Smith: 'We have to duplicate what Celtics do'

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Smith: 'We have to duplicate what Celtics do'

BOSTON As Josh Smith sat on the Atlanta Hawks bench, he could see how hard Ray Allen was running to get free for a shot. He could see how alert all the Celtics big men were in setting picks and screens to free Paul Pierce, or how his old prep school running mate, Rajon Rondo, was so deliberate in his dissecting of the Hawks defense. And defensively, the way the Celtics closed out on shooters, prevented others from getting the ball in their sweet spots it left quite an impression on Smith, for sure.

Despite the fact that the C's were whipping his Hawks so soundly, there was still a level of appreciation on Smith's part for how the Celtics went about dismantling the Hawks, 101-79, on Sunday. Boston now leads the best-of-seven series 3-1 with a chance to close out the series in Atlanta on Tuesday.

It was in many ways a clinic on what you need to do in order to win in the playoffs.

And Smith acknowledged the lessons learned Sunday night, he hopes to bring them back to Atlanta for Game 5.

"We have to duplicate what they do," Smith said.

Atlanta's efforts will likely improve with Al Horford now having a game under his belt.

After missing all but 11 games during the regular season, Horford made an unexpected postseason debut in Game 4 on Sunday. He came off the bench and finished with 12 points and five rebounds, seemingly getting stronger as the game went on.

They'll need him to have an even better game on Tuesday.

Ditto for Smith whose left knee injury has him looking like a shell of the player who dominated play in Games 1 and 2, before the knee injury kept him out of Game 3.

"It feels OK," said Smith who still managed to score 15 points on Sunday in addition to grabbing 13 rebounds. "It'll probably feel a little sore tomorrow. That's what happens when you come back from an injury."

Yes he's still hurting and chances are, he'll be hurting when the Hawks face the Celtics on Tuesday.

But he says the injury won't keep him from playing in what may very well be the Hawks' last game of the season.

"It's a must-win game," he said. "I know we're fighting odds now. But it shouldn't be no quit in this team. We have to go out and establish ourselves early and we have to get a win to force a sixth game."

Celtics guard Keyon Dooling expects Game 5 will be the C's toughest this series.

"It's a great opportunity," Dooling said of closing out the series. "I just feel like it won't be an easy task. We gotta come in with the right frame of mind. We have to be focused and we have to go down there and compete. They will be a desperate team. They don't want to go out like this. I think they'll come out clawing and scratching. We have to be prepared to match their energy."

Sullinger on Celtics: 'I watch from a distance, I support from a distance'

Sullinger on Celtics: 'I watch from a distance, I support from a distance'

BOSTON – The trip to the TD Garden is one that Jared Sullinger has made many times but never like this. 

The former Celtic was back in town with his new team, the Toronto Raptors who signed him to a one-year, $5.6 million deal after the Celtics rescinded their qualifying offer to him and thus made him an unrestricted free agent. 

“I had a feeling it was going to go that way once they signed big Al (Horford), that they were going to let me go,” Sullinger said prior to Friday’s game.  “We were prepared for it. It is what it is. I’m happy these guys are doing well.”

And he hopes to say the same for himself sometime in the future after undergoing surgery to have a screw inserted in the fifth metatarsal of his left foot – the same foot he had season-ending surgery on during the 2014-2015 season with the Celtics. 

There’s no specific timetable as to when he’ll be back on the floor, and Sullinger is cool with that plan. 

“I don’t know. They’re hiding the protocol from me so I won’t rush; we’ll see,” said Sullinger who is still in a walking boot. 

The 6-foot-9 forward played well in the preseason and solidified himself as the team’s starting power forward. 

Now that he’s out with another injury, he’ll have to once again try and prove himself either later this season when he returns, or this summer when he becomes a free agent again.

For now, Sullinger is happy to be back in town, seeing lots of familiar faces, friends and ex-teammates that he says he still keeps in close contact with. 

“Some of these guys I considered like brothers to me,” Sullinger said. “IT (Isaiah Thomas), Jae Crowder to name a few. So I watch from a distance, I support from a distance. They’re playing well.”

In addition to his former teammates, the lines of communication remained open between him and Celtics head coach Brad Stevens as well. 

Stevens said the two exchanged text messages right before he had foot surgery, and afterwards. 

“Obviously, everyone here wishes a speedy recovery and hopefully he gets back on the court soon,” Stevens said. 

Sullinger has been an effective player during his time in the NBA, with career averages of 11.1 points and 7.7 rebounds per game. 

But this will be the third time in his five NBA seasons that he will miss a significant amount of time on the court due to an injury or recovering from an injury. 

Stevens acknowledged that he feels for Sullinger who once again has to go through rehabilitation in order to get back on the floor.

“I like Jared a lot,” Stevens said. “He’s a heck of a player, he’s a really smart guy. Got a lot of respect for him and it stinks that he’s got to go through that but he’ll come back strong I’m sure.”

Stars, studs and duds: Celtics have no answer for Lowry

Stars, studs and duds: Celtics have no answer for Lowry

BOSTON — For most of Friday night’s game, the Boston Celtics played the kind of game that on most nights would result in a victory. 

But Toronto is one of the best teams in the Eastern Conference with talent, depth and an undeniable desire to win at all costs. 

One strong quarter by the Raptors was just enough to put away the Celtics, 101-94. 

And it came in the third when Toronto outscored Boston 33-18 which turned out to be the only quarter the Raptors (16-7) outscored the Celtics. 

“They got hot; made some tough shots,” said Boston’s Marcus Smart. “The tough shots kind of hurt us.”

The tough shots and a flawless 8-for-8 performance from the free throw line. 

While it’s a 48-minute game, there was no getting around the fact that it was Toronto’s dominance in the third that ultimately determined the game’s outcome. 

“If you look at it from our perspective it’s what went wrong; if you look at it from theirs, they ratcheted up the defense quite a bit (in the third quarter),” said Celtics head coach Brad Stevens. “It was hard for us to break their … break their wall of defense.”

In the third quarter, Boston shot just 27.8 percent from the field, 30 percent (3-for-10) on 3’s and a woeful 5-for-10 from the free throw line. 

“We started making everything difficult for them and not letting them get that easy in and try to take advantage of that,” said Toronto’s DeMar DeRozan.

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

 

STARS

Kyle Lowry

The Celtics had no answer for the All-Star point guard who led all players with 34 points, 21 of which came in the second half. 

Avery Bradley

Bradley was the lone Celtics starter who seemed to be in a good shooting flow, tallying 19 points on 7-for-11 shooting which included five made 3’s. 

DeMar DeRozan

The Celtics made him work a lot harder than he usually does to score, but he still managed to tally 24 points – just four points below his season average – on 9-for-25 shooting.

 

STUDS

Al Horford

He made a few more turnovers than usual, but Horford still put together a relatively balanced performance. He had 19 points and seven rebounds with six assists and a blocked shot. 

Norman Powell

The X-factor in Friday’s outcome had to be Powell. A 5.8 points per game scorer this season, Powell had 20 points on 7-for-10 shooting along with a game-high five steals. 

 

DUDS

Jae Crowder

With Isaiah Thomas (right groin) out, the Celtics really needed its core starters to step up and have a productive night offensively. Crowder just didn’t have it going on Friday, scoring just seven points on 2-for-11 shooting which included a number of 3s that rimmed in and out on him.