What we saw: Celtics-Spurs preview review


What we saw: Celtics-Spurs preview review

BOSTON Paul Pierce got the shot that he wanted. Whether it was the best shot he could have taken is debatable.
At this point, it's a moot point as the Celtics saw their season-best winning streak end at five games following an 87-86 loss to the San Antonio Spurs.
In a game in which the Celtics had plenty of chances to make plays, their fate once again rested in the hands of Pierce whose step-back jumper with no time remaining hit the back of the rim and bounced out.
C's coach Doc Rivers would have liked Pierce to attack off the dribble earlier in the shot clock so that if he missed, they would have a chance at a tip-in for the win.
But with a few ticks on the game clock, Pierce was more concerned with getting off a shot that he's comfortable with.
A step-back jumper from the elbow?
That's a shot that Pierce loves to take -- and make. And with Tim Duncan switching out defensively to guard him, Pierce felt with so little time to play, that was the best shot he could get off in that situation.
"This type of stuff is not really scripted; you don't have an idea of what's going to happen in those type of situations," said Pierce, who had 15 points. "You get in those pressure situations and sometimes they work and sometimes they don't; but the thing is I'm not going to second-guess my decision. I thought I got a great shot, created some space right there at the free throw line. It's just some days they fall, some days they don't."
Pierce's last-second miss was just one of the many factors that contributed to the C's loss. We'll review keys to the game outlined earlier, and see how they actually played out.

WHAT TO LOOK FOR: Boston's best shot at beating the Spurs is to do what they did against Miami -- make sure it's not a game that comes down to the wire. This season, there are few teams that are better at putting away close games in the final couple minutes of play. In games in which San Antonio is ahead or behind within the last two minutes of play, they are 16-9. Only the Chicago Bulls and the Los Angeles Lakers have a higher winning percentage in such games.
WHAT WE SAW: The Celtics put up a valiant effort in the game's closing minutes, and had their chance to steal a win when Paul Pierce missed a jumper at the buzzer.
"The game came down to big plays, really," said C's coach Doc Rivers. "Think about it: they had two seconds, side out-of-bounds, and guy was falling out of bounds gives it to another guy, the guy makes a three. Get along offensive rebound, (Gary) Neal makes a three. They got two loose balls down the stretch. And we missed some -- we had some great looks."

MATCHUP TO WATCH: Rajon Rondo vs. Tony Parker: In the Big Three era, Rondo has been fairly consistent with strong play against the Spurs. In the six games against them since 2008-2009, Rondo has averaged 14 assists with at least 12 in each game. In addition, he's averaged 12.3 points and 5.7 rebounds. Parker has emerged as the best scorer for San Antonio this season, averaging a team-high 19.3 points per game this season. And like Rondo, he relies on having jet-like quickness to get to the basket. But Parker is more of a finisher, while Rondo's dribble-penetration is usually to set up a teammate to score.
WHAT WE SAW: Rondo once again came out in attack mode, and the results were indeed impressive. He had 17 points on 8-for-15 shooting along with 11 assists and four steals. Parker's impact wasn't nearly as great, tallying 10 points on 5-for-14 shooting with only two assists and one rebound.

PLAYER TO WATCH: Brandon Bass is looking more and more like an X-factor for the Celtics. When he's on top of his game both as a scorer and a rebounder, the Celtics are an extremely tough team to beat. Bass has had five double-doubles scoring and rebounding this season. In those games, the C's are 4-1 with the lone loss coming in the season-opening loss at New York on Christmas Day.WHAT WE SAW: Bass didn't have a bad game, but he's played better -- a lot better. To beat the Spurs, they needed him to deliver both as a scorer and a rebounder. He had nine points on 3-for-6 shooting, but was just 3-for-6 from the free throw line. And his seven rebounds were important for the Celtics, again, they needed him to be a difference-maker tonight instead of a guy who had a good, but not-great performance.

STAT TO TRACK: There are a number of statistics that show how good Boston's defense has been this year, one of which is how they are giving up a league-low 36 made field goals per game. Keeping the Spurs at or below that total will not be easy, especially when you realize that they average a league-best 39 made field goals per game which is a big reason why they rank third in the NBA, in points scored (101.9) per game.
WHAT WE SAW: The Celtics didn't look particularly good defensively in the first half, but in the second? Completely different team.
"It was unbelievable," said Rivers, who held the Spurs to just nine points in the third quarter which is about 16 below their season average in the third quarter of games.

Pedroia (knee) out of lineup again after leaving game early Thursday

Pedroia (knee) out of lineup again after leaving game early Thursday

Dustin Pedroia is out of the lineup again tonight after leaving the Red Sox game Thursday night with knee pain in the fifth inning.

Josh Rutledge will start at second base as the Sox open a three-game series with the Seattle Mariners at Fenway Park.  

The weather and sloppy field conditions were a factor in John Farrell deciding to get Pedroia out of the game Thursday and conditions haven’t improved significantly Friday. 

Pedroia (.288, two homers, 21 RBI) had surgery on that knee in October. It's the same leg that was hurt when Manny Machado slid into Pedroia at second base in April, the slide that sparked the plunking war between the Orioles and Red Sox.

The full lineups: 

Jean Segura SS
Guillermo Heredia CF
Robinson Canó 2B
Nelson Cruz DH
Kyle Seager 3B
Danny Valencia 1B
Taylor Motter LF
Ben Gamel RF
Mike Zunino C

Yovanni Gallardo RHP

Mookie Betts RF
Andrew Benintendi LF
Xander Bogaerts SS
Hanley Ramirez DH
Mitch Moreland 1B
Josh Rutledge 2B
Jackie Bradley Jr CF
Christian Vazquez C
Deven Marrero 3B

Eduardo Rodriguez LHP


Source: Celtics offseason focus is an All-Star frontcourt addition

Source: Celtics offseason focus is an All-Star frontcourt addition

WALTHAM, Mass. – No matter how an NBA team’s season ends, change is inevitable.
And while there’s no doubt that the Celtics are on the right track in terms of their ascension in the NBA, it's too soon to tell how many players on the Celtics’ 15-man roster that Danny Ainge, the president of basketball operations, will bring back next season.


“One thing I do know. He’ll make the best decisions for the team and if players don’t end up being back here, I wish the best for them,” said Avery Bradley.  “Those are my brothers. We all had a special year. I appreciate everything, all the time I had with them. I’d love for all those guys to be back. We’ll see.”
And with Boston coming off its first trip to the Eastern Conference finals since 2012, adding just any player won’t cut it.
The Celtics’ mindset now isn’t just to improve, but get good enough to where they can better compete with the likes of Cleveland, which just ended the Celtics’ season with a Game 5 thumping.
The most significant move made by the Celtics last offseason was the signing of Al Horford to a four-year, $113 million contract.
Like most of his Boston teammates this season, Horford is eager to see what changes are in store this summer.
“We just have to wait and see,” Horford said. “We had such a good year. A lot of positive things. It’ll be interesting to see what Danny, the organization feels is going to be the next step.”
Multiple league sources have told CSNNE.com in recent weeks that the Celtics are focused on landing an All-Star caliber talent in the frontcourt.
That makes sense when you consider how guard-dominant the Celtics were this season and how that had a negative impact on the team’s rebounding and, to a lesser degree, their defense as a whole.
Gordon Hayward has emerged as a target, but all indications – for now at least – point toward him returning to Utah.
The Celtics may pursue Los Angeles Clippers big man Blake Griffin. Although like Hayward, he too is expected to re-sign with his current team for a max contract (for Griffin that would be five years, $175 million).
While trades are certainly in the cards for Boston, at this point the Celtics seem more inclined to improve their overall talent base via the draft and free agency.
“It’s always a good thing when you have the opportunity to add value to your team and don’t have to change your team too much,” said Celtics’ reserve Gerald Green, who will be a free agent this summer. “I’m going to be very interested to see what they do as far as building a team. We’re in a good place right now as far as being where we want to be organization-wise. I feel like we’re one or two steps away from actually being at the Finals. I think Danny has some things to think about, but I’m sure he’s going to do the job. I’ve seen Danny go to work in these situations. He always makes the team better. I’m pretty sure he’s got something planned that, at the end of the day, is going to make this organization better.”
Indeed, the Celtics could very well strengthen their position for next season by simply locking up some of their core players who may hit the free agent market soon.
Boston may look to work out an extension with Isaiah Thomas before the start of this season. Because if he hits free agency in the summer of 2018, he will be poised to command a salary that in year one would be worth more than the entire four-year, $27 million deal he signed with Phoenix in 2014.
“Boston’s changed my career, changed my life,” Thomas said. “I would love to be here long-term and win championships here. But as you guys know, it’s a business and anything can happen. I know that and understand that. But I would love to be here. This has been everything to me. This city, this organization … it’s been good.”