Celtics-Wizards review: Bench lacking in win

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Celtics-Wizards review: Bench lacking in win

WASHINGTON - Boston's ballyhooed second unit once again came up short.

But unlike the first two games - both Celtics losses - their lack of offensive punch would not be the C's downfall as Boston held on for an 89-86 win over the Wizards.

Even though Boston's backups were outscored by a decisive 62-27, a number of the second unit players came up with big plays down the stretch.

Jason Terry, the leader of Boston's second unit, had just eight points on 2-for-8 shooting. But he had a critical steal down the stretch in addition to a pair of free throws for the game's final points.

Still, the second unit remains in a state of influx as Doc Rivers continues to search out combinations that will work.

"We've just got to find the right group of guys," Rivers said. "Not only just the starters, I'm actually not as concerned with the starters. I'm far more concerned with the second unit. We've got to find a consistent second lineup."

The play of Boston's backups was among the factors that played a role in Saturday's game against Washington. Here are some other keys identified prior to the game, and how they actually played out.

WHAT TO LOOK FOR: Boston has looked too often for points from the perimeter. Saturday's game should see a heavy dose of Kevin Garnett in the paint, and the Celtics guards attacking the basket.

WHAT WE SAW: Garnett was a much more effective player around the basket, and the C's for the most part made getting him the ball a priority. He finished with 15 points on 7-for-15 shooting along with seven rebounds.

MATCHUP TO WATCH: Paul Pierce vs. Trevor Ariza: The Captain got into early foul trouble, and never found his stride in the loss to Milwaukee. Look for Pierce to come out aggressive offensively which should set the tone for a big night.

WHAT WE SAW: Not. Even. Close. Pierce took over, and Ariza was simply taken out of anything that resembled effective play. The Captain tallied a game-high 27 points on 10-for-22 shooting while Ariza  was scoreless on 0-for-4 shooting.

PLAYER TO WATCH: Jared Sullinger looked a lot like the Sullinger folks saw in the preseason, in the loss to Milwaukee. With Washington having a more traditional frontcourt, Sully should pick up right where he left off against the Bucks.

WHAT WE SAW: C's coach Doc Rivers tossed Sullinger into the starting lineup, and the rookie responded with a decent night, scoring four points but more important, grabbing seven rebounds.

STAT TO TRACK:  Boston hasn't been a very good offensive rebounding team, but they have to do a better job of limiting the second and third chances that they give opponents. Milwaukee had 11 offensive rebounds on Friday. Although they only generated 13 second-chance points, that doesn't factor how those possessions takes away from Boston's chances to score. Keeping the offensive rebound total given up in the low single digits would do wonders for both the C's struggling offense and out-of-synch defense.

WHAT WE SAW: Boston gave up seven offensive rebounds to the Wizards, but it didn't make much of a dent on a night when the C's defense was in back-in-the-day-mode with a four straight defensive stops to end the game. Those second-chance opportunities only netted Washington five points. Meanwhile, the Celtics had six offensive rebounds but generated 11 points off of them.

Danny Ainge says Lonzo Ball has declined pre-draft workout with Celtics

Danny Ainge says Lonzo Ball has declined pre-draft workout with Celtics

BOSTON -- Like most NBA executives, Danny Ainge loves to get as much intel on players before picking them as he can.  
 
And with the No. 1 overall pick, Ainge knows he has to do all he can to absolutely get this one right.
 
That’s why any thoughts he had of drafting Lonzo Ball are likely out the window after the talented UCLA guard refused to work out for the Celtics.
 
“We tried to get him in for a workout and he politely said no,” Danny Ainge, Boston’s president of basketball operations, said on 98.5 the Sports Hub’s Toucher & Rich show.
 
Lonzo Ball’s desire (or his dad Lavar Ball’s desire; hard to say who in the Ball camp wants him in L.A. the most) to play for the Los Angeles Lakers is one of the worst-kept secrets leading up to next month’s NBA draft.
 
And with the Lakers holding the No. 2 pick in the draft, turning down the Celtics only increases the likelihood of  Boston passing on him and instead drafting University of Washington star Markelle Fultz.
 
“It’s not ideal,” Ainge said of Ball's decision to decline working out for Boston. “Listen, we’ve drafted guys that wouldn’t come in for workouts before. It’s not the end of the world. We’ve watched them play a ton. We have a lot of information on them. Sometimes players don’t want to come in, not because they don’t like you, they see our roster. They think they would prefer to go to another team.”
 
The Celtics, like most teams, have been mum publicly as to who they would take in the draft. But all indications at this point in the process are pointing towards them selecting Fultz with the top overall selection.
 
And the fact that Ball, the projected number two pick even before the draft lottery order was established, refuses to work out for Boston will only increase the likelihood that Fultz will be a Celtic and Ball and his camp will get their wish which has always been to don a Los Angeles Lakers jersey.

Celtics-Cavaliers preview: Game 5 is about respect for Boston

Celtics-Cavaliers preview: Game 5 is about respect for Boston

BOSTON – From the outset of this season, the Boston Celtics were swimming upstream when it came to getting respect. 

No matter how many wins they racked up, no matter how many upsets they managed to pull off, they were never going to do enough to satisfy the court of public opinion which wanted one thing and one thing only from the NBA: A third installment of Golden State against Cleveland in the NBA Finals. 

The Warriors did their part by running through the West with 12 wins in as many playoff games. 

Meanwhile, the Celtics will try to not just stave off elimination tonight, but continue to delay what so many believe is an inevitable Golden State-Cleveland Final.

Boston’s Al Horford understands that while the league this season has seen lots of individual success as well as teams that have overachieved, the thirst for Golden State versus Cleveland remains stronger than ever. 

“We understand that’s what everyone has been talking about since the beginning of the season,” Horford said. “For us it’s just to focus … and play the Celtic way. And just come out here and fight and we’ll take it from there.”

The Celtics did that in Game 3 with Avery Bradley delivering one of the more memorable shots in the Brad Stevens era, a game-winning three-pointer that hit the rim four times before falling with 0.1 seconds to play as Boston squeaked out a 111-108 win.

Boston did a lot of good things in Game 4 and seemingly went into the half sensing that maybe just maybe they would even up the series at two games heading back to Boston for tonight’s Game 5 matchup. 

But Kyrie Irving picked up the slack for a foul-plagued LeBron James, lifting the Cavaliers to a 112-99 win which puts them now just a win away from advancing to the NBA Finals. 

Not only have folks both in the media as well as fans who have rooted for this series to be over, even merchandise sellers like Dick Sporting Goods have anticipated this series as already being over.

“It is what it is,” said Boston’s Jae Crowder. “It’s been like that all year; a lot of guys counting us out. At the same time, we’re trying to put ourselves in position to win each and every game.”

While that has been the goal, it certainly hasn’t worked out that way in this series. 

Despite Games 1 and 2 being at the TD Garden, the Celtics lost both games by a total of 57 points. 

And while they won Game 3 and had the Cavaliers on the ropes in Game 4 before losing, they know their chance to play NBA Finals spoiler is just about up. 

“We know that’s the Finals that everybody wants to talk about, what everybody is looking forward to,” said Boston’s Marcus Smart. “We understand it. But we work just as hard as these guys. We just have to keep going out there and working. We’re not going to give it to them, and stuff like that. We just have to make it tough on them.”