Celtics-Bobcats review: Tired legs doom C's

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Celtics-Bobcats review: Tired legs doom C's

CHARLOTTE, N.C. Whether it was fatigue following Sunday's triple overtime game or simply Charlotte's youth winning out, the Boston Celtics' transition defense was about as bad as it has been in a while.

It certainly played a pivotal role down the stretch as Charlotte rallied for a 94-91 victory over the Celtics that snapped the C's season-best seven game winning streak.

"They beat us in transition basically, all game," said C's coach Doc Rivers.

Charlotte had 15 fast-break points compared to just six for the Celtics.

While the Celtics went out of their way to give the Bobcats (12-39) props for playing well, there was no way to look past the tired legs Boston players had down the stretch.

The C's shot 7-for-20 in the fourth quarter with Garnett and Pierce combining to miss seven of their 10 shots from the field. A number of those missed shots came up short, a clear sign most nights of tired legs which is understandable.

"Give them credit, they hung in there and competed," Rivers said. "We had a five-point (with 5:50) lead. Usually we close that game out. We didn't."

Missed shots and poor transition defense were just some of factors that led to the Celtics' winning streak coming to an end on Monday.

Here are some other factors outlined prior to the game, and how they actually played out.

WHAT TO LOOK FOR: Fatigue will be an issue, whether it's at the start of the game or in its closing moments. Doc Rivers would be hard pressed to play his guys their usual minutes after Sunday's triple overtime win over Denver. "Paul played 54 minutes. He's the guy I'm most concerned with," Rivers said. "If we have to rest guys and play them shorter minutes ... the only way I can do it is by my eyes. You'll never know how guy's feel until (tonight)."

WHAT WE SAW: It was clear that Rivers wanted to rest Pierce and Garnett in the first half as they played 13 and 12 minutes, respectively. The mental and physical drain from Sunday night caught up with both players down the stretch on Monday, with Pierce going scoreless in the fourth quarter while Garnett had eight points but missed five of his eight shot attempts which included a wide open, potential go-ahead jumper in the game's final seconds.

MATCHUP TO WATCH: Avery Bradley vs. Kemba Walker: Bradley is showing that he's more than a defender with a mid-range game that has been effective lately. Walker is having a really good season statistically. But it's going unnoticed because the Bobcats are such a bad team.

WHAT WE SAW: Bradley could not deliver on what would have been a game-tying 3-pointer in the final seconds of play. He finished with eight points, three assists, three steals and a pair of blocked shots. Meanwhile, Walker continues to be the best player on the Bobcats roster, tallying 18 points to go with six rebounds and six assists.

PLAYER TO WATCH: Courtney Lee was the only Celtics starter to play less than 30 minutes on Sunday, so he may very well get lots of opportunities to make an impact early on. A big game from Lee would do wonders not only for the Celtics, but also for Lee who tends to play better overall when he's more involved in the offense.

WHAT WE SAW: Like the rest of his teammates, Lee never seemed to get into any kind of flow or rhythm all game. He played just 19 minutes, scoring four points on 2-for-6 shooting.

STAT TO TRACK: One of Boston's strengths all season has been their ability to rack up lots of assists. During their current seven-game winning streak, the Celtics have won the assist battle in all but one game. And this season, Boston has a 23-6 record in games in which they have more assists.

WHAT WE SAW: Boston once again came out ahead in terms of assists with 26 compared to 22 for the Bobcats. But Charlotte swept the three big hustleeffort stat categories: points in the paint (34-32, Charlotte); second-chance points (9-6, Charlotte); and fast break points (15-9, Charlotte). It's hard to win games when opponents win all three of those categories.

Chris Mannix: 'Great chance' Celtics capture No. 1 seed

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Chris Mannix: 'Great chance' Celtics capture No. 1 seed

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Kelly Olynyk's 3-point game is helping him produce all over floor

Kelly Olynyk's 3-point game is helping him produce all over floor

WALTHAM -- Kelly Olynyk is in a good place right now. 

He’s playing a key role on one of the top teams in the NBA, doing more than just stretch the floor with long-range jumpers and 3-pointers. He has been a solid positional defender most of his time in the NBA, but lately he has become one of the team’s best rebounders … really!

But more than anything, Olynyk is in the best shape of his career both mentally and physically, delivering strong play in several categories.

“When he plays aggressive and with confidence, that’s when he’s at his best,” said Boston’s Isaiah Thomas. 

And lately, the best of Olynyk has been in steady rotation for the Celtics who will host the Phoenix Suns tonight. 

Olynyk attributes his recent strong play to seizing his opportunity to help the Celtics in what has been a season-long area of weakness. The fourth-year big man is a threat to score from 3-point range whenever he’s on the floor. Because of that, teams are overly concerned about his long-range shooting which has allowed him to be an effective driver into the paint and finisher around the rim. 

He has also benefited by being healthy, something he could not say was the case on the eve of the Celtics’ postseason run last season which ended in the second round to the Atlanta Hawks. Olynyk was hampered by a sore right shoulder injury that limited him in the playoffs against Atlanta, and later required surgery which sidelined him for the start of this season. 

But those pain-filled days where he gave more thought to his shoulder rather than shouldering a greater load for the Celtics, are behind him now. 

“It’s something that I had to deal with and I had to get surgery,” Olynyk said. “Now it feels better than it has. I feel strong, confident, ready to roll.”

Boston has won five of its last six games, and the play of Olynyk off the bench has been among the reasons for the team’s latest run of success. In those six games, Olynyk has averaged 10.3 points, 6.2 rebounds and 2.5 assists while shooting a team-high 64.9 percent from the field and 37.5 percent from 3-point range in 20.5 minutes per game – all better than his season average in those respective categories. 

And among Celtics players who have averaged double-digit minutes in that span, Olynyk has a team-best rebounding percentage of .170 in addition to an effective Field Goal Percentage (eFG%) of .689 which is also tops among Boston players during their last six games.

Celtics coach Brad Stevens isn’t surprised to see Olynyk playing as well as he has now that he’s injury-free.

“I don’t think there’s anything more important than playing with clear minds and fresh legs,” Stevens said. “I just think that, and not being injured is a big part of that.”

For Olynyk, part of the challenge he has had since coming to the NBA was finding that balance between being aggressive and assertive, while making sure he got teammates involved when the opportunity presents itself.

“There’s definitely a fine line between being aggressive, forcing things, over-aggressive and create and open things up for others,” Olynyk said. “It’s kind of a balance, kind of like a yin and yang; just go out and play basketball the way you know how to play it. That’s what’s going to make you the best version of yourself and your team the best version they can be.”

Olynyk’s teammates encourage him often (Avery Bradley and Thomas are probably the two most consistent in his ear) to be more assertive, but they recognize he tends to be hesitant far too often for a player with his skillset.

“When he’s second-guessing and … shot-faking when he should have shot, just not being the aggressive player that we need him to be … we don’t need him to be like that,” said Thomas. “We believe in him. He just has to remain confident at all times. When he’s confident and aggressive, he’s a hell of a player.”