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Celtics Pregame Notes: Al Horford out next two games with concussion; Tyler Zeller starts Wednesday 11.02.16 at 6:46 pm ET
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Al Horford

Al Horford

For the first time this season, the Celtics starting lineup will not include Al Horford — and it will be that way for a at least two games.

The Celtics center will miss Wednesday’s game against the Bulls as part of the NBA concussion protocol, being replaced by Tyler Zeller. Horford suffered the injury on Monday in practice when a teammate swiped for a ball and got Horford in the head. After feeling fine Monday night and into Tuesday morning, Horford was too nauseous to complete Tuesday’s practice.

He won’t travel with the team either for Thursday’s game against the Cavs.

According to head coach Brad Stevens, “He felt better today but still had some symptoms, and you have to be 24 hours symptom-free before resuming activity, and if any symptoms come up after that 24 hours once you resume activity it restarts itself. So we’ll see how he feels tomorrow, but he will not be on the trip, he will not play [Wednesday or Thursday].”

With Horford’s absence clearing the way for Zeller to get a start, it is another testament to the 7-footers flexibility in minutes.

After spending most of last season deep in the bench, he’s averaged 16.3 minutes so far this season, including 20 minutes, 18 seconds when the Celtics played the Bulls last Thursday.

“Tyler has been there, done that here and we talked about Tyler’s value extending beyond just a typical role when fully healthy is that he’s been a guy that’s started games for us, started big games for us and has played really well and is able to both. He’s able to come off the bench or start,” Stevens said.

“With his size, with their rebounding, we’re going to need guys to get them off the glass. It doesn’t mean that he’ll get every rebound, we’ll need our guards to rebound as our bigs are blocking out a lot.”

Other Celtics Notes: — Marcus Smart will make his season debut after missing the first three games with a left ankle sprain. Avery Bradley will be available as well, after receiving a cortisone shot Tuesday. Stevens indicated both will be free of any minutes restrictions. 

Read More: Al Horford, Avery Bradley, Marcus Smart, Tyler Zeller
Al Horford will miss Bulls game while in concussion protocol program; Avery Bradley has shoulder examined at 12:26 pm ET
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Al Horford

Al Horford

The Celtics will be without Al Horford for Wednesday night’s game at TD Garden against the Bulls, as the center was placed in the NBA’s concussion protocol program.

According to the team, Horford was hit in the head during Monday’s practice, although he did not show any concussion symptoms on Monday night or Tuesday morning. During Tuesday’s practice, Horford started to show symptoms, so he was removed from the court and examined by team physicians. He was placed in the concussion protocol program Tuesday night.

Meanwhile, Avery Bradley missed Tuesday’s practice with a sore right shoulder — an issue he’s been dealing with since training camp. Coach Brad Stevens said the team’s medical staff will determine the guard’s availability for Wednesday. Bradley had two shoulder surgeries (both sides) after the 2011-12 season.

Bradley, 25, is coming off a tremendous performance in a win over the Hornets on Saturday night, as he amassed 31 points, 11 rebounds and eight 3-pointers. Through three games he is averaging 21.3 points, 8.7 rebounds and 4.7 assists.

On the positive side for Boston, guard Marcus Smart will make his season debut Wednesday after being sidelined with a sprained ankle.

Read More: Al Horford, Avery Bradley, Marcus Smart,
Celtics, Avery Bradley hit stride in solid win over Hornets 10.29.16 at 10:07 pm ET
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Brad Stevens saw his team fix some things in earning their second win of the season. (Jeremy Brevard/USA Today Sports)

Brad Stevens saw his team fix some things in earning its second win of the season. (Jeremy Brevard/USA Today Sports)

The Celtics finally found a groove in their 104-98 win over the Hornets, their second win of the season. 

After two lackluster games, the third time was the charm for the Celtics this season. They came out of the gate strong in the first quarter grabbing the lead early with 3-point shots. Their first 15 points were all from 3-pointers. 

The Celtics pulled ahead with a 28-19 lead after the first quarter, but leveled off with a stagnant bench and the Hornets closed the Celtics’ lead gap to 44-41 at halftime. 

The Celtics defense overall was stronger than in the past two games. Rebounding was key in this one, with Bradley coming through with a career-high 11 boards, while Jae Crowder grabbed nine. 

“I thought we were locked in,” coach Brad Stevens said in his post game press conference. “I thought our guys were really locked in. … They just played with poise, chipped at it.”

The team looked generally in sync offensively as the bench woke up in the second half and they returned to shooting with confidence. Crowder made two 3’s in the third while Al Horford and Isaiah Thomas each sunk one. 

The Celtics lost the lead in the third and ended the quarter behind 72-71 before regaining it quickly in the fourth on another Bradley 3-pointer and went on to go on a 22-5 run in that final quarter. 

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Fast Break: Isaiah Thomas (25 points), Jae Crowder (21) open strong as C’s hold on for dear life in season opener 10.26.16 at 10:02 pm ET
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Oct 26, 2016; Boston, MA, USA; Boston Celtics guard Isaiah Thomas (4) drives the ball against Brooklyn Nets guard Jeremy Lin (7) in the first quarter at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

Isaiah Thomas drives the ball against Nets guard Jeremy Lin in the first quarter at TD Garden. (David Butler II/USA Today Sports)

And we’re off.

Facing a team predicted to be one of the worst in the league, the Celtics held off a late surge from the Nets in a 122-117 victory at TD Garden. 

Jae Crowder, Isaiah Thomas and Avery Bradley all found the form off the tip that has made them indispensable in their tenures with the team. Crowder was a knockdown shooter from the field, garnering 21 points with four boards, a pair of assists and steals and a block.

Already having a solid game through one half, Thomas was untouchable in the third, cruising to a 25-point performance while one assist shy of a double-double. Compared to Crowder and Thomas, Bradley’s first non-preseason game since leaving the postseason with an injury in April paled in comparison, as he put up 17 points with five assists and nine boards.

Al Horford had 11 points , five rebounds, six assists and four blocks in his Celtics debut. 

“The first 40 minutes I thought we really played with great presence and purpose. And the last few we didn’t. It’s a reminder of how quickly this thing can turn in this league,” coach Brad Stevens said.

It wasn’t smooth sailing throughout the game, however. Despite going up by double digits in the second quarter, the C’s allowed the Nets to get within five late in the period. This after a streaky first quarter that saw an eight-point lead to get whittled down to one. The Celtics then proceeded to allow the Nets to make a late 18-2 run to close to within three in the final minutes of the fourth quarter before the Celtics starters returned and closed it out.

“It was 110-87 and we started shooting bad shots and not guarding and throwing it to the other team. That’s how quickly it can change, we all know that. I was hopeful not to have to put [the starters] back in, but I probably went a little bit longer than I normally would have,” Stevens said.

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Read More: Avery Bradley, Isaiah Thomas, Jae Crowder,
Celtics Player Preview: Avery Bradley 09.16.16 at 10:08 am ET
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With Celtics training camp set to begin on Sept. 26, WEEI.com presents a player-by-player breakdown of the roster. The Celtics have 20 players under contract but will have to cut the roster to 15 by the start of the season.

AVERY BRADLEY

2015-16 season

76 games: 33.4 minutes, 15.2 points, 44.7% FG, 2.1 assists, 2.9 rebounds, 1.5 steals

The 25-year-old was one of the most indispensable members of the team last season — as apparent by the noticeable void when the seventh-year pro went down with a hamstring injury in the first game of the postseason. Prior to that, however, the now-longest-tenured Celtic’s defense was stout as ever, leading to a spot on the NBA’s All-Defense first team, while still being a reliable shooting source from the wing. 

Projected role in 2016-17

Don’t expect Bradley’s role to change much this season. Of the 76 regular-season games he appeared in last season, he started 72 and was one of the most reliable defenders and shooters, and he should do much of the same this season. The Celtics don’t have much shooting help from 3, and Bradley likely will continue to fill the 3-and-D role for coach Brad Stevens as a result. It’s also safe to expect him to be one of the premier defensive forces in the NBA, and as long as he is at full health — which he says he is — then expect him to be a night-in, night-out starter netting 35-plus minutes per game.

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Read More: 2016 Celtics Player Preview, Avery Bradley,
5 Celtics crack SI’s list of Top 100 NBA players 09.15.16 at 3:27 pm ET
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Sports Illustrated recently released its annual list of the Top 100 players in the NBA, and for the Celtics, it was merely affirmation of what they already believe: this team looks to be pretty good.

Five Celtics landed in the top 100, led by Al Horford at No. 18. Isaiah Thomas is 45, Jae Crowder 53, Avery Bradley 72 and Amir Johnson 86.

Horford was praised for his ability to fit into essentially any system and make himself a threat defensively regardless of who he’s up against. He can play in the low post, he can pick and roll, he can shoot if needed. Defensively, of course is his strength. Concern was mentioned about his rebounding troubles against top rebounders — something that has routinely plagued the Celtics — as well as his occasional interest to shoot a below-average 3-pointers.

In last year’s ranking, Thomas came in at 88, and he had something to say about it.

This year, SI gave him a little bit more respect, specifically with his reliability and durability. The article noted his ability to drive (he was second in the league in points off the drive last season) but also the fact that as a result of his interest in driving combined with a smaller stature, he is prone to getting his shot blocked.

The focal point of Crowder’s assessment was how unlikely it seemed that he would be as adored and successful in Boston as he is when he was part of the long-awaited trade of Rajon Rondo. On top of that, his ability to steal the ball (he ranked second in the league in steals) was looked favorably upon while his reticence to routinely pull the trigger from deep was criticized.

Bradley was lauded for his abilities as a two-way player, as he won accolades for defense while being a knockdown shooter periodically last season. However, the article was critical of his inability to run an offense for extended periods of time and his injury concerns.

For Johnson — arguably the biggest surprise to make the list — the focus was on what he brings to the table defensively. A case could be made he is one of the most integral parts of the Celtics defense, which is saying a lot given how solid the C’s defense is. His drawbacks included the fact that he is not exactly a threat offensively, getting most of his points from putbacks. Even still, his impact is massive given he is the first one to the bench in most games.

Read More: Al Horford, Amir Johnson, Avery Bradley, Isaiah Thomas
Avery Bradley looking to ‘lead by example’ this season 09.07.16 at 3:32 pm ET
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Avery Bradley

Avery Bradley

With the new look of the Celtics beginning to mold, the “Big Three” era is more and more quickly starting to feel like a thing of the past. And that’s not just a figment of the imagination.

The only player on the current roster to have played with Ray Allen, Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce is now-seventh-year pro Avery Bradley.

Who else was on that roster in 2011-12 Celtics who haven’t quite survived? Try E’Twaun Moore, JaJuan Johnson and Marquis Daniels among others.

But now 25 years old and the longest tenured member of the Celtics, Bradley has become one of the most prominent leaders on the team, despite his generally quiet disposition.

“Lead by example,” said Bradley in an interview with Celtics.com’s Marc D’Amico when asked to describe his leadership role with the C’s. “I don’t really speak that much. I just try to be professional on and off the court, and hopefully everybody follows.”

The 6-foot-2 shooting guard has already taken on quite a role on both ends of the court for the Celtics. He averaged 15.2 points per game last season and was stout on defense, averaging 1.5 steals per game while shutting down some of the league’s top offensive players in the process.

His defensive play led to a spot on the NBA first all-defensive team in 2015-16. And now he said the next step up is to become the defensive player of the year, comments he has since doubled down on.

Bradley played two seasons with “The Big Three”, taking notes along the way at just 18 and 19 years old during that time frame. With that experience now, he knows that the remarkably young team that will be around him this season is in a sense looking in the same thing from him that he did seven seasons ago.

“I was just able to listen to them,” said Bradley. “KG and those guys, they told me what I needed to do to be successful and I would listen to those guys because I wanted to be like them. I knew what it would take for me to stick in the NBA, and that was making sure I was always on time and all of those things.”

Added Bradley: “I can’t preach something that I’m not doing,” he said. “That’s the thing about it – all of my teammates see me being professional, so I hope they’ll do the same.”

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