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Brad Stevens has his best game of the season, and picks up his first career playoff win

04.23.16 at 1:46 am 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)

While the TD Garden crowd was going bonkers with the Celtics up 37-20 after one quarter in Game 3 Friday night, coach Brad Stevens had a much different feel.

“I knew we would start with great energy because our guys were hurting a little bit from Tuesday but I was really worried that we would be – you know, I don’t know, for any of you that have ever run the mile, you run the first lap, breakneck speed, and then about the third lap, it just feels like you’re never going to make the last two laps.”

Stevens really had those concerns late in the third quarter. The Celtics opened the second half well enough, scoring the first seven points and racing out to a 64-45 lead. Then methodically, the Hawks charged back. With a 1:21 left, Dennis Schroder completed a three-point play that appeared to tie the game, 78-78. In actuality, it gave the Hawks the lead, 78-77, since Isaiah Thomas’ 3-pointer moments earlier was degraded to a standard 2-pointer after the quarter. Whatever the case, the Celtics were wearing down and the good vibes from Isaiah Thomas’ scorching start seemed to be diminishing somewhat.

But the Celtics caught a huge break when Atlanta couldn’t grab a rebound off an Evan Turner miss. Jonas Jerebko collected it and threw it up in the air and it came down through the hoop to put Boston on top, 79-78, heading into the fourth.

“I thought that we were starting to wear down, obviously, after we took that 19 point lead,” Stevens said. “But then Isaiah made huge play after huge play. But then everybody made plays to kind of keep it at bay after they tied it and then push it out at the end.

“I thought the basket at the end of the fourth quarter – or third quarter – was huge, by Jonas and starting the fourth quarter off with a couple of buckets was big too, just to kind of get ourselves right. Because it’s hard when (Kyle) Korver gets going like that, those guys get driving down hill – they’re a good team. It’s hard.”

Stevens had one of his better games of the season from an Xs and Os standpoint. Not only did starting Jerebko over Jared Sullinger pay off in extra energy down the stretch, starting Evan Turner over Marcus Smart gave the Stevens the chance to play Thomas more as the shooting guard. It also allowed Stevens to run Thomas off screens and create driving lanes with Thomas on the move, something he hinted at before the game

“Well, I mean, we’re playing, of our nine guys that played, four of them our point guards, because I included Evan in that. So, yeah. Yeah, I mean, and we’ll look at what was good, what was not good, and have to adjust some,” Stevens said.

As for Jerebko, it was evident from the start that he was going to provide a needed boost. His put-back slam dunk in the opening minute sent the crowd into a roar early and fired him up as well.

“He plays really, really, hard. He’s got versatility with regard to defensively,” Stevens said. “It’s really hard to switch onto (Jeff) Teague and (Dennis) Schroder, but all of our bigs have to do that some as they get going downhill on you. And then his scoring is just a plus. You know, if he scores, he scores; if not, he’s still spacing for us. And so they have to honor that. And he had a big driving basket with his left hand in the fourth quarter, he had the big basket at the end of the third quarter, but then his defense was really great all night, I thought.”

And Stevens picked up his first playoff win in seven tries.

“Game Sunday. It’s great. It’s better than the alternative,” Stevens said. “But this team’s too good to do anything but focus on what’s next.”

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

Isaiah Thomas: ‘I just want to follow in the footsteps of all the Celtics greats’

04.23.16 at 1:18 am ET
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Isaiah Thomas sat on the elevated postgame podium listening with a smile as a reporter read off all the Celtics who have scored 40 or more points in a playoff game. His smile seemed to get bigger and bigger as he heard the names like Ray Allen, Larry Bird, John Havlicek, Rajon Rondo, Paul Pierce, Sam Jones, Jo Jo White, Reggie Lewis and Isaiah Thomas. 

Thomas scored a career-high 42 points on 12-of-24 shooting from the floor, including 5-0f-12 from 3-point range and 13-of-15 from the free throw line, in a 111-103 Celtics win over the Hawks in Game 3 of their series at TD Garden Friday night. And the Celtics needed every bit of Thomas’ greatness on this night to get a win that puts them back in the series. 

“I’m just glad we got the win first and foremost, but that makes me feel happy, just to be in the same category as those great players,” Thomas said. “I just want to follow in the footsteps of all the Celtics greats I know, that starts by winning then other than winning, winning championships. We are far from that, but I still want my name up there so I am happy about that.”

Coach Brad Stevens put Thomas in more of a shooting guard role, flying him off screens and pin downs that gave him better looks and more opportunities to get into the lane and do damage. 

“My coaches and my teammates, coach made adjustments and he just put me in a better position to be successful,” Thomas said. “First and foremost, I was just in attack mode, I was trying to do whatever it takes to win this game and my teammates kept feeding me and putting me in the right spots and the shots was falling, so that’s all I did. I got the easy part, my teammates helped me out a lot and coach does a great job adjusting.”

He was also inspired before the game from former NBA small men who played huge in the playoffs. Allen Iverson and Isiah Thomas both sent him texts of well wishes. 

“Allen Iverson just said keep fighting, they did what they were supposed to do in Atlanta, now its time for you guys to take advantage of being at home,” Thomas relayed. “Then Isiah Thomas just gave me a few tips I cant tell you guys about. He told me what he has seen and he helped me out a lot.”


Read More: 2016 NBA playoffs, Allen Iverson, Atlanta Hawks, Boston Celtics

Mike Petraglia, Sam Packard talk Isaiah Thomas’ historic 42-point effort in Game 3 win

04.23.16 at 12:45 am ET
By   |   Comments’s Mike Petraglia and Sam Packard break down how Isaiah Thomas rescued Celtics in Game 3 with a career-high 42 points, leading the Celtics to a 111-103 win over the Atlanta Hawks Friday night at TD Garden. The 42 points were the most by any Celtic in a playoff game since Rajon Rondo scored 44 against the Heat in the 2012 Eastern Conference finals on May 30, 2012.

Read More: 2016 NBA playoffs, Atlanta Hawks, Boston Celtics, Dennis Schroder

Isaiah Thomas insists his hand to the face of Dennis Schroder was accidental: ‘It’s playoff basketball’

04.23.16 at 12:35 am ET
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Did he mean it or not?

That’s the singular question that now has to be answered by the NBA after cameras and vines caught Isaiah Thomas – in the midst of his career-best 42-point night – swinging an elbow at Atlanta Hawks guard Dennis Schroder. 

In the second quarter of Friday’s 111-103 win over the Hawks in Game 3, and with tempers steadily on the rise throughout the first half, Thomas appeared to raise his left arm and swat Schroder in the head. 

After answering questions about his career-best performance when the Celtics desperately needed it, Thomas’ press conference ended with a simple question: Are you concerned about discipline from the NBA from the blow? 

“No, I’m not,” Thomas said. “I didn’t mean to hit him in the head. He got mad. He was talking. It’s playoff basketball. I’m not going to back down from anybody – and he knows that.”

The Hawks obviously had a different view of things. 

“I have seen it back in the locker room,” Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer said. “My thoughts are the league will review it; the league does a good job on all things like this and they have high standards and all teams are aware of their emphasis during the playoffs. As far as an explanation, there wasn’t an explanation. There was a double technical and there was no review of the incident in the back court at the free throw line.”

Kyle Korver said Budenholzer took time before the playoffs to read to the team what might happen if you lose your cool in the playoffs and throw a punch.

“I heard that it happened,” Korver said. “I know Bud read us a really long memo before the playoffs started saying what would happen in you threw a punch. I haven’t seen the replay, I know Dennis said he got hit, but I’m sure we’ll hear and see a lot about it in the next couple days.”

Read More: 2016 NBA playoffs, Atlanta Hawks, Boston Celtics, Dennis Schroder

Studs and Duds: Isaiah Thomas (42 points), Jonas Jerebko key Celtics’ Game 3 win

04.22.16 at 10:55 pm ET
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Apr 22, 2016; Boston, MA, USA; Boston Celtics guard Isaiah Thomas (4) reacts after his basket against the Atlanta Hawks in game three of the first round of the NBA Playoffs at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

Celtics guard Isaiah Thomas (4) reacts after one of his many baskets against the Hawks in Game 3. (David Butler II/USA Today Sports)

From a Jonas Jerebko put-back dunk on the opening possession to three flagrant fouls, a lane violation to nullify a four-point play, Marcus Smart’s chase-down block of Al Horford and a 42-point night from Isaiah Thomas, Game 3 had it all.

More importantly, the Celtics survived Atlanta’s comeback efforts in a 111-103 victory.

All they have to do is press repeat on Sunday night at the Garden. Easier said than done, since Thomas played out of his mind and the C’s got A games from Evan Turner (17 points, 7 assists, 5 steals), Amir Johnson (15 points, 7 rebounds, 2 blocks), Jerebko (11 points, 12 rebounds, 4 assists) and Smart (11 points, 5 assists, 3 rebounds, 2 blocks).

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

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Follow Celtics-Hawks Game 3 LIVE

04.22.16 at 7:46 pm ET
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Live Blog Celtics-Hawks Game 3

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

Kelly Olynyk ‘in a good amount of pain,’ will miss Game 3, Brad Stevens details adjustments without him

04.22.16 at 7:22 pm ET
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Kelly Olynyk

Kelly Olynyk

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.” 

Read More: 2016 NBA playoffs, Atlanta Hawks, Boston Celtics, Kelly Olynyk
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