Celtics look to push the pace offensively

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Celtics look to push the pace offensively

WALTHAM The Boston Celtics want to get out and run more which should result in more points scored.

Presumably more points will in some way impact the C's rock-solid defense that has been among the NBA's best for years.

"We're still all about defense," said Celtics coach Doc Rivers. "Having said that, you can still score."

True, but a shift to becoming more offensive is necessary for the Celtics to continue competing with the NBA's elite.

Making more shots would be simplifying the challenge that Boston faces.

"We need to just increase our pace," Rivers said. "But we turned the ball over too much last year. Over anything, that hurt our offense last year."

Boston committed 14.1 turnovers per game last season which ranked 17th in the league. However, the second half of the season saw a Boston team that ran more pick-and-rolls which created more scoring opportunities and fewer turnovers.

Prior to the All-Star break, Boston averaged 14.7 turnovers which ranked No. 21 in the NBA. After the break, the Celtics were up to No. 6 in turnovers with 13 per game.

Not only does that bode well for their chances to be successful during the regular season, but it sets the table for them to have a shot at winning it all.

For Boston to have any chance this season at bringing home Banner 18, they must become a more effective scoring team than the one last season which averaged 91.8 points which ranked No. 26 in the NBA.

Looking back at the last 10 NBA champions, they all achieved greatness differently.

But the one thing they all had in common was that they were a better scoring team than the C's squad we saw last year that advanced to the Eastern Conference finals before being eliminated in seven games by Miami.

Boston's scoring woes were a major factor in their Game 7 loss to the Heat, a game in which the Celtics' second unit scored a total of just two points.

"That's unacceptable," said Celtic guard Jason Terry, one of the league's top sixth men. "And it won't happen while I'm a Celtic."

If Boston has any realistic hope of winning a title this year, their scoring has to increase significantly.

Only one team (Detroit, 2004) in the past decade has won an NBA title in the same season in which they finished in the league's bottom 10 scoring.

During Boston's 2008 title run, the C's ranked 11th in the NBA in scoring, and were the league's No. 2 scoring defense.

The only champion since 2003 to finish in the top 10 scoring and have a top-10 scoring defense, was the Miami Heat last year when they finished seventh and fifth, respectively.

That is the kind of balance that Boston will be seeking this season.

And if the C's can stay relatively healthy, it is a goal that's very achievable.

Boston's defense will continued to be anchored by Kevin Garnett. On the perimeter, the C's have Rajon Rondo, Courtney Lee and Avery Bradley (shoulders) once he returns.

Throw in the big man depth they now have with Chris Wilcox, Jason Collins, Darko Milicic along with rookies Jared Sullinger and Fab Melo, and you have a squad that has the potential to both protect the paint and defend the perimeter.

Offensively, Boston's bench should be better -- much better -- than last season's backups when it comes to scoring.

According to Hoopstats.com, the Celtics bench averaged 23.2 points per game which ranked 29th (out of 30 teams) last season.

Boston's second unit was even worse in the playoffs, chipping in just 15.2 points per game.

In addition to Terry, a former Sixth Man of the Year award winner, Boston's second unit also includes Jeff Green who should also figure prominently in the team's efforts to bolster its scoring punch.

Along with his perimeter shooting, Terry and Lee also give Boston a pair of players who can create their own shot off the dribble which should take some of the dribble-drive pressure off Rajon Rondo.

"More guys can put the ball on the floor, so that's good," Rivers said.

With Thomas drawing attention, Stevens turns to Rozier in big moment

With Thomas drawing attention, Stevens turns to Rozier in big moment

BOSTON – Prior to Saturday’s game, Terry Rozier talked to CSNNE.com about the importance of staying ready always, because “you never know when your name or number is going to be called.”

Like when trailing by three points in the fourth quarter with less than 10 seconds to play?

Yes, Rozier was on the floor in that scenario and the second-year guard delivered when his team needed it.

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But Rozier’s fourth quarter heroics which forced overtime against Portland, did not provide that much-needed jolt that Boston needed as the Blazers managed to fend off the Celtics in overtime, 127-123.

For Rozier’s part, he had 15 points on 6-for-13 shooting.

The 15 points scored for Rozier was the most for him since he tallied 16 in a 30-point Celtics win at Orlando on Dec. 7.

But more than the points, the decision by head coach Brad Stevens to draw up a play for him in that moment, a time when most of what Boston does revolves around the shooting of Isaiah Thomas who has been among the top-3 scorers in the fourth quarter most of this season, was surprising to many.

And at that point in the game, Thomas already had 13 fourth-quarter points.

Stevens confirmed after the game that the last shot in the fourth was indeed for Rozier, but Thomas’ presence on the floor was important to its execution.

“He (Thomas) also draws a lot of attention,” Stevens said. “So I think you just weigh kind of … what kind of shot you’re going to get, depending on who it is.”

Rozier had initially screened for Thomas, and Thomas came back and screened for him.

“I was open as soon as I caught … and I let it fly,” Rozier said. “Coach drew up a play for me and it felt good to see the ball go in.”

Being on the floor at that time, win or lose, was a victory of sorts for Rozier.

He has seen first-hand how quickly the tide can change in the NBA for a young player.

After a strong summer league showing and a solid training camp, Rozier had earned himself a firm spot in the team’s regular rotation.

But a series of not-so-great games coupled with Gerald Green’s breakout night on Christmas Day, led to his playing time since then becoming more sporadic.

Rozier, in an interview with CSNNE.com, acknowledged it hasn’t been easy going from playing regular minutes to not being sure how much court time, if any, he would receive.

But he says the veterans on the team have been good about keeping his spirits up, and one in particular – Avery Bradley – has been especially helpful.

Like Rozier, Bradley’s first couple of years saw his playing time go from non-existent to inconsistent. But Bradley stayed the course and listened to the team’s veterans who continued to tell him that his hard work would pay off sooner or later.

Those same words of wisdom Bradley received in his early days, he passes on to Rozier.

“It’s big,” Rozier told CSNNE.com. “He (Bradley) tells me things like that. I felt I was ready for this (inconsistent minutes) after all that he told me. It’s big to have a guy like him that has been through it all with a championship team, been around this organization for a while; have him talk to you is big. It’s always good. That’s why I stay positive, and be ready.”

Which is part of the reason why Stevens didn’t hesitate to call up a play for the second-year guard despite him being a 33.3 percent shooter from 3-point range this season – that ranks eighth on this team, mind you.

“He’s a really good shooter,” Stevens said of Rozier. “I think with more opportunity that will show itself true, but he made some big ones in the fourth quarter. We went to him a few different times out of time-outs, and felt good about him making that one.”

And to know that Stevens will turn to him not just to spell Thomas or one of the team’s other guards, but to actually make a game-altering play in the final seconds … that’s major.

“It helps tremendously,” said Rozier who added that his confidence is through “the roof. It makes me want to do everything. You know defense, all of that. It’s great, especially to have a guy like Brad trust you."