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Lineup change: Marcus Smart out (sprained toe), Jared Sullinger, Amir Johnson to start

11.04.15 at 6:28 pm ET
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Marcus Smart

Marcus Smart

The Celtics faced the Pacers in Indiana on Wednesday with a new look to their starting lineup.

Guard Marcus Smart missed Wednesday’s game due to a sprained left big toe, according to team officials. Isaiah Thomas got the nod in place of Smart. It marked Thomas’ first regular-season start as a Celtic.

Celtics officials announced Smart’s injury Wednesday afternoon from Indiana.

The Boston Herald’s Steve Bulpett tweeted out the following on Smart’s status:

Team officials also announced that Jared Sullinger and Amir Johnson would start in place of David Lee and Tyler Zeller.

And Avery Bradley was listed as questionable with a right index finger injury, but he made the start alongside Thomas in the backcourt.

David Lee on cold start with Celtics: ‘I have to be better finishing the ball’

11.04.15 at 1:56 pm ET
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It’s way too early to panic.

But in his first three games in Boston, David Lee is averaging 5.3 points and shooting 25 percent from the floor. The Celtics suffered two losses against two good teams (Raptors and Spurs) last week, and haven’t gotten much offensive production out of their newcomer.

Lee isn’t making excuses. He acknowledged his shortcomings after Sunday’s loss against San Antonio.

“I’m out here thinking more than I’m playing, and that’s by no means an excuse,” Lee said Sunday. “I have to be better finishing the ball. That’s what I do. I think I’ve shot 50 percent or better for the last decade. If I’m a betting man, I’m thinking I’m going to snap out of it here.”

For his career, Lee has shot 53.2 percent from the floor. Just last season, Lee averaged below double digits in points for the first time since his rookie season. But still managed to shoot 51 percent in 18 minutes.

Expectations were somewhat high when the Celtics acquired Lee. Fresh off winning an NBA title as a backup on the Warriors, Lee was coming into a great situation. No one thought he would go back to being the All-Star he was a few years back, but in a starter’s role with a young Celtics core, it was fair to expect improvement from last season. At age 32, he still has plenty of basketball left in the tank.

On Sunday against the Spurs, Lee scored two points on 1-of-7 shooting, missed a jump shot and failed to tip in a rebound (twice), then Tim Duncan stuffed his shot so badly that it left him sitting on TD Garden’s new parquet floor. It was a rough game for Lee.

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Celtics assign James Young, Jordan Mickey to D-League

11.03.15 at 5:33 pm ET
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James Young

James Young

Add this to the Celtics‘ list of unsurprising moves: James Young and Jordan Mickey have been inside to the Red Claws, Boston’s D-League affiliate in Portland, Maine.

The first of the C’s three draft picks received in return for trading Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett to the Nets, Young has been inactive for the first three games of the season. He averaged 21.5 points, 4.8 rebounds and two assists in 32.9 minutes over 17 games during 11 trips back and forth from Maine last season.

“I guess it’s something that I remind myself, but James is still only 20, and as a matter of fact, he recently turned 20″ Celtics president Danny Ainge said on media day when asked about Young’s progress. “I think he would have been one of the top 10 youngest guys in this year’s draft. I think James has made great strides. He had a terrific year last year in the D-League. I had numerous coaches tell me he was one of the best prospects they’ve ever seen in the D-League at age 19 last year.”

This marks Mickey’s first assignment to the D-League after being drafted No. 33 overall in June and receiving the heftiest contract for a rookie second-round pick in league history. He played two minutes at the end of the season-opening win over the 76ers — collecting two points, two rebounds and one assist in the process — but has been inactive since fellow rookie R.J. Hunter returned from illness.

In an odd bit of statistical nonsense, Mickey currently leads the NBA in offensive rating (243.1 points per 100 possessions), and that’s not likely to change soon. Although, both Young and Mickey will be recalled and re-assigned to the Red Claws more times than you can count on two hands this season, so get accustomed to it.

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Why Celtics won’t sign Jared Sullinger, Tyler Zeller to contract extensions now

11.02.15 at 2:03 pm ET
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Jared Sullinger

Jared Sullinger

As expected, the Celtics will not reach contract extensions with big men Jared Sullinger and Tyler Zeller before Monday’s deadline, according to The Boston Globe’s Adam Himmelsbach.

The NBA salary cap is expected to expand $20 million next summer, so Sullinger and Zeller have no reason to sign a team-friendly extension based on the league’s current salary structure. Likewise, the C’s have little incentive to sign Sullinger and Zeller to player-friendly deals now, because of the former’s conditioning issues and the latter’s inconsistent production.

Consider that fellow 2012 NBA Draft first-round pick Jeremy Lamb, who couldn’t crack the regular rotation in Oklahoma City for his first three seasons, is reportedly signing a three-year, $21 million contract extension two games into his Hornets career. Sullinger and Zeller should receive an average annual value of $7 million next summer if they respectively eat a handful of Big Macs for lunch every day and fall to fifth or sixth on the C’s frontcourt depth chart this season.

More likely, both will be seeking double-digit millions per season next summer, and by not offering them that kind of cash flow right now, the Celtics can monitor their progress closely now and maintain significant salary cap flexibility in 2016, when both become restricted free agents and represent $12.2 million in combined cap holds come July 1.

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Avery Bradley injures right index finger late in loss to Spurs

11.01.15 at 8:37 pm ET
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If you knew Celtics guard Avery Bradley sprained his right index finger late in Sunday’s 95-87 loss to the Spurs, you’d think he did it on this devastating dunk that cut San Antonio’s lead to five with 1:40 left.

Bradley left the game with 26 seconds left and the C’s trailing by three possessions, following the team doctor to the locker room. He had the finger set in a splint and his right wrist wrapped before his postgame interview, but didn’t injure it on the rim. He caught the finger on a jersey in the final minute.

‘€œI got it caught in someone’€™s jersey and bent my fingers back,” said Bradley, who scored a team-high 18 points to go along with four rebounds and three assists. Its just swollen right now. My right hand.’€

Avery Bradley

Avery Bradley

The Celtics have the day off Monday, return to practice Tuesday and don’t play until Wednesday in Indiana, so Bradley has a few days to recover. He did not have the finger bandaged when the Celtics initially let reporters into the locker room and he didn’t appear to be favoring it as he prepared for his media session.

Considering the shoulder and ankle injuries that have plagued Bradley throughout his career, you just hope the finger doesn’t become a linger issue that diminishes the progress he’s made under coach Brad Stevens.

“I’ve just been trying to tell myself to be more aggressive, go to the basket stronger,” added Bradley. “When I broke my ankle, I feel like it’s always in the back of my head that I can go and re-injure myself. I just have to go out there and play basketball and not think. … A lot of people forget that that used to be me. I just have to continue to take what the defense gives me and be aggressive.”

Bradley was the lone C’s starter with a positive rating in Sunday’s loss, finishing plus-three in 30:28. After shooting better than 50 percent from 3-point range during the preseason, Bradley hasn’t quite found his groove, shooting 4-of-12 from distance and 37.1 percent overall so far, but his defense has been steady. If he continues to attack the rim and the 3-pointers start falling, he’ll be a game-changer.

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Studs and Duds: LaMarcus Aldridge, Spurs too much for cold-shooting Celtics

11.01.15 at 6:02 pm ET
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It was an ugly shooting night for the Celtics, especially in the first half, when they missed more than 70 percent of their attempts, but somehow they remained with four of the Spurs in the final minutes.

It was a testament to their defense, but despite making several runs to cut into a 15-point deficit, the Celtics couldn’t ever get over the hump in a 95-87 loss that dropped them to 1-2 on the young season.

Avery Bradley led the Celtics with 18 points on 18 shots before leaving the game with 26 seconds left and retreating to the locker room with the team doctor. Marcus Smart (17 points), Isaiah Thomas (15 points on 18 shots), Jared Sullinger (10 points, 8 rebounds) and Amir Johnson (10 points) also reached double figures.

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

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Studs and Duds: Celtics can’t contain hot-shooting Raptors

10.30.15 at 11:05 pm ET
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The Raptors shot better than 50 percent in the second half, outscoring a Celtics offense that couldn’t find its rhythm, and the result was Boston’s first loss of the season, 113-103 at TD Garden. Isaiah Thomas led the way for the second straight game, totaling with 25 points and seven assists. Avery Bradley scored 13 points, while Amir Johnson and Kelly Olynyk each added 11 off the bench. The Celtics and Raptors played to a 54-54 tie at the half, but Toronto totaled 30 third-quarter points and outscored the C’s by nine in the frame. In the end, the Celtics couldn’t contain a trio of Toronto 20-piont scorers — 2013 All-Star DeMar DeRozan (23 points), newcomer DeMarre Carroll (21 points, 5 rebounds) and reserve Terrence Ross (21 points). For a complete box score, click here. To go beyond the box, read on. Read the rest of this entry »

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