Celts take advantage of small-ball lineup in Game 1

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Celts take advantage of small-ball lineup in Game 1

BOSTON With all the injuries that the Boston Celtics have endured this season in the front court, they've had to rely on a smaller lineup more often than they would like.

Well all that "small ball" practice paid off in Boston's 92-91 Game 1 win over Philadelphia in the second round of their best-of-seven playoff series.

In fact, it was Boston's smaller lineup that allowed them to erase a double-digit deficit in the fourth quarter and rally for the win.

"We have to do a better job of when they go small, and understanding what we have to do," said Sixers coach Doug Collins. "It doesn't change you as much offensively as it does defensively. When Paul Pierce goes to and plays like the power forward, they run a lot of screen-roll, him and (Kevin) Garnett. And what are you going to do on the coverage now when you have a lot of other guys who can shoot the ball? When they have one less big, it becomes more on the defensive end than it does on the offensive end."

It has to be that way for the Sixers, a team that ranks among the NBA's worst in rebounding due to a lack of frontcourt size.

Because of that, Collins says he can't approach dealing with the Celtics' smaller lineup in the manner in which he would like to.

"We're not a team that can pound you inside," Collins said. "You end up having to match up small. My philosophy has always been if a team goes small against you, then you pound them. But we don't have that kind of team."

Philadelphia has fared well when teams have tried to go with a small lineup, in part because of the play of Thaddeus Young.

At 6-foot-8, Young has the ability to play both forward positions. But when teams go small, he slides over to the power forward spot where his quickness and ability to get to the basket usually causes major problems for opponents.

In the regular season, Young averaged 12.8 points and 5.2 rebounds per game off the bench. His playoff numbers, however, are off.

He's averaging 6.9 points in the playoffs this year.

Young's versatility wasn't on display as much as Philadelphia would have wanted to in Game 1 courtesy of a knee to the shin from Boston's Ryan Hollins in the second quarter. The shin injury led directly to Young rolling his ankle as well.

"He's wild, man," Young told CSNNE.com about Hollins. "That dude is wild."

The injury limited Young to just under 22 minutes played, as he scored five points.

"Not having Thad (for long stretches), not being able to play small ball when the guys go small-ball, would hurt the team," said Sixers big man Elton Brand.

Said Collins: "(Small lineups) helps Thad. We just didn't take advantage of that (in Game 1)."

Not only did the Celtics do a better job in terms of their offensive execution with the smaller lineup, they were a surprisingly dominant rebounding team once they went into full blown small-ball mode.

The Celtics had a small lineup on the floor throughout the entire fourth quarter.

After being out-rebounded for most of the first three quarters, Boston's small-ball lineup allowed them to grab 15 rebounds compared to just eight for the Sixers.

"You gotta pick up those long rebounds," Collins said shortly after Saturday's loss. "Boston scrummed out some balls and beat us on some hustle balls. It wasn't' like their big guys were rebounding. It's where everybody's gotta get back and rebound the ball."

Which players fill Celtics Top 5 draft needs?

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Which players fill Celtics Top 5 draft needs?

BOSTON – When it comes to the NBA Draft, nobody has the flexibility to address a need the way the Celtics can this year.
 
If you are a draft-eligible player expected to be among the 60 names called next month, you are within the Celtics’ reach of being drafted.
 
That’s what having eight draft picks (three in the first round and five in the second) can do for you.
 
And while the Celtics have lots of needs, here’s a look at five specifically that they can address through the draft, and the best players to fill those voids.
 
5. Undervalued talent: Marquese Chriss
Getting players whose talent exceeds where they are drafted is certainly something the Celtics would love to do in a year when they have so many picks. Marquese Chriss of Washington could be that player. He’s a 6-9 forward who in this small-ball era in the NBA, can play both forward positions and have a matchup advantage at both spots. He’s targeted to be selected in the middle of the first round which makes him a prime target of the Celtics who could tab him with their second, first-round selection which will be the 16th overall pick.
 
 
4. Rim Protection
You have to give the Celtics props for having a defense that ranked 4th in the NBA despite no legit rim protector other than 6-9 Amir Johnson. As good as Johnson was, the Celtics need to add at least another player or two with rim protection as their strength. Enter Michigan State’s Deyonta Davis. He’s limited offensively in terms of what he can do, but his knack for blocking/altering shots, lateral quickness, vertical leap and overall strength makes him a force in the middle. He too is a player Boston has to give some thought to selecting if he’s still on the board (he’s considered a possible late-lottery pick) when it’s time for the Celtics to choose at No. 16.
 
 
3. Defensive versatility
One of the reasons Boston’s defense was so good this season was because of its ability to make defensive switches and it not create huge mismatches. Having players with the talent and skill to defend multiple positions will remain something the Celtics will also value on draft night. That’s why Jaylen Brown of Cal could be in the mix depending on where the pick Boston gets from Brooklyn, eventually falls. If it’s outside of the top-4, Brown becomes a viable possibility. He gets props for his strength and ability to use it as a means of scoring. But NBA teams are just as excited about his potential as a defender, already possessing an NBA-ready body with the tools to potentially defend all three perimeter positions.
 
2. Wing scoring
The Celtics ranked 11th in 3-pointers taken per game (26.1) but only 28th in 3-point percentage (.335) which shows that they were getting plenty of long-range shots but unable to make them with any consistency. Oklahoma’s Buddy Hield could change all that. He was hands-down the best shooter in college basketball this past season. And with him being a senior, he’s more likely to come in and make an immediate impact than many of his younger draft brethren who are judged more on potential than proven work. If the Celtics wind up with a top-3 pick, Hield would be a bit of a stretch. But if Boston is on the clock with the No. 4, 5 or 6th pick, he should be on their short list of possible targets.
 
 
1. Superstar potential
The best shot Boston has of landing that superstar they’ve longed for, is to land the top overall pick. And with that pick, there’s a growing consensus that Duke’s Brandon Ingram should be that guy rather than LSU’s Ben Simmons. Ingram has a game that in many ways is reminiscent to a young Kevin Durant. But at this stage, Ingram is a better 3-point shooter (he shot 41 percent on 3s in his lone season at Duke) which is one of the many areas Boston could use a boost through the draft.
 
 

Ainge: McHale's clothesline on Rambis was 'sweet'

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Ainge: McHale's clothesline on Rambis was 'sweet'

If you know anything about basketball in the 1980s and early 1990s, you know it was a physical game. And in the playoffs, that physicality multiplied.

The Boston Celtics were no exception to that. There are countless highlights of Celtics players getting into it with their opponents, but perhaps the most famous incident was when Kevin McHale clothelined the Lakers' Kurt Rambis in Game 4 of the 1984 NBA Finals.

Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge was a member of that team, and discussed that play on Thursday morning with the guys from the Toucher and Rich Show.

“I remember that we were at shootaround the morning of the Kevin McHale / Kurt Rambis clothesline incident,” Ainge said. “They had just beat us by 30 . . . it was Hollywood showtime Lakers all the way and we were humiliated. We came to practice the next day and we had some guys chirping about that, like, ‘We have to take some hard fouls. We cannot let these guys fast break over us and dunk on us in transition. We have to take some hard fouls.’ And I said to the whole team, I like screamed at them, I said, ‘Hey listen, I’m booed in every arena in this league because I’m the only guy who takes hard fouls. I need some of you guys to take some hard fouls. And sure enough Kevin clothelined Kurt Rambis and that was sweet.”