A long-awaited big win for Boston


A long-awaited big win for Boston

Merry Day After Christmas, everyone. I hope you had a great time with the family. I hope that you got everything that you asked for. I hope that your pants still fit. If nothing else, I hope that you enjoyed an impressive Celtics victory.

Ever since Boston beat Oklahoma City waaaay back on November 23, weve waited for the Cs to come through in another major match-up. Over that time, we saw them lose to Brooklyn, lose to Chicago and lose to San Antonio. We saw them beat the Sixers, but that was only after losing to them the night before. The bottom line is that entering yesterdays game, it had been more than a month since the Celtics had delivered a win that really left you feeling good about their situation; confident that were ready to finally turn this season around and join the ranks of Eastern Conference contenders.

But yesterday did it. Yesterday was that win.

Of course, if the Celtics arent careful, that win will very quickly become insignificant. With Christmas in the rear view, Boston now heads out west for games at the Clippers (winners of 14 straight, owners of the best record in the NBA), Warriors (always a tough place to play, especially now that theyre good) and Kings (OK, they still stink). After that, the Green returns home to take on the Grizzlies (one of the biggest and baddest teams in the league, with the NBAs second best defensive rating) and the Pacers (winners in six of seven; the NBAs No. 1 rated defense). After that the Celtics are back on the road against the Hawks (who finally look like theyre for real) and then wrap up the killer stretch on Monday, January 7 at Madison Square Garden against Steve Novak and the Knicks.

When the dust settles on that brutal schedule, well either remember yesterday as a turning point or we wont remember it at all, but for now, lets soak in the rest of the Christmas cheer and take a look at what went right for the Celtics: contributions from the supporting cast.

Coming into this season, we knew that Bostons returning core could get the job done. Rajon Rondo, Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, Avery Bradley (when healthy) and Brandon Bass had proven that they can compete collectively at the leagues highest level. But it was that supporting cast Jeff Green, Jason Terry, Courtney Lee, Jared Sullinger that was supposed to make a good Celtics team great, and for the most part, thats whats been missing over the first two months of this season.

But yesterday in Brooklyn, that clearly wasnt the case.

After a 1-15 showing against Milwaukee, Jason Terry was 4-7 (including 3-4 from deep) for 11 points and even dished out four assists. Jeff Green was good Jeff Green, with 15 points and a defensive energy and focus that allowed him to stay on the court for 28 minutes. Jared Sullinger was a beast, registering a career high 32:50 of playing time, tying career highs with 16 points and six free throw attempts, adding seven rebounds, two assists, a block and a steal, and generally carrying himself like a season-vet as opposed to a kid whos still not old enough to buy a beer. Lee was unspectacular but still steady. And Jason Collins JASON COLLINS continued to give the Celtics valuable time in the paint. He was only on the court for 13 minutes, but it certainly felt like more. His contributions can't be overlooked.

But they can't stop there. For this team to be all that it can be, Collins and company need to keep bringing it every night. Performances like yesterday can't be cause for celebrations and the focus of columns and blog posts, city-wide. They need to become the norm. They need to happen every game.

For the next seven games, at least. Or else Boston's Christmas miracle will quickly become a New Year's nightmare.

Rich can be reached at rlevine@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Rich on Twitter at http:twitter.comrich_levine

Celtics hope to rebound after being outplayed by Bulls on the boards

Celtics hope to rebound after being outplayed by Bulls on the boards

Following Thursday’s 105-99 loss to the Chicago Bulls, the Boston Celtics will be on the prowl to rebound – literally – from its first defeat of the season.

Because for all that did not go right in Thursday night’s loss, the way Boston was beaten on the boards stands out emphatically.

“They got 24 more shots than us. We only turned it over (12) times,” Celtics head coach Brad Stevens told reporters after the loss. “So that’s the obvious place they’re getting their possessions, on the glass. That’s going to be the number one thing, that has been the number one thing. It’s something we’ve talked about. We have to get better at it.”


Boston was out-rebounded 55-36 on the boards which heavily factored into Chicago’s 18-5 advantage in second-chance points.

In the Celtics' 122-117 win over Brooklyn on Wednesday, Boston won the overall rebounding battle 47-44, but had just 12 offensive rebounds compared to Brooklyn's 15 offensive boards. Despite the close margin, the Nets won the battle on the offensive glass running away, outscoring the Celtics 23-13 in second-chance points.

Stevens decided to start Tyler Zeller ahead of Amir Johnson to begin the third quarter, hoping Zeller would be a better matchup on the glass than Johnson who did not grab a single rebound in the 11 minutes of court time he got in the first half.

While Zeller did do a few good things on the glass and scoring in half-court sets, it wasn’t enough to swing the momentum Chicago was steadily gaining due to its ability to control the boards.

“I wasn’t real surprised but at the same time I knew it could happen,” Zeller told reporters, referring to Stevens’ decision to have him start the second half. “They did a good job of coming out and setting the tone. They beat us up on the boards, especially the first half. It’s something we have to get better at and continue to grow at.”

And it’s not a one-player or one-position issue, either.

Usually we think of bigs when it comes to rebounding. But Boston’s guards need to step up their rebounding game as well.

The struggles thus far have to be put in the context of this being just two games, the latter being the season opener for the Bulls who were jacked up more than usual due to it being the first game for Chicago native Dwyane Wade and ex-Celtic Rajon Rondo.

“We have to focus on boxing out,” said Boston’s Jaylen Brown. “Guards have to do a better job. Guys like me, Al (Horford), Amir (Johnson), Tyler (Zeller) ... We have to do a good job of coming in the weak side and grabbing those; just focus on it, pay more attention to detail.”