Krstic fitting in with the Celts surprisingly well

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Krstic fitting in with the Celts surprisingly well

By A.Sherrod Blakely
CSNNE.com

NEWARK, N.J. -- You better believe the Boston Celtics will be in the market for at least one center during the offseason.

They may not have to look too far to find one.

Although it's still early, Nenad Krstic's representatives like what they've seen thus far in this Krstic-Celtics union that may eventually lead to a relationship beyond this season.

Krstic will earn 5.53 million in this, the final year of a three-year, 15.5 million contract he signed in 2008.

A free agent this summer, Krstic has fit in quite well with the Celtics -- better than most would have anticipated.

His agent, Marc Cornstein, likes the way the Celtics have integrated his client into their game plan, but preaches patience in discussing Krstic's long-term plans with the C's.

"He's a great fit for the team," Cornstein told CSNNE.com. "It sounds like the Celtics feel the same way. Let's get through the rest of the year and the playoffs. Hopefully they have a great run and he has a great run with them. We'll take it from there. But it certainly has been as good as we could have hoped for at this point."

When the C's made the trade with Oklahoma City that featured Jeff Green, with Krstic as more of a throw-in, few would have expected the 7-foot Krstic to be such a valuable contributor so quickly.

In nine games (all starts), he has averaged 12.7 points and 5.3 rebounds per game while shooting 55.3 percent from the field.

His play has helped cushion the blow of not having Shaquille O'Neal and Jermaine O'Neal around, both out with injuries.

The reason for Krstic's strong play is pretty simple.

In Oklahoma City, most of the Thunder offense went through All-Stars Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook.

Look at the numbers.

While with the Thunder this season, Krstic averaged just 6.5 field-goal attempts per game. With the Celtics, he's up to 8.8 per game.

"Just getting more involved, especially offensively," Krstic said. "I'm touching the ball. In Oklahoma City, I didn't really. Sometimes five or six times I didn't touch the ball. It's not to shoot, just to touch the ball. Here is different. If you play aggressive, you run the floor, get a good duck-in in the paint, you're going to get the ball."

Cornstein acknowledged how the C's Big Four have gone out of their way to embrace Krstic, which has helped make the adjustment smoother.

"They're so comfortable with each other," Cornstein said. "Being the fifth guy in there has been an easier adaptation than if you're getting thrown in with all new players still learning each other. He recognized that this was a new opportunity for him. He relishes the chance to win a title and be a contributing factor in that happening."

And while the plan still remains that Shaquille O'Neal will be the starter when he returns, Krstic has proven himself to be far more valuable than a stop-gap measure or a 'throw-in' player in the trade centered around Perkins and Jeff Green.

"It doesn't matter to me, about starting or coming off the bench," Krstic told CSNNE.com. "I'm learning a lot, because everything is new to me. I'll do whatever the team needs me to do. I just want to win, that's all."

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

Despite series lead, Celtics lament their inability to hit open shots

Despite series lead, Celtics lament their inability to hit open shots

BOSTON – There are many factors you can point to in the regular season as indicators of what may happen when two NBA  teams meet in the playoffs.

You don't have to be inside the Chicago Bulls' locker room to know that when it comes to the Celtics, they were fully prepared to face a team that took a lot of 3's but wasn’t necessarily shooting them at a high percentage. 
 
That reality has certainly come into focus in Boston’s first-round series against the Chicago, one the C’s lead 3-2 as they continue to try and 3-point shoot their way on to the next round – without giving a damn how many long-range shots it takes to get the job done. 

In five playoff games, Boston is shooting 45.3 percent from the field, which puts them in the middle of the pack (eighth overall) among the 16 teams that qualified for the postseason.
 
But when it comes to the long ball, they are on the back-nine of playoff teams, ranking 10th while shooting 32.4 percent from 3-point range while leading all postseason clubs with 38.7 3-point attempts per game.

In the regular season, the Celtics ranked 16th in field-goal percentage (.454) and 14th in 3-point shooting (35.9 percent) while attempting 33.4 3's per game, which trailed only Houston (40.3) and Cleveland (33.9) this season.  

Boston's shooting from the field mirrors what it did in the regular season, but they know all too well that their shooting percentage in this series should be much higher due to the high number of open shots they have missed. 
 
Take a look at Game 5.
 
In the 108-97 win, the Celtics shot an impressive 53.1 percent when their shots were contested.
 
But let the Bulls have a defensive breakdown like a failed switch, or a guy gets beat for what turns into a great opportunity for Boston to score with no resistance, and instead of burying the open shot, the Celtics have  consistently blown those opportunities. That’s evident by the C’s connecting on just 30.8 percent (12-for-39) of their uncontested field-goal attempts in Game 5.
 
Even the usually reliable Isaiah Thomas had issues making uncontested shots in Game 5 and this series as a whole.
 
He had 24 points and shared game-high scoring honors with Avery Bradley on Wednesday night, but Thomas probably should have led everyone outright in scoring when you consider he had five open shots and wound up missing four of them.
 
That’s why when it comes to Boston’s offense, the last thing Thomas or any of his teammates complains about is getting the shots they want.
 
“I’ve been getting good open looks,” he said. “My teammates have been getting me open. We just got to knock down the shots. Coach [Stevens] keeps saying one day soon we’re going to knock down the open shots that we are missing and it might be [Game 6].”
 

 

Even the Bulls’ star agrees, the Bradley-Butler matchup goes Celtics’ way

Even the Bulls’ star agrees, the Bradley-Butler matchup goes Celtics’ way

CHICAGO – Jimmy Butler was outplayed by Avery Bradley.
 
It’s a bold statement, one co-authored by both Bradley and Butler after the Celtics’ 108-97 Game 5 win over the Chicago Bulls.
 
Only time will tell if we’ll see another chapter added to what was one of the more surprising narratives to develop in this series.
 
“I didn’t win the matchup,” Butler, visibly dejected, said after the Bulls’ loss.
 
Bradley confirmed his individual victory when asked about it after the game, and then added, “I’m trying to make it hard on him. Butler is a very good player and my job for our team is to go out there and defend, try not to foul, and make [Butler] work for every shot and make him work on both ends of the floor. That’s what I tried to do [in Game 5].”
 
The 6-foot-2 Bradley will have a similar game plan on Friday as the Celtics try and close out the series with a win and move on to Conference semifinals for the first time since 2012.
 
While Butler isn’t one to make excuses in good or bad times, there was a report in CSNChicago.com that raised the possibility that Butler might be dealing with some kind of knee injury.

http://www.csnchicago.com/chicago-bulls/bulls-could-knee-injury-have-slowed-jimmy-butler-fourth-quarter-against-celtics
 
In Game 5, Butler had 14 points on 6-for-15 shooting while taking just two shots from the field in the decisive fourth quarter after drilling a last-second 3-pointer that put the Bulls ahead 81-79 going into the fourth.
 
“"I'm good,” Butler told reporters after the loss. “Everyone's a little nicked up; I'll be all right."
 
Healthy or not, there was no getting around the job Bradley did against Butler at both ends of the floor.
 
In addition to doing a better-than-average job defensively, Bradley also had a career playoff-high 24 points on an efficient 11-of-19 shooting.
 
The job that Bradley did in Game 5 speaks to why Stevens has reiterated time and time again just how valuable he has been to the Celtics’ success in recent years.
 
“Avery’s really important to our team; we’ve said that all year,” Stevens said. “He’s played great the last couple of games and I think that Jimmy Butler’s a hard guy to guard, Dwyane Wade’s hard to guard – you’re not going to stop those guys but you just try to make it as hard as possible, and I thought all our guys did a pretty good job when they switched on to Butler [in Game 5]. But certainly Avery is the guy that starts the game on him, and has played a lot of minutes on him, and has done a really good job.”
 
Butler took 15 shots from the field, 12 of which were contested (most by Bradley) with only four of those makes.
 
Meanwhile, 13 of Bradley’s 19 field goal attempts in Game 5 were contested. But that didn’t stop him from knocking down eight of them, which was more made contested shots than any other player in Game 5.
 
But in the end it was Bradley’s defense that ultimately led to him winning the head-to-head battle with Butler and even more important, the game.
 
The importance of Bradley in matching up with Butler can be seen in a number of statistical areas, none of which is more telling than the minutes played by both players.
 
Butler logged a team-high 39 minutes, 17 seconds, while Bradley was on the floor for 39 minutes, 44 seconds.
 
Stevens acknowledged part of Boston’s game plan was to try and keep Bradley on the floor with Butler as much as possible, but still be flexible enough to switch when needed.
 
“As long as Wade and Butler were on the floor, yes, I felt that way,” Stevens said. “But I trust our other guys to guard [Butler].”
 
And they trust Bradley, a first team All-NBA defender last season who has shown himself to be up to the challenge of not just holding his own against Butler but also displaying the ability to outplay him on any given night – like Game 5.