OFFSEASON

Home cooking once again good for the Celtics

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Home cooking once again good for the Celtics

By Rich Levine
CSNNE.com

BOSTON Last year, the Celtics werent much for home cooking.

They finished the regular season with a 24-17 record at the Garden, which wasnt awful, but mediocre enough to rank them last among the leagues 16 playoff teams. And considering the C's had gone a combined 70-12 at home the previous two seasons, it certainly wasnt up to the lofty standards established by the Big Three.

For most of the Big Three's first two years, the Garden was a place that other teams feared, an arena where opponents took the court hoping to maybe steal a win but knowing that most of the time that hope would result in embarrassment. But last season, as teams like Washington, Memphis, Detroit and New Jersey had their way on the parquet, the mystique surrounding the Celtics home-court advantage slowly started to fade. Teams came to Boston not only hoping, but expecting to win. And often times they did.

The fans booed. The players grumbled. Rasheed Wallace shot a ton of threes.

You remember. It was a mess. And while the team cleaned that up some once the playoffs began and re-established the Gardens Jungle mentality, they knew that coming into this season, there was still work to be done.

Yeah, we talked about it, said Doc Rivers after Wednesday nights win over New Jersey. We knew we had a ton of injuries and we were playing guys strange minutes last year, but one of the things we still expected through all that was to win the home games. And we didnt do that. So obviously this year has been much better."

Much better is an understatement. With Wednesdays win, the Celtics improved to 25-5 at the Garden, already surpassing last years total. The 25 homes wins tie them with San Antonio for the most in the NBA, and leaves the Cs at the All-Star break, well on their way to reaffirming themselves as the leagues pre-eminent home team.

Since Ive been here, home court has always been the emphasis, said Kevin Garnett, who registered his double-double (14 points, 10 boards) of the season. Its always primary. The form which we did in 08 is the form we follow to this day, and home court is a big part of that.

Of course, the fact the Celtics surpassed the mark by barely (the final score is David Blaine-level deceiving) outlasting a struggling Nets team doesnt lend itself to the notion that the Celtics are once again a dominant home team. When a squad like the New Jersey comes to the Garden, you expect the Celtics to make quick, easy work.

But thats not always how it happens. You cant dominate every game in this league, regardless of the opponent. There will always be nights when things start slow, or a lesser team catches you off guard, but the great teams overcome that. And on Wednesday, thats what the Celtics did.

"Listen, not every game's going to be beautiful," Rivers said. "It's the NBA. We just want to win the game."

And that's what they did. But like many games theyve experienced this season, Wednesday nights was one that last years team would have lost. As the Nets fought hard, hung around and led by as many as nine points in the second half, last years Celtics would have folded. They would have let the Nets escape and just thrown the night on the garbage pile with all the rest of the pathetic home losses. But thats not how this years teams built.

"A lot of people came here and beat us last year," said Glen Davis, who played 20 minutes off the bench, "and we didn't like that. We did a better job in the post season but we still lost games. We want to protect home court."

And unlike last year, Davis and the rest of the Celtics know that while not every night can be a cakewalk, what matters especially at home is that the team is ready and willing to get it done in the clutch. And not let anyone run away with a win in Boston's gym.

We took the same approach last year but this is a different team," Davis said. "Were all just different, because of what we went through. We finish games. Thats what its all about. Finishing. But at the same time we know we still need to get better for the second half of the season."

And they do. But unlike last year, they have the luxury of counting on some serious home cooking.

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

OFFSEASON

Celtics are anything but "a middle of the road team"

Celtics are anything but "a middle of the road team"

Charles Barkley said Friday that the Boston Celtics are a "middle of the road team in no man's land." Kevin O'Connor joined Greg Dickerson on Sports Tonight and explained just how foolish of a statement that is.

Make sure you watch the video above, but here are some of the key stats O'Connor mentions regarding the state of the Celtics.

Competitive teams rarely select at the top of the draft, but the Celtics have already done it before and could again in 2017 and 2018. Over the last 40 years, only 10 teams have won at least 45 games and used a top five pick in the draft. Here’s the list:

PLAYER TEAM WINS YEAR PICK
Greg Ballard Washington 48 1977 4
Mychal Thompson Portland 58 1978 1
Magic Johnson LA Lakers 47 1979 1
Kevin McHale Boston 61 1980 3
James Worthy LA Lakers 57 1982 1
Charles Barkley Philadelphia 52 1984 5
Sam Bowie Portland 48 1984 2
Len Bias Boston 67 1986 2
Darko Milicic Detroit 50 2003 2
Jaylen Brown Boston 48 2016 3

Two of those teams won a single championship (Washington and Detroit). Two became dynasties (Boston and the Lakers). Four of the players are Hall of Famers (Johnson, McHale, Worthy, Barkley). You’ll also find Jaylen Brown, who could be a cornerstone even if we don’t know it yet.

If they play their cards right and the Nets struggle as much as everyone expects them to, they’ll be right back in the conversation for another star next season. Due to their tremendous flexibility, that could happen through the draft, the trade market, or free agency.

For more on this topic, click here.

OFFSEASON

Carroll: Crowder doesn't understand what it takes to win in playoffs

Carroll: Crowder doesn't understand what it takes to win in playoffs

Celtics forward Jae Crowder recently said, “Toronto is not a team we’re worried about,” and Raptors forward DeMarre Carroll thinks that's a silly comment to make.

“It’s a comment from a person who hasn’t really been in the playoffs that much. That’s how I reacted to that type of comment. When you haven’t been on that level and you don’t understand what it takes to get to that level. Myself going to back-to-back Eastern Conference Finals, I understand what it takes,” Carroll said on SportsNet.ca. “It’s a comment from a guy who hasn’t been on that level, who hasn’t played on that level. It sounds like a young comment.”

The Raptors won 56 games last season and went all the way to the Eastern Conference Finals before falling in six games to the Cavaliers, so Carroll is right that he’s speaking from experience.

But you can understand the confidence Crowder has. After winning 48 games last season, the Celtics just landed Al Horford, and they have repeatedly said they’re not done making moves. So perhaps their roster will look even better on Opening Night than it does right now.

Carroll doesn’t care about that though.

“We’ll let Jae Crowder do all the talking,” Carroll said. “We’ll just fly under the radar and do what we’re supposed to do.”

The Celtics went 1-3 versus the Raptors last season. They better hope they perform better next season, or Carroll might be the one talking.

OFFSEASON

Report: Celtics 'won't give up much' for Okafor

Report: Celtics 'won't give up much' for Okafor

Just recently, CSNNE.com's A. Sherrod Blakely laid out a compelling case why the Celtics are far more likely to trade for Jahlil Okafor than make a blockbuster for Russell Westbrook or Blake Griffin.

But, apparently, they're not willing to give up a whole lot to get him.

According to Keith Pompay of the Philadelphia Inquirer, the Celtics have concerns about Okafor's off-court problems, including two incidents in Boston, and "will not give up much" to get him:

"[The Celtics] have concerns about his playing in the city after being involved in two street fights there in the early hours of Thanksgiving morning. Nor do they like the fact that the center saw a gun pointed at his head in Old City and that he was stopped for going 108 mph over the Ben Franklin Bridge."

Pompay reports the Sixers "are determined to receive equal value in any trade," which -- if the Celts actually are hesitant to bring Okafor on board -- would seem to make Okafor-to-Boston unlikely. Especially since, in the words of NBC's Pro Basketball Talk's Kurt Helin, "Okafor would fit with the Celtics -- the guy can score inside and rebound, valuable NBA skills -- but he’s not the game-changer they need. He’s okay. He’s not the answer."

Or perhaps the two sides using the media to lower/raise the price tag.

Stay tuned.