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Brad Stevens gets an early look at strength of his team: ‘Our bench has to be a great source of energy’

10.29.15 at 10:43 am ET
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If Wednesday night is what the Celtics bench is going to look like all season, Brad Stevens is going to have a very good year.

The Celtics started off slowly to the lowly 76ers, trailing by as many as nine, 26-17, in the first quarter. Boston made just six of its first 21 shots and could find no rhythm.

The young 76ers had rookie Jahlil Okafor and Nerlens Noel running the court, and scoring. And the Celtics looked flat.

Then the bench started to make the impact that it was built all offseason to make. Slowly but surely, Jared Sullinger, Isaiah Thomas and Amir Johnson made their impact, some faster than others. Thomas missed his first four shots before finding his range, on his way to a game-high 27-point night. Johnson added 15 and Sullinger chipped in with 12 as the vision of Danny Ainge was clear for everyone to see.

When it was all said and done, the Celtics bench outscored Philly reserves, 67-15, in walking away with a 112-95 win. That’s exactly what Ainge and head coach Brad Stevens had in mind when they built the deepest roster in the NBA in the offseason.

“Our bench has to be a great source of energy and scoring and everything else for us,” Stevens said. “And I thought [the Sixers] came out of the gates great. Okafor was really hard for us to guard early ‘€“ and then Noel, I just thought they had a great impact on the game on both ends. So, we found ourselves in a hole which probably isn’€™t all bad in your first game, to see how you respond, and we responded. Any time we cut it close I thought we responded. I thought we missed some things that we can clean up, but at the same time I thought we did a lot of good things.”

Down 26-17, the Celtics outscored the Sixers, 21-2, over the next eight minutes. Thomas and Sullinger each had six points in the run.

The bench was also the reason the Celtics were able to hold off the Sixers each time they made a run. Three times the Sixers got as close as five points and each time the Celtics answered, including a 7-0 spurt at the end of the third, when Thomas hit a three right before the buzzer.

“The end of the quarters are important to us,” Stevens said. “We want to finish well, we want to do well in those situations. And those were big for us tonight. But I thought just as big was they’€™d cut it to five and we’€™d go on a 7-0 run. They’€™d cut it to, I believe it was three one time, we go on a 6-0 run. So those are good responses in those moments.”

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Read More: Boston Celtics, Brad Stevens, Isaiah Thomas, NBA

Isaiah Thomas shoots himself into a groove in opening night win: ‘I’m not going to be shy’

10.29.15 at 12:36 am ET
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Isaiah Thomas is very happy that his coach doesn’t get discouraged by a little cold streak.

The instant offense offense off the Celtics bench missed his first four shots in the first quarter Wednesday night as the Celtics struggled out of the gate.

Thomas made three of his next five shots and that was a sign of things to come as the Celtics outscored the Sixers, 30-14, in the second quarter, grabbing control of the game, 51-40, at the halftime break.

Smart his 5-of-8 shots in the third quarter, including a three at the buzzer as the Celtics took a 79-67 lead into the final quarter.

“I mean that’€™s the biggest thing,” Brad Stevens said. “We’€™ve talked quite a bit about that: play with speed, play aggressive, play with spirit, let the chips fall where they may with him. We know a hot streak is coming.”

Thomas scored 13 of his game-high 27 points in the third quarter as the Celtics cruised to a 112-95 win in the season opener at TD Garden.

“That’€™s my job,” Thomas said of keeping the shots coming. “I’€™m not going to be shy when I’ve got a job to do out there. Coach has confidence in me. My teammates have confidence in me, and they tell me to continue being aggressive ‘€“ so I’€™m going to continue to do that.”

Thomas’ 27 points came in 29 minutes of action. The Detroit Pistons of the mid and late-80s had Vinnie Johnson – “The Microwave.” The Celtics have Isaiah Thomas.

“I work on it ‘€“ each and every day,” Thomas said. “I know that some point in time, it’€™s going to fall. I have that confidence in my game, and I work on my craft, so I think the harder you work, and when it doesn’€™t happen in games, you go to what you know. When I get into the spots that I like to go to in my workouts, and feeding off my teammates, no matter if I’€™m having a good game or not, you have to just make the right play out there. If the right play is to shoot, and I’€™m not making them, I have to continue to shoot that shot.”

Read More: Boston Celtics, Isaiah Thomas, Philadelphia 76ers,

Studs and Duds: 1 down for Celtics, 81 to go

10.28.15 at 10:03 pm ET
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@WEEICeltics PODCAST GAME RECAP

It’s unclear whether the Philadelphia 76ers are an NBA team, but the win counts just the same.

With a 112-95 win over the ever-tanking Sixers on opening night, your Boston Celtics are 1-0, undefeated, atop the division standings and tied for the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference. One down, 81 to go. Brad Stevens is probably already watching Toronto Raptors tape right now.

Isaiah Thomas led the way with 27 points (10-19 FG) and seven assists. He was joined in double figures by Amir Johnson (15 points, 7 rebounds), Jae Crowder (14 points, 6 rebounds), Marcus Smart (13 points, 5 assists) and Jared Sullinger (12 points, 7 rebounds). Production abound.

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

STUD OF THE NIGHT: Isaiah Thomas.

It wasn’t a great shooting night for the Sixth Man of the Year favorite, and he still had 23 points through three quarters. Thomas missed his first five 3-point attempts, but made up for it by getting to the line a ton (6-7 FT) and knocking down a triple just before the third-quarter buzzer that pushed the C’s lead to 79-67. He added seven assists against three turnovers and generally destroyed the 76ers on the pick-and-roll, mostly with Johnson working as his partner.

DUD OF THE NIGHT: Tyler Zeller.

This could just as easily be David Lee, but Zeller was yanked 5:13 into the ballgame after the Sixers scored 10 of their first 15 points in the paint. He returned briefly in the second quarter and was removed again shortly after Philadelphia point guard Isaiah Canaan scored on another layup. Zeller was removed for the starting lineup at halftime in favor of Sullinger, and he sat the entire time the Celtics build their lead as large as 15 points.

VINE OF THE NIGHT:

Out of a timeout with 2.9 seconds left in the half, the Celtics ran a ton of misdirection in the paint, only to have Smart inbound the ball, hop to the 3-point line and get the ball back. It was the simplest of play calls that led to a buzzer-beating 3-pointer and a 51-40 halftime lead for the C’s.

WHINE OF THE NIGHT: Let’s hope this is the last time I write this sentence: More Johnson, please. Okafor was killing the Celtics with eight early points on four shots within five feet of the basket, so Brad Stevens answered with Jared Sullinger midway through the first quarter? I was under the impression interior defense was precisely why Amir Johnson was signed this past summer. On the ensuing possession, Okafor scored on Sullinger within five feet of the basket, giving the 76ers a 17-11 lead. Johnson finally checked in with 2:31 remaining in the opening quarter and the C’s trailing by nine. He recorded a block on his first possession. Over the next 8:14, the Celtics outscored Philadelphia 18-2 and grabbed a 35-28 lead. You do the math.

STAT OF THE NIGHT: 26 fast-break points. Despite their youth last season, the Celtics ranked in the middle of the pack with 13.6 fast-break points per game — a slight uptick from Stevens’ first season. Granted, they were facing the 76ers, but the C’s scored 34 points off 24 turnovers and thrived in transition. Pace and space is all the rage, and they had the first part down in the opener.

@ OF THE NIGHT:

Read More: Boston Celtics, Isaiah Thomas, NBA, Philadelphia 76ers

Celtics stick with starting lineup, deactivate James Young

10.28.15 at 7:09 pm ET
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James Young

James Young

Prior to Wednesday’s season opener against the hapless Philadelphia 76ers, Celtics coach Brad Stevens confirmed he would employ the same starting lineup he used to finish out the preseason: Avery Bradley, Marcus Smart, Jae Crowder, David Lee and Tyler Zeller.

The two inactives for the C’s: R.J. Hunter (illness) and James Young, whose benching officially establishes him as the last guy on the 15-man roster. Rookie second-round pick Jordan Mickey earned the spot final spot over him. And if Young can’t crack the depth chart when Hunter is ill, then he likely won’t be seeing time in Boston soon, since they play the same position.

Kelly Olynyk will serve his one-game suspension for dislocating Kevin Love‘s shoulder in Game 4 of the C’s first-round loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers. He’s eligible to return on Friday.

Meanwhile, the 76ers will start Boston area native Nerlens Noel and lottery pick Jahlil Okafor along with three guys you may have never heard of — Hollis Thompson, Jakarr Sampson and Isaiah Canaan. The league’s tanking experiment gone wrong for the past several seasons, Philadelphia offers a prime opportunity for the Celtics to start the season off with a win in front of their home crowd.

Read More: Boston Celtics, James Young, Philadelphia 76ers, R.J. Hunter

Danny Ainge issues statement about former advisor Flip Saunders

10.25.15 at 9:02 pm ET
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Danny Ainge

Danny Ainge

Celtics president Danny Ainge issued a statement following the death of Timberwolves coach and president Flip Saunders on Sunday:

“€œI am deeply saddened by the loss of Flip Saunders. He was an outstanding coach who always got the most out of his teams. He was always a well-respected opponent. Flip dedicated so much of his life to basketball and the NBA. His life has impacted so many. May God bless his wife Debbie, their children, and extended family. He will be missed greatly by our small NBA community.”

Saunders served as an advisor for the Celtics at the end of the 2011-12 season, when the C’s made a run to Game 7 of the Eastern Conference finals, shortly before Saunders returned to Minnesota.

Read More: Boston Celtics, Danny Ainge, Flip Saunders, NBA

Celtics cut Perry Jones III, finalize 15-man roster for opening night

10.25.15 at 2:50 pm ET
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Perry Jones

Perry Jones

The Celtics cut forward Perry Jones III and guard Corey Walden on Saturday, finalizing their roster at 15 players.

Walden hung around as a training camp invite to fill preseason gaps left by Marcus Smart’s illness and Isaiah Thomas‘ tendinitis, so Kelly Olynyk wouldn’t get stuck playing point guard again, as he did against the Nets on Monday.

Jones’ departure is a little more interesting from an operational standpoint. The Celtics acquired him and Detroit’s second-round pick from the Thunder for essentially nothing (a heavily protected second-round pick). Jones is guaranteed $2 million this season, at least a portion of which was offset by cash they acquired in that deal as well.

The Celtics raved about Jones’ production in Oklahoma City during the early going last season and the athleticism he brings to both the big small forward and small big forward positions. But chronic knee issues that arose again during the preseason may threaten the 24-year-old’s NBA career. Surely, team president Danny Ainge shopped Jones’ contract around the league in hopes of not having to eat his salary, but it doesn’t appear anybody was willing to take on that guaranteed $2 million. Whether he’ll receive a non-guaranteed minimum offer elsewhere remains to be seen.

Barring a trade in the next few days, the Celtics have locked in their 15-man roster for Wednesday’s opener.

  • Ball-handlers: Marcus Smart, Isaiah Thomas, Evan Turner, Terry Rozier
  • Wings: Avery Bradley, R.J. Hunter, James Young
  • Swings: Jae Crowder, Jonas Jerebko
  • Bigs: David Lee, Amir Johnson, Tyler Zeller, Jared Sullinger, Kelly Olynyk, Jordan Mickey

The only questions left now are who will start and how deep the rotation will go, and we probably won’t have definitive answers to either of those queries on opening night, because that’ probably change from night to night.

Read More: Boston Celtics, NBA, Perry Jones III,

Stud and Duds: Jared Sullinger shines in sloppy win over 76ers

10.24.15 at 9:14 am ET
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Jared Sullinger

Jared Sullinger

In a game where both teams combined for 40 turnovers, the Celtics outscored their opponent in the second half and closed out the preseason by beating the 76ers, 81-65. Marcus Smart’s 10 points and Jared Sullinger’s 14 rebounds led the charge, as the Celtics finished the preseason with a 6-1 record.

The Celtics held the lead throughout most of the game until the end of the second quarter, when Philly cut the lead to three heading into halftime. The Celtics then opened up a 12-point advantage in the third quarter and never looked back. 76ers rookie Jahlil Okafor notched 12 points and eight rebounds for Philadelphia.

For a complete box score, click here.

Stud of the night: Jared Sullinger

Sullinger finished the preseason on a high note, pulling down 14 rebounds and scoring eight points against the 76ers. He was also cheerful on the bench — on his feet, encouraging his teammates after every big play. The Celtics grabbed a lot of boards against Philadelphia last night. Amir Johnson snagged 13 and Kelly Olynyk had 12. But it was especially nice to see Sullinger active around the glass. After a lukewarm start to the preseason, Sullinger has momentum heading into the regular season.

Dud of the night: James Young

In 20 minutes, Young tried his best to find a groove offensively, but much like the entire preseason, he came up short. He finished with three points on 12 shots. There’s a good chance Young may be starting his regular season in Maine with the D-League affiliated Red Claws.

Philadelphia will get their shot at revenge when they head to the TD Garden on Wednesday for a season-opening matchup against the Celtics.

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