Celtics, Lakers fighting through mediocrity

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Celtics, Lakers fighting through mediocrity

WALTHAM It's not unusual for the Boston Celtics and the Los Angeles Lakers to face each other standing among the elite teams in their respective conferences.

But middle of the pack? That's not normal.

The abnormality has been the reality over the course of this lockout-shortened season, one in which both the Celtics (14-10) and Lakers (14-11) haven't enjoyed the kind of success they've been accustomed to in recent years.

Still, you're talking about two teams with core guys who have been through the many ups and downs that come with an NBA season.

Because of that, no one on either side is in panic mode.

"We're still learning, growing," C's forward Chris Wilcox recently told CSNNE.com. "As we keep playing more with each other, guys keep getting healthier, we'll be OK."

The condensed schedule combined with core guys for both teams being older, has certainly played a role in both teams getting off to less-than-stellar starts.

"We're both not necessarily young," said Lakers star Kobe Bryant. "We both been around the block twice. In this particular season, it's taken us a little longer to get going than some of the other guys."

Even with both teams off to slow starts, that doesn't take away or diminish the rivalry that exists between the two most storied franchises in the NBA history.

"It always is," said Bryant when asked about whether facing the Celtics was a special game. "It's always special when you come to Boston."

Especially for the Lakers who come into tonight's game having won the last three at the TD Garden.

While the Celtics would love nothing more than to send the Lakers on their way with a third straight loss, of greater importance is for the C's to re-establish themselves as a power at home.

Boston is currently 10-6 at home, which is 62.5 percent winning percentage.

In the Big Three era, the C's have only had a lower winning percentage at home once (.585) in the 2009-2010 season, which ended with the Celtics losing to the Lakers in the NBA Finals.

"We want everybody to come to the Garden and have a party," said Boston's Mickael Pietrus. "Right now, we're playing extremely well. We're trying to make a statement, the Garden is our home and we gonna make sure we take care of business at home."

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.”