Trap defense 'paying dividends' for Celtics


Trap defense 'paying dividends' for Celtics

BOSTON The numbers don't lie -- at least not this time.
The Boston Celtics' trapping defense, much like their entire squad, has been a work in progress with various ups and downs along the way.
But it wasn't until Wednesday night's 117-115 double overtime win over Dallas did the use of the team's trap defense pay off in a big way.
And the timing of its success could not be any better as the Celtics gear up for a Texas two-step of Houston and San Antonio, who are led by talented guards James Harden and Tony Parker, respectively.
Having to deal with Mavericks guard O.J. Mayo on Wednesday served as a good tune-up for what's on tap the next couple of games for Boston's defense which will surely look to trap and double team both of those players at various points in the game.
"We just had to keep him (Mayo) in a box," Celtics coach Doc Rivers said after the win. "He's good. I mean, he's really good. He's strong as an ox, and he makes difficult shots."
That same description can apply to Harden, who has emerged as one of the NBA's top scorers since he was traded from Oklahoma City to Houston.
The reigning Sixth Man of the Year award winner is averaging 25 points per game which ranks fifth in the NBA. Parker and his 19 points per game isn't too far behind at No. 12.
Both will have the ball in their hands a lot, similar to Mayo, who had 24 points against Boston, but also turned the ball over nine times.
"I've been talking about it a lot over the past seven games," said Rivers, referring to the C's trapping defense. "It's been paying dividends for us. It's been terrific."
It certainly was against the Mavericks, a team that averages 15.6 turnovers per game this season. They turned it over 28 times against Boston and that led to 34 points.
Yes, it's the holiday season when everyone seems to show a little more generosity than normal.
But Mayo would have much rather seen himself and his teammates be more Scrooge-like when it came to all those turnovers.
"We had 28 turnovers so that says a lot right there," Mayo said. "I take the most fault for it because I had nine."
The key to Boston's trap being successful hinges heavily on the play of the Celtics big men, who are asked to come out and trap, and then hustle back to get in position to rebound or match back up with the man they were previously guarding.
It makes for a pretty exhausting night.
"You telling me," said C's big man Kevin Garnett. "You telling me. It's nothing easy about being a big here. It's hard work; that's what it is."
It also creates some switches at times that involve Celtics big men matched up briefly with quicker, more athletic guards.
Although Brandon Bass is the C's starting power forward, he doesn't shy away from switches like some he had on Wednesday that paired him with Mavericks ultra-quick guard Darren Collison.
And to Bass' credit, he more than held his own in just about every instance.
"I was always able to switch out on guards," Bass said. "Growing up, my workout partner was a point guard. We used to play one-on-one, so I was always comfortable guarding guards here and there -- not the whole game -- but here and there. I'm able to."
And with the bigs showing an ability to hold their own on traps and still get back in position defensively, it takes some of the pressure off of Boston's guards in terms of dribble penetration.
"It's tough, but we're doing what we gotta do to get the win," Bass said.
And their work is not lost on the play of C's point guard Rajon Rondo, who is the team's first point of attack defensively while Garnett serves as the anchor.
"We're asking a lot of our bigs," Rondo said. "That's what we need."

Horford, Johnson wasting no time in developing chemistry

Horford, Johnson wasting no time in developing chemistry

WALTHAM, Mass. – When the news came out that Al Horford was going to be a Boston Celtic, Amir Johnson couldn’t wait to meet his new teammate.

He didn’t have to.

Johnson soon found himself on plane headed to Atlanta to not only work out with Horford, but also try and work out some of the kinks that tend to come up among new teammates in those early days of training camp.

“I took it upon myself when I saw Al was part of the team, I automatically wanted to go down to Atlanta and work,” said Johnson who added that he brought his daughter along for the trip and they went to dinner with Horford’s family during the visit. “I thought it was great just to get that chemistry going. I just wanted to get to known him, make him feel comfortable.”

It’s still early in training camp, but Johnson and Horford seem to be meshing quite well on the floor. 

“The chemistry’s definitely coming along,” Johnson said. “I know when Al wants to roll or pop, and just working my way around it. Al’s more of a popper and eventually he’ll roll. It’s up to me to read whether I stay up or work the baseline.”

Johnson has been in the NBA long enough to know that often the keys to success are subtle nuances that may be overlooked by fans and spectators, but players know are essential to them being successful.

Being able to not only understand a player’s game but figure out how to play well with them, are critical to teammates being successful.

Last season, Johnson was Boston’s primary rim-protecting big man which is a role the 29-year-old Johnson has been cast in the last few years he was in Toronto. Horford brings a similar set of defensive skills to the table which gives Boston a true 1-2 defensive punch along the frontline.

“It’s big time,” Johnson said. “We communicate to each other. It’s all about communication out there; just knowing he can hold it down and he trusts me to hold it down. It’s key.”


Gerald Green is expected to get a few more days to rest his hip flexor injury which he said on Thursday was feeling better.

The injury should keep the 6-6 wing from participating in the team’s Green-White scrimmage on Friday, but it isn’t considered serious.

Still, Green is eager to get back and return to full contact work which is why he is getting a steady diet of treatments during the day and returning in the evening for more treatments from the Celtics’ medical staff.

“It’s almost like a precautionary thing; make sure it doesn’t get worst,” Green said.

The injury occurred earlier this week but Green could not pinpoint exactly what he did to suffer the injury.

“I don’t think I stretched properly,” Green said. “I’m not 25 no more. Just try to come out there and go at full speed. Those are things I’ve got to learn now I’m in my 30s.”
Indeed, one of the many benefits of being older now is that Green sees the big picture of things better now, which is why he isn’t trying to rush back to the floor too quickly.

As a veteran, it’s a long season,” Green said. “You’re not trying to do too much to make it worst. Training camp is important, but being healthy at the beginning of the season is even more important.”


Near the end of Thursday’s practice, the Celtics had a full court game of 3-on-3 involving some of the team’s rookies and end-of-the-bench training camp invitees like Jalen Jones of Texas A&M. The 6-7 undrafted rookie had a dunk over Jordan Mickey, a 3-pointer and another strong, uncontested flush at the rim in a matter of minutes. He’s likely to wind up with Boston’s Developmental League team, the Maine Red Claws.

With Thursday morning’s session being the team’s fifth practice this season, head coach Brad Stevens thought it was a good idea to get some of the team’s younger players on the court.

“It was good to play some 3-on-3,” said Stevens who added that it was good for their conditioning since a lot of the running at this point involves trying to get the starters and the likely rotation players as acclimated and familiar with one another as possible. “We try to do that occasionally even through the season just to get everybody up and down.”


Five practices in the books and there’s only one thing that really has stood out to the eyes of Isaiah Thomas.

It’s turnovers.

Apparently the Celtics haven’t committed too many thus far.

“We haven’t turned the ball over as much as teams usually do the first couple of days,” Thomas said. “We’re trying to learn the system, trying to get everybody familiar with what we do. But we’ve been playing well together. Guys are playing hard. Guys have gotten better, worked on their game.”

Ball-handling will be one of the areas to watch during the preseason as the Celtics look to find a replacement for Evan Turner (Portland) who has been one of the team’s best ball-handlers the past couple of seasons.

The Celtics were middle-of-the-pack last season with 13.5 turnovers per game which ranked 14th in the NBA.

Low turnovers often serve as a common trait among playoff teams. Just last season, eight of the top-nine teams in fewest turnovers committed, were in the playoffs.

Ortiz to play rest of regular season for Sox with guaranteed rest before playoffs

Ortiz to play rest of regular season for Sox with guaranteed rest before playoffs

NEW YORK -- Now that the division title has been wrapped up, the Red Sox turn their attention to getting ready for the post-season -- but not at the expense of trying to win as many games as possible.

Part of the planning for the Sox involves how much to play David Ortiz, who is retiring when the Red Sox are through in the post-season.

On Thursday night, his final road game and last appearance at Yankee Stadium, the Sox planned to have Ortiz get at least two at-bats in recognition of the fans in New York who wanted to see him one more time.

As for the last series at Fenway, it will be business as usual with Ortiz playing all three.

"We don't foresee any pullback in terms of his number of at-bats," said Farrell of the weekend series with Toronto. "It's a weekend of celebration well-deserved and we'll have time to recover."

Farrell noted that under the current playoff format, teams which win their division get three full days off after the final regular season games. That helps in preparation.

"The importance of winning and maintaining our daily approach is priority No. 1," said Farrell. "How that might affect how deep a starter goes in the upcoming games might be looked at a little more closely. Still, we feel it's imperative to secure as much home field as we can."

On Thursday night, Mookie Betts, Dustin Pedroia, Hanley Ramirez and Sandy Leon were all given the night off. Others will get the same opportunity over the weekend.