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Brad Stevens will ‘play it by ear’ with Kelly Olynyk in Game 4, Avery Bradley making ‘consistent’ progress

04.24.16 at 4:49 pm ET
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Kelly Olynyk will be available in Game 4 after a two-game absence due to a re-aggravated right shoulder injury. 

“I just found out that he was going to go when we walked through at 2:45,” Brad Stevens said in his pre-game press conference at 4:15. “We’ll play it by ear, see how the game is going and everything else. And see what direction we decide to go, but certainly it’s great that he’s available and certainly a chance that he plays for us.

“Obviously, that’ll be, ultimately, it’s going to be up to me because he hasn’t done anything in a few days and we walked through. Certainly I think that he could play minutes for us in the first half, could play some, but I’m not necessarily — he’s not necessarily going to be in it for sure. So we’ll wait and see. But he is available.”

As for Olynyk’s return impacting the rotation off the bench, Stevens said that will depend on how effective he and his shoulder are when he gets on the court. The big factor is Stevens’ choice in this series, especially Game 3, to play small with three and four guards on the floor at times. 

“We’ll see. Obviously, we’ve had to play small quite a bit in this series to be effective,” Stevens said. “I think that we’ll continue to  do that from the start with Jonas at the 4 and we’ll go from there.”

As for Avery Bradley, Stevens said the guard’s right hamstring continues to heal. But as far as a possible return in this series, even if it goes six or seven games, Stevens said that’s still not realistic at this point. 

“I have no updates other than the fact that I’ve been told it’s been pretty consistent improvement,” Stevens said Sunday. “But I think our timeline remains the same. It would be extremely unlikely that he would play in this series.”

The Celtics will start the same starting five as they did in Game 3, meaning Evan Turner, Isaiah Thomas, Jae Crowder, Jonas Jerebko and Amir Johnson. 

 

Read More: 2016 NBA playoffs, Atlanta Hawks, Avery Bradley, Boston Celtics

Brad Stevens on Game 4 lineup: ‘Would be hard not to start’ same group, Kelly Olynyk still ‘questionable-at-best’

04.23.16 at 11:29 pm ET
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WALTHAM  –  What makes Brad Stevens a good head coach is that he knows a good thing when he sees it and he doesn’t try to outsmart himself. 

So when the group of Isaiah Thomas, Evan Turner Jae Crowder, Jonas Jerebko and Amir Johnson helped the Celtics race out to a 37-20 lead after one quarter, Stevens indicated Saturday after practice that he’s likely to start that group again on Sunday in Game 4. 

“I think the one thing you don’t want to do is outthink yourself,” Stevens said. “I thought we played well with that group and we’ll see ultimately what tomorrow brings, but it would be hard not to start that group tomorrow.”

Before Friday’s game, Stevens joked that the group had played just 33 possessions together the whole season but was a plus-20. 

The other big change Friday was moving Thomas to the shooting guard from his point guard position, allowing him to fly around off screens and drive the lane more and kick the ball to open shooters. 

“We’ll talk about it. But our focus needs to be on what we need to do better because again I think you can overanalyze what somebody else might do without really knowing,” Stevens said. “I think you have to read and adjust on the fly, and you have to have counters to each of your actions and those type of things. But hey they’re a really good defensive team. They’re a really good team overall, offensive team. That run in the fourth quarter by both teams where we were just making shots, I mean, that was high-level basketball. So we’re going to have to play really well to have a chance to win.

“There’s all kinds of things we need to do better on both ends of the ball. Defensively we made some errors that we need to correct. They did some actions that were really good. We need to do a better job on Korver obviously not letting him get going. And then those guards put so much pressure on you with their ability to drive downhill. Teague and Schroder are just, they’re as fast as any guard in the league.

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Read More: 2016 NBA playoffs, Atlanta Hawks, Boston Celtics, Brad Stevens

Jae Crowder heads back to gym after Game 3 to work on shot: ‘I wanted to see the ball go through the basket’

04.23.16 at 5:40 pm ET
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Celtics forward Jae Crowder (99) works for the ball against Atlanta Hawks guard Jeff Teague (0) in Game 3. (David Butler II/USA Today Sports)

Celtics forward Jae Crowder (99) works for the ball against Atlanta Hawks guard Jeff Teague (0) in Game 3. (David Butler II/USA Today Sports)

WALTHAM  –  Jae Crowder had seen enough of his shots not falling through the basket after going 1-for-11 from the field Friday night. Crowder has made exactly two shots in his last 20 attempts covering Games 2 and 3. He is is just 7-for-36 overall in the series, including 3-for-17 from 3-point range. 

So, instead of going home to rest and savor his defense on Al Horford and Paul Millsap in a 111-103 Game 3 win, he went back to the Celtics training facility to shoot. 

“I wanted to see the ball go through the basket, that’s all,” Crowder said Saturday. “I was here 45 minutes, me and my friend, I needed a rebounder. I’ve done it a few times.”

Then he had a question for the reporters on hand. 

“How’d you find out last night and not the previous nights?” 

Told that teammate Isaiah Thomas was the one dropping dimes, Crowder seemed at ease. 

“Oh, Ok, I got here like 1, 1:30 [Saturday morning],” Crowder said. “The win was great. I was very happy with that, but I wanted to prepare myself for Game 4. It’s a big game for us, and I wanted to really step into my shots and be a force in my offensive game. I’m doing great on defense and guys are still applauding me on that, but I just want to lift our team up a little more in the offensive end. I just wanted to see the ball go through the hoop.”

“It’s a big reason why we’re here, that these guys have that kind of mindset and that kind of work ethic,” coach Brad Stevens said. “I think the general collective chip on our shoulder is pretty good. But I think individually each of these guys has a reason to have a chip on their shoulder. And Jae’s a worker, and always has been.”

Thomas said it’s just a matter of time before the shots start falling, and there’s no time like Game 4. 

“We haven’t [seen him struggle like this]. But he’s so positive. We’re so positive with him,” Thomas said. “We’re confident in his ability to score the basketball and to help us like he has all year. Once he gets going, it’s going to be scary. He was in here last night [after the game] getting shots up. He’s hard on himself but at the same time, he’s taking the right shots. The basketball gods will help him out soon.”

Maybe the basketball gods will help with Crowder’s bad right ankle, and ankle Crowder says is still at only 70 percent. 

“I don’t plan on changing it. I’m shooting the same way. I’m trying to play with the ankle and learn to adapt to it as much as possible, but that’s what helps me to come back in the gym and stay late,” Crowder said. “That will help me to adjust, but I’m not thinking about it. I’m going to let it fly. I’ve put a lot of work into it. I’m not worried. I’m shooting, working out, doing my same thing.

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Read More: 2016 NBA playoffs, Atlanta Hawks, Boston Celtics, Jae Crowder

Thomas, Celtics working on not losing their cool in Game 4: ‘You’ve just got to be smart about whatever you do’

04.23.16 at 5:11 pm ET
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Celtics guard Marcus Smart (36) blocks the shot of Hawks center Al Horford (15). (David Butler II/USA Today Sports)

Celtics guard Marcus Smart (36) blocks the shot of Hawks center Al Horford (15). (David Butler II/USA Today Sports)

WALTHAM – With so much on the line, now is not the time for false bravado or acting like a tough guy. Or flopping like one. 

The Celtics were reminded of this Saturday morning before they got together for film session and a light walkthrough at their practice facility in Waltham. 

The intensity level picked up Friday night during Game 3. When Jae Crowder was drilled by Jeff Teague in the first quarter and the officials deemed it to be a “common foul,” Crowder said the officials opened the door for chippy play to escalate. 

“I told them that hard foul on me by Teague set the tone, I feel like,” Crowder said Saturday. “If you’re going to call that a Flagrant 1, then we know how far we can go. That’s when they tried to change it and called Flagrant 1s and things like that. I told the ref, you set the tone, I hope you realize that, and that’s when it got chippy. It’s just part of it, and the refs have to realize that. That’s for the players. We realize that sets the tone.”

The tone produced three ‘Flagrant 1’ fouls in Game 3, all in the second half. The Hawks committed two, Paul Millsap and Dennis Schroder while Jared Sullinger was called for one in the third. That doesn’t include the double-technical that preceded the Thomas arm to the face of Schroder with 1:27 left in the first quarter. 

“Both teams are trying to win the game,” Thomas said. “You’ve just got to be smart about whatever you do but knowing that it’s playoff basketball and things are going to happen and it is going to get a little chippy. You’ve got to hold your composure and do what it takes to win. I’m just out there fighting and trying to get my team wins.”

“We’ve reminded, we talk about that stuff and everything else,” Brad Stevens said after practice Saturday. “But I think, at the end of the day, there’s such a fine line between hard real good competition and crossing that line and you just gotta do your best to compete at that physical level necessary to have success. And, obviously, hey, they deemed that he had crossed the line by giving him a flagrant-1 and it is what is and now we move forward. We’ve got to focus our attention on the Hawks.

“When you’re playing a team for the fourth time and they’re all competitive guys on both sides of the ball, they’re all good players, they’re all tough guys. I trust that nothing like that would ever go over the line. But it’s hard for me to predict that but it’s not something that we talk about, it’s not something that they talk about. Obviously, it’s a competitive game and sometimes when there’s a competitive game with a scoreboard and a crowd and everything else, emotions get involved. But you hope that nothing like that ever happens that obviously isn’t good for the game.”

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Read More: 2016 NBA playoffs, Atlanta Hawks, Boston Celtics, Brad Stevens

Isaiah Thomas on avoiding suspension: ‘It was the right call. I’m really focused on Game 4’

04.23.16 at 4:44 pm ET
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WALTHAM – Despite the dire prediction from former NBA discipline chief Stu Jackson, Isaiah Thomas never had a worry about being suspended for Game 4 Sunday night at TD Garden. 

On Saturday, he didn’t speak with the league about his left arm and hand to the face to Hawks guard Dennis Schroder. Instead, he only received word from Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge that he was being assessed an additional ‘Flagrant 1’ foul for the first-half incident following a double-technical. 

Thomas’ reaction?

“It was the right call. I’m really focused on Game 4 but I’m glad I wasn’t suspended. It was definitely…[accidental],” Thomas said. “Both teams are trying to win the game. You’ve just got to be smart about whatever you do but knowing that it’s playoff basketball and things are going to happen and it is going to get a little chippy. You’ve got to hold your composure and do what it takes to win. I’m just out there fighting and trying to get my team wins.”

Dennis Schroder has become public enemy No. 1 in this series and the chief instigator with Thomas and Terry Rozier. 

“I guess so. I guess that’s his job. Like I said, I’m focused on what we’ve got here and whatever we can do to win Game 4. I guess that’s his job to get under people,” Thomas said. “How much [Hawks] were complaining about it [after the game]. I’m focused on Game 4, man. They made the call of what it was, a ‘Flagrant 1’, whatever it was. I’m glad I’m able to play.”

Was he concerned that the league might hand down a suspension based on the TV replays and the vines that went viral during the game?

“Nah, because I knew what I did. Yeah, the replay, in a slower version it’s going to look like I looked at him and tried to hit him. If I try to hit somebody, I would’ve hit him. I know cameras are watching. I didn’t do it on purpose. But I’m just glad I wasn’t suspended and I can help my team in Game 4.”

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Read More: 2016 NBA playoffs, Atlanta Hawks, Boston Celtics, Brad Stevens

Isaiah Thomas will not be suspended for slap to head of Dennis Schroder, Marcus Smart fined for flop

04.23.16 at 2:46 pm ET
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Celtics guard Isaiah Thomas (4) reacts after his basket against the Atlanta Hawks in game three of the first round of the NBA Playoffs at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

Celtics guard Isaiah Thomas (4) reacts after his basket against the Atlanta Hawks in game three of the first round of the NBA Playoffs at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

The Celtics and Isaiah Thomas have dodged a major bullet on the eve of Game 4.

The Boston Herald’s Mark Murphy was the first to report the NBA has decided not to suspend the star guard for swinging his elbow and landing with a hand to the face of Dennis Schroder in the first half of Friday’s 111-103 Celtics’ win over the Hawks.

As Schroder was coming up court, a vine and replays clearly show Thomas throwing the hand. But Thomas insisted after the game it was accidental.

The league apparently agreed, or at least determined there was no where close enough evidence to keep the guard, coming off a 42-point career effort, out of Game 4 Sunday night. Instead, the league announced they had assigned Thomas with a Flagrant 1 foul on the play. 

The news also means that former NBA discipline chief Stu Jackson was wrong in his prediction after the game on NBA TV that Thomas was clearly facing a suspension based on the video evidence. 

There was a bit of negative discipline news regarding another Celtics guard. Marcus Smart was fined $5,000 by the NBA for violating the league’s anti-flopping rules during Game 3.

The incident occurred with 4:32 remaining in the fourth quarter of the Celtics 111-103 victory over the Hawks last night at TD Garden.

To view the play click on the following link:

http://www.nba.com/video/channels/originals/2016/04/23/bbops-marcus-smart-flop-042216.nba/

Read More: 2016 NBA playoffs, Atlanta Hawks, Boston Celtics, Dennis Schroder

Brad Stevens has his best game of the season, and picks up his first career playoff win

04.23.16 at 1:46 am ET
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Celtics head coach Brad Stevens was a man in control Friday night. (David Butler II/USA Today Sports)

Celtics head coach Brad Stevens was a man in control Friday night. (David Butler II/USA Today Sports)

While the TD Garden crowd was going bonkers with the Celtics up 37-20 after one quarter in Game 3 Friday night, coach Brad Stevens had a much different feel.

“I knew we would start with great energy because our guys were hurting a little bit from Tuesday but I was really worried that we would be – you know, I don’t know, for any of you that have ever run the mile, you run the first lap, breakneck speed, and then about the third lap, it just feels like you’re never going to make the last two laps.”

Stevens really had those concerns late in the third quarter. The Celtics opened the second half well enough, scoring the first seven points and racing out to a 64-45 lead. Then methodically, the Hawks charged back. With a 1:21 left, Dennis Schroder completed a three-point play that appeared to tie the game, 78-78. In actuality, it gave the Hawks the lead, 78-77, since Isaiah Thomas’ 3-pointer moments earlier was degraded to a standard 2-pointer after the quarter. Whatever the case, the Celtics were wearing down and the good vibes from Isaiah Thomas’ scorching start seemed to be diminishing somewhat.

But the Celtics caught a huge break when Atlanta couldn’t grab a rebound off an Evan Turner miss. Jonas Jerebko collected it and threw it up in the air and it came down through the hoop to put Boston on top, 79-78, heading into the fourth.

“I thought that we were starting to wear down, obviously, after we took that 19 point lead,” Stevens said. “But then Isaiah made huge play after huge play. But then everybody made plays to kind of keep it at bay after they tied it and then push it out at the end.

“I thought the basket at the end of the fourth quarter – or third quarter – was huge, by Jonas and starting the fourth quarter off with a couple of buckets was big too, just to kind of get ourselves right. Because it’s hard when (Kyle) Korver gets going like that, those guys get driving down hill – they’re a good team. It’s hard.”

Stevens had one of his better games of the season from an Xs and Os standpoint. Not only did starting Jerebko over Jared Sullinger pay off in extra energy down the stretch, starting Evan Turner over Marcus Smart gave the Stevens the chance to play Thomas more as the shooting guard. It also allowed Stevens to run Thomas off screens and create driving lanes with Thomas on the move, something he hinted at before the game

“Well, I mean, we’re playing, of our nine guys that played, four of them our point guards, because I included Evan in that. So, yeah. Yeah, I mean, and we’ll look at what was good, what was not good, and have to adjust some,” Stevens said.

As for Jerebko, it was evident from the start that he was going to provide a needed boost. His put-back slam dunk in the opening minute sent the crowd into a roar early and fired him up as well.

“He plays really, really, hard. He’s got versatility with regard to defensively,” Stevens said. “It’s really hard to switch onto (Jeff) Teague and (Dennis) Schroder, but all of our bigs have to do that some as they get going downhill on you. And then his scoring is just a plus. You know, if he scores, he scores; if not, he’s still spacing for us. And so they have to honor that. And he had a big driving basket with his left hand in the fourth quarter, he had the big basket at the end of the third quarter, but then his defense was really great all night, I thought.”

And Stevens picked up his first playoff win in seven tries.

“Game Sunday. It’s great. It’s better than the alternative,” Stevens said. “But this team’s too good to do anything but focus on what’s next.”

Read More: 2016 NBA playoffs, Atlanta Hawks, Boston Celtics, Brad Stevens
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