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Celtics pregame: Avery Bradley returns after 18-game absence, starts vs. Hawks

02.27.17 at 6:27 pm ET
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Jan 6, 2017; Boston, MA, USA;  Boston Celtics guard Avery Bradley (0) during the second half against the Philadelphia 76ers at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

Avery Bradley returns after an 18-game absence with a sore Achilles. (Bob DeChiara/USA Today Sports)

For the first time since Jan. 16, Avery Bradley will take the court for the Celtics in a game.

And coach Brad Stevens is going to see quickly if the shooting guard is really ready.

Stevens announced before Monday’s game that Bradley will start against the Hawks after missing the previous 18 games with a sore right Achilles.

Stevens did indicate that Bradley – averaging 34.9 minutes in 36 games this season – would be on a restriction of “15-to-25 minutes” this week as he returns against the Hawks, Cavaliers and Lakers. 

Bradley, who is averaging 17.7 points, 6.9 rebounds and 2.4 assists this season, played against the Hornets on Jan. 16 but clearly wasn’t himself.

He made just 2-of-9 shots from the field (1-for-6 from long range) in 33 minutes, adding three rebounds and three assists in Boston’s 108-98 win.

Prior to that game, Bradley missed the previous four games with the Achilles injury. 

Bradley reiterated before the game what he said two weeks ago, that he was anxious to return “four weeks ago” but understood the team’s precaution. 

Bradley’s biggest impact could come in an area the Celtics need help – rebounding. His 6.9 average per game leads the team, 0.3 more than Al Horford. He is one of the more athletic No. 2 guards in the league and uses it to effectively rebound. He and Marcus Smart are two of the more physical guards in the East and it’s no coincidence that the Celtics struggled with offensive rebounding in his absence. 

That, of course, was offset by the fact that the other guard, Isaiah Thomas is in the midst of an MVP-caliber season offensively. In Bradley’s 18-game absence, the Celtics went 12-6. They are 15-7 in the last 22 games without him in the lineup. 

With Bradley starting and Stevens indicating that he doesn’t plan to alter his minutes early in the games this week, it means that rookie Jaylen Brown returns to the bench. This move deepens the bench significantly with the likes of Kelly Olynyk and Marcus Smart, who returned to his customary sixth-man role beginning with the Raptors game after the All-Star break. 

Read More: Atlanta Hawks, Avery Bradley, Boston Celtics,

Win in Detroit shows Celtics need their young guns now more than ever

02.26.17 at 8:51 pm ET
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Feb 26, 2017; Auburn Hills, MI, USA; Detroit Pistons forward Stanley Johnson (7) dribbles the ball during the second quarter as Boston Celtics guard Terry Rozier (12) defends at The Palace of Auburn Hills. Mandatory Credit: Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports

Stanley Johnson (7) dribbles the ball during the second quarter as Boston Celtics guard Terry Rozier (12) defends at The Palace of Auburn Hills. Mandatory Credit: Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports

Ugly is as ugly does. 

In one of the choppiest and most disconcerting games of the season, the Celtics blew a 15-point third-quarter lead and allowed the ice-cold Pistons to take a late lead. 

Jaylen Brown drilled a baseline three with 37.6 seconds left to give the Celtics the lead for good and Marcus Smart showed his typical toughness by drawing a foul and making two free throws to power the Celtics past the Pistons, 104-98, Sunday night at the Palace of Auburn Hills. 

The win snapped a two-game skid and lifted Boston to 38-21 on the season. 

The Celtics were awful on the offensive glass after misses by the Pistons at the free throw line. They allowed five offensive rebounds by the Pistons on such instances, two of them leading to wide-open 3-pointers. 

The Pistons were awful at the free throw line, led by Andre Drummond, the worst free-throw shooter in NBA history. The Detroit big man missed 10 of his 11 attempts on the night and the Pistons were 16-for-35 as a team from the charity stripe. 

Isaiah Thomas scored 16 of his game-high 33 points in the first half as the Celtics used an 18-3 run to build their lead up to as many as 12, 47-35. 

Terry Rozier and Jaylen Brown were a combined 7-for-9 from the field in the first half. Rozier, a key player with Avery Bradley out of action for the last six weeks, made offensive impact backing up Isaiah Thomas at the point. He also saw some playing time with Thomas. (Coach Brad Stevens indicated before Sunday’s game that Bradley could return this week, possibly against the Hawks Monday night after missing the last 18 games with a sore right Achilles). 

Brown has turned into one of the very best two-way transition players the Celtics have. He showed both in the first half as the Celtics held control most of the time. He was a plus-14 in 12 minutes of action. 

Morris connected on a 30-foot three at the buzzer that cut it to a 54-50 Celtics lead. The Celtics took 17 threes and made five. 

For a full box score and statistical recap of Sunday’s game in Detroit, click here.

With former teammates like Chauncey Billups, Rasheed Wallace and coaches Larry Brown and Jim Calhoun looking on, the Pistons then held an extended, emotional halftime ceremony to retire the No. 32 of former UConn and Pistons star Richard “Rip” Hamilton. “This is surreal. This is surreal,” Hamilton said in his opening remarks.

“See what Ray Allen do? I’m going to do the same thing for you that I did for Ray Allen,” Hamilton told Calhoun as he recalled Calhoun’s message to him at UConn in 1996. Hamilton was the most outstanding player for the Huskies as UConn won their first national championship in 1999. 

Hamilton played nine seasons in Detroit and was a key part of the 2004 Pistons team that swept the Lakers in the NBA Finals. 

James Young, a Detroit native, told CSNNE’s Abby Chin before the game that Hamilton was his role model and idol growing up. 

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Read More: Boston Celtics, Detroit Pistons, Isaiah Thomas, Jaylen Brown

Danny Ainge explains why Celtics didn’t make any moves at deadline: ‘Nothing that was good enough’

02.23.17 at 4:05 pm ET
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Danny Ainge

Danny Ainge

Danny Ainge tried, but he’s not in a rush to give away Brooklyn picks, and he likes his team.

Those were the messages from the Celtics boss to reporters after Thursday’s trade deadline passed without Ainge making a deal.

“We had a lot of conversations about things that we could do to improve our team but nothing that was good enough to do,” Ainge told reporters, including Richie Thompson of the Boston Herald. “It’s hard to say and I think it takes two teams and a lot of times we don’t know how close. A lot of times it is very easy to tell but [sometimes] teams are very far apart. A lot of discussion, good conversation and a lot of rumors that were true and a lot of rumors that were not true.”

The Celtics were linked to Pacers All-Star Paul George, but never came close to consummating a deal. They also failed to address their lack of rebounding with a secondary deal.

Ainge made it clear that the Celtics value their two remaining first-round picks from the Nets, noting that executives across the league recognize how valuable those selections could be, especially with deep drafts forecast in 2017 and 2018.

“The ball has bounced our way,” Ainge told reporters, “and we need to make the most of that.”

Regardless, Ainge said he likes his team, especially with injured guard Avery Bradley due back soon, and young forward Jaylen Brown expected to return on Friday night when the Celtics open the second half in Toronto.

“The outcome is that we have a team that is getting ready to head to Toronto, the same team we’ve had since training camp,” said Ainge. “A team that is very close to being healthy.”

(For more on the trade deadline and how the inactivity leaves the Celtics as potentially only the fourth-best team in the Eastern Conference, check out this column.)

Read More: Celtics rumors, Danny Ainge, NBA Trade Deadline, Nets picks

Celtics rumors: P.J. Tucker traded to Toronto Raptors for old friend Jared Sullinger

02.23.17 at 3:09 pm ET
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The Celtics didn’t just miss out on a big fish like Paul George. They apparently didn’t even land a perch like P.J. Tucker.

According to (who else) Adrian Wojnarowski of the Vertical, the Raptors acquired Tucker from the Suns for former Celtics forward Jared Sullinger, as well as pair of second-round picks.

Tucker, 31, is averaging seven points and six rebounds a game. He’s also a solid a 3-point shooter.

Celtics rumors: Woj says Pacers won’t trade Paul George, so looks like that deal is dead

02.23.17 at 2:52 pm ET
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Adrian Wojnarowski says the Paul George deal is dead, so that’s the end of that.

The host of The Vertical podcast just tweeted the Pacers star isn’t going anywhere.

Based on Woj’s impeccable track record, that would appear to be it. Now the question is if the Celtics can pull off a minor deal to help the margins of their roster, particularly in the rebounding department.

Oh well. Those rumors were fun while they lasted.

Read More: Celtics rumors, NBA Trade Deadline, Paul George,

Not so fast on Paul George — Pacers star reportedly ‘hell-bent’ on joining Lakers

02.23.17 at 2:45 pm ET
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Well this should throw some water on those Paul George rumors.

According to USA Today’s Sam Amick, George wants to either win a title in Indiana or head home to join the Lakers when he hits free agency after next season.

George grew up in Palmdale, California and played at Fresno State. He can opt out of his contract after next season and has reportedly always been enamored with playing for the Lakers.

That makes a trade by the Celtics that much more difficult, because they don’t want to surrender Nets picks and players from their current roster, only to have George bolt in free agency after next season.

Read More: Celtics rumors, NBA Trade Deadline, Paul George,

Celtics Rumors: Are Pacers attempting to clear roster spots so they can send Paul George to Boston?

02.23.17 at 1:33 pm ET
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OK, now the rumor mill is getting good.

According to ESPN’s Brian Windhorst, the Pacers are calling around trying to clear roster spots. Why, you ask?

Note the language: teams “suspect” the flurry of activity “might” be related to Celtics talks. That’s by no means definitive, but with Woj already reporting that the C’s are willing to include this year’s Nets pick for George, perhaps these talks are actually heating up.

What say you, Celtics fans?

How badly do you want Paul George?

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For more on the trade deadline, by the way, check out this running diary.

Read More: Celtics rumors, NBA Trade Deadline, Nets picks, Pacers
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