Celtics-Hawks review: What we saw

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Celtics-Hawks review: What we saw

BOSTON For most of Boston's 90-84 overtime win in Game 3 against Atlanta, the Celtics did a good job of managing the clock.

But as their lead peaked at 11 points with just under seven minutes to play, the C's offense slowed down considerably as they appeared to be more focused on killing time off the clock than killing any hopes of an Atlanta comeback.

The Hawks managed to close out the fourth quarter with an 8-0 run that ultimately forced overtime.

"We got into the habit of milking the clock," Rivers said. "And you just can't do that. You can do that when the other team has two bigs. But when the other team has five guards on the floor, you absolutely can't do that. And we did that."

Consider it another lesson learned for the Celtics, who did a much better job of managing the clock in overtime.

"We got what we wanted (in overtime)," Rivers said.

The offense ran more smoothly, the defense was solid as ever and most important, the Celtics came away with a win that gives them a 2-1 lead in the best-of-seven series with Game 4 on Sunday.

Boston's ability to better manage the game in the fourth quarter was yet another example of how the C's can adjust on the fly, which proved to be a key factor in Friday's win. Here are some other keys identified earlier, and how they actually played out as the Celtics continue their postseason mastery of the Hawks as the C's improved their record in the playoffs at home against the Hawks, to 23-2 since 1960.

WHAT TO LOOK FOR: All eyes will be on Rajon Rondo, with many wondering how he will handle himself after being suspended in Game 2. This will be the fourth time Rondo has returned after missing time, whether it was injury-related or because of a suspension. In those three previous games, Rondo has returned to the floor doing essentially what he does most of the time - pass the ball. In those three games, he's averaging 11 assists which is just 0.7 assists fewer than his NBA-leading 11.7 assists per game average this season. "I'm a pass-first point guard," Rondo said. "It's not like I try to go out there and dominate the ball as far as shots. I try to keep my teammates happy, and get a win."
WHAT WE SAW: It seemed as the game went on, Rajon Rondo's play steadily improved. He finished with his seventh playoff triple-double, tallying 17 points, 12 assists and 14 rebounds. "He is certainly proven to be one of the better point guards in this league," said Hawks coach Larry Drew. Certainly he's a handful."

MATCHUP TO WATCH: Paul Pierce vs. Joe Johnson: Pierce is coming off a monster 36-point, 14-rebound night in Game 2, the kind of performance that few expect the Captain to replicate. Of greater concern for Boston has to be the 44 minutes Pierce played, and whether a couple days off will be enough rest for him to bounce back and pick up where he left off. As for Johnson, look for him to be more assertive offensively regardless of whether Josh Smith (left knee) plays. A six-time all-star, Johnson has averaged 16.5 points and five assists in the first two games, while shooting just 31.3 percent from the field and 17.6 percent on 3s.
WHAT WE SAW: Although Johnson had more points (29 to 21 for Pierce), you have to give the nod to Pierce on this one. Yes, he was just 3-for-12 shooting which is a horrible shooting night for any paler. But Pierce also went to the free throw line 14 times and made all of his attempts. Meanwhile, Johnson's game-high 29 points came on 11-for-28 shooting which speaks to him having a not-so-efficient night as a scorer.

PLAYER TO WATCH: Jeff Teague has really emerged as a postseason terror for opponents. After two games, Teague has established himself as the best guard on the floor. His quickness off the dribble seems to have caught the Celtics off-guard in the first two games. However, the Celtics - Avery Bradley mainly - have figured out how to limit him down the stretch in both games. Figuring out how to keep Teague under control at the start of games, would go far in Boston pulling out a Game 3 win.
WHAT WE SAW: Joe Johnson may be their lone all-star that's healthy, but the Hawks made a major gaffe in trying to run their offense down the stretch through Johnson instead of letting Teague be the primary attacker. The Celtics have had problems defending him in all three games. And with Avery Bradley out for the entire fourth quarter, the Hawks would have been wise to make Teague - not Johnson - the focal point of their offense. He finished with 23 points on 9-for-16 shooting from the field along with six assists, four rebounds, a steal and two blocked shots.

STAT TO TRACK: Bench play is always important, especially in this series. The Hawks won Game 1 in part because they outscored the Celtics' second unit, 17-2. In Boston's Game 2 win, the C's second unit had 14 points which equaled the output of the Hawks' reserves. Being able to hold their own offensively with Atlanta's backups will again be key in tonight's Game 3 matchup.
WHAT WE SAW: Bench play was indeed a factor, especially for the Celtics. The return of Ray Allen to the second unit did in fact provide a much-needed offensive lift for the Celtics. He had 13 of the Celtics' 19 bench points. As for the Hawks, Tracy McGrady had a big game off the bench with 12 points, 10 of which came before he suffered an ankle sprain that sidelined him temporarily.

Return of Gerald Green could fill vital bench role for Celtics

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Return of Gerald Green could fill vital bench role for Celtics

Every weekday until Sept. 7, we'll take a look at each player at the Celtics roster: Their strengths and their weaknesses, their ceiling and their floor. We continue today with Tyler Zeller. For a look at the other profiles, click here.

BOSTON –  Say what you want about Gerald Green, but his athleticism is the one thing you can bank on him delivering.

The 30-year-old Green doesn’t play above the rim nearly as much as he used to, but he does enough to where his presence will indeed be an upgrade for the Celtics this season.

But in terms of what his exact role will be, that will be worked out in the coming months as Green begins a second tour of duty with Boston (the Celtics drafted him with the 18th overall pick in 2005).

The ceiling for Green: Sixth or seventh man

Green’s return will in no way impact Jae Crowder’s status as the Celtics’ starting small forward. And Avery Bradley has nothing to worry about when it comes to Green competing for his spot as the team’s starting shooting guard, either. But Green’s experience will give him a chance to compete for minutes behind both coming off the bench.

At 6-foot-8, Green has the size and length to play both positions. And having played nine seasons in the NBA, Green has learned enough in that time to find ways to impact games in ways besides highlight-quality dunks.

Green is coming off a not-so-stellar season in Miami in which he averaged 8.9 points and 2.4 rebounds, while shooting 39.2 percent from the field and just 32.3 percent on 3s – both numbers below his career averages.

Part of Green’s drop in production last season (he averaged 11.9 points or more in three of the previous four seasons) had to do with the emergence of Justice Winslow, and Green’s own shooting struggles, which eventually led to him playing a more limited role in the Heat offense.

But in Boston, Green won’t be counted on to be a significant contributor in terms of scoring. Instead, he will be seen as a player who can be looked upon from time to time to provide some punch (offensively or defensively) from the wing. If we’re talking offense, Green can help both from the perimeter or as an effectively attacker of the rim.

The floor for Green: Active roster

As much as the attention surrounding Green’s game centers on what he does with the ball in his hands, it his defense that will keep him on the Celtics’ active roster all season. Although Miami sought scoring more often from others, doing so allowed Green to focus more of his attention on defense, which may wind up being the best thing for his career at this stage.

Coming off the bench primarily after the All-Star break, opponents shot 33.3 percent when defended by Green, which was more than 10 percentage points (10.9) below what they shot from the field (44.2) overall.

He was even tougher on opponents shooting 2-pointers against him. They were held more than 15 percentage points (15.5) below their shooting percentage from 2-point range when he was defending versus their overall shooting for the season.

But don’t be fooled.

Green can still score the ball and as he gets older, he’s finding more and more ways to do so.

While much of Green’s NBA success has come about with him attacking the rim, he has progressively improved his game as a catch-and-shoot player. In fact, 54.8 percent of his shot attempts last season were of the catch-and-shoot variety according to nba.com/stats.

That makes sense when you consider that he had an effective Field Goal Percentage (eFG%) of .491 when he took shots without taking any dribbles, which was better than Green’s eFG% when he shot from the floor and took at least one dribble.

Green’s second stint with the Celtics doesn’t come with nearly as much hype as there was when Boston selected him  out of high school with the 18th overall pick in 2005. Still, he has the potential to fill a vital role for the Celtics now, a role that could go far in determining how successful this season will be for himself as well as the Celtics.  

 

 

Phil Jackson: Knicks' biggest mistake was not trading for Jae Crowder in 2014

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Phil Jackson: Knicks' biggest mistake was not trading for Jae Crowder in 2014

BOSTON -- Phil Jackson will be the first to admit he has made some mistakes during his tenure in the New York Knicks' front office.

Among the miscues was a deal that would have landed them Jae Crowder.

"One of the first deals I engineered when I came back to New York was to trade Tyson Chandler and Raymond Felton to Dallas for Shane Larkin, Jose Calderon, Wayne Ellington, Samuel Dalembert, plus a second-round pick that the Mavs owed to the Celtics," Jackson told the website, www.todaysfastbreak.com.

Jackson later revealed that in conversations with Boston leading up to the 2014 NBA draft, he was given an option to either keep the second-round pick which was to be conveyed to Boston from Dallas, or take Jae Crowder and allow Boston to keep the second-round pick from the Mavs.

"I liked Crowder but I thought he wouldn’t get much of a chance to play behind Carmelo (Anthony)," Jackson said. "So I took the (second-round) pick which turned out to be Cleanthony Early.”

Ouch!

With Crowder left out of the six-player deal between New York and Dallas, the Celtics were able to engineer a trade with the Mavericks six months later that sent Rajon Rondo and Dwight Powell to Dallas in exchange for Brandon Wright, Jameer Nelson, draft picks and what many believed at the time to be a “throw in” player by the name of Jae Crowder.

Less than two years later, Crowder is the lone player acquired by Boston in that deal who remains on the Celtics roster.

And as we have all seen, Crowder is far from just a warm body on the Celtics’ roster.

The 6-foot-6 forward has emerged as a core member of this young, up-and-coming Celtics squad, a key to Boston going from being a team rebuilding just three years ago to one that’s poised to be among the top teams in the East this season.

And the play of Crowder has been a significant part of that growth.

Last season was his first as an NBA starter, and the 26-year-old made the most of his opportunity by averaging career highs in just about every meaningful category such as scoring (14.2), steals (1.7), assists (1.8), rebounds (5.1), field goal percentage (.443) and starts (73).

Meanwhile, Early has had a pair of injury-riddled seasons which have factored heavily into him seeing action in a total of just 56 games (9 starts) while averaging 4.3 points and 2.2 rebounds while shooting 34.6 percent from the field and a woeful 26.3 percent on 3s.

“While Cleanthony has missed lots of time in the past two seasons with us,” Jackson said, “He still has the potential to be a valuable player.”

That said, Jackson knows he screwed that deal up, big time.

Even with the potential Early brings to the game, Jackson concedes, “I should have taken Crowder."

 

Can Jerebko parlay playoff starts to a bigger role with Celtics?

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Can Jerebko parlay playoff starts to a bigger role with Celtics?

Every weekday until Sept. 7, we'll take a look at each player at the Celtics roster: Their strengths and their weaknesses, their ceiling and their floor. We continue today with Tyler Zeller. For a look at the other profiles, click here.

BOSTON – Considering all the different storylines that developed among the Celtics at the end of last season and this summer, it’s easy to forget that Jonas Jerebko was in the starting lineup.

With sporadic minutes in the regular season, Boston found itself trailing the Atlanta Hawks 2-0 in their best-of-seven playoff series.

So what did coach Brad Stevens do?

He shook up the starting lineup by inserting Jerebko. who helped Boston even up the series at two games apiece before the Hawks bounced back and ended the Celtics season after six games.

Those last four games against the Hawks – the only games Jerebko started all season - served as a reminder to many that the 29-year-old could still be an impact performer.

It was the kind of run to close out the season that Jerebko will certainly be focused on trying to build upon this season.

The ceiling for Jerebko: Starter

While he will likely begin the season as a reserve, Jerebko will certainly come into camp with a little more bounce in his step courtesy of a strong showing in the playoffs.

After averaging just 4.4 points and 3.7 rebounds in 15.1 minutes in the regular season a year ago, Jerebko became a major force in the playoffs for Boston.

In his first game as a starter, Jerebko had a double-double of 11 points and 12 rebounds as Boston won Game 3, 111-103.

He was even more impactful 48 hours later with another a second straight double-double (16 points, 10 rebounds) in yet another Celtics victory.

The Hawks made some adjustments in Games 5 and 6 to close out the series, but it wasn’t before Jerebko had put together the best postseason stretch of his career.

Compared to the regular season, Jerebko more than doubled his playing time in those final four games by averaging 31.3 minutes to go with 11.5 points and 7.8 rebounds.

Jerebko will be hard-pressed to return to that role at the start of this season.

Boston signed Al Horford to a four-year, $113 million contract, so you know he’s starting.

And Amir Johnson’s defense and ability to run the floor so effectively will likely result in him resuming a starting role, too.

That leaves Jerebko joining what looks to be a very talented and deep Celtics bench.

Even though he’s unlikely to start, Jerebko will get his share of opportunities to play.

At 6-foot-10, Jerebko has the size to play both power forward and center. And depending on the opposing team’s lineup, Jerebko has the potential play some small forward as well.

It was that versatility that made Stevens turn to Jerebko in the playoffs last season to replace Jared Sullinger, who signed with the Toronto Raptors in the offseason.

And while the idea of Jerebko as a starter seems a bit far-fetched at this point, he is yet another Celtics reserve who has proven himself to be ready to play and play well when given an opportunity to step on the floor regardless of what that role may be.

The floor for Jerebko: Seldom-used reserve

Despite a strong finish last season, Jerebko will once again have to fight and claw for any minutes on the floor. While the Celtics certainly were aided by his versatility, this season’s roster has a number of players who, like Jerebko, can play multiple positions at both ends of the floor.

NBA veteran Gerald Green is 6-8 and will play shooting guard and small forward. But depending on the lineup, it’s not a stretch to envision him playing some power forward. Ditto for rookie Jaylen Brown and starting small forward Jae Crowder sliding up one position.

Beginning the season on the rotation fringes is nothing new to Jerebko, whose role was very much up in the air when the Celtics traded Tayshaun Prince to Detroit prior to the 2015 trade deadline for Jerebko and Gigi Datome.

Gradually, Jerebko earned his minutes and proved he was indeed a valuable piece of what Stevens and the Celtics were trying to build here in Boston.

And now, with a season-plus of time with the Celtics under his belt, Jerebko finds himself once again being challenged to show that he’s more than just a body on the roster.