|Celtics looking for ‘locked in and engaged’ effort to handle Dwight Howard, James Harden, Rockets||03.11.16 at 4:36 pm ET|
The Celtics have had their fair share of success this season handling big men with big efforts from the likes of Jared Sullinger and Jae Crowder.
Last week, in the span of 24 hours, Crowder was asked to handle Carmelo Anthony and LeBron James. The Celtics rallied to beat the Knicks on Friday and had James bottled up for the first half in Cleveland before James and the Cavaliers wore down the Celtics in the second half.
The Celtics didn’t have their best defensive effort against DeAndre Jordan and the Clippers but they found a way in overtime.
Against the Kevin Durant-less Thunder in November, they allowed Russell Westbrook 27 points but Serge Ibaka scored just 16 and the Celtics beat the Thunder, 100-85, in Oklahoma City. And against the very team they face tonight at the Garden, they held Dwight Howard to four shots, five points and 12 rebounds in 30 minutes. James Harden was just 4-of-10 in 30 minutes for a total of 16 points. The two combined to make just 6-of-14 shots as Boston prevailed in Houston, 111-95, on Nov. 16.
“Like I’ve been saying all year, all five guys on the court have to be so locked in and engaged on taking away what they like to do and just making it tough for them,” Crowder said. “We have a great game plan going into tomorrow night. We’ll throw a lot of different coverages at those guys on the pick-and-rolls and stuff like that. It takes all five guys. It’s just not one player against their scorers or one player against Dwight. It just takes all five guys to get him off the glass and do everything. I think once we have that, we have control of the game.”
Howard is still regarded as one of the best pick-and-roll players in the league.
“I don’t know if he’s the best,” Crowder added. “I know he’s a heckuva player. I know you’re aware that he’s down there. He’s a good presence and he’s a vocal part of their team. Try to take it away.”
The Rockets come in at 32-32 and in the eighth and final playoff spot in the West. The Rockets were not able to trade Howard at the trade deadline. Since holding onto Howard, the Rockets are 5-4, including two straight wins. Howard, to his credit, has responded. In those nine games, Howard is averaging 17.1 points and 12.4 rebounds, including 9-for-12 from the field in each of Houston’s last two games.
“Howard’s playing at a really good level,” Brad Stevens said. “I think he’s like 18 and 13 over his past seven games or so. Harden’s numbers are off the charts again for the year. And they’re more healthy than I remember them being when we played them last.
“Obviously, you’ve got [Patrick] Beverley back in the lineup. He’s a winning player. He makes a lot of great plays for them. And then [Donatas] Motiejunas is playing more now since he’s been back and starting. And obviously he had his career high last year here. So a lot of good talented players in addition to [Trevor] Ariza and [Corey] Brewer who are kind of their glue on the wings. Those guys are tough to play against. It’s a highly-talented team. I mean, they were in the Western semis for a reason last year and we’re going to have to play really well.”
“We always had the same goal,” Crowder added. “We came into the season with the same goals and this just gets a step closer to where we want to be, and that’s win a playoff series and build from last year. We got to the playoffs last year. We didn’t win any games so we want to win a series now and build from that and build from that. Right now, we’re headed in the right direction. We just have to keep winning, keep taking care of us each and every day, which is at practice. Come game time, we’ll be prepared and ready.”
|Coty Clarke, Jordan Mickey recalled by Celtics||at 2:53 pm ET|
Coty Clarke is back with the Celtics.
The 23-year-old forward, who was signed to a 10-day contract (as a reward in the words of Brad Stevens) on Monday, was recalled Friday by the Celtics. Also recalled Friday was forward Jordan Mickey, who had three blocks in two minutes in Wednesday’s win over Memphis.
Both Clarke and Mickey saw action for the D-League Maine Red Claws on Thursday night.
In the Red Claws’ 111-95 victory against the Erie BayHawks Thursday, Clarke recorded a team-high 18 points on 6-of-7 shooting, five rebounds, two assists and one steal in 19 minutes. The 6-foot-7 forward has appeared in 40 contests for the Red Claws this season and is averaging 16.1 points, 7.4 rebounds, 2.5 assists and 1.2 steals in 25.9 minutes per game.
Also on Thursday, Mickey scored 14 points, grabbed six rebounds, one assist and one block in 25 minutes of action. Mickey has played in 22 games for Maine this season, averaging 17.0 points, 10.2 rebounds, 1.3 assists and 4.4 blocks in that span.
Both will be in the building for tonight’s game against Houston at TD Garden at 7:30 p.m. Clarke was inactive on Wednesday during the win over Memphis.
|Brad Stevens on Tom Thibodeau visit: ‘Really good to have him around’||03.10.16 at 4:02 pm ET|
WALTHAM – It was back to the future at Celtics practice on Thursday.
Tom Thibodeau, the man legendary in the Doc Rivers era for arriving at the Celtics practice facility at 4:30 a.m. with his staff, was back in the building Thursday. This time, he was much more relaxed up in the GM balcony taking in practice one day after watching Brad Stevens’ team take apart Memphis in the second half.
Stevens had the chance to chat up the former Bulls head coach after practice and ask his opinion of what he saw.
“We talked a couple weeks ago and then he said he was gonna be here a couple days,” Stevens said. “Obviously a door is always open to coaches from wherever. Certainly Tom brings a great deal of expertise and knowledge and things we can ask him in those two days watching our team. So it’s really good to have him around.”
Thibodeau is in town for the Sloan Sports Analytics Conference at MIT, an annual get-together of experts from around the country and the globe to discuss different ways of breaking down and analyzing sports performance.
“As I’ve told you before, there’s nothing more enjoyable to me than finishing practice and going and talking to the coaches that were there watching, or ask them what they thought, pick their brain on things or talk about drills and why we do them or don’t do them,” Stevens said. “It’s kind of the fun part about the relationships coaches have.
“He came here. We have kind of an off-site coaches deal, retreat, at the start of every year where we bring in people across sports and also education. He was here last year, so I’ve spent some time with him on multiple occasions.”
Celtics fans remember him as the defensive mastermind behind the 2008 world champions and the team that reached Game 7 against the Lakers in 2010.
WALTHAM — The news doesn’t seem to be getting any more optimistic for Kelly Olynyk and his partially separated right shoulder.
Olynyk, who was termed a ‘50-50‘ proposition on Tuesday to play against Memphis, didn’t take part in any contact drills Thursday, in part because the team held a light workout and in part because he couldn’t handle it if they did.
“Same story, different day,” Olynyk said of the continuing stiffness in his shoulder that is allowing him to shoot but not much else. “It’s just that you do what you can do at the level you want to do it. It’s still a little bit restricting. Not where it needs to be in terms of basketball movements to the level where it’s comfortable.”
“Kelly went through practice,” Stevens said Thursday. “We didn’t go any contact, so it wasn’t like it was a big deal to judge from that, but I would say that he is still in the same boat as [Wednesday].”
Since the Feb. 10 injury against the Clippers, the Celtics have managed a 7-3 record without him.
“It’s definitely easier when they’re playing well and playing together,” Olynyk said. “It’s tough when they lose and you really want to be out there to make a difference.”
Olynyk said earlier in the week, when he was cleared to return to full practice, that he could shoot but couldn’t do much more. On Tuesday he took some contact in practice but Wednesday, he was not cleared for game action and was inactive. Olynyk said he doesn’t want to go on the court and not be able to do what the team needs from him.
“It’s not really one-dimensional. If you have no dimensions then you’re just filling space, really,” Olynyk added.
And his jump shot?
“That’s feeling alright. It’s when you try to lean on people, hold people off, get into different positions, rebound the basketball,” Olynyk said. “Your shot is straight forward, up and down, instead of across your body.
“It’s more just getting out there. [Bryan Doo] and the trainers have done it for a long time. B-Doo is working on strengthening, and the trainers are working on keeping everything loose.”
|Celtics rest Jared Sullinger at practice, don’t want him to ‘overdo it,’ expected to play Friday||at 3:16 pm ET|
WALTHAM – The Celtics are playing it safe with Jared Sullinger.
One day after returning to game action from a skin infection that forced him to miss Monday and Tuesday practices, Sullinger (with a wrap around his stomach) was again on the sidelines Thursday. Brad Stevens said that while Sullinger was able to play Wednesday (12 points, 5 rebounds in 21 minutes) against Memphis, the team felt it best that he take it easy on Thursday.
“We just held him out of practice because he spent a couple days getting IVs and dehydrated and everything else, just didn’t want to overdo it,” the Celtics coach said. “So, he’s expected to play [Friday].”
The Celtics could certainly use his bulk in the post Friday as Dwight Howard, James Harden and the Rockets come calling to TD Garden.
“I think obviously he’s a good player,” Stevens said of Sullinger. “He’s able to score. He’s able to stretch the floor and shoot the ball. He’s able to score in the paint. But I think obviously the way he’s aided us defensively, his communication is excellent and then his rebounding is elite. Everybody’s got their strengths they bring to the table to help their team win. I think when we’re at our very best he certainly is having a huge impact on the glass.”
Sullinger has also been a force with his passing game, as evidenced by his two key fourth-quarter outlet passes against the Knicks last Friday that keyed the comeback win.
“He can really pass,” Stevens said. “He’s a smart basketball player. He’s really a smart guy but he plays the game with a good savvy. He understand where people should be. He understands what the right next play is. He’s had a good year. He’s had a good year.”
“He’s always had that. He’s a strong guy so he can get it from one end of the court to the other. I know that. That’s why I take off running,” added Jae Crowder, who was on the receiving end of those passes last Friday.
“He’s more comfortable,” “He’s probably the most comfortable I’ve ever saw him. He’s playing at a great rate for us. He’s been rebounding the ball as well as he’s been doing all year. He’s shooting the ball. His outside shot has been coming around. Once we have him hit his shots, it spread our offense out even more and gives lanes to me and Isaiah to drive in the paint. It helps us on offense.”
Sullinger has missed just one game this season, starting 56 of the 64 games he’s played.
“I think all our guys want to play all 82 but it’s not feasible all the time,” Stevens said.
|Celtics preparing to take on ‘a stud’ in Tony Allen and his short-handed Grizzlies||03.08.16 at 8:50 pm ET|
WALTHAM – If ever a team needed a timely reminder that a wounded team is a dangerous team, the Celtics got one Monday night when they watched the short-handed Memphis Grizzlies take out the Eastern-leading Cavaliers in Cleveland.
The 38-25 Grizzlies, who currently stand in fifth place in the West and would face Doc Rivers’ LA Clippers in the opening round of the playoffs, took the court Monday night without the likes of Mike Conley, Zach Randolph, Matt Barnes and Chris Anderson. All four of those players are regular starters in the lineup.
But it was Tony Allen, the fifth starter for Memphis who stepped in and stepped up his game. The 2004 first-round pick of the Celtics has become one of the most reliable players on the Grizzlies and a 34-year-old leader. Allen, along with Vince Carter and Lance Stephenson gave the Grizzlies enough Monday night to overcome LeBron James, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love.
“You take any team for granted that has Tony Allen, Vince Carter, Chalmers, Zach Randolph, Matt Barnes down the line, you haven’t been watching basketball for a while,” Celtics coach Brad Stevens said after Tuesday’s final tune-up for Memphis Wednesday night at TD Garden. “We have to play well against these guys. They’re physical, long, big., They physically manhandled us the last game. They’re a team that’s won, regardless of who’s been on the floor, pretty much all year. It’s a credit top them. Dave’s done a great job with the team regardless of all the curveballs they’ve had to hit.
“You don’t respect the game you don’t win. We have to play well to win. We can’t be focused on all of the things we can’t control. We have to do it the right way, we have to share the ball, otherwise we’ll get beat. That’s the same across the league. Any time guys aren’t available, they’re usually being replaced by someone who is awfully hungry to play. That’s enough in this league with this level of talent.”
Certainly the Celtics respect Allen and the Grizzlies, who beat Boston, 101-98, at the FedEx Forum on Jan. 10. In that game, Allen had a double-double with 15 points and 10 rebounds as Memphis overcame a 34-16 hole after the first quarter to come back and win.
When Allen was helping the 2008 Celtics win their 17th NBA title and the 2010 team reach Game 7 of the NBA finals, he was considered a defensive specialist and a role player off the bench behind Paul Pierce, Ray Allen, Kevin Garnett and Rajon Rondo. Allen said he felt somewhat “overshadowed” in Boston and signed a three-year, $9.7 million contract with Memphis.
|Kelly Olynyk (shoulder) ’50-50′ for Wednesday||at 4:58 pm ET|
WALTHAM – It’s wait-and-see time for Kelly Olynyk and the Celtics.
The 7-footer who’s been out since injuring his right shoulder in the second quarter of the Feb. 10 game against the Clippers went through practice Tuesday and was cleared for contact.
“Kelly did everything in practice, will probably do a little bit more with the young guys, we’ll reevaluate [Wednesday],” Brad Stevens said after practice Tuesday. “He’s day-to-day. I just asked him how he was doing and he said he was a little bit tentative. He didn’t play that way. He played five-on-five and did all of that stuff, and that was encouraging.
“I would say based on [practice], it would be 50-50, questionable, that he goes [Wednesday].”
Stevens said that if cleared, sitting out four weeks won’t affect Olynyk.
“Other than the shoulder, sure,” Stevens said. “He takes pretty good care of himself, takes care of his body, pretty diligent in that regard. Anytime you haven’t played in a few weeks that first wind might hit you. He shouldn’t have a problem.”
Olynyk admitted that he’s still sore after taking some contact in practice.
“It’s still not quite there, so we’ll see where it is. It’s all right. It’s still sore, a little discomfort, but it’s good to get back out there,” said Olynyk, who just shot around on Monday. “It’s still sore. There’s discomfort and pain, so obviously I’m a little tentative. I don’t feel like I’m at full strength or at full motion.
“The conditioning wasn’t bad. [Bryan Doo] kept me in pretty good shape. I’ve been riding the bike non-stop, treadmill stuff, swimming. I don’t think that’s too big of an issue. Obviously basketball is a different kind of conditioning and game conditioning is a little bit different, but you’ll get that back pretty quick.
“It’s good to feel what it can take and where it’s at. Hopefully keep improving. I don’t want any setbacks or anything like that. Keep going at the right level.”
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