|11.11.13 at 1:48 pm ET|
It was quite a week for Brad Stevens. Seven days ago, his Celtics dropped to 0-4 and rose to the top of ESPN’s Tank Rank. Now, his C’s are riding a three-game win streak punctuated by a pair of plays in the span of 3.6 seconds against the two-time defending NBA champions that emphatically announced the coach’s arrival.
In the final moments of Saturday’s Heat upset, Stevens concocted a pair of post-timeout plays that offered the first NBA glimpse of the brilliance that everyone who knew him at Butler has raved about for the past four months.
The first: Since Shane Battier had previously fronted Gerald Wallace in the post, Stevens called for Jeff Green to lob an entry pass to Wallace under the basket for a layup that cut a four-point deficit in half with one second left.
And second: Weighing the risk of throwing crosscourt against the reward of potentially freeing up a shooter where LeBron James might sag defensively, Stevens called for Wallace to return the favor, lobbing an entry pass to Green in the far corner for a 3-pointer that beat the buzzer. Both seemingly made more brilliant by the fact Dwyane Wade made the youth basketball mistake of missing the rim entirely on a free throw attempt between them.
During his tenure in Boston, Doc Rivers was rightfully praised for his post-timeout play calls, but he also had Paul Pierce to help him look good despite so often calling the same isolation elbow jumper. Stevens doesn’t have that luxury and requires a bit more creativity in engineering scoring opportunities for a team without a playmaker.
In the aftermath of the two most remarkable play calls during Stevens’ brief NBA coaching career, now seems as good a time as any to examine the Celtics coach’s success in post-timeout situations.
|11.09.13 at 10:15 pm ET|
Exceeding expectations are one thing, but this was ridiculous.
Down by two points with :00.6 left, Jeff Green gathered in an inbound pass from Gerald Wallace and proceeded to sink a three-pointer from the corner as the buzzer sounded. The result was a 111-110 victory for the Celtics over the world champion Heat in Miami
“Gerald made a great pass. Kelly [Olynyk] made a great screen. It went in,” Green told Comcast immediately after the win.
It looked as all things were lost in the final few moments.
Avery Bradley cut the Heat lead to two with :38.4 left after knocking down a jumper. Then, after a Chris Bosh miss, the C’s got their opportunity to tie or go ahead, regaining possession with 19 seconds remaining. But Kelly Olynyk’s jumper with seven seconds to go went in and out.
Wallace converted a lay-up with just more than a second left, allowing the Celtics’ to foul Dwyane Wade. The Heat guard went on to miss both free throws, committing a violation on the second shot (not hitting the rim), setting the scene for the C’s dramatics.
It was the Celtics’ third win in a row.
Green finished with 25 points on 8-for-16 shooting from the floor, while Bradley chipped in with 17.
LeBron James scored 20 or more points for the 32nd straight game against the Celtics, finishing with 25. As a team, the Heat shot 57 percent from the floor.
The 35 second-quarter points by the C’s were the most scored by Brad Stevens‘ team in a quarter this season. It also marked the fifth straight time both teams have put up at least 100 points when facing off in Miami.
|11.08.13 at 9:38 pm ET|
The Celtics claimed their ninth straight win over the Magic, this time beating Orlando, 91-89, Friday night.
Leading the way against the Magic — who had won three in a row — was another strong performance from Brandon Bass, who finished with 16 points and seven rebounds.
The Magic closed the gap to two points with 1:38 left in the game after a four-point play from Aaron Afflalo. Celtics rookie Kelly Olynyk came back to knock down a jumper with 1:13 left to make it a two-possession game heading into the final minute.
Afflalo, however, struck again converting a three-point play with 26 seconds left, cutting the Celtics’ lead to one. Bass built the Celtics’ lead back up to three by knocking down two free throws with :10.5 remaining.
Afflalo struck one more time, converting a jumper just on the three-point line with :04.6 on the clock, bringing Orlando within a point.
The C’s, who came with the third-most turnovers in the NBA, limited their miscues to 11, while Orlando turned the ball over 20 times.
|11.08.13 at 12:59 pm ET|
The Kris Humphries Minutes Watch is one of the more interesting subplots of this Celtics season.
By sticking him on the end of the bench early this season, the C’s benefit twofold, accelerating the development of rookies Kelly Olynyk and Vitor Faverani while improving the team’s lottery chances.
On the flip side, the Celtics might also benefit from increasing Humphries’ playing time. He’s a 10-year NBA veteran who’s averaged a double-double per 36 minutes over his career, so there’s little doubt he gives Brad Stevens a better chance to stay afloat until Rajon Rondo returns than Faverani. Meanwhile, showcasing him might actually increase his expiring contract’s trade value in the coming months.
In other words, the Kris Humphries Minutes Watch might just be the best tanking barometer we have. And, unlike at least one of his Celtics teammates, Humphries doesn’t seem all that bothered by either situation.
‘I don’t look at it like that,’ he told the Boston Herald’s Steve Bulpett. ‘I look at it like I’ve got to prepare myself to help my team whatever way I can. I can’t read into all that stuff. If you’re a professional, you’ve got to do your job. That’s preparing yourself to play, whether you’re playing or not playing. We’re all trying to do that.’
The fact his name was on the tip of just about everybody’s tongue when the Knicks lost Tyson Chandler for 4-6 weeks is a good sign for his trade market. Considering each team’s financial situation, such a deal seems far from likely, since the Celtics would almost certainly have to absorb the $23.3 million left on Andrea Bargnani‘s contract through 2015 in return. Still, any number of contending teams might need frontcourt help by February.
It’s a good thing Humphries has enough Patron, wine and craft beer to get him through the season (see video).
|11.07.13 at 3:33 pm ET|
Injured Celtics point guard Rajon Rondo made a huge impact on the Garden floor last night. He just did so prior to the game. Rondo and C’s co-owner Stephen Pagliuca surprised high school students Aylin Garcia Soto and Melvin Harrison with a couple $5,000 scholarships in coordination with Sun Life Financial, which also awarded a pair of $50,000 grants to Boston-based non-profit organizations Bottom Line and Brookview House.
|11.07.13 at 2:02 am ET|
“You could kind of see,” said Celtics guard Phil Pressey as a knowing smile came to his face. “He talked about every single player, but as soon as he brought up Hayward, he kind of gave a couple more details about him.”
And Stevens’ first NBA win was no different from so many at Butler: Hayward was the best player on the floor.
“He’s a lot better than when I coached him, and man was he good when I coached him,” said Stevens after watching the Jazz guard drop 28 points, nine rebounds and five assists on his Celtics. “I thought he was the best player in college at the time, and man has he improved. I’m proud of him.
“I can’t tell you what that feels like, because I was there when he was a puppy ‘¦ and nobody was recruiting him. And it was like, ‘You think we should offer that guy a scholarship? Nobody’s looking at him. Nobody’s even in the building.’ It was probably a good decision, in retrospect. He’s awfully good.”
Let’s just say the feeling is mutual.
|11.07.13 at 1:41 am ET|
After starting his NBA coaching career 0-4, Brad Stevens stepped up to the podium Wednesday night after a 97-87 win and asked Celtics longtime public relations director Jeff Twiss if he should make an opening statement. Without missing a beat, Stevens showed his dry sense of humor and his ability to understate the obvious.
‘Winning’s more fun than losing,” Stevens said. “But at the same time, I think we played two pretty good games back to back, so that’s the most positive thing moving forward. And hopefully we feel better about ourselves as we move forward.’
Celtics owner Wyc Grousbeck marked the occasion of Stevens’ first NBA win by getting the basketball at the end of the game and presenting it to Stevens in front of the team.
‘Wyc was nice enough to grab the ball for me, so that was really nice,” Stevens said. “You know, I’m going to celebrate for a whole 12 minutes and then I’m going to start watching Orlando and trying to figure them out. Obviously they’ve had a great start to their season, and they’ve got good young talent. And we’ve got a couple more road games ‘ I feel like we’ve already toured half the NBA this week ‘ so just a couple of more road games this week.’
The Celtics started in a 16-3 hole but all of that seemed to change when Stevens went to his bench and brought in the likes of Jared Sullinger, Phil Pressey, Gerald Wallace and rookie Kelly Olynyk.
‘I told Gerald this today: I thought the Sully/Kelly ‘ with their ability to pass and stretch the floor, would open up some driving lanes for him,” Stevens said. “And some plays for him. Those three guys complement each other pretty well. So, I kind of made up my mind [Tuesday] night that we were going to go with Gerald off the bench, and then went from there. And then I thought Phil gave us a spark. To me, the best teams I’ve been a part of have had sparks off the bench. The energy level has actually gone up, or at least in a really good night, stayed the same. And I think that that’s what happened.’