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Celtics Friday pregame: Al Horford, Jae Crowder much improved, will travel

11.18.16 at 7:16 pm ET
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The Celtics could be very close to getting two-thirds of their starting front court back.

Al Horford, who missed his ninth straight game Friday night with a concussion, will travel with the Celtics on their three-game road trip, which begins Saturday night in Detroit.

Also on the trip will be Jae Crowder, missing his eighth straight game Friday night with a sprained left ankle.

“Al had, by far, his best day [Thursday],” Brad Stevens said before Friday’s game with the Warriors. “He did on some 3-on-3, some 1-on-1, went up and down [the court]. Felt pretty good. Hopefully, barring no setbacks, we’re closer than further with him.”

With Horford and Crowder out against the front court of Kevin Durant, Draymond Green and Zaza Pachulia, the Celtics are in the position of possibly having to put 6-foot-4 Marcus Smart in a mismatch.

“We’ll mix up matchups all over the place. I think some [switching],” Stevens said. “Obviously, the biggest thing is you can’t get caught up in is you’ve got to have a body, you’ve got to be on them. You have to be able to contest their shots. They’re going to hit some shots other people don’t hit. You’ve got to be able to go down and score. That’s what you have to do when you’re playing a team like this.”

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Kevin Durant isn’t thrilled about rehashing how close he came to becoming Celtic

11.18.16 at 1:08 pm ET
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Kevin Durant (Kyle Terada/USA Today Sports)

Kevin Durant (Kyle Terada/USA Today Sports)

He had to know it was coming.

Once Kevin Durant emerged for the shootaround at TD Garden prior to Friday night’s tilt between his Warriors and the Celtics, the questions started flying. Why the star forward has already addressed how the Celtics courted him this offseason, this would be the first time he would be coming face-to-face with the team he designated as an almost, but not quite.

“Do we really want to open this back up?” Durant said at one point during his gathering with the media. adding, “I have much respect for everybody on their team. I know AB, I know Isaiah. Marcus Smart, Jae Crowder and those guys came and we had a nice talk. They were very impressive. The city of Boston is one of the best cities in the league. I really respect how they approach the game and how they play the game.”

So, how close was he to picking the Celtics?

“I met with them, they were really good. I was really impressed by them,” the forward said. “It’s hard for me to say how close each team was. I’m not going to go into that. But they were very impressive.” And what about that presentation in the Hamptons, which included Celtics players, front office types, ownership and even Tom Brady? “It was pretty good,” he said. “I’m not going to go into depth everything they said, but it was pretty good.”

Durant comes into Friday night playing for a Warriors club that is second in the Western Conference, standing at 9-2. He is sixth in the NBA in scoring, averaging 27.7 points per game, just slightly ahead of teammate Steph Curry (27.2). The Celtics, meanwhile, are in sixth-place in the Eastern Conference at 6-5, and will head into the showdown with the Warriors without both Al Horford and Jae Crowder.

“I don’t know. I expect them to cheer on their team like they always do,” said Durant when asked about what type of reception he expected from the TD Garden crowd. Outside of that, I don’t know. I’m trying to lock in and focus on our team, our game. The fans are going to be the same, they’re going to enjoy the game. As the game goes along they’re going to boo, they’re going to cheer. It is what it is.”

Kevin Durant on animosity for snubbing Celtics: ‘What can they be mad about?’

11.17.16 at 1:04 pm ET
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Nov 16, 2016; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Raptors guard DeMar DeRozan (10) drives to the basket as Golden State Warriors forward Kevin Durant (35) attempts a block during the third quarter in a game at Air Canada Centre. The Golden State Warriors won 127-121. Mandatory Credit: Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports

Kevin Durant has been a force at the rim for the Warriors in their 9-2 start to the season. (Nick Turchiaro/USA Today Sports)

Kevin Durant feels it’s time for the Celtics and their fans to just get over it. 

There have been few courtships in the history of the NBA like the pursuit of the 6-foot-9 superstar this past offseason. And while the Celtics locked down a solid player in the frontcourt in Al Horford, questions were abound when Durant signed his two-year, $54 million deal with Golden State. 

Why didn’t Durant choose Boston? Why wasn’t Tom Brady enough in The Hamptons? What went wrong? Why can’t Boston draw top free agents?

The Celtics put everything they had into Durant, who instead elected to join the force that is the Golden State Warriors. What ensued in Boston was frustration, and in Jae Crowder’s case, a few off-the cuff remarks.

This Friday will mark the first time Durant faces off against the C’s as a member of the Warriors. For Durant, it was just business.

“Nah, it don’t bother me,” Durant said of Crowder’s comments to ESPN.com’s Chris Haynes. “All these guys that you ask the same questions, you know what you’re going to get from them. So you’re [asking] the same questions. Why am I going to be mad about a guy who has an opinion? I respect all these players. If they don’t respect what I did, I can’t control that.

“I got nothing but love and respect for Jae Crowder and how he approaches the game and how he plays, but we disagree on me coming here,” Durant continued. “That’s just how it is. It’s all good. We’re going to compete no matter what. That’s one thing — you can say a lot of stuff in the media or wherever you are, but we’re going to compete when we’re in between the lines. That doesn’t change anything.”

Durant acknowledged the logic of the frustration of the players and fans, but brings up a valid point — he never actually played in Boston, and he never said he was going to play in Boston.

JBL_CMYK_NoHarmanNoRBallWEEI is how you listen to Celtics coverage. JBL cutting-edge wireless headphones and speakers are how you feel like you’re there. As the official Sound of the Celtics, Isaiah Thomas and the NBA, JBL is Made for the Biggest Stage.

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Isaiah Thomas continues to bail Celtics out as rest of team does some soul-searching

11.17.16 at 9:28 am ET
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Nov 16, 2016; Boston, MA, USA;  Boston Celtics guard Isaiah Thomas (4) drives to the basket past Dallas Mavericks forward Dwight Powell (7) during the second half at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

Isaiah Thomas took matters into his own hands Wednesday night. (Bob DeChiara/USA Today Sports)

Crisis averted. 

Entering the fourth quarter, Isaiah Thomas was having a rough night, finagling just eight points to that point, going 3-for-13 from the field and 1-for-3 from the foul line.

What was worse, however, was the inability for multiple players to step up. Avery Bradley did, making his presence known with an 18 point, 13 rebound double-double. But otherwise, there was not much for the Celtics to hang their hat on. 

“I was afraid that we were going to have to really gut this one out,” coach Brad Stevens said. “We definitely stagnated quite a bit.”

Thomas ultimately went off in the final frame, dropping 22 points while going 4-for-5 from the field and 12-for-13 from the foul line

Kelly Olynyk was the only other player in double figures, netting 10 points. Otherwise, offensive production was subpar. Marcus Smart was 1-for-6 from the field, off the bench Gerald Green was 1-for-4 with, while most other while most everyone else off the bench was 2-for-3 or 2-for-4.

It has all been part of the process of learning to play without Al Horford and Jae Crowder, two player who conceivably will help pick up the slack when Thomas isn’t playing well once they return healthy. But as the team figures out how to step up in the meantime, Thomas indicated he’s going to keep rising to the pressure.

“I guess I just like that quarter. Sometimes guys get a little tired and the pressure gets a little tougher for them, I guess I just like the pressure,” Thomas said.

And while the numbers may indicate it was something of a one-man show, Thomas will be the first to say it wasn’t. He found vast success off the screen, and his teammates were integral in clearing the lane for the 5-foot-9 guard. This was especially true once Mavs big man Andrew Bogut fouled out.

JBL_CMYK_NoHarmanNoRBallWEEI is how you listen to Celtics coverage. JBL cutting-edge wireless headphones and speakers are how you feel like you’re there. As the official Sound of the Celtics, Isaiah Thomas and the NBA, JBL is Made for the Biggest Stage.

 

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Fast break: Avery Bradley’s double-double (18 pts, 13 rebs); Isaiah Thomas’ 30 points lead Celtics past Mavericks

11.16.16 at 9:50 pm ET
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Nov 16, 2016; Boston, MA, USA;  Dallas Mavericks guard Wesley Matthews (23) looks to pass the ball defended by Boston Celtics guard Avery Bradley (0) during the first half at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

Avery Bradley goes up for the block on Dallas guard Wesley Matthews (23) Wednesday at TD Garden. (Bob DeChiara/USA Today Sports)

Isaiah Thomas saved his very best for last Wednesday.

The Celtics superstar guard scored 22 of his game-high 30 points in the fourth quarter to lead the Celtics to 90-83 win over a pesky Mavericks team at TD Garden. 

“He’s done it so many times,” coach Brad Stevens said of Thomas. “I was afraid that we were really going to have to gut this one out … we definitely stagnated quite a bit.”

After dropping their most recent decision to a team off to an underwhelming start, the Celtics didn’t have much room to falter against a Mavericks team entering the game 2-7. 

Avery Bradley also came up huge, putting up a double-double, dropping 18 points while setting a career-high in rebounds as he grabbed 13 boards. 

Thomas and Bradley also combined for the play of the game and one of the most thrilling plays of the early season so far. With just over a minute left, Thomas got out on the break and found a trailing Bradley with a fancy between-the-legs bounce pass. Bradley finished the play with a one-hand jam, sending the Garden into pandemonium. 

“I guess I just like that quarter,” Thomas said. ““Sometimes guys get a little tired and then the pressure gets a little tougher for them. I guess I like the pressure.”

Thomas got off to a slow start, but catching fire when it mattered in the fourth quarter. He entered the final frame with eight points, he dropped 22 points in the quarter. Up until then, his quiet production was nearly palpable given the lack of a support system with the exception of Bradley.

“He’s got a knack for it,” Stevens said. “I guess I’m so used to being around him and so used to watching him operate like that, nothing surprises me.”

Early on, it didn’t take the Celtics long to find their stride, jumping to an 11-3 run to start the game. Oftentimes it felt as though the Celtics were running away with the game, but the Mavs stayed within an arms reach most of the night.

“Just was getting some good shots, my teammates were getting me the ball, I was getting to my spots and was able to knock down some shots in the first quarter,” Bradley said.

For the most part, they stayed within 8-12 points, but they made a surge in the fourth quarter to take a lead with 6:43 left, keeping things close for the remainder of the game. They traded chances with the Celtics, but were never able to create enough of a lead to totally fend the C’s off.

The low-scoring final tally, while far from a positive on the offensive end, was at least a modest hope for a team struggling to keep opposing point totals low. Harrison Barnes and Wesley Matthews dropped 28 and 22 points, respectively for the Mavs, but the Celtics otherwise kept point production low and contained. As a result, there was a noticeable lack of offense when either one was on the bench.

“Harrison Barnes made some tough shots, but for the most part we were defending them well, we wanted him to take some contested twos and that’s what he did, he was just knocking down good shots for them. He’s a good player,” Bradley said.

The timing of the win couldn’t have been better for the Celtics. After a poor effort on Monday, and a tilt against the Warriors on deck Friday, Wednesday served as a fine enough confidence booster as well as tune up for a Warriors team off to a hot start.

The win also marked the end of a long winless streak for the Celtics against the Mavs. The C’s dropped the last six decisions against Dallas, with their previous win coming on Dec. 12, 2012.

For a complete box score, click here.

JBL_CMYK_NoHarmanNoRBallWEEI is how you listen to Celtics coverage. JBL cutting-edge wireless headphones and speakers are how you feel like you’re there. As the official Sound of the Celtics, Isaiah Thomas and the NBA, JBL is Made for the Biggest Stage.

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Mike Petraglia, Ben Kichen dissect Klay Thompson-to-Celtics rumor, wonder when real Celtics will appear

11.16.16 at 8:05 pm ET
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On this week’s Celtics podcast, Trags and Ben discuss the latest trade rumors for Klay Thompson, the C’s defensive woes, and why Kelly Olynyk needs to wake up.

JBL_CMYK_NoHarmanNoRBallWEEI is how you listen to Celtics coverage. JBL cutting-edge wireless headphones and speakers are how you feel like you’re there. As the official Sound of the Celtics, Isaiah Thomas and the NBA, JBL is Made for the Biggest Stage.

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Celtics pregame notes: Al Horford misses 8th straight game, Jae Crowder out for his 7th straight

11.16.16 at 7:25 pm ET
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Marcus Smart

Marcus Smart

The Celtics will continue to be without Jae Crowder and Al Horford, at least for Wednesday’s tilt against the Mavericks, as they continue to learn to play without the pair of mainstays in the lineup.

Crowder is out with a left ankle sprain, while Horford continues to make his way through the NBA concussion protocol. And though returns could be on the horizon given the nature of the injuries, coach Brad Stevens noted he has “no clue” as to an exact timetable for either. The day-to-day nature of of the pair makes coaching decisions challenging for Stevens, but as time has gone on, he’s found a way to ease the process.

“I just kind of go through and scout, and if they’re available I’ll figure that out when the time comes. But until then I’m going unavailable in my own mind, I think that’s the best way to do it, the best way to organize you’re thoughts,” Stevens said. “If Al is able to play down the road, later in the week, we’ll throw Al right in there and I’ll adjust quickly. I think the best way is to plan without those guys, especially if they haven’t played in a while.”

Regardless of results, as of late, the Celtics have still been showing improvement with Crowder and Horford’s absence. And as exciting as those returns may be once they happen, it’s not a sure sign that the C’s will automatically experience an upswing in wins.

“I think it will still be an adjustment when we do [get everyone back] just because those guys haven’t played in a while,” Stevens said. “Until then we still have to focus on playing well, I thought we’ve made good strides the last three games. It was disappointing coming up short against New Orleans, but defensively we’ve made good strides, and we’ve had some younger players do some things they haven’t done before, so that’s a positive step moving forward.”

In the meantime, it has allowed younger players such as Marcus Smart to step up. 

“I think [Smart’s] played pretty well. And he’s always been god competiively, he’s making shots, doing a lot of tough things. He’s playing undersized almost every night that he’s on the floor, by four inches a night usually. So he’s really doing a good job.”

One thing Smart has done so far is hit shots. Not known for being a knockdown shooter by any stretch, he’s shooting 41.7 percent from the field and 35 percent from 3-point territory. Smart noted periodically throughout the offseason and into the season that he has put in quite a bit of work in improving his shot. And while that work has helped, Stevens added that his shot selection has also improved as well, allowing him to shoot higher-percentage shots.

He’ll start Wednesday night, as will Amir Johnson, Kelly Olynyk, Avery Bradley and Isaiah Thomas.

JBL_CMYK_NoHarmanNoRBallWEEI is how you listen to Celtics coverage. JBL cutting-edge wireless headphones and speakers are how you feel like you’re there. As the official Sound of the Celtics, Isaiah Thomas and the NBA, JBL is Made for the Biggest Stage.

Read More: Al Horford, Jae Crowder, Marcus Smart,
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