CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Newcomer Dennis Schröder believes he knows the best way to get the best out of the Celtics.
After allowing the Houston Rockets to shoot 37 percent in the final three quarters, the Celtics were able to hold off the Rockets for their first win. Schröder said defense is the key to the Celtics taking the next major step.
“We got some stops on the defensive end and then played with pace,” he said. “I think that’s who we are. Every night we have to come out on the defensive side of the ball and play with energy and it’s going to translate to the offensive end. I think we did that most of the game and it felt good out there.”
The Celtics actually played well defensively in their 32-point home loss to the Raptors before slipping late in the third quarter. The Knicks burned the Celtics defense for 48.6 percent shooting. Opponents are shooting 42.2 percent against the Celtics in the last two games.
“Getting a little bit more physical,” Schröder said. “We did a great job, all the five guys out there, of shifting, helping each other and I think that was the key to the game. We’re a few games in, we just try to keep getting better and Ime is going to be better, we’re going to get better and we’re going to be in good shape.”
Schröder said he is going to push his teammates, especially leaders and All-Stars Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum, to increase their defensive intensity.
“We have a lot of talent, through the roof, but I think of the defensive side of the ball we’ve all got to do better,” he said. “I’ve challenged Tatum, Jaylen, they’re the best players on our team and if they play hard and bring it on the defensive side of the ball, we’re going to be a whole different team. Whatever they want to accomplish, being a top-five player, they’re going to reach that. I’m going to push them to get better at that and myself being better defensively and offensively, pushing the pace and bringing the energy.”
Brown back, Horford out
The Celtics exhaled when Brown said he was good enough to play Monday after missing Sunday’s win with left patella soreness. Coach Ime Udoka said Brown’s soreness was a byproduct of coming back quickly after missing 10 days with COVID-19 and then playing 46 minutes in the double-overtime game against the Knicks.
Meanwhile, Al Horford was declared out with a left adductor strain and Romeo Langford missed his second consecutive game with left calf tightness. Schröder started in the place of Horford after starting for Brown on Sunday.
“I wouldn’t say it is typical – a part of it was COVID obviously,” Udoka said of the early rash of minor injuries. “Our guys being out and when you come back from 10 days, in Jaylen case, that ramp up you can’t really implement that in a workout or getting shots up, so the high level of competition in this game with the double overtime took a toll a little bit there. But for him being an older guy, we are just being cautious, so the three or four nights that was one thing but with Romeo (Langford), unfortunate situation, and Dennis and some other guys who have taken hits and had some soreness throughout training camp.
“It is probably not normal and like I said yesterday, we hit a lot of adversity early with guys in and out, but we have done well with the preseason as far as throwing guys in there and they all have done well. So, there are opportunities for guys to step up as you mentioned and I look forward to taking on the challenge with some different guys tonight.”
Former Celtic Terry Rozier was scratched from Monday’s game with a right ankle sprain while forward PJ Washington was also pulled out with right knee discomfort. Rozier, acquired from the Celtics in a sign-and-trade for Kemba Walker, signed a four-year, $97 million extension with the Hornets in the offseason, ending the final year of his previous deal.
Monday was also the first time Gordon Hayward will face his former team. Hayward, who signed a four-year, $120 million deal in October 2020, missed all three matchups last season because of injury. This is the first back-to-back set for Hayward this season after missing the final two months of 2020-21 with a hamstring injury.
Hayward entered Monday night’s matchup averaging 17.7 pointsand 40 percent shooting from the 3-point line. The Hornets’ biggest surprise has been fourth-year forward Miles Bridges, who was named Eastern Conference Player of the Week after averaging 25 points, 8 rebounds, and 2.7 steals in three games.
Charlotte coach James Borrego was a Spurs assistant when Udoka played for San Antonio. The two coaches did not want to talk much about their first matchup but Udoka mentioned Borrego did rent out his house for a few months when Udoka signed with the Sacramento Kings … It’s been a rough start offensively for second-year players Aaron Nesmith and Peyton Pritchard. They are a combined 3-for-23 shooting and 3-for-19 from the 3-point line. Nesmith, who showed great improvement during Las Vegas Summer League has yet to make a shot this season and is 0-for-9 from the 3-point line.