|James Young, R.J. Hunter battle for final roster spot||10.18.16 at 2:13 pm ET|
With one final exhibition game left on the schedule, the battle for the last roster spot has intensified. James Young and R.J. Hunter figure to be battling it out to the end.
The Celtics have until the end of the week to determine who will fill out the back end of their 15-man roster and Young and Hunter have both made strong cases for themselves in their last two games.
Hunter, who has made the strongest statistical case of the two, scored a game-high 17 points against the Knicks on Saturday, capping off an impressive shooting performance. He scored 6-of-8 from the floor, including 2-of-4 from deep and not only knocked down open jumpers but made strong takes to the rim and got to the free-throw line.
Young, on the other hand, followed up Saturday night’s Celtics win with his best performance of the preseason Monday night.
It may not have been as flashy as Hunter’s 17 points at Madison Square Garden, but Young (10 points, 4 rebounds, 3 assists, one steal) was able to make the most of his 16 minutes by stuffing the stat sheet in the win over the Nets at TD Garden.
He also looked a lot more comfortable on the floor, compared to the beginning of the preseason.
“I’m way more confident in my game,” Young explained. “A lot of people are backing me up to just go and be aggressive, so that’s really helped me.
“I’m just trying to do a little of everything — scoring, rebounding, passing, and not to do too much at the same time. Whatever coach has drawn up for me I just do it and help out the team.”
Both Young and Hunter are scoring at a similar rate — making the choice between the two very difficult. Throughout the preseason, Young has averaged 5.1 points, 3 rebounds and shooting 45 percent from the floor in 15 minutes per game. While Hunter is averaging 6.1 points, 1.5 assists and shooting 44 percent from the floor.
However, Young has been an efficient 3-point scorer, shooting at a 42 percent clip, whereas Hunter — recognized as a precise 3-point shooter — is shooting 27 percent from downtown.
Brad Stevens has certainly noticed the improvement, thus making the decision of cutting one of the two that much harder.
“They all really had good moments,” Stevens said. “As I said before the game, those are hard decisions because everybody’s improved. I thought they all played well at times.”
|Isaiah Thomas puts up 19 points in 15 minutes as Celtics run through Nets||10.17.16 at 9:51 pm ET|
The time remaining for the Celtics to tune up for the season is running thin — but they’re already looking to be in midseason form. Playing the same Nets team they will see in nine days on opening night, the Celtics ran through Brooklyn 120-99.
It only took 15 points for Isaiah Thomas to drop 19 points on the flimsy Nets defense. The point guard cruised into the paint — oftentimes untouched — en route to a perfect 6-for-6 from the field including a 3-pointer, as he played exclusively in the first half.
“The lane was just open, I guess. Teammates just put me in position to try and be a little more aggressive for myself. I haven’t been that way this preseason yet. But teammates got me the ball in the right spots and I just did what I do, I guess,” Thomas said.
Thomas’ pace throughout his time on the floor was contagious and apparent from the onset, as halfway through the first period the Celtics surged to a 14-to-2 run that put them up by 13 points.
“We’ve been playing a lot better, things are slowing down for us,” Thomas said. “For the most part we’re getting there, we’re ready for the regular season to start so things can count, but we’re still working.”
The Celtics were playing with a regular season tempo that left the Nets visibly overwhelmed and outmatched. Though passing wasn’t as precise as it could have been at times, overall the Celtics transition game was quick and largely effective.
The bench didn’t make upcoming roster decisions for Brad Stevens much easier, as each player coming on demonstrated quite a bit of value in one form or another. The shooting stroke that James Young has struggled to consistently find was present on multiple occasions. R.J. Hunter continued to shoot the ball well from the perimeter. Demetrius Jackson grabbed the hustle play of the preseason, grabbing a steal and finishing it with a layup off an inbound pass following a Celtics basket, forcing the Nets to take a timeout from sheer frustration.
“I thought they all had really good moments,” Stevens said. “I thought they all played well at times, and certainly we gave up some baskets in transition, we did some things we’d like to do better throughout the course of the night, not throwing the ball to the other team as a team. But that’s across the board, that’s not just young, that’s young and old.
“But everybody showed as they have the whole time that they continue to improve, which is a good thing.”
|Isaiah Thomas ‘slightly sprains’ left wrist as Celtics beat Hornets in 2nd preseason game||10.06.16 at 9:50 pm ET|
After beating the Hornets Thursday night in a preseason contest, the Celtics will now hold their breath on their star point guard.
Isaiah Thomas injured his left wrist early in the third quarter when he fought his way through a Roy Hibbert screen and came out of the game.
He did not return with what the team termed a “slightly sprained” left wrist. It is the same wrist that he had arthroscopic surgery on in Aug. 2014. Jaylen Brown subbed in for Thomas with 7:07 left in the third quarter.
As for the game, the Celtics (1-1) scored 40 points in the third quarter and rolled to a 107-92 win in a preseason game Thursday night at the Greensboro Coliseum.
Before coming out, Thomas led the Celtics with 15 points on 5-of-10 shooting in 20 minutes. Al Horford scored nine of his 13 points in the third quarter. He also grabbed eight rebounds in his 19 minutes of playing time.
For a full box score, click here.
For a second straight game, head coach Brad Stevens started a lineup of Thomas, Avery Bradley, Horford, Jae Crowder and Amir Johnson.
The Celtics raced out to a 22-14 lead in the first quarter, thanks to more sharp-shooting from Avery Bradley. The guard was 3-for-5 from the field, including 1-of-2 from beyond the arc.
But the Celtics bench struggled again, missing their last six shots as the Hornets scored the last nine points to take a 23-22 lead after one. The Celtics, who started off red-hot Tuesday night, made just 8-of-22 from the field in the opening quarter.
The learning curve continued for Jaylen Brown. He committed a mental error when he lost track of the shot clock at the end of the first quarter and passed the ball on the perimeter as the clock expired. He also failed to finish on a pair of drives to the basket.
Stevens used the second quarter of the second preseason game to mix and match with the starters, going with a lineup of Bradley, Thomas, Terry Rozier, Amir Johnson and Jonas Jerebko. The Celtics trailed 51-44 at the half, throwing up 17 threes (making seven). Overall, the Celtics shot just 17-of-44 (38.6 percent) in the opening 24 minutes. Thomas was 3-for-5 from beyond the arc and had 11 in the first half to lead the Celtics.
Unlike Tuesday, the Celtics starters opened the second half and it paid immediate dividends. The Celtics scored the first nine points of the third quarter for a 53-52 lead. One of the big highlights was two-handed monster slam from Horford on an inbounds pass from Crowder. Horford was fouled and hit the free throw for a three-point play. The Celtics were in complete control the rest of the quarter, outscoring the Hornets, 40-19, in the period.
The Celtics built their lead to as many as 21 in the fourth quarter, cruising to their first win of the preseason.
— Boston Celtics (@celtics) October 7, 2016
|Terry Rozier warns rest of NBA about Jaylen Brown||at 11:45 am ET|
Terry Rozier has been saying it for a while: Jaylen Brown is eventually going to be a nightmare for the rest of the NBA.
How bad of a dream is up to the rookie out of Cal.
On Tuesday night, in 20 minutes, Brown was 4-of-9 from the field for eight points and four rebounds.
It wasn’t pretty at the start. He had a one-handed dunk attempt partially blocked by Hollis Thompson with eight minutes left in the second quarter.
He had one turnover and was a minus-9.
In the second half, he was moved to the ‘4’ on the post from the swing spot. It worked. He found his rhythm, finishing 3-for-6 with three rebounds. In short, he found a comfort level.
“Yeah, I’m comfortable at the 4, wherever coach needs me to play,” Brown said. “That’s just part of being versatile; part of versatility is just being ready when somebody calls your name. You’re a rookie, so you can’t really have any excuses. If he wants to play me at the ‘4’ I’m down [with that].
“You can’t be surprised. You’ve just got to be ready at all times. Whenever somebody calls my name, I’m ready, focused, locked in. Rookies can’t be surprised.”
The highlight of the game came when the still 19-year-old Brown threw down a Tomahawk one-handed dunk with four minutes left, bringing the Celtics within three points. Terry Rozier was in Brown’s shoes last season, a first-round pick trying to show he was worth the pick.
“He had the crowd going, going crazy, had our bench going crazy,” Terry Rozier said. “That’s something he’s going to be good for doing, jump out of the gym. He’s going to see a lot of minutes this year. Once the game really slows down for him, it’s going to be scary for a lot of people. I’ve been telling him this since summer league.”
Truth of the matter is that Brown, as a third overall pick, is under the microscope much more than Rozier, who was a 16th overall pick. And there are bigger expectations. Brown has just begun to fulfill those expectations.
“It felt really good,” Brown said. “The floor opened up, felt like I could close out and it was just like the lane was wide open. I like to attack, close out and be aggressive, and if somebody had collapsed, I would’ve just kicked it to the corner for the open shot.
“It’s like a blur. This is all happening at once. It helped a little bit. Just getting up and down and getting to the basket. Just touching the ball when you’re getting up and down the floor is a great feeling, and nothing beats that. That feeling when you first walk in the arena. Nothing beats that feeling. When I got on floor, everything else just goes on the way.”
|For (preseason) openers, Al Horford, Avery Bradley, Jae Crowder shine, Jaylen Brown wows in loss to Sixers||10.04.16 at 9:24 pm ET|
AMHERST — The growth spurt officially is underway.
With expectations sky high entering the preseason, the Celtics didn’t disappoint Tuesday night, showing off a new-look roster that is loaded with offensive options and tenacious defense.
Avery Bradley and Jae Crowder each scored 11 points in the first half while Al Horford made his debut, scoring eight points in a 92-89 loss to the injury-plagued Sixers in front of a sparse 4,532 fans at the Mullins Center. The game was officially a home preseason game for Philadelphia, as their parent company, Comcast/Spectacor manages the building. But nearly every fan was cheering for the Celtics.
Jaylen Brown fired up the crowd with several athletic moves, including a one-handed jam late in the fourth to bring the Celtics close. The first-rounder out of Cal finished with eight points. Isaiah Thomas also had 11 points in his 19 minutes.
Terry Rozier led the Celtics with 12 points.
The Celtics showed their intensity on defense to the very last possession. Marcus Smart forced a Philadelphia turnover with 12 seconds left on the sideline, giving Boston a chance to tie. Smart missed a fadeaway three from the left wing with six seconds remaining and the loose ball went out of bounds to Philadelphia. Then after a Smart foul, the Sixers tried to inbound but turned the ball over, giving Boston one final chance with 3.6 seconds left. Jordan Mickey missed a three with one second left to end the game.
With just under three minutes left in the third quarter, a loud “Let’s Go Celtics” chant broke out.
And early on, the fans had plenty to cheer about.
AMHERST – Brad Stevens likes a lot more about his players than just their basketball skills.
The Celtics coach made that clear before Tuesday’s preseason opener at the Mullins Center when he articulated the sensitivity of his players and how well they communicated their desire to make a public statement about unity.
That statement came in the form of a crossed-arms chain with each other during the national anthem before the game with the Sixers.
“We’ve had a lot of sit-down discussions about it,” Stevens said. “We’ve had a lot of individual discussions. We’ve had three or four meetings after practices, sometimes just players, sometimes just us, sometimes people we’ve invited in from the outside to spend time with our guys.
“Our guys have been incredibly thoughtful and I think, like from what I’ve seen across the NBA early on, I think our guys are really focused on promoting positive unity, togetherness, progress, and all those types of things. But those have been, as far as deep, certainly good discussions, they’ve been great. And I commend our guys for sharing and for thinking and for really looking at this in a really insightful way.”
Stevens says he’s constantly learning about his team and their individual personalities.
“I think one of the great things about being a part of a team is you all come from different backgrounds and you learn about each other and you all come together for the common cause, and that’s why we all love sports, right? We can all rally around that common cause and we can rally around teams,” Stevens added.
“But I think when you really get into deep, impactful stuff, those are special conversations and sometimes those are uncomfortable and sometimes there can be tension around those, but I think that’s the beautiful part about our group, is that they all appreciate one another, really support one another. And again, I think you’ll see, like I think they’re very much into what the teams that I’ve seen thus far, in talking about togetherness and continued progress.”
Shortly after the anthem, the team released a video statement from the players on why they decided it was appropriate to make a “Unity” statement before Tuesday’s game.
— Boston Celtics (@celtics) October 4, 2016
AMHERST — Brad Stevens finally is getting the chance to see what his new-look team can do against an opponent.
Stevens knows full well that a preseason opener against the perpetually health-jinxed Sixers does not rise to the level of what his team will be in three weeks when they open the season against the Nets on Oct. 26. But still, Stevens put out a lineup that projects to opening night when Isaiah Thomas, Avery Bradley, Al Horford, Jae Crowder and Amir Johnson took the floor.
“Just want everybody to play well when they have their opportunity in the game,” Stevens said of the first of seven preseason games. “I think there’s guys that we’ll limit minutes-wise but the bottom line is that will kinda be as we go in the game. I’ve got a pretty good idea of what I want keep guys at. But whether they play first half or first stint of the third quarter, I’m still not completely decided on.
“So we’re one week in. I think the one thing about both those guys is they are both pretty versatile, they both pass the ball well. They both can roll or pop, they both can defend a couple of positions. But we’ll keep evaluating whether or not that’s our best group moving forward. And we’re still very much in the evaluation stage.
“You have to balance some of [lineups], but also I want these guys to get good stints. It’s not important that they play 30 minutes tonight. But it is important that the stints they play are hard and they get good conditioning out of it. Again, we’re a week in. We didn’t start thinking or talking about playing a game tonight until this morning. We still have a long way to go to get to where we want to be from a performance standpoint on both ends of the floor.”
Safe to say, the Celtics are playing more against against themselves than worrying about a Philly team that will be without No. 1 draft pick Ben Simmons indefinitely after surgery to repair a Jones fracture in his foot.
“Everybody practices hard, everybody plays hard, there’s seven exhibition and 82 regular-season games — it’s just an unfortunate of this, that there will be injuries,” Stevens said. “You always hope that they are not long term, you always hope that they’re not something that somebody can’t recover from quickly. And, at the same time, we have 20 people on our roster right now and we’ll play whoever is available.”
Jaylen Brown getting pre-game jumpers up before preseason opener vs Sixers pic.twitter.com/wYPQTs4bVr
— Mike Petraglia (@Trags) October 4, 2016
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