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Outside shooting carries Celtics in win over Pelicans

01.07.17 at 10:14 pm ET
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Isaiah Thomas

Isaiah Thomas

The Celtics continue to live by the 3. 

It’s been their m.o. lately and made a difference in their 117-108 victory over the Pelicans. The C’s have now won four consecutive games, including 10 of their last 12.

Luckily for the Celtics, they have been living well from deep. Throughout their last four games, the C’s have shot 51 percent on 71-of-139 attempts from outside. 

Fresh off their win against the Sixers — where they drained 19 3-pointers, a new franchise record — the C’s continued their streak of hot outside shooting against the Pelicans. Boston flirted with the franchise’s 3-point record while shooting 50 percent from the floor on 18-of-36 attempts from deep.

Isaiah Thomas and Marcus Smart were on fire — they combined for 11-of-18 from 3.

Led by Anthony Davis’ 13-point first-quarter, the Pelicans grabbed a 10-point, first-half lead before the Celtics found their offensive momentum. The Pelicans big man finished with a monster double-double (36 points, 15 rebounds) but his big-time performance was no match against Celtics’ outside touch combined with a 38-point night by Thomas, who has stretched his streak of scoring 20-plus points to 12 consecutive games — the longest streak in the league. 

(For a complete recap of the Celtics’ win, click here.)

The Celtics caught fire after halftime — they knocked down 5-of-9 from behind the arc and grabbed a 14-point lead (75-61) midway through the third quarter. They outscored New Orleans, 36-20, in the third quarter and began the final frame with a 20-point lead (93-73). The C’s knocked down 9-of-18 from downtown in the second half. 

Smart, who got the start over Avery Bradley (sprained Achilles), put together his best shooting night of the season. Smart knocked in a season-high 5-of-7 from outside and finished with 22 points to go with his 6 assists, 5 rebounds and three steals. He was locked in on both ends of the floor and triggered excellent ball movement throughout his teammates on the offensive end. 

However, it’s going to be interesting to see how the Celtics will perform when the 3-pointers aren’t falling. The C’s are shooting 36.5 percent from outside this season — good enough for ninth in the league — yet, there isn’t one player in the team’s rotation who is afraid to attempt a 3-pointer, even Amir Johnson will rarely pass up an open 3.

They may find out how tough it is to win a game without making 17 or 18 3-pointers, like they’ve done the past four games, in Toronto when they take on the eastern conference’s second-best team in the Raptors (24-11) on Tuesday night.

Read More: Anthony Davis, Isaiah Thomas,

Escape act against Sixers shows Celtics still have big problems down low

01.06.17 at 10:07 pm ET
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The Celtics are lucky their best big man was also their most clutch 3-point shooter Friday night. 

On a night when Joel Embiid owned the paint with 23 points and eight rebounds, Al Horford countered with 19 points and 12 rebounds, including four threes in the final 12 minutes to allow Boston to escape, 110-106, at TD Garden. 

Horford connected on the decisive three with 17.2 seconds left to put the Celtics up 107-106. Boston won for ninth time in 11 games to improve to 22-14 on the season. 

The Celtics can also count themselves fortunate that Ben Simmons – who traveled with Philly for the first time Friday – was not in uniform and playing. If he were, the Celtics would not have had enough answers. 

Sixers coach Brett Brown raved and raved and raved pregame about Isaiah Thomas. Then Avery Bradley came out and dropped 14 points in the opening quarter against Philly to remind him and everyone else just how good the Celtics (at least on offense) can be when it’s not just Thomas doing the scoring.

On the night that the Celtics handed out pamphlets pushing Bradley as their second worthy All-Star candidate, the guard made the team’s media relations department look smart. Bradley finished just six points shy of his career-high with 26 points while Thomas added 24. The two combined for 50 points to offset the Sixers’ dominance inside.

The Sixers abused the Celtics in the first half in the paint, outscoring the Celtics, 30-6, and taking a commanding 62-51 lead. Philly ended the game outscoring Boston 46-18 in the paint.

Philadelphia showed the glimpses of the team they might become if Ben Simmons comes back healthy and joins the likes of Joel Embiid, Nerlens Noel and Ersan Ilyasova. There was the monstrous block of Al Horford from behind by Noel midway through the first half. There was the 17 points in 14 minutes from Embiid. And Ersan Ilyasova poured in 11 points on 3-of-5 shooting from deep. 

In the first half, the 9-24 visitors were clearly the more athletic and energetic team.  

(For a complete recap of the Celtics’ win, click here.)

The fact that the young Sixers came out strong and with energy in the opening 24 minutes should not concern Celtics fans. 

The face that they dominated the Celtics physically in their own building should. Al Horford did have 10 rebounds and was 1-for-7 from the field. But the rest of Boston’s inside game was MIA. 

Ironically, it was Thomas who was struggling badly to start the game, matching a season-high with five turnovers in the first 17 minutes of the game. 

The Sixers haven’t won a game in Boston since the end of the 2013-14 season, Stevens’ first in Boston and a season that ended 25-57. That year, the Sixers took three of four from the Celtics. Including Friday, the Celtics have now won 10 straight from the Sixers.

With 11:34 left in the fourth, the Celtics finally drew back even when Marcus Smart got into the paint and threw one up and in. On the next possession, the Celtics took their first lead since 27-25 early in the second quarter. 

With 7:33 remaining, the Sixers reclaimed the lead, 90-89, on a Noel alley-oop dunk after the Celtics went up by five, 89-84. But the Celtics came back with a three from Horford to take the lead. Horford did it again five minutes later to snap a 97-97 tie. Horford’s fourth trey of the fourth put the Celtics up, 107-106, with 17.2 seconds left. 

Read More: Al Horford, Avery Bradley, Boston Celtics, Joel Embiid

Brett Brown gives Joel Embiid his shot at Isaiah Thomas: ‘[Embiid] is a big personality type of player’

01.06.17 at 9:04 pm ET
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A lot of players have tried – in vain – to stop Isaiah Thomas this year. The Celtics point guard who 

Philly’s Joel Embiid, before Friday’s game, was the latest to express his desire to get in on the action.

“I think it’s a reflection of how he sees himself,” Sixers coach Brett Brown said in his pre-game media session. “I think it’s a reflection of an attitude that I appreciate. There is an inner confidence. There is a self-belief. There is a fearlessness to say things kind of out of the box. He’s a big personality type player.

“Guarding him at times you may have to switch, because they have the ability to pick-and-pop Horford or Olynyk and those guys can shoots threes and that’s part of the challenge of guarding Isaiah in pick-and-rolls where when you give him attention they now have the ability to pick-and-pop guys that can shoot threes at a high percentage. So in that circumstance, Joel might find himself on Isaiah Thomas.”

As it turned out, Embiid didn’t have to chase Thomas, at least in the first half. The Celtics guard took it to him in the first half, with mixed results. 

Thomas matched his season high with five turnovers in the first 17 minutes as Embiid flashed out on him a couple of times. The Celtics crowd, fresh from cheering for Gordon Hayward, starting chanting “Trust the Process” in an ode to his physical skills as well as an effort to get in his head. 

But what the Sixers – and every other team that’s played Thomas – is aware of is his explosiveness in the clutch, namely the fourth quarter. Thomas scored 29 of his 52 points in the final 12 minutes against the Heat on Dec. 30. 

“He almost singlehandedly beat us in that one-point loss in Philadelphia,” Brown said of Thomas’ 13 fourth-quarter points in Boston’s 107-106 win on Dec. 3. “He’s just so elusive. He’s got the ability to create off the dribble. That might sound like it’s common to say that, but it’s rare and it’s hard to guard somebody who can create their own shot and at times doesn’t need a pick and roll.”

Thomas finished that game with 37 points and the Celtics escaped with a win. 

“So, we’ve got to choose the defenders we feel have a chance to guard somebody that elusive, that dynamic,” Brown said. “I had a chance to see his 50-whatever point game against Miami and that massive fourth period and he’s an All-Star for a reason so we have to really – as a team – just [mark] off a few guys we think can just stalk him and make his life as difficult as we can.”

Read More: Boston Celtics, Isaiah Thomas, Joel Embiid, NBA

Pregame Friday: Celtics look for guys like Jae Crowder with ‘chips on their shoulders’, Tyler Zeller out the weekend

01.06.17 at 7:27 pm ET
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Listening to Brad Stevens before Friday’s game with the Sixers and you get the distinct idea that Celtics didn’t mind Jae Crowder being ticked off by the cheers for Gordon Hayward Tuesday night at TD Garden.

They could’ve just done without him taking his frustrations to social media.

“I think the chip on your shoulder thing is a good thing in a lot of ways,” Stevens said. “Jae talked about it again [Thursday]. I think the one thing that he said he wishes he wouldn’t have taken it to Twitter late. But at the end of the day, we’ve prioritized guys with chips on their shoulders and guys that really want to be good and believe they can be really good and work the right way because we think that’s contagious.”

Danny Ainge also indicated on the team’s flagship station Thursday morning that he wouldn’t mind Celtics fans cheering opposing team’s players if it’s going to inspire Crowder to greatness on the court. Stevens indicated he thought Crowder would not miss a beat and continue playing well.

“I would think fine,” Stevens said. “Yeah, I mean I would think fine. And he said his part [Thursday] and we’ve talked about it a lot. So, our focus since right after media was over [Thursday] was on the Sixers and getting ready for tonight’s game.”

Crowder is averaging 13.3 points, five rebounds and 2.3 assists this season.

Fingers crossed: The Celtics will be without back-up big man Tyler Zeller for two more games as he battles to return from a stomach bug that sent him to the hospital on New Year’s Day.

“Tyler is out for the next two games,” Stevens said Friday. “He got on the bike [Thursday]. He’s going to work out again today but he’s still pretty under weather. Jordan Mickey’s got it now so he’s out. That’s it for now. James Young continues to be out an ankle sprain.”

Stevens was asked if he was feeling OK. “I’m good, knock on wood,” the coach quipped. “Same precautions everybody else takes, right. Wash your hands and cross your fingers.”

What about a quarantine for Isaiah Thomas?

“It’s all part of it,” Stevens said without missing a beat. “You go and see any game that’s played in the NBA right now, somebody’s been sick. You just move on with who’s available.”

All-Star push: The Celtics continued their social media and media relations campaign to get representation on the All-Star team this February in New Orleans. Friday’s focus: Avery Bradley. The guard is averaging career-highs in points (17.8), rebounds (6.9), assists (2.4) and 3-point percentage (40.8). Of course, Bradley is considered the Celtics best defensive player as well. Stevens was asked Friday if a player’s defense should factor in the selection of such honors as All-Stars and player of the month.

“Should be half because that’s half the game but that’s not the way those things are chosen,” Stevens said.

Read More: Avery Bradley, Boston Celtics, Jae Crowder, NBA

Report: Bulls shopping All-Star guard Jimmy Butler; could Celtics be interested?

01.06.17 at 12:02 pm ET
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Jimmy Butler

Jimmy Butler

Let us, for a moment, set aside our love affair with Gordon Hayward to focus on an even bigger fish — Bulls guard Jimmy Butler.

According to Bleacher Report’s Ric Bucher, the Bulls quietly started shopping Butler weeks ago and are open to moving the All-Star for the right price. The Celtics have reportedly made a strong push in the past, with ESPN reporting last June that the C’s made the most aggressive offer for Butler right before the draft.

Their interest makes total sense, because Butler is blossoming into a star. He’s averaging a career-high 25.2 points and 6.8 rebounds a game, as well as 4.5 assists. He has become the team’s go-to scorer in crunch time — on Wednesday, he scored 14 of his 20 points in the fourth quarter to lead the Bulls past the Cavaliers — and he’s solve a lot of problems for the Celtics on both ends of the floor.

A tremendous defender, he’s also shooting .456 from the floor. He’s not a great 3-point shooter (.336 this year, .329 lifetime), but he’s an accomplished scorer who’d give the team another option besides diminutive sparkplug Isaiah Thomas late in games.

The Bulls have benched point guard Rajon Rondo and are struggling to crack .500 in the Eastern Conference, so a rebuild could be in their near future, with Butler their most marketable piece.

Read More: Bulls, Celtics, Jimmy Butler, NBA rumors

Turtle from ‘Entourage’ begs NBA fans to vote Isaiah Thomas for the All-Star Game

01.05.17 at 10:55 pm ET
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Actor Jerry Ferrara is better known as Turtle from the long-running HBO series (and movie) “Entourage,” and appropriate of someone who once called Marky-Mark boss, the New York native and unabashed Knicks fan has a new favorite player he’d like to see recognized — Celtics guard Isaiah Thomas.

In a series of tweets on Thursday night, Ferrara praised Thomas and implored NBA fans to vote for him to play in the All-Star Game.

Ferrara is as big a Knicks fan as they come, but even he recognizes the leap Thomas has made this season. In the last week alone, Thomas has scored 52 points one night and recorded 15 assists on another.

Thomas currently ranks fourth among guards in the Eastern Conference with 193,297 votes, well behind leaders Kyrie Irving of the Cavs (543,030), Dwyane Wade of the Bulls (278,052), and DeMar DeRozan of the Raptors (253,340).

Still, with Turtle on his side, anything is possible. After all, things always had a way of working themselves out for Vince.

Read More: Celtics, Entourage, Isaiah Thomas, Jerry Ferrara

Jae Crowder stands by criticism of cheering for Gordon Hayward, apologizes for dissing Boston

01.05.17 at 1:35 pm ET
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Jazz forward Gordon Hayward shoots over Celtics counterpart Jae Crowder on Tuesday. (Greg M. Cooper/USA Today Sports)

Jazz forward Gordon Hayward shoots over Celtics counterpart Jae Crowder on Tuesday. (Greg M. Cooper/USA Today Sports)

Jae Crowder is apologizing, but he isn’t backing down.

Speaking to reporters before Celtics practice on Thursday, Crowder said he regretted some of his “heat of the moment” comments on Twitter following Tuesday’s victory over the Jazz, when he blasted Celtics fans for cheering potential free agent target Gordon Hayward. But he stood by his assertion that home fans shouldn’t cheer rival players.

“I was really angry after the game, obviously,” Crowder told reporters, including Chris Forsberg of ESPNBoston. “I said what I had to say after the game. I probably should have left it right there. I went on Twitter and said what I had to say, and there’s nothing that I regret going back and forth with fans on Twitter — that’s how I was feeling at the time.

“Obviously, I don’t want to leave Boston. Obviously, I love it here. Obviously, the fans have treated me great. No doubt about that.

“I still stand behind what I said about how I felt disrespected when they’re cheering for Gordon Hayward. I live with that. I stand behind that 100 percent as a man, as a basketball player who puts my time away from my family into it.”

Crowder got into a back-and-forth with fans over the intent of his remarks, tweeting — and subsequently deleting — that he’d be happy to leave Boston. He regretted that comment, but still doesn’t understand why Celtics fans would cheer Hayward, who played for head coach Brad Stevens at Butler. Celtics fans have similarly applauded Kevin Durant and DeMarcus Cousins in the past.

“I didn’t like that, either,” Crowder said. “I just remember when I got here a couple years ago and we were however many games under .500, the fans cheered for us. Not one time did they cheer for another player when they came into town. Things have changed since then, I’m aware of that. That’s never happened in an arena that I’ve been in. I’ve never been on the road and got cheered for, or even one of my teammates get cheered for by the opposing team.

“It’s just something different for me that really set me off. I don’t like when they cheer for DeMarcus Cousins, I don’t like when they cheer for Kevin Durant. I don’t think you should do that. That’s all I was saying.”

Read More: Celtics, DeMarcus Cousins, Gordon Hayward, Jae Crowder
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