|03.02.16 at 6:31 pm ET|
Brad Stevens was his typical humble self before Wednesday’s game against Portland when asked what it was like to win the NBA’s Eastern Conference coach of the month honor for February.
Stevens led the Celtics to the best record in the Eastern Conference (9-3) in February, which included a 6-0 mark at TD Garden. The Celtics scored 100-plus points in 10 of 12 games and led the conference in scoring at 110.8 points. The Celtics recorded wins against the Cavaliers (on the road) and Heat (at home), and enters March third in the East at 36-25.
“It means the team did well,” Stevens said Wednesday. “That’s the ultimate, ‘How did your team do? What was your record this month?’ The guys on the court had a lot more to do with that. I’m glad we had a good month from a playing standpoint and hopefully we can build on it.”
Ironically, Stevens counterpart for the award in the West just happened to be across the hallway getting his team ready to try and continue a red-hot streak of their own. Terry Stotts brings his Blazers to town, winning 10 of 12, and standing 33-28 on the season.
Stevens was asked if Wednesday was some sort of showdown of top coaches?
“No,” Stevens replied swiftly. “I told one of their assistants when they walked out, laughing about that, if it’s between the coaches the Celtics are in trouble so hopefully, the players can pick me up.”
Stotts guided the Trail Blazers to a 9-2 record in February, which included wins over the Memphis Grizzlies, Golden State Warriors, Chicago Bulls and Indiana Pacers. Portland, behind Damian Lillard, ranked fourth in the NBA in scoring (110.6 points) and enjoyed the league’s second-best point differential (+8.0 points). Stotts’ Trail Blazers closed the month winning eight of their final nine games and enter March tied with the Dallas Mavericks’ for sixth place in the Western Conference.
Other nominees for Coach of the Month were Charlotte’s Steve Clifford, Golden State’s Steve Kerr, San Antonio’s Gregg Popovich and Toronto’s Dwane Casey.
|03.01.16 at 10:02 pm ET|
WALTHAM — For those who missed out on Steph Curry at the Garden on Dec. 11 there’s a chance to see another NBA star that’s being placed in his same class.
Damian Lillard and the red-hot Trail Blazers come calling Wednesday night at TD Garden. They are moving up the standings in the Western Conference and the man who was one of the most notable snubs in recent All-Star history is leading the way, averaging 25.4 points and seven assists a game. Lillard, in his fourth season out of Weber State, made news in January when he was somehow left off the Western Conference All-Star squad.
“He’s definitely an All-Star. He should’ve been one,” Celtics guard Isaiah Thomas said after practice Tuesday. “But stuff happens. He’s probably been disappointed in a few things, and not just in his NBA career. He wasn’t even recruited by a bigger school. Whatever the circumstances might be, he’s a helluva a player. He knows he’s an All-Star. The league knows they messed up in that. He’s been playing well and been showing people, proving people wrong.
“I met him a few summers ago. We text every now and then. When I got the nod on the All-Star [team], he texted me, ‘Congratulations, you deserve it.’ He’s a Pacific Northwest guy since he’s in Portland now. He’s just a good dude. We know mutual people and we always text every now and then.”
Thomas (University of Washington) and Lillard (Weber State) know each other well from their roots in western college basketball and then in their Western Conference battles when Thomas was in Phoenix.
“It’s fun. I can’t wait,” Thomas said. “It’s what you play for, to play against the best guys in the world, go against the best guards. I’m all about competing. I know he will be ready and I will be, too. He’s an unbelievable shooter, and he can shoot off the dribble. A lot of people can’t shoot off the dribble. He makes tough shots look easy. And he’s just a guy that works. I know Dames. He’s a guy that continues to work. He uses everything as motivation, kind of like myself. He’s definitely similar to Steph Curry in his shooting ability and how effortless he can shoot from so far [out from basket].”
The Blazers beat up the Knicks Tuesday night at Madison Square Garden, their third straight win to open a six-game Eastern swing. They have won 10 of 12 and are 33-28 on the season.
Read the rest of this entry »
|03.01.16 at 4:57 pm ET|
Brad Stevens probably doesn’t even want the award, but the NBA gave it to him anyway.
The Celtics coach earned Eastern Conference Coach of the Month honors after his team finished the month of February with a conference-best 9-3 record, including victories against the Cleveland Cavaliers and Los Angeles Clippers. Stevens also won Eastern Conference Coach of the Month honors in April 2015.
Stevens edged Charlotte’s Steve Clifford and Toronto’s Dwane Casey. The C’s coach isn’t much for awards, so long as they’re not the Larry O’Brien Trophy, and he probably has little use for one that honors the best coach in the shortest month of the year — made shorter still by a weeklong All-Star break. But, hey, it’s recognition for the tremendous job he’s done with these Celtics (36-25), who enter March with the conference’s third-best record.
Ironically, the NBA honored Stevens on the same day he revealed in an interview with Chris Mannix on The Vertical Podcast that he was rejected by a Division III program when seeking a head coaching job in 2007.
“I actually applied for a Division III coaching job a week before (former Butler) coach (Todd) Lickliter left to go to Iowa, and I got a letter in the mail that said I wasn’t one of the finalists because I didn’t have my master’s degree,” said Stevens, who ultimately succeeded Lickliter as the head coach at Butler that year, “because I’d stopped going to school full-time, and they wanted people, obviously, with the ability to teach at the Division III level as well.”
For the record, Stevens’ Butler squad reached the NCAA championship game for the first time in his third season as head coach. This marks his third season as head coach of the Celtics. I’ll let you draw your own conclusions.
|03.01.16 at 3:28 pm ET|
WALTHAM — The Celtics are on some kind of roll at TD Garden.
The team that started out under .500 (9-10) in their first 19 home games this season has suddenly found the magic touch.
They have won 11 in a row on Causeway Street and if they finish this homestand with wins over the Blazers Wednesday and the Knicks on Friday, they will pass the mark of the 2007-08 Celtics. The group of Rajon Rondo, Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen, Kendrick Perkins and Tony Allen won 12 straight in a row at home to start the season that ended in a title run.
“I don’t know if we can put ourselves in that conservation, man,” Jared Sullinger laughed when the comparison was mentioned Tuesday after practice. “You had Rondo, you had KG, you had Paul, you had Ray, Perk, Tony. You really can’t put yourself in that conversation. But it will say a lot about this team and all the maturing we did over the season. I thought we did a tremendous job of executing of late.
“You can’t really compare the two. It’s two completely different teams,” Avery Bradley added. “We’re just trying to take care of home and take it one game at a time and make sure we’re continuing to get better and take care of the little things.”
What Bradley did acknowledge, and something he learned from former coach Doc Rivers, was the home court matters come playoff time in April and May.
“That matters in the playoffs,” Bradley said. “We got a taste of it last year but home court advantage definitely matters. I learned that from Doc. That’s something we wanted to get every single year so that does matter.”
“For sure, for sure. Doc said that when I was here playing for him that one year,” Sullinger added. “Home court really does matter just because you’re in your normal routine. You’re at home. You’re not on the road. You don’t have to worry about little things. Home court advantage matters, and as long as you’re normal with your routine, everything will be fine.”
“[Confidence] is pretty high. It’s pretty high. I think the biggest thing is we have a streak going now, eleven straight at home. We have two more home games until we hit the road. We’re just trying to close it out. Talking earlier before we started our homestand, we wanted to go 5-0, go 5-0 and protect home court and try to get many wins as possible.
“And what’s funny, I was talking to Jae [Crowder] earlier, we really haven’t been shooting the ball well in these past couple of games and we’re still able to pull out the win. That just shows how much we’re maturing as a basketball team, understanding that offense doesn’t dictate our defense. We’re doing a great job.”
Then there’s the perspective of coach Brad Stevens, who entered last year’s playoffs as the No. 7 seed but without the benefit of home court. The Celtics were swept in four games by Cleveland so home court was moot.
“I’ve never lived it,” Stevens said Tuesday. “I think you have to win on the road and at home in the playoffs. And you have to be able to well in either. You never know how those series play themselves out. Our focus isn’t on 21 games from now, it’s right now. Our next two games are at home so we’ll try to play as well as we can in those next two games.”
|03.01.16 at 1:05 am ET|
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.”
“He timed it really well,” Hayward said. “It was a good play.” Read the rest of this entry »
|02.29.16 at 11:03 pm ET|
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.”
|02.29.16 at 10:40 pm ET|
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.
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