping the Celtics avert crisis, the defensive play has been doing its part as well.

“Obviously, Isaiah’s fourth quarter performances have been well documented. I think we’ve had a number of guys who have made good plays in those moments. I think our defense has been pretty good in those moments. Knock on wood, we’ve been pretty good executing in those moments with a few exceptions throughout the season.

“Our guys have come to play ever since the first week of November or whatever it was. They’ve come to compete every night, and realize it’s going to be really hard. You don’t take a possession for granted, you realize that you’re going to be in three possession games or below most likely. It requires your ultimate attention, and our guys have been pretty good about that.”

Other Celtics Notes

— Tyler Zeller (sinus infection) and James Young (right ankle sprain) will be out Wednesday, but are both close to becoming full practice participants. All other members of the Celtics are active and available.

— The Celtics will remain with the same starting lineup as Monday, with Isaiah Thomas, Avery Bradley, Al Horford, Amir Johnson and Jae Crowder all starting.

Read More: Isaiah Thomas,
Isaiah Thomas once again leads Celtics, but Jaylen Brown intrigues in win over Hornets, too 01.16.17 at 10:00 pm ET
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Al Horford salutes teammates during a win over the Hornets on Monday. (Bob De Chiara/USA Today Sports)

Al Horford salutes teammates during a win over the Hornets on Monday. (Bob De Chiara/USA Today Sports)

Isaiah Thomas once again reminded us what time it is, but after watching the Celtics beat the Hornets on Monday night, I’m fascinated by Jaylen Brown.

The rookie didn’t do much down the stretch of the 108-98 victory — he was at least on the floor for much of the fourth quarter when Thomas delivered his nightly explosion — but we’re starting to get a clearer picture of his skill set.

Brown scored seven points in the first half by highlighting his explosive athleticism. He went coast-to-coast for a basket right before the half, he made an acrobatic layup inside while heavily defended, and he led another break that ended with a tough hoop inside after he laid the ball down to Jonas Jerebko and then got it back.

Brown almost completely lacks any semblance of an outside game, which is ultimately going to decide what kind of an impact he’ll make as a pro. He’s also got that lost-in-headlights look at times, too. But considering that he’s only 20 years old and is basically taking a red-shirt rookie season, the skills he’s exhibiting suggest an intriguing future.

“Jaylen Brown played one of his best games of the season,” head coach Brad Stevens told Comcast’s Abby Chin on the postgame show.

What is he? Your guess is as good as mine. As athletic as he may be, it’s also worth noting that Michael Kidd-Gilchrist cleanly turned him away at the rim on a two-handed dunk attempt in the fourth quarter. He’s not such a high-flyer that he can just throw down on anyone.

Brown had a great view while Thomas went off during another monster fourth quarter, where he scored 17 of his game-high 35. Thomas did it everywhere except from the free throw line, becoming the first Celtic since Larry Bird in 1984 to score at least 35 points without a free throw.

Thomas’s best basket may have been a corner jumper over Hornets big man Cody Zeller that started with a reverse dribble into an up-fake that got the 7-footer off his feet before Thomas calmly drilled the shot in his face.

“Isaiah doesn’t even come up to his lettahs!” broadcaster Tommy Heinsohn yelled.

Al Horford scored 22, and Kelly Olynyk and Jae Crowder added 15 points apiece as the Celtics (26-15) hit the official halfway point of the season with 13 wins in their last 16 games.

Read More: Al Horford, Celtics, Hornets, Isaiah Thomas
Celtics pregame: Avery Bradley returns to the lineup against Hornets, no Tyler Zeller (sickness) 01.16.17 at 7:51 pm ET
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Avery Bradley

Avery Bradley

After missing four straight games with a right Achilles injury, Avery Bradley will return to the lineup on Monday night against the Hornets at TD Garden. 

Although the Celtics have gone 3-1 in Bradley’s absence, having their starting shooting guard certainly strengthens their lineup. Boston will face a hungry Hornets (20-20) team, one that has lost four straight games and is in danger of slipping below .500. 

However, don’t let their record fool you, said Celtics head coach Brad Stevens, who believes a full-strength Hornets team will be a challenging one. 

“They just haven’t been healthy a lot but when their starting five has been healthy, which they are, they’ve been excellent,” Brad Stevens said. “This is a good team. This is a team that’s going to go on streaks of winning games and you just hope it doesn’t start tonight.

“Our guys have a lot of respect for these guys because you clearly have to play well to beat them, there is no grey area in that regard. If you don’t play well, they’ll beat you because they don’t beat themselves.” 

So far, the C’s are 2-0 in their season series against the Hornets but in their last contest against Charlotte the Hornets were without their leading scorer — Kemba Walker. The Celtics will look to stretch their season series to 3-0 while the Hornets will fight not fall below .500 for the first time this season. 

Bradley, who said he felt “a little sore” Monday morning, says there will be no minute restriction in Monday’s game. The C’s will also have Kelly Olynyk back in action, while Tyler Zeller (illness) will remain on the injury list. Zeller, who hospitalized last week, is still experiencing symptoms of nausea and dizziness. 

“Basically I had a sinus infection, middle ear infection and inner ear issue that was making me dizzy, kind of all at the same time,” Zeller explained. “Just got hit with a lot of sickness, flu, whatever you want to call it, cold, stuff. Kind of at the same time, it all compounded. Last week got it all checked out. Got it cleared. It was what they thought it was. I just kind of had to wait for it to clear out. So (coming back) now, it’s kind of getting back into the flow of things. And hopefully I’ll be back sooner than later.”

 

Read More: Avery Bradley, Tyler Zeller,
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