Shelvin Mack ready if Celtics call

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Shelvin Mack ready if Celtics call

Shelvin Mack knows how to stay ready.

The Maine Red Claws guard has not received a call from the undermanned Boston Celtics, but if he does, he will be prepared to take his game back to the NBA.

Mack could be an option to fill an open roster spot following the season-ending ACL injuries suffered by Rajon Rondo just over two weeks ago and Leandro Barbosa on Monday. He leads the Celtics NBA Development League affiliate in scoring this season (19.6 ppg) and is also averaging 7.6 assists and 4.7 rebounds per game.

Mack was in Texas on Tuesday evening with the Red Claws to take on the Rio Grande Valley Vipers. While aware of the Celtics backcourt vacancies, he was focused on doing the best he could in his current situation just hours before tip off.

"I feel like it would be a great opportunity," Mack said of the Celtics, adding, "(I haven't been given any indication from the Celtics), I try not to worry about that. That's another thing I've learned throughout this process, just worry about the things you can control. I can't control how they're thinking, All I can control is just going out and playing basketball, trying to be a great basketball player and a great teammate."

At 22 years old, Mack already has NBA experience. He was selected by the Washington Wizards with the 34th overall pick in the 2011 NBA Draft and appeared in 64 games for them last season. He posted 3.6 points, 2.0 assists, and 1.4 rebounds in 12.2 minutes backing up John Wall.

The Wizards invited Mack to training camp this season, and although they waived him in October, they called him up from the Red Claws in December. After Mack returned to Maine in early January, the Philadelphia 76ers called him up twice. He believes there is a place for him in the pros.

"The NBA is all about finding the right situation and the right fit for you," Mack told CSNNE.com in a telephone interview. "Some guys get lucky and are able to find that early, and some guys it kind of takes a while. The D-League was the best opportunity I had. If I felt like I wasn't an NBA player, I wouldn't have three call ups so far this year, I wouldn't be on the radar for the Celtics. It's just finding the right situation that's best for you. ... With the right situation and the right team, I'll be able to show how valuable I really am."

Mack is familiar with the Celtics system through playing for the Red Claws. He embraces their fundamentals and values their team-first mentality.

"The biggest thing I know with the system is, it's not about individual stats. It's all about championships and competing at a high level," he said. "I'm a big fan of defense. Everyone can score points but a lot of things come down to effort and being able to play defense."

Mack also already knows several of the Celtics players. He has worked out with Jeff Green in Washington, D.C., played alongside Fab Melo on the Red Claws, and known Jared Sullinger for years through basketball camps. His closest friend on the team is fellow Kentucky native Rajon Rondo, who has helped him during his journey to the league.

"We work out a little bit together and he's a real good friend," Mack explained. "He tries to help me out with my game and fill me in on the process and the business."

6-foot-3 Mack compares his game to that of Chauncey Billups -- "real calm, cool, a solid basketball player that understands how to win," he explained. As a three-year member of the Butler Bulldogs, he appeared in the 2010 and 2011 NCAA National Championship games. He also won a gold medal as captain of the USA U19 World Championship in 2009.

"I'm a guy (people) can depend on who's going to come in and compete and play hard," he said. "I will do whatever you can to help the team win."

If the Celtics were to call, Mack would embrace the opportunity just as he has with the Wizards and 76ers -- "It'd be another blessing," he said. For now, though, his role is to help the Red Claws succeed in the D-League. He knows losing sight of that goal won't help him attain the bigger picture of making it in the NBA.

"I've been kind of going through this process all year," he said. "I'm just worrying about the things you can control. I see a lot of guys every year that look at message boards and read what's on the Internet and it affects their game. If it's going to happen, it's going to happen. If not, I've just got to stay ready and keep grinding."

Sixers' success against C's defense shows Boston still has room to grow

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Sixers' success against C's defense shows Boston still has room to grow

Avery Bradley was a member of the NBA’s All-Defensive first team a year ago. And Al Horford has been among the league’s best interior defenders for a number of years.

But as talented defensively as they may be, the Celtics are still learning how to play with each other as well as off of one another.

Injuries have slowed down the chemistry developing as quickly as some might expect. Horford missed nine games due to a concussion, and another game due to wife giving birth to their second child, Alia Horford.

And in Boston’s 107-106 win over Philadelphia on Saturday night, defensive chemistry -- not only among Horford and Bradley, but with all of the players -- remains a work in progress for sure.

Boston had a number of defensive issues in the first half which factored in the Sixer shooting 46.1 percent from the field while shooting 9-for-18 from 3-point range.

But the second half was an entirely different story as Boston’s defense picked up his intensity and focus level which would prove to be just enough to beat a scrappy Sixers team.

The Celtics (12-8) are four games over .500 for the first time this season currently have the third-best record in the Eastern Conference behind Cleveland (13-5) and Toronto (14-6). 

And while the players point to a handful of games that they felt they gave away, Avery Bradley reminds all that the success of this team this season has for the most part come with key players out of the mix or limited in some capacity.

“We haven’t played that many games with the full roster,” Bradley told reporters after the win. “We’re still learning how to play with each other.”

Bradley pointed out a moment in Saturday’s victory where a miscommunication between him and Horford led to a defensive miscue.

Boston has had similar mistakes made on offense this season, too.

“We haven’t really been in pick-and-roll that much,” Bradley said. “Every single game we need to improve.”

And that improvement has to continue evolving on the defensive side of things for this team to achieve its goals this season which include being among the last teams standing in the East.

Doing that will likely mean Boston re-establishing itself as a defensive force, something that should come with time and experience playing with each other.

Horford, who signed a four-year, $113 million deal with Boston in the offseason, says it’s an ongoing process for all involved.

“I have to learn to play with our concepts, the guys have to learn to play with me,” Horford told reporters after Saturday’s win. “We just have to make sure we keep playing the right way, be more consistent with that. I feel like we’re getting better but there’s still some work that we need to do.”

Stars, studs and duds: Thomas churns out another strong fourth quarter performance

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Stars, studs and duds: Thomas churns out another strong fourth quarter performance

The pressure that comes with a tight game in the fourth quarter can be a weighty proposition for some NBA players.

Then there’s Boston’s Isaiah Thomas who continues to save his best work for the fourth quarter.

Saturday’s 107-106 win at Philadelphia had yet another Thomas-like finish for the Celtics as the 5-foot-9 guard was at his most dominant state in the game’s final minutes.

Thomas finished with a season high-tying 37 points which included a stretch in the fourth in which he scored 12 straight.

“I just love the fourth quarter,” Thomas told reporters following the win. “I just want to win. Whether it’s making plays for myself or making plays for my teammates, it’s about making the right play. I get ultra- aggressive in that fourth quarter. That’s what I’ve always done.”

And his teammates appreciate how Thomas elevates his play in the game’s most pivotal moments.

“A lot of the credit is to Isaiah, how he was able to finish the game tonight,” said Avery Bradley. “He was able to make shots when we needed him to.”

And while Thomas knows his shots won’t fall all the time down the stretch, his fourth quarter mentality does provide him with a level of confidence that no matter what the defense does to him or what the score may be, he can swing the game’s momentum in his team’s favor.

“Some guys get a little tight, they get a little timid (in the fourth quarter),” Thomas said. “I embrace it. I want to be great. I want to be somebody my teammates can call on when the game is close.”

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

STARS

Isaiah Thomas: There was no more dominant player on Saturday night than Thomas. He finished with a game-high 37 points along with seven assists.

Dario Saric: It was a breakout game for the 22-year-old rookie who led the Sixers with 21 points as well as 12 rebounds for his third double-double this season. Both his points and rebound totals tied his career highs in those categories.

STUDS

Avery Bradley: Boston’s surge towards victory did not kick in until the third quarter which is when Bradley elevated his play offensively. In the third he scored 10 of his 20 points on the night, to go along with a team-high nine rebounds.

Ersan Illyasova: He finished with 18 points which included a pair of three-pointers in the closing seconds of the game. He also grabbed six rebounds and two assists.

DUDS

Celtics first half defense: There wasn’t much to like about Boston defensively in the first half. The Celtics struggled to take away or limit Philadelphia’s only strength Saturday night which was three-point shooting. The Sixers nailed nine of their 18 three-point attempts in the first half in addition to hurting the Celtics’ transition defense which gave up seven fast-break points to Philly compared to Boston scoring just one point in transition.