|04.15.16 at 3:07 pm ET|
WALTHAM – Armed with an attitude and the confidence of a full All-Star season to back it up, Isaiah Thomas feels these Celtics are ready to make some noise against Atlanta in the playoffs starting Saturday night.
“I learned a lot,” Thomas said following Friday’s final practice at the team’s facility in Waltham. “You’ve got to adjust to whatever the team’s doing. And be able to still contribute, even if they’re trying to take away your aggressiveness or your scoring ability or whatever the case may be. The best players figure it out. I know they’ll probably try to, not just contain me, but to try to slow me down. But you just gotta stay at it and continue to keep your foot on the pedal.”
Last year against Cleveland in the four-game sweep in the opening round, Thomas made just 18-of-54 shots from the field, averaging 17.5 points. He scored 20 points in three of the four games but was held to just five points in the Game 2 loss.
But Thomas believes it’s not just him but the entire team that is feeling better about themselves after a 48-34 season and the No. 5 seed in the East.
“I think we got just a lot more confidence. We feel like we can definitely make noise,” Thomas added. “We think that the Eastern Conference is open for any team. We just gotta get a win and gain confidence off that win. I think we’re just a lot more confident and we feel like we’ve been here before, which we have.
“Just more confident. I think we just got a different feel about ourselves. Last year we kinda snuck into the playoffs, this year, I mean, teams knows about us a little bit. I think we’re the best team in the Eastern Conference. We want to make some noise. Like I said, we want to get that first win off our belt, then we want to win a playoff series and go from there. We’re not overlooking Atlanta. We know that they’re a great team. We gotta be locked in and just live in the moment. This is a big moment for us.”
Thomas and the Celtics will have fresh memories of the Hawks when they take the court Saturday night for Game 1. They fell apart in the fourth quarter after leading 87-75 and lost, 118-107.
“We need to slow down a little bit. Slow down and just execute,” Thomas said. “They sped us up a little bit more than we wanted to. And they also pushed our catches where they were denying us. We just gotta get to our spots. We gotta do what we do and do that at a high level. I think that would be the big thing.”
That goes for his own game.
“It’s something that I just tried to learn throughout the offseason as well, by watching a lot of film, and really learning how to impact the game without just scoring; learning how to use double-teams to my advantage to get the ball out quicker; having [help] on the backside any things like that,” Thomas said. “Just stay in attack mode, don’t let whatever they do try to slow me down.”
Thomas was again asked about his left wrist after practice Friday and whether it might be an issue in the series.
“No, I don’t want [any tests],” Thomas said. “I’ll be fine, I’ll be all right.”
|04.14.16 at 12:07 pm ET|
Saturday night is all right for the Celtics.
The NBA announced its full first-round playoff schedule early Thursday morning, and the league has the No. 5 Celtics and the No. 4 Hawks opening their Eastern Conference series in Atlanta on Saturday night at 7 p.m. on ESPN.
Game 2 will be Tuesday at 7 p.m. before the series shifts to Boston for Games 3 and 4 next Friday (April 22) at 8 p.m. and Sunday (April 24) at 6 p.m.
Game 5 would be Tuesday, April 26, in Atlanta. Game 6 is set for Thursday, April 28, in Boston. If the series goes the limit, Game 7 would be Saturday, April 30, in Atlanta.
The Celtics and Hawks have met 11 times in the postseason, with Boston winning 10 of the 11 series. The only time the Hawks came out on top was in the 1958 NBA Finals, when the franchise was in St. Louis.
The most recent meeting was in 2012, when Boston prevailed in six games.
The two teams have had their epic moments, most notably in 1988, when Larry Bird outdueled Dominique Wilkins in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference semifinals and in Game 7 in 2008, when the Celtics avoided a monumental upset as the No. 1 seed, on their way to a 17th NBA title.
As for the defending NBA champion and record 73-game winners, the Warriors, they open the playoffs on Saturday afternoon in Oakland against the Rockets. The first of four games Saturday features the No. 7 seed Pacers traveling to Toronto to take on the No. 2 Raptors.
|04.14.16 at 12:37 am ET|
WEEI.com’s Mike Petraglia and Sam Packard discuss how the Celtics were able to execute the greatest comeback in the NBA this season on the season’s final night. The Celtics trailed by 26 points to the Heat at one point in the first half before turning on the defensive jets in the second half, limiting the Heat to five points in the third quarter on 2-of-20 shooting. The defense continued in the fourth quarter, as the Heat managed just 21 points. The Celtics outscored Miami 60-26 in the second half to post a 98-88 win and finish with a 48-34 record. They finished in a four-way tie with the Heat, Hawks and Hornets and by virtue of that tie, they finish as the No. 5 seed and will open the playoffs in Atlanta this weekend. Games 3 and 4 will be back in Boston.
|04.14.16 at 12:27 am ET|
The guesswork is over.
The No. 5 seed Celtics will be playing the No. 4 Hawks in the first round of the playoffs.
“I think it’s good for us, for our sake we get to play them again especially how, our performance the last time,” Avery Bradley said. “We played them there in Atlanta, gives us a chance to go back and play the way we did [Wednesday].”
Well, at least in the second half Wednesday.
The Celtics were a no-show for 24 minutes on Wednesday night before outscoring the Heat 25-5 in the third quarter and getting themselves back in the game with intense defense.
The Hawks team they will be facing beat them three of four times in the regular season, including this past Saturday, when the Celtics couldn’t hold a late 87-75 lead. In that game, they were outscored 43-20 down the stretch and lost by 11, 118-107.
“Well, obviously Atlanta’s really good,” Brad Stevens said. “Atlanta’s beaten us three out of four times and they’ve got some tough matchups. They’re a good basketball team. A really good basketball team. And so we’ll have our hands full. We’re looking forward to competing against them, we’re looking forward to preparing for them.
“And so, as far as [Wednesday], we just had to decide that we were going to play differently, and we were going to get back to being ourselves a little bit. That didn’t mean that we were going to make every shot, turn them over, or they were going to miss open shots, but it meant that we were going to, you know, compete at a different level than we were.”
|04.13.16 at 10:50 pm ET|
A comeback for the ages had it all — the ugly, the good and the bad.
For a third straight game, the Celtics fell behind by double digits with home-court advantage potentially on the line. This time it was a 26-point first-half deficit against the Heat, at home in front of members of Boston’s title teams from 1966, 1976 and 1986.
That all changed at halftime, as the Celtics used a 20-0 run to complete a historic comeback with a 98-88 win over Miami.
And now for the bad: A Hawks loss to the Wizards ensured the victorious C’s would still travel to Atlanta as the fifth seed in the first round of the playoffs. Had the Celtics lost to Miami, they would have visited the Heat as the No. 6 seed in the opening round, with a potential second-round series against the Raptors looming. Instead, a first-round win likely means another date with the Cavaliers.
Anyhow, back to the game at hand: Isaiah Thomas (21 points) led five Celtics in double figures, and Avery Bradley added 17 points. Joe Johnson and Hassan Whiteside each scored 19 points to lead the Heat.
After the Heat took a 62-38 lead into the half, the Celtics roared back in the third quarter, slicing the deficit to 67-65 entering the final frame. The C’s set a franchise record for fewest points allowed (5) in the third quarter. With 9:39 left in the fourth quarter, Kelly Olynyk’s three-point play gave the Celtics their first lead of the night — 72-69, and Jonas Jerebko’s ensuing 3-pointer completed a 39-7 Celtics run.
|04.13.16 at 9:12 pm ET|
Isaiah Thomas accepts annual Red Auerbach award pic.twitter.com/ywnAYB04he
— Mike Petraglia (@Trags) April 14, 2016
The only highlight in the first half Wednesday actually came before tipoff when Isaiah Thomas was awarded the 11th annual “Red Auerbach Award” – given annually to the player who embodies the spirit of the Celtics.
After accepting the award, he gave a brief speech to the fans.
“We want to thank you for all your support. We’re going to need you for a deep run in the playoffs,” Thomas said.
The Celtics then proceeded to go out and lay a 24-minute “egg” against the Heat, falling behind by as much as 26 in the first half and trailing, 62-38 at the half.
Apparently, the Celtics were humiliated to the point that they had no where else to go but up. They outscored Miami, 37-7, to open the second half, holding the Heat to five points in the third quarter, their best defensive effort of the year.
The Celtics outscored the Heat, 60-26, in the second half to complete the largest comeback in the NBA this season, with a 98-88 win. However, with the Hawks losing to the Wizards in Washington, the Celtics finish with the No. 5 seed and start the playoffs on the road in Atlanta this weekend against the No. 4 Hawks.
Despite blowing the 26-point lead in the second quarter, the Heat, by virtue of the four-way tie at 48-34, with their division and seal the No. 3 seed. They will face the No. 6 seed Hornets.
|04.13.16 at 7:32 pm ET|
For all the fret and worry over playoff scenarios, there’s one variable Brad Stevens is counting on: Togetherness.
It’s what the Celtics coach felt was missing the most on Monday night in the 114-100 loss to Charlotte at TD Garden. And it’s exactly what needs to be on display not only in the season finale against Miami but heading into the playoffs.
“I think no matter what, obviously we could win and not finish with home-court advantage,” Stevens said before Wednesday’s game with Miami. “We could win and finish with home-court advantage. I think the biggest thing is getting back to playing with the aggression and the spirit that we’ve played with in the past that has got us to this point. We didn’t play with that on Monday, so that’s really been my focus. All of these scenarios and that stuff, I can’t keep up with it.”
Stevens was still able to joke about Monday’s loss.
“When I was 17, I went and visited one of those people that tell you what you’re going to do with your life and they said you’re going to be an actuary or a basketball coach and I chose coaching,” Stevens said. “It’s probably a good thing because those numbers were spinning in my head when I look at them for five minutes.”
An actuary is defined on a Google search as “a business professional who analyzes the financial consequences of risk.” They use mathematics, statistics, and financial theory to study uncertain future events, especially those of concern to insurance and pension programs.
“I guess on Monday night I was thinking, man, there are probably a lot of people thinking he’d be better off being an actuary. I guess time will tell.”
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