Celtics keep Griffin under wraps

53089.jpg

Celtics keep Griffin under wraps

By Rich Levine
CSNNE.com

LOS ANGELES With all of Bostons trade deadline drama, you almost forgot that Saturdays meeting with the Clippers would feature a date with the 6-foot-10, 21-year-old, car-leaping monster whos taken the NBA by storm. But Doc Rivers didnt.

Hes been spectacular, Rivers said of Clippers rookie Blake Griffin before the game. "I think people miss the best part of his game when theyre watching ESPN dunks. Everybodys missing his great passes. Hes already one of the best passing bigs in the league, and he does it all the time. Hes an extremely unselfish kid. Hes very talented. Hes already improved his jump shot. Hes starting to make that up to 15 feet. You know hes just to keep getting better.

But the Celtics didnt want him to get better on their watch. They set out to make things difficult for the soon-to-be Rookie of the Year; make him work for and earn everything. And for the most part they were successful.

Griffin finished with 21 points and 11 boards, but was kept under wraps when it mattered most in Bostons 99-92 win.

We were fine with it, Rivers said of Griffins numbers. He had a couple fast-break buckets which we dont like for anybody, I dont care who it is. Other than that, especially down the stretch, we made it difficult for him to get the catch and made him catch it off the block, which is what we wanted to do. He actually hit some jump shots. Hes a terrific player.

At the heart of the Celtics defensive attack on Griffin was (not surprisingly) Kevin Garnett, who rode the rookie all night, muscled him on the block, battled him for position and who, because of injuries and deadline moves, didnt have much help in the process. But Garnett was up to the task, and will have to be until the new look Cs develop some new chemistry,

Until the ONeal brothers get back, we probably will (have to lean more on Garnett), Rivers said. Hes not going to play any more minutes, though. But Nenad (Krstic) is going to be fine there. Its just him not knowing the schemes. He just didnt know it. But he picks it up quickly. He got one in the second half. Its just going to take some time.

After the win, Garnett typically a man of few postgame words, dished some praise on the explosive rookie: Hes strong, very powerful, Garnett said. Very gifted, a lot of potential. Hes gonna be a real good player.

And for his part, Griffin had plenty of great things to say about the Cs:

The thing about them is how well they move the ball and play off each other, said Griffin. You can tell theyve been playing together for a while. Thats tough to beat when teams are moving the ball and everyone knows their role, everybodys getting shots and everybodys rotating defensively.

Griffin will get another shot at Garnett and the Celtics when he makes his first trip to the Garden on March 9

Rich Levine can be reached at rlevine@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Rich on Twitter at http:twitter.comrlevine33

Brown taking opportunities with Celtics as they come

Brown taking opportunities with Celtics as they come

BOSTON -- Compared to most high draft picks, Jaylen Brown doesn’t log a ton of minutes for the Boston Celtics.
 
Playing on an experienced team with legit hopes of making a deep playoff run, rookies seeing limited minutes is a given.
 
Knowing playing time will come in a limited supply, Brown understands all too well the importance of taking advantage of every opportunity he gets on the floor.
 
He did just that on Saturday in Boston’s 107-106 win over Philadelphia, and he hopes to do more of the same on Monday when the Celtics take on the Houston Rockets.
 
When you look at Brown’s stat line, nothing about it looks impressive. He played 15 minutes, scored two points with one rebound and one blocked shot.
 
But beyond the stats was the fact that he was on the floor for seven minutes in the fourth quarter in a close back-and-forth game on the road. Rookies on the floor in crunch time is not the norm in the NBA.
 
“It means a lot,” Brown told reporters after Saturday’s win. “I try to be as best I can be for my team; try to put my best foot forward every night out.”
 
And he did just that on Saturday.
 
In the fourth quarter with the Celtics leading 87-83, Brown blocked a Gerald Henderson shot that wound up in the hands of Jae Crowder. Moments later, Jonas Jerebko hit a 3-pointer that gave the Celtics their largest lead of the game, 90-83.
 
And just two minutes prior to the blocked shot, he was out in transition following an Isaiah Thomas steal and threw down a dunk that pushed Boston’s lead to 86-83 with 7:11 to play.
 
Brown acknowledged making the most of those opportunities bodes well for him and the franchise.
 
“It’s great for our team in general; not just for me,” Brown said. “Those plays helped us to pull the game out in the end. So I’m glad we got the win. I think we should have played a little better than we did.”
 
The continued pursuit of self-improvement is a hallmark of what Brown’s focus and desire are at this stage of his pro career. He has talked often about not wanting to be just one of the best in this draft class but also one of the best in the NBA overall.
 
But he’s also learned that to get there takes time and experience developing both physically and mentally. Part of that mental growth entails having the right approach to games.
 
“Usually you try to tell yourself not to mess up,” Brown said. “Now that I’m getting more comfortable, it’s just play basketball, bring energy, things like that; come out and do what you’re supposed to do. A lot of times you try to tell yourself to not mess up and it’s counteractive; just come out and play basketball and have fun.”
 
And by doing so the minutes will come.
 
“You can’t control that. I just have to control what I can control,” Brown said. “I trust coach (Brad Stevens); I trust my coaching staff. I have to come out and in the minutes I get, play my hand as best I can and take advantage of what I do get and impact this team as much as possible.”
 
This season, Brown is averaging 4.8 points, 2.0 rebounds while shooting 41.9 percent from the field.

Sixers' success against C's defense shows Boston still has room to grow

Sixers' success against C's defense shows Boston still has room to grow

Avery Bradley was a member of the NBA’s All-Defensive first team a year ago. And Al Horford has been among the league’s best interior defenders for a number of years.

MORE ON CELTICS-SIXERS

But as talented defensively as they may be, the Celtics are still learning how to play with each other as well as off of one another.

Injuries have slowed down the chemistry developing as quickly as some might expect. Horford missed nine games due to a concussion, and another game due to wife giving birth to their second child, Alia Horford.

And in Boston’s 107-106 win over Philadelphia on Saturday night, defensive chemistry -- not only among Horford and Bradley, but with all of the players -- remains a work in progress for sure.

Boston had a number of defensive issues in the first half which factored in the Sixer shooting 46.1 percent from the field while shooting 9-for-18 from 3-point range.

But the second half was an entirely different story as Boston’s defense picked up his intensity and focus level which would prove to be just enough to beat a scrappy Sixers team.

The Celtics (12-8) are four games over .500 for the first time this season currently have the third-best record in the Eastern Conference behind Cleveland (13-5) and Toronto (14-6). 

And while the players point to a handful of games that they felt they gave away, Avery Bradley reminds all that the success of this team this season has for the most part come with key players out of the mix or limited in some capacity.

“We haven’t played that many games with the full roster,” Bradley told reporters after the win. “We’re still learning how to play with each other.”

Bradley pointed out a moment in Saturday’s victory where a miscommunication between him and Horford led to a defensive miscue.

Boston has had similar mistakes made on offense this season, too.

“We haven’t really been in pick-and-roll that much,” Bradley said. “Every single game we need to improve.”

And that improvement has to continue evolving on the defensive side of things for this team to achieve its goals this season which include being among the last teams standing in the East.

Doing that will likely mean Boston re-establishing itself as a defensive force, something that should come with time and experience playing with each other.

Horford, who signed a four-year, $113 million deal with Boston in the offseason, says it’s an ongoing process for all involved.

“I have to learn to play with our concepts, the guys have to learn to play with me,” Horford told reporters after Saturday’s win. “We just have to make sure we keep playing the right way, be more consistent with that. I feel like we’re getting better but there’s still some work that we need to do.”