Celtics-Bobcats review: What we saw . . .

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Celtics-Bobcats review: What we saw . . .

CHARLOTTE, N.C. Paul Pierce went to the free throw line 18 times in Boston's 102-95 win over Charlotte.

As well as Pierce was at getting to the line, his play set the tone for the rest of the Celtics, too.

In fact, Boston went to the line 45 times which easily surpassed their previous season high which was 34 attempts against Oklahoma City on Feb. 22.

"He's the Captain," Celtics forward Brandon Bass told CSNNE.com. "We follow his lead . . . free throws, too."

Bass went to the line eight times (he made seven) as part of his 15-point, five-rebound night.

As you might expect, C's coach Doc Rivers was pleased with his team's ability to get to the free throw line so often.

"We've talked about that," Rivers said. "We would like to get to the line more, obviously. I thought we did a good job of driving and attacking the basket tonight. That was good."

Boston's ability to live at the free throw line - they made 34 of their 45 free throw attempts - played a big role in their win. We'll review some keys to the game outlined earlier, and see how they factored in the game's outcome.

WHAT TO LOOK FOR: As bad as Charlotte has been, one of the few bright spots has been their leading scorer, Corey Maggette. His 15.4 points per game shouldn't scare you if you're the Celtics. It's how he gets a good chunk of those points that's of great concern for Boston. Throughout most of Maggette's career, he has been one of the best at getting to the free throw line. This season is no exception. He ranks fifth in the NBA in free throws made (5.8) per game, and is seventh in attempts (6.9).
WHAT WE SAW: Two early fouls limited Corey Maggette's playing time. But even when he returned and fouls weren't an issue, he wasn't getting into the lane often enough to draw contact and get to the line a lot. He missed six of his seven shots from the field, and was 3-for-4 from the line with both free throws made and free throws attempted being below his season average.

MATCHUP TO WATCH: Brandon Bass vs. Tyrus Thomas: Now that he's with the starters, Brandon Bass is used to matching up against taller players. But Thomas' height advantage as well as his athleticism, will challenge Bass in ways few players have this season. Keeping his fellow LSU Tiger from having a big game scoring or on the boards, will be a bigger priority for Bass than what he has done best all year - score the ball.

WHAT WE SAW: Thomas' length or height advantage was never a factor, as Bass had little problem getting his shot off or keeping Thomas from being a dominate force on the boards. In addition to outscoring Thomas 15-4, Bass did a pretty good job of matching him rebound for rebound. Bass finished with five rebounds while Thomas had six. However, three of Bass' rebounds were on the offensive glass while Thomas had zero offensive rebounds.

PLAYER TO WATCH: All eyes will be on Avery Bradley, who is coming off a career-high 23 points against Washington. He got a lot of points off simply cutting to the basket, but he also made the Wizards pay when they left him alone on jumpers. We'll see if the Bobcats will adjust the way they defend Bradley, or will they do what most teams do and that's focus on Paul Pierce and Rajon Rondo which in turn, allows Bradley the freedom to make plays.

WHAT WE SAW: Bradley didn't have a huge game offensively, but the Celtics are more than happy to take his 11 points on 5-for-10 shooting anyway. However, foul trouble limited his effectiveness defensively at times in the fourth, which was part of the reason why Charlotte's Gerald Henderson (21 points) had such a big scoring night.

STAT TO TRACK: Both of these rank among the NBA's worst in rebounding, so winning the battle on the boards becomes a toss-up. Boston ranks dead-last in rebounds per game (46), while the Bobcats aren't much better at 48.7 per game which ranks 27th in the league. Even more telling is the rebounding deficit per game for Boston and Charlotte is 5.6 and 5.1, respectively.
WHAT WE SAW: There are very few nights when the Celtics out-rebound an opponent, but Monday was one of them. The C's grabbed 37 boards compared to 33 for Charlotte.

Bradley could miss 'a little more time' with Achilles injury

Bradley could miss 'a little more time' with Achilles injury

BOSTON – Wednesday’s 117-106 loss to the New York Knicks was the fifth time in the last six games that Boston Celtics guard Avery Bradley was out because of a right Achilles injury.

Well, it appears the 6-foot-2 guard may miss a few more with this injury.

“I can see him missing a little more time,” Celtics head coach Brad Stevens said following Wednesday’s loss. “I just think maybe he came back a little bit too early, whatever the case may be.”

Bradley was expected to play against the Knicks, but was a last-minute scratch.

Celtics big man Al Horford said he didn’t find out Bradley was out until the team was on the floor doing pre-game warmups and he didn’t see him.

“He was really sore,” Stevens said of Bradley. “Went through our walk-through and then came on to the court and did some stuff and was more sore today than he has been. I think he did treatment the whole game.”

This latest setback for Bradley is part of a growing narrative that has dogged him throughout his career which has included him missing games to injury in each of his six-plus NBA seasons.

Bradley came into this season once again hoping to be as injury-free as possible, only to see that dream dashed with this right Achilles strain he's suffering with currently.

Still, there’s no downplaying the significance and value the Celtics have in the 26-year-old. This season, he is second on the Celtics in scoring at 17.7 points per game and leads them in rebounds with 6.9 per game with both being career highs. In addition, he averages just under 35 minutes per game which is also tops on the team.

Marcus Smart has been Stevens’ choice to replace Bradley in the starting lineup when Bradley has been unavailable, and that’s not likely to change between now and Saturday’s home game against the Portland Trail Blazers.

Horford on rough night vs. Knicks: 'They deserved to win. They played better'

Horford on rough night vs. Knicks: 'They deserved to win. They played better'

BOSTON – With the night’s outcome all but a foregone conclusion, Al Horford’s last basket of the night got a sarcastic round of applause and a few jeers from the few fans that decided to stick it out for the final few seconds of Boston’s 117-106 loss to the New York Knicks.

Horford finished with a season-low five points for the Celtics (26-16).

Connecting on just 2-for-14 (or 14.3 percent) of his shots also represented the worst shooting night percentage-wise in Horford’s nine-plus NBA seasons.

“I struggled bad offensively,” said Horford who still managed to dish out a game-high 10 assists. “I tried to do anything I could to help us. It just wasn’t going for me.”

But as poorly as Horford shot the ball, he was more bothered by his defense and for that matter the Celtics’ team defense.

New York came into Wednesday’s game having lost 11 of its last 13 games and spent most of the night playing like a team that’s thirsty for a win.

They shot 50.5 percent from the floor, 40 percent on 3’s and dominated the glass 57-33 which helped fuel New York’s 24-12 advantage in second-chance points.

“We have to do a better job of holding teams to one shot,” Horford said. “That’s the first thing. I have to do a better job at protecting the rim. I know I can recall a couple instances where I needed to be there and I wasn’t impacting the ball as much as I would like to. I know I have to be better on the defensive end.”

Horford’s struggles on many levels mirrored the problems experienced by the rest of the Celtics.

“They punked us,” said Boston’s Isaiah Thomas who led all scorers with 39 points. “They were the harder playing team on both ends of the floor. That was the definition of this game; they played harder than us.”

For most of the night, the New York Knicks were making all the big plays defensively and clutch shots offensively while the Celtics consistently failed to get that one defensive stop or knock down the one jumper that could have at least shifted the game’s momentum closer to being in their favor.

Boston rookie Jaylen Brown believes the Celtics didn’t take the struggling Knicks as seriously as they should have.

“It’s very frustrating,” said Brown who came off the bench to score 12 points for Boston (26-16). “It’s a game we should have won. We underestimated our opponent. We are a better team than that even though we played bad we still had a lot of opportunities to win the ball game.”

Horford had a different take on how things went down on Wednesday.

“I don’t think we overlooked them,” Horford said. “But I think we kind of … consciously or not, we felt we were going to win this game like, ‘We’ll struggle a little bit, but we’ll figure it out and win it.’ It didn’t work like that. In the fourth, we were right there. They made a couple shots. They deserved to win. They played better.”

And as the Celtics found themselves on multiple occasions having a chance to tie the game or take the lead in the fourth, it would have been fool’s good if they somehow managed to squeak out a win on Wednesday night.

“We didn’t deserve it,” said Boston’s Jae Crowder who had 21 points. “When you don’t deserve it, the basketball gods don’t bless you.”

But there’s plenty of season left to be played, and the Celtics – as we saw on Wednesday – have plenty of room for improvement.

Especially Horford, particularly when it comes to getting back on track shooting the ball.

“It was at the point where I didn’t have it,” he said. “That was tough. So I tried to impact the game in other ways whether it was setting screens or giving people shots, stuff like that. That was definitely tough for me because they were good looks. They just didn’t go in.”