|04.17.15 at 12:58 pm ET|
With the end of the regular season, WEEI.com’s Celtics writers — Julian Edlow, Sam Packard and Ben Rohrbach — have come together to hand out some team awards. On Sunday Ben Rohrbach will have a complete preview the first-round playoff series between the Celtics and Cavaliers.
Julian Edlow: It sounds so corny to make a coach the MVP, but it’s the truth. Brad Stevens is the Celtics‘ MVP. What he’s done, going from a revolving door of players into a tight-knit team that’s hotter than anyone in the East, is truly remarkable. Each and every one of Stevens’ guys love playing for him, and it shows out on the court.
Sam Packard: I was leaning toward Stevens, too, for all the reasons Julian mentioned, but for variety’s sake I will take a player. I think Avery Bradley is the MVP this season. In addition to his great defense, Bradley has been the Celtics‘ most consistent scorer. If he could just extend his range out about three feet, he would be an All-Star.
Ben Rohrbach: Brad Stevens. When the front office trades your team’s top scorer (Jeff Green) and top playmaker (Rajon Rondo), injuries claim your last three first-round picks for at least 15 games apiece (Jared Sullinger, Kelly Olynyk and Marcus Smart), and you’re operating at various stretches of the season with Avery Bradley, Brandon Bass, Evan Turner and even Tayshaun Prince as your best player, it’s probably safe to say your coaching played an important role in your team winning 40 games.
JE: The playoffs are as big of a surprise as we could have imagined. No one saw this coming when the C’s were 16-30 just 2 1/2 months ago. Fast forward to the postseason and Boston is 40-42 — finishing up at 24-12 since Feb. 2. And for those who would consider changing the playoff format, and I’m not against this, the Celtics still would be in with the 16th-best record in the league. But if the playoffs were too broad of an answer, getting Isaiah Thomas is a big surprise, too. He’s a huge reason that they are where they are.
SP: Who knew Evan Turner could be this good? No matter what he does, he is going to be the most hated Celtic on Twitter, but I have been really impressed by his ability to run the offense this year. His 2.5 turnovers a game are annoying, but the guy needs the ball in his hands to make plays, and he does exactly that. This year he joined Larry Bird, Antoine Walker, Paul Pierce and Rajon Rondo as the only Celtics to have three triple-doubles in a season.
BR: Turner. Anybody who thought a guy who ranked 205th in assist-to-turnover ratio last season would essentially be running the point as arguably the most important player for a playoff team this year is kidding themselves.
|04.17.15 at 11:32 am ET|
Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge joined the Dennis & Callahan show on Friday morning to talk about the C’s upcoming playoff series against the Cavaliers and what he sees from his team. To hear the interview, go to the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page.
Earlier this week, Mike Gorman of Comcast SportsNet New England gave his prediction for the first round of the postseason. He said the series would last six games, but unlike most others, Gorman said that it would be the Celtics who advance to the conference semifinals, not LeBron James and the Cavaliers.
When asked about the prediction, Ainge noted that the Cavs certainly have the advantage but that there are aspects of the game the C’s can focus on to stop them as best as possible.
“We need to make a high percentage of our 3’s in order to win this series,” he said. “Not so many turnovers, which is obvious, preventing them from getting open-court baskets. I think if we give them a lot of open-court baskets, either off the long rebounds or breakouts off steals, we have no chance of stopping them. They’re tough enough to stop them at half court let alone in the open court, where they have the big advantage.
“But listen,” Ainge added, “they’re obviously a star-studded team. They have a lot of different options, and I think that in a series like this, they just have a much greater room for error than we do. And we just have to play at our best, we need five, six guys playing the best basketball they’ve played, and our guys are capable of it. It’s a tough, tough mountain to climb, but it’s fun. It’s a fun opportunity for us.”
After dealing Rajon Rondo and finding themselves 11 games under .500 at the trade deadline, the Celtics weren’t expected to make the playoffs. Ainge himself said it was a bit of a long shot. However, he worked to acquire Isaiah Thomas, and while he said he knew the 5-foot-9 guard would make the team better, Ainge didn’t know he would make as much of a difference as he had.
And the players aren’t the only ones making a difference on this C’s team that has experienced a major turnaround. Brad Stevens was named was named Eastern Conference Coach of the Month for April on Thursday and Ainge expressed how pleased he is with his second-year coach.
“We went after him and him only and we gave him a six-year contract, which I think is unprecedented in the NBA for a head coach, and I think that pretty much tells that we knew we were getting somebody special, and I have not been disappointed at all,” he said. “To say he’s better than I even thought, I thought he was pretty good and I think that his transition has been better from a coaching standpoint, and I think he still will be better next year and the year after and the year after that. I think he’s such a smart guy and a hard worker that he’s just going to continue to become better as a coach, but he’s a very good coach right now and I couldn’t be any happier with Brad.”
|04.17.15 at 8:54 am ET|
Stevens guided the C’s to a 7-1 record, a perfect 4-0 on the road, and Boston finished the season on a six-game win streak. Not for nothing, too, as five of those teams are playoff bound. The Celtics also managed a plus-8.8 points-per-game differential during April as well.
With the run Boston has gone on, it has been able to slide into the seventh seed in the playoffs, punching its ticket to a first-round matchup with the second-seeded Cavaliers.
“The total buy-in is unbelievable,” Raptors coach Dwane Casey told SB Nation regarding how Stevens’ team responds to him. “They’ve got a young team. It’s almost like a college team playing hard, running through a wall and they’re relentless. Brad has them playing at a high level on both ends of the floor. If you don’t match their intensity you’re in trouble. They remind me a lot of us last year. No agendas, nothing but let’s go out and play hard and let’s win. That’s how they’re playing now and that’s how I think the game should be played.”
The NBA’s Western Conference Coach of the Month is familiar to Boston as well. Doc Rivers, the former C’s bench boss, was able to lead his Clippers to the only perfect record in April, going 7-0 and scoring 108.6 ppg while allowing 97.4 ppg in that time.
|04.16.15 at 7:23 am ET|
The NBA has released the first-round playoff schedule after the regular-season wrapped up Wednesday night. The Celtics-Cavs series will begin Sunday afternoon in Cleveland.
Here is the complete schedule for the series:
Game 1: Sunday, April 19 at Cleveland, 3 p.m. (ABC)
Game 2: Tuesday, April 21 at Cleveland, 7 p.m. (TNT)
Game 3: Thursday, April 23 at Boston, 7 p.m. (TNT)
Game 4: Sunday, April 26 at Boston, 1 p.m. (ABC)
Game 5: Tuesday, April 28 at Cleveland, TBA*
Game 6: Thursday, April 30 at Boston, TBA*
Game 7: Saturday, May 2 at Cleveland, TBA (TNT)*
* If necessary
|04.15.15 at 10:26 pm ET|
The Celtics and Bucks met in Milwaukee on Wednesday for a meaningless season finale.
Many would have guessed as much at the start of the season, but for all the wrong reasons. Of course, the Bucks and C’s have already locked up the sixth and seventh seeds (respectively) in the Eastern Conference.
They were led by Gigi Datome, obviously, who finished with a game-high 22 points (also a career-high) in his first career start. Jonas Jerebko (16 points), Kelly Olynyk (16) and Jared Sullinger (11) all chipped in with double figures off the bench.
For a complete box score, click here.
There really aren’t five things you need to know about this game, so we’ll go off script a bit. Here’s five things we’ve learned about the Celtics on this remarkable charge to the postseason.
ADDITION BY SUBTRACTION
This team was not playoff bound as it stood at the beginning of the season. Brad Stevens is an amazing coach, but he never would have been able to turn the C’s around until they cut ties with the players that were holding them back. Against popular opinion, those players were Rajon Rondo and Jeff Green — both of whom will play in the playoffs out West. But don’t forget that both their teams have been worse with them than without them, while Boston has only been improving.
|04.15.15 at 2:16 am ET|
JULY 9, 2014
In what seemed on the surface like a minor move, Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge sent a $10.3 million trade exception — acquired for dealing Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett to the Nets in 2013 — to the Cavaliers for Tyler Zeller, Marcus Thornton’s expiring contract and Cleveland’s 2016 first-round pick.
Ultimately, the trade transformed the NBA, allowing the Cavs to free up enough cap space to bring LeBron James back home. From a Boston perspective, the reward of a young center project and a couple more tradable assets was worth the risk of altering the Eastern Conference’s balance of power for the foreseeable future.
AUGUST 21, 2014
‘A lot of people might say that we can’t be this, we can’t be that,’ Celtics guard Avery Bradley — fresh off signing an oft criticized four-year, $32 million contract extension — told a group of bewildered reporters from a basketball camp. ‘I feel like with the coach that we have, we can be anything that we want to be. We just have to listen to [Brad Stevens] and buy into what he’s trying to do, his plan for us. I feel like we have a chance to make the playoffs and make a lot of noise this year if we listen to Brad.”
AUGUST 27, 2014
During a tour through Asia, Celtics captain Rajon Rondo declared himself ‘in great shape’ after his return from ACL surgery. ‘I want to win another championship,’ he told Hoop China, before adding, ‘You can’t have a great team every year.’ When asked if sixth overall pick Marcus Smart could eventually start for the Celtics this season, Rondo replied, ‘No. He’ll play a lot of minutes, but starting as a rookie at the guard position is probably impossible or one of the toughest things you can do.
SEPTEMBER 23, 2014
Asked by one reporter at the C’s annual preseason charity golf outing to name his favorites in the East this season, Ainge listed the Cavaliers, Bulls and Wizards.
‘You left off the Celtics,’ another media member countered.
‘I did. Yes, I did. Good observation,’ said Ainge, pausing, and then adding, ‘but I do believe the extraordinary is possible.’
SEPTEMBER 29, 2014
Amid widespread speculation that Rondo had broken a bone in his left hand at a trampoline park, the Celtics point guard addressed those rumors at media day, assuring everyone the injury resulted from a slip in the shower. In his 12-minute session, Rondo professed his love for both Boston and Stevens, confirmed his desire for a max contract and conceded again, ‘I know this isn’t a championship team.’
SEPTEMBER 30, 2014
‘We have one point guard healthy that has NBA experience, and that’s Phil Pressey,’ Stevens said as training camp opened. ‘And that’s not a lot of it. I’m not as worried about [the point guard position] because I think people are going to put you in a box for your position, and I’m just not going to do that. I’m not going to worry about it. [Evan Turner‘s] a ball handler, he can make plays, he’s smart. And then I think that keeps our other guys in the positions that they’re most comfortable.’
OCTOBER 2, 2014
Zeller drew rave reviews from his new teammates as the biggest surprise in camp. ‘He just runs the floor,’ Stevens said. ‘He’s a very unselfish player, he’s a smart player. He stands out because he does little things well. He’s a guy that can score on the block in the right matchup, but his strength is in beating people to spots.”
|04.14.15 at 10:18 pm ET|
Don’t tell the Celtics a game is meaningless; they won’t listen.
When his idle team clinched a playoff spot with a Brooklyn Nets loss on Monday, Celtics coach Brad Stevens texted his players asking them to keep their collective feet on the proverbial gas pedal, and they responded with a hard-fought, 95-93 win over the division champion Toronto Raptors — capped by Jae Crowder’s improbable fadeaway jumper in the final 2.5 seconds.
Evan Turner led the Celtics with 14 points, nine assists, and seven rebounds, while Avery Bradley (14 points), Brandon Bass (13), Tyler Zeller (12), and Isaiah Thomas (11) all scored in double figures. Kyle Lowry and Lou Williams each scored 16 points for the Raptors.
For a complete box score, click here.
With a fifth straight win, the Celtics improved to 39-42 and clinched the seventh seed in the Eastern Conference. They will play their final regular season game on Wednesday in Milwaukee before starting their first-round playoff series against the Cleveland Cavaliers either Saturday or Sunday in Cleveland.
AVERY BRADLEY HURT AFTER 14-POINT SECOND QUARTER
Bradley missed his first four shots of the game and did not score a point in the first quarter. Then, with eight minutes left in the half, something clicked for the veteran guard, as he hit five of his next seven shots. Bradley ended up scoring 14 points in the quarter and was the primary reason the Celtics were only down seven entering the locker room. As a team, the Celtics only shot 38 percent from the field in the first half, including a dreadful 23 percent from beyond the arc. But Bradley left the game early in the third quarter with a left quad contusion and did not return. Stevens said afterwards he will rest Bradley on Wednesday in anticipation of his starting two-guard being healthy for the playoffs.
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