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5 things we learned as Magic hurt Celtics’ playoff chances

03.08.15 at 8:33 pm ET
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Playoff teams beat the Orlando Magic. The Celtics do not look like a playoff team.

Favored to win, the C’s squandered a 20-point, first-half lead to the host Magic in a 103-98 loss. The defeat drops the Celtics (25-36) 2.5 games behind the Pacers (28-34) and Heat (28-34) for eighth place in the Eastern Conference. The C’s visit Miami in a game with huge playoff implications on Monday night.

In Sunday night’s loss, Isaiah Thomas scored a team-high 21 points, shooting 8-of-10 from the line while also dishing out eight assists. Brandon Bass notched a double-double (19 points, 17 rebounds), and Marcus Smart added 16 points on 6-of-16 from the field.

Victor Oladipo, who scored 70 points in his previous two games, led Orlando (21-43) with 22 points, including 15 in the second half. Rookie Elfrid Payton approached a triple-double, collecting 19 points, 10 rebounds and seven assists. And journeyman center Dewayne Dedmon logged a double-double (11 points, 16 rebounds) in the absence of Nikola Vucevic (left ankle injury).

For a complete box score, click here.

DEFENSE SHINES EARLY

The Celtics played outstanding defense in the first quarter, holding the Magic to just 17 points on 6-of-21 shooting (29 percent). Smart and Jae Crowder led the way, harassing Orlando’s ball-handlers on the exterior, switching on the majority of picks, and forcing seven turnovers. The C’€™s also did a great job of getting out in transition, turning their defense into easy scoring opportunities.

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5 things we learned as Celtics beat Anthony Davis’ Pelicans

03.06.15 at 10:41 pm ET
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The Celtics defeated the Pelicans 104-98 on Friday night. After a close three quarters, the C’€™s pulled away in the final frame. Isaiah Thomas led the Celtics with 27 points, while Brandon Bass and Evan Tuner added 17 and 16 points, respectively.

The Celtics improved to 25-35 and trail the eighth-place Pacers (27-34) by just one game in the loss column.

For the second time this season, the Celtics successfully contained The Brow. Although Anthony Davis recorded a double-double (29 points, 14 rebounds), he had a limited impact in the second half. Eric Gordon (20 points), Luke Babbit (12), Tyreke Evans (11) and Omer Asik (10) also finished in double figures for New Orleans (33-29).

For a complete box score, click here.

ISAIAH THOMAS CONTINUES TO SHINE

Thomas had his most efficient game as a Celtic, shooting 8-of-13 from the field. Thomas was particularly proficient from beyond the arc, hitting four of his six 3-point attempts. Thomas scored 14 of his points in the fourth quarter, making three key 3-ointers to open the frame, which put the Celtics ahead for good. With Avery Bradley expected to miss the next two games, it will be interesting to see if Thomas cracks the starting lineup.

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Celtics rule out Avery Bradley for New Orleans with left elbow sprain

03.05.15 at 4:37 pm ET
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The Celtics backcourt just became a little less crowded.

The team announced on Twitter, prior to their trip to New Orleans Thursday, that Avery Bradley did not make the trip and would be out against the Pelicans Friday night when they open a three-game road trip.

Bradley will miss the contest with a sprained left elbow, suffered Wednesday night during the first quarter of their win over the Jazz. After briefly exiting to the locker room, he returned, donned a black arm sleeve and finished with 13 points, seven rebounds and three assists. He played 36 minutes but still appeared to favor the left arm, as he did when he initially left late in the first quarter.

The Celtics announced Thursday afternoon on Twitter that Bradley did not travel to New Orleans with his team. The tweet included no word on whether he could potentially meet up with his teammates before the end of their three-game road trip.

Isaiah Thomas and Marcus Smart combined to help the Celtics set a new franchise record for fewest turnovers (3) in a game and figure to make up the slack until Bradley returns. Thomas, as he did on Wednesday, has been coming off the bench to provide a scoring spark. It’s not clear if he will continue in that role or replace Bradley in the starting lineup. Smart started the 16th game of his rookie season on Wednesday.

Read More: Avery Bradley, Boston Celtics, Isaiah Thomas, left elbow

Report: JaVale McGee deal to Celtics falls apart

03.05.15 at 2:27 pm ET
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JaVale McGee (34) won't be coming to the Celtics anytime soon after talks with the free agent broke down. (Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)

JaVale McGee (34) won’t be coming to the Celtics anytime soon after talks with the free agent broke down. (Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)

Put all those “Shaqtin A Fool” parties on hold for now.

According to Steve Bulpett of the Boston Herald, big man JaVale McGee will not be coming to Boston after all. Bulpett reported Thursday afternoon that his representative and the Celtics could not come to an agreement on a contract.

As a result, McGee remains a free agent center available for any team to scoop him up.

Earlier Thursday, Jeff Goodman of ESPN reported the Celtics and McGee were all but set on a deal that would land him in Boston as the Celtics try to make a stretch run for a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. Danny Ainge confirmed that report on the team’s flagship station before Bulpett’s report Thursday that the deal fell through.

Goodman later reported that the deal broke down when McGee, and his representative Arn Tellem, wanted a player option for next season while Ainge insisted on a team option, likely based on what the Celtics saw from him the rest of this season.

The 7-foot, 270-pound center started this season, his seventh in the NBA, with the Nuggets. On trade deadline day, Feb. 19, he was sent packing, along with the rights to Chukwudiebere Maduabum and a 2015 first-round pick to Philadelphia, where he was waived on March 1 after appearing in just six games.

McGee, still just 27, has shown glimpses over his career of being a dominating offensive big man. In the 2012 playoffs, which was his first playoff appearance in his career, McGee scored 21 points in Game 5 of a first-round series against the Lakers. McGee’s numbers were up and down throughout the series, including Game 7, when he scored just six points on 1-for-7 shooting in 32 minutes. But on July 18, 2012, McGee re-signed with the Nuggets on a four-year, $44 million contract, which included a $12 million salary for 2015-16.

It’s likely the McGee wanted a guaranteed option for next season after the Sixers waived him and the Celtics would not approach the $12 million McGee was originally scheduled to make.

McGee’s 2013’€“14 season was ended on Feb. 20, 2014 when he underwent surgery to repair a stress fracture in his left tibia, initially injured at the start of the 2013-14 season.

Read More: Boston Celtics, JaVale McGee, NBA, Philadelphia 76ers

Marcus Smart, Isaiah Thomas shine as Celtics set new record for ball-handling

03.05.15 at 12:52 pm ET
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The Celtics certainly were not perfect Wednesday night. They shot miserably from the floor (33-of-88) and from the line (11-of-20).

But when you commit just three turnovers the entire game leading to zero points for the opposition, your margin of error is as wide as the Grand Canyon they couldn’t find with a jump shot. Or, at least, it should be.

The Celtics set a new franchise record for fewest turnovers in a game (3) since the NBA started keeping such records in the 1970-71 season. Think about that. That covers a period that included Jo Jo White, Tiny Archibald, Dennis Johnson and Rajon Rondo. Never had a Celtics team taken such meticulous care of the rock than they did Wednesday night in the heart-pounding 85-84 win.

“You only end up the game with three turnovers, you should win the game,” Marcus Smart said. “That’s what we did. We turned the ball over a lot against [Cleveland]. We just wanted to come out and be strong with it and execute on the offensive and defensive end.”

Added Isaiah Thomas, “That was great. We were decisive, we played with energy and we made the right plays for the most part.”

Thomas had just one turnover in 27 minutes while Smart played a perfect game over his 40 minutes. The only other turnovers came from hero Tyler Zeller and Avery Bradley.

The Celtics committed just eight turnovers against Golden State on Sunday night and should’ve won the game, but fell apart down the stretch offensively while not getting any transition stops.

“That’€™s one of our five things that we have made a big deal for our team and moving forward,” coach Brad Stevens said. “We went into the game eighth in the league in turnover percentages, which is good, and last time we allowed Utah back in the game because we threw the ball all over their gym and almost lost that game there. So we placed a huge priority on it, but it helps to have Isaiah handling the ball because he’€™s a hard guy to get it from.”

What makes this all the more impressive is they did it against one of the longest teams in the NBA, as Stevens calls the Jazz, and one of the most defensive. Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Boston Celtics, Brad Stevens, Isaiah Thomas, Jo Jo White

What JaVale McGee’s signing means to Celtics

03.05.15 at 11:26 am ET
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[Editors Note, 2:45 p.m.: It’s being reported the signing has been called off and JaVale McGee will not be joining Boston]

When last we saw JaVale McGee as a starting NBA center, the 7-footer was a 23-year-old averaging 11.9 points, 8.8 rebounds and 2.6 blocks in 27.4 minutes a night. The Celtics would sign a rim-protecting big man with that kind of talent in a nanosecond. Except, when last we saw JaVale McGee as a starting NBA center, the 20-win Washington Wizards dumped him on the Denver Nuggets for an oft-injured, 29-year-old Nene in 2011-12 — not exactly a ringing endorsement of the uber-athletic former first-round pick.

Since then, McGee signed a four-year, $44 million contract, only to find himself relegated to the bench behind the likes of Timofey Mozgov, Kosta Koufos and Jusuf Nurkic for reasons both within (effort) and beyond (left tibia stress fracture) his control. After appearing in just 22 games for Denver over the past two seasons, the Nuggets had to sweeten the pot with a first-round pick just to dump his salary on the Philadelphia 76ers, who subsequently waived him six games into his short-lived Philly tenure.

Yet, the Celtics still leapt at the chance to sign the 27-year-old version of McGee. According to ESPN.com’s Jeff Goodman, the C’s are nearing a deal that will lock him up through next season. Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge confirmed the report on CBS Sports Radio Thursday morning.

“He’s been paid a lot of money in our league,” said Ainge. “He’s had some injuries, but he hasn’t lived up to his potential yet. We’re hoping that he can under [Celtics coach] Brad [Stevens]’ tutelage, and I think he’s in a good place emotionally and mentally. I think he really wants to get his career on the right path.”

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Read More: Boston Celtics, JaVale McGee, NBA,

Brad Stevens shows his smarts in diagramming game-winning play

03.05.15 at 10:58 am ET
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If there was one person in the building not surprised by the brilliant adjustment made by Celtics coach Brad Stevens on the game-winning inbounds play from Marcus Smart Wednesday night, it was Gordon Hayward.

He was, of course, a star player for Stevens at Butler University when the Bulldogs went to back-to-back national title games, losing to Duke and UConn. Hayward was also the man who scored what appeared to be the game-winning basket with 1.7 seconds left, giving Utah an 84-83 lead.

Then the Celtics called timeout. They wanted Smart to inbound the ball. But the rookie was having all sorts of problems getting the ball in. Another timeout. Then Stevens diagrammed a play to get the look that would free Tyler Zeller at the rim, if Smart could get the ball in.

“They switched the play before when Marcus couldn’€™t get it inbounded with Hayward and (Derrick) Favors,” Stevens said. “So, we wanted to try to get that switch again, so we just ran a little action to get that switch again and then (Rudy) Gobert was on the ball so he wasn’€™t at the rim. So we were hoping to slip and catch it a little bit cleaner and lay it in, but, you know, that was the goal –€“ and it ended up being Ok.”

Was Stevens surprised that Gobert was on the ball?

“That’€™s a hard call, and I think that with Marcus Smart taking it out and Gobert on the ball it’€™s hard to deliver a good pass,” Stevens said.”If Gobert tips it the game’€™s basically over, unless it tips right to us. So it’€™s easy to second-guess that stuff, but I won’€™t because I saw how long Marcus had to throw over just to get the pass to where it was. It’€™s another reason why we had to throw the ball in the air, though.”

“Coach Stevens drew up a great play,” Smart added. “The first play was supposed to go to Jae Crowder, Utah played it very well and he came back with the counterattack. It was tough, they put a tall defender on the ball and I had to pass-fake the ball to get him leaning one way and Tyler did a great job shoving his man off and just put it at the back of the backboard.”

Zeller caught the ball, gave a quick pump fake and delivered the game-winner as time expired.

‘€œIt was a great pass,” Hayward said of the Smart entry pass from midcourt. “That’€™s what Coach Stevens does. He’€™s excellent in those situations of coming up with a play, I know it better than anybody. It’€™s a great play, great design, they knew we were switching. The pass had to be perfect to get over Rudy (Gobert) and Rod (Rodney Hood), and it was. And then (Zeller) made a good finish too. Credit them with their finish, too, but that’€™s not where we lost it, though. We should have been better.” Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Brad Stevens, Gordon Hayward, Tyler Zeller,
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