Celtics keep Griffin under wraps

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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

With Thomas drawing attention, Stevens turns to Rozier in big moment

With Thomas drawing attention, Stevens turns to Rozier in big moment

BOSTON – Prior to Saturday’s game, Terry Rozier talked to CSNNE.com about the importance of staying ready always, because “you never know when your name or number is going to be called.”

Like when trailing by three points in the fourth quarter with less than 10 seconds to play?

Yes, Rozier was on the floor in that scenario and the second-year guard delivered when his team needed it.

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But Rozier’s fourth quarter heroics which forced overtime against Portland, did not provide that much-needed jolt that Boston needed as the Blazers managed to fend off the Celtics in overtime, 127-123.

For Rozier’s part, he had 15 points on 6-for-13 shooting.

The 15 points scored for Rozier was the most for him since he tallied 16 in a 30-point Celtics win at Orlando on Dec. 7.

But more than the points, the decision by head coach Brad Stevens to draw up a play for him in that moment, a time when most of what Boston does revolves around the shooting of Isaiah Thomas who has been among the top-3 scorers in the fourth quarter most of this season, was surprising to many.

And at that point in the game, Thomas already had 13 fourth-quarter points.

Stevens confirmed after the game that the last shot in the fourth was indeed for Rozier, but Thomas’ presence on the floor was important to its execution.

“He (Thomas) also draws a lot of attention,” Stevens said. “So I think you just weigh kind of … what kind of shot you’re going to get, depending on who it is.”

Rozier had initially screened for Thomas, and Thomas came back and screened for him.

“I was open as soon as I caught … and I let it fly,” Rozier said. “Coach drew up a play for me and it felt good to see the ball go in.”

Being on the floor at that time, win or lose, was a victory of sorts for Rozier.

He has seen first-hand how quickly the tide can change in the NBA for a young player.

After a strong summer league showing and a solid training camp, Rozier had earned himself a firm spot in the team’s regular rotation.

But a series of not-so-great games coupled with Gerald Green’s breakout night on Christmas Day, led to his playing time since then becoming more sporadic.

Rozier, in an interview with CSNNE.com, acknowledged it hasn’t been easy going from playing regular minutes to not being sure how much court time, if any, he would receive.

But he says the veterans on the team have been good about keeping his spirits up, and one in particular – Avery Bradley – has been especially helpful.

Like Rozier, Bradley’s first couple of years saw his playing time go from non-existent to inconsistent. But Bradley stayed the course and listened to the team’s veterans who continued to tell him that his hard work would pay off sooner or later.

Those same words of wisdom Bradley received in his early days, he passes on to Rozier.

“It’s big,” Rozier told CSNNE.com. “He (Bradley) tells me things like that. I felt I was ready for this (inconsistent minutes) after all that he told me. It’s big to have a guy like him that has been through it all with a championship team, been around this organization for a while; have him talk to you is big. It’s always good. That’s why I stay positive, and be ready.”

Which is part of the reason why Stevens didn’t hesitate to call up a play for the second-year guard despite him being a 33.3 percent shooter from 3-point range this season – that ranks eighth on this team, mind you.

“He’s a really good shooter,” Stevens said of Rozier. “I think with more opportunity that will show itself true, but he made some big ones in the fourth quarter. We went to him a few different times out of time-outs, and felt good about him making that one.”

And to know that Stevens will turn to him not just to spell Thomas or one of the team’s other guards, but to actually make a game-altering play in the final seconds … that’s major.

“It helps tremendously,” said Rozier who added that his confidence is through “the roof. It makes me want to do everything. You know defense, all of that. It’s great, especially to have a guy like Brad trust you."