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Isaiah Thomas (44 points) leads comeback win over Raptors, with help from supporting cast

02.02.17 at 12:22 am ET
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Feb 1, 2017; Boston, MA, USA; Boston Celtics guard Terry Rozier (12) and forward Jae Crowder (99) celebrate after Toronto Raptors forward Patrick Patterson (54) was called for a foul during the second half at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

Terry Rozier earned some late-fourth quarter minutes in comeback win against Raptors (Winslow Townson/USA Today)

The unsung heroes set the stage. And then Isaiah Thomas, as he seems to do on a nightly basis, danced on it.

Trailing by 18 points in a showdown with the Raptors for the second seed in the Eastern Conference, the Celtics closed the game on a monster 52-29 run behind 44 points from their All-Star point guard to complete a 109-104 victory.

Thomas put together another incredible fourth quarter, scoring 19 of his 44 points, but the Celtics reserves set the stage for his heroics. Led by Marcus Smart (10 points, 5 assists, 5 rebounds), the bench helped chip away at a double-digit deficit and carried their momentum into the fourth quarter. 

Throughout the third quarter, Smart applied pressure on Raptors guard Kyle Lowry and finished strong on the offensive end by making cuts to the basket for easy layups. He was also finding his teammates for easy assists but was most effective in disrupting the flow of Toronto’s offense. 

Terry Rozier, who finished with 5 points and 7 rebounds, nailed a 3-pointer at the end of the third quarter to pull the Celtics to within eight. He also pulled down two offensive rebounds in the second half to keep possessions alive and slowed down the Raptors’ reserve guards on the defensive end. Tyler Zeller, who finished with five rebounds and four points, made a reverse dunk and tossed an alley-oop to rookie Jaylen Brown to trim the deficit down to five (91-86).

From there, Thomas went on a 7-0 run — giving the Celtics their first lead with 4:39 left. 

However, Lowry, who led the Raptors with 32 points, helped his team regain the lead by draining five straight points for Toronto. With 48 ticks left, Thomas knocked in a 3-pointer to give the C’s a two-point lead before Patrick Patterson missed a 3-pointer and the Raptors were forced to intentionally foul the Celtics in the final seconds.

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Isaiah Thomas (41 points) wraps up one of the highest-scoring months in Celtics history with another incredible 4th quarter in win over Pistons

01.31.17 at 4:35 pm ET
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Jan 30, 2017; Boston, MA, USA; Boston Celtics guard Isaiah Thomas (4) is congratulated after making a three point basket during the second half of the Boston Celtics 113-109 win over the Detroit Pistons at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

Isaiah Thomas scored the last 11 points for the Celtics in Celtics’ 113-109 win over Pistons (Winslow Townson/USA TODAY)

Topping off one of the best scoring months in franchise history, Isaiah Thomas’ 24-point fourth quarter performance against the Pistons was an emphatic exclamation point to an amazing month of January. 

The two-time All-Star scored a game-high 41 points in a 113-109 Celtics win over the Pistons at TD Garden, leading his team to their fourth straight victory and ultimately guiding them to a one-game lead ahead of the Raptors (29-19) for second place in the Eastern Conference.

His 41 points on Monday pushed his average up to 32.9 points per game for the month of January — the fourth-highest scoring month in Celtics history behind Larry Bird (twice) and Paul Pierce. 

“That doesn’t even seem real,” Thomas said. “It doesn’t sound real. So many great players who did it before me, to have my name up there with those legends is unbelievable. I’m going to just keep going, keep trying to catch those guys, and keep winning.”

The Celtics (30-18) win also sets the stage for Wednesday night’s big showdown between the two best teams in the Atlantic Division. The Raptors have had the Celtics’ number throughout the season — beating them twice over the last two months. But if Thomas can continue this amazing streak of excellence that he’s on, it could be enough for the Celtics to pull out a win against DeMar DeRozan, Kyle Lowry and company. 

Along with averaging 32.9 points in January, Thomas also set a season-high average of 6.9 assists per game. Jae Crowder, one of many of Thomas’ beneficiaries in the starting lineup, is also finishing his best month of the season — averaging 16.3 points while shooting 50.3 percent from the floor, including 46.6 percent from behind the arc.

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Knicks evidently not giving up hope they can ship Carmelo Anthony to Celtics

01.30.17 at 12:19 pm ET
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Carmelo Anthony

Carmelo Anthony

It still appears to be a longshot, but according to the Boston Globe the Knicks are holding out hope that the Celtics agree to become a landing spot for Carmelo Anthony.

The Globe is reporting that while Danny Ainge has told New York he isn’t interested in dealing for Anthony, the Knicks continue to push for a deal with the C’s, showing interest in some of the pieces on Boston’s roster. It was reportedly the impetus for a Knicks’ scout’s attendance at the recent Celts win over the Bucks in Milwaukee.

Anthony does have a no-trade clause in his deal, but has identified the Celtics as one of the teams he would accept a trade to.

The 33-year-old forward is currently averaging 22.6 points and 6.2 rebounds per game for the underachieving Knicks, which hold the eighth spot in the Eastern Conference standings with a 21-27 record.

To read why Anthony might be a good fit for the Celtics, click here for John Tomase’s column.

It looks like Celtics might be eyeing Magic big man Nikola Vucevic

01.29.17 at 7:44 pm ET
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Nikola Vucevic

Nikola Vucevic

It’s not complicated: The Celtics need scoring and rebounding, and Nikola Vucevic can do both.

So hearing CSNNE.com reporting the Celts have expressed interest in acquiring Vucevic should make all the sense in the world.

The report states the Celtics and Magic have talked about a deal involving the 26-year-old center, who has just two fewer double-doubles (19) as the entire C’s team. The 7-foot Vucevic is currently averaging 13.8 points and 9.8 rebounds a game for lowly Orlando.

Vucevic’s appeal also extends to the team-friendly four-year, $53 million rookie contract extension he inked. The deal pays him $11.75 million this season, $12.25 million next season and $12.75 in 2018-19.

Two seasons ago, he averaged 19.3 points and 10.9 rebounds per contest, while totaling 18.2 points and 8.9 boards a game in 2015-16. Vucevic was taken 16th overall in the 2011 NBA draft out the University of Southern California. After his rookie season, he was dealt to the Magic in a four-team trade involving Dwight Howard.

Celtics show grit in pulling out OT win over Bucks after letting big lead slip away

01.28.17 at 11:36 pm ET
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Kelly Olynyk puts home a reverse dunk during Saturday's victory over the Bucks. (Benny Sieu/USA Today Sports)

Kelly Olynyk puts home a reverse dunk during Saturday’s victory over the Bucks. (Benny Sieu/USA Today Sports)

The Celtics looked poised to run away with Saturday night’s game early. It didn’t happen, as the Bucks clawed back in the second half.

Then in overtime the C’s scored the first six points and appeared ready to break the Bucks. Again, no such luck.

This one was going to take some heart and some defense, and the Celtics managed to come up with both, taking a 112-108 victory in Milwaukee that moved Boston into a tie for the Atlantic Division lead with the Raptors at 29-18.

Playing without starters Al Horford (groin) and Avery Bradley (Achilles) — and playing in Wisconsin one night after routing the Magic in Boston — the Celtics found a way to pull out the win after squandering a 16-point lead.

“Coming here without Al and without Avery — they’re on the second night of a back-to-back, too, that’s just the way the scheduled worked itself out,” C’s coach Brad Stevens said in his postgame press conference. “As we said when we got beat a couple of times when teams were coming off back-to-back and we had rest, some of that stuff’s unpredictable. You just play as hard as you can and as well as you can. Hopefully things work out for you. I thought we played pretty darn well, to be honest. Defensively in the overtime I thought we were excellent.”

One night after scoring 39 in the opening quarter against the Magic, the Celtics tallied 42 in the opening 12 minutes against the Bucks. They shot 63 percent, capping the period with a 3-pointer at the buzzer by Gerald Green. The lead was 15 after one and peaked at 16 in the second quarter.

For a team that struggled in the first quarter earlier this season, it’s quite a turnaround for the C’s.

“How we started the game really dictated the whole game for sure,” Jae Crowder told CSNNE’s Abby Chin after scoring 20 points. “We put those guys on their heels. We showed how to execute down the stretch because we started off the game so well. It got us the win tonight.”

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Win over Magic reminded us of Jaylen Brown’s potential

01.27.17 at 10:35 pm ET
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Jaylen Brown (Jerry Lai/USA Today Sports)

Jaylen Brown put together a strong performance against the Magic at TD Garden (Jerry Lai/USA Today Sports)

Not many people had high expectations for the league’s No. 3 pick Jaylen Brown this season.

In fact, the Celtics were criticized for their selection by most critics when the So. Cal product’s name was announced in last summer’s NBA Draft. 

But if there’s one thing that we can take away from the Celtics’ 128-98 lopsided win over the Magic, it was that Brown has the potential to blossom into a viable scoring option for the Celtics, sooner rather than later. 

For the second straight night, Brown started in the backcourt in place of the injured Avery Bradley (right Achilles) and finished with a season-high 20 points to go with his eight rebounds. Sure, this was against the Magic (18-29) — third-worst team in the Eastern Conference — but the rookie still gave you a glimpse of how valuable he could be in less than three months from now when Brad Stevens will be competing to win his first NBA playoff series. 

Whether it was because he started in place of Avery Bradley for the second consecutive night or the fact that he was left out off the roster of the BBVA Compass Rising Star Challenge at All-Star Weekend, Brown played with a chip on his shoulder. He played with a sense of urgency. After scoring nine of his 13 first-half points in the game’s opening seven minutes, Brown was dialed in. 

The third overall pick was active on defense, crashing the glass for boards and was assertive on offense. Doing what he does best when the ball is in his hands, Brown took his defender to the hoop. Sometimes he finished, sometimes he kicked it out, other times he earned trips to the free-throw line but what was promising was his knack for wanting to make plays. 

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Rajon Rondo, still making friends in Chicago, unloads on Bulls veterans, pines for Boston days in Instagram post

01.26.17 at 6:44 pm ET
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My vets would never go to the media. They would come to the team. My vets didn’t pick and choose when they wanted to bring it. They brought it every time they stepped in the gym whether it was practice or a game. They didn’t take days off. My vets didn’t care about their numbers. My vets played for the team. When we lost, they wouldn’t blame us. They took responsibility and got in the gym. They showed the young guys what it meant to work. Even in Boston when we had the best record in the league, if we lost a game, you could hear a pin drop on the bus. They showed us the seriousness of the game. My vets didn’t have an influence on the coaching staff. They couldn’t change the plan because it didn’t work for them. I played under one of the greatest coaches, and he held everyone accountable. It takes 1-15 to win. When you isolate everyone, you can’t win consistently. I may be a lot of things, but I’m not a bad teammate. My goal is to pass what I learned along. The young guys work. They show up. They don’t deserve blame. If anything is questionable, it’s the leadership.

A photo posted by Rajon Rondo (@rajonrondo) on

Do you miss Rajon Rondo? I’m not gonna lie — I miss Rajon Rondo.

It sure sounds like he misses Boston.

A brilliant meteor with the Celtics, he has since worn out his welcome in Dallas and now Chicago, where he was suspended for a game in December for conduct detrimental to the team.

On Thursday, he took aim at teammates Dwyane Wade and Jimmy Butler, who had blasted the Bulls a night earlier following a fourth-quarter collapse against Atlanta. Wade and Butler criticized teammates for not caring, and those words did not sit well with Rondo, who took to his Instagram account and obliterated them for not setting the example that he learned in Boston from Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett. (Rondo, it should be noted, scored 3 points in 9 minutes against the Hawks).

Beside a picture of himself in Celtics green with that duo, Rondo unloaded on Wade and Butler:

“My vets would never go to the media,” he wrote. “They would come to the team. My vets didn’t pick and choose when they wanted to bring it. They brought it every time they stepped in the gym whether it was practice or a game. They didn’t take days off. My vets didn’t care about their numbers. My vets played for the team. When we lost, they wouldn’t blame us. They took responsibility and got in the gym. They showed the young guys what it meant to work. Even in Boston when we had the best record in the league, if we lost a game, you could hear a pin drop on the bus. They showed us the seriousness of the game. My vets didn’t have an influence on the coaching staff. They couldn’t change the plan because it didn’t work for them. I played under one of the greatest coaches, and he held everyone accountable. It takes 1-15 to win. When you isolate everyone, you can’t win consistently. I may be a lot of things, but I’m not a bad teammate. My goal is to pass what I learned along. The young guys work. They show up. They don’t deserve blame. If anything is questionable, it’s the leadership.”

There’s only one word for that, and it’s, “Wow.” Not sure if Rondo is shooting his way out of town again, but given his acrimonious history with Wade when they were part of the Celtics-Heat rivalry, it looks like old grudges die hard.

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