Boston Celtics

Blakely: How Celts can close out Hawks

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Blakely: How Celts can close out Hawks

ATLANTA At the very end of Ray Allen's post-game media scrum Tuesday night, he left these chewable crumbs that we plan to feast off of today.

"We have to go back to the drawing board," he said.

And so we will.

There's not much value in spending all our time on what went wrong in Boston's 87-86 Game 5 loss. Rather than do that, we'll use what we've learned from the entire series to this point as a learning tool and move forward.

Here we'll highlight three things the C's can do that should put this series to bed Thursday night.

STAY HUNGRY

The Celtics have proven repeatedly to be a team that doesn't handle prosperity well. It seems the role of favorite, even if it's just for one game, is one that's too difficult for them to handle at times.

In Game 5, Boston played for long stretches like a team that wasn't in a must-win situation. That is not the case anymore.

A loss in Game 6 and the C's will find themselves on the verge of what would be one of the greatest playoff collapses in franchise history.

The best way to approach Game 6 for the C's is to have a Game 7 mentality. Back in 2008, Boston annihilated the Hawks in their Game 7 at the Garden.

Even though last night the Hawks found a way to stay alive for another game, their Game 5 win wasn't exactly the kind of victory that's all of a sudden going to bring back their confidence that they can win this series.

At the very least though, the Hawks feel they can compete.

Part of the C's job -- and they need to do it in the first quarter -- is to break the Hawks' spirit with a major run and show no signs of letting up in the second or third quarter.

In other words, whip out the Game 4 plan and do it again.

PAGING RYAN HOLLINS

The Celtics need to play Ryan Hollins more.

I can't believe what I just typed, so let me do it again just to make sure this isn't some type of out-of-body, crazy dream thing going on.

The Celtics need to play Ryan Hollins more.

It still feels kind of weird, but it's the truth.

Hollins is giving the Celtics so much more in this series than Greg Stiemsa, it's not even really a debatable topic who should play more.

Stiemsma has earned the right to play because of what he has done in the regular season. But this is the playoffs. The regular season means diddly-squat right now.

Doc Rivers has to play the guys who are making plays. And Hollins -- no matter how out of control or wild he seems at times -- is making lots of plays.

In the Game 5 loss, he had a plusminus ratio of plus-6. Only Mickael Pietrus (plus-11) and Kevin Garnett (plus-17) were better.

He's hustling for loose balls. He's getting under the skin of Hawks players. He's catching alley-oop dunks from Rajon Rondo.

And he is . . . rebounding.

With Hollins, the good play that the C's are getting from him, could dry up at anytime so it's important that they ride this out for as long as they can -- even if it means sitting Stiemsma.

"The one thing you know when Ryan comes into the game, something's gonna happen," said C's coach Doc Rivers. "It's gonna be good or bad, but something's gonna happen."

LESS IS MORE FOR RONDO

While it's great to see Rajon Rondo being such a willing participant in Boston's efforts to score more points, the numbers show that more shots from Rondo doesn't necessarily make the Celtics a better team.

Consider this: In this playoff series, Rondo has taken 10 or more shots in the four games he played (he missed Game 2 while serving a suspension for making contact with official Marc Davis near the end of Game 1).

In those games, the Celtics are 2-2.

During the regular season, Boston was 12-13 in games in which he took 10 or more shots. One of the overlooked aspects of his recent run of double-doubles has been the fact that many of them have come on nights when Rondo was not a particularly efficient shooter.

In Boston's 87-86 Game 5 loss, he made some incredible plays both shooting the ball and as passer. But he also missed some easy ones, too, which accounted for him scoring 13 points while needing to take 17 shots to do so.

Every night, Rondo has to find that balance between when to search for his shot, and when to continue to find his teammates. For most of this season, he's done a really good job of doing so.

But for the C's to close out this series on Thursday, him finding that happy medium would make the process a whole lot smoother.

Horford: 'Trying to figure out the best way to help' after Hurricane Maria

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Horford: 'Trying to figure out the best way to help' after Hurricane Maria

CANTON, Mass. –  Hurricane Maria ravaged a number of Caribbean Islands, including the Dominican Republic – the home of Boston Celtics big man Al Horford.

“My immediate family is OK,” Horford told CSNNE.com during Boston’s Media Day on Monday. “But we look at everything in the big picture. We were very lucky in comparison to Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, a lot of smaller islands.”

Hurricane Maria hit the Dominican Republic with heavy wind and rain but delivered a much more powerful punch to other islands.

Puerto Rico has been devastated by the storm which has knocked out most of the electricity on the island along with heavy flooding.

The U.S. Virgin Islands was hit hard as well.

While the Dominican Republic wasn’t hit quite as hard as some other islands, they too are going through what’s likely to be an extended recovery period.

“We do have a lot of flooding,” Horford said of the Dominican Republic. “There’s a lot of need.”

Horford intends to address that need in some capacity.

“Right now, we’re trying to figure out the best way to help down there,” he said. “We want to make sure whatever we do as far as money and help-wise, it’s going to the people in need.”

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Stevens says new challenges haven't changed Celtics' expectations

Stevens says new challenges haven't changed Celtics' expectations

CANTON, Mass. – There is no way around it.

When conversations shift towards the best teams in the NBA, the Boston Celtics are one of the first teams talked about.

With that elevated status comes increased expectations, the kind that will kick into full gear when the team begins practice.

But within those expectations is the reality that despite the increased talent pool Brad Stevens will have to work with this season, there will still be an adjustment period.

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Increased expectations and maintaining a sense of urgency while being patient with the team gelling, will be among the biggest challenges awaiting Boston this season.

But head coach Brad Stevens doesn’t believe it will be an issue his team will contend with this season.

“Our expectations haven’t changed so there’s no balance,” Stevens said. “You do what you do, work every day to try to be the best you can be. We know what goal is in Boston; that’s stated pretty clearly with the banners that hang above us. Ultimately that has nothing to do with how good we become tomorrow and the next day. We just focus on the process.”

And that process begins in earnest on Tuesday with the first day of training camp.

“We’re looking forward to getting to work as a full team,” Stevens said.

Despite having a team with 10 new players, the expectations have not been any higher than they are now for Stevens who is entering his fifth season as Boston’s head coach.

He has a roster that includes a trio of All-Stars in Al Horford (4), Gordon Hayward (1) and Kyrie Irving (4), with a combined nine All-Star appearances among them.

Boston also has a talented but youthful roster outside of their Big Three that includes second-year wing Jaylen Brown and first-round pick Jayson Tatum not to mention returners Marcus Smart and Terry Rozier who will both be competing for prominent roles in the Celtics’ rotation this season.

The additions made by Boston should help balance out an offense that will continue to look for ways to score.

“We have a lot of new pieces,” said Boston’s Al Horford. “But I feel like we’re moving in the right direction as a team.”

Part of that progress involves not only getting the new guys up to speed, but also internal growth from among the handful of players back from last season’s squad.

The most talked about returnee on Monday was Marcus Smart, who comes into training camp having lost nearly 20 pounds.

Smart said he weighed 223 points after having weighed himself earlier on Monday, which is down from his playing weight of last season which hovered around the 240-pound mark.

Danny Ainge, Boston’s president of basketball operations, said the organization talked to Smart about the need for him to lose weight this summer.

Smart agreed.

The added weight began to bother him during the playoffs, leading to increased back pain and sleepless nights.

“I remember times putting on my shirt and tucking my stomach in because I didn’t like how it looked,” Smart said. “And that pain was causing me, I was always tired, I wasn’t as explosive and I was exerting so much energy to go out there every day and do the things I been doing my whole life. I wasn’t too fond of that. I knew I had to change.”

And when it comes to the Celtics heading into this season, change is indeed an appropriate description for this team.

But for newcomer Kyrie Irving, dealing with change is nothing new.

When LeBron James returned to Cleveland three years ago, it was expected to usher in a wave of victories from the outset.

Instead, the Cavs opened the season with a 5-6 start before getting on track and advancing to the first of three consecutive trips to the NBA Finals.

“It definitely, definitely attributes to figuring out how patient you are at that moment,” Irving said when I asked him about that slow start in Cleveland. That takes a while. You have to be very patient in your approach. I speak on that pretty often. So it’s not trying to figure out one thing or a few things in one day or after one game. It’s going to come in waves, man. These ups and downs we’re about to face as a team, as a collective group it’s going to be fairly interesting.  It’ll really echo in terms of our identity, how we respond. I’m looking forward to that aspect.”

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