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Celtics Pregame: With Avery Bradley on minutes restriction, Brad Stevens will rely on Jaylen Brown against Cavaliers

03.01.17 at 8:14 pm ET
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Brad Stevens says Bradley will continue to play limited minutes for the Celtics (Josue Pavon/WEEI.com)

While Avery Bradley will continue playing on a minutes restriction, Celtics coach Brad Stevens will continue to lean on his rookie for steady production in the second half.

After missing 18 straight games, Bradley returned to the starting lineup against the Hawks on Monday. He finished with six points on 2-of-4 shots in 15 first-half minutes.

Bradley will most likely have a similar outing against the Cavaliers, which will give Jaylen Brown another opportunity to play extended minutes, especially in the second half.

Brown, who has clocked in over 25 minutes in each of his last three games, has been very efficient for the Celtics. Since the All-Star break, Brown is averaging 13.6 points while shooting at a 59.2 percent clip.

“Jaylen has been playing well,” Brad Stevens said. “I think he’s made a strong case to stay in that rotation. We’ll just continue to play like that.”

Lately, Brown has also proven he isn’t afraid to take big shots towards the end of the fourth quarter. His go-ahead 3-pointer with 37 seconds left against the Pistons last Sunday gave the Celtics a two-point lead and they never looked back in the Celtics’ only win in the last four games.

According to Stevens, the 15-25 minutes restriction on Bradley will be lifted by next week but until then the Celtics will need more minutes for Bradley than the 15 he saw against the Hawks. Against an offensive powerhouse like the Cavaliers, Bradley can do a good job in slowing down All-Star guard Kyrie Irving.

The Cavaliers enter Wednesday night’s game averaging 111.1 points per game, third in the NBA behind the Rockets and Warriors. However, against the Celtics, the Cavs averaged 126 points in their last two outings, including  LeBron James and Irving averaging a combined 54 points. 

Stevens will look to get the most out of his best on-ball defender in Bradley in the first half before giving Brown meaningful minutes against the champion Cavaliers. 

Andrew Bogut reportedly chooses Cavaliers over Celtics, Rockets

02.28.17 at 8:51 pm ET
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Andrew Bogut

Andrew Bogut

In the end, Andrew Bogut ended up exactly where we expected him.

According to the Vertical’s Adrian Wojnarowski, the free-agent big man will sign with the defending champion Cleveland Cavaliers this weekend. The 76ers acquired him from the Mavericks at the trade deadline and then bought him out on Monday. He is expected to clear waivers on Wednesday.

Bogut has been limited to 26 games this year by knee and hamstring injuries. He reportedly narrowed his choices down to the Cavs, Celtics, and Rockets before settling on LeBron James and Co.

The Celtics were interested in Bogut as a potential rebounder who could shore up the inside, where the C’s have taken a beating recently.

Bogut is averaging three points and 8.3 rebounds this year.

Read More: Andrew Bogut, Celtics rumors,

Isaiah Thomas 20 point streak comes to an end: ‘Tonight was just an off night for me’

02.28.17 at 12:18 am ET
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Feb 27, 2017; Boston, MA, USA; Boston Celtics guard Isaiah Thomas (4) drives to the basket past Atlanta Hawks forward Taurean Prince (12) during the first half at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

Isaiah Thomas (4) drives to the basket past Atlanta Hawks forward Taurean Prince (12) during the first half at TD Garden. (Bob DeChiara/USA Today Sports)

An ugly defeat to the Atlanta Hawks 114-98 wasn’t the only Celtics’ loss on Monday night.

Isaiah Thomas saw his 43 game streak of 20 or more points come to an end against the Hawks in a 19-point performance on a dreadful shooting night for the C’s. Boston shot just 39.1 percent on the night from the field.

Thomas, who had just two points in the fourth quarter, went 4-for-21 from the field. And the only reason he came within a point of extending his streak to 44 games was his 10-for-10 effort from the free throw line. He also went just 1-for-6 from beyond the 3-point arc. He still led the team in scoring.

“Tonight was just an off night for me,” said Thomas. “You have those, and we played Toronto and they showed two or three guys, I can’t run through the whole team.”

It was an all around frustrating night for the Celtics.

“We’re not gonna hit every shot every game,” said Jaylen Brown, who shot 6-for-10 to add 15 points. “But I do expect us to play a little bit better than what we did.”

Avery Bradley made his return to the lineup, playing 15 minutes in the first half. He didn’t see any floor time when the Celtics were outscored 63-51.

“I just feel like we didn’t play hard enough,” Bradley said. “In the second half they played harder than us. They punked us.”

The shooting was the obvious problem on Monday night, but it wasn’t the only focus for the Celtics to improve on.

“If there’s one thing I’d like us to get back to it’s taking care of the ball at the level we were before the break,” said head coach Brad Stevens.

Thomas scored only two points in the fourth quarter, uncharacteristic of his recent late game dramatics. This comes after struggling as well late in the loss to the Toronto Raptors on Friday night.

“The whole world knows what time it is in the fourth quarter and they’re game-planning to stop me,” Thomas said.

Thomas also saw his rivalry with Hawks’ guard Dennis Schroder mellow on the court as Al Horford and Dwight Howard mixed things up in the third quarter, and Howard was eventually ejected.

Thomas wasn’t interested in talking about his rival guard after the game.

“You keep bringing him up,” he said. “I’m done talking about that guy. There’s nothing. He’ll probably say something over there, I don’t know.”

Stevens had more concerns than just Thomas in the loss.

“I’m not worried about Isaiah,” said Stevens. “I’m worried about how we’re playing”

Along with shooting issues, the Celtics rebounding woes continued to be prominent as Thomas was the team’s leading rebounder through three quarters while Horford struggled against his former team. Horford finished with six rebounds while Thomas led the team with seven.

With the 20-point run coming to an end on the same night Thomas was honored pre-game with the Eastern Conference player of the month award, the point guard isn’t upset about the streak being snapped.

“I’ll break it again,” Thomas said.

Read More: Boston Celtics, Isaiah Thomas,

Report: Celtics remain in contention for free agent center Andrew Bogut

02.28.17 at 12:07 am ET
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Andrew Bogut

Andrew Bogut

Don’t send Andrew Bogut to Cleveland just yet.

According to the Boston Globe, the free agent center has narrowed his list of preferred destinations to five or six teams, and the Celtics are one of them.

Bogut was waived by the 76ers on Monday after being acquired from the Mavericks at Thursday’s trade deadline. He’s averaging just 3 points and 8.3 rebounds in 26 games this year, and has been slowed by knee and hamstring injuries.

He’s also a proven rebounder and interior presence, and the Celtics desperately need some size and toughness. They were once again badly outrebounded (55-40) in Monday’s blowout loss to the Hawks.

Celtics hoops boss Danny Ainge told the Globe that he’s not ruling out a dive into the buyout market, but he’s not feeling any pressure, either.

“I like our team right now,” he told the paper, “and unless something really jumps out to us where I feel like we can get significantly better, I’d just assume keep our team intact.”

Bogut is expected to sign on Wednesday after clearing waivers, and a Globe source disputed reports that he’s signed, sealed and delivered to the Cavs, insisting that not only do the Celtics remain in play, but that Bogut hopes to speak to some Boston players to get a feel for the situation on Tuesday.

Read More: Andrew Bogut, Cavaliers, Celtics rumors,

Monday’s loss to the Hawks reveals the true need for Andrew Bogut, and why Isaiah Thomas can’t do everything

02.27.17 at 9:54 pm ET
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The Celtics might be able to skate past the dregs of the Eastern Conference, as they barely did Sunday night in Detroit.

But if Monday proved anything, come springtime, the Celtics are going to have to play bigger and tougher in the paint if they have any aspirations of extending play into May. 

Dennis Schroder outplayed Isaiah Thomas and the Atlanta Hawks blasted the Celtics after Dwight Howard’s ejection in a 114-98 rout of Boston Monday night at TD Garden. Thomas had just two points in the fourth quarter and finished with 19, ending his franchise streak of games with at least 20 points at 43 games. 

The Celtics, who hosted a beardless Julian Edelman next to their bench, were abused in the paint in the first half, getting outscored 28-14 and out-rebounded 32-21. Brad Stevens has said all season that he’s fully aware that his team will not be winning any rebounding battles. 

But there comes a time and a place where getting overpowered eventually wears you down. That was the case Monday. When Isaiah Thomas is your leading rebounder through three quarters, Marcus Smart is your best low post option and the other team has Dwight Howard, that’s an issue. 

If there’s any truth to the report from the Globe’s Adam Himmelsbach that Andrew Bogut, officially bought out Monday by Philadelphia, is interested in coming to Boston, the Celtics should do everything in their power to make sure he doesn’t leave Tuesday’s meeting without signing on the dotted line. 

Monday’s game was much more than just a team playing on the second night of a back-to-back. It was about a bigger, stronger team taking it to them physically. Al Horford is a lot of things. A true big man he is not. Down 17 with six minutes left in the game, Stevens rested Horford, presumably to save him for the defending world champs Wednesday night at TD Garden. 

For a full box score and summary of Monday’s game vs. Atlanta, click here

The Celtics raced out to a 15-7 lead as Avery Bradley returned, showing the same sharp-shooting form he showed before his Achilles injury of early January that forced him to miss 22 of his previous 23 games. Bradley hit the first shot he took, a wide-open 25-footer for three from the left wing. As a matter of fact, the Celtics connected on their first three attempts from beyond the arc as they built the early cushion. 

But Atlanta responded with an 11-0 run midway through the first quarter, turning a seven-point Celtics lead into a four-point hole. 

Dennis Schroder and Isaiah Thomas seemed to put their running – sometimes acrimonious – rivalry to the side. It was Schroder who accused Thomas of disparaging comments during a January game directed at Schroder’s mother. Thomas vehemently denied this charge. The two had a very animated but civil exchange in which both appeared to smile and joust with one another. 

Then, following a Thomas drive to the basket midway through the second quarter, it was Schroder who helped Thomas back to his feet. 

Things were more intense in the second half. After Dwight Howard grabbed a driving Isaiah Thomas from behind on a move to the basket, Howard escaped a flagrant foul after review. Then, less than a minute later, as Howard was fighting for a rebound under the Celtics basket, Al Horford fouled Howard hard. Howard responded with a shove to the chest of Horford and was given a technical foul. 

The Celtics then caught a huge break when Howard picked up up second technical of the game for hanging on the rim and flipping his head back on a dunk with 4:03 left in the third quarter. The dunk made it 74-65 Hawks. 

Horford continues to do most of his offensive work on the perimeter. This paid dividends in the third quarter when he found a back-cutting Jaylen Brown for a crowd-energizing, alley oop dunk. 

Without Howard, things only got worse for the Celtics as they trailed 84-71 after three. Boston fell behind by 17, 90-73, with just over nine minutes left. 

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Read More: Atlanta Hawks, Boston Celtics, Dennis Schroder, Dwight Howard

Celtics pregame: Avery Bradley returns after 18-game absence, starts vs. Hawks

02.27.17 at 6:27 pm ET
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Jan 6, 2017; Boston, MA, USA;  Boston Celtics guard Avery Bradley (0) during the second half against the Philadelphia 76ers at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

Avery Bradley returns after an 18-game absence with a sore Achilles. (Bob DeChiara/USA Today Sports)

For the first time since Jan. 16, Avery Bradley will take the court for the Celtics in a game.

And coach Brad Stevens is going to see quickly if the shooting guard is really ready.

Stevens announced before Monday’s game that Bradley will start against the Hawks after missing the previous 18 games with a sore right Achilles.

Stevens did indicate that Bradley – averaging 34.9 minutes in 36 games this season – would be on a restriction of “15-to-25 minutes” this week as he returns against the Hawks, Cavaliers and Lakers. 

Bradley, who is averaging 17.7 points, 6.9 rebounds and 2.4 assists this season, played against the Hornets on Jan. 16 but clearly wasn’t himself.

He made just 2-of-9 shots from the field (1-for-6 from long range) in 33 minutes, adding three rebounds and three assists in Boston’s 108-98 win.

Prior to that game, Bradley missed the previous four games with the Achilles injury. 

Bradley reiterated before the game what he said two weeks ago, that he was anxious to return “four weeks ago” but understood the team’s precaution. 

Bradley’s biggest impact could come in an area the Celtics need help – rebounding. His 6.9 average per game leads the team, 0.3 more than Al Horford. He is one of the more athletic No. 2 guards in the league and uses it to effectively rebound. He and Marcus Smart are two of the more physical guards in the East and it’s no coincidence that the Celtics struggled with offensive rebounding in his absence. 

That, of course, was offset by the fact that the other guard, Isaiah Thomas is in the midst of an MVP-caliber season offensively. In Bradley’s 18-game absence, the Celtics went 12-6. They are 15-7 in the last 22 games without him in the lineup. 

With Bradley starting and Stevens indicating that he doesn’t plan to alter his minutes early in the games this week, it means that rookie Jaylen Brown returns to the bench. This move deepens the bench significantly with the likes of Kelly Olynyk and Marcus Smart, who returned to his customary sixth-man role beginning with the Raptors game after the All-Star break. 

Read More: Atlanta Hawks, Avery Bradley, Boston Celtics,

Win in Detroit shows Celtics need their young guns now more than ever

02.26.17 at 8:51 pm ET
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Feb 26, 2017; Auburn Hills, MI, USA; Detroit Pistons forward Stanley Johnson (7) dribbles the ball during the second quarter as Boston Celtics guard Terry Rozier (12) defends at The Palace of Auburn Hills. Mandatory Credit: Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports

Stanley Johnson (7) dribbles the ball during the second quarter as Boston Celtics guard Terry Rozier (12) defends at The Palace of Auburn Hills. Mandatory Credit: Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports

Ugly is as ugly does. 

In one of the choppiest and most disconcerting games of the season, the Celtics blew a 15-point third-quarter lead and allowed the ice-cold Pistons to take a late lead. 

Jaylen Brown drilled a baseline three with 37.6 seconds left to give the Celtics the lead for good and Marcus Smart showed his typical toughness by drawing a foul and making two free throws to power the Celtics past the Pistons, 104-98, Sunday night at the Palace of Auburn Hills. 

The win snapped a two-game skid and lifted Boston to 38-21 on the season. 

The Celtics were awful on the offensive glass after misses by the Pistons at the free throw line. They allowed five offensive rebounds by the Pistons on such instances, two of them leading to wide-open 3-pointers. 

The Pistons were awful at the free throw line, led by Andre Drummond, the worst free-throw shooter in NBA history. The Detroit big man missed 10 of his 11 attempts on the night and the Pistons were 16-for-35 as a team from the charity stripe. 

Isaiah Thomas scored 16 of his game-high 33 points in the first half as the Celtics used an 18-3 run to build their lead up to as many as 12, 47-35. 

Terry Rozier and Jaylen Brown were a combined 7-for-9 from the field in the first half. Rozier, a key player with Avery Bradley out of action for the last six weeks, made offensive impact backing up Isaiah Thomas at the point. He also saw some playing time with Thomas. (Coach Brad Stevens indicated before Sunday’s game that Bradley could return this week, possibly against the Hawks Monday night after missing the last 18 games with a sore right Achilles). 

Brown has turned into one of the very best two-way transition players the Celtics have. He showed both in the first half as the Celtics held control most of the time. He was a plus-14 in 12 minutes of action. 

Morris connected on a 30-foot three at the buzzer that cut it to a 54-50 Celtics lead. The Celtics took 17 threes and made five. 

For a full box score and statistical recap of Sunday’s game in Detroit, click here.

With former teammates like Chauncey Billups, Rasheed Wallace and coaches Larry Brown and Jim Calhoun looking on, the Pistons then held an extended, emotional halftime ceremony to retire the No. 32 of former UConn and Pistons star Richard “Rip” Hamilton. “This is surreal. This is surreal,” Hamilton said in his opening remarks.

“See what Ray Allen do? I’m going to do the same thing for you that I did for Ray Allen,” Hamilton told Calhoun as he recalled Calhoun’s message to him at UConn in 1996. Hamilton was the most outstanding player for the Huskies as UConn won their first national championship in 1999. 

Hamilton played nine seasons in Detroit and was a key part of the 2004 Pistons team that swept the Lakers in the NBA Finals. 

James Young, a Detroit native, told CSNNE’s Abby Chin before the game that Hamilton was his role model and idol growing up. 

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