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Avery Bradley rejects Gordon Hayward’s game-winning attempt

03.01.16 at 1:05 am ET
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Celtics guard Avery Bradley (0) blocks the shot of Utah Jazz forward Gordon Hayward (back) during the second half at TD Garden. (Mark L. Baer/USA Today Sports)

Celtics guard Avery Bradley (0) blocks the shot of Utah Jazz forward Gordon Hayward (back) during the second half at TD Garden. (Mark L. Baer/USA Today Sports)

On a night when the Celtics blocked more shots than they had in seven years, it was only appropriate that one of the smallest players on the court came up with one of the most important rejections in a 100-95 win over the Jazz at TD Garden.

With the Celtics clinging to a 96-95 lead, the bigger Gordon Hayward trying to back the 6-foot-2 Avery Bradley down into the post for a turnaround. But Bradley came off the seal and played it perfectly. He timed his jump perfectly and blocked Hayward with 20.9 seconds left and the Celtics closed out the game with the final four points.

“It was good,” coach Brad Stevens said of the Bradley block. “He had been guarding [Rodney] Hood most of the game and had done a great job on Hood and you knew they were going to one of those two guys and it just felt like he would be our best bet on Gordon late because Gordon had tried to drive it a few times there recently, at the end. And he made a really good play. He guessed right on his turnaround and blocked the shot, came up with the loose ball, and then Amir [Johnson] came up with the loose ball, and I thought that was really a well-played game by both teams, for the most part.

“And it was a heck of a game; it was a heck of an execution game late. They were making plays, we were making plays, and we were just fortunate enough to get those two loose balls off of the block and then off the free throw to kind of seal it.”

Bradley took advantage of his familiarity with Hayward to time his jump.

“I was just trying to play great defense,” Bradley said. “I know Gordon, I knew they were going to go to him and I just wanted to make it hard on him and not foul him, and that’s what I did and I was able to get the block, read the play. I tried to force him in to it, tried to force him into the middle so I could be right hand to right hand and I was able to get the block.”

Hayward’s reaction?

“He timed it really well,” Hayward said. “It was a good play.” Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Avery Bradley, Boston Celtics, Gordon Hayward, NBA

Jordan Mickey gets the (text) message, plays key role in win over Jazz

02.29.16 at 11:03 pm ET
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Celtics forward Jordan Mickey (55) shoots the ball against Utah Jazz forward Derrick Favors (15) during the first half at TD Garden. (Mark L. Baer/USA Today Sports)

Celtics forward Jordan Mickey (55) shoots the ball against Utah Jazz forward Derrick Favors (15) during the first half at TD Garden. (Mark L. Baer/USA Today Sports)

Brad Stevens had a special message for Jordan Mickey Monday morning. And in keeping with the times, there was no better way to communicate to his first-year center than through a text. 

“I texted him actually [Monday morning] that, ‘you need to be ready to go at anytime because there could be any time that those have to contribute and help us win a game,'” Stevens said. 

“I got the text early this morning and I read it about 10 times before I even got here,” Mickey said. “I was just trying to prepare myself to be ready for the opportunity and you never know when you are going to be able to get in, or when you are going to get that opportunity. It happened to be kind of early in the night and I was excited about it.” 

Safe to say, Mickey was ready. The 33rd overall pick out of LSU played one of the more important roles of his rookie season, coming on with 9:09 left in the second quarter and the Celtics down 11, 36-25, to the Jazz, who were imposing their will through their big front court. Mickey was a big reason the Celtics were able to stabilize the game, cut the deficit to three at the half. The regulars did their part in the second half in the 100-95 win over the Jazz at TD Garden. 

He played just seven minutes, all in the second quarter, but in those seven minutes, he scored three points, grabbed three rebounds and blocked two shots while getting his hands on a third shot that went in the basket. 

“I just thought we need a boost,” Stevens said. “And I thought that every time we’ve put him in, he’s blocked a shot and come up with some loose balls. I think he’s just got to get … He was in Maine for a long time and then he had the ankle (injury). He’s probably not as up to speed as he needs to be on some things that we’ll get him up to speed on as he continues to be with us more and more. Hey, we’re not overly deep at the big spot without Kelly [Olynyk].”

Will Mickey’s performance be a sign of things to come or just a one-shot deal in his rookie season? That depends on how long Olynyk is out with his bum right shoulder and how much faith was earned from his performance Monday night. 

“It’s always nerve-racking to go out there a little bit and you are a rookie. You haven’t played that much, but also exciting to be out there and show what you can do, just being able to compete.”

Read More: Boston Celtics, Brad Stevens, Jordan Mickey, NBA

Studs and Duds: Jae Crowder’s late 3 delivers Celtics’ 11th straight home win

02.29.16 at 10:40 pm ET
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Jae Crowder (99) celebrates against the Jazz during the second half at TD Garden. (Mark L. Baer/USA Today Sports)

Jae Crowder (99) celebrates against the Jazz during the second half at TD Garden. (Mark L. Baer/USA Today Sports)

Just when you think they’re going to let one slip away, the Celtics keep on fighting. They fought from behind for nearly three whole quarters before finally pulling ahead of the Jazz in the fourth quarter en route to a 100-95 win at TD Garden.

The C’s used a 9-0 run in the final quarter to grab their first lead since the opening 12 minutes. Butler product Shelvin Mack’ 3-pointer with 49.5 seconds left put Utah back on top, 95-93, but Jae Crowder responded with the biggest shot of the night to recapture the lead for good. Avery Bradley’s three free throws and monster block of another Brad Stevens protege, Gordon Hayward, sealed the deal down the stretch.

After Utah grabbed a 13-point lead in the first half, the Celtics responded with an 11-0 second-quarter run. Second-round pick Jordan Mickey gave the C’s a spark off the bench, collecting three points, three rebounds and a pair of blocks in 7:07.

Still, the Jazz took a 46-43 lead into halftime and kept the Celtics at bay in the third quarter. It felt every time the C’s scored back-to-back shots, Utah immediately responded, holding tightly to a 73-72 advantage entering the final frame. 

Jae Crowder scored a game-high 22 points, while Avery Bradley and Isaiah Thomas each added 18 points for the Celtics (36-25), who won an 11 straight home game for the first time since the 2012-13 season. Trey Lyles and Shelvin Mack each scored 18 to lead the Jazz. Derrick Favors (11 points, 16 rebounds) and Rudy Gobert (12 points, 12 rebounds) added double-double for the Jazz. 

For a complete box score, click here. To go beyond the box, read on.

Read the rest of this entry »

Brad Stevens on Gordon Hayward, Shelvin Mack: ‘I love competing against them’

02.29.16 at 8:36 pm ET
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Utah Jazz forward Gordon Hayward (20) has been a thorn in side of Brad Stevens. (Russ Isabella/USA Today Sports)

Utah Jazz forward Gordon Hayward (20) has been a thorn in side of Brad Stevens. (Russ Isabella/USA Today Sports)

Brad Stevens doesn’t like coaching against his former players.

In the first quarter he was reminded why. Gordon Hayward, most famous for nearly beating Duke in the NCAA championship game with a half-court buzzer-beater in 2010, had eight points and fellow Butler alum Shelvin Mack had six points as the Jazz took a 29-23 lead.

The two were recently re-united thanks a trade that sent Mack from Atlanta to the Jazz. Mack was placed immediately in Utah’s starting lineup. His first game with the Jazz was against old coach Brad Stevens and the Celtics.

What does he think of coaching against his former players twice in two weeks?

“It stinks,” Stevens said only partially tongue-in-cheek. “I love being out there. I love competing against them. If I was coaching the blue team in practice and they were on the white team a few years ago, I would try to do the very best I could to not let them have a good day. Shelvin has started off great for Utah, as we thought he would. As we’ve seen many times, it’s about opportunity and fit as much as anything else in this league.

“And Gordon has established himself as one of the better young players in the league, and that’s been a great growth process for me to watch because when he committed to Butler, he was a tennis player that played basketball and was growing into his body, and wasn’t near what he is now. Just to watch him the last eight or nine years has been pretty incredible.”

The Hayward story is well-documented but Stevens provided a refresher course before Monday’s game.

“He wasn’t heavily recruited until after he committed to us,” Stevens said. “It was that type of deal. He was great. He really wanted to be there. He really worked. He was always working. He was always in the gym. He was probably one of our bigger gym rats that we had over that time. He’s also a really relational guy, he really enjoys team, he really enjoys people.

“They pounded us last week. They’ve had some great moments, and those two guys are going to continue to have great moments as part of that organization. I just think you should grow, you should get better, you should improve. If you’re stagnating or if you think you’ve got it figured out, you’re going to get caught. I feel bad that those guys had to be coached by a guy that young and that dumb.”

Mack thinks the self-deprecating Stevens might just be a little hard on himself, considering the fact he became the youngest head coach in history to guide his team to back-to-back NCAA championship games. 

“I wouldn’t say that,” Mack said when told of the ‘dumb’ reference. “He was very smart, very mature. I’d say he handled the situation great at Butler.

“He’s a player’s coach. He can adapt to his players. I think the NBA is all about, or mostly about, the players. If you adapt to a player and make it easy, I think you have a chance to be a great coach. He’s able to do that, connect with his players, on and off the court. Off the court might be easier than on the court.” 

Read More: Atlanta Hawks, Boston Celtics, Brad Stevens, Butler Bulldogs

Brad Stevens on Stephen Curry’s amazing 3-point skills: ‘It’s why the game is great’

02.29.16 at 7:30 pm ET
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Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry (30) reacts after hitting the game winning shot against the Oklahoma City Thunder in overtime Saturday night.  (Mark D. Smith/USA Today Sports)

Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry (30) reacts after hitting the game winning shot against the Oklahoma City Thunder in overtime Saturday night. (Mark D. Smith/USA Today Sports)

When he wasn’t jumping off trampolines and dunking or rebounding shots for his 10-year-old son Brady this weekend, Brad Stevens was joining his son and his friends in watching the amazing feats of Stephen Curry Saturday night.

In a performance for the ages, the amazing shooting guard for the Golden State Warriors made 12-of-15 from 3-point range Saturday night in an overtime win at Oklahoma City. The coup de grace was Curry’s pull-up 32-foot three that was the winning dagger in the 121-118 Warriors’ victory.

“My son had two friends sleeping over and we were all watching the game,” Stevens said. “It was great. It was great as a fan to watch and see. I’ve gotten a chance to grow up and see some of the greats play and see some of the greats make plays. It was fun to watch a group of 10-year-olds react to all those shots and react to all those things going in. It’s why the game is great.”

Stevens has always been a fan at heart of the game. When he played at Zionsville High in Indiana, he wore No. 31 in tribute of his favorite player, another 3-point wizard by the name of Reggie Miller.

Curry’s game-winner Saturday reminded everyone watching that his range is literally anywhere across the timeline, something that is rare. Has Stevens ever coached against something like that?

“Twice a year, twice a year since I’ve been here,” Stevens said of Curry, who he will see again in Oakland on April 1. “Very, very few guys. I think the amount of difficulty he hits shots with is incredible.”

While Curry is by far the leading MVP candidate in the league this season, there are others that are having remarkable statistical seasons, including Anthony Davis and Russell Westbrook, both of whom enter Monday’s action averaging double-doubles so far. Westbrook is averaging 24.4 points and 10.2 assists while Davis is at 24.1 points and 10.2 rebounds.

“It’s interesting. There are a few guys, though, that are having incredible years and doing incredible things and not talked about quite as much,” Stevens said. “I think the whole idea of range and extending range and widening the court for everybody else with your range, it’s in vogue and he’s taken it to a new level.”

Read More: Boston Celtics, Brad Stevens, Golden State Warriors, NBA

Brad Stevens on his slam dunk demo reel: ‘I did ask that nobody tape it’

02.29.16 at 6:46 pm ET
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Brad Stevens had to know what was coming when he met with reporters before Monday’s game with the Jazz at TD Garden. His trampoline-aided slam dunk went viral on Instagram when “Lucky” the Celtics’ mascot decided to put his one-handed jam from Sunday.

Turns out, Stevens didn’t accomplish his rarified air feat on the first take. At least Lucky didn’t post the fails. But still Stevens gave some insight to his acrobatics on Sunday at the team’s training facility in Waltham in front of his 10-year-old son, Brady.

“I was there rebounding for Brady a little bit and just looked down the side of the court and they had those trampolines set up,” Stevens said. “I thought that would be fun. So I asked Lucky how to do it. I did ask that nobody tape it. Obviously, that got lost in translation. It’s proof I need to communicate a little bit better. Luckily, the few tries before that didn’t make on the web because it wasn’t quite as pretty.”

It was Brady who raced up to Papa Stevens after surviving the dunk. What grade would he give himself?

“Hey, it went in,” Stevens said. “You know, Brady would give me a ’10’ so I’m in. A dunk for me is pretty unusual. I enjoyed it. It was fun.”

At six feet, did Stevens ever dunk for real in a game for DePauw, where he played in college?

“Did I ever dunk for real? Not with… Not… No. Everybody that’s played says they’ve dunked and they have at some point. But it was with a flat ball and a 9-foot-5 rim, I’ve done that,” Stevens said. 

As for those who will and won’t be available to dunk Monday, James Young, recalled earlier in the day, was ruled out with a calf injury while Avery Bradley will start and play after twisting an ankle in the second half of Saturday’s win over Miami. 

“Avery’s fine,” Stevens said. “James Young has a little calf strain from playing in Maine [Sunday]. So he’s not available. And Kelly’s not available.”

Read More: Boston Celtics, Brad Stevens, Lucky,

Brad Stevens sends congrats text to the revitalized David Lee in Dallas

02.29.16 at 6:34 pm ET
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David Lee (42) has found new life in Dallas. (Matthew Emmons/USA Today Sports)

David Lee (42) has found new life in Dallas. (Matthew Emmons/USA Today Sports)

Brad Stevens has absolutely no hard feelings when it comes to David Lee. As a matter of fact, he’s very happy that the veteran big man has landed on his feet in Dallas. 

Lee, who was bought out of his final season of his contract ($15 million) the day after the trading deadline, has contributed in a big way off the Mavericks’ bench almost immediately. He scored 13 points and grabbed nine rebounds in 22 minutes in a 128-101 win Sunday in Dallas. Two nights earlier, he had 14 points and 14 rebounds in 25 minutes in a 122-116 win over the Nuggets. Dallas is 32-28 and tied for sixth in the West.  

“I just sent a text after I saw [Sunday]. I watched a little bit of the comeback against Denver,” Stevens said before Monday’s game against the Jazz. “It was a great game. It was a great win for them. Just saw [Sunday] night and they won looks like pretty handily. As much as you go through with everybody and guys play or don’t play, whatever the case may be, you want everybody that leaves here to do well. So, we’re rooting for him to do well and happy for how he’s started.”  

Stevens still insists it was hard for him to wave goodbye to Lee, who didn’t play at all in his final 18 games in Boston. 

“It was really hard, and it was really hard for him, It’s harder on him than anybody else,” Stevens said. “But we talked about it a lot. We didn’t have hardly any injuries with our bigs and we had a lot of bigs, especially at the end of games, we’re going to be in relatively the same position. It put a lot of guys on the bench, and it was different guys at different times. To his credit, when we eventually settled on playing others, he handled it really well, and kudos to him. I’m happy he’s doing well.”

Lee told reporters over the weekend that part of the reason for his resurgence is that he’s in better game shape than in Boston, where he didn’t play in 21 of his last 22 games. 

“I don’t know if that’s semantics or how he meant to say it,” Stevens said. “I think the biggest thing that he was probably saying there was was that when you’re not playing you have to find other ways to stay ready. Maybe I’m wrong but I think he certainly took diet. He worked out hard. He worked out hard enough that if he would’ve played, he would’ve been gassed in the games. Sometimes, you can’t do that if you’re going to be playing 15 minutes a night. He was going two or three times hard a day during that stretch. So no, I wasn’t frustrated by it. In fact, I thought it set a pretty good example for the other guys who weren’t playing.”

Read More: Boston Celtics, Brad Stevens, Dallas Mavericks, David Lee
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