Celtics notebook: Wall has room to grow

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Celtics notebook: Wall has room to grow

By A. Sherrod Blakely
CSNNE.com

WASHINGTON It's weird to see Rajon Rondo out there as the poised veteran playmaker.

But on nights like this, it's obvious.

Yes, John Wall got the win in leading the Wizards to an 85-83 victory over the Boston Celtics.

And Wall, who had 16 points and four assists, is indeed a player on the rise in the NBA.

There's little doubt that someday, he'll be among the NBA's top point guards with Rondo, Deron Williams of Utah, New Orleans' Chris Paul and Chicago's Derrick Rose.

But his time to shine at that level, isn't now.

He came up with a slew of big plays down the stretch for the Wizards.

But he also made his share of mistakes that allowed the Celtics to have a fighter's chance down the stretch when, truth be told, Boston's play should have not afforded them such a luxury.

Paul Pierce's potential game-winning shot was set up by Rondo stripping the ball from Wall.

That was one of four turnovers by Wall, who has spent most of this season ranked among the NBA's leaders in turnovers.

Still, the more you watch him play, it's clear that he will a player to watch for many years to come.

"He's going to be a great young point guard, if he continues to work on his game and stay humble," Rondo said. "He has a bright future ahead of him."

Celtics coach Doc Rivers agrees.

"He plays hard. he's aggressive," Rivers said. "He's got a great step and speed, and he's competitive. He plays far beyond his age."

West on the mend

C's guard Delonte West was with the Celtics in Washington, yet another example of his return being sooner rather than later.

Injured players don't normally start to travel with the team unless they are relatively close to returning to action.

"There's still a lot of stiffness in the wrist," West told CSNNE.com. "But it's getting better and better everyday. That's the only way I can explain it."

Boston has had a number of games this season in which the use of West would have been helpful.

Saturday's loss to the Wizards was one of those games.

Rajon Rondo had 13 points and nine assists, but he spend significant stretches of the game on the bench with foul trouble.

And his replacement, Nate Robinson, had his struggles scoring (six points on 3-for-8 shooting).

West said as badly as he wants to be out there, he's not trying to rush back too soon.

"When I come back, I want to be back, ready to help this team win games," he said. "I'm patient; trying to be, at least."

Odds and ends

Semih Erden, starting in place of Shaquille O'Neal (right hip), had six points and a career-high 11 rebounds. It is the second time in as many nights that the 7-foot rookie from Turkey set a career high. In Boston's win over Utah on Friday, Erden had a career-high 14 points. Andray Blatche picked up a technical foul for shoving Kevin Garnett. It was yet another game in which Blatche allowed Garnett to get into his head, and lead him to doing something foolish. Ray Allen made a pair of 3-pointers on Saturday. He now has 2,537 made 3-pointers, and needs 24 to pass Reggie Miller (2,560) for the NBA's all-time lead in that category.

A. Sherrod Blakely can be reached at sblakely@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Sherrod on Twitter at http:twitter.comsherrodbcsn

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Celtics-Cavs preview: Something to prove against the best in East

Celtics-Cavs preview: Something to prove against the best in East

BOSTON – Brad Stevens has said on more than one occasion that the Boston Celtics’ record (38-22) is a bit better than their actual play.

While it may come across as exaggerated humility on Stevens’ part, the coach makes a very good point.

Despite Boston having the second-best record in the Eastern Conference, they have struggled mightily this season against the top-four teams in the East outside of themselves.

Boston will have a chance to rewrite at least one chapter in that narrative tonight when they host the defending NBA champion Cleveland Cavaliers.

Against the top-four teams in the East (Cleveland, Washington, Toronto and Atlanta), the Celtics are just 3-8 which falls short of how those teams have fared against one another this season.

The Cavs are 7-1 against the East’s top-4 clubs with the lone loss at Atlanta in November. Toronto (5-5) and Atlanta (4-4) have a .500 records against the top-4 while Washington (4-5) is just a game below-.500.

That’s why tonight’s game against Cleveland is so important to Boston.

It’s not just about beating the best team in the East.

For them, it’s about beating a good team, the kind of team that they have to get past in the postseason if they are to make the kind of deep playoff run that so many of the players have their sights set on.

Coming off of a 114-98 home loss to Atlanta, the Celtics know they have to play better – a lot better – to avoid losing a second game in a row, and four of their last five.

“They’re a good team,” said Boston’s Jaylen Brown. “If we’re not locked in, they’ll beat us worse than the Hawks. So we have to come out, execute, play harder, feed off the crowd and do our job. We should be victorious.”

That’s easier said than done, especially when you’re talking about a Cleveland team that’s truly built for the postseason.

That said, the Cavs are about as vulnerable to defeat now as they will be anytime this season.

All-Star forward Kevin Love is out until late March following “minor” surgery on his left knee.

“There’s definitely enough time to where I can get into a good rhythm,” Love told reporters earlier this week.

In addition to Love, the Cavs are also without J.R. Smith who underwent right thumb surgery in December that’s expected to keep him out until at least the middle of March.

Said Love, “I imagine between J.R. and myself, we’ll get out there and get our wind and be ready to go for (the playoffs) in April.”

Even without Love and Smith, Cleveland has plenty of firepower to remain the team to beat in the East.

It all starts with LeBron James who is averaging 25.7 points, 7.9 rebounds and a career-high 8.9 assists per game while shooting 54.1 percent from the field.

And then there’s Kyrie Irving who continues to play at a level which puts him among the best guards in the NBA. He’s averaging a career-high 24.6 points while dishing out 6.0 assists to go with 3.3 rebounds.

Tristan Thompson. Iman Shumpert. New guys Derrick Williams and Deron Williams.

Go down the line and it’s clear that the Cavs have elite talent and depth to which beating them, regardless of who may be missing in action, will not be easy.

Meanwhile, the Celtics have to simply do what they do best … only better.

“It’s going to be a tough one,” said Boston’s Isaiah Thomas. “We’ve got to make shots.”