|To keep or not to keep: What to do with Celtics||04.29.15 at 11:14 pm ET|
Celtics coach Brad Stevens and team president Danny Ainge aren’t going anywhere. That much we know. Everyone else on the roster is up for debate. Certainly, nobody is untradeable, so let’s attempt to project how these C’s players fit into Ainge’s puzzle this coming summer with a game of ‘to keep or not to keep.’
BRANDON BASS (unrestricted free agent)
Through all the upheaval, Bass was the rock of the 2014-15 Boston Celtics. Built like a Chevy truck, the 6-foot-8, 240-pound big man appeared in all 82 games for the second straight season. (He’s missed just eight games since arriving in Boston four years ago.) Splitting his time between starting and reserve roles, Bass produced the best per-minute numbers of his career this past summer while averaging the fewest minutes of his Celtics tenure (23.5). He remains one of the league’s elite midrange shooters and double-handed dunked his way to a decent percentage around the rim, but concerns about him linger.
He’s neither an exceptional rebounder nor rim protector defensively — an issue that killed the Celtics against the Cavaliers — and does not fit Stevens’ floor-stretching mold offensively. There wasn’t much of a trade market for an undersized power forward who brings few of the skills required for such players in today’s NBA at $6.9 million, and his disappearance in the playoffs may have sealed his fate at any rate.
Verdict: Not to keep.
AVERY BRADLEY (signed through 2017-18 for $8.3 million per season)
Playing the most minutes of his career, Bradley took a slight step back from a stellar offensive season in 2013-14, when he shot 40 percent from 3-point range. Still one of the league’s best marksmen from midrange, his 3-point percentage dipped to 35 percent this year. Not a playmaker by any stretch, Bradley was asked to shoulder a less-than-ideal offensive load in the absence of capable scorers, and his efficiency would benefit from improved offensive talent easing the defensive pressure around him.
As for his own defense, Bradley returned to bulldog form, hounding Cleveland’s Kyrie Irving throughout the first round. Irving averaged 25.1 points per 100 possessions on 38 percent shooting opposite Bradley in the series and 41.2 points per 100 possessions on 58 percent shooting with him on the bench. That brand of on-ball defense, particularly when paired with Marcus Smart’s similar skill set, is invaluable.
|Jae Crowder suffered left knee sprain, will undergo MRI||04.26.15 at 5:28 pm ET|
As Celtics forward Jae Crowder battled for a rebound with Cavaliers guard J.R. Smith early in the third quarter, the latter swung his arm into the former’s face, sending Crowder to the ground as his leg buckled beneath him.
Crowder did not return to the game, and neither did Smith, who earned a “Flagrant 2″ foul, an ejection and possibly a suspension for his actions. For his part, Smith said, “There was nothing malicious about it. I didn’t try to do anything to hurt him or anybody else. That’s not the way I play the game.”
The initial diagnosis from doctors who examined Crowder is a left knee sprain, but the soon-to-be restricted free agent will undergo an MRI either on Sunday night or Monday morning to confirm there is no structural damage.
“I haven’t seen it, but we don’t know exactly what the deal is yet,” Celtics coach Brad Stevens said of Smith’s foul. “He had a lower leg potential injury as he fell, but he’s going to go get an MRI and everything else. I guess he got elbowed to the head, and that’s how he fell. I shouldn’t be saying that, because I couldn’t see the play from my vantage point, but that’s what I was told. It’s what I know.”
Following a successful run with the organization since coming to Boston in return for Rajon Rondo this past December, Crowder’s re-signing is expected to be among the C’s highest priorities this summer.
|5 things we learned as Cavaliers sweep Celtics in not-so-grand finale||04.26.15 at 3:55 pm ET|
Jae Crowder said the Celtics wouldn’t go down without a fight, and he was right.
Crowder was involved in two of the half-dozen ugly dust-ups with the Cavaliers, ultimately leaving the game with an apparent knee injury in the ugliest of the bunch, but in the end it didn’t matter how much muscle his team flexed. Cleveland had LeBron James and Kyrie Irving, and in the end they were the difference-makers.
As they did all series, the Celtics spent the second half trying to erase a Cavs lead that had ballooned to double digits, and as was the case in their first three attempts, they fell short, losing the game 101-93 and the series 4-0.
James finished with 27 points, 10 rebounds and eight assists, while Irving added 24 points and 11 assists. Jared Sullinger led the Celtics with 21 points and 11 rebounds. Isaiah Thomas added 21 points, nine assists and five rebounds before fouling out. Avery Bradley (16 points) and Marcus Smart (11 points) also reached double figures.
For a complete box score, click here.
Marcus Smart’s absence from shootaround wasn’t the only late wakeup call for the Celtics. Brad Stevens spent the better part of the past week trying to solve his team’s defensive rebounding woes, and within 95 seconds of Game 4 the Cavaliers are had their second offensive board — leading to five of Cleveland’s first seven points. As a result, Stevens called his quickest timeout as an NBA coach. The intervention on the bench did little to stop the bleeding, as the Cavs reached double-digits in second-chance points and built a 21-point lead by halftime.
|5 things we learned as LeBron James, Cavaliers push Celtics to brink||04.23.15 at 9:40 pm ET|
Different building, same script.
Trailing by three late in the fourth quarter, the Celtics had a chance to tie Game 3 at home, but failed to corral an offensive rebound, and Kevin Love made them pay with a wide-open 3-pointer with 2:13 remaining. And once again, the C’s submitted an inspired effort, but had no answer for LeBron James, who amassed 31 points and 11 rebounds in a 103-95 victory that gave his Cavaliers a 3-0 series lead.
The Celtics‘ last opportunity to avoid a sweep comes in Game 4 at the Garden on Sunday afternoon.
On Thursday, Evan Turner enjoyed his best game of the series, collecting 19 points, eight rebounds and eight assists, but failed to match a dominant performance by the game’s greatest active player. Jae Crowder added 16 points, seven rebounds and four assists off the bench, and Avery Bradley scored 18, albeit on 18 shots. Jared Sullinger (10 points, 8 rebounds) was the only other Celtic in double figures. After scoring 22 points in each of his first two playoff appearances, Isaiah Thomas finished with only five points on 2-of-9 shooting.
For a complete box score, click here.
In the first 1:18, LeBron James got to the rim with ease on back-to-back possessions, giving the Cavaliers an early 4-0 lead. After an uncontested 3-pointer from Kevin Love, Timofey Mozgov beat Tyler Zeller on the block twice in a row — dunking over the C’s center and driving around him for an uncontested layup. A third drive to the basket delivered Cleveland a 15-10 lead and forced the first Celtics timeout.
|5 things we learned as Cavaliers hold off Celtics for 2-0 series lead||04.21.15 at 9:41 pm ET|
The Celtics achieved almost everything they set out to do in Game 2 — as Avery Bradley terrorized Kyrie Irving, the Cavaliers shot just 24.1 percent from 3-point range and the C’s out-rebounded Cleveland on the offensive glass — and yet they still lost by eight.
Despite all that went right for the Celtics, they still had no answer for LeBron James, who finished with 30 points, nine rebounds and seven assists in a 99-91 victory that gave the Cavaliers a 2-0 series lead. Even with Bradley all over him, Irving managed 26 points, six assists and five boards, spoiling what may have been the C’s best chance for a win.
“Obviously, they’re great players,” Celtics coach Brad Stevens said in his postgame press conference. “I thought we challenged Kyrie a little bit better. He’s a hard one because he gets fouled on some of those jump shots. That’s tough, but he’s a really explosive ball-handler and scorer. And when LeBron just puts his shoulder down and wants to get to where he wants to go, it’s hard to stop him from getting there. But I thought our guys actually did a pretty good job on different plays. … Those guys are hard to stop, but that’s why we can’t start the third quarter slowly and that’s why we’ve got to finish plays. That’s why every issue we’re having is magnified.”
For a complete box score, click here.
BRINGING THE ENERGY
Midway through the first quarter, Brandon Bass wrestled an offensive rebound from Tristan Thompson and LeBron James, and then kicked it out to an open Marcus Smart, who knocked down a 3-pointer that pushed the Celtics‘ lead to 16-8 and forced the Cavs’ first timeout. It was indicative of a tremendous early effort by the Celtics. They matched their Game 1 total of seven offensive boards in the first quarter of Game 2 and added eight points off five Cleveland turnovers in the opening 12 minutes, taking a 26-25 lead after one.
|J.R. Smith compares Avery Bradley to Kobe Bryant, and not in a good way||04.20.15 at 2:58 pm ET|
Granted, Sunday’s game between the Cavaliers and Celtics was questionably officiated, but J.R. Smith hardly has a case he didn’t deserve all four of his fouls — and maybe even more. But that didn’t stop the former NBA Sixth Man of the Year from complaining.
What did J.R. Smith learn during 4-foul, 19-minute game? “Don’t touch Avery Bradley. Apparently he’s like Kobe now, so I can’t touch him.”
‘ Ethan J. Skolnick (@EthanJSkolnick) April 19, 2015
So, apparently Smith thinks Avery Bradley is getting superstar treatment, which is … interesting … since the Celtics guard attempted all of zero free throws, and Smith somehow still managed to complain after trucking Kelly Olynyk like a linebacker.
|Lou Williams wins Sixth Man over Isaiah Thomas||04.20.15 at 12:57 pm ET|
Williams received 78 of the 130 possible first-place votes from a panel of sportswriters. His 34 second-place votes and 10 third-place votes gave him a total of 502 points. Meanwhile, Thomas received 33 first-place votes, 46 second-place votes and 21 third-place votes for a total of 324 points — the second-highest total in the voting.
Williams appeared on 122 of 130 ballots, as Jamal Crawford (131 points), Andre Iguodala (100), Tristan Thompson (33), Nikola Mirotic (24), Marreese Speights (20), Corey Brewer (12), Manu Ginobili (12), Taj Gibson (8), Aaron Brooks (1), Chris Kaman (1), Anthony Morrow (1) and Dennis Schroder (1) all received votes. How 30 writers left Thomas off the ballot entirely is a mystery.
We’ve already covered in great deal why Thomas deserved the award over Williams, so we won’t get too far into the weeds here, except to say Thomas averaged more points, assists and rebounds while shooting better from everywhere on the floor and submitting a superior player efficiency rating.
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