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Fast Break: Amir Johnson, Isaiah Thomas each put up 23 points as Celtics survive against Bulls

11.02.16 at 10:38 pm ET
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Nov 2, 2016; Boston, MA, USA;  Chicago Bulls guard / forward Jimmy Butler (21) is guarded by Boston Celtics forward / center Amir Johnson (90) during the second quarter at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports

Amir Johnson was an offensive and defensive force for the Celtics Wednesday, here guarding Jimmy Butler. (Greg M. Cooper/USA Today Sports)

While one Chicago team was in pursuit of ending a 108-year championship drought, another was giving the Celtics a heart attack in the C’s 107-100 win over the Bulls.

Leading by 16 points in the fourth quarter, the Celtics squandered yet another lead at home, letting the Bulls tie the game with less than two minutes left in the fourth. Despite the late surge, the Celtics fended off the Bulls, scoring five unanswered points after the Bulls evened the game.

“We’ve got to play better in that situation,” Celtics coach Brad Stevens said. “I thought our offense was good and executed well, but we’ve got to be more sound defensively in that time.”

Amir Johnson had arguably his most memorable game in green, dropping 23 points on the Bulls, including four 3-pointers on as many attempts. He had three assists and five rebounds as well. 

“I was just feeling good,” Johnson said. “I’m always able to shoot, guys can shoot in the league, it’s just in our offense I’ve always played team ball and been a very unselfish player, [tonight] I was just able to find open shots and knock down shots.”

Isaiah Thomas turned in a double-double performance, scoring 23 points while dishing out 10 assists.

In his season debut, guard Marcus Smart was quiet offensively, turning the ball over six times in his 33 minutes of work, but was solid on the defensive end. He managed to grab five boards with one steal.

With legitimate concern surrounding the Celtics frontcourt with the absence of Al Horford, the C’s were more than adept on the glass against a Bulls team that dominated them in rebounding during their last meeting less than a week ago. While the C’s were outrebounded 49-39 Wednesday, it was an improvement compared to them getting worked over 55-36 on the glass on Thursday.

“[Tyler Zeller and Amir Johnson] did a really good job. Both those guys are good players,” Stevens said. “We talked about Tyler’s reliability off the bench, and you know one thing about Al: When he plays with Al, a lot of times he’s the roller and Al’s the guy that plays on the perimeter. And tonight Tyler was is the roller and [Johnson] is on the perimeter more.”

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Celtics Pregame Notes: Al Horford out next two games with concussion; Tyler Zeller starts Wednesday

11.02.16 at 6:46 pm ET
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Al Horford

Al Horford

For the first time this season, the Celtics starting lineup will not include Al Horford — and it will be that way for a at least two games.

The Celtics center will miss Wednesday’s game against the Bulls as part of the NBA concussion protocol, being replaced by Tyler Zeller. Horford suffered the injury on Monday in practice when a teammate swiped for a ball and got Horford in the head. After feeling fine Monday night and into Tuesday morning, Horford was too nauseous to complete Tuesday’s practice.

He won’t travel with the team either for Thursday’s game against the Cavs.

According to head coach Brad Stevens, “He felt better today but still had some symptoms, and you have to be 24 hours symptom-free before resuming activity, and if any symptoms come up after that 24 hours once you resume activity it restarts itself. So we’ll see how he feels tomorrow, but he will not be on the trip, he will not play [Wednesday or Thursday].”

With Horford’s absence clearing the way for Zeller to get a start, it is another testament to the 7-footers flexibility in minutes.

After spending most of last season deep in the bench, he’s averaged 16.3 minutes so far this season, including 20 minutes, 18 seconds when the Celtics played the Bulls last Thursday.

“Tyler has been there, done that here and we talked about Tyler’s value extending beyond just a typical role when fully healthy is that he’s been a guy that’s started games for us, started big games for us and has played really well and is able to both. He’s able to come off the bench or start,” Stevens said.

“With his size, with their rebounding, we’re going to need guys to get them off the glass. It doesn’t mean that he’ll get every rebound, we’ll need our guards to rebound as our bigs are blocking out a lot.”

Other Celtics Notes: — Marcus Smart will make his season debut after missing the first three games with a left ankle sprain. Avery Bradley will be available as well, after receiving a cortisone shot Tuesday. Stevens indicated both will be free of any minutes restrictions. 

Read More: Al Horford, Avery Bradley, Marcus Smart, Tyler Zeller

Al Horford will miss Bulls game while in concussion protocol program; Avery Bradley has shoulder examined

11.02.16 at 12:26 pm ET
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Al Horford

Al Horford

The Celtics will be without Al Horford for Wednesday night’s game at TD Garden against the Bulls, as the center was placed in the NBA’s concussion protocol program.

According to the team, Horford was hit in the head during Monday’s practice, although he did not show any concussion symptoms on Monday night or Tuesday morning. During Tuesday’s practice, Horford started to show symptoms, so he was removed from the court and examined by team physicians. He was placed in the concussion protocol program Tuesday night.

Meanwhile, Avery Bradley missed Tuesday’s practice with a sore right shoulder — an issue he’s been dealing with since training camp. Coach Brad Stevens said the team’s medical staff will determine the guard’s availability for Wednesday. Bradley had two shoulder surgeries (both sides) after the 2011-12 season.

Bradley, 25, is coming off a tremendous performance in a win over the Hornets on Saturday night, as he amassed 31 points, 11 rebounds and eight 3-pointers. Through three games he is averaging 21.3 points, 8.7 rebounds and 4.7 assists.

On the positive side for Boston, guard Marcus Smart will make his season debut Wednesday after being sidelined with a sprained ankle.

Read More: Al Horford, Avery Bradley, Marcus Smart,

Ray Allen announces retirement from NBA via The Players’ Tribune

11.01.16 at 1:07 pm ET
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Ray Allen

Ray Allen

Ray Allen is finally retiring.

The two-time champion and former Celtics great, who hasn’t played since the Heat lost the 2014 Finals to the Spurs, announced his retirement in a letter to his 13-year-old self on the Players’ Tribune website.

“I write this to you today as a 41-year-old man who is retiring from the game,” Allen wrote. “I write to you as a man who is completely at peace with himself.”

Allen had entertained the notion of returning to the NBA over the last year-plus, with old teammate LeBron James trying to convince him to join the Cleveland Cavaliers. But Allen declined, and made his retirement official on Tuesday.

Allen won a title with the Celtics in 2008, joining Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett in the team’s new Big Three. Garnett retired this winter, and Pierce has announced that this season, with the Clippers, will be his last.

Allen retires as the NBA’s all-time leader in 3-pointers made (2,973) and attempted (7,429). He shot .400 from beyond the arc and scored over 24,000 points, good for 22nd on the all-time list.

Allen spent five years in Boston, where he averaged 16.7 points a game and made three All-Star teams.

Read More: Big Three, Celtics, Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce

Celtics exercise 2017-18 options for Marcus Smart, Terry Rozier

10.31.16 at 5:11 pm ET
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Marcus Smart already was in a good mood Monday, as he practiced with the team and then said he is ready to return to game action. He had to be feeling even better later in the day, as the team announced that it was exercising his contract for next season, keeping him in Boston for a fourth year.

The C’s also announced they were exercising the third-year option for fellow guard Terry Rozier, who is averaging 6.0 points, 3.0 assists and 3.3 rebounds in three games this season.

Smart will earn $4.5 million next season, while Rozier is set to make $1.9 million.

While both of those moves were expected — the players are key parts of Boston’s rotation — the team has not made clear its plans for shooting guard James Young leading up to Monday’s midnight deadline. The 21-year-old beat out R.J. Hunter for the team’s final roster spot earlier this month, but it would not be a surprise for the Celtics to allow him to become a free agent in the offseason, as he has yet to impress with any consistency.

Read More: Marcus Smart, Terry Rozier,

Marcus Smart: ‘I will return Wednesday’

10.31.16 at 2:31 pm ET
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Marcus Smart

Marcus Smart

The Celtics bench, which has struggled at times in the early portion of this season, is about to get a boost.

Point guard Marcus Smart, who has missed the season’s first three games with a sprained left ankle, said he’ll be back in uniform for Wednesday’s rematch with the Bulls at TD Garden.

“I will return Wednesday,” he stated after practicing with the team Monday.

Coach Brad Stevens was a little less definitive but also optimistic that Smart will get his season started this week.

“He’s one of our returning most-contributive players, so that’s a big addition to our team,” Stevens said. “He looked good today. We’ll see how he feels in the next couple of days. But every indication is that he’ll be available.”

Stevens said he’ll consult with trainers to determine if he should limit Smart’s minutes, but Smart said he won’t make any adjustments in an attempt to ease his way back.

“You go right back to what you know,” Smart said. “You can’t try to baby it.”

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Celtics, Avery Bradley hit stride in solid win over Hornets

10.29.16 at 10:07 pm ET
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Brad Stevens saw his team fix some things in earning their second win of the season. (Jeremy Brevard/USA Today Sports)

Brad Stevens saw his team fix some things in earning its second win of the season. (Jeremy Brevard/USA Today Sports)

The Celtics finally found a groove in their 104-98 win over the Hornets, their second win of the season. 

After two lackluster games, the third time was the charm for the Celtics this season. They came out of the gate strong in the first quarter grabbing the lead early with 3-point shots. Their first 15 points were all from 3-pointers. 

The Celtics pulled ahead with a 28-19 lead after the first quarter, but leveled off with a stagnant bench and the Hornets closed the Celtics’ lead gap to 44-41 at halftime. 

The Celtics defense overall was stronger than in the past two games. Rebounding was key in this one, with Bradley coming through with a career-high 11 boards, while Jae Crowder grabbed nine. 

“I thought we were locked in,” coach Brad Stevens said in his post game press conference. “I thought our guys were really locked in. … They just played with poise, chipped at it.”

The team looked generally in sync offensively as the bench woke up in the second half and they returned to shooting with confidence. Crowder made two 3’s in the third while Al Horford and Isaiah Thomas each sunk one. 

The Celtics lost the lead in the third and ended the quarter behind 72-71 before regaining it quickly in the fourth on another Bradley 3-pointer and went on to go on a 22-5 run in that final quarter. 

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