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Hot Celtics might not only make playoffs, but have chance to advance

03.24.15 at 6:17 pm ET
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If the NBA and NHL playoffs were to start today, then the Celtics would be off to Atlanta for a first-round series while the Bruins cleaned out their lockers. Not many people in Boston saw this being the case on March 24.

Of course, the 31-39 Celtics still have 12 games to play, and while they currently sit in the East’s eighth seed, they are by no means a lock to make the playoffs. According to John Hollinger’s playoff odds on ESPN.com the C’s hold a 48.6 percent chance of landing in the postseason. If you want to see what the remainder of the regular season entails for all the teams competing for the final spots in the East, Ben Rohrbach gave us a pretty good look last week.

But let’s have some fun here. If the Celtics do make the playoffs, what’s their ceiling? We can all likely agree that if the Celts draw LeBron JamesCavaliers in the first-round that they stand no chance. Maybe they steal a game, but LeBron would prove to be too much. Boston could probably give the Hawks a good run and make it a series, but likely still fall in five or six games despite making Atlanta sweat.

What’s changed in the East over the past month is the fact that the Bucks are no longer locked into the sixth seed as they seemingly were just a month ago. Going into the All-Star break, Milwaukee had withstood Jabari Parker’s ACL tear and compiled a 30-23 record — becoming the first team to double their previous season’s win total (15) by the All-Star break in the following season. Since then? Frankly trading away Brandon Knight completely crippled them. Despite still holding onto the sixth seed by the skin of their teeth, the Bucks are just 4-13 since the break. Their 34-36 record means they are just three games ahead of the Celtics and a game and a half ahead of the Heat (who sit in control of the seven spot).

In their final 12 games, the C’s face seven opponents with losing records and five with winning records. If they can win seven or eight of those games (including two huge must-wins over the Bucks and games against the Heat and Pacers), the sixth seed is in sight. To further help Boston’s cause, Isaiah Thomas is expected to return on Wednesday for the important matchup against Miami, and ideally the rest of the playoff push.

The C’s clearly wouldn’t own home court, but would a matchup against the third seeded Raptors, or potentially Derrick Rose-less Bulls be something these resilient Celtics couldn’t overcome? Personally, I’d like their chances.

The Raptors have lost 11 of their last 16 games, and look like they’ll be limping into the playoffs. They are also coming off a season in which they were upset on their home floor in game 7 of the first-round by Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett‘s Brooklyn squad. The Bulls may be a tougher opponent than Toronto, but with Rose’s future as uncertain as any player in the league, the feisty Celtics would surely have a shot at an upset here if Chicago were to climb into the third seed.

I don’t want to take the fun out of Brad Stevens‘ first playoff race by raising expectations. Like I said, we never expected this to be the case from the beginning.  So for now, enjoy these final 12 games. But if the C’s can get hot for this home stretch — with some help from Miami and Milwaukee — we could be watching a Celtics team that gets hot at just the right time go from making a little more noise than we thought this season to a whole lot more noise in the postseason.

Follow Julian Edlow on Twitter @julianedlow

Read More: Boston Celtics, NBA playoffs,

5 things we learned as Evan Turner’s triple-double cuts down Nets

03.23.15 at 10:03 pm ET
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With their grip on a playoff spot slipping, the Celtics snapped a three-game losing streak in convincing fashion, defeating the fellow Eastern Conference postseason contending Nets 110-91 in Brooklyn on the second night of a back-to-back.

The Celtics won on the back end of a back-to-back for the eighth time in nine tries and improved their record to 31-39, which combined with losses by the Pacers (30-40) and Hornets (30-39) vaults them back into the East’s eighth seed. The Nets dropped to 29-40, and while they remain only a half-game back of the C’s, Boston’s victory gives them a 3-1 head-to-head tiebreaker for the season. Four and a half games separate the Bucks (34-36) in sixth and Brooklyn in 11th.

Avery Bradley led all Celtics with 20 points, and Evan Turner submitted a triple-double (19 points, 12 assists, 10 rebounds). Kelly Olynyk and Tyler Zeller each added 18 points, Brandon Bass netted 12 and Jonas Jerebko finished with 10. Seven different Celtics grabbed at least five rebounds.

For a complete box score, click here.

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Read More: Boston Celtics, Evan Turner, Kelly Olynyk, New Jersey Nets

Brad Stevens has no regrets about putting game in hands of Evan Turner

03.23.15 at 11:06 am ET
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Brad Stevens is obviously a historian of buzzer-beaters.

His Butler Bulldogs almost pulled out the most dramatic last-second shot in NCAA tournament history when Gordon Hayward’s bank shot from half-court went off the front rim and out in the 2010 NCAA tournament final.

More recently, he’s seen Evan Turner do the trick for and against his team many times. There was the game-winner against his Celtics for the Sixers last season at TD Garden in a 95-94 Philly win. Later that season, Turner did it again against the Nets. That late-game magic may have been one of the reasons Danny Ainge wanted to bring Turner to Boston this season.

It’s worked pretty well. Three times this season, he’s beaten the buzzer at the end of regulation. Twice it won games, and once it sent the game into overtime. Against two of the top teams in the NBA, it provided the winning margin, as the Celtics beat the Trail Blazers and Hawks this season.

So naturally, with Sunday’s game against the Pistons tied, 88-88, at the end of regulation, Stevens looked to ET for another otherworldly end to a game.

“We just wanted to do a little misdirection for Evan to drive and let him create space,” Stevens said. “I thought if he gets that shot off, that’€™s his shot. I felt good about it to be honest, it didn’€™t end well because it got knocked out of his hand or maybe it even slipped out of his hand; I haven’€™t seen the replay. I thought he had separation and I thought he was going to get a good look and when the clock was winding down I felt pretty good about our chances.”

As it turned out, fate was not on Boston’s side Sunday night. Turner couldn’t get a clean shot off because he could never get a grip.

“Part of the ball just slipped out of my hand and I knew Reggie [Jackson] was going to try and contest it. I tried to put a little arc on my shot. When I came up with it, it just slipped. He drew up a good play. Kelly did what he was supposed to do down there. I felt confident but the ball slipped. I felt confident going to the right baseline and doing a pull-up. I’ve done that shot a million times but unfortunately the ball slipped and we couldn’t [regroup].”

Read More: Boston Celtics, Brad Stevens, Butler Bulldogs, Detroit Pistons

Evan Turner says Marcus Smart ‘owes us one’ after missing Sunday with suspension

03.23.15 at 1:43 am ET
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Marcus Smart may insist that his shot to the groin of Matt Bonner Friday night was an accident. But the NBA didn’t see it that way. His coach didn’t see it that way and, as it turns out, his teammates didn’t exactly see it that way.

His teammates, who have found Smart to be a fiercely loyal and hard-working colleague in the NBA trenches, had to take the court Sunday night against an inferior Pistons team in a game the Celtics needed at home. But due to his one-game suspension for Friday’s inopportune low blow, he was not available.

The Celtics blew a pair of 10-point leads in the second half and lost in overtime, 105-97, to the Pistons.

How will Smart respond tonight in Brooklyn?

“I don’t know,” answered Evan Turner, who scored a team-high 23 points, with six rebounds and eight assists. “I’m not in Marcus’ head. Obviously, as a team, he owes us one. I think we’re all motivated.”

Gerald Wallace made it clear after the game, in a speech to his younger teammates, that everyone needs to focus better in the final 13 games. Wallace is pretty sure Smart will be on board when he returns against the Nets.

“I’m pretty sure he’ll be competitive,” Wallace said. “I know he’ll be ready to play. Questioning his spirit is never a question for me.”

Read More: Boston Celtics, Evan Turner, Marcus Smart,

Gerald Wallace calls a players-only meeting: ‘We gave this game away’

03.23.15 at 1:33 am ET
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Gerald Wallace played just 12 minutes and scored just two points in Boston’s dreadful 105-97 overtime loss Sunday night to the Pistons at TD Garden.

But what he told the team afterward could prove to be his most important contribution. The Celtics were coming off two losses in Oklahoma City and San Antonio but appeared back on track when they went up 10 points twice in the third quarter.

But the Pistons got hot in the fourth quarter to tie the game and the Celtics went ice cold in overtime. The result the Celtics fell to 30-39 and out of playoff position in the Eastern Conference. The Celtics are now tied with the Pacers in the East, each team a half game behind the 30-38 Charlotte Hornets for the eighth and final spot.

It was time for the 32-year-old Wallace to speak to his teammates.

“I told the guys that we have to more serious because giving away games like this or losing games like this, we don’t have the length of the schedule [remaining] to kind of make up games,” Wallace said. “Every game counts right now. We have to take it one game at a time and take care of those games.”

What was the reaction to Wallace’s message?

“I think everybody understood by the way everybody felt,” Wallace said. “They kind of felt this loss. They know that we weren’t supposed to lose this game. We already had two tough games on the road. Coming home, with the way our schedule is, this was a game we had to win, we needed to win. I think they understand we gave this game away and we have to take advantage of them.

“We have [13] games left. Probably out of those 13 games, nine or 10 of those games are [against] playoff teams or teams that are fighting us for that playoff position. They’re competing and they’re fighting just as hard as we are. We’ve got to understand that we just can’t anticipate just showing up and expecting to win the ballgame.”

Read More: Boston Celtics, Brooklyn Nets, Detroit Pistons, gerald wallace

5 things we learned in Celtics’ bad loss to Pistons

03.22.15 at 9:13 pm ET
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At the trade deadline, the Celtics received the hidden gems of Luigi Datome and Jonas Jerebko from Detroit. On Sunday night, the C’s returned the favor, giving away a game to the Pistons, 105-97 in overtime.

After leading for the majority of the game, the Celtics (30-39) struggled down the stretch especially offensively, as the team scored 19 points in the forth quarter and only nine in overtime. Evan Turner led the Celtics with 23 points, while the rest of the starters Jae Crowder (19), Brandon Bass (13) Tyler Zeller (10) and Avery Bradley (10) all finished in double figures.

In the victory, Reggie Jackson almost had a triple double, contributing 17 points, 11 assists and nine rebounds for the Pistons (24-44). Kentavious Caldwell-Pope scored a game-high 27 points and Andre Drummond had a double-double, grabbing a 22 rebounds and 18 points.

See the full box score here.

TURNER RUNS THE POINT

With Marcus Smart serving a one-game suspension, Turner was listed as the starting point guard. Turner had a very balanced and proficient performance, finishing with 23 points, eight rebounds, six assists and three steals. The polarizing guard, who Jackie MacMullan brilliantly described on the broadcast as an “acquired taste,” even limited his turnovers, only coughing up the rock twice in 38 minutes. Despite the good performance, Bad-Evan reared his ugly head, as the ball slipped out of his hands on the game-winning attempt at the end of regulation.

CROWDER’€™S EXCELLENT SECOND QUARTER

After missing his first five shots of the game, Crowder decided to attack the rim and ended up having a terrific second quarter. He scored half of the Celtics 24 points, drawing two fouls by making aggressive cuts towards the basket. He went 3-for-4 from the charity stripe and also knocked down an open 3-pointer.

HACK-A-DRUMMOND WORKS BRIEFLY

In his short career, Drummond already has established himself as one of the worst free throw shooters in NBA history. Brad Stevens used this to advantage, deciding to foul the big man early and often. The poorly named strategy paid off, as Drummond went 2-for-11 from the charity stripe. Despite his struggles from the line, the Pistons center finished with an impressive 18 points, 22 rebounds and four blocks. The Celtics went away from the strategy in the final frame, but it would not have helped their poor offensive performance.

NO REVENGE FOR GIGI AND JONAS

There was some talk heading into this game that Datome and Jerebko had something to prove against their old team. Especially Datome, who only saw 17 minutes on the floor during his time with the Pistons. Jerebko was maybe trying too hard Sunday night, only hitting three of his 11 shots, although he did contribute eight rebounds. Datome didn’t register on the box score, only playing five minutes.

GERALD WALLACE: ORIGINAL GANGSTA

Playing 12 minutes, Wallace added much-needed energy off the bench. On one possession, the OG out-hustled a pair of Pistons to grab two offensive rebounds before finishing with a putback. Wallace finished with seven rebounds and two points.

Marcus Smart hit with 1-game suspension for punching Matt Bonner in groin

03.21.15 at 4:19 pm ET
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A cheap shot to the groin will cost Marcus Smart — and the Celtics — one game.

The NBA announced Saturday that it has suspended the Celtics point guard for Sunday’s game against the Pistons for a flagrant-2 foul committed in Friday’s loss in San Antonio.

Down 22 points and frustrated, Smart hit Spurs forward Matt Bonner in the groin with 8:56 left in the fourth quarter and was automatically ejected from a game the Celtics lost, 101-89, to the defending NBA champs.

Smart told reporters after Friday’s game that he was trying to fight through a Bonner screen and had accidentally hit him. Video replay clearly shows Smart winding up and punching him as he’s trying to fight through.

This was the second time this month that Smart was ejected for a flagrant foul.

It’s also a bad time for Smart to be hit with this suspension. With injured guard Isaiah Thomas likely to miss his seventh straight game and Smart out, Phil Pressey is expected to get more playing time as the Celtics are desperate for a win to stay in the race for the eighth and final playoff spot in the East.

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