Celtics lose 3rd in row, fall to Pistons, 103-88


Celtics lose 3rd in row, fall to Pistons, 103-88

AUBURN HILLS, Mich. Having returned from London Friday afternoon, the Detroit Pistons were supposed to be the ones that would be a step or two slow due to jet-lag.

But it was the Celtics spending most of the night playing catch-up as the Pistons continued their dominance over the C's with a 103-88 win.

Although Detroit (15-25) has been among the NBA's worst teams in recent years, they have managed to have their way with Boston, which has now lost four in a row to the Pistons.

And all four losses have been by double-digits, something no team has done to the Celtics since the Miami Heat swept the four games played against the C's in the 1997-1998 season.

In addition, the loss on Sunday was also Boston's (20-20) third straight after having won six in a row.

Well versed in digging its share of ditches this season, Boston trailed 11-2 to start the game and fell behind by as many 18 points (36-18) in the second quarter.

Maybe they were thinking about the Patriots game because the Cs looked like a team that was both slow and seemingly elsewhere.

And then the Patriots went into the half and the Celtics went on a defensive binge of steals and deflections which created addition scoring opportunities.

Within minutes, this Detroit beat-down became a defensive, scrappy battle that saw the C's respond with a 22-4 run and eventually pull even at 48 on a pair of free throws by Courtney Lee.

Lee was part of a Celtics 1-2 punch off the bench - along with Jeff Green - that kept the C's afloat while most of their teammates drifted in and out between being impact players and flat-out irrelevant.

At the half, Lee and Green each had 12 points and finished with 16 and 15 points, respectively.

But their play could not put the C's ahead as Detroit closed out the half with a pair of jumpers by Brandon Knight to take a 52-48 lead into the half. Knight led all Detroit scorers with 12 points.

Boston's defensive turnaround in the second came for the most part without Avery Bradley, their top on-the-ball defender.

Bradley was not supposed to play on Sunday. The listed starting five handed out on press row had Leandro Barbosa starting. Even the public address announcer introduced Barbosa as the starter instead of Bradley who managed to convince Doc Rivers at the last minute to give him a shot at playing.

He played just over seven minutes and had two points in the first half, but it was clear that the rib injury he was playing with had an impact on his ability to defend at the level he's accustomed to.

Still, to be down by just four points at the half considering how horrific they began the game was certainly promising for the C's ... or so we thought.

After a Bradley score cut Detroit's lead to 55-54, the Pistons hit back-to-back 3s from almost the same spot on the floor - both with Paul Pierce defending.

It was that kind of game for the Celtics, similar to their 100-99 overtime loss to Chicago on Friday, in which the C's spent a good chunk of the game playing close, but can't get-over-the-hump basketball as the Pistons pushed their one-point lead to nine (67-58) following a put-back dunk by Greg Monroe with about six minutes to play.

Boston cut into the deficit only to once again be turned away as Detroit went into the fourth quarter with an 81-71 lead as the C's never presented any kind of legit threat for the rest of the game.

Horford-Celtics partnership gives both stability, chance to win


Horford-Celtics partnership gives both stability, chance to win

BOSTON –  This is not where Al Horford thought he would be right now.
Back in May, the Atlanta Hawks had just been swept out of the playoffs by the soon-to-be NBA champion Cleveland Cavaliers.
Disappointed with the outcome obviously, Horford was a free agent-to-be who was confident that he would be back in Atlanta and the Hawks would retool by adding to their core group which he was a major part of, and they would be back to making another run at it this season.
First there was the draft night trade of point guard Jeff Teague to the Indiana Pacers. 
And during Horford's negotiations with the Hawks in July, they were also negotiating with Dwight Howard and ultimately signed the Atlanta native to a three-year, $70.5 million contract. 
Before the Howard deal was complete, the Celtics had already made a strong impression on Horford during their presentation to him. 
So the choice was pretty clear.
Return to Atlanta and potentially have a major logjam up front with himself, Howard and Paul Millsap, or join a Celtics team that’s on the rise where his five-tool skillset – passing, rebounding, defending, scoring and making those around him better – could be put to great use on a team that’s clearly on the rise. 
Horford chose the latter, giving both himself and the Celtics exactly what they wanted – stability and a chance to win at the highest of levels.
The first shot to see how this basketball marriage looks on the floor will be tonight when the Celtics kick off the 2016-2017 season at the TD Garden against the Brooklyn Nets. 
The preseason isn’t the best indicator of what’s on the horizon now that games count, but Horford’s presence was undeniable.
Boston’s starters which includes Horford, Isaiah Thomas, Avery Bradley, Jae Crowder and Amir Johnson, each finished with a positive, double-digit plus/minus in the preseason. 
“He just makes the game so much easier for all of us,” Johnson told CSNNE.com. “He can do so many things out there at both ends of the floor. He’s going to be big for us this season.”
And his impact can be felt both on the floor and inside the locker room, similar to what he brought to the Atlanta Hawks.
“With the way that I go about it is, I’m trying to win,” Horford told CSNNE.com. “I’m gonna work, put in my work, try to help guys get better not only on the court but off the court as well. That’s how I carry myself.”
 And it is that approach to the game that has made his transition to the Celtics a relatively seamless one. 
Horford holds many fond memories of his time in Atlanta, a place that will always be near and dear to his heart. 
But he’s a Celtic now, coming in with the same single-minded focus that drives this organization to continue pursuing the only thing that truly matters to them – an NBA title. 
"Even though I’m leaving a lot behind, as a player you always want to be in the best position you can,” Horford said. “I felt for me being on this team would put me in a position to be able to contend and win an NBA championship. That’s my ultimate goal.”

Rozier's confidence, hard work earning him more minutes in Celtics rotation


Rozier's confidence, hard work earning him more minutes in Celtics rotation

BOSTON – You’ll have to pardon Terry Rozier if he doesn’t have that deer-in-the-headlights look about him when he takes to the floor tonight for what should be the first of many meaningful stretches of playing time.
You see, being harassed with the defensive pressure of Avery Bradley and Marcus Smart while trying to become a pest to Isaiah Thomas (which I’m told Rozier is frequently in practice), has instilled in Rozier the kind of confidence that’s not easily shaken.
That’s one of the main reasons why the Celtics aren’t freaking out about the departure of Evan Turner to Portland this offseason and more recently the sprained left ankle injury to Marcus Smart that’ll keep him out for a few games.
When it comes to filling those two voids, all eyes will be on Rozier.
“When somebody’s hurt, the next guy has to step up,” Thomas said. “Terry has shown he’s ready for that opportunity. He’s worked very hard this summer. I’m proud of him. I’ve been in that position before. He’s been waiting for that opportunity. He’s ready.”
Rozier had an impressive run during summer league as Boston’s best player. And in training camp, he hasn’t let up in being one of the standout performers.
It has led to the second-year guard being exactly where he thought his hard work in the offseason would take him to, and that’s a prominent spot in the Celtics’ rotation.
And in doing so, Rozier knows it’ll likely mean taking some minutes from his veteran teammates like Isaiah Thomas who he credits for always being there to help him grow as a player.
“I’m trying to get better, but I want to play too,” Rozier told CSNNE.com. “Getting his (Thomas’) minutes, anybody’s minutes, I’m going for it. But I know he’s not going to lighten up and make it easy for me. I know that. I’m looking forward to it. It’s going to be a lot of fun.”
It certainly looks like it for Rozier who has shown growth in just about every phase of his game since he was selected by Boston with the 16th overall pick in the 2015 NBA draft.
There were many who questioned Danny Ainge’s decision to draft a guard so high when he already had Thomas, Avery Bradley and Marcus Smart in the fold.
But Rozier has shown the promise that Ainge saw in him coming out of Louisville.

Now it’s just a matter of Rozier getting the kind of minutes and producing, that will ultimately validate the trust and faith Ainge and his coaching staff showed in selecting Rozier.
For Rozier, not being looked upon all that favorably is just par for the course when it comes to his basketball career.
“I’ve been doubted all my life,” Rozier said. “It ain’t hurt me. I always tell myself, ‘they’re gonna fall in love with me because I play hard and they’re gonna fall in love with my intensity level. People didn’t know who I was when I came here; that’s fine. They’ll fall in love with me and my game sooner or later.”