OFFSEASON

Pierce, Celtics look to handle little things

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Pierce, Celtics look to handle little things

WALTHAM -- After their fourth-quarter collapse during their Game 4 loss to the Philadelphia 76ers, the Boston Celtics are not looking to overhaul their approach in preparation for Game 5 on Monday in Boston.

They have already proved their game plan can work -- when executed correctly. The key to the big picture is focusing on the little things the entire game.

We've just got to be a little more consistent through four quarters, Paul Pierce said before practice on Sunday. Every game is not going to play out the same way. We can't just say, 'We've got to play better in the fourth.' We've just got to be more consistent in what we do for four quarters.

The Celtics had a 46-31 halftime lead on Friday. By the end of the third quarter, the Sixers had cut the gap to 63-59. Instead of closing out the final 12 minutes and taking a critical Game 4 on the road, the Celtics were outscored 33-20 in the fourth and lost, 92-83.

The Celtics were outscored 12-5 on second chance points and 27-13 on fast break points. The 76ers had also outrebounded them, 52-38, including 17-5 on the offensive glass. (Lavoy Allen and Thaddeus Young each matched the Celtics team total with five offensive rebounds apiece off the 76ers bench.)

I think it's mental, said Pierce. Like I said, doing the little things. Not turning the ball over, rebounding the ball. We didn't do a good job at rebounding. They got too many second opportunities. Getting to the loose balls. We've got to win the 5050 battle. I think that's going to be a key in this series. They really beat us to a lot of those balls in the second half of Game 4.

"It's going to be the little things that really add up to the big things. Setting the right screens, getting the man open. Those little things add up to a win if we can do that consistently.

At Sundays practice, the mentality was looking back on what went wrong in Game 4, and then looking ahead of fix it in Game 5.

The milk is spilled, said Pierce. You've got to move on, clean it up, move on to the next game. You can't let it frustrate you. You can't dwell on the past. It is what it is. Series is 2-2. Obviously we've got to go back to Philly, but we've got to take care of business at home.

OFFSEASON

Celtics "emerged as a front-runner" for Al Horford

Celtics "emerged as a front-runner" for Al Horford

BOSTON – The Boston Celtics are poised to do the seemingly unthinkable: acquire an elite free agent in their prime. 

The Celtics are meeting with four-time all-star Al Horford tonight and as one league executive told CSNNE.com, Boston has emerged as a front-runner for his services after the Atlanta Hawks came to terms on a three-year, $70.5 million deal with Dwight Howard. 

And the Celtics will come armed with a four-year, $113 million max-salary offer for the 30-year-old Horford as well.   

In addition to the Celtics, Horford is also reportedly considering signing with the Houston Rockets.

Acquiring Horford would bolster the Celtics’ franchise on multiple levels. For starters, he would provide an upgrade roster-wise to a team whose progress has leveled out the last couple of seasons with first-round playoff exits.

Adding Horford greatly enhances the Celtics’ chances at making a playoff run that extends beyond just the first round. Adding Horford also provides the first real tangible sign that the days of Boston being perceived as no man’s land when it comes to free agents are in the past.

In addition, Horford’s leadership on the floor and inside the locker room can only strengthen a culture that’s deeply rooted in accountability.

But as the Celtics approach their recruitment of Horford with cautious optimism, they know all too well that they can’t afford to take anything involved in wooing him for granted.

While the Rockets may appear to be a team that Boston doesn’t have to worry too much about when it comes to Horford, there is one wild card franchise out there: Oklahoma City.

They’re the odds-on favorite to re-sign Kevin Durant, and adding a player like Horford to the roster could only strengthen their chances of keeping him long-term.

Oklahoma City has explored possible trade opportunities centered around Enes Kanter, which could go far in freeing up space to pursue Horford.

And as one of the six teams that Durant will meet with this weekend, the Celtics are well aware of the minefield that awaits them in trying to secure Horford as well as their top target, Durant.

The fact that Boston is on the short list for the top two free agents out there (Durant and Horford), speaks volumes as to how far this franchise has come from a perception standpoint in the eyes of the league’s best players.

Both Horford and Durant have talked in glowing terms about the Celtics franchise, head coach Brad Stevens and the players.

And the Celtics have made no secret about wanting both to eventually become Celtics, something that now stands as a legit possibility with Boston well in the mix for both players.

A. Sherrod Blakely can be followed on Twitter: @SherrodbCSN

OFFSEASON

Hawks adding Howard could lead to Celtics signing Horford

Hawks adding Howard could lead to Celtics signing Horford

BOSTON – It’s a toss-up as to which was celebrated more by Boston Celtics fans: Dwight Howard coming to terms with the Atlanta Hawks, or the fact that it significantly improves Boston’s chances of landing one of their top free agent targets Al Horford.

A league executive texted CSNNE.com that Howard being off the market and going to Atlanta, should make the Celtics the favorite to land Horford.

Acquiring Horford, a four-time all-star, would be the biggest free agent signing in the Danny Ainge era. Boston is scheduled to meet with Horford tonight and is expected to offer him a four-year, $113 million max contract.

But as much as the Celtics want Horford, their primary target remains Oklahoma City’s Kevin Durant who may be more inclined to seriously consider Boston if they were to acquire Horford.