OFFSEASON

Celtics-Raptors review: C's rally in fourth

993145.jpg

Celtics-Raptors review: C's rally in fourth

TORONTO For most of Wednesday's game against Toronto, the Raptors were the better team.
They played with more energy, more speed, more effort.
And then the fourth quarter rolled around, and the Boston Celtics?
They just started to roll all over the Raptors as the C's rallied for a 99-95 win after going into the fourth quarter looking up at a double-digit deficit.
"We didn't play our best game tonight," said Celtics guard Jason Terry.
And more often than not, that spells D-E-F-E-A-T for the C's (25-23), winners of five in a row.
"It shows that you're very resilient as a group, and when things aren't going good, you can still dig deeper and find a way to get it done," Terry said.
Although the Celtics were relatively close to the Raptors most of the game, Doc Rivers did not like what he was seeing from his club.
"I just didn't think we played with a lot of speed and a lot of force," Rivers said. "Give them credit. Some of it was them, too."
"This was a good win for us," he added. "We didn't have it at stages and we just kind of kept looking for the right lineup, the right group."
Rivers finally stumbled upon the right combination in the fourth, a group that was led by Leandro Barbosa who scored 12 of his 14 points off the C's bench in the fourth quarter.
"Great lift" was how Avery Bradley described Barbosa's fourth quarter scoring binge.
"LB played very good today," Bradley said. "It just shows no matter who Doc puts on the floor, everybody is always prepared and ready to give their all every time they're put on the floor, no matter what position. We just go out there and compete."
And lately, win. Boston (25-23) has now strung together five straight wins heading into the always-intense battle with Cross-coast rival, the Los Angeles Lakers.
But before all the attention shifts towards the Lakers, here's a recap of the keys outlined prior to Boston's win over Toronto, and how those factors contributed to the game's outcome.

WHAT TO LOOK FOR: The Celtics will be challenged to keep this from becoming a track meet in high tops. Boston wants to get out and run, but so do the more athletic Raptors. Keeping the game in the low-to-mid 90s would be in Boston's best interest.
WHAT WE SAW: The game's tempo was indeed to the Celtics' liking, even if their play for the most part left a lot to be desired. A strong fourth quarter at both ends of the floor was just enough to squeak out the victory for the C's.

MATCHUP TO WATCH: Avery Bradley vs Kyle Lowry: Bradley's defense in many ways is predicated on him being physical with opponents, a tough task against Lowry who has Bradley by (at least) 25 pounds. Look for Bradley to pick his spots more than usual when it comes to pressuring Lowry.
WHAT WE SAW: Bradley had a solid game offensively (11 points), but Lowry proved why the Raptors were so willing to trade away Jose Calderon and hand over the offense to Lowry. He finished with a near triple-double of 17 points, eight assists and seven rebounds in addition to four steals.

PLAYER TO WATCH: Amir Johnson is a high-energy player, the kind that in the past has caused problems for the Celtics. As a starter for Toronto, he's averaging 14.8 points and 10.3 rebounds per game and has had double digit rebounds in three of their last five games.
WHAT WE SAW: He continues to produce as a starter, tallying 16 points and 12 rebounds on Wednesday. But like the rest of the Raptors big men, his inability to limit Kevin Garnett in the post and from the perimeter, proved to be the difference in the game.

STAT TO TRACK: Defensive rebounds are always important, but they have been especially valuable to these two teams. During its four game winning streak, the Celtics have ranked 8th in the NBA in defensive rebounds (32.8) per game. As for the Raptors, they are 11-4 this season when they win the defensive boards battle.
WHAT WE SAW: Boston continues to be one of the league's better defensive rebounding clubs during their winning streak, grabbing 35 defensive boards compared to 31 for the Raptors. The Celtics' work on the defensive boards really paid off in the fourth. It allowed them to get out in transition quicker, which led to seven of Boston's 10 fast-break points for the game. And while Toronto had 18 fast-break points on Wednesday, only two came in the decisive fourth quarter.

OFFSEASON

Report: Celtics secure meeting with Dwight Howard

Report: Celtics secure meeting with Dwight Howard

In February, the Boston Celtics were involved in trade deadline talks with the Houston Rockets involving center Dwight Howard.

It appears the team still has interest in the free-agent big man. 

According to ESPN, the Celtics have secured a meeting with Howard after July 1.

Howard, 30, became a free agent after declining a player option that would have paid him more the $23 million in 2016-17 

OFFSEASON

Future uncertain for Amir Johnson and Jonas Jerebko as Celtics pursue Kevin Durant

Future uncertain for Amir Johnson and Jonas Jerebko as Celtics pursue Kevin Durant

BOSTON -- When you’re the Boston Celtics and you have your sights set on a star like Kevin Durant, the potential impact on your roster is undeniable.

That’s a good thing, right?

Well . . . not exactly.

One of the options that the Celtics are considering during the free agency period is whether to waive Amir Johnson and Jonas Jerebko before July 3 which would create additional salary cap space to potentially sign Durant and another near max-salaried player.

But here’s the problem.

Boston could potentially waive Johnson and Jerebko, fail to get Durant or another elite free agent and see the duo gone for nothing in return while they play their way into a big contract toiling in the NBA’s basement with one of the league’s worst teams.

How you ask?

Multiple league sources contacted by CSNNE.com Tuesday night indicated that if the Celtics waive both players, it’s “very likely” that both will be claimed off waivers.

According to a league office official, waiver priority goes to the team with the worst record attempting to claim a player.

And what team had the worst record in the NBA last season?

Yup. The 10-win Philadelphia 76ers.

And what team was right behind them, or ahead depending on how you look at things?

The lowly, 17-win Los Angeles Lakers.

Johnson is due $12 million next season while Jerebko is due to earn $5 million, chump change in this new age of the NBA with the 2016-2017 salary cap expected to be around $94 million.

In addition, both players would join clubs in contract years. Couple that with each being relatively productive and there’s the potential for each player to have a really big season.

Johnson was the Celtics’ top rim-protector last season, in addition to being a solid pick-and-roll defender. He also averaged 7.3 points, 6.4 rebounds with 1.7 assists and 1.1 blocked shots per game. 

And Jerebko shot 39.8 percent from 3-point range last season, and finished up the playoffs in the starting lineup.

The Celtics are well aware of how valuable both players were to Boston’s success last season, and how their production relative to their contracts makes them extremely important to whatever team they play for.

To lose them for what would essentially be a lottery ticket in the Durant sweepstakes, is certainly a gamble that it remains to be seen if the Celtics are willing to take.

Best-case scenario for Boston is to know where they stand with Durant within the first 24 hours of free agency which would then allow them time to make a more informed decision about Johnson and Jerebko’s futures.

As you can imagine, the Celtics are as eager as any team to know what Durant plans to do this summer.

Because the way things are starting to take shape with Boston’s pursuit of the former league MVP, he’s going to have an impact on the Celtics’ roster one way or another.