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Celtics notes: Brad Stevens gives ‘thought’ to lineup change, Al Horford cleared for non-contact, doubtful Friday 11.10.16 at 3:55 pm ET
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WALTHAM – The Celtics have been without Al Horford for four games now. The likelihood that streak goes to five is very high as Brad Stevens said it’s doubtful that the big man still in concussion protocol will be able to take the court against the Knicks Friday at TD Garden. 

But the Celtics did get good news on the Horford front. Horford, who did not travel to Washington for Wednesday’s blowout loss, did return to the court with the team for practice Thursday. 

But the practice was not one of high intensity and he has not been cleared for contact or physical work. 

“He did some light stuff with us, so he was cleared to go through some of it,” Stevens said. “We didn’t do anything contact, physical, competitive, so I don’t know where that puts him in the protocol. I haven’t gotten the update of what’s next. But he is progressing, He’s feeling a lot better.”

Stevens and Horford spent about 15 minutes talking after practice Thursday. 

As for his chances of playing Friday?

“I don’t know, but I would say that would doubt it,” Stevens answered. “But I don’t know what the official diagnosis is, as far as I don’t know the official next step.”

 Jae Crowder has missed three games with a sprained left ankle. Crowder was not with the team at practice on Thursday. 

“I would doubt we see him until maybe next week when we get back home,” Stevens said. “That’s not for sure either, but that’s roughly the time line we’re looking at, best case scenario.”

It’s no secret the Celtics have been getting their collective doors blown off in the last two first quarters of their last two defenseless losses to the Nuggets and Wizards. Against Denver they allowed 24 first-quarter points to Emmanuel Mudiay and fell behind 42-23. Wednesday in Washington was even worse. They were blown out 34-8 and lost, 118-93. 

What are the chances Stevens breaks up the lineup of Isaiah Thomas, Avery Bradley, Jaylen Brown, Amir Johnson and Tyler Zeller?

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Read More: Al Horford, Boston Celtics, Brad Stevens,
Mike Petraglia, Ben Kichen wonder what’s with horrid Celtics D and whether Demarcus Cousins is answer at 11:52 am ET
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Trags and Ben talk about the defensive issues plaguing the Celtics right now, how the team needs to adjust, and whether the they are desperate enough to bring in Demarcus Cousins.

JBL_CMYK_NoHarmanNoRBallWEEI is how you listen to Celtics coverage. JBL cutting-edge wireless headphones and speakers are how you feel like you’re there.  As the official Sound of the Celtics, Isaiah Thomas and the NBA – JBL is Made for the Biggest Stage.

Read More: Ben Kichen, Boston Celtics, DeMarcus Cousins, Mike Petraglia
Al Horford to miss 4th straight game, Kelly Olynyk (shoulder) makes trip to D.C. 11.08.16 at 1:29 pm ET
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Al Horford

Al Horford

The Celtics will be without their $113 million man for a fourth straight game when they take on the Wizards on Wednesday night. The team announced Tuesday that Al Horford stayed back in Boston to continue in the NBA’s concussion protocol. 

Horford has played in just three games this season after suffering a concussion in practice on Halloween. 

Brad Stevens said after practice Monday that Horford had not made any progress in the protocol. Before getting injured in practice, Horford was averaging 12 points and 5.3 rebounds with seven blocks in three games. 

As for another big man, Jae Crowder will miss his third straight game after twisting his left ankle against the Bulls at TD Garden on Nov. 2. Crowder also did not make the trip to D.C. Tuesday as he continues to receive treatment. 

With Crowder and Horford out of the lineup the last two games, the Celtics have allowed 122 points in a loss at Cleveland and 123 last Sunday night at home to Denver. 

The Celtics could be getting back Kelly Olynyk, who has missed the first six games as he recovers from offseason shoulder surgery. Olynyk has been practicing with the team since Oct. 20. 

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Read More: Al Horford, Boston Celtics, Kelly Olynyk,
Brad Stevens on defenseless Celtics: ‘You could see it coming’ at 10:19 am ET
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Nov 6, 2016; Boston, MA, USA;  Denver Nuggets guard Jameer Nelson (1) shakes the hand of Boston Celtics head coach Brad Stevens after defeating the Celtics at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

Celtics coach watched Sunday as Jameer Nelson (1) and the Nuggets ran Boston out of its own building. (Bob DeChiara/USA Today Sports)

WALTHAM – The 3-3 start by the Celtics, featuring woeful defense, has caught many off guard.  

But that group would not include their coach. Brad Stevens could see cracks in the team’s defensive foundation in training camp. He could see some bad habits forming and now the coach is showing the players, in brutal regular season game detail, what he was trying to get across in camp. 

If you’re not in position to defend, you won’t. That was never more clear than in Sunday’s 123-107 loss to the Nuggets at TD Garden, a game they gave up 42 points in the first quarter and trailed 77-52 at halftime. 

“You could see it coming, but we also lost guys that I thought were pretty good defensively. ” Stevens said after Monday’s practice.

Stevens did cut his team some slack, noting that Jae Crowder, Al Horford and Marcus Smart haven’t been on the court together at the start of the season, and that does nothing to help team chemistry and rhythm on the court, not to mention spacing. 

“Losing guys out of our lineups, obviously Jae and Al and Marcus — we haven’t had all three of those guys in one game; those are three of our best defenders.

“But the reality is that even with that, even with the idea that one, two, or three of those guys are out at once, that we should be better than we’ve been. I don’t think the group that’s played will necessarily be, especially with the group that we had out last night, I don’t think we’re going to be a top-10 defense. But we can be 12th or 13th, right at the end of the season, that’s for sure.”

Stevens has some history to draw upon to think things can get better. Asked Monday what it will take to get better, he referenced his first Final Four team at Butler in 2010. 

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Read More: Boston Celtics, Brad Stevens,
Celtics notes: Al Horford not advancing in concussion protocol, Brad Stevens hasn’t decided on lineup changes 11.07.16 at 4:42 pm ET
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Nov 6, 2016; Boston, MA, USA;  Boston Celtics forward Jaylen Brown (7) drives to the basket while Denver Nuggets forward Kenneth Faried (35) defends during the second half at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

Jaylen Brown could be finding a seat on the Celtics bench at the start of Wednesday’s game. (Bob DeChiara/USA Today Sports)

WALTHAM — There was some thinking that the sight of Al Horford with the Celtics Sunday night was a sign that perhaps he was advancing in the NBA’s concussion protocol. 

Celtics coach Brad Stevens put a damper on those hopes after practice Monday. 

Horford, who has missed three games after suffering a concussion in practice last week, was not able to take participate in any team activities Monday. 

“He has not advanced in the protocol, based on what I’ve been told,” Stevens said. “I have not gotten anything deeper than that but he did not do anything with our team today.” 

The team will not practice in Waltham Tuesday as they leave for Washington and Wednesday’s game against the Wizards. 

Stevens was asked if Horford is exhibiting any symptoms that might indicate where he is in his recovery. 

“I don’t know what that means yet,” Stevens said. “I’m gonna go find out. But I think that not advancing is telling that the symptoms have been at least prolonged through [Sunday].” 

The team’s defense has suffered drastically with Horford and Jae Crowder (left ankle) out of the lineup. They are allowing 118 points per game in their three losses and stand 3-3 on the season. As for Kelly Olynyk, who practiced again Monday, Stevens said he’s going to avoid specific timetables. 

“I don’t know. We’ll find out,” Stevens said. “He’s a good player. But I don’t want to make predictions when he’s gonna play or not. But he is around the corner, which I said last night.

With the team defense struggling and rookie Jaylen Brown (who has started last two games) working to pick up the system, there has been some speculation that Stevens might insert Marcus Smart into the lineup in his place Wednesday night. 


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Read More: Al Horford, Boston Celtics, Brad Stevens, Marcus Smart
After ‘horrible’ film session, Marcus Smart wants his teammates to start ‘punching back’ on D at 4:20 pm ET
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Nov 6, 2016; Boston, MA, USA;  Denver Nuggets guard Emmanuel Mudiay (0) collides with Boston Celtics Boston Celtics guard Marcus Smart (36) during the second half at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

Marcus Smart says the Celtics need to get down and dirty on defense. (Bob DeChiara-USA Today Sports)

WALTHAM — Marcus Smart is a man of pride. And when it comes to his game in the NBA, it starts with defense. 

What was on display Sunday night – and for the better part of the season – has hit home with the third-year defensive specialist. 

The Celtics were blown out on the home court Sunday night in 123-107 loss to the Nuggets. They allowed 42 points in the first quarter and trailed 77-52 at the half. From the start, it was not good. 

“We’re just not in it. We’re coming out too cool,” Smart said. “Teams are coming out ready. We’re not sneaking up on nobody this year. We’re the hunted. Everybody is coming out after us and we’re so used to being the guys that are sneaking up on everybody. That’s just not the case this year.

“We played a team that was hungry and was playing with a chip on their shoulder. Their coach ridiculed them and they felt that. They came out ready. They punched us in the mouth and we stood there and took it. Today’s practice was (about) we get punched, we’ve got to be ready to punch back. We’ve got to be ready to be in a boxing match.”

It got so bad that after the game, coach Brad Stevens called his team a finesse team. That might as well be a four-letter word to the ears of Smart. 

“Yeah, we definitely do. That’s definitely a challenge. We’re not a finesse team,” Smart said after Monday’s practice. “We understand that. But we did play finesse the other night. So, he was right to call us that. We’ve got to look ourselves in the mirror and we’ve got to own up to it and take responsibility. The good thing about this sport and any sport, especially basketball, you get to go play another game. We’ve got to throw that game out the window and get ready for Wednesday.” 


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Read More: Boston Celtics, Marcus Smart,
Isaiah Thomas says ‘no excuse’ for sloppy end to opening win 10.27.16 at 1:36 am ET
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Isaiah Thomas knows the Celtics got away with one Wednesday night. 

The Celtics beat the rebuilding Nets, 122-117, in a game that never should have been that close. Thomas led the Celtics with 25 points and came out with the rest of the starters at the end of the third quarter and the Celtics in cruise control, leading 97-81.

Terry Rozier was running the offense with Avery Bradley the only starter remaining in the game. The lineup featured Rozier, Bradley, Jaylen Brown, Tyler Zeller and Jonas Jerebko.

“I thought that it would be, obviously, a great opportunity to play the right way and figure out a way to keep them at bay as they come hard-charging,” Brad Stevens said of his substitutions. “It’s hard to play with a team that’s got nothing to lose, that’s flying at you and everything else. Wasn’t to be. Probably will be … less, less likely to leave them in that long if we’re in a similar scenario. Hopefully we learn from it and we’re not.”

Thomas was a big reason the Celtics had 36 assists on 48 baskets, the most assists by an NBA team in a season opener since 2001.

“It feels great,” Thomas said. “We didn’t end it like we wanted to, but we definitely got the win and it feels good, to play in front of your fans and really get going and playing for something that counts.”

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