Celtics shake off the rust after long layoff


Celtics shake off the rust after long layoff

By A.Sherrod Blakely

WALTHAM A couple days off does the body good, especially when that body has logged as many miles as most of these Boston Celtics players.

But having not done anything basketball-related as a team since Sunday, does have its downside.

Additional time to heal up some of the many bumps and bruises will definitely benefit the Celtics. But there is some concern that they won't be in a good rhythm when the second round of the playoffs begin Sunday in Miami.

"This is a cobweb day, get all the cobwebs out," said forward Glen Davis. "We've been chillin' for a couple days, getting a lot of rest; get our rhythm back together with each other."

Having so much time off in between playoff series is relatively foreign to most of the Celtics.

It isn't to starting center Jermaine O'Neal, who recalls in 2004 being part of an Indiana Pacers team that swept the Celtics in the first round of the playoffs.

"We put them away so fast, we ended up having a week, almost two weeks off," said O'Neal, whose Indiana team that season went on to the Eastern Conference finals and lost to eventual NBA champion Detroit Pistons. "Sometimes you just have to watch a lot of film, kind of remind yourself what you should do and when you get back in practice, be as competitive as possible."

For O'Neal, the days off have helped his sore left wrist heal without having to worry about re-aggravating it in practice or a game.

"It feels good," O'Neal said of the injury. "I'm just going to protect it. I wear a brace. I'm kind of superstitious now. I even wear the brace at home when I don't even need it. You just want to be healthy going into the next round and not have any hiccups."

One Celtics player whose health remains a mystery is Shaquille O'Neal.

Coach Doc Rivers was asked if Shaq, who will not practice on Wednesday or Thursday, had suffered a setback to the right triceps surae complex injury to his right calf and Achilles.

"No, not at all," Rivers told CSNNE.com. "He's actually had a very good week. He's still improving, but when the medical staff says he's ready, he's ready."

With Shaq unable to practice, it has meant more time with the first unit for Jermaine O'Neal, whose defensive presence was among the contributing factors to the Celtics sweeping the New York Knicks in the first round of the playoffs.

"He's been a godsend," Rivers said of J. O'Neal. "I could not have asked for anything better."

Between now and Game 1 of the C's second-round series, Rivers will continue to implement nuances to their various offensive and defensive sets, in addition to fine-tuning what they already do well.

Rivers said having this time off without a definitive game to play, is similar to what they have to do during training camp.

"When you start training camp, you don't really have an opponent," Rivers said. "Really just trying to work on all your stuff. We have the opportunity to do that, with rest. So that's good."

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

Celtics nearly blow fourth quarter lead, hold on to beat Nets, 122-117


Celtics nearly blow fourth quarter lead, hold on to beat Nets, 122-117

BOSTON –  The Boston Celtics are not used to being the hunted, or holding a comfortable lead over teams they should beat easily.

That inexperience nearly cost them their season opener against Brooklyn which rallied back from a 23-point deficit to within a field goal of tying the game in the final seconds of play.

But the Celtics managed to hold on for a 122-117 win.

For most of the game, it went according to the script many would have expected to see played out on the TD Garden floor.

Brooklyn put up a good fight, Boston got it together in the second half and the game is over.

Not so fast, says the Nets.

Head coach Brad Stevens tried to rest his starters in the fourth, but the Celtics’ second unit simply didn’t get it done as they nearly squandered a commanding fourth quarter lead.

It was somewhat fitting that they were on the floor to finish off the pesky Nets considering they were the main reasons why Brooklyn was in such a deep fourth quarter hole.

With the win, the Celtics are now 44-27 all-time in season openers and 32-13 at home.

Making the win even sweeter was the fact that because it was so decisive, it allowed head coach Brad Stevens to rest most of his core players who will return to the floor Thursday night to play the Chicago Bulls.

Celtics all-star guard Isaiah Thomas was in double-double range most of the second half before finishing with 25 points, nine assists and six rebounds.

Boston also got a strong night from Jae Crowder who had 21 points on 9-for-15 shooting to go with four rebounds and two assists.

And while the numbers weren’t all that impressive, Al Horford delivered the kind of performance that speaks to his ability to impact the game positively for Boston in a multitude of ways.

He finished with 11 points on 5-for-8 shooting to go with five rebounds and six assists in just 25 minutes of action.

Depth was a strength of the Boston Celtics last season, and it seems to be an even bigger weapon for them now.

Celtics head coach Brad Stevens went 10-deep in the first half with each Celtic who stepped on the floor in the first two quarters scoring at least two points.

The Nets came in as heavy underdogs, a team that many anticipate will be among the worst in the NBA this season.

“We can’t worry about that stuff,” Brooklyn’s Trevor Booker told CSNNE.com prior to Wednesday’s game. “The big thing for us is to go out and compete, give ourselves a chance to be successful.”

Brooklyn did just that for most of the Wednesday’s game, but Boston’s talent and depth proved to be too much.

Crowder got things poppin’ at the start of the game by making his first four shots from the field.

But the Nets didn’t buckle, but instead got a multitude of players chipping in with a bucket here or defensive stop there to keep the game from getting out of hand.

Brooklyn’s Jeremy Lin, a former star at nearby Harvard, was among the Nets players keeping the game relatively close. He finished with 18 points.

But the second half was once again dominated early on by Crowder who scored in a variety of ways which included stealing an in-bounds pass and banking in a mid-range jumper in the third quarter.

That play was part of a 26-16 run by Boston to close out the third quarter which ended with the Celtics ahead 97-81.

Brooklyn continued to play scrappy basketball in the fourth, but the Celtics had built up too big a cushion for the Nets to present any kind of real threat to Boston’s control.

Halftime stars, studs and duds: Celtics in control, but Nets within striking distance


Halftime stars, studs and duds: Celtics in control, but Nets within striking distance

BOSTON – The Boston Celtics were in control most of the first half, but the Brooklyn Nets managed to stay within striking distance most of the first half which ended with the Celtics ahead, 64-58.

It was a high-scoring first half, the kind that one of the league’s top defenses shouldn’t experience.

But it is the first game of the season and the Celtics clearly have some kinks defensively to work out.

The Celtics led by as many as 13 points in the first half with contributions coming from several players in the starting unit as well as off the bench.

Boston has spent a good chunk of the preseason preaching the importance of good ball movement.

It was indeed on full display as Boston had 19 assists in the first half on 23 made baskets.

As for the Nets, Bogan Bogdanovic kept Brooklyn within striking distance most of the first half as he tallied 10 points through the first two quarters of play. Brooklyn also got a nice lift from Justin Hamilton who had 14 first-half points off the Brooklyn bench.

Here are our halftime Stars, Studs and Duds



Isaiah Thomas

Thomas was a more assertive player in the second quarter and it paid off for the him and the Celtics. He finished the half with a team-high 11 points in addition to doling out a game-high seven assists.

Jae Crowder

Boston displayed some crisp ball movement in the first half, and Crowder seemed to benefit from this more than any other Celtic. Through two quarters of play, Crowder has a team-high 10 points which included him making his first four shots from the floor.



Sean Kilpatrick

The Nets only have five players on their roster from last season’s disastrous 21-win club, and Kilpatrick showed why he’s one of the few holdovers. At the half, he had nine points off the bench to go with three rebounds.



Brook Lopez

He’s supposed to be the Nets’ best player, but you would not have known this by his play in the first half, The 7-foot Lopez was a non-factor through the first two quarters of lay, missing four of his five field goal attempts to go into the half with just three points.