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Mike Petraglia, Josue Pavon break down thrilling win over Knicks, look ahead to Cavaliers

03.04.16 at 11:59 pm ET
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WEEI.com’s Mike Petraglia and Josue Pavon discuss how the Celtics were able to overcome a sluggish start and an inconsistent second half to beat the New York Knicks, 105-104, Friday night at TD Garden. Isaiah Thomas had 32 points and Evan Turner chipped in with 21 off the bench while Avery Bradley hit the game-winning layup with 17 seconds remaining, extending Boston’s home court winning streak to 13 games, matching the 2008-09 team that also won 13 in a row at home.

Read More: Boston Celtics, Cleveland Cavaliers, Evan Turner, Josue Pavon

Studs and Duds: Celtics squeeze past Knicks in closing minutes, stretch home game win streak to 13

03.04.16 at 10:25 pm ET
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Mar 4, 2016; Boston, MA, USA; Boston Celtics guard Isaiah Thomas (4) celebrates against the New York Knicks during the second half at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: Mark L. Baer-USA TODAY Sports

Celtics guard Isaiah Thomas (4) celebrates against the New York Knicks during the second half at TD Garden. (Mark L. Baer/USA Today Sports)

They refuse to lose at home. 

In a game where they struggled to hold a lead, the Celtics outscored the Knicks 13-4 in the final 3:22 to win 105-104 at TD Garden — extending their home winning streak to 13 games in a row. It is their longest such streak since the 2008-09 team won 13 straight at the Garden from Nov. 18, 2008 to Jan. 2, 2009. 

The Celtics roared back at the end of the fourth quarter, pulling themselves within a point, but a Carmelo Anthony jumper extend the Knicks’ lead to 102-99 with 1:19 left. When the C’s grabbed a lead on back-to-back buckets, Anthony again gave New York the lead, scoring his 30th point on a jumper over Jae Crowder. But Avery Bradley responded with a go-ahead layup in the final minute, and this time Anthony’s last-second attempt failed.

Isaiah Thomas scored a game-high 32 points to lead the C’s. Crowder scored 20 points, and Evan Turner added 21 points and eight rebounds from off the bench. Anthony’s 30 points led five Knicks in double digits, including Arron Afflalo (17 points) and rookie standout Kristaps Porzingis (15 points). 

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

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Brad Stevens: ‘We’re still inconsistent on both ends of the floor’

03.04.16 at 9:05 pm ET
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Knicks center Robin Lopez (right) is fouled by Celtics center Jared Sullinger (7) during the first half at TD Garden. (Mark L. Baer/USA Today Sports)

Knicks center Robin Lopez (right) is fouled by Celtics center Jared Sullinger (7) during the first half at TD Garden. (Mark L. Baer/USA Today Sports)

Maybe Brad Stevens had a premonition. Or maybe he could just read the schedule over the next two days.

Before getting on a plane to take on the Cavaliers Saturday in Cleveland, the Celtics had a game to play against the Knicks. Whatever the reason, Stevens’ team came out flat in the first half against New York, a team that exactly the opposite record of the 37-25 Celtics. They allowed New York to shoot 52.3 percent in the first half while they shot just 42.2 percent. Carmelo Anthony and Kristaps Porzingis combined for 28 points on 12-of-23 shooting from the field.

The Celtics trailed by as many as 11 in the first half and 58-53 at the break. The second half didn’t start much better. Five straight points for the Knicks, including a wide-open three for Porzingis and the Knicks led, 63-53.

Before the game, Stevens was asked about the areas of growth this season. Stevens cautioned that his team still had some maturing to do.

“I don’t know. I think we’ve gotten better execution-wise, gotten better offensively,” Stevens said, before adding, “We’re still inconsistent on both ends of the floor to the point where we need to be when it’s all said and done. I think the biggest thing is we’ve maintained a general optimism. There’s a positive vibe through thick and thin. The guys support one another. The greatest growth is in the day-to-day process of doing those things to build the trust when you need it most.”

The Celtics won a game on Wednesday night against the Blazers by 23 and the box showed the Celtics shot just 40.2 percent, making just 43 of 107 shots.

“I looked at the stats the other day and I was surprised we shot as poorly as we did from the field because I felt like we had a lot of good possessions,” Stevens said. “I think we’re having good possessions but I think we’re also getting some conversion points make it look a little bit better than it is. If you get a steal and you convert on the other end. You can play 2-on-1 or 1-on-0, that’s a heckuva of an offensive possession. That makes the numbers a little bit better than they are.”

Down 65-55, the Celtics went on a 14-2 run to take a 71-67 lead and the Garden crowd came to life almost instantly.

“There’s no question [home crowd has] been great for us the entire time I’ve been here,” Stevens said. “Obviously, the fans have embraced this group. It is a fun group. The way they play I laugh sometimes because we do some pretty haphazard things. Even I’m entertained over there sometimes and have no idea what’s going to happen.”

Read More: Boston Celtics, Brad Stevens, New York Knicks,

Brad Stevens: ‘We’ve made a big priority to give our guys as much rest as possible’

03.04.16 at 7:37 pm ET
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Celtics center Tyler Zeller (44) and Portland Trail Blazers forward Maurice Harkless (4) reach for a loose ball during the second half at TD Garden. (Bob DeChiara/USA Today Sports)

Celtics center Tyler Zeller (44) and Portland Trail Blazers forward Maurice Harkless (4) reach for a loose ball during the second half at TD Garden. (Bob DeChiara/USA Today Sports)

Brad Stevens may just be three years removed from the college game but he has long known the value of resting his players later in the season. 

After Wednesday’s 23-point win over the red-hot Blazers, Stevens gave his team the day off on Thursday in advance of Friday’s home game against the Knicks. 

Some may have read that as a reward, similar to victory Mondays in the NFL. But Stevens said it was more about pacing his team and tapering his players for the stretch run ahead. 

“I think one of the things, I was never a huge practice guy late in the year,” Stevens said before Friday’s game against the Knicks. “I never practiced much more than an hour, an hour and 15 [minutes] once we got into late January, February, March. It’s about being as good as you can be with the time you have. Hey, we’ve made a big priority to give our guys as much rest as possible. We haven’t shot around in the morning. We did it once all year here at home and every other time we’ve come at 4 [p.m.] just so that you have an accumulation of rest. Is that right, wrong or indifferent? I don’t know. It’s something that we believe that again, fresh legs are important for these guys.”

There are always signs coaches look for when assigning more rest and freedom to the players. After the last several practices, many players have stayed and worked on shooting and other drills with the staff. 

“One of my former bosses used to say that the sign of a team that’s really invested is they’re staying and shooting afterwards, and I believe that,” Stevens said. “I think when you stay and shoot, when you put your work in, that’s a really good thing. When you have a lot of energy in that and you’re not just going through the motions, that’s a good sign.” 

There’s another good sign for Stevens’ Celtics as they head into the final 20 games. Thanks to a few injuries (Kelly Olynyk aside), the starting lineup and bench rotations have stayed pretty consistent, with Evan Turner, Marcus Smart, Jonas Jerebko and Tyler Zeller providing valuable minutes off the bench. 

“Yeah, there’s some good things with that. Hopefully, by now, these guys know we’re not going to be riding emotional rollercoasters,” Stevens said. “We’re just going to try to get better. We’re just going to try to move forward, regardless of outcome and regardless of result.

“We can talk about things that we’ve done from a corporate-knowledge standpoint, things that we’ve tried to do, different ways we’ve tried to guard Carmelo Anthony or [Kristaps] Porzingis or whatever the case may be. You can quickly refresh that and then tweak appropriately. At least you have that backing. It doesn’t guarantee you’re going to play well but it does make the time you have to spend together less. It makes the time on the court less. As you’re getting in preparation, the more time we can prepare with clear mind and fresh legs, the better to me.”

 

Read More: Boston Celtics, Brad Stevens, New York Knicks,

Brad Stevens on catching Toronto: ‘We don’t talk about it a ton’

03.04.16 at 6:55 pm ET
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The Celtics enter Friday as one of the hotter teams in the NBA. They’ve won five of seven out of the All-Star break and stand 37-25.

The problem is that the team they’re chasing in both the Atlantic Division and the Eastern Conference is just as hot. The Raptors, like the Celtics, head into action Friday with a 12-game home winning streak and they’re 41-19 on the year. That’s six games ahead in the loss column with just 20 games remaining.

The Celtics do have two games left with the Raptors, one in Toronto on March 18 and one at the Garden five days later. Still it’s a long shot for Boston to think it could catch the Raptors and beat them out for the division and the No. 2 seed when the Raptors have their sights set on catching Cleveland for the top spot in the East. They come into Friday’s game just two games behind the Cavaliers.

Does Stevens and his staff think about the standings?

“Not a ton. Obviously, we’ve got an idea, a general idea,” Stevens said before Friday’s game with the 25-37 Knicks. “But I don’t know specifically the amount of games separated by all the teams. I think the biggest thing is, from standpoint, we have 20 games left and 41 days left in the regular season and we’ve just got to try to get a little bit better every day. That’s about the extent of it. We don’t talk about it a ton. The players might but we certainly don’t as a staff.”

Then Stevens repeated his mantra of the last five weeks.

“Hey, we’re four games away from ninth. I don’t know. I think the biggest thing to do is stay in the moment and try to play as well as we can against the Knicks,” Stevens said. “I have no idea about all that stuff. There’s a lot of factors that go into that, how other teams are playing and everything else. I’m not good enough to worry about the other 29 teams.”

To Stevens’ point, the Wizards are currently 30-30 and in ninth place, on the outside looking in at the Eastern Conference playoff picture. The Celtics are still just one game ahead of the Heat (35-26) in the loss column and three games clear of the fifth-seeded Hawks (33-28). 

Read More: Boston Celtics, Brad Stevens, Toronto Raptors,

R.J. Hunter sent packing for Maine

03.04.16 at 11:46 am ET
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R.J. Hunter

R.J. Hunter

R.J. Hunter is headed north for playing time and to work on his shot.

The rookie guard out of Georgia State was assigned Thursday to the Maine Red Claws of the D-League.

He hasn’t scored since Dec. 27 when he converted one of two free throws against the Knicks, going scoreless in the eight games he’s appeared. He’s missed his last 14 field goal attempts over his last 10 games since last making a shot against Charlotte on Dec. 23.

Hunter has seen action in just eight of Boston’s last 31 games, averaging just over three minutes a game when he gets on the court. Hunter has appeared in 28 games overall for the Celtics, averaging 2.4 points and nine minutes a contest.

The move north should help him get valuable playing time.

“I think we just use Maine as a great opportunity for all of our players to get better,” Brad Stevens said before Friday’s game when asked about Hunter. “The coaching up there with [head coach] Scott [Morrison] and his staff is outstanding. They spend a lot of time with those guys. They often do a lot of individual work on practice and game days with those guys. They do a lot of film breakdown and they’re running all of our stuff on both ends of the floor.

And so it’s basically an opportunity to play a game in our system just two hours north, and it makes a lot of sense. The one thing we’re trying to be cognizant of is they’re healthy. They’ve got a ton of guys. They just added a couple of guys. We probably won’t be sending up three at a time like we’ve done before. But it could be as many two depending on the health of our team here.”

Hunter has played in five contests for the Red Claws this season and is averaging 16.6 points, 4.6 rebounds, 3.8 assists and 2.4 steals in 35.9 minutes per game over that span. He recorded a season-high 28 points, three rebounds, six assists and two steals in 38 minutes of action against the Texas Legends on Dec. 31, 2015.

The Celtics selected Hunter with the 28th overall pick in last year’s draft. On July 27, he signed his rookie scale contract with the Celtics. After averaging just 2.8 points per game over his first eight NBA games, Hunter showed some promise, scoring 12 points on 5-of-6 shooting off the bench against the Hawks on Nov. 24 before going into a rookie slump.

Read More: Boston Celtics, D-League, Maine Red Claws, R.J. Hunter

Studs and Duds: Isaiah Thomas’ 30 points lead Celtics to 12th straight home win

03.02.16 at 9:55 pm ET
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There’s no place like home.

After trailing by double digits late in the first quarter, the Celtics dominated the Blazers on their way to a 116-93 win at TD Garden. The victory marked the C’s 12th straight at home, matching their longest home winning streak since the 2008-09 season.

Isaiah Thomas was brilliant, leading all scorers with 30 points on 11-of-20 shooting. Thomas made a number of dazzling plays at the rim and was sharp from beyond the arc, sinking three of his six attempts.  Avery Bradley (17 points), Marcus Smart (15), Jared Sullinger (15) and Jae Crowder (12) also finished in double figures.

Led by the star backcourt of Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum, the Blazers built a 12-point lead on 12-of-16 shooting through the opening nine minutes. Over the next 27 minutes of basketball, though, the Celtics outscored Portland, 75-39.

In the second quarter, Smart was the primary catalyst for the C’s run, scoring seven points, pulling down six rebounds and adding two steals. The quarter featured 11 lead changes, as McCollum did his best to keep the Blazers in the game. The Lehigh product made his first five shots and scored 17 points in the first half. He would miss his next eight attempts.

Perhaps the Blazers were feeling the effects of their fourth game in five nights, because the C’s ran them out of the gym to open the second half. In the third quarter, the Celtics scored 13 fast-break points, out-rebounded the Blazers 20-11 and allowed just 12 points. Sullinger dominated the early portion of the quarter, scoring nine of his 15 points in the first three minutes of the frame. Sullinger also finished with 11 rebounds, good for his fifth double-double in his last 10 games.

The win was the fourth in a row for the C’s (37-25), who look to a sweep their five-game homestand on Friday against the Knicks. 

For a complete box score, click here. To go beyond the box, read on. Read the rest of this entry »

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