|04.02.15 at 10:06 am ET|
Maybe it’s superstition or maybe it’s just part of sending a message. But Brad Stevens didn’t mention the word playoffs once in his post-game press conference Wednesday after a 100-87 win over the Pacers that keeps his Celtics right in the hunt for the final two postseason spots in the East.
The way Stevens talked made it feel like he wants his team focused only on the here-and-now, knowing that any slip up in focus on the game at hand will likely cost them any chance of advancing to the playoffs for the first time in his two-year NBA coaching career.
“All 82 count the same,” Stevens said. “That’s kind of the way I’ve always looked at it. Every game carries equal weight and equal importance. Obviously because of the hole we dug, we’ve been fighting uphill all year. It adds more importance at the time but nothing is more important than the next game in our world, and we have to keep it that way.”
As Stevens was talking, the Nets were hanging on for a 100-98 win over the Knicks that kept them a half game ahead of the Celtics for the eighth and final playoff spot. The game-by-game approach should come in handy as the Celtics have LeBron James and the Cavaliers and the division-leading Raptors twice apiece in the final two weeks.
“At the same time, as we enter these last couple of weeks, it’s so very important to stay in the moment and take advantage of every day and focus again on the things we can control,” said Stevens. “If we get to the point where you play beyond that, maybe I’ll feel differently. Maybe this feels a little bit more like late February than the NCAA tournament.”
The Celtics have shown in their last two games the ability to do something that was sorely lacking for much of the season: the ability to close out. On Monday, the Celtics found a way to pull away from the Hornets in the final minutes and hang on for a valuable road win. On Wednesday, the Celtics led 77-71 with 8:23 left in the fourth. They went on a 17-7 run in the next four minutes to put the game away.
“The effort was really good,” Stevens said. “We talked about it before the Charlotte game; we have to play with a defensive DNA. And the last two games we have. But you know it’s one of those things like, you don’t now all of a sudden it’s not part of who we are; we have to make it part of who we are every day and that’s got to continue to be the emphasis. And I think that’s a good emphasis to have, because you’re focused only on what you can control and nothing else.”
That focus needs to continue at home on Friday against another desperate Eastern team with playoff aspirations, the Milwaukee Bucks, at TD Garden. They’ll be no talk of playoffs then, either.
|04.02.15 at 9:34 am ET|
Too bad Kevin Garnett never played with Kelly Olynyk.
Garnett, one of the most fierce competitors in recent Celtics lore, would’ve been proud to watch how Olynyk handled himself Wednesday night. The second-year swing man out of Gonzaga insisted on playing with his left eye shut thanks to a pregame accidental elbow from teammate Shav Randolph.
Good thing since Olynyk made seven of his 10 shots, including 3-of-4 from 3-point range, scoring 19 off the bench in a 100-87 win over the Pacers that keeps Boston right in the mix of race for the final two playoff spots in the East.
“It didn’t affect me a lot except I couldn’t see that well from that eye,” Olynyk said. “I felt good, we played well as a team, moved the ball, got open looks from the start and just got rolling.”
“I gave him no hope of playing,” marveled Tyler Zeller, who matched Olynyk’s team-high 19 points. “He looked like he just got out of a boxing fight. I was impressed with his ability to go out and play and be able to produce like he did. He couldn’t have been able to see out of that eye so he did a great job of playing through it.”
What was particularly amazing was how his teammates, realizing he had the hot hand with just one eye, kept feeding him the ball. His three-ball with 3:53 left in the fourth quarter was the perfect capper on the night, extending the Celtics‘ lead out to 16, 94-78.
“[Tuesday] night I went in the gym and got a lot of shots up, just kind of repped it out and just felt really good,” Olynyk said. “I was feeling good, before the game I was feeling good even after I got hit, I came back out and tried it out so I knew I was going to have a good one.”
|04.01.15 at 9:57 pm ET|
Maybe Shavlik Randolph should abuse his teammates before every game.
During warmup drills, Randolph smacked Kelly Olynyk with an elbow to the face. Olynyk’s eye quickly swelled to the size of a golf ball, and trainers were doubtful he would even be able to play. Deciding to forego a protective mask or goggles, Olynyk opted to play and ended up leading the Celtics to a 100-87 victory against the visiting Indiana Pacers on Wednesday night.
Olynyk and Tyler Zeller led the Celtics with 19 points apiece, while Evan Turner (13 points, 12 assists, 11 rebounds) submitted his third triple-double of the season. Avery Bradley (11 points) and Jae Crowder (10 points) also scored in double figures. Despite only shooting 22 percent from the 3-point line, the Celtics controlled the game for all four quarters, not relinquishing a lead they took four minutes into the game. George Hill led the Pacers with 21 in the loss.
The Celtics (34-41) moved two games ahead of the Pacers (32-43) with seven to play, and they now own the head-to-head tiebreaker with a 3-1 series victory this season. The C’s trail both the Brooklyn Nets (34-40) and Miami Heat (34-40) by a half-game for the seventh and eight seed.
For a complete box score, click here.
TYLER ZELLER DOMINATES FIRST HALF
Starting opposite 7-footer Roy Hibbert, Zeller dominated the first half, scoring 17 of his 19 points. Zeller opened the game by hitting his first four shots and drawing two early fouls on Hibbert. With Hibbert on the bench for the majority of the half, the Celtics dominated the paint, outscoring the Pacers 26-12.
|03.31.15 at 12:40 pm ET|
A knowledgeable source informs me that as of this morning there have been no direct talks b/t Texas and Shaka Smart. Not sensing momentum.
‘ Seth Davis (@SethDavisHoops) March 31, 2015
The University of Texas, which recently fired head men’s basketball coach Rick Barnes, has reportedly joined the growing list of Brad Stevens suitors. Of course, the University of Texas has also joined the growing list of institutions Danny Ainge will laugh at before hanging up the phone.
Brad Stevens is under contract through 2019 at a bargain average annual rate of $3.7 million. Unlike collegiate sports — where contracts aren’t worth the paper they’re written on — the Celtics would have to agree to let their coach out of the deal, and let’s be clear: That ain’t happening.
|03.30.15 at 9:29 pm ET|
The Celtics got knocked out of the Eastern Conference’s eighth seed on Sunday when they were blown out on their home floor by the Clippers. Monday in Charlotte offered the C’s a chance to grab that spot back from the Nets, but the Hornets are battling for a playoff berth just like the Celtics, so it wasn’t going to be easy.
The Celtics came out hot, and in the end showed more heart despite a late run from the Hornets, coming out on top, 116-104. Boston improved to 33-41 on the season, while knocking the Hornets to 31-42.
For a complete box score, click here.
AVERY BRADLEY GOT HOT
Bradley was already having a solid game as he led the C’s with 11 first half points, but then Bradley went off for 15 points in the third quarter alone to balloon the Celtics’ lead up to 85-69. Bradley finished the game with 30 points on 12-for-23 shooting, while ripping down eight boards.
|03.30.15 at 5:01 pm ET|
The importance of the next three Celtics games cannot be overstated. Isaiah Thomas called Monday night’s visit to the Charlotte Hornets “a must win,” and really all nine of their remaining contests could command the same label. But, really, the next three could make or break their playoff chances.
After traveling to Charlotte, the C’s then respectively host the Indiana Pacers and Milwaukee Bucks on Wednesday and Friday, marking a trio of head-to-head battles against teams jockeying for the Eastern Conference’s final three playoff spots. Here is the schedule for those five teams over the next five days.
- 6. Bucks (36-37): at Atlanta Hawks, vs. Chicago Bulls, at Celtics
- 7. Miami Heat (34-39): vs. San Antonio Spurs, at Cleveland Cavaliers
- 8. Brooklyn Nets (32-40): vs. Pacers, at New York Knicks, vs. Toronto Raptors
- 9. Celtics (32-41): at Hornets, vs. Pacers, vs. Bucks
- 10. Pacers (32-41): at Nets, at Celtics, vs. Hornets
- 11. Hornets (31-42): vs. Celtics, vs. Detroit Pistons, at Pacers
|03.30.15 at 1:32 pm ET|
The starting lineup of Marcus Smart, Avery Bradley, Evan Turner, Brandon Bass and Tyler Zeller ‘ a five-man unit Celtics coach Brad Stevens has employed in 18 of his team’s 22 games after the All-Star break ‘ has been outscored by 10.9 points per 100 possessions since the season resumed on Feb. 20, according to NBA.com/stats. That group has totaled 195 minutes together in that span ‘ nearly 20 percent of the C’s total playing time ‘ digging an average deficit of 2.6 points per game.
‘We have to punch first; we have to hit first,’ Isaiah Thomas said after the C’s dug themselves a 14-point hole in the first quarter of Sunday’s loss to the Clippers. ‘I don’t know what it is. We’re waiting to get hit, and then it’s tough for us to get back in it. We have to change that as soon as possible.’
Meanwhile, every lineup featuring Thomas that has played more than 10 minutes together on the Celtics has outscored the opponent per 100 possessions, including a group of Thomas, Bradley, Turner, Bass and Zeller that has outscored opponents by a point per minute over one quarter’s worth of floor time together spread out over four separate games. So, it stands to reason the Celtics could benefit from swapping Smart for Thomas to start the first and second half.
Asked if he was implying his insertion into the starting lineup might help deliver that early punch, Thomas smiled. ‘I didn’t say that,’ he responded before wisely leaving roster decisions to Stevens.
‘If coach puts me in the starting lineup, I’ll be happy,’ added Thomas, a legitimate NBA Sixth Man of the Year candidate. ‘If he doesn’t, it is what it is, but I definitely can help. That’s my game ‘ bring energy and make plays. So, if he calls my name and I’m in the starting lineup, I’m going to continue to play the game of basketball the way I know how and just do what it takes to win.’
Of course, moving Thomas might simply be robbing Peter to pay Paul, as few regular lineups sans the diminutive point guard have enjoyed much success. Stevens must consider whether Thomas’ presence would benefit the starting lineup more than his absence would detract from the bench.
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