|Brad Stevens knows road success depends on C’s finding ‘outstanding’ defense||11.15.13 at 8:38 pm ET|
As the Celtics embark on a four game/six night stretch, Brad Stevens is looking forward to the opportunity to see some of the Western Conference’s elite clubs. He is fully aware that his team will need to extremely sharp on the defensive end to keep their head above water against this type of elite type of competition.
“We’re going to have to be outstanding on the defensive end to have a chance to win these games,” said Stevens. “There’s no question about it. It’s one of those deals where you’re playing teams that you’ve got to play well against to have a chance to win. Defensively, every detail matters, every effort play matters, everything adds up.”
The Portland TrailBlazers, Minnesota Timberwolves, Houston Rockets, and San Antonio Spurs all present a multitude of challenges, yet the one consistent is an explosive guard and a dominating presence inside the post. Portland’s Damian Lillard/LaMarcus Aldridge precedes Minnesota’s Ricky Rubio and Kevin Love, and the beat goes on in Texas with the likes of James Harden, Dwight Howard, Tony Parker, and Tim Duncan.
“I watched a few of our preseason games,” Stevens said, “just to kind of get a gauge of if they’re improving at the rate we’d like them to, and they’ve improved quite a bit defensively. Offensively, we’ve had our moments. I think we’ve improved, maybe more so, just because of our shifts and rotations. We still have a long way to go. We’re getting a lot better on the basketball. We were a lot better at defending the paint, even though we got back cut a few times in the first half [against Charlotte]. We’ve been good all year defending the 3-point line, knock on wood, so I think it’s one of those deals where we’ve got some strengths to us. But we’ve got to foul less and we’ve got to make sure we’re as good defending the post as we possibly can.”
Without Rajon Rondo, the Celtics lack a true NBA superstar yet still present a balanced team. The roster is full of capable players at the offensive end, so when the C’s move the ball, they can get a lot of people involved.
In order to be successful in this upcoming trip, they will need to continue to play hard defensively, remaining active on the ball and creating steals. Without a true point guard, the Celtics understand the value of scoring in transition. The biggest surprise this season is the team’s ability to move the basketball on offense. Stevens has this team moving the ball from side-to-side and playing an enjoyable brand of team basketball. Any time a team that moves the ball, that presents a major challenge. Another bonus for these upcoming games is the return of post presence Jared Sullinger, who the Celtics missed desperately with right knee soreness during this past Wednesday night’s loss to the Bobcats.
“We’re not as good on the block [without Sullinger], obviously,” confirmed Stevens. “Throwing it into the post [Monday] night against Orlando, we went on a 4-0 run when we were down [by] throwing him the ball. He gives us a little more flexibility playing inside-out, and that’s been when we’ve been at our best. He is probably our best low post player.”
Beginning with tonight’s game against the Blazers, the Celtics will have an opportunity to show the league their early success is no fluke, but instead the result of hard work and the team buying into the Stevens system.
|Stat Man: Brad Stevens’ post-timeout brilliance||11.11.13 at 1:48 pm ET|
It was quite a week for Brad Stevens. Seven days ago, his Celtics dropped to 0-4 and rose to the top of ESPN’s Tank Rank. Now, his C’s are riding a three-game win streak punctuated by a pair of plays in the span of 3.6 seconds against the two-time defending NBA champions that emphatically announced the coach’s arrival.
In the final moments of Saturday’s Heat upset, Stevens concocted a pair of post-timeout plays that offered the first NBA glimpse of the brilliance that everyone who knew him at Butler has raved about for the past four months.
The first: Since Shane Battier had previously fronted Gerald Wallace in the post, Stevens called for Jeff Green to lob an entry pass to Wallace under the basket for a layup that cut a four-point deficit in half with one second left.
And second: Weighing the risk of throwing crosscourt against the reward of potentially freeing up a shooter where LeBron James might sag defensively, Stevens called for Wallace to return the favor, lobbing an entry pass to Green in the far corner for a 3-pointer that beat the buzzer. Both seemingly made more brilliant by the fact Dwyane Wade made the youth basketball mistake of missing the rim entirely on a free throw attempt between them.
During his tenure in Boston, Doc Rivers was rightfully praised for his post-timeout play calls, but he also had Paul Pierce to help him look good despite so often calling the same isolation elbow jumper. Stevens doesn’t have that luxury and requires a bit more creativity in engineering scoring opportunities for a team without a playmaker.
In the aftermath of the two most remarkable play calls during Stevens’ brief NBA coaching career, now seems as good a time as any to examine the Celtics coach’s success in post-timeout situations.
|Gordon Hayward, Brad Stevens: A mutual admiration||11.07.13 at 2:02 am ET|
As the Celtics watched film of Gordon Hayward prior to hosting the Jazz, Brad Stevens couldn’t contain his praise for the best player he ever coached at the collegiate level.
“You could kind of see,” said Celtics guard Phil Pressey as a knowing smile came to his face. “He talked about every single player, but as soon as he brought up Hayward, he kind of gave a couple more details about him.”
And Stevens’ first NBA win was no different from so many at Butler: Hayward was the best player on the floor.
“He’s a lot better than when I coached him, and man was he good when I coached him,” said Stevens after watching the Jazz guard drop 28 points, nine rebounds and five assists on his Celtics. “I thought he was the best player in college at the time, and man has he improved. I’m proud of him.
“I can’t tell you what that feels like, because I was there when he was a puppy … and nobody was recruiting him. And it was like, ‘You think we should offer that guy a scholarship? Nobody’s looking at him. Nobody’s even in the building.’ It was probably a good decision, in retrospect. He’s awfully good.”
Let’s just say the feeling is mutual.
After starting his NBA coaching career 0-4, Brad Stevens stepped up to the podium Wednesday night after a 97-87 win and asked Celtics longtime public relations director Jeff Twiss if he should make an opening statement. Without missing a beat, Stevens showed his dry sense of humor and his ability to understate the obvious.
“Winning’s more fun than losing,” Stevens said. “But at the same time, I think we played two pretty good games back to back, so that’s the most positive thing moving forward. And hopefully we feel better about ourselves as we move forward.”
Celtics owner Wyc Grousbeck marked the occasion of Stevens’ first NBA win by getting the basketball at the end of the game and presenting it to Stevens in front of the team.
“Wyc was nice enough to grab the ball for me, so that was really nice,” Stevens said. “You know, I’m going to celebrate for a whole 12 minutes and then I’m going to start watching Orlando and trying to figure them out. Obviously they’ve had a great start to their season, and they’ve got good young talent. And we’ve got a couple more road games – I feel like we’ve already toured half the NBA this week – so just a couple of more road games this week.”
The Celtics started in a 16-3 hole but all of that seemed to change when Stevens went to his bench and brought in the likes of Jared Sullinger, Phil Pressey, Gerald Wallace and rookie Kelly Olynyk.
“I told Gerald this today: I thought the Sully/Kelly – with their ability to pass and stretch the floor, would open up some driving lanes for him,” Stevens said. “And some plays for him. Those three guys complement each other pretty well. So, I kind of made up my mind [Tuesday] night that we were going to go with Gerald off the bench, and then went from there. And then I thought Phil gave us a spark. To me, the best teams I’ve been a part of have had sparks off the bench. The energy level has actually gone up, or at least in a really good night, stayed the same. And I think that that’s what happened.”
|Fast Break: Celtics avoid worst start in franchise history||11.06.13 at 9:49 pm ET|
The Celtics avoided starting 0-5 for the first time since 1946-47 — the organization’s inaugural season — and delivered coach Brad Stevens his first NBA victory in the process, a 97-87 beating of the winless Jazz.
Brandon Bass (20 points), Jeff Green (18 points), Kelly Olynyk (14 points, 8 rebounds) and Jared Sullinger (12 points) all reached double figures, and Gerald Wallace contributed nine points and nine boards off the bench.
Here’s all that went right and wrong in the C’s first win in five tries to start the season.
WHAT WENT RIGHT
Full-court Pressey: The former Waltham star didn’t score a point in his 12 first-half minutes, but at least the Celtics had a point guard. With the C’s trailing 20-10, Stevens yanked Jordan Crawford in favor of Pressey 8:17 into the first quarter. In his first four minutes, Pressey served up three assists — halving Crawford’s total for the entire season — and ignited a 13-6 run to finish the quarter trailing by just three.
A couple 3′s: By bringing Wallace off the bench for the first time this season and somewhat staggering the small forward minutes between he and Green, Stevens was able to ensure that one of his two best options was on the floor for the entire first half. Of course, the duo still saw the court together in spurts, too, combining for 21 points, 10 rebounds and seven assists in leading the Celtics to a 50-34 halftime lead.
Getting possessive: The Celtics committed an average of 19.8 turnovers and allowed 15.0 offensive rebounds per game in their first four losses. That’s a whole lot of extra possessions. Against the Jazz, the C’s respectively limited those numbers to 10 and six through three quarters. Hence, a 22-point lead on their way to victory.
WHAT WENT WRONG
Worst first: Facing a starting frontcourt of Bass and Vitor Faverani, the Jazz dominated the interior from the start — just as the C’s first four foes did this fall. Enes Kanter scored eight of Utah’s first 14 points, including a trio of buckets within 3 feet of the basket, as the Jazz opened up a 13-point advantage to start the game. As a result, Stevens started Olynyk over Faverani in the third quarter, Sullinger’s minutes increased and Kris Humphries even saw the floor. Just like we drew it up.
Flash Gordon: The Celtics had few answers for Stevens’ protege, Gordon Hayward, who amassed 28 points (12-20 FG), nine boards and five assists. Keep in mind, he becomes a restricted free agent this summer. Just saying.
So on and so fourth: The C’s fourth-quarter struggles continued, accentuated by an 11-0 Jazz run midway through the fourth quarter that helped slash what was once a 25-point Celtics lead down to eight with 6:26 to play.
|Celtics need to rebound after opening loss to Raptors||10.31.13 at 9:20 am ET|
Brad Stevens had good reason to be optimistic following his team’s season-opening 93-87 loss to the Raptors in Toronto on Wednesday night, but the first-year Celtics coach also had plenty of reason for concern. Mainly, the C’s were dominated on the boards, getting outrebounded 48-33, including 19-7 on offensive boards.
“When they broke us down, they crushed us on the glass,” Stevens told reporters. “They shot 20 more field goals than us. It’s going to be hard to win a game when that happens.”
Added Brandon Bass: “We tried to help and got ourselves out of position. Their bigs were naked under the basket for the most part.”
Jeff Green scored 25 points, Bass netted 17 and Vitor Faverani added 13 points and three blocks for the C’s, who lost to Toronto for just the sixth time in 26 meetings. Kris Humphries had eight points and a team-high nine rebounds.
First-round draft pick Kelly Olynyk played 16 minutes off the bench and scored four points on 2-of-5 shooting. Olynyk, a Toronto native, was a minus-19, tied for worst on the team with Faverani. Guard Avery Bradley struggled with his shooting, hitting just 4-of-13 from the field, and recording as many turnovers as assists (4).
The Celtics rallied from a 16-point third-quarter deficit and were tied at 78 with 7:42 left after a Jordan Crawford jumper, but they didn’t score again until 4:08 remained.
“At the end of the day we didn’t do everything perfectly,” Stevens said. “I didn’t coach a perfect game, but I think we can all rest assured we’ve got a team that will fight and we’ve got a team that will compete. And we can shore up a couple of those mistakes, maybe we can come out the other end of it.”
Rudy Gay led the Raptors with 19 points and eight rebounds.
The Celtics next host the Bucks on Friday night.
|Brad Stevens’ dreams hold key to World Series||10.23.13 at 2:26 pm ET|
Brad Stevens first noticed the magical nature of his slumber when he went nighty-night during Game 2 of the American League Championship Series. As Red Slox slugger David Ortiz drilled an eighth-inning, game-tying grand slam and catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia lined a game-winning single against the Tigers, the Celtics coach drifted off to a bridge by a fountain where rocking horse people eat marshmallow pies.
“I have to admit, I fell asleep at the end of the Red Sox game,” he admitted. “I’m sad to say that, but I woke up as they were celebrating. I don’t know exactly how it happened, but I’m looking forward to watching the YouTube.”
All it took was one more sorcerous snooze to convince Stevens of his powers. As Shane Victorino lofted his go-ahead, seventh-inning grand slam in Game 6, the C’s skipper slipped into a spell set by actual flying Hawaiians.
“I’m absolutely embarrassed and ashamed to say that I fell asleep,” he accepted, “but I was really tired.”
And so goes the story of Brad Stevens’ wondrous siestas and their command of the miraculous 2013 Red Sox.
“The key to the Red Sox is me falling asleep,” the anointed leader of leprechauns told The Boston Globe’s Baxter Holmes. “Because when I’m watching, it’s hard to score runs. When I’m asleep, magic occurs. It’s unbelievable.”
Seriously, no wonder the Celtics employ a sleep doctor. Their coach is a freaking human dreamweaver. Carlton Fisk‘s home run? Not even a zygote. Don Baylor and Dave Henderson‘s homers? Sound asleep in his Hoosiers pajamas. The Bill Buckner boner? Wide awake on Pop Rocks and Nerds. Pedro Martinez‘s no-hit relief appearance? Passed out at one of those epic Depauw University college parties you always read about. The Aaron Boone disaster? Glued to game film all night. The fall of 2004? Pulled a Rip Van Winkle.
Unfortunately, the C’s preseason finale coincides with Game 1 of the World Series, so it’s best to root for extra innings, granting Stevens ample time to hit the sack. Enter sandman, indeed. Maybe Leonardo DiCaprio and the fellas could induce this Inception directly in his Garden office. Just don’t forget to kick his chair into the bathtub when Xander Bogaerts touches home in the 11th. Same goes for the only other potential conflict, the Celtics’ season opener on Oct. 30. C’mon, admit it. You just don’t get this kind of Boston sports analysis anywhere else.
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