Every morning, we compile the links of the day and dump them here… highlighting the big story line. Because there’s nothing quite as satisfying as a good morning dump.
All’s quiet on the Jaylen Brown front.
Boston Celtics guard Jaylen Brown, who escaped serious injury when he hit the back of his head and neck late in the third floor of Thursday’s game in Minnesota, has entered the NBA’s concussion protocol.
Brown will be out indefinitely, the Celtics said Friday.
I was at that game.
When Jaylen’s head hit the court, and he didn’t make any move to get up, the whole place shut down.
Off to the side, Marcus Smart was down on one knee with his head in his hands for several minutes. I was sitting off the corner of the end the Celtics were defending in the second half, and we couldn’t figure out what everyone was cheering about at first, and then we realized fans at the other end could see him moving his arms. When he started moving his legs and they kept the gurney on the sidelines, the cheers got a bit louder, and the arena gave him a standing ovation when he walked off under his own power.
(This is, by the way, the second Saturday in a row where I’ve led the dump with a story about Jaylen Brown’s brain–last week’s was more fun, though)
Page 2: Where the bench has an identity
The Celtics (46-20) enter the home stretch playing some of their best basketball, a run that has been fueled in part by an unexpected Big Three off the bench – Marcus Morris, Marcus Smart and Terry Rozier.
They may not be on the floor at the start of games, but there is no escaping the fact that Boston’s success of late – the Celtics have won six of seven since the All-Star break – with the lone loss a three-point defeat on the road at Houston – has been heavily aided by the trio’s ability to impact the game at both ends of the floor.
I had fun watching Terry Rozier on Thursday night.
While Marcus & Marcus were pretty much the same from the moment they checked in during the first quarter up to the end of the game, Terry hit the court looking a bit skittish. I don’t know if he was amped up, or nervous, but he was, as they say, ‘moving fast, not quick’ during a pretty uneven first stint.
By the time the fourth quarter rolled around, though, it was a totally different Terry on the court. He looked smooth. He and the rest of the bench mob did a pretty good job keeping the Wolves’ starters at roughly arm’s length over the first half of the fourth quarter, giving Kyrie and Horford plenty of time to rest.
Bonus! Weird Celtics Twitter is still officially A Thing
(Scalabrine and Lederman talk about it)
Finally: Random notes from Thursday night’s game
As a Celtics fan a long way from Boston, and a pretty long drive from Minneapolis as well, I’ve been stuck watching the Celtics on TV my whole life. Thursday was my first chance to see them live. The occasion was more or less an anniversary present for my dad–their 46th was about a week ago–so the three of us boys and pop decided to splurge on the trip. It was my dad’s second Celtics game–his first was down at Kemper during the Kansas City Kings days, when he got to see Larry, DJ, McHale and Parish.
Leading into it, my youngest brother–a Bulls fan–had the best observation: ‘I always wanted to go to a Celtics/Bulls game, and this is probably as close as I’m going to get’.
I had hoped to get to the arena early enough to catch the shoot around, but we showed up just before the warmups started. When the guys showed up, it all struck me, for the first time, as being kind of odd.
I mean, the warmups look about the same as they do in college–or high school, for that matter–just a bunch of guys in sweats doing whatever they need to do to loosen up or kill time. Except, in fairly short order, there’s going to be 16,000+ people in the building rather intently watching them work, along with a few million people elsewhere watching on TV or following along on the internet.
Once the game started, it was fun following off-the-ball action. It’s so hard to keep track of that on TV. Not for the first time, the Celtics reminded me a bit of Star Trek’s Borg collective. Over the first few minutes of the game, they missed rotations on defense, leading to some wide open threes–but it wasn’t long before all five Timberwolves were wearing green overcoats.
The Celtics rapidly became so good at switching, rotating, and fighting over screens that the best Wolves looks had to come off of mismatches–probably the funniest being Terry Rozier gamely trying to defend a KAT post up. Open looks got harder and harder to come by as the game went on, and by the end of the game it was pretty easy to see why the Celtics have the league’s top defense.
On the offensive side–you know how there’s these ‘fans’ who complain about everything? Well, getting to sit through a game start to finish without distractions from commercials or bizarre color commentary, you can see where these guys get their ammo. The Celtics played a good game. However, there were also some possessions that they just kind of messed around on. A bricked Kyrie three from about five feet behind the three point line taken with 22 seconds on the shot clock sticks in my mind quite clearly.
If you are a habitually negative person, it’s pretty easy to focus on that one play and make a big deal out of it, ignoring the incredibly good play elsewhere. And there’s always gonna be plays like that: Weird Marcus Smart ‘heat check’ shots when he has pretty much no heat to check–or the possessions where Mook gets the ball and you just know he’s gonna shoot, regardless of what happens around him.
I also realized how small of a gap there is between good and bad teams in the NBA. The Wolves are a middle-of-the-road team these days, bad-ish, but not Bulls-without-Robin-Lopez bad. Yet they didn’t look mismatched against the Celtics. Watching the play on the court and paying less attention to the score in the second quarter, I was surprised to look up and see the Celtics had built a 10 point lead, because on a possession by possession basis, and on a player-on-player basis, the Wolves looked pretty good. They were hitting contested threes, they were forcing the C’s into some bad possessions. But the Celtics were actually building a lead (mostly, as the box score informs me, off of second chance points).
Kyrie Irving is good at basketball–in case you weren’t aware of this. People talk about the game ‘slowing down’ for players, and Kyrie gave a pretty amazing demonstration of that in the first quarter.
I mean, you’ve got 24 seconds to get a shot off in the NBA, and in a half-court set, there’s maybe 12-14 seconds left on the clock by the time the offense is initiated.
And here’s Kyrie down in the corner, and I swear you can see the wheels turning. He can shoot a contested three, he can drive or he can pass the ball. So there’s like, I don’t know, 8 seconds left on the clock, and Kyrie is taking his time figuring out what he’s going to do. The C’s got a basket off the play, Kyrie drove baseline, lured a help defender, and then passed into traffic under the basket, to the guy who had been freed up by the help defender. Two points. Easy. Except, not easy at all. It only looked easy.
Then, when Kyrie came back into the game in the fourth quarter–that was another chance to see just how special he is as a player.
The Wolves had closed the gap, and they were pressing hard on defense. Kyrie was getting at least a double-team every time he touched the ball.
And for maybe the first three possessions after he came in, or maybe three of the first four, he went straight at his defenders and got up these perfect shots that didn’t even touch the rim on their way through. Like, he’s jumping into this mass of assorted arms and hands and elbows, just about the worst shots you can imagine, and he’s eating that stuff up. Just like that, the game’s over. I mean, I don’t even know what you’re supposed to do about that if you’re the Wolves. They had Irving right where they wanted him–there wasn’t a thing wrong with the Wolves’ defense on those shots, and he made every one of them. That’s just gotta kill your morale.
Oh, and then there was the frozen yogurt promo.
Cherry Berry had this deal going where if any Celtics player missed both free throws, the whole dang arena would get free frozen yogurt on Friday (‘present your ticket at any Twin Cities Cherry Berry’).
The Celtics obliged the crowd by pretty consistently missing the first free throw.
However, they always got the second.
Until the game was basically over and the arena was half empty (because downtown Minneapolis is a joy to drive around in and get out of), and for some unknown reason some guy on the Wolves decided to foul Marcus Smart on a drive, and the refs decided to call it.
So Marcus steps up to the line and rims out the first shot.
Then this happens:
I’m not much of a lip-reader, but it’s pretty clear that Brad told Marcus to miss that second shot. Good thing it wasn’t Kyrie at the line.
In case you’re wondering, we didn’t avail ourselves of our free frozen yogurt–we left town from the hotel the next morning.
Celtics fans were pretty well represented. A couple checking into the hotel at the same time as us were decked out in Celtics gear (she was wearing a new Irving jersey). And there was that one guy. I have no idea who he is, but he’s got this Adidas jacket with sixteen of the Celtics banners stitched onto the back of it (and stitched accurately, right down to the shading of the NBA logo on each one). We saw him at the one Irish pub across from the Target Center before the game, where he happily tried to get ‘Let’s Go Celtics’ chants going–and we saw him occupying some pretty nifty seats during the game.
Afterward we ran into him at the other Irish pub across the street from the Target Center. No clue who he is or what he does for a living, but I’m pretty sure he’s a bigger Celtics fan than I am. After the game he was sharing drinks with a kid who looked like a chopped and channeled Gordon Hayward–and who really should’ve been wearing a Hayward jersey for that reason.
Then there was the family we sat next to. I wish I’d gotten a chance to find out more about them. He was a pretty big guy, and he kept getting up to hit the concession stand for himself, his wife (girlfriend?), and his kid. Couldn’t’ve been a nicer guy about it though. We had a pretty good time making jokes at Mook’s expense. I’m not even sure he knew I was a Celtics fan, ’cause I wasn’t wearing any gear (one of these days I’ve got to buy me a Reggie Lewis jersey), and I wasn’t trying to make a spectacle of myself in the Wolves’ home arena. They left ’round about the time Kyrie made all those shots in the fourth quarter, so we were just two ships passing in the night, I guess. If he paid what we paid for our tickets, throw in the parking and concessions, and that game must’ve cost him and his family close to $300. I felt kind of bad he didn’t get a win out of his investment, but that’s how it goes.
Oh, and one more thing, if you’re in Minneapolis and you don’t mind drinking beer, I highly recommend Finnegans
The rest of the links:
Stuff about Jaylen’s head
MassLive: Jaylen Brown Injury: Boston Celtics wing entered into NBA’s concussion protocol | Boston Globe: Celtics’ Jaylen Brown placed in concussion protocol | NBC Sports: C’s put Brown in concussion program | Boston Herald: Celtics notebook: Jaylen Brown enters concussion protocol
Boston Herald: Bulpett: Brad Stevens encouraged by team’s post-break play