Celtics-Bobcats review: Tired legs doom C's


Celtics-Bobcats review: Tired legs doom C's

CHARLOTTE, N.C. Whether it was fatigue following Sunday's triple overtime game or simply Charlotte's youth winning out, the Boston Celtics' transition defense was about as bad as it has been in a while.

It certainly played a pivotal role down the stretch as Charlotte rallied for a 94-91 victory over the Celtics that snapped the C's season-best seven game winning streak.

"They beat us in transition basically, all game," said C's coach Doc Rivers.

Charlotte had 15 fast-break points compared to just six for the Celtics.

While the Celtics went out of their way to give the Bobcats (12-39) props for playing well, there was no way to look past the tired legs Boston players had down the stretch.

The C's shot 7-for-20 in the fourth quarter with Garnett and Pierce combining to miss seven of their 10 shots from the field. A number of those missed shots came up short, a clear sign most nights of tired legs which is understandable.

"Give them credit, they hung in there and competed," Rivers said. "We had a five-point (with 5:50) lead. Usually we close that game out. We didn't."

Missed shots and poor transition defense were just some of factors that led to the Celtics' winning streak coming to an end on Monday.

Here are some other factors outlined prior to the game, and how they actually played out.

WHAT TO LOOK FOR: Fatigue will be an issue, whether it's at the start of the game or in its closing moments. Doc Rivers would be hard pressed to play his guys their usual minutes after Sunday's triple overtime win over Denver. "Paul played 54 minutes. He's the guy I'm most concerned with," Rivers said. "If we have to rest guys and play them shorter minutes ... the only way I can do it is by my eyes. You'll never know how guy's feel until (tonight)."

WHAT WE SAW: It was clear that Rivers wanted to rest Pierce and Garnett in the first half as they played 13 and 12 minutes, respectively. The mental and physical drain from Sunday night caught up with both players down the stretch on Monday, with Pierce going scoreless in the fourth quarter while Garnett had eight points but missed five of his eight shot attempts which included a wide open, potential go-ahead jumper in the game's final seconds.

MATCHUP TO WATCH: Avery Bradley vs. Kemba Walker: Bradley is showing that he's more than a defender with a mid-range game that has been effective lately. Walker is having a really good season statistically. But it's going unnoticed because the Bobcats are such a bad team.

WHAT WE SAW: Bradley could not deliver on what would have been a game-tying 3-pointer in the final seconds of play. He finished with eight points, three assists, three steals and a pair of blocked shots. Meanwhile, Walker continues to be the best player on the Bobcats roster, tallying 18 points to go with six rebounds and six assists.

PLAYER TO WATCH: Courtney Lee was the only Celtics starter to play less than 30 minutes on Sunday, so he may very well get lots of opportunities to make an impact early on. A big game from Lee would do wonders not only for the Celtics, but also for Lee who tends to play better overall when he's more involved in the offense.

WHAT WE SAW: Like the rest of his teammates, Lee never seemed to get into any kind of flow or rhythm all game. He played just 19 minutes, scoring four points on 2-for-6 shooting.

STAT TO TRACK: One of Boston's strengths all season has been their ability to rack up lots of assists. During their current seven-game winning streak, the Celtics have won the assist battle in all but one game. And this season, Boston has a 23-6 record in games in which they have more assists.

WHAT WE SAW: Boston once again came out ahead in terms of assists with 26 compared to 22 for the Bobcats. But Charlotte swept the three big hustleeffort stat categories: points in the paint (34-32, Charlotte); second-chance points (9-6, Charlotte); and fast break points (15-9, Charlotte). It's hard to win games when opponents win all three of those categories.

Pregame number: Al Horford to the rescue


Pregame number: Al Horford to the rescue

Tonight’s pregame number to watch is 45.4%. That was the Celtics' score frequency on pick and rolls finished by the screener last season, which was the worst rate in the NBA.

Score Frequency: The percentage of possession in which the team or player scores at least 1 point.

The major problem for the Celtics last season was personnel, as Jared Sullinger finished the most pick and roll plays for the C’s after setting a screen, and he was -- to put it nicely -- freaking terrible. Sullinger was the second-worst roll/pop man in the league, averaging a paltry 0.87 points per possession.

Fortunately, the Celtics replaced Jared Sullinger with four-time All-Star Al Horford, who is one of the elite roll/pop men in the NBA. Last season, Horford finished fifth in the NBA averaging 1.13 points per possession as a roll/pop man and boasted a more than solid 57.1 eFG% on those plays. 

eFG% (Effective Field Goal Percentage): Measures field goal percentage adjusting for the fact that a 3-point field goal is worth one more point than a 2-point field goal. The equation is ((FGM + (0.5 * 3PM)) / FGA

If you watched the preseason, then you already know the kind of impact Horford can have on the Celtics half court offense. So keep an eye out for those pick and rolls tonight and throughout the season, and we should see that 45.4% Score Frequency jump somewhere closer to 50%.

Horford-Celtics partnership gives both stability, chance to win


Horford-Celtics partnership gives both stability, chance to win

BOSTON –  This is not where Al Horford thought he would be right now.
Back in May, the Atlanta Hawks had just been swept out of the playoffs by the soon-to-be NBA champion Cleveland Cavaliers.
Disappointed with the outcome obviously, Horford was a free agent-to-be who was confident that he would be back in Atlanta and the Hawks would retool by adding to their core group which he was a major part of, and they would be back to making another run at it this season.
First there was the draft night trade of point guard Jeff Teague to the Indiana Pacers. 
And during Horford's negotiations with the Hawks in July, they were also negotiating with Dwight Howard and ultimately signed the Atlanta native to a three-year, $70.5 million contract. 
Before the Howard deal was complete, the Celtics had already made a strong impression on Horford during their presentation to him. 
So the choice was pretty clear.
Return to Atlanta and potentially have a major logjam up front with himself, Howard and Paul Millsap, or join a Celtics team that’s on the rise where his five-tool skillset – passing, rebounding, defending, scoring and making those around him better – could be put to great use on a team that’s clearly on the rise. 
Horford chose the latter, giving both himself and the Celtics exactly what they wanted – stability and a chance to win at the highest of levels.
The first shot to see how this basketball marriage looks on the floor will be tonight when the Celtics kick off the 2016-2017 season at the TD Garden against the Brooklyn Nets. 
The preseason isn’t the best indicator of what’s on the horizon now that games count, but Horford’s presence was undeniable.
Boston’s starters which includes Horford, Isaiah Thomas, Avery Bradley, Jae Crowder and Amir Johnson, each finished with a positive, double-digit plus/minus in the preseason. 
“He just makes the game so much easier for all of us,” Johnson told CSNNE.com. “He can do so many things out there at both ends of the floor. He’s going to be big for us this season.”
And his impact can be felt both on the floor and inside the locker room, similar to what he brought to the Atlanta Hawks.
“With the way that I go about it is, I’m trying to win,” Horford told CSNNE.com. “I’m gonna work, put in my work, try to help guys get better not only on the court but off the court as well. That’s how I carry myself.”
 And it is that approach to the game that has made his transition to the Celtics a relatively seamless one. 
Horford holds many fond memories of his time in Atlanta, a place that will always be near and dear to his heart. 
But he’s a Celtic now, coming in with the same single-minded focus that drives this organization to continue pursuing the only thing that truly matters to them – an NBA title. 
"Even though I’m leaving a lot behind, as a player you always want to be in the best position you can,” Horford said. “I felt for me being on this team would put me in a position to be able to contend and win an NBA championship. That’s my ultimate goal.”