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Jae Crowder takes some steps, Kelly Olynyk showing off some D

03.23.16 at 7:26 pm ET
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Celtics forward Jae Crowder (99) drives to the hoop against Houston Rockets guard James Harden (13) during the second half at TD Garden on Mar. 11. (Mark L. Baer/USA Today Sports)

Celtics forward Jae Crowder (99) drives to the hoop against Houston Rockets guard James Harden (13) during the second half at TD Garden. (Mark L. Baer/USA Today Sports)

Jae Crowder continues to take some small steps on his way back from the high sprain of his right ankle that forced him to miss his sixth straight game Wednesday night against the Raptors.

“He shot [Tuesday] with [assistant coach] Jamie Young for a while,” Brad Stevens said before Wednesday’s game against Toronto. “He shot pregame today but from what I’ve been told, I don’t think there’s any movement shooting. I think it’s just spot shooting so no real update. He’s going to go on our trip. I don’t want to put a timeline on him but I don’t anticipate him playing early in the trip.”

Stevens was asked if he thinks Crowder’s uncertainly might leave the Celtics a bit shorthanded on the five-game trip out West.

“I don’t think so right now. Obviously, if we have more issues, we’ll address as we move forward.” 

The Celtics sent Coty Clarke and James Young on the trip out to Texas for games Wednesday and Friday. They are expected to join the Celtics when they begin their trip in Phoenix Saturday night. 

“I expect them to, yeah. I haven’t talked to Danny [Ainge] yet. They play on their trip and then they’re going to hop over and join us after that,” Stevens said. 

One of the keys to the Celtics keeping pace without Crowder is the continued play of Kelly Olynyk. On Monday, Olynyk scored 22 points off the bench against the Magic. But his defense also made an impact on Stevens. 

“I think he’s a position player. He’s a guy that can keep people in front of him,” Stevens said. “He actually switches better than people think. He’s got pretty good feet on the perimeter and he’s good in our pick-and-roll system. Kelly’s greatest strength on the defensive end is adding to the team defense.

“He’ s a guy that’s been here three years and a guy with that kind of size and understands the game and feels good about the game. The game has slowed down for him in some ways and that can have a good impact.”

As anyone knows who watches the Celtics, shot-blocking is not Olynyk’s expertise. He has just 31 blocks in 58 games this season. 

“It’s not fair to compare him to a 7-foot shot blocker because he’s not a shot blocker,” Stevens said. “He’s a guy that has to use position, has to use his base, his feet and move and keep guys in front of him, and make the right play. He took the charge in Philly the other night with great positioning. The other day against Orlando, he had some great positioning plays. So, I think it’s a lot less about height. It’s a lot more about being in his stance and playing low and playing lower longer than the guy he’s playing against.”

Read More: Boston Celtics, Jae Crowder, Kelly Olynyk, NBA

Isaiah Thomas: ‘We’re getting there’ as Celtics eye big test against Raptors, West Coast trip

03.22.16 at 12:35 pm ET
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Funny what a few made shots will do to a team’s confidence.

Isaiah Thomas, who has for the most part been immune to his team’s recent shooting struggles, scored 28 points Monday night in a 107-96 win over the Magic.

But while he was 9-for-18 from the field it was the shooting of his teammates that gave Thomas some reason for optimism.

Starters Evan Turner (7-for-11), Amir Johnson (5-for-6) and Avery Bradley (9-for-15) and backup Kelly Olynyk (7-for-12) had their shots fall for a second straight night. In Philadelphia, the Celtics made 10-of-24 from 3-point range as the thaw from the ice cold week began to take hold.

“Guys finally hitting shots,” a relieved Thomas said. “I mean that losing streak, we really weren’t shooting the ball as well. We weren’t defending but on top of that, we weren’t hitting shots. Everybody is starting to shoot with confidence and step into their shots and make plays and I think that’s making it easier for everybody else.”

The one guy still not hitting shots is Marcus Smart. Monday, he was 1-for-11 from the field and missed all five from 3-point range.

“[Sunday] he made some and had a pretty productive offensive day,” Stevens said of Smart’s 6-of-12 shooting on a 15-point night against Philadelphia. “[Monday] wasn’t his night. You have to continue to shoot the good ones. You have to continue to shoot the right ones. When you shoot the right ones it allows you to rebound because you’re in position. He had a couple today where he had nice drives off of movement. He drove the slots, drove openings and drove close-outs. He’s going to have to make the right play and continue to believe. We believe in him.”

One player the Celtics definitely believe in right now is Amir Johnson. The Celtics forward had his sixth double-double (11 points, 11 rebounds) of the season Monday. They’re going to need him Wednesday as the Celtics look to salvage a win at home against Toronto before heading out West for five games.

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Read More: Amir Johnson, Boston Celtics, Brad Stevens, Isaiah Thomas

Mike Petraglia, Sam Packard on Isaiah Thomas, Kelly Olynyk, what’s ahead for Celtics

03.21.16 at 11:50 pm ET
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WEEI.com’s Mike Petraglia and Sam Packard break down the big performances of Isaiah Thomas (28 points) and Kelly Olynyk (22 points off the bench) in the Celtics’ 107-96 win over the Magic on Monday night at TD Garden. The win lifts the Celtics to 41-30 on the season, and keeps them in the hunt for a top-four spot in the Eastern Conference playoff race. Next up, the division-leading Raptors, a team the Celtics haven’t beaten this season in three tries, on Wednesday night at TD Garden.

Read More: Boston Celtics, Mike Petraglia, Orlando Magic, Sam Packard

Kelly Olynyk does away with shoulder brace, gets ‘back in rhythm’ with 22-point effort in win

03.21.16 at 11:46 pm ET
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In the previous three games with a black shoulder sleeve/brace protecting his injured right shoulder, Kelly Olynyk didn’t look like himself.

The best 3-point shooter on the team (41.3 percent) before his Feb. 10 injury against the Clippers could barely reach the rim with authority on his shot. And he knew it.

He made just one of ten from beyond the arc in losses against the Thunder and Raptors and a win over the Sixers Sunday night, including misses on all four tries in Philadelphia. He was just 5-of-22 overall (22.7 percent).

Something had to change so on Monday, before the game against the Magic, Olynyk decided to go without the brace and the impact was noticeable starting with shootaround, where he was getting more lift on his shot.

It paid off when he hit his first two shots from beyond the arc. He was in a rhythm and that propelled him to a 22-point night off the bench in Boston’s 107-96 win over the Magic at TD Garden.

“Yeah, just getting out there, back in the rhythm, back in motion, yeah, it was better range of motion without the shirt on, definitely. And just went out there and played confidently,” Olynyk said.

“If you miss six weeks of basketball, you’re going to be rusty when you get back,” coach Brad Stevens added. “Every game you play, every practice you have, you feel a little bit better. You don’t know when that’s really going to happen, especially with an upper-body injury where you haven’t been able to shoot much. But you knew it was going to come around at some point.”

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Read More: Boston Celtics, Brad Stevens, Kelly Olynyk, NBA

Studs and Duds: Isaiah Thomas dazzles, Celtics shut down Magic

03.21.16 at 9:54 pm ET
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Mar 21, 2016; Boston, MA, USA; Boston Celtics point guard Isaiah Thomas (4) is guarded by Orlando Magic forward Aaron Gordon (00) during the second quarter at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports

Celtics guard Isaiah Thomas jumps over slam dunk runner-up Aaron Gordon during the C’s win over the Magic. (Greg M. Cooper/USA Today Sports)

Maybe Isaiah Thomas was auditioning for a video game?

The 5-foot-9 guard was sensational en route to a 107-96 Celtics victory over the Magic on Monday night at the TD Garden.

Thomas finished with a game-high 28 points, adding seven assists and five rebounds. In addition to a number of highlight layups and assists, he attacked the basket and got to the free throw line, where he finished 11-of-12.

After both teams struggled to knock down open shots in a relatively ugly first half, the Celtics offense exploded for 35 points in the third quarter. Evan Turner dominated, scoring 11 of his 16 points and even knocking down his second 3-pointer of the game. After opening the season 11-for-69 (15.9 percent) on 3’s, Turner has made 6-of-11 since the All-Star break.

With Thomas and Turner on the bench to open the fourth, the Celtics struggled to score points, finishing with only 16 points in the frame. The Magic cut the deficit to just four with two minutes remaining, but Avery Bradley’s clutch shooting put the game out of reach. Thomas then sealed the game, stretching the C’s lead back to nine with a lay-in high off the glass with 37 seconds left.

In a tremendous sign for the Celtics, Kelly Olynyk played his best game since returning from his shoulder injury, scoring 22 points, including shooting 4-of-6 from 3. Amir Johnson continued to play well in Jae Crowder’s absence, finishing with a double-double (11 points, 11 rebounds).

Victor Oladipo led the Magic with 25 points in the loss, while Evan Fournier, Aaron Gordon and Andrew Nicholson also finished in double figures for Orlando (29-41).

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Brad Stevens says young Celtics bench stepping up: ‘They’ve all had their moments’

03.21.16 at 7:37 pm ET
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Tommy Heinsohn has lovingly called the back end of the Celtics bench a “D-League” group. While that’s more a clear reference to their youth and not necessarily their skill, the point is still there that it’s a unit that probably is not ready to step forward and produce at the NBA level for a team that fighting desperately for home court in the upcoming playoffs. 

But to Brad Stevens, the group led by Terry Rozier has been much more than just a group of throwaways. It’s been a group that’s been put in a position where they have no choice to step up with injuries to Kelly Olynyk, Jae Crowder and Jonas Jerebko. 

Rozier, R.J. Hunter, James Young, Coty Clarke and Jordan Mickey have all come off the bench for the Celtics, and not just at the end of games where the decision is already determined. All five of those players have seen action in the first half of Boston’s last five games at one time or another. When the Celtics were getting roughed up by the Pacers, Thunder and Raptors, Stevens turned to the back end of the bench to provide a spark. Against the Pacers and Raptors, it helped the Celtics stay in the game well into the second half. 

“They’ve all had their moments. They’ve all had their opportunities. I told our team if Coty Clarke is open, we should probably throw it to him since he’s never missed a three in an NBA game,” Stevens joked, referring to Clarke’s three in Indiana. “But hey, James has had good moments, especially I thought he did a good job in the first half of the Oklahoma City game, come in and kind of stem the tide as we were going to the bench. R.J. hit some big shots against Toronto. Jordan is obviously, Jordan. He’s just in the position where we have the most depth. So, I think they’ve all had their moments.” 

Rozier is the one player who has seen the most playing time of the group because he’s a guard who can come in and provide some support in Boston’s weak rebounding game. 

“I think Terry has really added to us in the last couple of games because I feel like he’s been able to handle the ball, make plays for others and rebound. That’s a big deal for our team. Rebounding has not been our best strength this entire season.

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Read More: Boston Celtics, Brad Stevens, Dwight Howard, James Young

Jonas Jerebko ‘cleared’ for return vs. Magic, Jae Crowder to travel on West Coast trip

03.21.16 at 6:43 pm ET
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Celtics forward Jonas Jerebko (8) shoots the ball against the Pacers. (Trevor Ruszkowski/USA Today Sports)

Celtics forward Jonas Jerebko (8) shoots the ball against the Pacers. (Trevor Ruszkowski/USA Today Sports)

The Celtics will get a key part of their bench back when they take on the Magic at TD Garden. 

Brad Stevens confirmed before Monday’s game that that the 6-foot-10 power forward will be available off Boston’s bench after missing the last three games with a sore Achilles that forced him to stay back in Boston and receive extensive treatment. 

The Celtics missed him in losses to the more versatile Thunder on Wednesday and the Raptors on Friday. The Celtics were able to compensate against the 61-loss 76ers on Sunday. 

“Jonas is, from everything I’ve been told, cleared to play tonight,” Stevens said. 

Jerebko is averaging just 4.4 points and 3.5 rebounds in 66 games this season but gives Stevens an important matchup tool against the longer front courts they face. 

As for Jae Crowder, the starting swingman is still undergoing treatment on the high sprain of his right ankle. He suffered the injury against the Rockets on March 11 and has missed the last four games after starting in Boston’s first 66 games. The team is sticking to the minimum prognosis of two weeks to heal enough to return to game action.

“Jae is progressing well,” Stevens said. “We think he’s about on the same timetable that I initially gave you. Obviously, he’s going to end up being two [weeks] this week. Minimum of two [weeks] but most likely that’s a very, very conservative estimate.”

“I haven’t even seen him. I just get told that he’s improved. We’ve been gone. He’s been here with our trainers so I get a daily update. I saw him today, real briefly, before he went back into his rehab. He said he’s feeling better. There’s a big difference between that and playing in a game.”

Stevens said he’s not going to get involved in trying to adjust the timetable, should Crowder push the team to rush him back to action. 

“I don’t even get into it. That’s our doctors and our trainers and our players,” Stevens said. “I think my best job is to stay away from getting in the middle of those conversations because I know he really wants to play. I know he wants to expedite that. But as a coach, I have to trust all those guys to make the right decision.”

The most encouraging news Monday was Stevens’ declaration that Crowder would be making the five-game trip out West, starting Saturday in Phoenix. 

“For sure, it’s a long trip. And it’s within that timeframe where he could play again so who knows when but certainly the plan is to take him on the trip.” 

Kelly Olynyk is another player trying to find his rhythm after suffering a right shoulder injury on Feb. 10. Olynyk missed 12 games before returning against the Pacers last Tuesday. He is still struggling to find his offensive rhythm, as indicated by his 0-for-4 performance from 3-point range (2-for-8 overall) Sunday night in Philadelphia. In three games back, Olynyk has made just five of 22 shots from the floor (22.7 percent) and just one of his 10 attempts from beyond the arc. 

“You have to ask him,” Stevens said of Olynyk’s comfort level. “I’m not sure. That would be a question for him. I think he’s looking fine. I think his shot looks good. It’s just probably feel for him to see a few go down.” 

Read More: Boston Celtics, Jae Crowder, Jonas Jerebko, Kelly Olynyk
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