Boston Celtics

Celtics-Hawks Game 5 review: What we saw . . .

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Celtics-Hawks Game 5 review: What we saw . . .

ATLANTA The Boston Celtics' first crack at sending the Atlanta Hawks home for the summer didn't succeed as the Hawks held on for an 87-86 win.

When you look at the C's historically, Tuesday's outcome wasn't a total shock.

Under Doc Rivers, the Celtics are now 9-13 in close-out games.

On the road, they're 2-10 in such games.

As much as Tuesday's loss falls in line with what the C's have done in the past, there's no masking the fact that this was a game that was there for the Celtics to take.

Based on how the previous three games had gone, the Hawks' confidence was fading fast.

But Boston allowed Atlanta to have life in the second quarter, allowed them to pull ahead before a Rajon Rondo-led rally made it a tight game again. And down the stretch, Boston simply squandered one opportunity after another to get the win.

"It's a make or miss league," said Paul Pierce, who made seven shots and missed 10. "We had our opportunities down the stretch. They played with a lot of energy and a lot of pride. They had their backs to the wall and won a close one."

Boston's inability to make the clutch baskets down the stretch ultimately sealed their fate and was indeed one of the main factors in the game's outcome. Here are some other keys discussed prior to the game, and how they ultimately played out.

WHAT TO LOOK FOR: Rajon Rondo has been able to shred the Hawks apart in bite-size chunks that the Celtics are simply devouring. If you're Atlanta, you have to find a way to get the ball out of his hands. Don't be surprised if the Hawks look to apply more full court pressure to Rondo, with the hopes of getting the ball out of his hands and into the hands of Avery Bradley who doesn't handle the ball nearly as well as Rondo. Not only does this take the ball out of the C's best play-maker, but it also kills time on the shot clock which makes it tougher for the Celtics to execute the way they want to offensively.

WHAT WE SAW: Rondo's game was symbolic of how the Celtics played as a team - brilliant for some stretches, bad for others. He was the main reason why the Celtics were able to erase a double-digit deficit in the third quarter and give the C's a fighting chance to steal the victory. He had 13 points and 12 assists, but shot just 6-for-17 from the field.

MATCHUP TO WATCH: Paul Pierce vs. Joe Johnson: This has been a surprisingly lopsided matchup thus far - but not how you expected it to be. Pierce has dominated Johnson, plain and simple. Sure, Pierce has had plenty of help defensively. But here's the thing: The Hawks are one of the league's top-5 teams defensively and Pierce has lit them up throughout the series. As for Johnson, he has yet to have a signature, big-time performance for Atlanta - the kind of thing your best scorer can't allow to happen. Four games into this series, and there are at least five players (Pierce, Rajon Rondo, Kevin Garnett and for Atlanta, Josh Smith and Jeff Teague) who have had a bigger impact than Johnson. Another rough night for him, and he and the Hawks will have the entire summer to think about why he disappeared when they needed him most.

WHAT WE SAW: This matchup was a literal standstill, with Pierce scoring 16 points on 7-for-17 shooting and Johnson tallying 15 points on 6-for-17 shooting. More telling was the impact each made while they were on the floor. With Pierce in the game, the C's were minus-13. With Johnson? The Hawks were plus-2.

PLAYER TO WATCH: For a guy who missed all but 11 games of the 2011-2012 season, Al Horford (12 points, five rebounds) looked pretty good. Not surprisingly, he was pretty fired up once he got on the floor (he hit Greg Stiemsma with an elbow mere seconds after checking into the game, and was called for an offensive foul) and his timing was off early on, but his availability can do nothing but help the Hawks keep their fading playoff hopes alive.

WHAT WE SAW: Without question, Al Horford was the biggest impact player in this game. His 19 points and 11 rebounds only tell part of the story of how he single-handedly kept the Hawks' season alive. Clinging to an 87-86 lead, his defense in the game's closing seconds forced Rajon Rondo to lose the ball out of bounds and with that, sealed a must-win game for Atlanta to keep their season alive. "I tried to make a play but got caught on the baseline," Rondo said. "Give Al credit. I just didn't come up with the shot."

STAT TO TRACK: You had to bank on Kevin Garnett dominating the series with whoever he matched up against at the center position for the Hawks. But this has been ridiculous. Put it this way. Garnett has had two games in which he scored 20 points. Jason Collins has scored a TOTAL of 12 points and aside from Game 1, has not presented much of a fight defensively in limiting Garnett's effectiveness. The return of Al Horford should close the gap at the center position for Atlanta. But even with him back, look for Garnett to still win this matchup - and with that, the C's to likely close out the series tonight.

WHAT WE SAW: The change with Horford at center paid huge dividends for the Hawks in ways besides him just scoring. Atlanta was plus-8 on the boards, which was one of their best rebounding efforts against the Celtics in this series. He also had three blocked shots, which equalled the output of the entire Celtics team. "He was a superman for us down the stretch," said Hawks coach Larry Drew. Said Horford: "You're fighting for your life out there. I wanted to bring energy to the team tonight. We needed to win this game."

30 teams in 30 days: Grit-and-Grind days are over in Memphis

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30 teams in 30 days: Grit-and-Grind days are over in Memphis

We’ll take a look at all 30 teams in the next 30 days as they prepare for the 2017-2018 regular season, which is when the real fireworks begin! Today's team: The Memphis Grizzlies. 

Memphis is no different than any other NBA team when it comes to making changes.
 
It’s an inevitable part of the NBA.

 
There are changes, and then there’s losing Zach Randolph and Tony Allen to free agency.
 
They didn’t lose the face of their franchise.
 
They lost its backbone.
 
And when you throw in the departure of Vince Carter, the Grizzlies are getting younger and more athletic and maybe just as significant, further removed from the physical, rough-and-tough brand of basketball they played for years.

You’ll have to go to YouTube to see Grit-and-Grind anymore.
 
Still, this isn’t all that surprising when you consider they brought in a new coach last year, David Fizdale, who came from Miami but also spent time on the bench as an assistant in Atlanta and Golden State.

Those teams played a more position-less, free-flowing brand of basketball compared to the Grizzlies.
 
So what we’re starting to see now is a Memphis team that will eventually look and hopefully play, more akin to what their coach envisions.
 
While the DNA of this team has changed dramatically, the Grizzlies will still be among the teams battling for one of the last playoff spots in the West this season.
 
They return Marc Gasol who still ranks among the best centers in the NBA. They also have point guard Mike Conley Jr., who unfortunately still holds the title for the best veteran player to not be named to an NBA All-Star team.
 
He’s coming off his best season as a pro when he averaged career highs in scoring (20.5 points per game) and shooting (45.9 percent from the field, 40.7 percent on 3’s) along with 3.5 rebounds, also a career benchmark.
 
In addition, Conley’s 6.3 assists per game were just 0.2 assists away from tying his career best in that category.
 
But for Memphis to surprise many and extend its playoff run to eight years in a row, the Grizzlies’ inside-outside tandem of Gasol and Conley, will need help.
 
A healthy Chandler Parsons would be a huge boost.
 
One of the more versatile wing players in the league, injuries have left Parsons a shell of the player that he once was.
 
He has had each of his past three seasons end prematurely due to injuries, so it’s hard to imagine Memphis will be banking on him to be healthy enough to make a major impact on the team this season.
 
They added Ben McLemore and Tyreke Evans, both from Sacramento, to the roster this season.
 
Both come into training camp competing for a starting job.
 
The Grizzlies also have high hopes for 6-9 forward Rade Zagorac, a second-round pick in 2016 acquired from Boston who spent an additional year overseas before coming over to the NBA.
 
The new faces will be critical to the success of Memphis in those post Grit-and-Grind era.
 
Key free agent/draft/trade additions: Ben McLemore (Sacramento); Tyreke Evans (Sacramento).
 
Key losses: Zach Randolph (Sacramento); Tony Allen (New Orleans); Vince Carter (Sacramento).
 
Rookies of note: Rade Zagorac; Ivan Rabb; Dillon Brooks.
 
Expectations: 33-49 (fourth in the Southwest Division, 11th in the West).
 

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Blakely: Light up a birthday cigar for Red

Blakely: Light up a birthday cigar for Red

BOSTON -- He stood just 5 feet and 10 inches off the ground, but make no mistake about it.
 
Arnold “Red” Auerbach, the architect who shaped the Boston Celtics into a dynasty of the likes the NBA has not seen before or since, was a basketball giant who still casts a tremendously large shadow over the league.

MORE ON RED

 
Today marks what would have been Auerbach’s 100th birthday, a milestone worth noting for a man who did so much for the game.
 
Auerbach, who passed away on October 28, 2006, did more than make the Boston Celtics a household name.
 
His up-tempo brand of play made the Celtics -- and the NBA, for that matter -- must-watch basketball at a time when the league was still establishing itself.
 
But the true measure of Auerbach’s worth goes far beyond the 16 NBA championships (nine as a head coach, seven as an executive) or the countless Hall of Famers who played for him.
 
His greatest accomplishments can be seen in the lives he impacted, the players who got to know him beyond as a head coach, and the opponents who had little choice but to respect him for what he accomplished.
 
“As I reflect on when I was playing . . . I completely trusted Red Auerbach,” Bill Russell said in an earlier interiew. “That he would not do anything at my expense to make himself look better. I had that trust and it was a bond. So whenever he said something to me, I took it that he was trying to help. And that’s very difficult to get with players and coaches.”


 
Russell shared a story about Auerbach wanting to talk to him after a team dinner shortly before the start of the 1958-59 season.


 
“So we go up to his suite and [Auerbach] says, ‘Listen, tomorrow morning, when we start practice I’m going to be all over you,’ ” Russell recalled. “ 'Don’t pay any attention to it. If I can’t yell at you, I can’t yell at anybody. I’m yelling at you, but it’s not really aimed at you. It’s for the other guys.' ’”
 
Russell went along with it, but he acknowledged it wasn’t easy.
 
“So the next day, it’s like I gave him an unlimited budget and he went over it,” said Russell who immediately broke out into laughter.”
 
A few years later, Auerbach thanked Russell for allowing him to do that.
 
“I said, ‘Red, I came this close to attacking you,' ” quipped Russell.
 
Auerbach’s players weren’t the only ones who held him in high esteem.
 
“Red Auerbach helped the Celtics to win, immeasurably,” Los Angeles Lakers great Wilt Chamberlain said prior to his death in 1999. “I’ve never been a huge Red Auerbach fan. He was the adversary and sometimes he really ticked me off. [But he] was able to do things with his team that no other coach didand he helped to make them the best franchise in sports. Just like [John] Wooden did for UCLA . . . Red did so in spades in basketball professionally.”
 
The NBA logo himself, Jerry West, also had high praise for Auerbach.
 
“He was one of the first coaches that commanded a lot of attention,” said West, now a consultant to the Los Angeles Clippers. “The thing that was most noticeable in my mind was how hard he got the players to play for him every night. His players played so hard, it was unbelievable. His teams played a very aggressive kind of game, both offensively and defensively. They played with a confidence that was hard to believe sometimes. You’d have some guy come down and shoot one on four. He encouraged that style of play. He wanted an open game. He knew how to play with the officials. His demeanor on the sideline was very interesting. He knew how to motivate his players and he was just one of those people, sometimes they’re hard to describe how they get the most out of people. He had a skill very few coaches have been able to emulate.”
 
Added former Celtic Bill Walton: “There is no franchise that has contributed more to the NBA than the Boston Celtics. And to me, that all comes from Red Auerbach. Red’s ability to identify the talent to put the team together.”
 
But as much as Auerbach embraced the spotlight that shined so brightly for so many years on him and his players, it was those quiet moments to himself, when the final ashes of yet another victory cigar have smoldered down, that were times to reflect on what was an amazing basketball journey that took this scrappy kid from Brooklyn to the highest of heights in professional basketball.

“The best moment was when you win your first championship,” Auerbach recalled in an interview prior to his death. "And after the game I went home, I sat in a room, a chair, ‘you’re one lucky S-O-B,' talking to myself. 'Imagine a guy like you, what you did, your background, you’re the coach of the greatest basketball team in the world. How good can it get? You’re one lucky guy.' ”
 
Maybe.
 
But Celtics fans and the NBA are the really lucky ones who have benefited greatly from this 5-foot-10 basketball giant.
 
“His legacy," said West, "will be there forever."

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