Shaq's energy lifts Celtics over Pistons

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Shaq's energy lifts Celtics over Pistons

By JessicaCamerato
CSNNE.com

BOSTON -- One of the benefits of having a 7-foot-1, 325-pound big man on a roster is the fact that he has big shoulders.

On Wednesday night, Shaquille ONeal used them to carry the Boston Celtics to victory over the Detroit Pistons.

The whole team was flat, he said. I just had to pick it up.

ONeal didnt like what he saw as the watched his team struggle against their 15-win opponents. After beating the Orlando Magic two nights earlier, he knew they were not playing up to their potential.

In a game with 13 ties and 12 lead changes, ONeal wanted the Celtics to put the Pistons away. When he checked back in with just over eight minutes to go, he made sure that happened.

We just try to go out and do whatever coach Doc Rivers asks, he said. I just tried to get every rebound, try to hustle, diving on the floor, just trying to get everybody going.

Over a span of five-and-a-half minutes, ONeal gave the Celtics the spark they needed to pull away with an 86-82 win.

He began with an alley-oop from Rajon Rondo and followed that with a layup 40 seconds later. He then picked off two steals and converted on a three-point play (a game-tying free throw, as a matter of fact), while grabbing three rebounds along the way.

By the time ONeal returned to the bench with 1:28 to go, the Celtics had erased an eight-point deficit and reclaimed momentum.

ONeal finished the night with 12 points and a season-high 12 rebounds.

I thought Shaq was the difference in the game with his energy, said Rivers. Forget his size and all that -- his size and energy. I thought Shaq was he won the game for us tonight. He did all the little things -- crashed the glass, was physical, blocked shots. He was absolutely wonderful tonight.

At 38 years old, ONeal was not run down by this kind of hustle. He played 25 minutes and felt energized on the floor.

Im in excellent shape, he said. Im only playing 19, 20 minutes a game. I could do that with my eyes closed. There really is no excuse for me to be tired. Im not really tired. Doc does a great job of managing my minutes. But we were down 10 and I just felt like I had to do something -- dive on the floor, knock people around, get the crowd involved, and I think that helped a little bit.

In spite of the win, ONeal is still critical of himself and his team. Thats how players constantly improve, after all. He is bothered that he missed two free throws in the fourth quarter -- But keep in mind, when we really, really, really need them, Ill be there and you wont have to worry about it. Studies show, he said -- and would like to see the Celtics come out swinging regardless of who they are playing.

We knew that we were out there messing around, not helping too much, not focused, he said. Its kind of hard getting up for teams like that. But if you want to win the whole thing, you have to get up for every game. We have to realize that teams are going to come in here and play way above their heads, and we have to be ready for that.

Fortunately for the Celtics, ONeal was prepared for victory when it counted.

It was a slow game, it was an ugly game, he said. I just wanted to do my part and try to get us close to where we would be able to win.

Jessica Camerato is on Twitter athttp:twitter.comjcameratoNBA

Brown taking opportunities with Celtics as they come

Brown taking opportunities with Celtics as they come

BOSTON -- Compared to most high draft picks, Jaylen Brown doesn’t log a ton of minutes for the Boston Celtics.
 
Playing on an experienced team with legit hopes of making a deep playoff run, rookies seeing limited minutes is a given.
 
Knowing playing time will come in a limited supply, Brown understands all too well the importance of taking advantage of every opportunity he gets on the floor.
 
He did just that on Saturday in Boston’s 107-106 win over Philadelphia, and he hopes to do more of the same on Monday when the Celtics take on the Houston Rockets.
 
When you look at Brown’s stat line, nothing about it looks impressive. He played 15 minutes, scored two points with one rebound and one blocked shot.
 
But beyond the stats was the fact that he was on the floor for seven minutes in the fourth quarter in a close back-and-forth game on the road. Rookies on the floor in crunch time is not the norm in the NBA.
 
“It means a lot,” Brown told reporters after Saturday’s win. “I try to be as best I can be for my team; try to put my best foot forward every night out.”
 
And he did just that on Saturday.
 
In the fourth quarter with the Celtics leading 87-83, Brown blocked a Gerald Henderson shot that wound up in the hands of Jae Crowder. Moments later, Jonas Jerebko hit a 3-pointer that gave the Celtics their largest lead of the game, 90-83.
 
And just two minutes prior to the blocked shot, he was out in transition following an Isaiah Thomas steal and threw down a dunk that pushed Boston’s lead to 86-83 with 7:11 to play.
 
Brown acknowledged making the most of those opportunities bodes well for him and the franchise.
 
“It’s great for our team in general; not just for me,” Brown said. “Those plays helped us to pull the game out in the end. So I’m glad we got the win. I think we should have played a little better than we did.”
 
The continued pursuit of self-improvement is a hallmark of what Brown’s focus and desire are at this stage of his pro career. He has talked often about not wanting to be just one of the best in this draft class but also one of the best in the NBA overall.
 
But he’s also learned that to get there takes time and experience developing both physically and mentally. Part of that mental growth entails having the right approach to games.
 
“Usually you try to tell yourself not to mess up,” Brown said. “Now that I’m getting more comfortable, it’s just play basketball, bring energy, things like that; come out and do what you’re supposed to do. A lot of times you try to tell yourself to not mess up and it’s counteractive; just come out and play basketball and have fun.”
 
And by doing so the minutes will come.
 
“You can’t control that. I just have to control what I can control,” Brown said. “I trust coach (Brad Stevens); I trust my coaching staff. I have to come out and in the minutes I get, play my hand as best I can and take advantage of what I do get and impact this team as much as possible.”
 
This season, Brown is averaging 4.8 points, 2.0 rebounds while shooting 41.9 percent from the field.

Sixers' success against C's defense shows Boston still has room to grow

Sixers' success against C's defense shows Boston still has room to grow

Avery Bradley was a member of the NBA’s All-Defensive first team a year ago. And Al Horford has been among the league’s best interior defenders for a number of years.

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But as talented defensively as they may be, the Celtics are still learning how to play with each other as well as off of one another.

Injuries have slowed down the chemistry developing as quickly as some might expect. Horford missed nine games due to a concussion, and another game due to wife giving birth to their second child, Alia Horford.

And in Boston’s 107-106 win over Philadelphia on Saturday night, defensive chemistry -- not only among Horford and Bradley, but with all of the players -- remains a work in progress for sure.

Boston had a number of defensive issues in the first half which factored in the Sixer shooting 46.1 percent from the field while shooting 9-for-18 from 3-point range.

But the second half was an entirely different story as Boston’s defense picked up his intensity and focus level which would prove to be just enough to beat a scrappy Sixers team.

The Celtics (12-8) are four games over .500 for the first time this season currently have the third-best record in the Eastern Conference behind Cleveland (13-5) and Toronto (14-6). 

And while the players point to a handful of games that they felt they gave away, Avery Bradley reminds all that the success of this team this season has for the most part come with key players out of the mix or limited in some capacity.

“We haven’t played that many games with the full roster,” Bradley told reporters after the win. “We’re still learning how to play with each other.”

Bradley pointed out a moment in Saturday’s victory where a miscommunication between him and Horford led to a defensive miscue.

Boston has had similar mistakes made on offense this season, too.

“We haven’t really been in pick-and-roll that much,” Bradley said. “Every single game we need to improve.”

And that improvement has to continue evolving on the defensive side of things for this team to achieve its goals this season which include being among the last teams standing in the East.

Doing that will likely mean Boston re-establishing itself as a defensive force, something that should come with time and experience playing with each other.

Horford, who signed a four-year, $113 million deal with Boston in the offseason, says it’s an ongoing process for all involved.

“I have to learn to play with our concepts, the guys have to learn to play with me,” Horford told reporters after Saturday’s win. “We just have to make sure we keep playing the right way, be more consistent with that. I feel like we’re getting better but there’s still some work that we need to do.”