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

Celtics hope to rebound after being outplayed by Bulls on the boards

Celtics hope to rebound after being outplayed by Bulls on the boards

Following Thursday’s 105-99 loss to the Chicago Bulls, the Boston Celtics will be on the prowl to rebound – literally – from its first defeat of the season.

Because for all that did not go right in Thursday night’s loss, the way Boston was beaten on the boards stands out emphatically.

“They got 24 more shots than us. We only turned it over (12) times,” Celtics head coach Brad Stevens told reporters after the loss. “So that’s the obvious place they’re getting their possessions, on the glass. That’s going to be the number one thing, that has been the number one thing. It’s something we’ve talked about. We have to get better at it.”


Boston was out-rebounded 55-36 on the boards which heavily factored into Chicago’s 18-5 advantage in second-chance points.

In the Celtics' 122-117 win over Brooklyn on Wednesday, Boston won the overall rebounding battle 47-44, but had just 12 offensive rebounds compared to Brooklyn's 15 offensive boards. Despite the close margin, the Nets won the battle on the offensive glass running away, outscoring the Celtics 23-13 in second-chance points.

Stevens decided to start Tyler Zeller ahead of Amir Johnson to begin the third quarter, hoping Zeller would be a better matchup on the glass than Johnson who did not grab a single rebound in the 11 minutes of court time he got in the first half.

While Zeller did do a few good things on the glass and scoring in half-court sets, it wasn’t enough to swing the momentum Chicago was steadily gaining due to its ability to control the boards.

“I wasn’t real surprised but at the same time I knew it could happen,” Zeller told reporters, referring to Stevens’ decision to have him start the second half. “They did a good job of coming out and setting the tone. They beat us up on the boards, especially the first half. It’s something we have to get better at and continue to grow at.”

And it’s not a one-player or one-position issue, either.

Usually we think of bigs when it comes to rebounding. But Boston’s guards need to step up their rebounding game as well.

The struggles thus far have to be put in the context of this being just two games, the latter being the season opener for the Bulls who were jacked up more than usual due to it being the first game for Chicago native Dwyane Wade and ex-Celtic Rajon Rondo.

“We have to focus on boxing out,” said Boston’s Jaylen Brown. “Guards have to do a better job. Guys like me, Al (Horford), Amir (Johnson), Tyler (Zeller) ... We have to do a good job of coming in the weak side and grabbing those; just focus on it, pay more attention to detail.”