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5 things we learned as C’s extend winning streak to 3

02.06.15 at 9:52 pm ET
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Marcus Thornton

Marcus Thornton

It hasn’t been pretty, but the Celtics are riding a three-game winning streak.

They nearly blew a 26-point lead to a listless Sixers squad, but pulled out a 107-96 win on the strength of another 3-point barrage from Marcus Thornton. The veteran reserve connected on back-to-back triples to maintain a cushion after Philadelphia cut it to a one-possession game midway through the fourth quarter. The C’s (19-30) remain within striking distance of the eighth-place Heat (21-28), who visit the Spurs late Friday night.

Thornton (16 points) joined five other Celtics in double figures. Jared Sullinger led the effort with 22 points, eight rebounds and a career-high seven assists. Avery Bradley (18 points), Tyler Zeller (16 points, 9 rebounds), Brandon Bass (13 points) and Jae Crowder (11 points) rounded out the C’s double-digit sextet. Luc Mbah a Moute’s 18 points led a 76ers (11-40) squad that was without Michael Carter-Williams.

For a complete box score, click here.

ON THEIR GUARD

With Michael Carter-Williams out with a right toe injury and Tony Wroten (partially torn right ACL) sidelined for the remainder of the season, the Sixers started undrafted rookie forward JaKarr Sampson alongside 2014 second-round pick K.J. McDaniels in the backcourt, and the Celtics took advantage early. In a span of 77 seconds, Bradley made his first three shots ‘€” including a 3-pointer ‘€” on passes from Smart, Turner and Sullinger, giving the C’s an early 7-0 lead. Bass’ layup on their next possession pushed the lead to nine and forced a Philadelphia timeout.

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Read More: Boston Celtics, NBA, Philadelphia 76ers,

Marcus Smart earning trust as starting point guard

02.05.15 at 5:40 pm ET
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When Marcus Smart was selected No. 6 overall in this past June’s NBA Draft, many believed it would be to replace Rajon Rondo. The rookie had a slow start to the season that included an ankle injury and even limited minutes at times when he was available.

Rondo was shipped to Dallas on Nov 18, and since then Smart has continued trying to earn the trust of his coaches and teammates. On Feb 3 all of his hard work paid off when Brad Stevens named him the starting point guard for the Celtics. Smart’s playing time has gone up in each of his last five games, but he has set a career-highs in minutes in each of his two starts at the point.

In 37 minutes on Tuesday in New York, the Oklahoma State product poured in 13 points while also grabbing four rebounds, three assists and two steals. The next night, in 41 minutes of action while hosting the Nuggets, Smart only managed four points, but had maybe one of his most impactful games. Despite his lack of scoring, the 20-year old racked up 10 boards, dished out eight assists, and plucked three steals in the process.

“I just try to come out there and play hard,” Smart said of his new starting role. “Not worry about all the other things and just let my game come to me and let the rest fall into place.”

“I’m trying to push the ball and keep the pace up. I’m trying to attack the defense before they get set,” he said of his job as a facilitator.

Development with the ball in his hands is great, but may take some time. For now, defense is Smart’s calling card.

“I think you feel so good and comfortable with him defensively in the game,” Stevens said of Smart following Wednesday’s game. “I thought he did fine offensively. He had eight assists to two turnovers. He didn’t shoot a high volume of shots. I can’t think of many times where he made many mistakes defensively.

“He’s playing pretty well — without impacting the stat sheet too much, which is a good thing,” Smart’s coach concluded regarding his impact.

Even Smart’s peers around the league are taking notice of his abilities.

“I think he’s pretty good,” Denver point guard Ty Lawson confirmed following the game. “He’s tough. He’s pretty strong. He’s going to be a good defender in this league.”

But what’s the biggest impact of the C’s lineup change so far? Marcus Smart is a winner. The Celtics are 2-0 so far when he starts at point guard.

Read More: Boston Celtics, Brad Stevens, Marcus Smart, Ty Lawson

5 things we learned in Celtics’ win over Nuggets

02.04.15 at 10:01 pm ET
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Sandwiched between a successful West Coast trip and a wire-to-wire road victory against the Knicks, the Celtics lost a pair of home games to the Rockets and Heat. But with Malcolm Butler, Robert Kraft and a host of Patriots on hand at TD Garden on Wednesday night, the C’s delivered their first home victory in more than three weeks.

A pair of Jared Sullinger free throws with just 22.8 seconds remaining gave Boston a 102-100 lead, and Jae Crowder’s ensuing steal helped seal a 104-100 victory against the visiting Nuggets. The C’s improved to 18-30 on the season, moving within two losses of Miami for the eighth seed in the Eastern Conference.

Avery Bradley and Marcus Thornton led the Celtics with 17 points apiece. Tyler Zeller, Crowder and Sullinger each added 14 points. Zeller replaced Sullinger in the starting lineup after the 22-year-old showed up late for the second time in four days. Ty Lawson led Denver (19-31) with 23 points and eight assists.

For a complete box score, click here.

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Read More: Avery Bradley, Malcolm Butler, Robert Kraft,

Jared Sullinger benched for second time in 3 games

02.04.15 at 6:22 pm ET
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Jared Sullinger

Jared Sullinger

After Jared Sullinger missed a pregame walkthrough on Wednesday, Celtics coach Brad Stevens benched his starting power forward for the second time in three games. Sullinger also sat out the start of Sunday’s loss to the Heat for showing up late to a walkthrough.

“It’s the second time in two years,” said Stevens, who “absolutely” addressed the issue with Sullinger. “It just happens to be the second time in [four] days. Again, I said it the other day, I don’t think it’s an issue. You’ve just got to be here. Our precedence is set.”

Sullinger recorded just seven points and three rebounds in 19 minutes off the bench in Sunday’s loss to Miami. Reinserted into the starting lineup in Tuesday’s win over the Knicks, he collected 22 points, nine rebounds and six assists in 36 minutes. Sullinger finished with 14 points, seven rebounds and four assists in 21 minutes as a reserve in Wednesday’s victory against the Nuggets. Tyler Zeller started in his place.

Addressing reporters about the incident, Sullinger blamed “traffic” for his late arrival –€” an understandable excuse given the Patriots’ Super Bowl parade. Except, his C’s teammates showed up on time, and Comcast’s Kyle Draper reported that Sullinger was instead pulled over and cited for a traffic violation.

“Everybody in this locker room was probably late one time,” a defiant Sullinger said prior to the game. “Things happen. You can’t let it affect you. We’ve still got a game. Just because I was late [to walk-through], doesn’t mean I was late to the game. We’ve still got to play a game. Our main objective is to win, whether I start, whether I get benched, whether I not dress at all. We just want to win basketball games.”

Stevens will leave the decision on whether to fine Sullinger up to Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge.

“I don’t want to make any excuses,” the coach said of Sullinger. “He won’t make any excuses.”

Read More: Jared Sullinger,

Knicks help Celtics snap 3-game losing streak

02.03.15 at 9:58 pm ET
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Avery Bradley

Avery Bradley

Nothing like a game against the Knicks to bust out of a slump.

Led by Avery Bradley and Jared Sullinger, who each played their best game in weeks, the Celtics snapped a three-game losing streak with a 108-97 victory in New York. Despite the last-place Knicks (10-39) making it a two-possession game midway through the fourth quarter, the C’s (17-30) led wire to wire, staying within four wins of the Hornets and Heat for the final two playoff spots in the East.

Bradley led all scorers with 26 points in a remarkable 11-of-14 shooting performance to go along with four assists. Sullinger busted out of a slump of his own, collecting 22 points (11-19 FG), nine rebounds and six assists. Marcus Smart started in place of Jae Crowder, and they netted 13 points apiece in their new roles. Brandon Bass added 12 points as the only other Celtics player in double figures. The C’s shot 54.5 percent as a team.

Evan Turner (5 points, 5 assists, 8 rebounds) helped hold Carmelo Anthony to 21 points on 23 shots. For a complete box score, click here.

5 things we learned as Hassan Whiteside’s Heat stop Celtics

02.01.15 at 4:11 pm ET
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Tyler Zeller

Tyler Zeller

If someone asks you about Sunday’s Celtics game, make sure to emphasize its “€œgreat personality,”€ because by no means was it visually pleasing.

In a low-scoring affair that saw neither team playing particularly well, the Celtics ‘€” wearing their bizarre and unbecoming gray “€œParquet Pride”€ jerseys ‘€” fell 83-75 to the Heat at the TD Garden. The C’€™s struggled early and couldn’t regain the lead despite coming back to tie the game.

Without stars Dwyane Wade and Luol Deng, Miami relied heavily on their big men. Hassan Whiteside led all scorers with 20 points and nine rebounds while Chris Bosh added 18 points and seven rebounds. Avery Bradley and Tyler Zeller each netted 17 points to lead the way for the Celtics. Zeller started in place of Jared Sullinger, who was benched to start the game for arriving late to a pregame walkthrough. Marcus Thornton (15 points) was the only other Celtics player in double figures.

For the complete box score, click here.

CELTICS SHOOT TERRIBLY IN THE FIRST HALF

Even if there was some sort of bucket emporium that exclusively sold buckets and the team had a variety of currency options available, the Celtics still would not have been allowed to purchase a bucket. The C’€™s finished 13 for 41 from the field for an unimpressive 32.7 percent. Chris “Birdman” Andersen made as many 3-pointers as the Celtics, who made just one of their 10 attempts. Their inability to acquire aforementioned buckets, I’d argue, directly contributed to their 13-point deficit at halftime.

12 GOOD MINUTES OF BASKETBALL

Evan Turner may have started the game at point guard, but after missing his first six shots he quickly found himself on the bench. With Marcus Smart playing in his place to open the second half, the Celtics cut the Heat’€™s 13-point lead down to two. With the hyper-athletic lineup of Smart, Bradley and Jae Crowder in the game, the C’€™s increased their intensity and ball pressure on the defensive end. The Heat scored only 17 points in the quarter, turning the ball over seven times.

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Read More: Boston Celtics, Hassan Whiteside, Jared Sullinger, Miami Heat

5 things we learned as Rockets hold off Celtics’ comeback

01.30.15 at 9:59 pm ET
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After a dismal start, Marcus Smart’s defense and offensive contributions from a band of Celtics veterans sparked a furious comeback against the visiting Rockets, but the C’s couldn’t get over the hump in a 93-87 loss at TD Garden.

Smart held Houston’s MVP candidate James Harden to just 14 points on 4-of-21 shooting and the trio of Brandon Bass (17 points, 8 rebounds), Marcus Thornton (17 points, 4-6 3P, 7 rebounds) and Tayshaun Prince (13 points) combined for 47 points, leading the Celtics within a single possession yet again in the final minute after trailing by as many as 19 points in the first half — but it wasn’t enough to upset another Western Conference power.

“He’s pretty good,” Harden said of Smart. “He fits well in their system, and he made a lot of big plays.”

The Celtics dropped to 16-29, falling two games in the loss column behind the Charlotte Hornets for the Eastern Conference’s eighth seed. For a complete box score, click here.

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