Krstic impresses, Big Four search for rhythm

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Krstic impresses, Big Four search for rhythm

By A. Sherrod Blakely
CSNNE.com

PHILADELPHIA Nenad Krstic has been better than just about anyone in Celtics Nation could have hoped for.

But even he recognizes the need for him to improve defensively.

By no means was he the only Celtics starter to make some mistakes in defensive coverages.

However, being that he is the new guy in the starting lineup, well, he acknowledged that it hasn't been as smooth a transition to this starting lineup as he would have liked.

"It's more pressure, because I don't want to mess up (with the starters)," Krstic told CSNNE.com. "I feel really bad now. We've lost two games in a row. And I feel responsibility just because new guy and like I said, just more pressure when you're whole season is here different."

And if there's one thing Krstic has learned so far, it's that it doesn't take much to throw an entire defensive coverage scheme out of synch.

"You just need one guy to make a mistake and the whole defense becomes a little weaker," Krstic said. "That's happening right now, especially with first unit. I'm still learning. Sometimes I make a mistake, so guys try to help me. All the new guys are really trying to fit in. Everybody's playing hard. Everybody giving 100 percent. So it's not like the effort isn't there. It's just getting more familiar with the system."

While Krstic has certainly had his share of issues defensively, he did just drop 16 points and 15 rebounds - his first double-double with the Celtics - which came after a 20-point, nine-rebound effort against the Los Angeles Clippers.

No, Boston has bigger problems than Krstic.

Specifically, their Big Four of Rajon Rondo, Ray Allen, Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett.

All have struggled to some degree during Boston's current two-game skid.

Until they get on track, the C's are going to struggle.

"The starting five, we have to do a better job of closing the game out," said Rajon Rondo. "We dug a hole two games in a row. You give a young team confidence, it's hard to turn it off."

While the C's do include Krstic, the team's turn-around has to come from within the Big Four.

"Absolutely," Garnett said. "This is definitely on the four of us to get it done. And we haven't done that. We'll get better."

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

Stars, studs and duds: Olynyk finding his stride off Celtics bench

Stars, studs and duds: Olynyk finding his stride off Celtics bench

BOSTON – It’s easy to forget that Kelly Olynyk went several months without doing anything basketball-related as he was on the mend from shoulder surgery.

His return had its share of ups and downs, but it seems the 7-foot center has found his stride and he’s making opponents pay for it.

For the second time in as many games, Olynyk came up big for the Celtics as Boston continued on its winning ways with a 108-98 win over Charlotte.

Olynyk, who scored a season-high 26 points in Boston’s win at Atlanta on Friday, had an efficient 15 points on 6-for-9 shooting against the Hornets on Monday.

Assertive. Aggressive. Contract year.

It doesn’t matter how you describe what or why Olynyk is ballin’ so hard lately.

The point is he’s doing it a better job of recognizing opportunities to make plays and executing whatever role he’s being asked to play.

“Just feeling good with the second unit,” Olynyk said. “I’m just trying to be aggressive and help the starters out.”

In the past, teams have mixed up their defensive coverages on Olynyk which frequently left him being guarded by a quicker but smaller player, or a big man with limited mobility.

Often Olynyk settled for long range shots and 3’s, regardless of the defender.

But as we’ve seen the last couple of games, he has hurt teams with his scoring around the rim which has in turn opened things up for his teammates or himself.

“We need him to play like that all the time,” said Boston’s Isaiah Thomas. “When he’s aggressive, looking for his shot, shooting open shots, even getting in there getting rebounds, offensive put-backs, that only helps us as a unit. And he’s done a great job of that the past couple games. We need that from him.”

And as he gets further removed from his offseason surgery, opportunities for him to be an impactful player for Boston will only grow.

Here are the Stars, Studs and Duds from Monday’s game.

 

STARS

Isaiah Thomas

The Celtics win, and Isaiah Thomas has another offensive flurry in the fourth quarter. So what else is new? He led all scorers with 35 points which included 17 in the fourth quarter.

Kemba Walker

He’s still playing at a level that puts him in the All-Star conversation, but it’s not going to happen with the Hornets continuing to struggle. They’ve lost five in a row now despite Walker’s 24 points on Monday.

 

STUDS

Al Horford

Boston is playing more inside-out basketball of late, and that’s opening things up for both Horford and his teammates. Against the Hornets he had 22 points on 8-for-14 shooting along with six rebounds and four assists.

Kelly Olynyk

For the second straight game, Olynyk had a strong, impactful performance for the Celtics utilizing his strengths as a perimeter threat and a 7-footer who can take advantage of smaller defenders around the rim. He finished with 15 points on 6-for-9 shooting to go with nine rebounds, four assists and a steal.

Marvin Williams

He was the only other Hornet besides Kemba Walker who really impacted the game significantly. Williams had 21 points on 8-for-14 shooting which included 3-for-6 shooting from 3-point range.

Jae Crowder

The 6-foot-6 Crowder continues to have a sneaky-good season for the Celtics, particularly with his 3-point shooting which ranks among the league leaders. On Monday he had 15 points which included a trio of 3-pointers to go with seven rebounds, three assists and a blocked shot.

 

DUDS

Nicolas Batum

Avery Bradley put most of his effort and attention into defending Batum and man, did it ever pay off. Batum grabbed 10 rebounds, but wound up missing nine of his 11 shots from the field to finish with just four points.