Celtics-Warriors review: What we saw...

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Celtics-Warriors review: What we saw...

OAKLAND, Calif. For most of Wednesday's game, the Boston Celtics' usually stingy defense was nowhere to be found as Golden State seemingly got whatever it wanted to offensively.

But down the stretch, when the game mattered most, the C's got the necessary stops and much-needed shots to fall as they escaped with a 105-103 win.

It was a 21-foot jumper by Kevin Garnett that provided the game-winning margin of points.

But before that play came about, it was a series of key stops that ultimately led the C's to a hard-earned victory.

"We didn't play a lick of defense tonight," said Boston's Paul Pierce. "But we played defense when it mattered. So that was the most important thing."

Clutch plays by Garnett down the stretch and some solid team defense were among the keys to the Celtics (23-19) moving four games above-.500 for just the second time this season.

Here's a review of the keys highlighted prior to the game, and how they actually played out during the game.

WHAT TO LOOK FOR: Without Monta Ellis, who will pick up the 21.9 points and 19 shot attempts he had, per game? Stephen Curry is a logical choice, but with his never-ending ankle issues, Warriors coach Mark Jackson doesn't have a true feel for how much he can get on a nightly basis from Curry. Prior to the game, Warriors GM Larry Riley said Curry, who did not play on Wednesday, is out indefinitely. If Curry doesn't get the bulk of those shots, keep an eye on rookie Klay Thompson whose development was among the reasons the Warriors were willing to trade Ellis. He's averaging 8.2 points per game this season, but has reached double figures in Golden State's last five games -- his longest double figure scoring stretch this season.

WHAT WE SAW: Thompson proved why the Warriors are so high on his play with a career-best 26 points. He showed the kind of mid-range game and long-range shooting touch that seemed to have caught the Celtics off-guard.

MATCHUP TO WATCH: Brandon Bass vs. David Lee: Bass' mid-range game has been strong all year, but lately he's starting to get it done defensively as well. Lee will be a good test for him. The two have comparable size and can be physical. But you have to like Bass' chances when he steps away from the basket and shoots. Not only is it a situation that plays to his strengths, but it also keeps Lee further away from the basket which for the C's, is a good thing.

WHAT WE SAW: Although Bass is a couple inches shorter than Lee, he certainly held his own on Wednesday. Both players had 22 points, with Bass having the slight edge in rebounds with nine compared to eight for Lee. Rebounding was indeed something that was on Bass' mind coming into the game.

"I go out with more of a mindset of rebounding," Bass said prior to the game.

PLAYER TO WATCH: Avery Bradley's improved play offensively has been one of the reasons the Celtics have been a better team since returning from the all-star break. He's showing that, in addition to being a strong defender, he can also make teams pay by leaving him alone on the perimeter or losing track of him cutting to the basket. With Bass now a starter, Boston will need someone to step up and become more of a scorer off the bench. Bradley appears to be up for the challenge.

"Whatever they need me to do, that's what I want to do," Bradley said. "Of course defense is always going to be my priority. But there times when my teammates will need me to score, too. I'm just trying to stay ready, be ready for whatever Doc and the coaching staff needs me to do."

WHAT WE SAW: Bradley did not play major minutes. But as he has done more and more of lately, the Celtics got great value out of his time on the floor. The 6-foot-2 guard played more than 13 minutes and scored four points on 2-for-3 shooting, in addition to dishing out three assists. Maybe just as telling was the C's were plus-nine with him on the floor. Only one other Celtic player (Keyon Dooling, who was plus-11) had a better plusminus ratio.

STAT TO TRACK: This will be one of the few nights where the Celtics, the worst rebounding team in the NBA, might actually win the battle on the boards. As bad as Boston is, the Warriors aren't that much better. In fact, they rank 26th in rebounding compared to the dead-last Celtics, at No. 30. Forget about Kevin Garnett, Brandon Bass and Paul Pierce when it comes to the team's rebounding numbers. Boston has to get more from guys like Rajon Rondo, Ray Allen and Avery Bradley.

"It has to be more of a team effort on the boards," Bradley admitted. "I know myself, all the guards really, have to do a better job of that, than what we're doing now."

WHAT WE SAW: Boston did more than just hold its own on the boards they won the boards. It was only by four rebounds, but hey, considering most games they're out-rebounded by double figures, a four-rebound edge was huge. The strong job on the boards came on the same day the C's found out that Chris Wilcox would be out for the season due to a heart condition that will require surgery. Celtics officials said he would have surgery in Cleveland March 29. In addition to Wilcox, the C's are awaiting word on whether Jermaine O'Neal (wrist) will have season-ending surgery. But C's head coach Doc Rivers has already said the team plans to continue on without O'Neal, adding that his return would be a "bonus."

"With those guys, it still would have been tough (rebounding the ball)," said Bass. "Without them, it's going to be tougher. But that just means guys off the bench have to step up and be ready."

Bruins go for a defensive project late with Daniel Bukac

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Bruins go for a defensive project late with Daniel Bukac

CHICAGO – The Bruins finished up their 2017 NHL Draft class with a bit of a project, but a 6-foot-5 defenseman with some great skating wheels is a pretty good way to go with a seventh round pick. The B’s nabbed Brandon Wheat Kings defenseman Daniel Bukac with the 204th pick in the draft, and admitted afterward that he’s an ultra-big bodied player that could take some time in the development process.

Bruins assistant GM Scott Bradley said Boston is more than happy to be patient with Bukac given the tools that he’s working with as an 18-year-old prospect. Bukac had two goals and 17 points to go along with 38 penalty minutes in his first season in North America after coming over from the Czech Republic, and Bradley said that B’s scouts noted that he continued to improve and get comfortable as the season wore on.

"He's raw. He's a project. [He’s a] kid from the Czech Republic that played in the Western Hockey League,” said Bradley. “At the start of the year - he's come leaps and bounds with his development. Talking to the people - the coaches, the management, and the GM in Brandon, they're very excited about him coming back to Brandon. They're expecting big things from him. We look forward to seeing him in camp."

Bukac is starting to garner some good international experience after playing for the Czechs in the Under-18’s and the Ivan Hinkla Tournament, but this weekend it was all about his addition to the talented group of Bruins prospects in the hockey world.

"I'm so excited to be drafted by the Boston Bruins," said Bukac, who described himself as a solid two-way defenseman with a good first pass. "It's an awesome feeling. I'm so glad that I was drafted by Boston."

Did Suns ask Josh Jackson to cancel his Celtics workout to keep him from Boston?

Did Suns ask Josh Jackson to cancel his Celtics workout to keep him from Boston?

BOSTON – It appears there may be an answer to the mystery surrounding Josh Jackson’s decision to not work out for the Boston Celtics leading up to Thursday’s NBA draft.

While conventional wisdom tells us that such decisions are often made by the agent who in this case is former NBA player B.J. Armstrong.

Boston instead selected Jayson Tatum at No. 3 with the Phoenix Suns scooping up Jackson with the No. 4 pick.

MORE: Danny Ainge on Josh Jackson: 'He didn’t want to play for the Celtics'

During Jackson’s introductory press conference, there was a sense that it wasn’t necessarily Armstrong who strong-armed Jackson into not working out for the Celtics. But apparently, he got an assist from Suns General Manager (and ex-Celtics assistant GM) Ryan McDonough.

A reporter asked McDonough if Phoenix may have encouraged Jackson to cancel his workout with the Celtics who were flying into Sacramento, Calif. to watch Jackson workout only for it to be canceled after they had departed which as you can imagine, did not go over well with Danny Ainge, Boston's president of basketball operations.

“I’d like to consult my attorney B.J. Armstrong (Jackson’s agent),” McDonough said, smiling.

The more McDonough talked, the clearer it became that he and Armstrong were in cahoots to do all they could to get Boston to pass on Jackson at No. 3 which as McDonough mentioned, doesn’t break any rules.

“You guys all know my history with the Celtics and the respect I have for Danny Ainge and the organization,” McDonough told reporters on Friday. “But I think you guys who know me well know how competitive I am. Look, it is a competition. The Celtics were ahead of us at No. 3 and they could have selected whoever they wanted to. I think they got a very good player in Jayson Tatum, but that doesn’t mean B.J. and I and … other members of my staff couldn’t talk and try to formulate the best plan to get a player we were really high on to a place we felt he really wanted to go and would be a great fit for him.”

McDonough is right in that no rules were broken if he and Armstrong did decide to work together in an effort to get Jackson to Phoenix.

But to cancel the workout after the Celtics executives and head coach Brad Stevens had left, forcing them to spend a night on the road for a workout that Jackson’s camp probably knew wasn’t going to happen well before the Celtics contingent boarded for Sacramento … not cool.

Here are words I thought I would never say … the Ball clan got it right.

They told Boston from the jump that Lonzo Ball wasn’t going to work out for them, so the Celtics knew he didn’t want to be a Celtic from the very beginning.

Jackson’s actions said the same, but his words kept hope alive that he would work out or at the very least, talk to the Celtics organization – neither of which happened.

He kept referring to the fact that he didn’t think Boston was interested in him when they had the number one pick (that doesn’t make a whole lot of sense if they asked him to work out for them; otherwise, what’s the point from the Celtics'  perspective of asking to work out a guy they had no interest in drafting?)

After they traded down to the number 3 pick, a deal that was cemented last weekend, Jackson said there wasn’t time to do a workout for Boston.

The draft was nearly a week away and he didn’t have time to work out for a team that had the third pick overall knowing that the top two picks (Markelle Fultz at No. 1 and Lonzo Ball at No. 2) were essentially accounted for?

“If I could have, I probably would have worked out for them,” Jackson said (with a straight face). “But I think everything worked out for the best.”

Yup.

Boston will once again be among the better teams in the East and will contend for the best record like they achieved this past season before their season ended in the Conference finals to Cleveland. 

Jackson will spend his rookie season playing a lot of minutes with a Suns team that probably won’t win as many games as he did a year ago at Kansas (33).

Enjoy.