Rivers has Celtics working on small ball early in camp

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Rivers has Celtics working on small ball early in camp

WALTHAM There was plenty of jokes and small talk surrounding the Celtics' impending trip to Europe on Monday, but the team does actually have a practice before they go.

Losing a day of camp due to travel means that there's certainly no time to take the days available for granted. So how did the C's tackle Monday's session before liftoff?

In a small way. Small ball, to be exact.

Based on how the team's roster is constructed, the C's have the ability to put out combinations of players that slide into multiple roles. They're deep at the guard position, and that's not even counting an injured Avery Bradley. Rajon Rondo, Courtney Lee and Jason Terry will all see time at the shooting guard position, with Lee being able to play at small forward as well.

Green is a small forward but will see time at the power forward position, and don't be surprised if Paul Pierce makes appearances there too in certain small ball lineups.

So, yeah, a lineup or Rondo, Terry, Lee, PierceGreen, and Bass is very possible but only if it works in practice.

"We put small lineups in yesterday but we didn't work on it, so today we're going to almost exclusively have small lineups on the floor, and we're going to change them all around, so that'll be fun," Doc Rivers said. "This is the first year that we've actually really worked on it, and we're going to work on it so we can do it every day."

The Celtics have used small ball lineups in the past, dating back to the days of James Posey, so the notion that this is uncharted territory is a bit off. Still, Rivers making a point to focus on it proves that it should be a bigger part of the offense this season.

"I don't know if we'll use more small ball but we'll use it effectively," Rivers said. "So we'll be able to go back and forth. We'll be able to go big too, with Jeff and Paul at the two and three. So we have a lot of lineups on paper that look good, and we'll see how they look when the season starts."

With all the possible lineups, Rivers is sounding more and more like Bill Belichick and his love for versatility.

Speaking on the backup point guard position, Rivers commended Terry's ball-handling skills, calling him a "natural at the point". That said, he also noted that if Rondo isn't in the game, the team is looking to "create offense so it's not a point guard-dominant offense." That most likely means getting out on the break, using athleticism over set plays

Multiple lineups. Multiple looks. Multiple sets. Pick and roll. Motion. Half-court. Up-tempo. You name it, it looks like Rivers is considering it.

Stars, studs and duds: Celtics make big plays down the stretch

Stars, studs and duds: Celtics make big plays down the stretch

BOSTON – When the fourth quarter rolled around on Friday night, the Boston Celtics found themselves in a down-to-the-wire fight with the Sacramento Kings. 

It was the kind of game that in the past has brought out the scrappy, get-it-done-somehow brand of basketball that has in many ways come to define the Celtics under fourth-year coach Brad Stevens. 

And it was on full display Friday night as the Celtics made all the big plays at both ends of the floor down the stretch to beat the Sacramento Kings, 97-92. 

After Sacramento cut Boston’s lead to 90-87, Al Horford drained a 3-pointer to make it a two-possession game again. 

Isaiah Thomas came up with a pair of free throws that turned out to be huge, because shortly after he made them the Kings got a 3-pointer from DeMarcus Cousins that made it a 95-92 game.

The Kings had a chance to tie the game late in the fourth when Horford was credited with his sixth block of the game, this time on DeMarcus Cousins.

Horford was immediately fouled and went to the free throw line where he sealed the victory by making a pair.

Those were the kind of plays we saw often last season being made by the Celtics who finished in a tie for the third-best record in the East. 

This year, not so much. 

“For the most part we got what we wanted (in the fourth quarter) and we got the stops we needed even,” Thomas said. 

Which is the kind of game Jae Crowder and the rest of the guys who have been here awhile, have grown accustomed to.

“We got back to being the aggressive team,” Crowder said. “We came out and imposed our will early; that helped. But if the game comes down to what it was tonight, we have to be the team that comes out on top. It was like a playoff game, real physical. We have to grit it out, grind it out.”

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

 

STARS

Al Horford

So this is what an ultra-aggressive Al Horford looks like? The four-time All-Star had a season-high 26 points which included knocking down four three-pointers to go with eight rebounds and six blocked shots – yes, six blocked shots.

DeMarcus Cousins

While his fiery temper hasn’t died down completely, his incredible offensive skills and brute strength is what folks are talking more about, finally. He led the Kings with a game-high 28 points to go with nine rebounds, three assists, a steal and four blocked shots.  

 

STUDS

Isaiah Thomas

His streak of being Boston’s outright scoring leader ended at 14 games, but he’s more than happy to take a back seat for one night if it means getting a victory. Horford led the charge on Friday night, but Thomas still chipped in with 20 points, seven assists and two steals. 

Matt Barnes

Although he missed eight of his 11 shots from the field, the 36-year-old Barnes was rewarded for his hustle and effort as he finished with a double-double of 12 points and a game-high 16 rebounds.

Jae Crowder

Boston needed tough plays to be made on Friday and Crowder was up the challenge all night. He finished with 16 points on 6-for-12 shooting to go with three rebounds, three assists and a steal. Good things happened when he was on the floor, evident by his game-high plus/minus of +15.

 

DUDS

Rudy Gay

He finished with 13 points on 6-for-14 shooting but the Kings needed more from their second-leading scorer who finished almost seven points below his 19.6 points per game average. That stands out on a night when the Kings lost by just five points.