Short camp will prove tough for Rivers, Celtics

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Short camp will prove tough for Rivers, Celtics

WALTHAM From year to year, NBA training camps aren't the same.

But this season's camp will be unlike anything Doc Rivers has dealt with as a player or coach.

For starters, you have the start date - Dec. 9 - which is a couple months later than usual due to the NBA lockout. And then there's his roster - if you can even call it that with just six players under contract.

Rivers doesn't mince his words when talking about the challenges that await him and his staff in preparation for this season.

"It'll be difficult," he said. "It's different than in the past. You kind of have a game plan and it forms through the summer. By the time camp rolls around, you've probably had a month or two to kind of work out your system and what you want to do. This is kind of opposite. We've created a system all summer, the coaches have, and now we're trying to go out and try and get the right players to fit the system so we can get it into play quicker. And if you fail to get those players, then you might have to change your system. It is different, no doubt about that."

While the Celtics' core group remains intact - for now, at least - Rivers isn't sold on the idea that their experience will make things smoother during this later-than-usual start to training camp.

"We're going to go more, we're going to work harder in camp," Rivers said. "We have to treat this team like a new team, not like it's an old team trying to win for the last time. We're treating this like a new team, trying to win for the first time."

That sounds good, but the balancing act between pushing guys hard enough without overdoing it will once again be one of the underlying themes with the Celtics this season.

As far as conditioning to start camp, that's the last thing Rivers seems worried about now.

"I expect them to be in shape; I really do," Rivers said. "We have a pretty professional group. None of them will be in game shape, because you can't be. But I expect them to be in very good shape. I'd be very surprised if any of them are not."

But with a truncated 66-game season that will feature a slew of back-to-backs and at least one, back-to-back-to-back, there will almost certainly be games where one or two of the team's core players will sit out.

"I don't know what the schedule is yet," Rivers said. "But clearly, there's going to be times where the rest is going to be a major factor, and we're going to have to do that right."

What Rivers needs, maybe more than anything, is quality depth that can come in, develop on-the-floor chemistry and contribute immediately.

That process becomes somewhat easier when you bring in players who have played in Rivers' system previously.

"In a shortened season, it benefits us to stay the course more than it is to change," Rivers said. "Having said that, if the change is going to make you better in the long run, you do that. It's clear that teams that have continuity, will have an advantage coming out the gates."

So the Celtics on a couple different fronts, may be faced with the prospect of bringing back a former Celtic like, say Marquis Daniels, or adding someone new like Josh Howard or Shane Battier.

"We have to think about this season and the whole picture at the same time," Rivers said. "It's a hard thing to do. And what will come into play is, which is more important at the end of the day, this season or the big picture? They both are important."

Halftime stars, studs and duds: Wizards shoot ridiculous 65 percent from field

Halftime stars, studs and duds: Wizards shoot ridiculous 65 percent from field

After Boston’s last game against Portland – a loss – Boston Celtics head coach Brad Stevens said he was encouraged by some of the things his team did defensively.

It’s safe to say Stevens won’t be singing that tone if the Celtics continue along the path they’re on defensively right now as the Washington Wizards went into the half with a 66-59 lead.

Washington, donning all-black clothes when they arrived at the Verizon Center, were very much looking as though they were digging a basketball grave for the Boston Celtics who allowed the Wizards to shoot a ridiculous 65 percent from the field in the first half and 61.5 percent (8-for-13) from 3-point range.

The Wizards scored the first four points of the game and spent all of the first half playing with a lead.

But the Celtics showed some fight late in the second quarter, going on a 14-6 run to cut Washington’s lead to 55-52 with 3:39 to play in the quarter.

Boston would later have a chance to tie the game, but Marcus Smart’s 3-pointer was off the mark.

And the Wizards, as they had done all game, made the Celtics pay as Bradley Beal drained a jumper that made it a two-possession game.

Here’s a look at the Stars, Studs and Duds from the first half.

 

STARS

Bradley Beal

It was his idea to go with the all-Black look, and he backed up his talk with a strong first half of play. He has a team-high 14 points at the half along with five assists.

Isaiah Thomas

Thomas delivered yet another all-star caliber scoring performance in the first half for Boston. He led all scorers with 17 points on 5-for-9 shooting along with a game-high eight assists.  

John Wall

After scoring just nine points when these two met on Jan. 11, Wall has 13 points at the half on 6-for-9 shooting to go with five rebounds and three assists.

 

STUDS

Al Horford

It was an extremely efficient game offensively in the first half for Horford. He had 13 points on 5-for-6 shooting with three assists.

Markieff Morris

He’s one of four double-digit scorers in the first half for the Wizards. In addition to his 10 points, he also has five rebounds and three assists.

 

DUDS

Celtics defense

At this end of the floor, the Celtics were absolutely atrocious in the first half. The Wizards shot a ridiculously high 65 percent from the field, and were just as lethal (8-for-13, 61.5 percent) from 3-point land. They have no shot at competing let alone winning tonight’s game, if they don’t turn things around and do so soon!

Beyond the numbers: 'Game is slowing down' for Isaiah Thomas

Beyond the numbers: 'Game is slowing down' for Isaiah Thomas

Just about every part of Isaiah Thomas’ game offensively has seen tremendous growth this season.

But what has really separated him from earlier versions of himself, has been his 3-point shooting.

He comes into tonight’s game against the Washington Wizards shooting a career best 38.4 percent from 3-point range.

When asked about how he has elevated his game this season, the answer isn’t that simple.

“I don’t know” he told reporters prior to tonight’s game. “The game is slowing down for me. My teammates put me in position, my coach does … and I’m just knocking down shots.”

Because of his shot-making, Thomas has made it difficult for defenses to give him a steady diet of any style of play in trying to limit him.

And because they have to change things up with regularity, that has created more scoring opportunities.

“Sometimes they forget what they want to do (defensively) and leave me open for a three,” Thomas said. “Those are the the types of shots I need to knock down and I’m being aggressive.

He added, “I need to get to the free throw line, trying to make plays for my teammates. It’s one of those things where I’m in a really good zone now; a really good rhythm.”

A good rhythm?

According to NBA statistics guru Dick Lipe, Thomas is the first Celtic ever to make at least four 3-pointers in five straight games. Taking it a step further, he has made at least three 3-pointers in seven straight games which equaled Antoine Walker’s streak in 2001.

Thomas has also attempted 11 three-pointers in five straight games which is a franchise record. There have only been three longer streaks in NBA history - Golden State’s Stephen Curry (7 straight games, 2016); Washington’s Gilbert Arenas (7 straight games, 2005) and Dallas’ George McCloud (6 straight games, 2006).

He’s also averaging 3.1 made 3’s per game which would be a franchise record that’s currently held by Antoine Walker who averaged 2.7 during the 2001-2002 season.

And all those 3’s have added up to Thomas scoring at least 27 points in seven straight games, something that hasn’t been done by a Celtic since Larry Bird had eight such games in March 1988 as well as the 1987-1988 season.