|04.22.16 at 7:22 pm ET|
The word on Kelly Olynyk does not sound promising for a return anytime soon, at least in this series.
The forward missed his second straight game Friday after re-aggravating his separated right shoulder in Game 1 last Saturday night.
“Feeling a little bit better,” Brad Stevens said before Friday’s Game 3. “From what I’ve been told, went through some shooting this morning. Didn’t feel great this afternoon when he got here. Did not go through our shootaround, walkthrough. I have not talked to Eddie since that. But because he didn’t go through and because he told me what he told me before, I just assumed, no. And that’s what I was told before.”
Olynyk initially injured the shoulder on Feb. 10 against the Clippers and missed 12 games before returning in March. But he’s been less than 100 percent in his return.
Stevens said Friday it’s not about Olynyk talking his way back into the lineup. It’s about giving the shoulder time to heal and Olynyk being comfortable playing with it.
“They’ve been working around the clock with regard to extra [physical therapy], extra [stimulation], etcetera, etcetera for Kelly to get back. It’s ultimately Kelly’s call on that, based on how he feels,” Stevens said. “He’s been playing through a lot of pain. He got popped pretty good in the first and aggravated it in the first game. The one thing that I know based on how he’s been playing the last month, he would play if he could. I feel very strongly about that.
“I think any time you have an injury, you can make it worse. There’s no doubt about that. From what I’ve been told, from what I understand, he’s got some issues with it shifting and he’s in a pretty good amount of pain.”
Olynyk’s ability to stretch the floor, play transition defense and space the Celtics offense in half-court has been sorely missed in the first two games. Stevens gave some interesting insight Friday as to how the Celtics and Isaiah Thomas might have to adjust.
“With regard to Kelly’s shooting, we’re going to have to do some things that may be a little bit unique to generate the best looks, and the best looks may not be the traditional best looks,” Stevens said. “We’re going to have to put Isaiah off the ball some. We’re going to have to drive, kick, drive, kick, drive, kick. We’re going to have to multiple attacks to paint instead of just one attack, especially because of all the attention they’re giving Isaiah at the rim. Isaiah is doing exactly what he did all during the regular season. He gets to the rim. He’s able to come off the pick-and-roll. He’s able to come off screens. He’s getting there. There’s just three or four guys there [waiting]. So, we’ve got to do a great job of staying spaced. Jonas will help that. Hopefully, we’re going to have to knock down some shots, and I believe that we will.”
|04.22.16 at 6:55 pm ET|
Brad Stevens stayed true to his word before Friday’s Game 3 with the Hawks at TD Garden.
Marcus Smart and Jared Sullinger will start the game on the bench while Evan Turner and Jonas Jerebko get the start.
“We’re going to start Turner for Smart and Jerebko for Sullinger,” Stevens announced just under two hours before tip. “We’ll go with Turner, Isaiah, Jae, Jerebko and Amir.”
“Obviously, there’s certain things from the starting group, as far as how we want to play, spacing-wise,” Stevens said in explaining the move. “Those types of things factor in. Obviously, Jerebko gives you spacing, gives you some defensive versatility on the two bigs. And then Turner has been, along with Isaiah, really able to get into the paint and do certain things, and consistently be able to attack throughout the first [two] games.
“That’s that. Sully and Smart are still going to play, still going to play big parts for us. I’ve said this before about the guards, you can just kind of throw a dart with those four guards, and Smart being the fourth one tonight. They’re all going to play 30-plus minutes for us on most nights.”
The lineup of Turner, Isaiah Thomas, Jae Crowder, Jerebko and Johnson haven’t exactly spent a lot of time together this season on the court.
“They’ve played a whole 33 possessions together. They’re plus-20. So, the sample size in an analytical viewpoint is not strong. But I think the one thing is you practice all year. You try different things. You’re going to have moments like this, certainly, especially with Avery out, with Kelly out where you’re going to have to do some of that. And you know what? There’s going to be groups off the bench that haven’t played much together, too.
“Any lineup with Terry and/or R.J. or both has not played very much for us. So, that’s the way it is. That’s why you practice all year and that’s why you play and find the synergy in practice. You believe in what supposed to do by doing it right and you go out and do it.”
|04.22.16 at 4:05 pm ET|
The Celtics are going to get some help in their recruitment of free agent-to-be Kevin Durant.
Count new Patriots defensive lineman Terrance Knighton as part of the contingent who will be helping lure Durant to the Celts.
Trust me when the offseason starts I'll be texting KD almost every other day recruiting ☘☘
— Terrance Knighton (@MisterRoast98) April 21, 2016
It should be no surprise Knighton is on board in trying to upgrade the Celtics considering he grew up in the Hartford, Conn. area rooting for the C’s.
“I’m very excited about the Celtics,” Knighton said on a conference call with reporters earlier this month. “I think when you’re born in Connecticut, I think at birth you have a choice — either Yankees or Red Sox — and I chose to go with Boston. I’m a big Boston Celtics fan, Red Sox, Bruins, obviously Patriot fan growing up. I’m really excited about the Celtics right now, the playoff push. Hopefully when I get in town I can catch a few games. I’m very excited about it.”
|04.21.16 at 4:24 pm ET|
WALTHAM – Brad Stevens didn’t need a history lesson Thursday before practice but he got one anyway.
The Celtics coach was reminded that he has yet to score a playoff victory in six tries over the last two seasons. While this certainly doesn’t rise to the 0-7 postseason mark of the Bengals’ Marvin Lewis in the NFL, it is a frustrating collar he’d like to shed Friday night at TD Garden.
That, and he’d actually like to see his team get back in the series with the Hawks, which some observers say could change with one win.
“Obviously, it’s frustrating but also, I look at last year as we were obviously playing a heck of a team that was playing at a really high level,” Stevens said, referring to last season’s 4-0 first-round sweep at the hands of the Cavs. “And we did a lot of good things [vs. Cleveland]. We played really well on the defensive end in that series in the half court. I think we’ve done that again in the first two games [vs. Hawks].”
So where DO the Celtics need to improve?
“Where we need to play a little bit better is in transition and in getting better offense,” Stevens said.”And so, that’s reality of the situation. We’re playing another really good team. I think when you look at Atlanta, especially since the All Star break, they’re playing as well as anybody. We have to be better to get a chance. But I don’t see our guys being overwhelmed by the collective number. I think we’re a lot more focused on 0-2 than last year’s 0-4. That really is inconsequential right now.”
If Stevens decides to make a change, he could go with the lineup he started at the beginning of the second half Tuesday (Thomas, Smart, Turner, Crowder, Johnson) or he could really mix it up by throwing in a pure shooter like Jonas Jerebko to take the place of Sullinger and move Turner to the shooting guard spot and bring Marcus Smart (1-for-11 Game 2) off the bench. All of this is with the understanding that Kelly Olynyk, who didn’t practice again Thursday, is “questionable at best” for Game 3.
“Well obviously, it would affect it from the standpoint of rotations because I do think Kelly’s strength is something we need,” Stevens said, referring to Olynyk’s 41 percent range from deep when healthy. “So, we’re going to have to find that from other sources, obviously.”
“I’m always ready. I don’t care if that’s starting or coming off the bench first or coming off the eighth man, ninth man — no matter what it is. I’m ready for whatever,” Jerebko said before Thursday’s practice. “We’ve kinda had every lineup so, like I said, we’re going to come out strong in front of our fans and we’re just going to come out strong [Friday].
“It’s not a problem for me. As an NBA player and as a professional, I have to be ready for everything. In this league, I’ve seen it all. I’ve started, I haven’t played, I played 25 minutes per game, 30 minutes per game. So I’ve seen it all and I’m ready for it. I try to always put the team first and be ready for whatever happens.”
Isaiah Thomas repeated Thursday what he said on Wednesday that the Hawks are packing the paint and it’s just a matter of knocking down shots. Smart has consistently shown that’s not his strength. He’s 6-for-21. Crowder is 6-for-25. Thomas is 12-for-36. Jerebko is only 4-for-12 but has the range of Olynyk and a 6-foot-10 frame to go with it.
|04.21.16 at 2:12 pm ET|
WALTHAM – The tale of these Celtics could be told by the end of Game 3. And Brad Stevens knows it.
Without Kelly Olynyk (right shoulder) and Avery Bradley (right hamstring), the Celtics held a media session Thursday at their practice facility, then held a team meeting and then a relatively light practice. Before heading off to their bunker before practice, the Celtics coach broke down what’s at stake in the hours leading up to Friday night’s virtual do-or-die game.
“From a physical standpoint I think we need to have a solid day but we’re not going to be out here very long,” Stevens said. “It’s going to be more about what changes we need to make, what we need to do to be a little bit more successful, how we need to play, those types of things. But hey, it’s we’re deep into the season. We’ve got to do what we do better, like I said [Wednesday], and go from there.
“Kelly will be, like I said [Wednesday], questionable probably at best for the game. And then Avery obviously won’t be playing, so the guys that are out here are the guys that we’ll prepare with.”
Bradley did have his MRI and Stevens indicated that surgery will not be needed, just time to heal.
“Nothing that we didn’t think. So I think big picture, long term, he’s going to be able to heal fully,” Stevens said. “It will all be good and everything else. It just takes time with hamstrings. And so like I said earlier he’s definitely out this weekend, and then I would say he’s very unlikely to play in this series again. The hamstring’s one of those things where you can walk down the hallway and look like a million bucks, but when you start playing 32 minutes and have to change speeds and change directions and those type of things, that’s a different story.”
As for the likelihood Bradley would be available for the next round?
“That would be something that we haven’t discussed a whole lot just because they’ve talked about toward the end of this series he should be to the point where he’s able to do a little bit more from a practice standpoint and those type of things,” Stevens said. “So, I would say that it’s still unlikely early in that situation, but possibly in the days that go on after that.”
Stevens indicated another lineup change is in store for Game 3. Stevens had his regular group of Isaiah Thomas, Avery Bradley, Jared Sullinger, Jae Crowder and Amir Johnson for Game 1. Then Marcus Smart replaced Bradley in Game 2. Evan Turner replaced Sullinger to start the second half Tuesday night. That could be sign of things to come but Stevens said he hadn’t made up his mind yet.
“In Game 1 it wasn’t as much execution as shot-making,” Stevens said. “And then in Game 2, I thought Game 2 was a much different game overall. So from my standpoint, we look at Game 1, we look at Game 2, we look at the things we can do well, and we need to do them as well as we can for those 48 minutes that are coming up. But I think at the end of the day, we’ve defended how we’ve wanted to more often than not.
“And offensively we’ve got to be better. Especially, again, you can’t dig yourself that big of a hole early because then that puts pressure on you to make the next one and the next one and the next one. We’re going to have to have guys that are not only in the right spots and executing the right ways, but also then finishing plays. And these guys have responded to that all year. So we’ve had our down moments. We’ve had our down quarters in games. And we’re looking forward to tomorrow night.”
|04.20.16 at 6:16 pm ET|
For Isaiah Thomas, the heartbeat of the Celtics dormant offense, the solution is simple.
“If we start to knock down our shots, it’s going to make it easier for us to execute on the offensive end,” Thomas said in a conference call Wednesday. “But first two games we haven’t been able to shoot the ball. All the Hawks are doing is packing the paint, and we continue to attack the paint. Then all five guys are there anytime someone attacks it.”
When the Celtics shoot 3-for-23 like they did in the first quarter Tuesday, including 0-for-6 from deep, the Hawks can just do what they do, and that’s pack the paint.
“Especially when I’m in attack mode, trying to get into the paint. If guys continue to be confident, and knock down their shots, they’re going to open up lanes for guys to drive it. There won’t be any opportunity for them to block shots.”
And blocking shots is an Atlanta specialty. They rejected a franchise-playoff record 15 on Tuesday in Game 2, including several on Thomas when he tried in vain to create by driving to the basket. Al Horford had five and Paul Millsap added four.
“They are quick to the ball. You see an opening, and once you get to the hole there’s two or three guys around you,” Thomas said. “Give them credit on that. But I haven’t thought of Atlanta as a scary defensive team where you have to second guess yourself on getting your shot blocked, like with a guy like DeAndre Jordan or Hassan Whiteside – (players) like that. They’re good at it, and we just have to either finish it off to a big or a drive and kick. Either a pump fake or make the adjustment.”
Brad Stevens suggested changes are coming for Game 3. What might they be?
“I don’t know. I think he will make some kind of change, knowing Brad and watching tons of film,” Thomas said. “But we’ll see. Hopefully he can do a few things that will make this team start games better, and give us a better chance to win.”
Thomas is 12-for-36 in the first two games, including 5-for-16 from deep. He admitted that sometimes he and others might be forcing things when the shots don’t fall.
“That can be the case, but that wasn’t true in the last game,” Thomas said. “Offensively, we couldn’t make shots, and we dug ourselves a big hole in the first quarter. For whatever reason we keep doing that. If we can sustain a better start, that gives us a way better chance to start the game. We give ourselves no chance by getting down by 20 points early in the game.
|04.20.16 at 5:24 pm ET|
Brad Stevens wouldn’t go as far as saying the Celtics have the Hawks right where they want them. After all, no team wants to be down 0-2 in a best-of-7 series, facing a virtual must-win on their home court in Game 3.
But Stevens said Wednesday during a conference that he’s fully confident that his team, which didn’t practice Wednesday, will be mentally ready to go when Game 3 begins Friday night.
“You know, with this group, we’ll re-convene [Thursday] and we’ll talk about where we stand and what we need to do in moving forward,” Stevens said. “I think we just have to have a backs-against-the-wall mentality because this team has been good and been resilient all year in that regard.”
That’s great because the Celtics are fighting some wicked odds, and some nasty recent history. This is the 13th time they’ve been in an 0-2 hole in a best-of-7 series and the fourth straight series they’ve faced this deficit, dating back to the 2012 Eastern Conference finals against Miami.
They’ve managed to overcome the 0-2 deficit exactly once, beating the Lakers, 4 games to 3, in the 1969 NBA finals. They nearly pulled it off against the Heat in 2012 when they were down 0-2, only to win the next three before losing Games 6 and 7. But they’re not worried about ancient history, just correcting the mistakes against Atlanta that has them in their current predicament.
“I think our focus needs to be continue to play the right way on both ends of the court,” Stevens said. “Obviously, we need to start better, we need to play better. We need to do a lot of things better. But I’ve never questioned this group’s resiliency or willingness to stand up when times are tough and those type of things because they’ve been pretty good about that all year.”
Pretty good, like when they came from 26 down in the season finale to beat a Miami team that was mailing in their third quarter. Still, a great feat. Pretty good like when they were without their best big defender in Jae Crowder against Golden State on the road. They erased an early deficit and held off the Warriors during a rush in the fourth quarter and came up with the most scintillating win of the year. And they were pretty good when they erased a late deficit in Cleveland beat the Cavs on a last-second shot from Avery Bradley.
Why is this team so good when the chips are down?
“I couldn’t pinpoint it,” Isaiah Thomas said. “It’s just the background that all these guys come from.We’ve always had a never back down mentality. This group of teammates has always been counted out. They’ve always had that chip on their shoulders to prove everybody wrong. That’s just another stepping stone in everybody’s story. We do have to climb uphill, but at the same time we have to take advantage of our home court.”
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