Bittersweet homecoming for Wafer

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Bittersweet homecoming for Wafer

By A. Sherrod Blakely
CSNNE.com

HOUSTON Von Wafer played with five teams prior to becoming a Boston Celtic this season.

But Houston will always stand out from the others.

And that, maybe more than anything else, makes tonight's game against the Rockets so difficult for Wafer who is out with a right calf injury.

"I can't lie, I had (this) day circled on my calendar," Wafer told CSNNE.com.

Wafer, who hopes to resume practicing with the C's by the end of this month, had his best season as a pro with the Rockets during the 2008-2009 season when he averaged 9.7 points while shooting 44.7 percent from the field and 39 percent on 3s.

Instead of sticking with the Rockets, Wafer soon found himself on a basketball odyssey that has taken him across the globe, and ultimately landed him in Boston.

And while he struggled to fit in initially with his new Celtics teammates, Wafer eventually won them over.

"Just worked hard," he said in explaining how the current C's have come to accept him. "I believe in myself and I think these guys like that. They know I'm not scared of any kind of challenge. I believe they respect that. I guess that's how I earned their respect, not backing down."

It was a similar approach he had during his days with the Rockets after he saw limited action with the Los Angeles Lakers, Los Angeles Clippers, Denver Nuggets and Portland Trail Blazers.

While things haven't gone exactly how Wafer had planned, he's not complaining.

Those setbacks have only strengthened his faith in his skills as an NBA player, a skill set that first caught the attention of many when he was a member of the Rockets.

"It's going to be very emotional," Wafer said of tonight's game. "I'm going to be happy. Those people loved me, and I loved them back."

A. Sherrod Blakely can be reached at sblakely@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Sherrod on Twitter at http:twitter.comsherrodbcsn.

Stars, studs and duds: Celtics put on defensive clinic in second half

Stars, studs and duds: Celtics put on defensive clinic in second half

This season the Boston Celtics have shown flashes for a few minutes here and there that they were an elite team defensively. 
 
But what they did in the second half to the Orlando?
 
Boston (13-9) put on a defensive clinic that overwhelmed the Magic on every level imaginable as the Celtics cruised to a 117-87 thumping of Orlando.
 
Celtics head coach Brad Stevens has been even-keeled when it comes to discussing his team’s play, win or lose. 
 
But even he couldn’t contain how pleased he was to see the way his players defended in the third and fourth quarters. 
 
“On defense, the second half was as good as we’ve guarded all year,” Stevens told reporters afterwards. “Really focused, really urgent. I felt good about that.”
 
Setting the tone for the Celtics was Avery Bradley who certainly was impressive with his scoring. 
 
But as much as he knew the team would need a boost offensively with Isaiah Thomas (right groin) out, that wasn’t his approach to the game. 
 
“I had a defensive mindset coming into tonight’s game,” Bradley told CSN’s Abby Chin following the win. “Just trying to get my teammates to playing the right way so we could come out and get the ‘W’ tonight. I’m happy with how all the guys played. We all played hard, and we played as a team.”
 
Here are the Stars, Studs and Duds from Wednesday night’s game.
 

STARS
 
Avery Bradley

Bradley picked up the scoring with Isaiah Thomas (right groin) out for Wednesday, leading the team with a game-high 23 points to go with four rebounds and three assists.
 
 
STUDS

Jaylen Brown

Arguably the biggest spark off the bench for Boston, Brown had one of his best games as a Celtic. He finished with 13 points which included a dunk over Nikola Vucevic that quieted the Amway Center crowd and just as important, provided a nice energy boost for Boston.
 
D.J. Augustin

He had the hot hand at the end of the second quarter, but was a non-factor in the second half as Augustin finished with 15 points – all of which came in the first half. 
 
Terry Rozier

This was a great confidence-booster for Rozier as well as his teammates to see him have a big game and make the most of his increased opportunity to play. He finished with a career-high 16 points off the Celtics bench on 6-for-13 shooting with five rebounds.
 
Nikola Vucevic

It doesn’t matter if he starts or comes off the bench. Vucevic is always a double-double threat on the floor. He finished with 12 points off the bench along with 10 rebounds for his 13th double-double this season. 
 

DUDS
 
Orlando second half defense

The Celtics got pretty much whatever they wanted, when they wanted it in the second half against the Magic defense which pulled a major disappearing act. Boston shot 61 percent from the field in the second half, and 45.4 percent from 3-point range. 
 

Bradley steps up to lead Celtics to 117-87 blowout win over Magic

Bradley steps up to lead Celtics to 117-87 blowout win over Magic

It was one of Tacoma, Washington’s finest carrying the scoring load most of Wednesday night for the Boston Celtics. 
 
But it wasn’t the Celtics’ leading scorer, Isaiah Thomas. 
 
It was his backcourt mate and fellow Tacoma, Wash. native Avery Bradley picking up the slack in Thomas’ absence as Boston pulled away in the second half for a 117-87 blowout win over the Orlando Magic. 
 
Wednesday’s victory was Boston’s first in Orlando since Nov. 8, 2013. 
 
Bradley led seven double-figure scorers for Boston (13-9), with a team-high 23 points.
 
Thomas missed his first game of the season with a right groin injury that will sideline him for a yet-to-be-determined period of time. 
 
The 5-foot-9 guard ranks among the NBA’s leaders in scoring (26.0) in addition to leading the Celtics in assists (6.2) per game. 
 
But Bradley was up to the challenge of filling the void left by Thomas, which isn’t all that surprising when you consider the game was away from the TD Garden. 
 
Bradley has been good this year, but has really stood out in road games where he has averaged 19.0 points on 51.4 percent shooting from the field compared to 15.8 points on 41.3 percent shooting at the TD Garden. 
 
The first half was a tightly contested game with neither team leading by more than eight points. 
 
After Orlando scored the first basket of the third quarter, the Celtics went on a furious 18-2 run to lead 67-54 which had five different scorers for Boston that spoke volumes about the balanced offensive attack the Celtics came with to make up for Thomas’ absence. 
 
Boston’s defense picked up its intensity in the second half, but just as important was the renewed emphasis on ball movement that was simple, crisp and highly effective. 
 
And it came against an Orlando team that came in having won four of its last five games – all on the road – which included beating the always-challenging San Antonio Spurs on their home floor. 
 
But as important as it was for Bradley to help fill the enormous scoring void that exists without Thomas, Boston also needed a strong game from their bench. 
 
That’s exactly what they got, and it wasn’t just one or two guys, either. 
 
Jaylen Brown had arguably the best game of his still-young NBA career coming off the Celtics bench, finishing with 13 points which included a powerful, rim-rattling dunk over Orlando’s Nikola Vucevic
 
Boston also got great play out of Terry Rozier (career-high 16 points, five rebounds) who saw a few more minutes than usual because of Thomas’ injury. 
 
Not only was the victory important to pad the win total, but it also provides a nice boost of confidence for the Celtics as they hit what will be arguably the most difficult stretch of the season in terms of quality opponents. 
 
The Celtics have 12 games remaining this month, with the teams having a combined record of 152-105, or a winning percentage of .591.