Emphasis on rebounding pays off for Celtics

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Emphasis on rebounding pays off for Celtics

By A. Sherrod Blakely
CSNNE.com

NEW YORK When it comes to rebounding, the Boston Celtics have a body of work this season that doesn't elicit too much confidence that when a shot is missed, it'll be hauled in by one of the men in Green.

But this is the playoffs, and things have a way of not quite following the regular season script.

That certainly was the case on Friday as the Boston Celtics controlled the boards for most of the night against the Knicks which factored heavily into Boston's 113-96 Game 3 win.

Boston can close out the series with a victory on Sunday.

"One of the things we worked on in practice was rebounding better off the help," said Boston's Kevin Garnett. "We are a help defensive team, but our second effort has to be better and it was tonight. We got bodies on bodies and we were able to get rebounds."

Added Paul Pierce: "We wanted to make an emphasis on putting bodies on people and boxing out."

For the game, the Celtics out-rebounded the Knicks 43-33. Among those boards, 13 were offensive which contributed to the C's having a 22-15 advantage in second-chance points.

The Celtics getting any offensive rebounds is surprising when you consider how they place such a great emphasis on making sure they're in position to limit teams getting out in transition, which often results in them not attacking the offensive glass.

Boston grabbed just an NBA-record low 639 offensive rebounds this past season, shattering the not-so-long-standing mark they set the previous season when they collected just 716.

Rivers knows all too well that offensive rebounds have been hard to come by for his team in recent years.

But he said there wasn't any added focus put on grabbing them on Friday.

"The only thing we did was what we should have done," Rivers said. "If you are going to go, you go but you get back to a body. There was no change. We did what we should have been doing."

Back pain limits Stoudemire

Amar'e Stoudemire wasn't himself.

Yes, the Boston Celtics' stingy defense certainly played a role in his struggles.

But there's no way to ignore Stoudemire's back problems which left his playing status in limbo shortly before tip-off in Boston's 113-96 Game 3 win.

Stoudemire, noticeably limited when on the floor, had just seven points on 2-for-8 shooting.

And while he expects to play in Game 4 on Sunday, Stoudemire is realistic about the situation.

"There is no way I will be 100 percent by Sunday," he said. "Tonight, I knew I wasn't 100 percent but I also knew my teammates needed me to be out there."

Still, with a limited Stoudemire running up and down the floor, the Celtics did what any veteran team would do - they took advantage of him.

The back pain didn't allow him to explode to the basket off the dribble like he's used to. And when he shot jumpers, there was very little lift on them which resulted in most being either too long or too short.

"Quick moves weren't quite there," Stoudemire admitted. "I couldn't make any sharp, quick moves. It bothered my elevation and driving to the basket."

Although Stoudemire isn't known as a great defender, his athleticism allows him to get his share of blocks - that is, when he's healthy.

"Defensively, (just) trying to be a presence and on the court, trying to be a verbal leader," he said.

Knicks coach Mike D'Antoni talked about how Stoudemire took Friday's loss hard.

"He was upset," D'Antoni said. "His heart is in a great place. He gave us everything he got. His body is a little bit dead, but I expect him to be ready Sunday."

Adjustments on Melo

Carmelo Anthony is always going to be at or near the top of the scouting report.

After dropping 42 points on the Celtics in Game 2, it was a given that the C's would pay even more attention to the four-time All-star.

That added attention paid off in a dominant defensive showing, as Anthony scored just 15 points on 4-for-16 shooting in the Celtics win.

Paul Pierce, who had a game-high 38 points, was the primary defender on Anthony.

When asked about the changes he made in defending Anthony, Pierce said, "just stayed on his body, for the most part. I thought I got off his body a lot (in Game 2). I just wanted to make him finish over the top, not give him easy ones. For the most part, I think I was able to do that."

But defending Anthony was not a one-man gig.

"They made adjustments, especially defending me," Anthony said. "They doubled. Every time I got the ball, they sent someone over."

When he got the ball in the middle of the post or on the elbow, the Celtics sent help defenders which led to most of Anthony's shots being tightly contested.

"I try to get the ball cross-court and try to loosen the defense up," said Anthony, who had a team-high six assists. "It just seemed liked they weren't loosening up."

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

Celtics-Sixers preview: Road has been kind to C's lately

Celtics-Sixers preview: Road has been kind to C's lately

BOSTON – For most teams in the NBA, road games are a necessary evil. 
 
Not for the Celtics. At least, not lately.
 
The Green Team hits the road for its next three games, and that has been a good thing – a real good thing – lately. 
 
Boston (11-8) has won its last four road games, the kind of success that breeds a heightened level of confidence heading into this current trip which begins tonight at Philadelphia. 
 
And it only helps that they hit the road coming off a 97-92 win over Sacramento on Friday. 
 
“We have to carry that momentum with us,” said Boston’s Jae Crowder. “You know how...anytime in this league, the momentum, you have to stay with it. We’ve been having success away from home. It was big for us to get this win (over the Kings) to start the road trip off.”
 
A big part of Friday’s victory was the play of Al Horford who finished with 26 points, eight rebounds, and six blocked shots. The points and rebounds for Horford were both season-highs.
 
Horford’s breakout performance came on the heels of a 121-114 loss to Detroit, a game in which Boston’s $113 million man (Horford) only took five shots.
 
“Coach [Brad Stevens] didn’t say anything about going to him just specifically,” said Boston’s Isaiah Thomas. “We just found him and made the right play and when he got it he was very aggressive.” 
 
Part of Horford’s success was that he was in more of an attacking mentality. But he also benefited from a Kings defense that didn’t double-team him nearly as much as the Pistons did. 
 
“I got a lot of early looks in the game and like I said [following the Pistons loss] I think the Pistons did a good job defending and doubling and forcing me to pass the ball. [Friday night] I had more opportunities to be aggressive.”
 
Facing a Sixers team that ranks among the NBA’s worst in several defensive categories, Horford and the rest of his Celtics teammates should have ample opportunities to make plays offensively. 
 
And in doing so, they will be able to add on to what has been an already impressive stretch of play this season away from home.
 
“I think it will be good,” Horford said. “[Tonight] it’s a Philly team that plays hard and we just want to keep building on [Friday night’s win over Sacramento] and just try to be better.”
 

 

Al Horford makes his mark on Celtics win with defense

Al Horford makes his mark on Celtics win with defense

BOSTON – Al Horford had the kind of game that stands out because of the way he scored from so many different spots on the floor. 

But the true measure of his value to this team usually lies in what he brings to the floor defensively. 

Horford had one of his better games defensively in Boston’s 97-92 win over Sacramento on Friday, a game in which he had a season-high six blocked shots. 

For the season, the four-time All-Star is averaging a career-high 2.9 blocks per game.

He’ll be looking to do more of the same tonight against the Philadelphia 76ers. 

While Philly doesn’t have a player as dominant and difficult to contain as DeMarcus Cousins, their top post player Joel Embiid has been impressive even with a minutes restriction after having missed the last two seasons with injuries and recovery. 

Against Sacramento, he had a season-high six blocked shots which was one short of tying his career high which came against the Kings during the 2010-2011 season. 

Although Horford has ranked among the NBA’s top big men when it comes to blocking shots, the Celtics knew when they signed him to a four-year, $113 million contract they were adding a player who could help with rim protection. 

The biggest play in the Celtics’ win over Sacramento came in the closing seconds when Horford was credited with blocking DeMarcus Cousins’ shot. Horford was fouled and went to the line and made his free throws to secure the victory. 

“Playing at the power forward position it really frees me up defensively,” Horford said. “I feel like I can run around a little more and have more impact. When you are a center a lot of the times you get caught up with the bigs and it’s a little harder to get out to shooters and stuff. I’m just trying to be active, as active as I can.”

Celtics guard Isaiah Thomas who was among the Green Teamers to recruit Horford to sign with Boston, seeing him protect the rim the way he did on Friday was no surprise.

“We’ve always known when we recruited him we knew that was what he was good at,” Thomas said. “Even if he doesn’t block shots, he alters shots and changes them. He’s a hell of a player on both ends of the floor and he played a hell of a game (on Friday).”

Celtics head coach Brad Stevens likes what he sees out of Horford defensively, especially now that he plays for Boston and not Atlanta which eliminated the Celtics in the first round of the playoffs last season. 

“He was terrific in our series,” Stevens said. “Terrific. And so, playing him 10 times last year, and so, I mean, I think I’m an idiot but after 10 times I had at least an idea. You know, he’s all over the place and he covers a lot of ground, he calls out calls, and I think he’s a competitive guy. And that proof is in his winning track record.”