|01.16.17 at 7:51 pm ET|
After missing four straight games with a right Achilles injury, Avery Bradley will return to the lineup on Monday night against the Hornets at TD Garden.
Although the Celtics have gone 3-1 in Bradley’s absence, having their starting shooting guard certainly strengthens their lineup. Boston will face a hungry Hornets (20-20) team, one that has lost four straight games and is in danger of slipping below .500.
However, don’t let their record fool you, said Celtics head coach Brad Stevens, who believes a full-strength Hornets team will be a challenging one.
“They just haven’t been healthy a lot but when their starting five has been healthy, which they are, they’ve been excellent,” Brad Stevens said. “This is a good team. This is a team that’s going to go on streaks of winning games and you just hope it doesn’t start tonight.
“Our guys have a lot of respect for these guys because you clearly have to play well to beat them, there is no grey area in that regard. If you don’t play well, they’ll beat you because they don’t beat themselves.”
So far, the C’s are 2-0 in their season series against the Hornets but in their last contest against Charlotte the Hornets were without their leading scorer — Kemba Walker. The Celtics will look to stretch their season series to 3-0 while the Hornets will fight not fall below .500 for the first time this season.
Bradley, who said he felt “a little sore” Monday morning, says there will be no minute restriction in Monday’s game. The C’s will also have Kelly Olynyk back in action, while Tyler Zeller (illness) will remain on the injury list. Zeller, who hospitalized last week, is still experiencing symptoms of nausea and dizziness.
“Basically I had a sinus infection, middle ear infection and inner ear issue that was making me dizzy, kind of all at the same time,” Zeller explained. “Just got hit with a lot of sickness, flu, whatever you want to call it, cold, stuff. Kind of at the same time, it all compounded. Last week got it all checked out. Got it cleared. It was what they thought it was. I just kind of had to wait for it to clear out. So (coming back) now, it’s kind of getting back into the flow of things. And hopefully I’ll be back sooner than later.”
|01.13.17 at 10:59 pm ET|
Take that, Kelly Olynyk haters.
The Celtics forward — a lightning rod for criticism in Boston this season — stole some of the spotlight in Al Horford’s return to Atlanta on Friday night, helping the Celtics to a 103-101 win over the Hawks (click here for the game recap).
Olynyk, who often seems to play smaller than his 7-foot stature, was at his best Friday, scoring a season-high 26 points in 31 minutes. He hit 9-of-11 shots, including 4-of-5 3-pointers. He hit all four of his free throws. He grabbed eight rebounds — double his season average — and dished out three assists.
His contributions likely won’t make the highlight reel — especially after Isaiah Thomas once again took over down the stretch, culminating with a game-winning pull-up jumper with 2.4 seconds remaining — but there’s no doubting Olynyk’s value.
“Kelly had a great game,” Horford told CSNNE’s Abby Chin after the C’s survived a late Hawks surge. “He was very solid.”
This is why coach Brad Stevens continues to give minutes to the 25-year-old, who at times looks overmatched but other times does many of the little things that go overlooked. Point in case: On the final play of Friday’s win, Olynyk raced over to the corner and helped force a difficult jumper from Paul Millsap that was off the mark as time expired.
“For the most part Kelly was an effective offensive player throughout the entire night, and a really helpful defender,” Stevens said in his postgame press conference.
|01.12.17 at 12:48 am ET|
On a night that Floyd Mayweather was courtside, it was only appropriate that Wednesday’s Celtics-Wizards game ended with a fight.
As the players were filing off the court in the wake of Boston’s 117-108 win, the banged up John Wall crossed paths with Jae Crowder. The Celtics forward started talking to Wall, who took exception. Crowder pointed his finger in Wall’s face and the two teams started pushing and shoving, a melee that spilled into the tunnel leading to the locker rooms behind the Wizards bench.
“Just some altercation,” Wall said when asked about it. “We knew there was going to be some trash talking. We knew it was going to be a physical game. That’s all it was. Just a little trash talking and a physical game.
“My right pinky is messed up and my left wrist is swollen. I’ll probably get an X-Ray and see what’s wrong with it. I knew it was hurting. I knew it was painful before the game. It was a big game for us. I just tried to come out and play through it and the results came out how it was.”
Brad Stevens said he didn’t see it but heard about it and reminded his players what was expected in terms of behavior.
“I heard what was going on in the tunnel. All I did was walk out. There were only two guys that were walking in from the court from our team, and I just said, ‘Get in the locker room.’ And then I talked to the team about what we represent and that’s it,” Stevens said. “I don’t know what happened. I have no idea – I haven’t asked yet. I’ll find out after I get back to the locker room.”
Crowder admitted it was a challenge to keep his cool in a game with such high intensity.
“It was a good fight,” Crowder said. “It was a good fight. Both teams coming off a back-to-back. So the effort was truly there, and it was two teams playing hard.”
Crowder said he and the Celtics were very aware the referees were allowing a physical game.
“We talked about that at halftime,” Crowder added. “The refs weren’t calling it tight, so we were able to get up into guys and play a little physical. And that’s what happened.”
You don’t stick your finger in another man’s face. Period.
And John Wall certainly ain’t that guy, Jae Crowder. pic.twitter.com/pdnb2zXCtr
— Hoop District (@HoopDistrictDC) January 12, 2017
|01.11.17 at 10:20 pm ET|
Brad Stevens said before Wednesday’s encounter with the Wizards that he doesn’t pay much attention to stats.
That’s a good thing because with no Avery Bradley, Jaylen Brown and Amir Johnson, the stats certainly weren’t in Boston’s favor as they squared off against the hottest backcourt in the East.
“No excuses from my standpoint,” Stevens said. “You’ve got games to play, let’s play.”
Isaiah Thomas certainly did – lighting it up again in the fourth quarter – scoring 20 of his game-high 38 points in the final period to lead the Celtics past the Wizards, 117-108, at TD Garden.
And on a night second-year forward Jordan Mickey was making his first NBA start and Floyd Mayweather was sitting courtside, they needed the knockout shot from their MVP-caliber point guard in the end.
How clutch has Thomas been? He is now averaging 9.8 points per game in the fourth quarter alone, tops in the NBA. His 38 points Wednesday raises his game average to 28.2 points. He is tied with DeMar DeRozan for fourth in the NBA, behind Russell Westbrook (31.2), Anthony Davis (29.1) and James Harden (28.5).
“He’s been playing as impressive as I’ve seen someone play,” Al Horford said after the win that raised Boston’s record to 24-15 on the season.
Speaking of Horford, the first half Wednesday was not one for Horford’s highlight reel. In over 16 minutes, he was 3-for-6 from the field for six points, didn’t get to the free throw line, committed two turnovers and was a minus-8. He did grab five rebounds and blocked two shots but looked out of sorts at times, playing the 5-spot with Mickey filling in for Johnson.
For a full recap and box score of Wednesday’s win over the Wizards, click here.
Horford’s numbers this year have been very good (15.3 PPG, 6.8 rebounds, 4.9 assists). That cannot be disputed. But to Stevens point before the game, sometimes the stats don’t tell the story. And remember, some of this is also on the coaches, like earlier in the season when Stevens took responsibility for Horford not getting his shots.
Wednesday was not about the what but the when. The Celtics, without starters Bradley and Johnson and reserves Brown, James Young and Tyler Zeller, needed Horford to step up his game and take over in the paint. They needed an attitude.
On a night when the Celtics were playing a fast-riser in the East at home a night after a gut-punching loss in Toronto, they needed their big man to play big. Jason Smith outplayed Horford Wednesday night. Who you ask? You know, the ninth-year reserve out of Colorado State. With nine minutes left, Smith had 13 points and five rebounds in 14 minutes while Horford had 9 points and six rebounds in 25.
But by that time, the Celtics were close enough to let Isaiah Thomas do what he always does and that is dominate the fourth quarter. He scored 13 of Boston’s first 19 points in the final quarter and electrified the crowd, which included dapping with Mayweather courtside after one of his five threes on the night.
There were issues Wednesday, namely the Celtics committing 10 turnovers in the first half, offsetting the team’s 9-for-19 sharpshooting from 3-point range.
John Wall, fresh from his December Eastern Conference player of the month honor, entered the game averaging 23.2 points and 10.3 assists per game. Bradley Beal came to town averaging 22.1 points. Together, their 45.3 points per game were eight points higher than Isaiah Thomas (27.9) and Marcus Smart (10.2).
Of course, the Celtics were without the 18 points-per-game from Bradley, who was missing his third straight game with a sore right Achilles.
“Welcome to the NBA. It’s fun,” Stevens said, referring to playing the Wall-Beal combo a night after Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan. The Celtics hung in there Tuesday against the Raptors before falling apart at the end. Stevens was asked how he thinks the Celtics match up with the elite backcourts when Bradley is healthy.
|01.11.17 at 7:05 pm ET|
The Celtics are about to find out just how good their bench is.
Brad Stevens opened his Wednesday pre-game media briefing with a painful grin, acknowledging the injury bug that has hit his team this week.
“It’s a long one. James Young is out. Avery Bradley is out. Tyler Zeller is out,” Stevens began. “Amir Johnson sprained his ankle in the first half [Tuesday]. He’s out. And then Jaylen Brown twist his ankle, sprained his ankle, Monday in practice and then played, felt pretty good, but aggravated it and felt sore today and he’s out.
“So who do we have in? I’m 99 percent sure which I’m going to go. I think we’re going to go with Jordan Mickey, with Al [Horford].”
Mickey, the second-round pick in 2015 out of LSU, is making his first NBA start. In nine games this season, he’s averaging 2.4 points and 1.9 rebounds in just over seven minutes a game off the bench. In 25 career games, he’s averaging 1.7 points. So, why Mickey for Johnson?
“Keeping the second unit where it is,” Stevens explained. “I like where Jordan is with regard to how he impact with that first unit, rolling to rim and rebounding and defending and those types of things.
“I think the biggest thing is being around him for a year and a half. It’s not just practice, it’s watching him play and do individual workouts. It’s the way he goes through walkthrough, it’s his focus and attention to detail and hey, we’re going to need everybody that’s available to help us tonight. So, I think anytime you get a chance, especially when you talk about how we play with the first group, he’s a good fit for that. Amir’s largely rolling [to the basket] for us. Amir is defending in pick-and-roll and defending from a rebounding angle and everything else. We’re going to need that out of Mick.”
And by the sounds of it, Wednesday might not be a cameo for Mickey, as Johnson’s ankle seems to be a significant injury.
“Sounds like Amir’s [ankle] was pretty swollen earlier [Wednesday]. I’d say that he’s doubtful for the weekend. And Jaylen, I have not heard, from a severity standpoint. But it wasn’t made out to be quite as bad as Amir’s but he’s sore today.”
As for Bradley, who’s missing his third game with a sore right Achilles, Stevens said the soreness is persisting.
“He worked out [Tuesday] and woke up [Wednesday] sore,” Stevens said. “That’s my medical evaluation.”
Will he Bradley be back Friday in Atlanta?
“I have no idea,” Stevens replied. “I have no idea what that means, how sore. I haven’t asked any questions after I got out [vs. Washington].”
|01.10.17 at 10:29 pm ET|
This was supposed to be as inspirational as a mid-January game could be.
Beat the Raptors, draw even with Toronto for second seed in the Eastern Conference, and prove yourselves to closer to Cleveland than ever before. That was the plan for the Celtics.
The plan fell apart with one Raptors’ fourth-quarter flurry. Toronto boosted its lead over the Celts in the conference standings to two games after completely dominating the final seven minutes of what would end up as the Raptors’ 114-106 win over Brad Stevens’ club in Toronto.
The Raptors would out-score the C’s, 34-22, in the fourth quarter. But the ultimate dagger would reveal itself in the form of a 23-6 run by the hosts to close out the Tuesday night loss, leaving the Celtics just one game ahead of the Hawks for the conference’s third spot.
The frustration that came with the Celtics blowing a 16-point, third-quarter lead was just a small part of the equation. The big picture reality should have been much more painful.
While Toronto’s backcourt duo of Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan were taking over the game down the stretch, the Celtics were left defaulting to their fourth-quarter superstar Isaiah Thomas. This time, however, Thomas couldn’t keep up. Simply watching the collapse unfold, you could get that feel that something was missing for the Celtics.
|01.07.17 at 10:14 pm ET|
The Celtics continue to live by the 3.
It’s been their m.o. lately and made a difference in their 117-108 victory over the Pelicans. The C’s have now won four consecutive games, including 10 of their last 12.
Luckily for the Celtics, they have been living well from deep. Throughout their last four games, the C’s have shot 51 percent on 71-of-139 attempts from outside.
Fresh off their win against the Sixers — where they drained 19 3-pointers, a new franchise record — the C’s continued their streak of hot outside shooting against the Pelicans. Boston flirted with the franchise’s 3-point record while shooting 50 percent from the floor on 18-of-36 attempts from deep.
Isaiah Thomas and Marcus Smart were on fire — they combined for 11-of-18 from 3.
Led by Anthony Davis’ 13-point first-quarter, the Pelicans grabbed a 10-point, first-half lead before the Celtics found their offensive momentum. The Pelicans big man finished with a monster double-double (36 points, 15 rebounds) but his big-time performance was no match against Celtics’ outside touch combined with a 38-point night by Thomas, who has stretched his streak of scoring 20-plus points to 12 consecutive games — the longest streak in the league.
The Celtics caught fire after halftime — they knocked down 5-of-9 from behind the arc and grabbed a 14-point lead (75-61) midway through the third quarter. They outscored New Orleans, 36-20, in the third quarter and began the final frame with a 20-point lead (93-73). The C’s knocked down 9-of-18 from downtown in the second half.
Smart, who got the start over Avery Bradley (sprained Achilles), put together his best shooting night of the season. Smart knocked in a season-high 5-of-7 from outside and finished with 22 points to go with his 6 assists, 5 rebounds and three steals. He was locked in on both ends of the floor and triggered excellent ball movement throughout his teammates on the offensive end.
However, it’s going to be interesting to see how the Celtics will perform when the 3-pointers aren’t falling. The C’s are shooting 36.5 percent from outside this season — good enough for ninth in the league — yet, there isn’t one player in the team’s rotation who is afraid to attempt a 3-pointer, even Amir Johnson will rarely pass up an open 3.
They may find out how tough it is to win a game without making 17 or 18 3-pointers, like they’ve done the past four games, in Toronto when they take on the eastern conference’s second-best team in the Raptors (24-11) on Tuesday night.
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