|Irish Coffee: Celtics, playoffs and tiebreakers, oh my||03.17.15 at 12:44 pm ET|
The bad news: Contrary to popular opinion, the Celtics are not currently in the playoff picture, since as of today they would lose the tiebreaker to both the Pacers and Heat based on their sub-.500 record against Eastern Conference opponents.
The good news: If the Celtics (30-36) have one more win than Charlotte (29-36), Indiana (30-36) and Miami (30-36) when all is said and done, they’ll capture the same seventh seed they earned when last they made the playoffs in 2013.
Heck, based on their performance since the NBA trade deadline (10-5, including five straight victories), there’s even an outside possibility the red-hot Celtics could catch the reeling sixth-seeded Bucks (34-32), whose four wins in 13 games since trading Brandon Knight have come against the Nuggets, 76ers, Wizards and Magic.
Obviously, that’s jumping ahead a bit, so let’s step back and take a look at the remaining schedules of the four Eastern Conference teams now tied with 36 losses.
Wednesday: at Thunder (37-30)
Friday: at Spurs (41-24)
Sunday: vs. Pistons (23-43)
Monday: at Nets (27-38)
March 25: vs. Heat (30-36)
March 27: at Knicks (13-53)
March 29: vs. Clippers (42-25)
March 30: at Hornets (29-36)
April 1: vs. Pacers (30-36)
April 3: vs. Bucks (34-32)
April 4: at Raptors (40-27)
April 8: at Pistons (23-43)
April 10: at Cavaliers (43-26)
April 12: vs. Cavaliers (43-26)
April 14: vs. Raptors (40-27)
April 15: at Bucks (34-32)
BY THE NUMBERS: .498 opponents’ winning percentage; 9 games vs. teams above .500; 9 road games; 7 games vs. teams below .500; 7 home games; 4 back-to-backs.
|Irish Coffee: Bill Walton’s St. Patrick’s Day revisited||03.17.15 at 9:09 am ET|
The NBA’s Sixth Man of the Year as a member of the 1985-86 Celtics that finished 67-15 during the regular season — and 41-1 at home in the Boston Garden — on their way to winning 15-of-18 playoff games and the franchise’s 16th NBA title, Bill Walton can wish you a St. Patrick’s Day far better than I can.
So, without further ado, I give you Walton uncensored, about five or six Guinesses deep most likely (from his 2011 appearance on the Big Show four years ago):
“Go Green. Go Guinness. I’m popping one right now. Ten million pints poured every day around this great globe of ours — the globe, the most perfect orb, just like the basketball. The basketball by itself does nothing, but when you make it an extension of your mind the way that [Rajon] Rondo does, the way that Danny Ainge did and DJ [Dennis Johnson] and Larry [Bird] and Kevin [McHale] and Chief [Robert Parish] and Jerry [Sichting] and Rick [Carlisle] and Scotty [Wedman] and all the guys did — but when you’re able to make an extension of your mind, of what it is you’re doing in life, whether it’s drinking a Guinness responsibly, whether you’re bouncing that magic basketball for the Celtic Green, you can make a difference, and that’s what we’re calling everybody to do on St. Patrick’s Day, the start of the college tournament, the most perfect harmonic convergence ever. Be bold, stand tall, quit your job and chase your dreams. …
“I only drink Guinness, the holy water falling from the sky, delivering spiritual guidance. We’re blessed. We’re so blessed. We’re on record pace, and we’re having the time of our life. …
“When this morning started, and it started more than 24 hours ago, the call to action was to take the day off. Who wants to lead a watered down life? C’mon. Let’s get up and be bold. Forget just taking the day off, just quit your job. Make your dream your job, and that’s what I was able to do. My parents ask me to this very day, ‘So, Billy, did you ever get a job?’ I’m closer than ever to being able to say yes. It’s so special. The remarkable thing about Guinness in our world is that in the mother country, Ireland, St. Patrick’s Day is a national holiday. In Canada, St. Patrick’s Day is a national holiday. Somewhere, we got lost along the path, along the golden road to unlimited devotion. …
|Report: George Mason eyes Celtics assistant Jay Larranaga for vacant coaching position||03.16.15 at 10:24 am ET|
A Celtics coach is the focus of a college program’s search to fill its vacant position, and it’s not who you might have expected.
George Mason University is eyeing C’s assistant Jay Larranaga as a potential replacement for recently fired Patriots coach Paul Hewitt, according to Yahoo’s Adrian Wojnarowski. Jay’s father Jim Larranaga led George Mason to the 2006 Final Four during his 13 seasons at the helm of the Virginia-based school before accepting his current position as head coach of the University of Miami in 2011.
One of two holdovers from Doc Rivers‘ coaching staff (Jamie Young is the other), Larranaga deserves partial credit as Brad Stevens‘ top assistant for the C’s playoff push in the absence of Rajon Rondo, Jeff Green, Jared Sullinger and most recently Isaiah Thomas. Prior to joining the Celtics‘ staff in 2012, Larranaga enjoyed success as the head coach of the NBA D-League’s Erie BayHawks and an assistant under Mike Fratello on the Ukraine National Team.
Larranaga was a candidate for the C’s head coaching position before Stevens’ hiring in 2013 and twice interviewed for the open 76ers job before Philadelphia hired Brett Brown that same summer.
|5 things we learned as Celtics execute upset of Grizzlies||03.11.15 at 10:10 pm ET|
There was no more room for moral victories.
As was the case against the Golden State Warriors two weeks ago, the Celtics played inspired basketball against the Western Conference elite, only to lose their hold on the lead in the final minutes versus the Memphis Grizzlies.
Only this time the C’s made shot after shot in the waning moments to pull out a thrilling 95-92 victory they desperately needed to stay alive in the Eastern Conference playoff race. In the final 1:40, Jae Crowder made a game-tying 3-pointer, Marcus Smart converted an alley-oop-and-one to grab a one-point lead, Tyler Zeller pulled down a defensive rebound between Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph before converting a pair of free throws for a three-point advantage, and Avery Bradley sank a step-back jumper over the league’s 2013 Defensive Player of the Year to seal the deal. It was a remarkable combination of effort and execution.
The win keeps the Celtics (27-36) within striking distance of the Miami Heat (29-35) for the East’s eighth playoff seed with three games against the Orlando Magic, Indiana Pacers and Philadelphia 76ers in four nights starting Friday. On Wednesday, Bradley led five Celtics in double figures with 17 points. Jae Crowder netted 16 points and Kelly Olynyk dropped 15 while Brandon Bass and Tyler Zeller added 12 apiece.
For a complete box score, click here.
|What JaVale McGee’s signing means to Celtics||03.05.15 at 11:26 am ET|
[Editors Note, 2:45 p.m.: It’s being reported the signing has been called off and JaVale McGee will not be joining Boston]
‘ PÃ¯¸Ã¯¸’Ã¯¸3’£®®3’£ (@JaValeMcGee34) March 5, 2015
When last we saw JaVale McGee as a starting NBA center, the 7-footer was a 23-year-old averaging 11.9 points, 8.8 rebounds and 2.6 blocks in 27.4 minutes a night. The Celtics would sign a rim-protecting big man with that kind of talent in a nanosecond. Except, when last we saw JaVale McGee as a starting NBA center, the 20-win Washington Wizards dumped him on the Denver Nuggets for an oft-injured, 29-year-old Nene in 2011-12 — not exactly a ringing endorsement of the uber-athletic former first-round pick.
Since then, McGee signed a four-year, $44 million contract, only to find himself relegated to the bench behind the likes of Timofey Mozgov, Kosta Koufos and Jusuf Nurkic for reasons both within (effort) and beyond (left tibia stress fracture) his control. After appearing in just 22 games for Denver over the past two seasons, the Nuggets had to sweeten the pot with a first-round pick just to dump his salary on the Philadelphia 76ers, who subsequently waived him six games into his short-lived Philly tenure.
Yet, the Celtics still leapt at the chance to sign the 27-year-old version of McGee. According to ESPN.com’s Jeff Goodman, the C’s are nearing a deal that will lock him up through next season. Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge confirmed the report on CBS Sports Radio Thursday morning.
“He’s been paid a lot of money in our league,” said Ainge. “He’s had some injuries, but he hasn’t lived up to his potential yet. We’re hoping that he can under [Celtics coach] Brad [Stevens]’ tutelage, and I think he’s in a good place emotionally and mentally. I think he really wants to get his career on the right path.”
|Celtics guard Isaiah Thomas named NBA’s Eastern Conference Player of the Week||03.02.15 at 4:40 pm ET|
Newly acquired Celtics point guard Isaiah Thomas captured the NBA’s Eastern Conference Player of the Week honors, becoming the first Boston player to earn the award since Jared Sullinger last season from Feb. 3-9, 2014.
Here’s a quick look at the week that was for Thomas.
Celtics 115, Suns 110: 21 PTS (6-16 FG, 3-8 3P, 6-7 FT), 7 AST, 1 REB, 1 STL
Celtics 115, Knicks 94: 19 PTS (3-10 FG, 2-6 3P, 11-11 FT), 7 AST, 6 REB
Celtics 106, Hornets 98: 28 PTS (9-22 FG, 2-8 3P, 8-10 FT), 7 AST, 1 REB, 1 STL
Warriors 106, Celtics 101: 20 PTS (8-21 FG, 3-11 3P, 1-1 FT), 5 AST, 2 REB
Thomas edged Hawks forward Paul Millsap, Hornets teammates Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Mo Williams and Pacers guard George Hill for the award. Damian Lillard, who averaged 26 points, 5.7 assists and 4.7 rebounds from Feb. 23 to March 1, earned Western Conference Player of the Week honors.
Celtics coach Brad Stevens, who submitted the first winning month (7-4) of his career in February, was nominated for Eastern Conference Coach of the Month, but lost out to Pacers coach Frank Vogel for the honor.
|5 things we learned as Celtics nearly stun Warriors||03.01.15 at 8:24 pm ET|
The Celtics are holding their own against the NBA’s elite.
Less than three weeks after beating the Eastern Conference-leading Hawks, the Celtics gave the West-leading Warriors all they could handle, establishing a 26-point first-half lead in front of a raucous home crowd before Golden State chipped away and crumbled their hosts, 106-101.
Once again, Isaiah Thomas ignited the C’s scoring effort with 20 points — missing a 3-pointer that would have tied the game in the final seconds — to go along with five assists in 29 minutes off the bench. Tyler Zeller’s 17 points led all five Celtics starters in double figures, followed by Brandon Bass (15 points, 12 rebounds), Avery Bradley (12 points), Marcus Smart (10 points) and Evan Turner (10 points). Jae Crowder added 17 rebounds and nine points off the bench.
Still, it wasn’t enough to overcome a Warriors team that owns the league’s best record (46-11) and features MVP favorite Stephen Curry, who netted 37 points to lead all scorers. Meanwhile, the Celtics drop to 23-34 and remain on the outside looking in on the East’s eighth and final playoff seed.
For a complete box score, click here.
THE RUN THAT WAS ALWAYS GOING TO COME
Since taking a 5-4 lead 1:55 into the game, the Celtics held the Warriors at bay longer than anyone expected, but it was only a matter of time since the league’s top-scoring team got back in the game. Over the course of 12 minutes from the end of the third quarter to late in the fourth — as Shaun Livingston gave them a spark off the bench, Green heated up and Curry remained on fire — Golden State outscored the Celtics 32-15 to grab their first lead since the opening minutes.
DEFENDING THEIR LIVES
If the Celtics have any hope of making the playoffs, it’ll be their improvement on the defensive end that will make the difference between a first-round series and a lottery pick. Six games after holding the Hawks to 42.3 percent shooting, the C’s held the Warriors to 42.1 percent — not an easy task two of the game’s most prolific shooters. Curry and Klay Thompson (20 points) were always going to get their points, but the C’s built their lead by holding Golden State’s frontcourt — Draymond Green, Harrison Barnes, Andrew Bogut, David Lee and Andre Iguodala — to combined 4-of-20 shooting in the opening 24 minutes. That’s especially impressive considering the Celtics are sans Jared Sullinger and Kelly Olynyk.
ISAIAH THOMAS IS AN ELITE SCORER
Quite simply, Thomas has been a dominant offensive force during his Celtics tenure, anchoring a unit that scored 117.9 points per 100 possessions during his first four games in Boston. Even more impressive, he owns a usage rate of 35.4 percent, meaning more than a third of the C’s possessions are running through Thomas when he’s on the floor. His 58.2 true shooting percentage during that four-game stretch would rank among the NBA’s best guard over a full season. Sunday night was no different, as his 15 points before the break led a 65-point first-half for the Celtics. He cooled off in the second half, finishing just 8-of-21 from the field and missing eight of his 11 3-point attempts, but his presence remains a revelation.
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