|04.17.16 at 12:04 am ET|
Long before coming out of Saturday’s game with a strained right hamstring, Avery Bradley watched as his Celtics teammates continued a troubling trend.
They fell behind by 19 points in the first half and trailed by 17 at halftime, 51-34.
The stats were beyond ugly. They made just 12-of-51 shots for 23.1 percent. They were 2-for-16 from 3-point range. They had three players in foul trouble as Jared Sullinger, Amir Johnson and Marcus Smart all had two fouls. The Hawks by contrast were doing everything they wanted in the first six minutes of the game. Inside, outside and in between.
The Celtics were getting beaten to loose balls and Atlanta was ahead 26-8 in the paint. The Celtics were outscored 30-19 in the first quarter Saturday. That’s an improvement from Wednesday when they trailed 35-13 and from the second quarter on Monday when they were throttled by Charlotte, 39-13, in the second quarter.
“I feel like we dig a hole for ourselves,” Bradley said. “We have to get out of that pattern. I feel like if we’re able to do that, the series would be a lot different. The game would’ve been a lot different. I feel like we would’ve given ourselves a better chance throughout this entire game if we started out this game a little better.”
What did their coach think?
“We’re going to have to knock down some more shots, obviously,” Brad Stevens said. “I think at halftime we were even talking, we felt like we attacked them better in the first half than they we did last week when we scored 71 [in the first half]. We just missed a lot of open ones. We’re going to eventually have to knock those down because that’s part of what we’re going to have to get on all those rotations and extra passes. They’re pretty active at the rim against us.”
|04.16.16 at 11:19 pm ET|
There will be no sympathy for the Celtics or Avery Bradley at this time of year. And the Celtics and Bradley know it.
When Bradley went up to try and block a layup from Jeff Teague with 6:42 left in the fourth quarter, something didn’t feel right. As a matter of fact, after the 102-101 Game 1 loss to the Hawks at Philips Arena on Saturday night, Bradley said it felt “weird.”
“I was trying to go up and block Teague and when I came down, I felt weird,” Bradley told reporters after. “I took a few steps and I just couldn’t walk. My main focus is just try to get treatment so I can get back as soon as possible.”
When he couldn’t put any weight on his right leg and had to be helped to the locker room, the prognosis for Game 2 did not look good. But that doesn’t mean Bradley is giving up hope, especially during the playoffs.
“I don’t really want to talk about it that much,” Bradley said. “I just want to try to get treatment and take it day by day, and hopefully, I can be back for the next game. I’ll get treatment. If I could get treatment all night. My main focus is just trying to get back for next game.”
Bradley says he will get an MRI on Sunday and then make a determination from that. He tried to maintain a positive outlook after the game.
“I’ll be fine, once I get some treatment,” Bradley said. “I know Ed and those guys, they’ll do a great job of trying to get me back as soon as possible. I’m not worried at all. I have faith. I know my teammates and people are praying for me, hoping I can get back as soon as possible.”
|04.16.16 at 10:11 pm ET|
When Avery Bradley went down with 6:42 left in the fourth quarter Saturday night, the Celtics led the Hawks, 83-80. He grabbed his right hamstring as he made his way up the court and eventually fell to the court near midcourt as he hobbled his way off the court. He was helped to the locker room by trainer Ed Lacerte and teammate Tyler Zeller and did not return. He was ruled out with a strained right hamstring. The C’s were outscored 22-18 the rest of the way and suffered a heartbreaking 102-101 loss in Game 1 at Philips Arena. Will Marcus Smart be able to pick up the load if Bradley is lost for the series?
|04.16.16 at 9:52 pm ET|
The Celtics lost a playoff game and their best defensive player down the stretch of a rough Game 1 in Atlanta.
Al Horford led three Hawks with at least 20 points, scoring 24 while grabbing 12 rebounds as Atlanta grabbed Game 1, 102-101, Saturday night at Philips Arena.
Avery Bradley left the game midway through the fourth quarter grabbing his right leg in pain with a strained right hamstring. He did not return. His status for Game 2 Tuesday night is unknown.
Isaiah Thomas led the Celtics with 27 points, as Boston erased an 18-point first half hole to take a fourth quarter lead. But the Celtics faded after Bradley went down and fell down, 1-0, in the best-of-7 Eastern Conference quarterfinal series.
Jae Crowder hit a three with 6.6 seconds left to bring Boston to within two, 100-98. But Jeff Teague hit two free throws with 5.2 seconds left to seal the win. Thomas hit a three with 0.4 left to make it 102-101.
The Hawks came out on fire in the opening quarter, racing out to a 20-10 lead. The Celtics were settling for jump shots and the Hawks were taking advantage in transition, getting open looks at threes and midrange jumpers.
With the Celtics concerned about how to contain Atlanta bigs Paul Millsap and Al Horford, the biggest factor in the opening quarter was the foul trouble the Celtics’ big men faced. Both Amir Johnson and Jared Sullinger picked up two fouls apiece.
The Hawks finished the first quarter on a 7-2 run to take a 30-19 lead.
The Hawks built their lead up to 14, 39-25 before Marcus Smart drilled a three from the left wing with just under seven minutes left in the second quarter.
The Celtics made just 11 of their first 49 shots from the floor, falling behind 48-30 with just under two minutes left in the first half. Atlanta finished the second quarter on an 18-9 spurt to take a 51-34 lead at the half. The Celtics shot an abysmal 23.1 percent, connecting on just 12-of-51 shots in the first 24 minutes, including 2-for-16 from beyond the arc.
Adding to the misery of the first half was an injury to the left index finger of Smart. He was replaced by R.J. Hunter with five minutes left in the second quarter. Smart returned midway through the third quarter.
Almost predictably, the Celtics went on an 11-2 run early in the third quarter to cut Atlanta’s lead to nine, 54-45. Brad Stevens made a change in the starting lineup to open the second half, replacing Amir Johnson with Evan Turner.
The Celtics were trading baskets for the next five minutes before the Celtics got a three from Isaiah Thomas with 5:47 left in the third, cutting Atlanta’s lead to six, 62-56.
Bradley’s layup with 4:57 left cut the lead down to five, 63-58 before Mike Scott drilled a three to put the lead back to eight, 66-58. Millsap then drove past Kelly Olynyk for a layup and a foul. The three-point play with 4:05 left in the third put the lead back to 11, 69-58.
The Celtics’ frustration with a lack of calls going their way finally led to a technical on Brad Stevens with 2:52 left in the third quarter. It was Stevens’ first technical of the season and just his second with the Celtics in three seasons. With 46 seconds left in the quarter, Bradley hit a three that cut the lead back to five, 70-65. The Celtics finished the third quarter with 11 fast break points and 18 points in the paint, cutting Atlanta’s lead to 72-65 heading into the fourth.
The Celtics used the 3-point play, conventional and beyond the arc, to continue their second-half surge. Bradley hit a mid-range jumper and Marcus Smart was fouled. Smart’s free throw made it a one-possession game at 80-77. With 7:49 left, Smart drilled a three to tie it and then Crowder connected from the left wing with 6:49 left to give Boston an 83-80 lead and cap a 9-0 Celtics run.
But on the next possession, the entire tone of the game changed when Bradley pulled up lame with a right hamstring strain. He had to be helped off the court by trainer Ed Lacerte and teammate Tyler Zeller. He was almost immediately ruled out of the game by the team.
Thomas drilled a three with 5:53 left to give the Celtics an 86-84 lead. It would be Boston’s last field goal until a Marcus Smart putback layup with 1:02 left, a drought of four minutes, 51 seconds.
The Hawks went to work. With 4:07 left, Teague converted a layup putting the Hawks up, 88-86. With 3:25 left, Horford’s layup on a pass from Teague made it 90-88 Hawks. Turner’s three to tie the game with 46 seconds left was off the mark. Isaiah Thomas missed a layup and Bazemore hit one of two free throws to make it, 99-93 with 25.7 seconds left.
Game 2 is set for Tuesday night in Atlanta before the series shifts back to Boston for Game 3 next Friday night at TD Garden.
For a compete box score, click here. To go beyond the box, read on.
|04.16.16 at 6:45 pm ET|
Sam Packard interviews Celtics forward Jae Crowder about his path to the NBA and how he overcame being short and chunky as a junior in high school. Sam also talks to Jae’s high school basketball coach, both of his junior college coaches, as well as the man who recruited him to Marquette. Towards the end of the episode, Sam and Jae discuss what its like to play under Brad Stevens, the first time he realized Isaiah Thomas was great, and the his amazing nickname Bae Crowder.
|04.15.16 at 4:17 pm ET|
WALTHAM – The way Avery Bradley looks at it, this first round series against Atlanta is as a good time as any for redemption and respect for this new wave of Celtic pride.
Bradley has been in the playoffs before with the Celtics. He was a key member of the team’s run to the Eastern finals in 2012. He was an observer off the bench as the team came within 12 minutes of a world championship in his rookie season of 2010. Last year, he was the elder statesman that many younger guns like Marcus Smart and Isaiah Thomas looked up to for leadership against Cleveland.
Now, with last year’s four-game sweep a distant memory, it’s time to prove that this year’s 48-34 record was no fluke. As a matter of fact, the only what Bradley believes they can truly earn respect is with a series win over the Hawks, and that starts Saturday at Philips Arena.
“I’m ready. This is what we prepare all year for, the opportunity to be in the playoffs,” Bradley said. “[Saturday] we have a chance to go out there and show all the hard work that we’ve put in this year. I’m excited about the opportunity.”
How is the mindset different from last year at this time?
“It’s different. I feel like we have a little more experience. Last year, we got a little taste and it was kind of embarrassing, even though we were playing the No. 2 seed. This year, I feel like it’s a lot different. We have a chip on our shoulder and we feel like we can go a lot further than last year. I think it’s a lot different. We’re a lot more confident. Obviously, if you have that experience in something, everybody is going to be a lot more confidence. If they’re nervous of the crowd, the media, whatever it is. We’re a lot more comfortable. We’re just going to go out there and play basketball, just worry about basketball.
“We’ve been playing together, a lot of the guys, the core group of the guys have been playing together for three years, two years. I think can carry into the playoffs because when we’re going through adversity, we’re like a family. We can all sit each other down, look each other in the eyes and dig deep and go out there and play as hard as we can for one another. That’s the most important thing for us as a young team and the playoffs, because we need to stay together every single possession, even if somebody turns the ball over. We have to make sure we’re mature enough to stay positive.”
The “chip-on-the-shoulder” and “no respect” cards are two of the oldest in pro sports. It’s one the Celtics clearly are not afraid to play as their playoff season begins.
“We’re the underdog,” Isaiah Thomas said of starting the series on the road. “I watch NBA TV, I watch all the little things, they have Atlanta winning. Everybody has Atlanta winning. They all count us out. The pressure’s on Atlanta. We just have to go in there and execute and do what we’ve been doing all year and I think we give ourselves a good chance to win this series.”
And what about the chip on the shoulder?
“We better. They always, for some reason they look past us. I guess that’s just the way it is and we like it like that,” Thomas added.
“We’ve been able to embrace it and run with it, use it as motivation,” Jae Crowder said. “A lot of guys in our locker room have really embraced that and used that. I think it’s all about accepting it and moving on, and we have. And we feed off it.”
“With us being a underdog and kind of being disrespected by a lot of people, I think a lot of people fear us because of how hard we play,” added Jared Sullinger. “It showed in our last regular season game. That game was if we win, we don’t know where we’ll be at. If we lose, we wind up in the sixth spot, but we’re still in the playoffs. To have the mindset of knowing that was game 82 and it really didn’t matter the outcome of the game, if we were going to be in the playoffs or not. The mindset of us just going out there and letting everyone know this is the type of team we are, by coming back and winning — that’s big time. That’s who we are and what we do.”
Bradley is convinced that if the Celtics can bottle up the defensive effort of the second half against Miami and bring it with them to Atlanta to start the series, they’ll be in great shape.
|04.15.16 at 3:49 pm ET|
WALTHAM — Brad Stevens saw enough from his players over the last three games to know what was different about them from the team that was closing in on a No. 3 seed in the East.
In the final three games, two losses and a miracle comeback against the Heat in the second half, Stevens saw his team play out of sorts and out of rhythm.
He fully realizes that the defense that Atlanta and Charlotte were playing had something to do with that, as did the 65 percent shooting of the Heat in the first half.
But in going over film of the Hawks, he wants his team to be focused not just on making life tough on Paul Millsap and Jeff Teague but controlling what his team can control.
“How hard you cut, how well you pass, how well you execute, all those little things,” Stevens said after Friday’s practice before leaving for Atlanta and Game 1 Saturday night. “Now, when you do those things really well that shot has a tendency to go in. That’s just how it works, right? But I think the bottom line is it requires a great deal of multiple efforts the whole game.
“You watch film, do what you need to go to get ready for a game obviously,” Stevens said. “We watched a little bit of film yesterday, too, but you’re going to have to do what you need to do to play well, and it’s a simple, fast-paced game first and foremost, and so I’m big in make the appropriate adjustments but play with a clear mind and be fresh.”
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