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What exactly were Hawks thinking on last play of regulation? Isaiah Thomas doesn’t have a clue

04.25.16 at 1:45 am ET
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Celtics guard Isaiah Thomas (4) shoots the ball past Atlanta Hawks guard Jeff Teague (0). (Bob DeChiara-USA Today Sports)

Celtics guard Isaiah Thomas shoots over Hawks guard Jeff Teague. (Bob DeChiara/USA Today Sports)

If you watched the final 15 seconds of regulation in stunned amazement Sunday, you were hardly alone. Even Isaiah Thomas, who was covering the player with the ball, did not quite know what the Hawks were doing in a 92-92 game. 

Instead of finding Paul Millsap, who had scored 45 points, point guard Jeff Teague received the ball and proceeded to dribble and dribble and dribble. He was going to isolate Thomas and pull up for the game-winner. He didn’t even really get a chance to do that as he lost his handle with three seconds left. 

The game went to overtime and the Celtics outscored Atlanta 12-3 in the extra period for a 104-95 win in Game 4, tying the series. Was it just great defense by Thomas and denying the driving lane? 

“Nah, don’t give me no props for that,” Thomas said. “I don’t know what they were doing. I think they were trying to isolate me. I felt like he took a little bit too long and I kind of knew what he was going to do once the clock hit three or four seconds. Most guards do a hesitation pull-up, and he tried it and lost the ball.” 

His coach gave him a little more credit than that.

“Well, they were sprinting to slip [Kyle] Korver off of a screen to try to give Teague an alley to drive and Isaiah did a good job of keeping him squared  up,” Brad Stevens said. “Didn’t give him an alley to drive, and then made a nice — I think Teague slipped or whatever, but he was forced way out. Isaiah did a really nice job in that position.”

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Read More: 2016 NBA playoffs Marcus Smart, Atlanta Hawks, Boston Celtics, Jeff Teague

Isaiah Thomas talks about Game 4 win, then his sons steal show

04.25.16 at 12:04 am ET
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Well, we have our family feel-good moment of the 2016 NBA playoffs.

Following a 28-point performance in the Celtics’ heart-pounding 104-95 overtime win in Game 4 Sunday night at TD Garden, Isaiah Thomas hit the postgame podium.

But unlike Friday night, he had two special guests, sons Jaden and James. “The new ‘Big Three’ up there, or ‘medium-sized three’ or whatever,” longtime Celtics public relations man Jeff Twiss quipped at the beginning. The boys were beside Thomas during his six-minute session with reporters.

After talking about the great play of Marcus Smart shutting down Paul Millsap and how great it is to be even again in the series, Thomas walked off the stage, but his sons weren’t done.

“Hi everybody. Isaiah is the greatest basketball player. Thank you,” James Thomas said.

Celtics fans are thanking the dad for giving them hope that the kids might be making a return engagement sometime soon on the dais. 

Read More: 2016 NBA playoffs, Boston Celtics, Isaiah Thomas, Jaden Thomas

Mike Petraglia, Sam Packard on how Marcus Smart, Celtics won Game 4

04.24.16 at 11:16 pm ET
By   |   Comments’s Mike Petraglia and Sam Packard discuss how Marcus Smart and the Celtics stopped Paul Millsap and the Hawks when it mattered most in a 104-95 overtime win Sunday night at TD Garden. Millsap scored 45 points but only two when Marcus Smart was guarding him for the final 10 minutes of the game. The Celtics also caught a break when Hawks point guard Jeff Teague dribbled out the final 15 seconds of regulation.

Read More: 2016 NBA playoffs, Atlanta Hawks, Boston Celtics, Marcus Smart

Marcus Smart on being assigned Paul Millsap: ‘I was a little surprised’

04.24.16 at 10:37 pm ET
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Brad Stevens figured he had nothing to lose. 

Paul Millsap had 24 points at the half Sunday night. He came out and had baskets over, in order, Evan Turner, Amir Johnson and Jae Crowder to open the second half. The Celtics defensive engine was leaking oil and fast. The C’s trailed 62-46 midway through the third. The Hawks stopped going to Millsap long enough for the Celtics to catch their breath and catch up by the end of the third quarter. 

Boston trailed just 73-70 heading into the fourth. Millsap had 36, almost half of Atlanta’s points. Then Millsap turned it on again to start the fourth, scoring seven more points before Stevens had seen enough. 

The Celtics coach turned to Marcus Smart and essentially said, “You’re up next. Go get ’em, Marcus.” 

“To be honest I was a little surprised with the height and size advantage that he had,” Smart said of the half-foot height he was giving up to Millsap. “But just to really stop and make it hard for him, pressure him and really contest every shot that he took.”

It worked. Millsap scored just two more points, finishing with 45, and the Celtics pulled out a stunning 104-95 overtime win Sunday night to even the series heading back to Atlanta for Tuesday’s Game 5.

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Read More: 2016 NBA playoffs, Atlanta Hawks, Boston Celtics, Marcus Smart

Studs and Duds: Marcus Smart, Celtics even series against Paul Millsap, Hawks

04.24.16 at 8:59 pm ET
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Celtics guard Isaiah Thomas (4) scores around Hawks forwards Thabo Sefolosha (25) and Paul Millsap (4) during the first half. (Bob DeChiara/USA Today Sports)

Celtics guard Isaiah Thomas scores during the first half of Sunday’s Game 4. (Bob DeChiara/USA Today Sports)

Just as the crowd had grown weary of Marcus Smart’s inconsistency, he took Game 4 over on both sides of the ball, shutting down Paul Millsap on one end and scoring 11 straight fourth-quarter points, including a pair of back-to-back 3-pointers, to give the Celtics their first lead of the second half.

When all was said and done, the Celtics tied the series at two games apiece with a 104-95 overtime win.

It wasn’t easy. Millsap totaled 45 points and 13 rebounds — 99 percent of which came before Celtics coach Brad Stevens switched Smart to the All-Star power forward — and the C’s required an Isaiah Thomas drive to tie the game at 92-92 with 15 seconds left and a horrible Jeff Teague end-of-regulation possession to force overtime.

Thomas iced the game in overtime, drilling a 3-pointer from the corner to give the Celtics a 102-95 lead in the final minute. The series goes back to Atlanta anew on Tuesday.

Thomas scored a team-high 28 points to go along with six assists and four rebounds. Smart added 20 points, eight rebounds and five assists off the bench. Evan Turner (17 points, 7 rebounds, 6 assists), Jonas Jerebko (16 points, 10 rebounds) and Jae Crowder (12 points) also reached double figures, somehow nullifying Millsap’s singular effort.

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Follow Celtics-Hawks Game 4 LIVE

04.24.16 at 5:23 pm ET
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Live Blog Celtics-Hawks Game 4

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Brad Stevens sticking with small ball in Game 4, wants team to ‘not cross line’ with emotions

04.24.16 at 5:05 pm ET
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Celtics head coach Brad Stevens was a man in control Friday night. (David Butler II/USA Today Sports)

Celtics head coach Brad Stevens was a man in control Friday night. (David Butler II/USA Today Sports)

The Celtics came out with great emotion and energy in Game 3, and it paid off in a 37-20 lead after one quarter. Then that energy wore off a bit and Brad Stevens was concerned his team might run out of gas on lap one of the mile course.

Stevens also knows the Celtics are fortunate, perhaps, to not have lost Isaiah Thomas to a suspension after Thomas’ left palm struck Dennis Schroder in the face late in the first quarter. 

Energy and discipline. It’s a combination the Celtics must master in Game 4, along with executing their offense with Isaiah Thomas likely playing his same off-guard role as Game 3. 

“I think we have to play better, from an execution standpoint,” Stevens said. ” bviously our energy was really good, played really hard. We gotta bottle that up and do that again, that’s going to be imperative. And we’re going to have to match their speed and continue to find the right shot and hopefully knock them down.

I think that that’s been the critical part of the whole series and, in the game that we did, we gave ourselves a great chance to win. I think that, again, it goes back to what you can control and finding those great shots is most important from my standpoint, then playing with that same energy that we played with on Friday night.”

Kelly Olynyk will be back after a two-game absence with a right shoulder injury. But look for the Celtics and Stevens to stay small when possible, meaning Jared Sullinger, Olynyk and Tyler Zeller might find it tough to get on the court. 

“I think kind of like what we did the other night, there’s a chance obviously with Kelly back that we would play two bigs together – and when I say bigs, I’m not really considering Jonas and Jae in that regard that have played the four mostly for us in this series,” Stevens added. “But it probably won’t be a ton. So it just limits the minutes that you can play all those different guys, whether it’s Amir, Jared, Kelly, Tyler and such.

“Obviously we certainly have confidence in playing those guys together. We’ve done that at different times throughout the year, but we’ll see how this game turns itself out. And judging by the first three games, obviously being with more switching groups and playing more small has been better so far. SO we’ll see. It’s a tough position for all those guys to be in just because of the way the series is going, but we’re going to need them all at one time or another to have success in this thing. So each of them’s in a different boat, and we’ll see.”

 Stevens did admit he spoke to the team about not getting into any shenanigans that might lead to technicals or worse. 

“Yeah. I think we talk about, all the time about not wanting to cross that line. And at the same time it’s going to be physical and competitive because you watch every playoff series, that’s what they are,” Stevens said. “You’re playing a team for the fifth time in two weeks. They’re used to us, we’re used to them. It’s prideful people on both sides of the floor, really good players. There’s gonna be some of that. But obviously you don’t want it to cross the line. That’s something that certainly we’ve addressed. And we’re not going to spend a ton of time on it, and I’m sure they aren’t either. We’ve got to focus on what we can do to play well.”

Read More: 2016 NBA playoffs, Atlanta Hawks, Boston Celtics, Brad Stevens
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