Celtics-Knicks review: What we saw . . .

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Celtics-Knicks review: What we saw . . .

BOSTON The Boston Celtics escaped with a 115-111 overtime win over the New York Knicks, a game in which the Celtics got so many big contributions from so many key players.

Paul Pierce had a game-high 34 points, including the 3-pointer to force overtime. Rajon Rondo had a tripled double of 18 points, 17 rebounds and 20 assists - numbers the NBA hasn't seen in more than a decade.

That doesn't even factor in the 18-point, 10-rebound game for Kevin Garnett, or the 18 points Boston got from Brandon Bass who left the game for a spell after injury his ankle.

"Everyone stepped up," Rondo said. "Ray (Allen) and Brandon (Bass), P (Pierce), we all made special efforts when it counted."

Rondo's right.

There were a number of factors that helped the Celtics extend their winning streak to four in a row.

Here's a review of some we focused on prior to tip-off.

WHAT TO LOOK FOR - Of course much of the attention going into today's game will be on Harvard's own Jeremy Lin who is scoring and passing at an incredibly high rate. Yes, he puts up a bunch of big numbers - including turnovers. Although he only committed one turnover in New York's last game on Wednesday, he has turned the ball over 68 times in his 12 starts - the most by any player in their first 12 NBA starts since 1977 which is when turnovers became an official NBA statistic. The previous high was 64, set by Allen Iverson in 1996.

WHAT WE SAW - The Celtics did a good job of not allowing Jeremy Lin to ever get into any kind flow all game. He finished with 14 points, but did it on 6-for-16 shooting. In addition, he turned the ball over six times while only dishing out five assists. "They sent a lot of bodies and they had me take a lot of tough shots," Lin said. "I didn't get a lot of easy stuff today, but still in my opinion I should have finished a lot of those shots."

MATCHUP TO WATCH - Kevin Garnett vs. Tyson Chandler: Garnett continues to play out of his mind, out of position. The power forward-turned center has been a stalwart at both ends of the floor, scoring and defending like the old Garnett - and not just an older, Garnett. He has had back-to-back games with at least 20 points and 10 rebounds, the fifth time he has done that as a Celtic but it's the first time since November 2008. ""Preference-wise, I don't like it," Garnett said of playing center. "I'm a 4 (power forward). I don't like - you know, it is what it is. I'll do whatever this team needs me to be, other than a cheerleader with pom-pons and some short-shorts." Chandler poses a different kind of challenge for Garnett. While the strength of most centers is usually the biggest concern for Garnett in the middle, Chandler's ability to run the floor well will be the biggest challenge for Garnett today.

WHAT WE SAW - Garnett continues to outplay his opposition, regardless of how younger or more athletic they may appear to be. Garnett delivered his 10th double-double of the season with 18 points and 10 rebounds and two blocked shots. Meanwhile, Tyson had eight points and 14 rebounds but for the most part, he didn't have nearly as much of an impact defensively as Garnett did.

PLAYER TO WATCH - During Boston's three-game winning streak, one of the more unsung heroes for the Celtics has been Chris Wilcox off the bench. In the last three games, Wilcox has averaged 8.7 points and 10.3 rebounds while shooting 60 percent (9-for-15) from the field. Celtics head coach Doc Rivers said Wilcox, more than anything else, is playing the role that he has to serve for the C's. "His role is pretty much defined," Rivers said. "His role is energy, rebounding, running the floor, setting picks, rolling, finishing. I mean, that's a simple role. But it's a hard role to do everyday, because it takes energy to do it."

WHAT WE SAW - Wilcox didn't play major minutes and didn't have a major impact on the game, but he did give the Celtics solid production when he was on the floor. He finished with six points on 3-of-4 shooting, to go with three rebounds.

STAT TO TRACK - The Celtics are coming off a 50-point night of points scored in the paint against New Jersey, the highest they had scored since they dropped 52 on the Knicks in the regular season-finale last April. One of the reasons the C's have to feel pretty good about their chances of scoring around the basket today, is because are not exactly a team filled with shot-blockers. In fact, New York ranks 28th in the NBA in blocks per game, with 4.2.

WHAT WE SAW - Boston continues to generate more and more offense around the basket. For the second straight game, the Celtics were able to hit the 50-point plateau in points scored in the paint, which speaks to how the C's are making a conscious effort to generate as much offense as possible in the paint.

OFFSEASON

Mental training is the secret to Jaylen Brown's development

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Mental training is the secret to Jaylen Brown's development

BOSTON – Jaylen Brown’s athleticism was among the many reasons the Boston Celtics selected him with the No. 3 overall pick in last month’s NBA draft. But even before he became a Green Teamer, Brown’s aspirations were much greater than being a high draft pick.

“I want to be a top five player in the league,” Brown said at his introductory press conference last month. It’s a lofty goal for sure; the kind that requires more than just talent. And that’s where Graham Betchart – Brown’s mental skills coach - comes in.

Betchart’s work as a mental skills coach has been on full display as one of the keys to Brown being among the standout performers during summer leagues in both Salt Lake City and Las Vegas, respectively. 

The 6-foot-7 rookie was named to the Las Vegas Summer League’s second team, one of just three lottery picks (top-14) in last month’s NBA draft (Ben Simmons of LSU and Thon Maker of Milwaukee) named to the first (Simmons) or second (Maker) team along with Brown.

In addition to Brown, Betchart has worked with each of the last three first overall picks – Andrew Wiggins, Karl Anthony-Towns and most recently, Simmons. Betchart said he also worked with current Celtic guard Marcus Smart when he was at Oklahoma State.

While each player has their own specific program, there are some common threads that bind all of his clients.

“The big thing I want them to focus on is what in their control,” Betchart told CSNNE.com from New York City where he was meeting with the New York Jets wide receiver Brandon Marshall, who has been one of the more outspoken athletes when it comes to mental health-related issues. “And so for a lot of these guys, they’re so good in high school and even college, they can focus on results and still produce results. As you get older, you realize that results are totally out of your control. And so my focus is getting them to focus on what’s in their control, and learning how to do it consistently; how to create a pattern, a consistent mindset.”

We saw that from Brown this summer with the Celtics’ summer league teams. He averaged 16.0 points and 6.2 rebounds but did so shooting a not-so-great 30.7 percent from the field and was even worst (27.2 percent) on 3s.

However, he did manage to get to the free throw line 10.2 times per game, which is surprising when you consider whistles typically aren’t blown as often in the summer than they are in a regular season game. And just to put his free throw average in perspective, only two players – Houston’s James Harden and Sacramento’s DeMarcus Cousins – averaged more than 10 free throw attempts per game last season.

Brown has said on more than one occasion that getting to the free throw line often has to be one of his strengths in the NBA. Based on what he did this past summer, there’s no question it’s something he has indeed made a priority.

And the fact that Brown was able to do it consistently this summer falls in line with one of the core concepts that Betchart preaches to his clients.

“To me the hardest thing in sports is to be consistent,” said Betchart, who is now the director of mental training for San Francisco-based Lucid, a mental training app for athletes. “Anyone can just once in a while show up and have a great game. It really starts with having a consistent mindset based on what you can control. They have to be in the moment no matter what’s going on. It could be really bad, it could be really good.”

And when it’s over, players can’t dwell in the mistakes of the past.

“We make a mistake and get hung up sometimes,” Betchart said. “But if you can move on to that next play and train your focus to do that, it’s really hard to stop you if you don’t stop yourself.”

Instead, those mistakes actually form the foundation for future success.

In the case of Brown, one of the biggest knocks on him coming into the NBA was his shooting touch being anything but consistent.

“It’s the growth mindset,” Betchart said. “If you are going to master shooting, you’re gonna have to miss a lot of shots. It’s kind of like learning to walk. When you were learning to walk, you don’t remember but you fell down all the time. You didn’t say, ‘Oh I’m not going to walk. I’m just going to stay on the ground.’ You just picked yourself up and eventually you learned. When you get to the professional level, your game is analyzed on where it is right now. And right now, he’s 19 years old. There’s no way he’s going to be as good a shooter now as he’ll be at 23 and 25. And so if he embraces the growth mindset and just continues to focus on his process, which is taking the shot, being assertive, taking your shot, it’s all going to work out. I know this to be factually true.”

Another one of Betchart’s clients is Orlando forward Aaron Gordon, who came into the NBA as one of the worst free throw shooters in college basketball. In his lone season at Arizona, Gordon shot just 42.2 percent from the free throw line.

In his two NBA seasons, the 6-foot-9 forward has shot 68.1 percent.

“People were laughing at (Gordon’s free throw shooting) sarcastically and now as a pro he’s shooting (almost) 70 percent,” Betchart said. “It was all based on a growth mindset; just allowing yourself to fail and really, you’re not failing. You’re learning how to shoot. We introduce a concept called Victory goes to the Vulnerable. You’re going to be vulnerable sometimes. People are going to talk about your shot. That’s OK. We let people have their opinions. We don’t try and stop them. It’s all part of the process.”

Ah yes, the process.

If you listen to Brown, he has said on more than one occasion whether he played well or not, that all that he’s going through now is part of a process that will eventually make him a better person and a better player for the Celtics.

Part of that process is utilizing the various mental techniques and teachings of Betchart, who has known Brown since he was 15 years old and had a chance to spend a considerable amount of face-to-face time with him this past year when Brown was at Cal.

Most of what Betchart talks about has a strong basketball teaching component to it. But at the end of the day, there’s a lot more going on.

“Everybody starts to realize these are life skills,” Betchart said. “It’s tough to separate basketball from life. You’re going to be who you are on the court, off the court. These skills, learning to control what you can control, being present, moving on after mistakes, this is what we leave in life as well, learning how to be vulnerable in life and do those things. It naturally gravitates towards life and … what’s going on in life. It’s a natural progression. They’re human beings who choose to play a sport for a living. They are not basketball players; Basketball is what they do.”

A. Sherrod Blakely can be followed on Twitter: @SherrodbCSN