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Brad Stevens thinks his team didn’t show enough poise in loss to Cavaliers

03.05.16 at 10:10 pm ET
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Cleveland Cavaliers center Tristan Thompson (13) defends against Celtics guard Isaiah Thomas (4) during the fourth quarter at Quicken Loans Arena. The Cavs won 120-103. (Ken Blaze/USA Today Sports)

Cleveland Cavaliers center Tristan Thompson (13) defends against Celtics guard Isaiah Thomas (4) during the fourth quarter at Quicken Loans Arena. The Cavs won 120-103. (Ken Blaze/USA Today Sports)

While there was an obvious discrepancy in the foul calls and free throw attempts through three quarters, that’s not what Brad Stevens focused on following a 120-103 loss to the Cavaliers Saturday night in Cleveland, snapping his team’s five-game win streak. 

“I thought poise was a big factor,” Stevens told reporters after the game. “I thought the biggest factor in the game was that we got the ball and really didn’t move on a lot on offense. And defensively, I thought we took ourselves out of position. Whether that’s a composure thing or whether that is an over-gambling thing, whatever the case may be.”

Stevens was referring to the fact that repetitive defensive breakdowns left Cleveland shooters wide open over the last three quarters as the Celtics wasted an early 18-point lead on the road, allowing Cleveland to score 98 points in the final three quarters. 

“It’s a long game … against a good team,” Stevens said of Boston’s 35-17 lead and its 35-22 advantage after the first quarter. “Another team is trying to get stops and score. That’s why we have to do everything we can control to do better against them. But this is a good team. We have to play a lot better and we knew we had to play a lot better than the last time to win the game. And we did it for a quarter instead of four.”

The Cavaliers held a big advantage in many key areas. They attempted 28 free throws through three quarter while Boston got to the line just 11 times. Marcus Smart and Jared Sullinger picked up technical fouls in the second half as the frustration grew. 

“We’re playing with a lot of confidence and we just have to stay together,” Sullinger told reporters.  We let some things get away from us. We just have to stay together. We didn’t keep our poise and the refs got to us. We’ve just got to do a better job of controlling that.”

“I think you’ll have to ask them. I think both sides were warned by the officials,” Stevens said. “I don’t think we played with great poise as indicated by our play. And all the other stuff, you’ve got to control what you can control.”

Cleveland had 29 points off 14 Boston turnovers. Iman Shumpert had six of his 16 rebounds on the offensive glass while Boston had just 10 for the game.

“We were out of sync a little bit,” Sullinger said. “We had four guys connecting and not five. When you have four, obviously that fifth person always makes a mistake. But back to the drawing board and we have to protect home court on Wednesday (vs. Memphis). You just have to let it roll off your back and move on and understand there’s another day to fight.” 

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Studs and Duds: LeBron James gets physical in second half, rally Cavs past Celtics

03.05.16 at 9:31 pm ET
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LeBron James (23) drives to the basket against Celtics forward Amir Johnson (90) during the second quarter at Quicken Loans Arena. (Ken Blaze/USA Today Sports)

LeBron James (23) drives to the basket against Celtics forward Amir Johnson (90) during the second quarter at Quicken Loans Arena. (Ken Blaze/USA Today Sports)

There was no miracle comeback or ending this time in Cleveland.

A month to the day of Avery Bradley’s game-winning 3-pointer at the buzzer, the Celtics started out fast but couldn’t hold an 18-point lead and ran out of gas in the second half in a 120-103 loss to the Cavaliers at Quicken Loans Arena. It snapped Boston’s five-game winning streak. 

Isaiah Thomas led Boston with 27 points while Jared Sullinger had 17 points and 13 rebounds. LeBron James had 28 points and 11 rebounds for Cleveland. 

It was only Cleveland’s third home win in 10 tries against the Celtics in regular season play as Cleveland captured the season series, 2-1.

The game started out exactly the opposite from what happened exactly a month earlier on the same court. Instead of falling behind 15 points after the first quarter, the Celtics started out red hot, thanks in large part to their sharp shooting from 3-point range. The Celtics hit five of their seven attempts from beyond the arc, led by two from Isaiah Thomas, who had 10 points in the first quarter. 

The Celtics (38-26) used a 20-4 run to take a 35-17 lead before the Cavaliers (44-17) scored the final five points of the quarter to cut Boston’s advantage to 35-22 after the first 12 minutes. 

The Celtics got extremely sloppy with the ball in the second quarter, blowing their entire lead. Trailing 45-31, the Cavs scored 12 straight points to regain momentum. Boston committed six of their eight first half turnovers and the Cavaliers converted those six turnovers into 14 points as the Cavaliers went on a 24-8 run. In all, the Celtics’ eight turnovers resulted in 17 points as the Cavaliers took a 55-54 lead to the locker room. 

As sharp as their 3-point shooting was to start the game, their free throw shooting was just as awful. The Celtics missed six of their nine attempts from the line. 

The Cavaliers took their biggest lead of the game at 67-61 before the Celtics answered with the next six points. LeBron James missed a pair of free throws and Thomas hit a pull-up three to give the Celtics a 70-67 lead. James came back with a three of his own. The Cavaliers took advantage of a huge free throw discrepancy in the third quarter to expand their lead to 12, 95-83, heading into the fourth quarter. The Cavaliers converted 21 of 28 free throws through three quarters while Boston was just 5-of-11. 

The Celtics were able to get within seven on Tyler Zeller’s two free throws with 5:31 left but J.R. Smith answered with a three with 5:16 to put the Cavs up 10, 106-96. Cleveland pulled away down the stretch, with Boston ‘s frustration capped by Jared Sullinger’s technical with three minutes left. The Cavs went up, 115-109 when Matthew Dellevadova and James converted free throws. 

The Celtics emptied the bench with 1:26 left and the Cavaliers up, 118-103. The Celtics are off until Wednesday when they host Memphis at TD Garden. 

For a complete box score, click here. To go beyond the box read on.

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Brad Stevens on Cleveland: ‘They’re the cream of the crop in the East for sure’

03.05.16 at 2:44 am ET
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Celtics guard Avery Bradley (front) scores the winning basket against New York Knicks forward Lance Thomas (back) during the second half at TD Garden. (Mark L. Baer/USA Today Sports)

Celtics guard Avery Bradley (front) scores the winning basket against New York Knicks forward Lance Thomas (back) during the second half at TD Garden. (Mark L. Baer/USA Today Sports)

Brad Stevens is more than aware that his team will have its hands full Saturday night in Cleveland. 

After Avery Bradley hit a game-winning 3-pointer at the buzzer on Feb. 5, the Celtics walked away with a 104-103 victory. It was one of the signs that this Celtics team might just be legit. 

But this is a Cavaliers team that not only wants revenge but is trying to fend off No. 2 seed Toronto in the East, a Raptors team that’s just a 1.5 games back in the conference standings. The Celtics have a 5-game winning streak heading to Cleveland while the Cavaliers enter play with a 43-17 record. 

“[Saturday is] a new game; it’s its own separate entity,” Stevens said. “What happens – what happened the last time we were there and what happened in the last five games doesn’t factor in to how we play once the ball is tipped. And so the deal is we have to start better than we did last time when we played them; we were down 15 at the end of the first quarter, and hopefully don’t put ourselves in that position again.

“Obviously you’d like to have the same result but it’s very difficult; they’re the cream of the crop in the East for sure.”

After the Celtics held on Friday for a 105-104 win over the Knicks, giving them a 38-25 record, the biggest question in the locker room was how far could this Celtics team go in the spring? 

 “I think if we keep working hard, I think we got a chance in every game,” Tyler Zeller said. “Whether we execute at the end of the game will determine how far we can go, but I think as hard as we play and how well we are playing together we can go as far as we can as long as we execute.”

 Jae Crowder echoed the “sky is the limit” belief of Evan Turner, a belief Crowder said he’s had since preseason. 

“I think sky’s the limit, I said that in preseason,” Crowder said. “We are just taking it game by game right now, we’re not looking too far ahead. We’re just working on trying to get better with the little amount of games we have left before we enter postseason.”

Can the Celtics, still six games back in the loss column with only 19 games left, still think about catching the Raptors?

“Of course I think so,” Crowder said. “It’s just a matter of us locking in and not overlooking any opponent and taking care of our business day by day.”

“Anything can happen, anything especially with this team,” Isaiah Thomas added. “We’re going to try to, we’re going to play every game like its our last and try to get the highest seed possible.”

 How far does Thomas think this team can go?

 “I don’t know, I don’t know. We just really focused on the right now and focused on continuing to get better and let the cards fall where they may,” Thomas said. “We’re not a great team so that’s going to happen, but we got to limit those spots where played like we did tonight; where we weren’t talking, we weren’t engaged on both ends of the floor and it almost cost us the game. Luckily, we got back into it and snuck in a win, but if we want to be the best team we possibly can we got to limit those.”

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Evan Turner on potential for Celtics in playoffs: ‘Sky is the limit’

03.05.16 at 12:24 am ET
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There are certain plays that define every game. 

Friday night, with the Celtics making a run back from a 100-92 hole with under four minutes left, Evan Turner made one of those plays.

Turner raced after a ball he tipped and then raced for it before it went out of bounds while the Knicks were standing and watching. Turner flipped it to Jared Sullinger, who in one motion turned and fired to a wide open Jae Crowder racing down the court for a layup with 92 seconds left. The Celtics were suddenly down just one, 100-99 and the crowd exploded.

“At first, Lance Thomas threw it, I tipped it. I saw it bounce and nobody go for it,” Turner said. “I was just trying to hurry up and save it. I saw Sully kind of even with Lopez. I was hoping from our team grabbed when I threw it. I just heard cheers, and I heard even more cheers as I turned around and Crowder laid it up. [Sullinger is] great at being aware of what’s going on downcourt and putting a great pass into the running man.”

It was at that moment where victory for the Celtics seemed inevitable.  

“And on the very next play, we get a stop and he’s dribbling up the court and just makes a 15-foot pull-up,” Brad Stevens said. “He does a lot for us and he’s really played well. Obviously, we don’t win the game without him.” 

The Celtics did win, 105-104, thanks to Avery Bradley’s layup with 17.7 seconds left and Carmelo Anthony’s miss at the buzzer.

“We came back from worse deficits,” Turner said. “Tonight, we were just down eight with 3:44 left. We were down 15 a few times with five minutes left.”

But the bigger picture is about what this win means going into Cleveland, a place they won the last time they were there (Feb. 5), on an Avery Bradley jumper at the buzzer. 

“We’re just riding a wave,” Turner said. “Once again, this is a great team win, great comeback win and obviously we’re a confident group right now and we know [Saturday] we have to come out and compete. Today’s over with. We just have to come out and compete, play our type of game and play confident.”

How far can these Celtics go this spring?

“I think we can go as far as … Sky is the limit. At the end of the day, we always give ourselves to play the right game and win,” Turner added. ” I think when it comes down to a four-game series and all of us are healthy, I think we can give a lot of teams a lot of problems. And when it comes down to it, you have to weather a storm versus adversity, playing versus great players, playing versus tough calls and everything like that. I think we can go as far as we possibly can.”

That confidence should come in handy Saturday night in Cleveland against LeBron James and a Cavaliers team looking for revenge.

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Mike Petraglia, Josue Pavon break down thrilling win over Knicks, look ahead to Cavaliers

03.04.16 at 11:59 pm ET
By   |   Comments’s Mike Petraglia and Josue Pavon discuss how the Celtics were able to overcome a sluggish start and an inconsistent second half to beat the New York Knicks, 105-104, Friday night at TD Garden. Isaiah Thomas had 32 points and Evan Turner chipped in with 21 off the bench while Avery Bradley hit the game-winning layup with 17 seconds remaining, extending Boston’s home court winning streak to 13 games, matching the 2008-09 team that also won 13 in a row at home.

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Studs and Duds: Celtics squeeze past Knicks in closing minutes, stretch home game win streak to 13

03.04.16 at 10:25 pm ET
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Mar 4, 2016; Boston, MA, USA; Boston Celtics guard Isaiah Thomas (4) celebrates against the New York Knicks during the second half at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: Mark L. Baer-USA TODAY Sports

Celtics guard Isaiah Thomas (4) celebrates against the New York Knicks during the second half at TD Garden. (Mark L. Baer/USA Today Sports)

They refuse to lose at home. 

In a game where they struggled to hold a lead, the Celtics outscored the Knicks 13-4 in the final 3:22 to win 105-104 at TD Garden — extending their home winning streak to 13 games in a row. It is their longest such streak since the 2008-09 team won 13 straight at the Garden from Nov. 18, 2008 to Jan. 2, 2009. 

The Celtics roared back at the end of the fourth quarter, pulling themselves within a point, but a Carmelo Anthony jumper extend the Knicks’ lead to 102-99 with 1:19 left. When the C’s grabbed a lead on back-to-back buckets, Anthony again gave New York the lead, scoring his 30th point on a jumper over Jae Crowder. But Avery Bradley responded with a go-ahead layup in the final minute, and this time Anthony’s last-second attempt failed.

Isaiah Thomas scored a game-high 32 points to lead the C’s. Crowder scored 20 points, and Evan Turner added 21 points and eight rebounds from off the bench. Anthony’s 30 points led five Knicks in double digits, including Arron Afflalo (17 points) and rookie standout Kristaps Porzingis (15 points). 

For a complete box score, click here. To go beyond the box read on.

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Brad Stevens: ‘We’re still inconsistent on both ends of the floor’

03.04.16 at 9:05 pm ET
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Knicks center Robin Lopez (right) is fouled by Celtics center Jared Sullinger (7) during the first half at TD Garden. (Mark L. Baer/USA Today Sports)

Knicks center Robin Lopez (right) is fouled by Celtics center Jared Sullinger (7) during the first half at TD Garden. (Mark L. Baer/USA Today Sports)

Maybe Brad Stevens had a premonition. Or maybe he could just read the schedule over the next two days.

Before getting on a plane to take on the Cavaliers Saturday in Cleveland, the Celtics had a game to play against the Knicks. Whatever the reason, Stevens’ team came out flat in the first half against New York, a team that exactly the opposite record of the 37-25 Celtics. They allowed New York to shoot 52.3 percent in the first half while they shot just 42.2 percent. Carmelo Anthony and Kristaps Porzingis combined for 28 points on 12-of-23 shooting from the field.

The Celtics trailed by as many as 11 in the first half and 58-53 at the break. The second half didn’t start much better. Five straight points for the Knicks, including a wide-open three for Porzingis and the Knicks led, 63-53.

Before the game, Stevens was asked about the areas of growth this season. Stevens cautioned that his team still had some maturing to do.

“I don’t know. I think we’ve gotten better execution-wise, gotten better offensively,” Stevens said, before adding, “We’re still inconsistent on both ends of the floor to the point where we need to be when it’s all said and done. I think the biggest thing is we’ve maintained a general optimism. There’s a positive vibe through thick and thin. The guys support one another. The greatest growth is in the day-to-day process of doing those things to build the trust when you need it most.”

The Celtics won a game on Wednesday night against the Blazers by 23 and the box showed the Celtics shot just 40.2 percent, making just 43 of 107 shots.

“I looked at the stats the other day and I was surprised we shot as poorly as we did from the field because I felt like we had a lot of good possessions,” Stevens said. “I think we’re having good possessions but I think we’re also getting some conversion points make it look a little bit better than it is. If you get a steal and you convert on the other end. You can play 2-on-1 or 1-on-0, that’s a heckuva of an offensive possession. That makes the numbers a little bit better than they are.”

Down 65-55, the Celtics went on a 14-2 run to take a 71-67 lead and the Garden crowd came to life almost instantly.

“There’s no question [home crowd has] been great for us the entire time I’ve been here,” Stevens said. “Obviously, the fans have embraced this group. It is a fun group. The way they play I laugh sometimes because we do some pretty haphazard things. Even I’m entertained over there sometimes and have no idea what’s going to happen.”

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