Celtics-Wizards preview: C's looking to bounce back quickly

Celtics-Wizards preview: C's looking to bounce back quickly

Returning home following a 114-108 loss at Toronto, you always wonder about how a team will respond the second night of a back-to-back, particularly coming off a loss.

“It’s hard. But you know, this is the way the NBA works,” Boston’s Al Horford told reporters following the Toronto game. “We have another one (tonight). A team that beat us pretty bad the first time. We need to get back home, rest up and get ready for (tonight).”

While fatigue is always a concern, the second night of back-to-back games seems to create a greater level of focus which usually results in wins.

Boston comes into tonight’s game against Washington with a 5-3 record on the second night of back-to-back games, with their last second night of a back-to-back being a 117-108 win over New Orleans on Jan. 7.

As far as any residual effect following Tuesday’s loss, a game in which the Raptors closed out the game by outscoring Boston 23-6, that seems unlikely with this team.

“We’ll leave it here,” Thomas told reporters in Toronto following the loss. “Once we get on that plane it’s on to the next one; focus on Washington. This week is big for us. Take care of home court (tonight) and go into Atlanta and get one there.”

While that may be the goal, it’s a lot easier said than done.

This is especially true for tonight’s game against the Wizards (19-18) who are currently eighth in the Eastern Conference after winning six of their last eight games.

During those eight games, Washington has been an effective team at both ends of the floor. Offensively they are shooting 50.1 percent in that span which ranks fourth in the NBA. And the Wizards’ effective Field Goal Percentage (eFG%) is .562.

Defensively, Washington has limited opponents to 36.9 made baskets which is the sixth-lowest total in the last eight games in the league. In addition, the Wizards have a defensive rating of 102.7 which ranks fifth in the league in the last eight games.

And that defense can only be helped by watching the video from Boston’s loss to Toronto on Tuesday.

Toronto did more than just beat the Celtics.

They showed exactly how effective a team can be which makes a strong, conscious effort to keep the ball out of Isaiah Thomas’ hands.

The Raptors didn’t come up with the “Thomas Rules” or anything like that.

After all, Thomas still made an impact scoring the ball as he finished with a team-high 27 points on 8-for-19 shooting. Thomas also had seven assists with just one turnover.

You can rest assured that the Wizards will also try and get the ball out of Thomas’ hands as much as possible, and force Boston’s other players to step up and make plays which was something they did not do enough of on Tuesday.

“We have to figure out how to play when guys do that,” Thomas said. “Guys have to make plays on that end.”

Dissecting all that went wrong in Tuesday’s loss as a precursor to tonight’s game, can be an exhausting endeavor that doesn’t necessarily bring about any closure or improvement for the Celtics.

“My biggest thing is we have to get a lot better,” Stevens said. “I probably saw more encouraging signs of progress than I did negative.”

C's showed Patriots support in AFC semifinal game

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C's showed Patriots support in AFC semifinal game

WALTHAM, Mass. -- Boston Celtics coach Brad Stevens has a tremendous amount of respect for New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick and what he has built in Foxboro.

But it wasn't until Sunday’s playoff game between the Patriots and the Houston Texans did he actually see them play at Foxboro.

And while Stevens is from Indiana and is indeed an Indianapolis Colts fan, the Patriots have his support for a multitude of reasons.

“It was fun to watch,” said Stevens who attended the game with his father and his son. “When you talk about rooting interest, you root for who you know. I was definitely rooting for them. I hope they can go all the way. It was fun to watch.”

He wasn’t the only Celtic in Foxboro cheering on the Patriots who pulled away for a 34-16 win over the Texans.

Boston Celtics guard Isaiah Thomas was there watching from a suite.

“It was a nice. They won. I got a lot of backlash for switching up,” said Thomas, a Tacoma, Wash. Native who grew up rooting for the Seattle Seahawks.

“It was good, just to be on that field and be around those guys,” Thomas said. “You can tell, they’re focused on winning a championship, winning the Superbowl. You want to be around those type of players.”

That goes for coaches as well, which is why Brad Stevens has maintained a good relationship with Belichick who has created the kind of winning atmosphere that all coaches want.

“One of the things they’ve’ created is sustainability and culture,” Stevens said. “Any coach wants to be in a position where over the course of time every single year you suit up, you got a chance. Because of the commitment of doing things the way they want to do it … they’ve created that. I can’t say enough good things about the job that he’s done. I’ve got a chance to watch him up close. You feel pretty inadequate when you walk out of that building as a coach.”

Stevens has also been impressed with the way the Patriots have handled injuries and situations where  a key player has been down.

“There’s been a ton of change in the roster and he just keeps churning out wins regardless of who is on the field. Obviously (Tom) Brady has been a constant through all of that. But at the same time, there have been a lot of changes at a lot of significant positions. They just do their job well. That’s the bottom line.

Celtics being cautious with Avery Bradley's return from Achilles injury

Celtics being cautious with Avery Bradley's return from Achilles injury

WALTHAM, Mass. -- Before Sunday’s practice, Avery Bradley was off to one of the side courts working on his catch, two-dribble, pull-up game.
 
And once practice started, Bradley was on the floor with the rest of his teammates, participating in both contact and non-contact drills.
 
While his return on Sunday was certainly a positive, there’s still some uncertainty as to whether he’ll return to action on Monday against Charlotte after having missed the last four games with a right Achilles injury.
 
While he has made steady progress since suffering the injury earlier this month, the Celtics are being cautious about his return, knowing how a return too soon could set him and the Celtics back significantly.
 
Bradley’s value to the Celtics is not even up for debate, but the Celtics have managed to find ways to win despite being without their top on-the-ball defender and number two scorer.
 
“We’ve gotten good practice with not being with our key guys this year,” quipped Stevens. “So it’s just the next guy has to be ready to go. A lot of guys can fill in, and not try and replace one guy with another guy but rather by committee.”
 
Marcus Smart, a player Stevens has often referred to as the team’s sixth starter, has filled in for Bradley with the first unit.
 
In the last four games, Smart has averaged 14.0 points to go with 4.8 assists, 3.8 rebounds, and 2.5 steals while shooting 40 percent from the field and 43.8 percent from 3-point range.
 
Terry Rozier has seen an uptick in his court time as well with Bradley out, resulting in him averaging 5.5 points, 3.5 rebounds and 1.0 assists while shooting 60 percent (9-for-15) and 40 percent (2-for-5) from 3-point range.
 
Indeed, Bradley’s absence has afforded other Celtics an opportunity to step up and do so in a meaningful way that’s helping Boston win games.

Bradley has missed a total of five games on the season. Boston has managed to hold their own in his absence, posting a 4-1 record.

This recent Achilles injury has been the only setback of significance this season for Bradley.

We’re used to seeing Bradley improve from one year to the next, but this season has been nothing short of sensational for the sixth-year player.
 
His 18.0 points and 7.0 rebounds per game are both career-highs. He’s also shooting 41.7 percent on 3s which is also a new career mark for the 6-foot-2 guard.