Emphasis on rebounding pays off for Celtics

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Emphasis on rebounding pays off for Celtics

By A. Sherrod Blakely
CSNNE.com

NEW YORK When it comes to rebounding, the Boston Celtics have a body of work this season that doesn't elicit too much confidence that when a shot is missed, it'll be hauled in by one of the men in Green.

But this is the playoffs, and things have a way of not quite following the regular season script.

That certainly was the case on Friday as the Boston Celtics controlled the boards for most of the night against the Knicks which factored heavily into Boston's 113-96 Game 3 win.

Boston can close out the series with a victory on Sunday.

"One of the things we worked on in practice was rebounding better off the help," said Boston's Kevin Garnett. "We are a help defensive team, but our second effort has to be better and it was tonight. We got bodies on bodies and we were able to get rebounds."

Added Paul Pierce: "We wanted to make an emphasis on putting bodies on people and boxing out."

For the game, the Celtics out-rebounded the Knicks 43-33. Among those boards, 13 were offensive which contributed to the C's having a 22-15 advantage in second-chance points.

The Celtics getting any offensive rebounds is surprising when you consider how they place such a great emphasis on making sure they're in position to limit teams getting out in transition, which often results in them not attacking the offensive glass.

Boston grabbed just an NBA-record low 639 offensive rebounds this past season, shattering the not-so-long-standing mark they set the previous season when they collected just 716.

Rivers knows all too well that offensive rebounds have been hard to come by for his team in recent years.

But he said there wasn't any added focus put on grabbing them on Friday.

"The only thing we did was what we should have done," Rivers said. "If you are going to go, you go but you get back to a body. There was no change. We did what we should have been doing."

Back pain limits Stoudemire

Amar'e Stoudemire wasn't himself.

Yes, the Boston Celtics' stingy defense certainly played a role in his struggles.

But there's no way to ignore Stoudemire's back problems which left his playing status in limbo shortly before tip-off in Boston's 113-96 Game 3 win.

Stoudemire, noticeably limited when on the floor, had just seven points on 2-for-8 shooting.

And while he expects to play in Game 4 on Sunday, Stoudemire is realistic about the situation.

"There is no way I will be 100 percent by Sunday," he said. "Tonight, I knew I wasn't 100 percent but I also knew my teammates needed me to be out there."

Still, with a limited Stoudemire running up and down the floor, the Celtics did what any veteran team would do - they took advantage of him.

The back pain didn't allow him to explode to the basket off the dribble like he's used to. And when he shot jumpers, there was very little lift on them which resulted in most being either too long or too short.

"Quick moves weren't quite there," Stoudemire admitted. "I couldn't make any sharp, quick moves. It bothered my elevation and driving to the basket."

Although Stoudemire isn't known as a great defender, his athleticism allows him to get his share of blocks - that is, when he's healthy.

"Defensively, (just) trying to be a presence and on the court, trying to be a verbal leader," he said.

Knicks coach Mike D'Antoni talked about how Stoudemire took Friday's loss hard.

"He was upset," D'Antoni said. "His heart is in a great place. He gave us everything he got. His body is a little bit dead, but I expect him to be ready Sunday."

Adjustments on Melo

Carmelo Anthony is always going to be at or near the top of the scouting report.

After dropping 42 points on the Celtics in Game 2, it was a given that the C's would pay even more attention to the four-time All-star.

That added attention paid off in a dominant defensive showing, as Anthony scored just 15 points on 4-for-16 shooting in the Celtics win.

Paul Pierce, who had a game-high 38 points, was the primary defender on Anthony.

When asked about the changes he made in defending Anthony, Pierce said, "just stayed on his body, for the most part. I thought I got off his body a lot (in Game 2). I just wanted to make him finish over the top, not give him easy ones. For the most part, I think I was able to do that."

But defending Anthony was not a one-man gig.

"They made adjustments, especially defending me," Anthony said. "They doubled. Every time I got the ball, they sent someone over."

When he got the ball in the middle of the post or on the elbow, the Celtics sent help defenders which led to most of Anthony's shots being tightly contested.

"I try to get the ball cross-court and try to loosen the defense up," said Anthony, who had a team-high six assists. "It just seemed liked they weren't loosening up."

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

Celtics-Heat preview: Do C's need to bounce back from a win?

Celtics-Heat preview: Do C's need to bounce back from a win?

BOSTON – The final score on the Jumbotron Friday night said the Celtics beat the Phoenix Suns 130-120.
 
But there was a clear and undeniable sense of loss on the part of the Celtics, even if Friday’s victory was their third in a row and sixth in the past seven games.
 
The Celtics (47-26) hope to continue on their winning ways tonight against a Miami Heat team currently among a handful fighting for one of the last playoff slots, but are doing so without Dion Waiters (ankle) who has been instrumental in their surge after an 11-30 start to the season.
 
Beating the Heat (35-37) will require Boston to play better than they did against the Suns, a game Boston won, but in many ways had the feeling of defeat.
 
Yes, Devin Booker’s career-high 70 points was very much a blow – a huge blow – to the pride of a team that takes tremendous pride in its defense.
 
But the sense of a loss came in the form of purpose while playing as close to their potential as possible.
 
The Celtics fell short on both fronts Friday night.
 
Being just one game behind Cleveland (47-24) for the best record in the East, the Celtics understand getting as many wins as possible is the mindset right now.
 
But coach Brad Stevens knows that while winning is important, how the team plays is even more valuable.
 
“Like I’ve said before, I’m surprised at where we are record-wise because we’ve got to play at a higher level for 48 minutes,” Stevens said. “We just don’t do it.”
 
Is this Stevens’ way of trying to motivate his players after a not-so-great performance?
 
Or is he seriously concerned that his team isn’t as good as their record?
 
The Celtics, by their own standards, and to those of us on the outside looking in, know they are a better team than the one we saw on Friday night.
 
Not having Avery Bradley (sick) certainly hurt Boston’s efforts defensively.
 
Still, a Friday night’s game wore on, Booker’s confidence only grew and the Celtics’ desire to shut him down or at least slow him down, began to dissipate like an ice cube in hell.
 
And that’s a problem - a big problem - for a team that has to be connected at both ends of the floor for an extended period of time in order to play at the level their capable of and, most important, give them the best shot at emerging victorious in the postseason.
 
That’s why Stevens isn’t too caught up in the team’s chances of catching Cleveland, or whether they go into the playoffs riding a fat winning streak.
 
“I’m not going to get caught up in winning a couple of games in a row and all that stuff,” Stevens said. “I want to get caught up in playing well. We’ve shown ourselves capable of playing well, we have not sustained it throughout a game. And it’s been pretty consistent.”
 

Blakely: Despite their spot in East, consistency remains a problem for Celtics

Blakely: Despite their spot in East, consistency remains a problem for Celtics

BOSTON –  Devin Booker went on a scoring binge for the ages against the Boston Celtics on Friday night, the likes of which won’t be seen anytime soon at the TD Garden.

The performance was so great, even the most die-hard Green Teamers had to give the 20-year-old props for dropping 70 points – 70 points! – on the Celtics who still wound up winning, 130-120.

And as Booker continued to pour on the points and the Celtics’ double-digit lead remained just that, a double-digit lead, the narrative of what we witnessed was a lot deeper than just some young kid getting hot.

The Suns are trying lose as many games as they can, while throwing youngsters out there like Booker to play major minutes and predictably make their share of mistakes with the goal being to learn from those miscues and get better.

But the true lesson in what went down Friday night had little to do with Booker’s big night or some Celtics being a little salty about it afterwards.

Lost in all of the hoopla surrounding Booker’s big night was the repeated revelation by Celtics head coach Brad Stevens after the game about his team’s play and their record not being on one accord.

“That’s why, like I’ve said before, I’m surprised at where we are record-wise because we’ve got to play at a higher level for 48 minutes,” Stevens said. “We just don’t do it.”

And Booker’s historic night is the latest example to illustrate Stevens’ point.

Not having Avery Bradley (sickness) was a factor, obviously.

But that’s no excuse for the way they allowed Booker to do anything and everything he wanted to on the floor, allowing a really good shooter to gain confidence to the point where there was literally nothing the Celtics could do to cool him off.

The Celtics looked casual for three-plus quarters defensively against the Suns and still managed to win which says more about Phoenix and its desire to lose as much as possible, than Boston’s ability to find success and overcome a player with a hot hand.

It was another case of Boston getting away from what works while settling into what felt good and easy.

Most of the guys Phoenix played on Friday weren’t players you would consider big-time scoring threats, so the Celtics defensively didn’t play with a defensive edge other than the first six minutes of the game.

In that span, Phoenix didn’t make a single shot from the field while Boston bolted out to a 16-3 lead.

From there, the Celtics didn’t play with the same sense of urgency.

Fortunately for them, they were playing a team that didn’t want to win.

That’s not going to be the case in these remaining games, a mixture of playoff-bound clubs, wannabe playoff-bound crews and a few others with rosters full of players fighting to stay in the league who will use these remaining games essentially as an audition for next season.

If Boston plays like this in any of their remaining games, they’ll most likely lose.

And that’s why Brad Stevens continues to harp on this team not being as good as their record.

Because when you’re in the same class record-wise with teams like Golden State, San Antonio, Cleveland and Houston, there’s a certain expectation of consistency you should play with most nights.

The Warriors and Rockets have explosive scorers; the Spurs play elite-level defense most nights and the Cavs have LeBron James, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love.

Those factors form the basis of their consistency in terms of winning and overall play.

But the Celtics are very much a wild and unpredictable bunch, able to knock off Cleveland and Golden State, but get blasted by Denver and lose to Philadelphia.

If inconsistent play is a hallmark of this team, their potential for having a great season will be remembered as just that, potential.

Because games like the one they played on Friday against Phoenix on more nights than not, will result in a loss which could put the Celtics very much in the crosshairs for an early playoff exit.