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5 things we learned as Hassan Whiteside’s Heat stop Celtics

02.01.15 at 4:11 pm ET
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Tyler Zeller

Tyler Zeller

If someone asks you about Sunday’s Celtics game, make sure to emphasize its “€œgreat personality,”€ because by no means was it visually pleasing.

In a low-scoring affair that saw neither team playing particularly well, the Celtics ‘€” wearing their bizarre and unbecoming gray “€œParquet Pride”€ jerseys ‘€” fell 83-75 to the Heat at the TD Garden. The C’€™s struggled early and couldn’t regain the lead despite coming back to tie the game.

Without stars Dwyane Wade and Luol Deng, Miami relied heavily on their big men. Hassan Whiteside led all scorers with 20 points and nine rebounds while Chris Bosh added 18 points and seven rebounds. Avery Bradley and Tyler Zeller each netted 17 points to lead the way for the Celtics. Zeller started in place of Jared Sullinger, who was benched to start the game for arriving late to a pregame walkthrough. Marcus Thornton (15 points) was the only other Celtics player in double figures.

For the complete box score, click here.

CELTICS SHOOT TERRIBLY IN THE FIRST HALF

Even if there was some sort of bucket emporium that exclusively sold buckets and the team had a variety of currency options available, the Celtics still would not have been allowed to purchase a bucket. The C’€™s finished 13 for 41 from the field for an unimpressive 32.7 percent. Chris “Birdman” Andersen made as many 3-pointers as the Celtics, who made just one of their 10 attempts. Their inability to acquire aforementioned buckets, I’d argue, directly contributed to their 13-point deficit at halftime.

12 GOOD MINUTES OF BASKETBALL

Evan Turner may have started the game at point guard, but after missing his first six shots he quickly found himself on the bench. With Marcus Smart playing in his place to open the second half, the Celtics cut the Heat’€™s 13-point lead down to two. With the hyper-athletic lineup of Smart, Bradley and Jae Crowder in the game, the C’€™s increased their intensity and ball pressure on the defensive end. The Heat scored only 17 points in the quarter, turning the ball over seven times.

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Read More: Boston Celtics, Hassan Whiteside, Jared Sullinger, Miami Heat

5 things we learned as Rockets hold off Celtics’ comeback

01.30.15 at 9:59 pm ET
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After a dismal start, Marcus Smart’s defense and offensive contributions from a band of Celtics veterans sparked a furious comeback against the visiting Rockets, but the C’s couldn’t get over the hump in a 93-87 loss at TD Garden.

Smart held Houston’s MVP candidate James Harden to just 14 points on 4-of-21 shooting and the trio of Brandon Bass (17 points, 8 rebounds), Marcus Thornton (17 points, 4-6 3P, 7 rebounds) and Tayshaun Prince (13 points) combined for 47 points, leading the Celtics within a single possession yet again in the final minute after trailing by as many as 19 points in the first half — but it wasn’t enough to upset another Western Conference power.

“He’s pretty good,” Harden said of Smart. “He fits well in their system, and he made a lot of big plays.”

The Celtics dropped to 16-29, falling two games in the loss column behind the Charlotte Hornets for the Eastern Conference’s eighth seed. For a complete box score, click here.

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Will any current Celtics make a future All-Star Game?

01.30.15 at 12:55 pm ET
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Marcus Smart

Marcus Smart

Is anybody on this Celtics team capable of playing in a future All-Star Game?

The current 14-man roster shares one All-Star bid, as Gerald Wallace appeared as a reserve in 2010, but the real question is whether or not any of the eight players currently under the age of 25 will ever receive an invitation. Needless to say, nobody on this year’s Celtics even cracked the top 50 vote-getters for good reason.

While we shouldn’t give up all hope on Kelly Olynyk or James Young just yet, it’s safe to assume Jared Sullinger and Marcus Smart offer the best hopes among these Celtics for a future All-Star nomination. So, let’s take a look at how the 2015 NBA All-Stars fared at the same stage of their careers as that C’s tandem.

BACKCOURT

Midway through his rookie season, Smart has averaged 6.7 points (54.3 true shooting percentage), 3.2 assists against 1.2 turnovers, 2.4 rebounds and 1.1 steals in 22.2 minutes over 30 games. How do those numbers rate against the pre-All-Star rookie averages for the 12 guards who made this year’s East and West rosters?

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Read More: Boston Celtics, Jared Sullinger, Marcus Smart, NBA

Positive road trip gives hope to Celtics’ playoff odds

01.29.15 at 6:21 pm ET
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Last season the Celtics‘ record against the Western Conference on the road was 0-15. If there’s a positive way to spin that, it’s that Brad Stevens certainly left his team with room for improvements on the road for this season.

“It could go a bunch of different ways,” Brandon Bass said as the C’s prepared to depart for the six-game trip through three different Western Conference time zones. Yes, Brandon, it could have gone a bunch of different ways. However, I don’t think many predicted the Celtics would return home to almost three feet of snow with three more victories under their belts.

Finishing the trip with a loss in Minnesota left a sour taste in the team’s mouth, but the trip could have been far less successful in Stevens’ eyes.

“We had our moments where we played well,” the coach said of the road trip after returning home to practice on Thursday. “We won two 1-point games [back-to-backs in Portland and Denver] which could have gone either way. If we’re sitting here at 1-5 because those last two shots bounce in, do we feel worse about ourselves? Absolutely. Is it a lot less of a successful trip? Absolutely. But, because those bounces went our way, we feel better.”

With the unexpected success, the Celtics amazingly sit just two games back of the eight-seed in the Eastern Conference at 16-28. But the C’s haven’t just been getting lucky bounces in their own games lately, they’ve been lucky across the league.

The Pistons had been surging, and sit just a half-game back of Boston in the standings. But Brandon Jennings‘ achilles tear recently ended the point guard’s season, and may well keep Detroit from rolling into the playoffs after their turnaround in the post-Josh Smith era.

The Nets are currently sitting in the nine-seed, but Brooklyn has made it clear that they intend to sell, sell, sell as the deadline approaches. Deron Williams, Brook Lopez and Joe Johnson are all on the table. If they can find a taker on even one of those players, especially Johnson, Brooklyn could remain looking in from the outside at the playoffs.

The eight-seeded Hornets have lost arguably their best player in Kemba Walker for a long period of time after the UConn product recently underwent knee surgery. Unless they make a trade that brings them back some high-end talent, it would be silly to think that they wouldn’t slip in the standings.

Finally, there’s the Heat. Miami has a grasp on the seven-seed, but with a record of just 20-25, and Dwyane Wade injured again, they are far from untouchable in the standings.

Enter the Celtics. Their goal (or at least Danny Ainge’s goal) might not be to make the playoffs this season. Ainge admitted it wasn’t a goal of his last season. But the Eastern Conference is shaping up in a way that they just may sneak right in, even with a losing record. This current Celtics unit has not been together particularly long — it’s been a season filled with moving parts — but as Stevens said on Thursday: “There’s no better team building activity than winning a close game on the road.”

If the C’s can pull out a couple more close games on the road, then who knows? We might be watching this team compete during the playoffs whether it’s in Ainge’s plans or not.

Read More: Boston Celtics, Brad Stevens, Brandon Bass,

5 things we learned as Celtics’ road trip ends with loss vs. Timberwolves

01.28.15 at 10:31 pm ET
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Jared Sullinger

Jared Sullinger

When the Celtics left for a six-game road trip against a brutal Western Conference slate, many believed their season would fall apart. But while the C’s head home after a loss, the conversation has shifted to chatter regarding a playoff berth.

Boston didn’t play like a playoff team on Wednesday night, though, falling to the Timberwolves 110-98. Jared Sullinger was the Celtics‘ high scorer with 16 points and eight rebounds, but made just 6-of-16 shots and posted a team-worst plus-minus of minus-22. The loss drops the green to 16-28 on the season ‘€” still only two games behind the Hornets for the Eastern Conference’s eighth seed.

The Timberwolves won for only the eighth time in 45 games this season, led by Kevin Martin‘s 21 points off the bench. Martin was one of seven Wolves in double figures, including all five starters. Marcus Thornton (15 points) was effective for the Celtics off the bench, while Tayshaun Prince and Marcus Smart contributed 12 apiece.

For a complete box score, click here.

SOUR ENDING TO AN ENCOURAGING TRIP

The Celtics are heading back to Boston after going 3-3 during six games in three time zones. That’s a victory in itself. But ending it by losing to the worst team (record-wise) in the NBA with a chance to go 4-2 instead should sting. It puts all the playoff talk into perspective. This team still isn’t very good on the whole. But they showed plenty of promise in three huge road wins. Let’s face it, this team did something three times on this trip what they were unable to do once all of last season: Win a game in a Western Conference building.

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5 things we learned as Celtics keep winning out West

01.26.15 at 11:42 pm ET
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Tyler Zeller

Tyler Zeller

Against all odds, the Celtics own a winning record on their West Coast road trip.

For the third time in five games against Western Conference opponents over the past week, the C’s came out on top, holding off the Jazz 99-90. The Celtics improved to 16-27 on the season, moving within two games of the final Eastern Conference playoff spot. Even more promising, they wrap up the road trip on Wednesday against the Timberwolves, owners of the league’s worst record.

Tayshaun Prince of all people led the scoring effort with 19 points on 10 shots off the bench. Fellow reserve Tyler Zeller added 14 points and seven boards while Jared Sullinger (9 rebounds) and Avery Bradley each contributed a dozen points. Gordon Hayward led the Jazz (16-29) with 26 points against his former coach at Butler.

“He’s just like me,” Stevens told reporters of Prince. “He knows what’s going on. He’s lived it all. They’ve got you down by 20 in a quarter, and it doesn’t look like his pulse has moved. You go up by 20 in a quarter, and it doesn’t look like his pulse has moved. He’s just playing. He’s playing the right way. He made us better today. He’s made us better with his presence already, and that’s been fun. It’s been fun for our young guys to have another older guy to kind of lean on and learn from.”

For a complete box score, click here.

SECOND TO NONE

Fielding a lineup of Marcus Smart, Marcus Thornton, Gerald Wallace, Prince and  Zeller to start the second quarter, the Celtics ignited a 30-7 run over the course of 7:32, transforming a 21-21 game into a 23-point lead. Proving he’s still a capable contributor, Prince highlighted the effort, scoring 10 of his 12 first-half points and adding three assists during the run. After trading buckets with the Jazz early, the Celtics never trailed again.

TURD QUARTER

As is so often suggested, basketball is a game of runs. The run giveth, and the run taketh away. And boy did the run taketh away in the third quarter. The Celtics went nearly six minutes without scoring a field goal in the frame. Meanwhile, the Jazz starters rattled off an 18-0 run that slashed a 22-deficit down to four.

FREE FALLING

Since Jan. 25, 2013, the Celtics haven’t finished perfect from the free throw line when attempting more than 15 freebies in a game. After making their first 16 free throws to start the game, Prince’s miss in the final minute kept the streak alive. Still, those free throws made much of the difference, as the C’s finished 21-of-23 from the line (91.3 percent) while the Jazz missed eight of their 19 tries (57.9 percent).

BENCH MOB

As Celtics coach Brad Stevens continues to search for the right rotation, the Boston bench proved more effective than the starters in Utah. Led by Prince and Zeller, the C’s bench scored 53 points on 20-of-35 shooting (57.1 percent). With Bradley (4-12 FG) and Evan Turner (2-7 FG) struggling to find their shooting stroke, the starters scored 46 points on 15-of-39 shooting (38.5 percent), suggesting the depth of Stevens’ rotation is proving effective in the February doldrums of the NBA season ‘€” particularly during their fourth game in five nights.

“You can’t come out the way we came out in the third quarter,” Stevens added postgame, “and I thought we were pretty locked in and engaged, but we looked like we were running in the mud a little bit with that group, so I went to the bench quicker, and I thought the bench really did it’s job both times pushing the lead out.”

ROAD WARRIORS

Credit Stevens for motivating an ever-changing Celtics roster in the wake of the Rajon Rondo trade. After losing 24 straight to Western Conference foes on the road, the C’s have shown considerable fight during their six-game West Coast trip, winning three of their first five contests and giving the Warriors more than they bargained for. Despite the turmoil, this Celtics team is developing. So, cue a Tayshaun Prince trade, I guess?

Read More: Boston Celtics, NBA, Utah Jazz,

5 things we learned in a surprisingly close Celtics loss vs. Warriors

01.25.15 at 10:37 pm ET
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The Celtics have struggled to find a go-to scorer all season. Golden State, on the other hand, has cruised behind an MVP-caliber season from Stephen Curry. So, when the C’s visited a Warriors team coming off a game in which Klay Thompson poured in an NBA record 37 points in the third quarter alone, things were expected to get ugly.

Yet, the Celtics kept it competitive throughout the game despite eventually falling to the Warriors, 114-111. Jared Sullinger led the way for Boston with 26 points, nine rebounds and three assists. The loss drops the C’s to 15-27 and snaps a two-game win streak.

Evan Turner (19 points, 7 rebounds, 7 assists) also had a strong game for the Celtics while Avery Bradley and Tyler Zeller each finished with 15 points. Both Kelly Olynyk (ankle) and Marcus Smart (death in family) did not attend the game. The Celtics kept Thompson from scoring 37 points in any quarter, but he did finish with 31 points to lead the now 37-6 Warriors.

For a complete box score, click here.

HANGING AROUND WITH THE BEST

The Celtics stayed hot coming off two of their biggest wins of the season. The C’s should have been down just four at the break, but a bailout call at the buzzer by the referees on Curry’s halfcourt heave led to three free throws and a seven-point halftime deficit (keep in mind that the game was decided by three points). The lead grew to 12 by the end of the third quarter, but the Celtics responded with a strong final frame. There are no good losses in the NBA, but considering the opponent, the C’s played one of their better games of the year.

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