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Brad Stevens on Kevin McHale: ‘I don’t agree with the firing’

11.18.15 at 8:40 pm ET
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In a rare moment of candor, Celtics coach Brad Stevens blasted the Rockets for firing coach Kevin McHale.

“First and foremost, we’re in a business where expectations certainly drive decisions at times,” Stevens told reporters before his team hosted the Mavericks. “I don’€™t agree with the firing, but it’€™s not my choice to make. I think Kevin is a great coach. Kevin has been great to me. Kevin is obviously a great Celtic. People love him everywhere they’€™ve been. Everybody that you hear from loves working with him, loves being around him, so to me, from the outside looking in, it looks like 11 games in making a rash decision, but it’€™s not my call.”

OK, so Stevens didn’t exactly blast the Rockets, but he questioned them, and it’s nice to see behind the curtain. Only 32 people in the world have the job at any given time, so the NBA coaching fraternity can be a tight-knit bunch. Stevens said he wasn’t too familiar with McHale outside of the Hall of Famer’s work as a coach, leading the Rockets to the Western Conference finals last season, but noted that McHale and C’s president Danny Ainge are “close friends,” dating back to their time together in Boston during the 1980s.

Another guy who spent time with both Ainge and McHale on the ’80s Celtics was Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle, who also had some pointed remarks for former C’s assistant general manager Daryl Morey, now the GM in Houston.

“I was extremely surprised that McHale was let go,” Carlisle said before Wednesday’s game. “Here’€™s a guy who has such amazing integrity as a person. You watch him on the sidelines, and he walks with a limp because of the sacrifices he made to become one of the greatest champions in history. He loves and respects the game so much.

“It’€™s surprising when something like this happens — shocking — but he’€™s going to be fine,” added Carlisle. “He’€™s going to get a chance to get some rest here, probably jump on TV and have a blast doing that, and then there will be a lot of teams wanting to hire him, because he did a fantastic job in Houston. When you look at their team over the last few years, their roster was constantly in flux, and he just did an amazing job putting that together and bringing those guys back from down 3-1 in the conference semifinals. That’€™s a guy with some great coaching credentials, and his other championship credentials really go without saying.”

As for whether the 1985-86 Celtics were the greatest team in NBA history, Carlisle agreed with Ainge: “Yes.”

Read More: Boston Celtics, Brad Stevens, Houston Rockets, Kevin McHale

Mark Cuban on Rajon Rondo trade: ‘[Expletive] happens, right?’

11.18.15 at 8:24 pm ET
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As is often the case, Mavericks owner Mark Cuban just said what we were all thinking.

Asked about the trade that sent Rajon Rondo to Dallas and brought Jae Crowder to Boston, the “Shark Tank” star told reporters before Wednesday night’s game, “[Expletive] happens, right? There are a lot of risks I’ve taken that have worked out just fine. They’re not all going to work.”

And as you’d expect. Celtics coach Brad Stevens had a milder take when posed the same question.

“Obviously, they had a really good player in Rondo, and it didn’t work out,” Stevens told a pool of reporters pregame. He added, “Crowder’€™s done well for us. That’€™s been pretty well documented. I’€™m not into judging or analyzing or rating how trades go; I’€™m more interested in who’€™s on our team.”

Both Stevens and Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle took time to properly credit Dwight Powell, the former C’s undrafted free agent who was thrown into the Rondo deal. The only piece remaining from the deal in Dallas, Powell entered Wednesday’s game averaging 10.5 points and 8.1 rebounds.

“After the trade, I talked to Brad, and Brad said, ‘€˜Hey, we really like this guy and didn’€™t want to give him up,’€™ but they had to put some other things in the deal,” said Carlisle. “Powell’€™s worked extremely hard. He’€™s a guy with energy — he goes hard all the time — he’€™s got skill and he’€™s a great worker. We’€™ve really needed him this year, and he’€™s stepped up. He’€™s played well.”

Once again, Cuban cut to the chase. “I think when it’€™s all said and done, that Crowder for Powell trade will be a break-even,” said the billionaire. Well, don’t forget about that top-seven protected first-round pick the Mavericks still owe the Celtics. That’s when Cuban probably should have taken a cue from his television show and told C’s president Danny Ainge on Rondo: “I’m out.”

Read More: Boston Celtics, Dallas Mavericks, NBA, Rajon Rondo

Studs and Duds: Celtics bottle up lethargic Rockets

11.16.15 at 10:37 pm ET
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Brad Stevens has entered unfamiliar territory, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

With their 111-95 victory Monday over the Rockets, the Celtics are now two games over .500 for the first time in the coach’s tenure. After struggling in the first quarter, the Celtics finished outscored the Rockets 87-67 to finish the game. Isaiah Thomas led the way for the C’s with 23 points, while Avery Bradley (21) and Jae Crowder (16) were also in double figures.

The two teams played with polar opposite energy levels. The C’s played with their normal aggression/desperation, while the Rockets looked as disinterested as a prepubescent boy at a middle school dance. The Celtics were extreme active in the passing lanes, which led to a season-high 16 steals. MVP runner-up James Harden was held to only 16 points on 4-of-10 shooting.

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

STUDS OF THE NIGHT: Avery Bradley and Isaiah Thomas.

The pair spread their 44 points across all four quarters. In the first, Thomas carried the C’s, starting the game 4-for-5 from the field with 10 points and three assists. In the second half, it was Bradley’s turn, as he scored 13 points while sitting out the final eight minutes. Both finished 4-for-7 from beyond the arc. Thomas actually started over Bradley, who was able to score 21 points in only 20 minutes. Thomas scored a similarly efficient 23 points in 24 minutes.

DUD OF THE NIGHT: The entire Houston Rockets staff, basketball team, record label and crew.

It really didn’t seem like the Rockets ever wanted to win this game. A number of times they neglected to run back on defense. Mike Gorman was personally disgusted and offered his public condolences to Rockets head coach Kevin McHale, who I imagined just shrugged his shoulders and sighed the whole night. The Celtics seemed to win every 50-50 ball and on numerous occasions just ripped the ball out of the hands of Rockets players.

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Read More: Avery Bradley, Boston Celtics, Houston Rockets, Isaiah Thomas

Stud and Duds: Marcus Smart leads Celtics past Thunder

11.15.15 at 10:15 pm ET
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After staying within striking distance in the first half, Marcus Smart and the Celtics turned a seven-point halftime deficit into a double-digit lead with a 27-6, second-half run en route to a 100-85 win at Oklahoma City.

Smart scored 15 of his career-high 26 points in the third quarter, propelling the C’s offense in the second half. Isaiah Thomas‘ nine-point fourth quarter pushed the Celtics‘ lead to 88-76 with 6:38 left, and Boston’s defense held Oklahoma City to 11 fourth-quarter points, stifling any comeback attempt. Thomas finished with 20 points and eight assists. Avery Bradley returned from injury to score 14 points off the bench. Jae Crowder added 10 points, while Jared Sullinger grabbed 15 rebounds to go along with eight points.

Russell Westbrook scored a game-high 27 points and Serge Ibaka had a double-double (16 points, 10 rebounds) for the Thunder.

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

STUD OF THE NIGHT: Marcus Smart. Smart went off, scoring his 26 points on 9-of-14 shooting (3-4 3P) opposite Westbrook. He also played solid defense and made big stops in the second half (see the Vine of the night below).

DUD OF THE NIGHTEvan Turner. Turner struggled offensively against the Thunder, scoring just points on 1-of-5 shooting and collecting three assists against two turnovers. However, he did finish plus-12 in 24 minutes.

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Read More: Boston Celtics, Marcus Smart, NBA, Oklahoma City Thunder

Studs and Duds: Amir Johnson, Celtics soar past Hawks

11.13.15 at 10:07 pm ET
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Amir Johnson

Amir Johnson

The Celtics‘ interior defense and second-half scoring outlasted the Hawks in a 106-93 victory at TD Garden.

The C’s closed the half on a 7-2 run, tying the game at 47, and then limited the Hawks from getting into the paint, where they did most of their damage in the first half. That opened their biggest lead, a 12-point advantage, in the third quarter.

The Celtics forced 16 Hawks turnovers and sparked their offense in the fourth quarter. Boston scored 61 second-half points and ran away with the win in the fourth quarter. Isaiah Thomas led the C’s with 23 points and 10 assists. Amir Johnson (19 points), Kelly Olynyk (15 points), Jae Crowder (13 points) and Jared Sullinger (10 points, 10 rebounds) also reached double figures.

Paul Millsap’s 14 points and eight rebounds led six Hawks in double figures, but it wasn’t enough to counter the Celtics‘ second-half scoring outburst.

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

STUD OF THE NIGHT: Amir Johnson.

Johnson got things going on the Hawks’ first possession, blocking Al Horford’s shot and sparking the Celtics‘ offense. Johnson amassed eight rebounds, four assists, three blocks and three steals to go with his season-high 19 points. He also played phenomenal interior defense against Atlanta, limiting them from entering the paint.

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Studs and Duds: Paul George, Pacers outshine Celtics

11.11.15 at 10:10 pm ET
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The Celtics and Pacers traded runs in the third quarter, but Paul George ensured Indiana came out on top in the fourth. George scored 17 of his 26 points in the second half and added 10 rebounds in a 102-91 victory that dropped the Celtics to 3-4 on the season. Evan Turner led the Celtics with 20 points. Isaiah Thomas (14 points), David Lee (13 points) and Jared Sullinger (11 points, 11 rebounds) also reached double figures in a 41.6 percent shooting effort.

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

STUD OF THE NIGHT: Paul George. It sure helps to have a superstar. Every time the Celtics made a run, George put an end to it. When the C’s answer to George was a whole lot of Turner, that should raise some questions.

DUD OF THE NIGHT: Marcus Smart. After missing three straight games with a sprained left big toe, Smart returned to the lineup, albeit on a minutes restriction off the bench. He missed all four of his 3-point attempts — badly — and had the worst plus/minus rating of anybody on the team. But without Avery Bradley (lower left leg bruise), Brad Stevens was forced to rely on Smart despite the rust. Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Boston Celtics, Indiana Pacers, NBA, Paul George

Studs and Duds: Evan Turner, Celtics bench Bucks

11.10.15 at 11:00 pm ET
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It was a “great defense will lead to great offense” type of night, as the Celtics kept the Bucks on their heels throughout the second half, and the bench provided enough scoring for the win.

The Celtics got a game-high 20 points from Isaiah Thomas and forced 17 turnovers to beat Milwaukee, 99-83, and improve to 3-3 with a second straight win. The C’s buckled down defensively in the third quarter, stealing and blocking their way to an 18-2 run to finish the quarter with a 76-59 lead. David Lee (13 points), Evan Turner (13 points), Jae Crowder (12 points), Jared Sullinger (11 points, 10 rebounds) and Kelly Olynyk (11 points) also reached double figures.

Greg Monroe collected a team-high 17 points and 14 rebounds for the Bucks, but Milwaukee’s offense was no match for the Celtics‘ defense and bench production.

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

STUD OF THE NIGHT: Evan Turner. Turner amassed six assists, five rebounds and four steals to go along with his 13 points, finishing with a team-best plus-32 rating. He anchored a 50-point effort from the bench.

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Read More: Boston Celtics, Evan Turner, Milwaukee Bucks, NBA
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