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.
With the final extended road trip of the season behind them, and 10 of the final 15 regular-season games at home, the challenge now is to play the middling and lottery-bound teams on the remaining schedule with as much focus and purpose as they have recently when the nation’s eyes have been upon them.
“[We’ve] just got to know what our goal is,” All-Star point guard Isaiah Thomas said, “and what we’re trying to reach at the end. It’s not about who we’re playing. It’s about how we play and how we approach the game. I think if we approach it with respect, we’ll take care of business. If not, we’ll be up and down like we’ve been.”
The Celtics play Wednesday’s game against the Minnesota Timberwolves at TD Garden a half-game ahead of the Washington Wizards — tied in the loss column — for second place in the Eastern Conference. Boston entered Tuesday night two games behind the Cavaliers for the top spot in the East.
The game is the second in a stretch of eight home games out of 10 with the two road games at Brooklyn and Philadelphia against teams that began Tuesday with a combined record of 36-95. Eight of the 10 games are against teams with losing records.
Only four of Boston’s last 15 games are against teams currently above .500.
Providence Journal – Celtics’ goal is to maintain focus down the stretch
Of course, Stevens is the voice of reason. He doesn’t think the Celtics have been that wildly inconsistent, save some key stretches in games. He believes the team has progressed nicely, as he should. The Celtics are headed toward their first 50-win season under Stevens and just need to play sound basketball to prep themselves for a long playoff run.
“With 15 games to go, if you get caught up in anything else, you’re going to miss the opportunity at hand,” Stevens said. “We’ll try out of these last 15 games, not only to prepare as well as we can, but play as well as we can and also try to get as fresh as we can.”
Globe – Celtics primed for home stretch
Woo hoo, the Celtics are closing the season by playing a lot of terrible teams! Time for a winning streak! Right?
Wait, why are you wringing your hands and sweating profusely?
Oh, it’s because you remember the disaster in Denver. And the giveaway in Phoenix, the last-second call in Chicago, and the no-show in Sacramento just before the All-Star break. It’s true, those were all brutal losses. And because those inexplicable Ls are so fresh in our minds, it’s reasonable to think that maybe there’s no advantage to playing lottery-bound opponents.
Well, cheer up. The Celtics are 29-10 (corrected) this season against squads that are currently below .500. That’s better than I expected when I looked it up, because we fixate on the bad losses. But the truth is, with playoff seeding on the line, we have every reason to expect the Cs will take out the lesser teams just like they did with Chicago on Sunday, and finish the season strong to lock down the second seed.
On Page 2: Jaylen’s learning to finish
And as we’ve seen with Brown, he has been a quick study when it comes to making adjustments to better his play and in doing so, help the Celtics in their quest to finish out the regular season playing well going into the playoffs.
Experience has been a great teacher for Brown. The same can be said for his teammates.
“I study our guys like I.T. (Isaiah Thomas), how they turn corners and use their body to shield off and things like that,” Brown said. “I’ve watched more than I talked to guys, but I definitely learned a lot from our veterans and our young guys, too; how to get to the basket, how to create space.”
And the numbers clearly show Brown’s progress at getting to the paint and finishing at a higher rate. This season, Brown is shooting 58.8 percent on shot attempts within five feet of the rim. Since the all-star break, that number is up to 72.2 percent.
I know, Jaylen was featured in the Morning Dump on Monday and Tuesday, and here he is again on Wednesday. And why not? He’s been improving so fast that it seems every day brings more news about his progress.
A couple of weeks ago, I offered some analysis about the 20-year-old proving that he was well worth the No. 3 pick. Nothing has happened to change my mind. The Celtics may never acquire Jimmy Butler or Paul George, but if you compare their rookie seasons with Jaylen’s, maybe that will work out okay anyway.
Related: Celtics.com – Honing His Craft: Brown Becoming Strong Finisher
On Page 3: ‘Windy’
Speaking on a Cleveland radio show, ESPN reporter Brian Windhorst threw some shade at the Celtics.
From this one tweet, it’s not clear why Windhorst is so dismissive of the Celtics. Perhaps it’s because he’s so attached to LeBron James. “Windy” has gotten famous at ESPN by riding LeBron’s di… um, I mean, by specializing in covering LeBron, first in Cleveland, then in Miami, and now back with the Cavs.
Perhaps Windhorst also doesn’t care that, in the Eastern standings, Boston is only 2.5 games behind the Cavs, which have won just four of their last 10. Or that the Celts have the best road record in the East at 20-16. Or that Boston is finally healthy.
Despite all that, Windhorst is probably right – the Celtics are unlikely to catch Cleveland (and probably can’t beat them in the playoffs). The bigger goal anyway is for the Cs to stay ahead of the Wizards for second place. Time will tell.
Meanwhile, something to ponder: When LeBron finally retires, will Windhorst have to get a real job?
And, finally: Plays of the Week
The Rest of the Links:
MassLive – UMass men’s basketball expected to have interest in Boston Celtics assistant Micah Shrewsberry (report) | A basketball connection: Boston Celtics coach Brad Stevens’ link to D-III Final Four contestant Babson College | Boston Celtics Draft 2017 Big Board 4.0: How the top prospects look before March Madness