Celtics-Nuggets review: C's missing rhythm in loss

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Celtics-Nuggets review: C's missing rhythm in loss

DENVER It took the Boston Celtics more than half the season to develop a successful rhythm.

It took less than a week for them to lose it which was among the many contributors to their 97-90 loss at Denver on Tuesday.

"You get off four or five days, it kind of takes away the momentum," said Boston's Jeff Green who led all C's in scoring with 20 points. "But I still feel we came out strong; executed very well."

There were signs of slippage during the C's practice on Monday afternoon.

"I felt like we had a good practice, but you could see a couple things we were a little rusty on," said Celtics guard Courtney Lee who had 15 points on 6-for-9 shooting. "Today was a good measuring stick for that."

Although the C's weren't able to sustain the kind of consistent execution that has become a trait of theirs recently, they were still in the game up until the final seconds of play.

To see the C's struggle as they did on Tuesday, is not all that surprising.

Kevin Garnett has seen it happen time and time again, and not just to the Celtics, either.

Although the Nuggets won, Denver guardforward Andre Iguodala missed all seven of his shots from the field and finished with just one point.

"He's known as a shooter, can score the ball," Garnett said. "He didn't look like he had much of a rhythm from the free throw line or anything. That's the league, though. You come back from a long rest. You get one day to prepare for multiple games. I think your rhythm gets better as the games go. We're no different from that."

Boston's inability to establish a rhythm was certainly one of the biggest reasons for their loss on Tuesday. Here are some other factors outlined prior to the game, and how they actually played out.

WHAT TO LOOK FOR: Second-chance points will likely play a prominent role in tonight's game with these two teams at opposite ends of the spectrum in that category. Denver averages an NBA-best 16.4 second-chance points per game while the C's are dead-last at 9.9 per game.

WHAT WE SAW: It's no surprise that Denver won the rebounding war and with it, multiple opportunities for second-chance points. Boston limited them to 13 second-chance points which is below Denver's season average. But similar to the loss at Charlotte, Boston found itself coming up short in the efforthustle categories such as points in the paint (42-32), second-chance points (13-10) and fast break points (11-8).

MATCHUP TO WATCH: Jason Terry vs Andre Miller: Neither will start, but it's safe to say that both will have a say in the game's final outcome. It was Miller's strong play in the latter stages of their Feb. 10 game that helped Denver get into overtime. And it was Terry's defense against Miller that played a pivotal role in the Celtics finally putting Denver away.

WHAT WE SAW: This was a wash for the most part, with neither player putting up big numbers or making a major impact. Terry had seven points along with three assists while Miller had 11 points off the Nuggets bench, to go with two assists and a blocked shot.

PLAYER TO WATCH: Jeff Green continues to play at a level comparable to what the Celtics were hoping for this season. He has reached double digits scoring in eight of Boston's last 10 games. That includes a 17-point performance against the Nuggets on Feb. 10.

WHAT WE SAW: Green almost single-handedly brought the Celtics back in this one. His back-to-back 3s early in the fourth took what looked like a Denver take-over in the making, and made it a one-point game that had the Nuggets fans a bit nervous. He finished with a team-high 20 points off the bench, shooting 8-for-12 from the field while also registering a pair of assists to go with a steal and two blocked shots. "All the credit to my teammates," Green told CSNNE.com. "The way we've been playing as a whole; we've been helping each other out. My team has been getting me open, and my shots have been falling."

STAT TO TRACK: Boston hasn't exactly made it rain with 3s this season, but that might change tonight. Denver has allowed each of its last three opponents to make at least 10 3s each. Among that threesome you'll find the Celtics, who had a bakers dozen's worth of 3s on 13-for-30 shooting in their meeting earlier this month. For the season, Boston ranks 27th in the league in 3s made per game (5.6) while opponents are averaging 8.5 made 3s against Denver this season. Only Charlotte (8.8) is allowing more made 3s per game this season.

WHAT WE SAW: Boston was slightly better than their season average in 3s made against the Nuggets, but it still wasn't enough for the win. And while Denver didn't exactly put the defensive clamps on Boston, limiting the C's to just 7-for-20 shooting on 3s was indeed a step in the right direction for Denver.

Celtics overcome big game from George to beat Pacers, 109-100

Celtics overcome big game from George to beat Pacers, 109-100

BOSTON – Having already clinched a playoff spot prior to Wednesday’s game, no one would have been shocked to see them come out and play fat-and-happy basketball.

Especially against an Indiana Pacers team that’s hungry for a win to bolster their playoff position.

But the Celtics continue to show us that they are a different team than the one that far too often failed to stack strong performances on top of one another.

That was not the case on Wednesday as they pulled away in the second half for an impressive 109-100 win over the Pacers.

Isaiah Thomas led the Celtics with 25 points and five assists. His backcourt mate Avery Bradley was solid as well, scoring 18 points to go with eight rebounds. Jae Crowder and Al Horford each had 15 points while Kelly Olynyk had another strong showing off the bench with 11 points and eight rebounds along with four assists.

With the win, Boston (46-26) swept the regular season series 3-0. While it’s unlikely they will finish in a tie record-wise with the Pacers, there is the possibility that they could meet in the first round of the playoffs next month.

Knowing they haven’t lost to the Pacers all season could be a huge mental plus for Boston if in fact their first-round foe was Indiana.  

Wednesday’s game was the first between these two with most of their respective rosters at full strength.

And the Celtics at full strength, regardless of the opponent, have been pretty tough to beat.

But the Pacers (36-35) weren’t going to make this easy for Boston, even as they fell behind by as many as 17 points to the Celtics.

Paul George, who led all scorers with 37 points, began to lead the Pacers back into the game with a strong fourth quarter showing.

And when Boston’s defense tried to adjust to George’s jacuzzi-hot scoring, he got others like Jeff Teague involved.

Teague, who had 25 points, made a 3-pointer that cut Boston’s lead to 93-86 with 6:31.

That was enough for Celtics head coach Brad Stevens who called a time-out.

After a pair of Isaiah Thomas misses, the Celtics got a little more cushion following a mid-range jumper by Olynyk.

While Indiana continued to get timely offensive rebounds, the Celtics went into bend-but-don’t-break mode defensively down the stretch.

And while the Pacers certainly were in the game, there was never a moment down the stretch when Boston’s impending victory was in doubt.

Both teams set the tone defensively in the first half which was a relatively low-scoring affair.

That should not come as a surprise considering how well each team has played of late at that end of the floor.

Since the All-Star break, Boston has the third-best defense in the NBA while the Pacers aren’t far behind, coming in at No. 6.

A 3-pointer by Bradley to close out the second quarter gave Boston a 49-42 lead at the half.

Boston’s control of the game remained solid through most of the third, but an 8-3 spurt by the Celtics to close out the third put ahead 88-74 going into the fourth.

Halftime stars, studs and duds: Strong defense standing out

Halftime stars, studs and duds: Strong defense standing out

BOSTON – Boston and Indiana know there’s a chance they could face off next month in the playoffs, with both teams delivering the kind of defensive performance on Wednesday that highlighted two teams playing with a heightened sense of urgency fueled by tough, physical defense.

It was indeed a “Both Teams Played Hard” kind of first half which ended with Boston ahead 49-42.

Avery Bradley drained a 3-pointer that just beat the halftime horn which gave Boston its biggest lead of the half.  

The tone was set by both teams with a low-scoring first quarter in which the defenses for both teams stood out.

It really should not have been that big a surprise considering how well both teams have defended since the all-star break.

Boston has the third-best defense in the NBA since the break, while the Pacers have proven to be no slouch coming in at No. 6.

After falling behind 37-36 in the second, Boston ran off eight straight to lead 44-37 which was their largest lead of the game at this point.

But the Pacers stayed within striking distance in large part because the Celtics’ unusually high number of turnovers.

Here are the Stars, Studs and Duds from the first half of Wednesday’s game between the Boston Celtics and Indiana Pacers.

 

STARS

Paul George

A four-time All-Star, George was scoring but the Celtics made him work a lot harder than he would like. He leads all scorers with 14 points, but has done so on 4-for-11 shooting.

Isaiah Thomas

Like George, the opposing team’s defense made for a rough first half. Thomas still managed to lead the Celtics with 10 points.

 

STUDS

Jeff Teague

He really went at Isaiah Thomas to start the game, and for the most part it was working for him. He had 11 points on 4-for-7 shooting in the first half.

Jae Crowder

Solid defense and timely shot-making made for a solid first half for Crowder. He had nine points on 4-for-7 shooting.

Avery Bradley

He did more than deliver a timely shot to end the half for Boston. He had nine points on 4-for-6 shooting in addition to grabbing four rebounds while being one of the main contributors defensively to Paul George not having an efficient night shooting the ball.  

 

DUDS

Celtics turnovers

By far the biggest concern Boston has heading into the second half. The Celtics average 13.2 turnovers per game. They had 14 in the first half, which led to 17 points for the Pacers. Boston’s season-high for turnovers is 24 which they racked up against Philadelphia on Feb. 15.