Pavlovic impressing Celtics with his defense


Pavlovic impressing Celtics with his defense

By A. Sherrod Blakely

BOSTON During the Cleveland Cavaliers' run towards the 2007 NBA Finals, much of the credit for that team's success went to LeBron James.

He was, after all, their best player. That's usually how that passing-out-the-praise stuff works.

But if you talk to the man who coached that team, Mike Brown, he'll tell you that one of the newest Boston Celtics -- Sasha Pavlovic -- was among the unsung heroes in Cleveland's success that year.

At 6-foot-7, 235 pounds, Pavlovic is deceptively bigger than most people think.

And his athleticism, much like his size, tends to catch folks off guard as well.

That combination made Pavlovic Cleveland's most valued defender.

On that team, Larry Hughes matched up with the opposing team's starting point guard. That left Pavlovic as the primary defender on the opposing team's shooting guard or small forward - whichever of the two was the better scorer.

"He always took the better of the two wing players," Brown told "He took that person most of the whole game. Sasha allowed us, because of his size and length and the way he plays, he allowed us to get away with LeBron getting a, quote-unquote, rest on the defensive end of the floor which was a positive for us."

Pavlovic has only played one game for the Celtics, but it's clear that his defensive skills are already winning over coach Doc Rivers.

In Boston's 89-83 win at Milwaukee on Sunday, Rivers spoke in glowing terms - the kind of praise usually reserved for all-NBA defenders like Kevin Garnett and Rajon Rondo - about Pavlovic's play defensively.

"He was phenomenal," Rivers said about Pavlovic's defense. "He may have been our best defensive player on the floor against the Bucks. He was unbelievable."

While Rivers agrees that his size and athleticism are often overlooked, Rivers added, "and his heart and toughness. A lot of people from Cleveland were saying, 'He'll fight you all night. He's not going to back up.' We need that at that position, so that was good to see."

Talent has not been an issue with Pavlovic.

Displaying it on a regular basis, more than anything else, was the primary reason he has bounced around the NBA since his days with the Cavaliers.

"He hasn't consistently put everything together," Brown said "And that's why he's bounced in and out of the league at such a young age."

People tend to forget that Pavlovic came to the NBA as a teenager when the Utah Jazz drafted him in the first round of the 2003 NBA draft.

Now in his eighth season, Pavlovic is hopeful that the ups and downs he has experienced will serve as road map towards future success in the NBA.

But first things first.

He must continue to work towards earning minutes with the Celtics.

And the best way to do that is to continue doing what he does best, and that's play defense.

"Like I told you first day, Whatever Coach ask me to do, I'm going to do," Pavlovic told "I'm going to try and be as aggressive as I can on defense. Defense is my priority right now."

When you ask Pavlovic about his play and his role with the Celtics, he can't get out a sentence without mentioning the need for him to defend at a high level.

For a team whose foundation is so heavily rooted in strong play at that end of the floor, that's exactly what Rivers wants to hear and the Celtics need to see.

"This team has a lot of talent, a lot of scorers," Pavlovic said. "I can score the ball. I can shoot open shots. I can shoot the ball. But defense is my priority. That's what's going to keep me on the court and that's what's going to help us win games."

And for him, maybe win himself a regular spot in the NBA - possibly with the Celtics.

Brown, an NBA analyst for ESPN, believes Pavlovic is in an ideal situation with the C's.

"Put in the right situation, he can help a team," Brown said. "His experience playing in big playoff games; he's made big shots. He's started for an NBA championship-caliber team, a team that emphasized defense. That's what wins championships in this league. He has a lot of the intangibles that you need coming off the bench, to win a championship in this league. It's just a matter of him being in the right situation, and putting it all together."

A. Sherrod Blakely can be reached at Follow Sherrod on Twitter at http:twitter.comsherrodbcsn

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 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.


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, 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 “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."

Stars, studs and duds: Lillard steps up in second half, overtime

Stars, studs and duds: Lillard steps up in second half, overtime

BOSTON – Saturday was yet another night when the opposing team – this time it was the Portland Trail Blazers – that up the Boston Celtics with an avalanche of points that ended in a 127-123 overtime loss.

And yet through the rubble of all those lay-ups and put-back baskets and mid-range jumpers, Stevens saw something he has not seen in a while – hope that better days defensively were coming sooner rather than later.


“As crazy as it sounds with them scoring (127) … I actually thought we were a lot closer to defending the way we want to defend," said Stevens. "I thought we were really locked into those guards, and I thought we tried to make it as tough as possible. Those guys are really good players, obviously, but I thought, I thought we did a lot of good things in that regard.”

For the most part, Boston and Portland played a relatively even game that wasn’t decided until the final minute of overtime.

“They just made more plays down the stretch,” said Boston’s Al Horford.

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



C.J. McCollum

He tends to get second billing to Damian Lillard, but he was a first rate problem for the Celtics. He led the Blazers with 35 points on 11-for-21 shooting.

Damian Lillard

After a foul-troubled first half, Lillard stepped up like the All-Star he is in the second half to finish with 28 points and seven assists which included seven of Portland’s 14 points in overtime.

Isaiah Thomas

It was another dynamic scoring night for Thomas, finishing with a game-high 41 points which included 21 in the fourth quarter and overtime.


Terry Rozier

Making the most of his chance to play due to injuries and illnesses, Rozier came up with a number of big shots all night. He finished with 15 points which included a 3-pointer with 8.4 seconds in the fourth that forced overtime.

Mason Plumlee

In addition to doing a solid job protecting the rim, Plumlee also tallied a double-double of 10 points and 11 rebounds while dishing out a game-high eight assists.

Meyers Leonard

Easily the big X-factor of the game, Leonard had 17 points off the bench on 6-for-7 shooting.



Celtics Turnovers

This is the one area where the Celtics have been really good all season. Saturday? Not so much. Boston turned the ball over a season-high 21 times which accounted for 34 points for the Blazers.