Rivers has no choice but to play rookies now

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Rivers has no choice but to play rookies now

BOSTON The Boston Celtics recognize the need to develop their young players. They also want to play the guys who give them the best chance at winning.

Three games into the season, and the C's may be moving closer towards doing both this season.

As the Celtics look for ways to get that elusive first win, the team's three rookies - JaJuan Johnson, E'Twaun Moore and Greg Stiemsma - may provide just the boost needed off the bench.

Very little went the Celtics' way in their 97-78 loss at New Orleans on Wednesday. However, the play of Stiemsma was among the few highlights. The rookie center had two points and an impressive six blocked shots, most of which came when the game was still up for grabs.

His play coupled with the struggles of Jermaine O'Neal, may open the door for his role to only grow. Establishing a defensive presence was Stiemsma's strength in college and in the D-League.

Not a lot has changed now that he's in the NBA.

Within seconds of entering the Hornets game, New Orleans center and former UConn star Emeka Okafor tried to dunk on him, only to have Stiesma reject the shot.

"I don't have to meet some of these super athletes at 12, 13 feet," Stiemsma said. "I just gotta meet them at 10-6, at the right time. I try to use that as my thinking."

And Moore, one of the best players for the C's during the preseason, has been battling Avery Bradley for the role of being the team's fourth guard behind starters Rajon Rondo and Ray Allen, and veteran Keyon Dooling.

The race isn't over yet, but Rivers told reporters following the loss to the Hornets that Moore has moved ahead of Bradley in the pecking order - a move that comes as a surprise to no one based on how the two have fared in the preseason.

How that translates in terms of playing time is uncertain, especially when you consider Bradley's minutes were limited.

But with Moore, the C's lose a bit of athleticism in comparison to Bradley.

However, they gain a player who can play both guard positions - Rivers said earlier this year that the team was only going to play Bradley at the off-guard position - and has had more big-game experience despite being a rookie while Bradley is in his second season.

"Basketball is basketball, no matter where it's played," Moore said. "That's how I feel when I'm out there on the court. When I go out there, I stay confident and go out there and play hard."

Johnson was the last Celtic to enter Wednesday's game, but he too might be in store for more minutes depending on how long Chris Wilcox (left shoulder) will be sidelined.

Throughout the preseason, Rivers has been impressed with Johnson's perimeter-shooting skills.

"He can really, really shoot the ball," Rivers said. "But he's a rookie; he's young. He'll be fine."

Smart: 'We can’t just depend on Isaiah to save us'

Smart: 'We can’t just depend on Isaiah to save us'

TORONTO – Marcus Smart and the Boston Celtics aren’t all that different than most Celtics fans.

When the fourth quarter rolls around, they too take a glance at their watches and think … it’s Isaiah Thomas Time.

He was on the floor in the decisive fourth quarter for the Celtics, but you would not have known it by his inability to do what he has done for so much of this season which is dominate play.

And with Thomas unable to take over in the fourth like he’s accustomed to doing, the end result was an all-too-predictable night of late-game struggles as the Toronto Raptors pulled away for a 107-97 win.

Thomas still led the Celtics with 20 points, although only four – that’s almost seven below his league-leading average - came in the fourth quarter.

“Every time I came off a pick, they had two or three guys on me,” Thomas said. “Their point of emphasis was probably to stop me in the fourth quarter and they did a good job of that. They played harder than us in the second half.”

Boston led by as many as 17 points in the first half with solid contributions coming from several players.

But more important, they held their own on the boards while not allowing Toronto many second or third-shot opportunities.

That all changed in the second half.

Toronto became more aggressive defensively, taking away the air space of seemingly every Celtics shooter.

And offensively, DeRozan got hot and when the Celtics took away his drives, he found teammates open for shots that were relatively wide open looks due to them collapsing to help out on DeRozan who led all players with 43 points on 15-for-28 shooting.

Smart had 19 points off the bench on 6-for-15 shooting. Jae Crowder also had 19 points on 6-for-12 shooting for Boston (37-21). And then there was Celtics rookie Jaylen Brown chipping in with 13 points.

Despite their numbers, there was sense that Thomas was getting very little help offensively.

And when you combine that with the team’s overall struggles to play solid defense and rebound the ball, it put the Celtics in a predicament where the clearest path towards victory would once again be Thomas coming through in the fourth quarter.

For those watching the game on CSN, it was an ideal time for Thomas to do what we’ve seen him do time and time again.

But there was a problem.

Apparently too many of his teammates did their share of Thomas-watching down the stretch as well.

“We can’t just depend on Isaiah to save us,” Smart said. “He needs help; other guys need to step up and relieve Isaiah. When he does get that shot, he’s open. They have to watch out for us. We can’t just put it all on Isaiah’s shoulders. Sometimes we get caught doing that instead of helping Isaiah.”

Stars, studs and duds: Things get a bit heated between Celtics and Raptors

Stars, studs and duds: Things get a bit heated between Celtics and Raptors

TORONTO – While no one would go so far as to say that the Boston Celtics and the Toronto Raptors have a full-fledged rivalry, things got a bit testy on Friday.

No play better exemplified this than the Isaiah Thomas drive to the basket in the second quarter that was initially ruled a foul by DeMarre Carroll only to be upgraded to a flagrant-one penalty.

And then less than a minute later, Thomas was called for a flagrant-one penalty when he made contact with DeMar DeRozan.

Thomas was clearly upset with the Celtics losing 107-97, a defeat that included a slew of plays that bothered Thomas but none more than the flagrant foul committed by Carroll.

“It was intentional, did you see it?” Thomas said when asked about it afterwards. “That’s not a basketball play by any means. Guys who aren’t factors in games do that; it is what it is. That was not a basketball play whatsoever.”

That play added to what had been a night of struggles for Thomas who finished with 20 points which barely kept his streak of games with 20 or more points alive which now stands at a franchise-record 42 games.

“We gave this game away. We had it,” Thomas said.

Here are the Stars, Studs and Duds from Friday night’s game.

 

STARS

DeMar DeRozan

He was an All-Star starter this season, and played like one on a night when he needed to carry and even heavier scoring load than usual with Kyle Lowry (right wrist) a last-minute scratch from the starting lineup. DeRozan led all scorers with 43 points, doing so on an efficient 15-for-28 shooting in addition to dishing out five assists and grabbing five rebounds.

 

STUDS

P.J. Tucker

The numbers don’t begin to speak to the impact that Tucker made on this game. His defense, switching and physical play were all factors that contributed heavily to the win. In his first game as a Raptor, he had a near double-double of nine points and 10 rebounds.

Jaylen Brown

You look around and he was the only rookie for either team to get on the floor, let alone make an impact. Brown did a lot of good things for the Celtics, scoring 13 points on 5-for-8 shooting.

Serge Ibaka

Well it looks like the Raptors got the O-K-C Ibaka and not the one who struggled mightily in Orlando. He had 15 points in his Raptors debut on 7-for-12 shooting while grabbing seven rebounds.

Jae Crowder

After being in a shooting funk for most of this month, Crowder delivered a strong performance on Friday with 19 points on 6-for-12 shooting which included 4-for-9 on 3’s.

 

DUDS

Celtics’ second-half defense

This was not one of Boston’s finer moments, as the Raptors turned up the intensity at both ends of the floor and the Celtics never were able to match it. Toronto shot 52.4 percent in the second half, outscored Boston 26-12 on points in the paint and held a 12-5 advantage in second-chance points while keeping the Celtics scoreless in the second half in fast-break points.