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Fast Break: Celtics end Russell Westbrook’s triple-double streak but fall to Thunder

12.11.16 at 9:38 pm ET
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Russell Westbrook drives on Terry Rozier during Sunday's game. (Mark D. Smith/USA Today Sports)

Russell Westbrook drives on Terry Rozier during Sunday’s game. (Mark D. Smith/USA Today Sports)

The Celtics entered Sunday’s game in Oklahoma City having yet to beat a contending NBA team this season. They also started the day with the longest streak in the league of having not allowed a triple-double against them.

Both streaks remain intact.

Although Thunder star Russell Westbrook fell short of an eighth consecutive triple-double, the Celtics could not get a breakthrough win, as Oklahoma City closed the game on a 19-8 run to take a 99-96 victory.

Westbrook finished with 37 points (23 in the second half) and 12 rebounds but just six assists. He struggled from the line, hitting just 7-of-12 free throws. When he missed the second of two with 5.1 seconds left, the Celtics had a chance to force overtime. Marcus Smart dribbled up the court and pulled up for an open 3-pointer from the top, but his shot bounced off the left side of the rim as the buzzer sounded.

“That’s a frustrating loss, because we played really hard on the defensive end of the floor for most of the night,” Celtics coach Brad Stevens said in his postgame press conference. “We screwed up a few coverages throughout the course of the night, but not many. So, hats off to them.”

Al Horford — who revealed before the game that he was “strongly considering” the Thunder during free agency this past summer, intrigued by the thought of reuniting with his former college coach, Billy Donovan — led the C’s with 19 points.

Avery Bradley netted 18 and shared time with Smart guarding Westbrook. Jae Crowder scored 18 points on 7-of-9 shooting (3-of-4 treys) before fouling out midway through the fourth quarter. Smart had 11 points and a game-high nine assists. Rookie Jaylen Brown scored all 10 of his points in the fourth quarter, hitting 4-of-5 shots.

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Celtics’ plane receives bomb threat while flying to Oklahoma City

12.11.16 at 9:40 am ET
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According to multiple reports, the Celtics’ team plane received a bomb threat while in the air, flying to their game in Oklahoma City, Saturday afternoon. A team spokesman told ESPN that some staffers were informed of the threat while in the air, with the players asked to leave their bags behind to be inspected once on the tarmac. Nobody was hurt, with the players receiving their bags once at the team hotel. The incident was one of several hoaxes called into airports Saturday. Both the NBA and FBI will reportedly investigate the threat.

JBL_CMYK_NoHarmanNoRBallWEEI is how you listen to Celtics coverage. JBL cutting-edge wireless headphones and speakers are how you feel like you’re there. As the official Sound of the Celtics, Isaiah Thomas and the NBA, JBL is Made for the Biggest Stage.

Full Court Press: Isaiah Thomas hears all the ridiculous naysayers, recalls advice from Kobe Bryant

12.10.16 at 7:03 am ET
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Screen Shot 2016-12-09 at 9.40.08 PM

Isaiah Thomas is trying to look on the bright side of things during his groin injury. (Mike Petraglia/

Most of the time, professional athletes block out the noise and nonsense. 

But ever so occasionally, sometimes the noise bleeds through. 

So when there was the theory put out early in Wednesday’s game against Orlando that the Celtics are somehow a better passing team without Isaiah Thomas in the lineup, the injured point guard fired back. And he drew on the advice he got once from Kobe Bryant. 

“They gotta write something. They say the stupidest things so they get the headlines and everybody can talk about it,” Thomas said Friday night before the Celtics hosted the Toronto Raptors. “I can’t control that. At this point, I laugh about it now. Because it’s like, if you really think that, OK, that’s fine. I know what I mean to my teammates, I know what I mean to this organization and to Brad Stevens.”

The Celtics started out with 11 assists on 13 baskets. They finished the game, a 30-point blowout win, with 29 assists on 43 baskets in Boston’s first game without Thomas. 

“The ball moved a little better without me. I guess so,” Thomas said before Friday’s game with an appropriate amount of cynicism. “‘They’re a better team without me. The ball moves better without me.’ I see it all.”

After getting his points across with a due amount of sarcasm, Thomas began to speak more from the heart. 

“That’s not true. So the chip on my shoulder that is what it is, I’m always going to have that and use that for motivation,” Thomas said. “But the numbers don’t lie. It is what it is. But people that say that they don’t even believe it. They go home at night, they’re not believing that. They’re just saying it to get a reaction. I’m trying my best not to react.”

Thomas is not only averaging 26 points, he handing out a team-leading 6.1 assists per game. 

“If it was anybody else we wouldn’t be talking about that,” Thomas continued. “I’m 5-9, that’s the only reason why they say that. I’m fine with that. I know what I bring to the table. My teammates know what I bring. As long as they are happy. I’m fine. I’m not going to react. I try not to. I try to think of what Kobe said: Be a lion. Just lock in and don’t worry about what others say.”

Sully’s return: Jared Sullinger is still waiting to make his return to the NBA after back surgery last spring. The Raptors signed him to a one-year, $5.6 million deal at the start of free agency in July. Sullinger was made available when the Celtics decided not to tender him in restricted free agency. But because of his offseason surgery, he hasn’t been able to get on the floor. But his coach has high hopes for him once he starts playing. 

“He gives us the same thing Al Horford gives the Celtics – a guy who can space the floor, a post-up threat, a passer, a player with a lot of intellect to play that position, experience,” Dwane Casey said. “He started 79 games for them last year, so he gives us that experience.”

When exactly that return happens is still up in the air.

“Not sure. There’s no definite timetable on it yet,” Casey said. “Someone said four to five weeks, and I don’t want to put a hard deadline on that. But it’s going to be up to him, his pain threshold, he’s been working his ass off, he’s been in the pool, he can barely put weight on it, but he’s trying to get back. He’s doing an excellent job with his conditioning, his weight is down. We’re not concerned as all.”

Sullinger has been traveling with the Raptors, including Friday night in Boston, where he got a chance to catch up with some former teammates. Was he disappointed not to play Friday night against the Celtics?

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Mike Petraglia recaps a disappointing end to a promising night as Celtics fall to Raptors

12.09.16 at 10:59 pm ET
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The Celtics get out to a big first half lead but go cold in the third quarter as they lose to the Raptors Friday night at TD Garden. Mike Petraglia has your story inside TD Garden.

JBL_CMYK_NoHarmanNoRBallWEEI is how you listen to Celtics coverage. JBL cutting-edge wireless headphones and speakers are how you feel like you’re there. As the official Sound of the Celtics, Isaiah Thomas and the NBA, JBL is Made for the Biggest Stage.

Read More: Boston Celtics, DeMar DeRozan, Kyle Lowry, Mike Petraglia

Fast Break: Celtics bench shines but can’t overcome Kyle Lowry, DeMar DeRozan in loss to Raptors

12.09.16 at 10:32 pm ET
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Dec 9, 2016; Boston, MA, USA; Toronto Raptors guard DeMar DeRozan (10) shoots against the Boston Celtics in the first quarter at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

DeMar DeRozan (10) shoots against the Celtics in the first quarter at TD Garden. (David Butler II/USA Today Sports)

It was clear in Friday night’s 101-94 loss to the Raptors that this Celtics team needs Isaiah Thomas.

Thomas was on the bench with a groin injury and watched his team lose a tough one at the Garden.  

The Celtics bench did look strong in the first half, scoring 21 points with a consistent shot distribution.

The team as a whole looked confident in this win. Al Horford also had a strong game, as he and Avery Bradley both led the team in scoring with 19 points. 

The Celtics led 50-42 at halftime before losing the lead late in the third quarter. The Raptors pulled ahead to lead 75-68 at the end of the quarter and outscored the Celtics 33-18. 

Boston fell apart and had trouble driving to the hoop in the second half, missing 13 of 18 shots in the third quarter. They made nine of those shots from beyond the arc and only sunk three of them. 

“It was hard for us to break their wall of defense,” coach Brad Stevens said after the game of the Raptors in the third quarter. “They were pushing into us, they were very, very athletic at a number of positions and they ratcheted it up. And it was hard for us to handle that pressure. And when we drove they collapsed and used their athleticism to affect us in the paint. They were very good. Their defense was fantastic in the third quarter.” 

For the full box score, click here.

The Raptors sat starting forward DeMarre Carroll to rest his knee so he wouldn’t play in back-to-back games. Norman Powell started in Carroll’s place and scored 20 points. The Raptors had three players score 20 or more points, as Kyle Lowry led the team with 34 while DeMar DeRozan scored 24. 

Stud of the night: The Celtics bench

The bench carried the first half for the Celtics, scoring a total of 32 points in the game with 21 in the first half. Terry Rozier alone scored 12 of those points and had three rebounds and three assists. 

Dud of the night: The third quarter

The third quarter flat-out stunk for the Celtics. This was where they lost all their steam and let the game slip away. They missed more than half of their shots and made only two their shots in the paint. 

When the game was lost: Also the third quarter

The Celtics cooled off considerably in the third quarter and never started their engines up again for the rest of the second half. 

JBL_CMYK_NoHarmanNoRBallWEEI is how you listen to Celtics coverage. JBL cutting-edge wireless headphones and speakers are how you feel like you’re there. As the official Sound of the Celtics, Isaiah Thomas and the NBA, JBL is Made for the Biggest Stage.

Read More: Boston Celtics, DeMar DeRozan, Kyle Lowry, Toronto Raptors

Friday pregame notes: Isaiah Thomas says ‘I want to play but they keep telling me no’

12.09.16 at 6:42 pm ET
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In the wake of his epic 61-39 win in NBA2K17 over a group of four lucky kids Friday night, Isaiah Thomas appeared to be in a good mood. 

Then the conversation turned to his sore groin. 

“I’m not that good because I can’t play,” Thomas said. “It’s getting better. It hasn’t gotten worse and I’m just work as hard as I can to get back on the court.”

Thomas said he wasn’t sure about his status for the upcoming two-game swing through Oklahoma City (Sunday) and San Antonio (Wednesday). 

“I want to play but they keep telling me no,” Thomas said later in the locker room. “They keep wanting to be very patient with this because they don’t want to re-injure it. It’s an injury that can get re-injured and be a problem the rest of the season.

“So I don’t want that. And on top of that it gives me time to heal all the other injuries I have.”

Brad Stevens said before the game that Thomas’ injury, one suffered Monday night in Houston, was one that the team expects to sideline Thomas 7-10 days. Thomas is trying to be more optimistic.

“I’m going to take it day-by-day. Hopefully, I can play in the next few games and we’ll see what happens,” Thomas said. “Today, I feel a lot better than I have since I gotten the injury so we’ll see maybe in next couple of days. I’m shooting for Wednesday.”

“When I talked to Ed [Lacerte] [Friday] morning, over the last probably 24 to 48 hours, they’ve said it’s usually about 10 days to two weeks for an injury like this,” coach Brad Stevens said. “But again we’ve talked about Isaiah being pretty ambitious in his return. And he’s been getting treatment around the clock, so we’ll see. He’ll be officially listed as day to day.”

Stevens added that he’s not worried about Thomas pressuring team staff into playing him.   

“No, our medical staff is great,” Stevens added. “He trusts them. But obviously we have to make sure that – but also nobody knows his body better than him. But yeah, they feel like he’s not looking long term. It’s not going to be a long-term thing, for sure. We have to make sure we don’t bring him back tonight or too soon so that it doesn’t become one.”

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Danny Ainge says Isaiah Thomas ‘probably’ out Friday vs. Toronto after PRP injection for groin

12.08.16 at 10:00 am ET
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Isaiah Thomas dives on the floor for a loose ball during Wednesday's win over the Nets. (Brad Penner/USA Today Sports)

Isaiah Thomas has again been playing all-out this season for the Celtics. (Brad Penner/USA Today Sports)

The Celtics are being very cautious with the sore groin of Isaiah Thomas. 

The star point guard will likely miss his second straight game with the injury suffered Monday night in Houston after receiving a platelet-rich plasma (PRP) injection on Wednesday. The 13-9 Celtics take on Atlantic Division-leading Toronto Friday night at TD Garden and stand just 1.5 games back of them for the No. 2 seed in the East. 

“It’s just day to day. He is a warrior. He loves to play,” Ainge said of Thomas on the team’s flagship station Thursday morning. “He’ll be back faster than most players would be back after an injury. But at the same time we really have to be careful with Isaiah for the long haul and make sure that he doesn’t come back and re-injure it. So I’m not sure about the answer.

“I don’t know if he’ll play Friday. Probably not. We’ll just try to get him as much rest as we can and get him back on the court when he’s ready.”

Head coach Brad Stevens told reporters before Wednesday’s game that the team will be cautious with its All-Star point guard due to the nature of the injury. 

The Celtics didn’t need Thomas Wednesday night as they blew out Orlando, 117-87, outscoring the Magic, 68-37, in the second half. 

Thomas is again leading the Celtics in scoring this year, averaging 26 points and 6.2 assists in 21 games. Wednesday’s game was the first Thomas missed this season. 

JBL_CMYK_NoHarmanNoRBallWEEI is how you listen to Celtics coverage. JBL cutting-edge wireless headphones and speakers are how you feel like you’re there. As the official Sound of the Celtics, Isaiah Thomas and the NBA, JBL is Made for the Biggest Stage.

Read More: Boston Celtics, Danny Ainge, Isaiah Thomas,
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