Celtics-Magic review: What we saw

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Celtics-Magic review: What we saw

ORLANDO, Fla. Wow!

The Boston Celtics only needed two - not four - quarters of good play to beat the Orlando Magic. After trailing by as many as 27 points in the second quarter, the C's put together a wickedly effectively stretch of play in the second half to come away with a 91-83 win.

"Everybody was big tonight," said Paul Pierce, who led all scorers with 24 points which included 19 coming in the second half. "We needed each and every guy, to give everything they got. Especially with us being in a hole so deep."

There were a handful of factors we highlighted prior to the game as being important in determining the game's outcome.

Let's see how they played out.

WHAT TO LOOK FOR - Boston's pressure defense not only took Jameer Nelson totally out of his game, but it also generated 25 turnovers which led to 24 points for the Celtics. Avery Bradley, who will start again for an injured Rajon Rondo, was the key to Boston's defensive success on Monday. Magic coach Stan Van Gundy praised Bradley for his defensive prowess leading up to tonight's game.

"It's generally those guys who don't have to play 3,000 minutes in a year who can come in and use that energy," Van Gundy said. "So you're not used to seeing it a lot. You might see it a possession or two, but that full-game thing I give him (Bradley) a lot of credit. It's the best job of anybody doing it, I've seen in a lot of years in this league."

WHAT WE SAW - Jameer Nelson wasn't nearly as rattled by Bradley's on-the-ball pressure as he was on Monday. Still, it was good enough to keep Nelson from making much of an impact on the game's outcome. He had 11 points on 3-for-8 shooting, with five rebounds and five assists.

MATCHUP TO WATCH - Kevin Garnett vs. Dwight Howard: With Jermaine O'Neal (left knee) out, Garnett will begin tonight's game attempting to guard Howard. Garnett's ability to hold Howard in check will likely come at the cost of him scoring as much. But the C's know all too well, that's the price you have to pay if you plan on beating the Magic.

WHAT WE SAW - This battle was a lot closer statistically than many expected. In fact, one could argue that Garnett outplayed Howard. And that is always a good thing for the C's when facing the Magic. Garnett had 12 points and 10 rebounds along with four assists, three steals and four blocked shots. Howard had a fairly typical Howard-type game with 16 points and 16 rebounds but he only had one blocked shot.

PLAYER TO WATCH - Ryan Anderson: The Celtics held him to zero points in more than 23 minutes of action on Monday. Look for Anderson to play significantly better than that tonight, especially with him beginning the game matched up with Brandon Bass instead of Garnett.

WHAT WE SAW - Anderson didn't waste much time getting into the scorer's column, as he scored 12 points in the first quarter. Here's the problem. He didn't score a single point the rest of the game. So in eight quarters of play against the Celtics, Anderson has gone scoreless in all but one of them.

STAT TO TRACK - Points off turnovers is an area that the Celtics are improving in, and it was one of the main reasons why they easily defeated Orlando when the two played on Monday. If the C's can continue to cash in on Orlando's mistakes, the Celtics will be well positioned to hand the Magic another loss.
WHAT WE SAW - It wasn't so much the amount of turnovers on Monday, but the timing of them, that ultimately became a factor in Boston's favor. Boston forced Orlando to turn the ball over 10 times in the second half, which led to 12 points for the C's. Compare that to the first half when Boston had only forced three turnovers which it converted into just three points. It's clear that the C's ability to get a few points off Orlando's mistakes, was part of the second half rally by the Celtics.

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."

Stars, studs and duds: Lillard steps up in second half, overtime

Stars, studs and duds: Lillard steps up in second half, overtime

BOSTON – Saturday was yet another night when the opposing team – this time it was the Portland Trail Blazers – that up the Boston Celtics with an avalanche of points that ended in a 127-123 overtime loss.

And yet through the rubble of all those lay-ups and put-back baskets and mid-range jumpers, Stevens saw something he has not seen in a while – hope that better days defensively were coming sooner rather than later.

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“As crazy as it sounds with them scoring (127) … I actually thought we were a lot closer to defending the way we want to defend," said Stevens. "I thought we were really locked into those guards, and I thought we tried to make it as tough as possible. Those guys are really good players, obviously, but I thought, I thought we did a lot of good things in that regard.”

For the most part, Boston and Portland played a relatively even game that wasn’t decided until the final minute of overtime.

“They just made more plays down the stretch,” said Boston’s Al Horford.

Here are the Stars, Studs and Duds from Saturday’s game.

 

STARS

C.J. McCollum

He tends to get second billing to Damian Lillard, but he was a first rate problem for the Celtics. He led the Blazers with 35 points on 11-for-21 shooting.

Damian Lillard

After a foul-troubled first half, Lillard stepped up like the All-Star he is in the second half to finish with 28 points and seven assists which included seven of Portland’s 14 points in overtime.

Isaiah Thomas

It was another dynamic scoring night for Thomas, finishing with a game-high 41 points which included 21 in the fourth quarter and overtime.


STUDS

Terry Rozier

Making the most of his chance to play due to injuries and illnesses, Rozier came up with a number of big shots all night. He finished with 15 points which included a 3-pointer with 8.4 seconds in the fourth that forced overtime.

Mason Plumlee

In addition to doing a solid job protecting the rim, Plumlee also tallied a double-double of 10 points and 11 rebounds while dishing out a game-high eight assists.

Meyers Leonard

Easily the big X-factor of the game, Leonard had 17 points off the bench on 6-for-7 shooting.

 

DUDS

Celtics Turnovers

This is the one area where the Celtics have been really good all season. Saturday? Not so much. Boston turned the ball over a season-high 21 times which accounted for 34 points for the Blazers.