Celtics turning things around with defense

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Celtics turning things around with defense

BOSTON If the Celtics continue to run through teams, many will point to Rajon Rondo's season-ending torn right ACL injury as the Celtics' turning point.

Truth be told, the C's began to get their act together well before their current four-game winning streak.

When the calendar flipped to 2013, it not only ushered in a new year, but around here it brought a new (but familiar) brand of Celtics basketball.

The C's went from being an across-the-board liability defensively, to one that could take the NBA champion Miami Heat to double overtime, win the game, and still keep them from scoring 100 points.

So while the Celtics offense has improved and they are getting much more production from their bench, it has been the collective efforts of the team defensively that has made them a much more competitive team in 2013.

"And it's not one thing; it's all the little things we thought we would do earlier in the year (defensively) that we're starting to do now," said C's coach Doc Rivers.

And the numbers make this emphatically clear.

This season, opponents are shooting 44.3 percent against the Celtics.

In the month of January, the C's limited teams to just 42.1 percent from the field, second only to Chicago in terms of field goal percentage defense in January.

And that stingy defense has also brought about a slight increase in turnovers. For the season, Boston ranks third in the league with 16 forced turnovers per game. In January, it went up to 16.3, which in that span ranks second only to the Denver Nuggets.

That number has been even better in Boston's two games this month, with the C's forcing opponents into 17.5 turnovers per game.

And more turnovers have led to an increase in points off those turnovers, which bodes well for a team playing a lot more "small ball" because of injuries.

"That's how we have to play now," C's guard Avery Bradley told CSNNE.com. "We have to make teams pay for turning the ball over. The best way to do that is score."

But with smaller lineups, the Celtics tend to play a more athletic bunch most nights which has helped cut down on the amount of dribble penetration that killed the C's earlier this year.

Dribble penetration often creates shot attempts inside the lane but not necessarily in the restricted paint area. Since January, those shots have been difficult to convert into points for most opponents.

Opponents shot just 33 percent in the non-restricted area against Boston in January, with only the Los Angeles Clippers and the Milwaukee Bucks doing a better job defensively in that category.

But there's a big difference. The Clippers have DeAndre Jordan and the Bucks have Larry Sanders, two of the NBA's better shot-blockers. Their presence on the court is a deterrent for many.

But the C's have been getting it done the old fashion way -- contesting shots.

And another favorite shot for teams is the corner three-pointer, in part because it's the shortest distance to the basket that can earn you three points.

Boston stepped its game up in defending that shot as well in January. Opponents nailed just 34.6 percent of their corner threes against Boston, which was the sixth-lowest mark in January.

The improved play defensively in 2013 is not that surprising to Rivers.

"Honestly, I thought we'd be able to pick this up earlier," he said. "When you make changes of nine players. It's just taken longer than I personally thought it should have."

Celtic draftees make first foray into community with presentation to Ohrenberger School

Celtic draftees make first foray into community with presentation to Ohrenberger School

WEST ROXBURY, Mass.  -- It was the last day of school for some band students at Ohrenberger School, many of whom were packed inside the gym eagerly awaiting the four newest members of the Boston Celtics basketball family. 
 
As eager as the students were to finish off the school year, for the Celtics rookies Wednesday’s appearance to unveil the school’s revamped “Music Zone” was just the beginning of their time with the Celtics.
 
Getting into the community has become an annual rite of passage for incoming Celtic rookies, with Wednesday’s event being part of the seventh annual Players’ Choice Grant.
 
The four-pack of Celts was headlined by Jayson Tatum, who was selected by Boston with the third overall pick. Joining him were second-round picks Semi Ojeleye, Kadeem Allen and Jabari Bird.
 
“Working with the kids is always fun,” Tatum said. 
 
The charitable arm of the Celtics, the Shamrock Foundation, provided a $50,000 grant to a charity that was chosen by the players from the 2016-17 season.
 
Players were greeted by a gym full of middle schoolers who conducted a question-and-answer session with the players, with some students coming away with a basketball signed by all the players. 
 
“I really enjoyed getting to know the fans, the kids,” said Jabari Bird, who was drafted by the Celtics with the 57th overall pick out of Cal.
 
The “Music Zone” received 17 new MacBooks which contained musical software, with several instruments, a portable stage and additional furniture.

Report: Celtics expected to part ways with Kelly Olynyk

Report: Celtics expected to part ways with Kelly Olynyk

With the Celtics clearing the way to make a run at big names such as Paul George and Gordon Hayward, there will inevitably be salary-cap casualties.

But we'll always have Game 7 against the Wizards, Kelly Olynyk.

Olynyk, 26, averaged nine points and 4.8 rebounds last season, and will forever be remembered for his astonishing 10-for-14 shooting performance off the bench when he scored 26 points in the second-round series clincher over Washington at TD Garden.

After four seasons in Boston, the 7-footer and former first-round pick from Gonzaga is currently a restricted free agent and would surely turn down a Celtics' qualifying offer of a little more than $4 million. Until the C's renounce his rights, he counts for $7.7 million against the cap. 

That's money the Boston will need in its pursuit of George and Hayward. So, it's so long, Kelly O.