Celtics-Nets review: Boston's bench rises to occasion

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Celtics-Nets review: Boston's bench rises to occasion

BROOKLYN, N.Y. For once, what's on paper actually played out in a game for the Boston Celtics.

Considered at the start of the season as having one of the best benches in the NBA, the C's second unit played a pivotal role in Boston's 93-76 win at Brooklyn.

The backups, led by Jeff Green and Jared Sullinger, were able to outscore their New Jersey brethren 43-21.

And it was Green and Sullinger leading the charge as they scored 15 and 16 points, respectively.

But more than the scoring, they did what all the great second units do - make an impact.

And while the points were certainly well received, they were able to help Boston control the game in other ways as well.

Courtney Lee had just two points, but his defense was part of a C's defensive unit that limited Brooklyn's Big Three of Gerald Wallace, Deron Williams and Joe Johnson to a combined 11-for-28 shooting from the field.

Green didn't hide the fact that there was added motivation to play well considering how the Celtics' second unit struggled in their last meeting with Brooklyn last month.

"Last game we played them, we were a non-factor," Green said. "So we wanted to come out and make it a point to let them know we're on the floor and be aggressive."

Boston's aggression was certainly a factor in Tuesday's win. Here are some other keys identified prior to today's game and how they actually played out as the C's defeated Brooklyn, 93-76, and are now tied with the Nets for the second-best record in the Atlantic Division.

WHAT TO LOOK FOR: Both Boston and Brooklyn have had their issues at times this season in limiting opponents to shooting a low percentage. Teams are shooting 45 percent against the C's this season which ranks 18th in field goal percentage defense. Nets' foes have connected on 45.9 percent of their shots which comes in at No. 24.

WHAT WE SAW: Brooklyn came out shooting the ball well (56.3 percent in the first quarter), but it was all Boston from that point on as the Celtics shot 52.8 percent from the field in the final three quarters of play compared to hitting just 41.7 percent of their shots in the first quarter.

MATCHUP TO WATCH: Jason Collins vs. Brook Lopez: This is the kind of matchup that should validate why Collins is in the starting lineup. He's not going to outscore Lopez unless Lopez gets tossed in the game's first minute. But if Collins is doing his job, he'll be making it a lot tougher for Lopez who has averaged 16.5 points, eight rebounds and two blocked shots while shooting 62.5 percent from the field against the C's this season.

WHAT WE SAW: Collins did his job as Lopez scored 15 points on 5-for-12 shooting with four turnovers. Meanwhile, Collins chipped in a little offensively with a season-high 4 points.

PLAYER TO WATCH: Jason Terry will surely have something to prove today. He is coming off a 1-for-15 shooting performance, the kind of game that he has bounced back from quickly. He has had four such games this season in which he made one field goal or less. In the four games to follow, Terry has shot 50 percent from the field (17-for-34) while averaging 11.5 points per game.

WHAT WE SAW: He didn't exactly set the world on fire, but there was little doubt that Terry was better - much better - than he was in the previous game. On Tuesday he had 11 points on 4-for-7 shooting which included three 3-pointers to go with four assists and a steal.

STAT TO TRACK: The 3-point shot has not been a weapon of choice by the Celtics who come in averaging 5.4 3s per game which ranks 28th in the league. They have been even worst in their two games against the Nets this season, connecting on 8 of their 20 3-point attempts. Boston's ability to hit the long ball will go far in their quest to defeat Brooklyn.

WHAT WE SAW: Boston did not launch many, but they were on the mark more often than not and a couple of the ones they hit, came at a time when the C's really needed a big shot. The Nets appeared to be taking a five-point lead into the second quarter when Rajon Rondo hit a last-second 3-pointer that made it a 24-22 game.

BOSTON SPORTS TONIGHT PODCAST: Is trading for Paul George worth the risk?

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BOSTON SPORTS TONIGHT PODCAST: Is trading for Paul George worth the risk?

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0:41 - Michael Holley, Kayce Smith and Tom Giles recap their thoughts on drafting Jayson Tatum and trade rumors involving the Celtics.

6:21 - Ian Thomsen joins BST to discuss if it would be worth trading for Paul George as a one-year rental and if there would be a chance he could still around long-term if traded to Boston.

11:13 - Evan Drellich joins BST to talk about Rick Porcello’s outing, the Red Sox offense coming to life, and Doug Fister being claimed by the Red Sox. 

15:10 - Kyle Draper and A. Sherrod Blakely look back at the Celtics/Nets trade, what the assets have turned into, and if Danny Ainge has done a good job turning those assets into players. 

Haggerty: Bruins playing it pretty safe at the NHL Draft

Haggerty: Bruins playing it pretty safe at the NHL Draft

CHICAGO – As opening nights go at the NHL Draft, Friday night was a bit of a ho-hum affair for the Boston Bruins at the United Center home of the Chicago Blackhawks.

The Bruins went the safe route by drafting a smooth, defensive-minded defenseman with the 18th overall pick when they selected Finnish product Urho Vaakenainen, and in doing so left more dynamic forwards like Kristian Vesalainen and Kailer Yamamoto still on the draft board for other teams to claim as their own. It was a bit of a curious choice given how many defensemen the Bruins already have in the prospect pipeline, but the lack of strength in the draft class seemed to lead teams to carve their own paths looking for players.

MORE: Bruins select defenseman Urho Vaakanainen with No. 18 pick

The 6-foot-1, 188-pounder clearly has miles to go offensively despite his smooth skating and solid passing skills, but there’s also a consideration that the teenager has been playing in the men’s league in Finland for the last couple of seasons. It makes things a little more difficult to project for the Finn D-man, but the Bruins believe there is some upside to his offensive game given the skills, the hockey IQ and the considerable confidence that the player has in his own game.

“His gap control and skating ability are really good. He’s obviously played in the Finnish Elite League at a very young age for one and a half years now and he’s played on the big stage at the world juniors. We feel like there’s a lot of upside for a 200-foot player that gets back on pucks, and then can transition them back out. Being able to cover ice is an important part of the game, and it continues to evolve in that direction,” said Bruins GM Don Sweeney, who indicated Vaakenainen will play in North America in 2018-19 after fulfilling his contractual obligations in Finland. “We tracked what he did on offense at the junior league level prior to him jumping to the elite league, and it lines up pretty well with other elite players that made the jump to that level.

“It’s a valid question and whether he gets put into those [offensive] situations this year is what we’re excited about with his [Finnish] team moving forward.”

While Vaakenainen sounded surprised the Bruins selected him after only a single meeting at the NHL scouting combine, Sweeney said that Boston’s head scout in Finland has enough history with the family to vouch for the kid’s makeup.

So while it’s far from a sexy pick and the Bruins could have tried to hit a home run with an 18th overall selection in a mediocre draft, the B’s will also get some time before anybody is ready to label the Finnish blueliner a boom or a bust.

The rest of the draft night didn’t add up to much for the B’s, however. They made the selection of Vaakenainen after strongly considering dropping down in the first round, and in doing so lost one of the better trade chips in the form of their 2017 first round pick. There were discussions with Minnesota about Marco Scandella and a few trade feelers to other clubs that might listen on a D-man, but the Bruins now have to hit the reset button on trade discussions for left-shot defensemen or top-6 left wings.

Perhaps Scandella’s $4 million per season salary was an issue for the Bruins, or maybe the Bruins didn’t want to give up their first round pick for a 27-year-old D-man coming off a so-so season with the Wild. Either way, there wasn’t enough momentum for the Bruins to get a trade done with a bevy of defensemen rumored to be available if the offer is good enough.

“I was on the record saying that we’d be offering our first round pick for target-specific players, and we did do that,” said Sweeney. “I don’t blame teams for not necessarily wanting to go through with it, so we went ahead with a player we wanted with our own pick. We continue to build what we think is a good group of guys moving forward.

“There are a couple of areas we’d like to address and get better. We’re trying to help our team currently. Certainly Brandon [Carlo] jumped into our lineup and we hope Charlie [McAvoy] will carry over what he did, and we have other players that will push. We have six returning defensemen we feel good about and we’ll certainly push from underneath, but it’s an area we’ll continue to address. We have some forwards that we also hope will come online, but we’ll never stop exploring and trying to improve our club.”

So let’s sum it all up after a week of additions and subtractions from the Original Six organization: The Bruins added a decidedly vanilla defenseman in the first round of the NHL Draft that might be a simple stay-at-home guy, and they weren’t able to muster any kind of deals for a D-man or winger to enhance the NHL roster. On the other hand, they didn’t give up much over the week as well and they didn’t do much at all to harm a solid roster that looked like they were finally on the right track pushing into the playoffs last season.

The Bruins could be in store for an action-packed Day Two of the draft on Saturday full of promising prospects and bountiful trades, but it sure feels like the 2017 NHL Draft in Chicago isn’t going to be a very memorable one for the Black and Gold.