|Fast Break: Celtics can’t keep pace with Kawhi Leonard, Spurs||12.15.16 at 12:04 am ET|
Celtics coach Brad Stevens can continue to preach patience, but his team looks as frustrated as its fans as it continues to plod along, losing to every good team it faces.
Wednesday night’s 108-101 loss to the Spurs comes as no surprise — especially with Isaiah Thomas still on the shelf. But at some point this team will need to turn a corner if it’s going to live up to preseason expectations.
“I’ve said the last couple of days that we’ve made progress,” Stevens said in his postgame press conference. “I didn’t think we played as well tonight as we did in Oklahoma City or maybe even at home against Toronto, but [the Spurs] had a lot to do with that. Every time that we got within striking distance, Kawhi Leonard made a huge play or they come up with a loose ball or an offensive rebound.
“They’re tremendous at maximizing every detail of the game. And hey, we’ve had our moments where we play really well, but we’re not as good as them at that.”
On the positive side for Boston, Avery Bradley continued his strong play of late, recording 25 points (10-of-16 shooting), 10 rebounds, six assists and three steals.
Jae Crowder scored 15 points, Al Horford netted 13, Terry Rozier chipped in with 12 in 25 minutes off the bench, and Marcus Smart had 11 points and six assists.
Leonard led the Spurs with 26 points, adding six assists. Pau Gasol had 17 points, 13 rebounds and six assists. Tony Parker scored 10 of his 16 points in the fourth quarter and also had seven assists.
|Isaiah Thomas ruled out for Spurs game||12.13.16 at 2:23 pm ET|
Isaiah Thomas will miss his fourth straight game when he skips Wednesday night’s matchup vs. the Spurs in San Antonio. Thomas, dealing with a strained groin, did not travel on the team’s two-game road trip that started in Oklahoma City on Sunday night, but there was speculation that he might join the team in Texas if he was cleared to return.
Coach Brad Stevens told reporters that he is hoping Thomas will be back for Friday’s game at TD Garden against the Hornets.
“Isaiah is feeling a lot better,” Stevens said (via ESPNBoston.com’s Chris Forsberg). “Any pain is gone; still a little stiff.”
Thomas suffered the injury during a Dec. 5 game in Houston, although he finished that contest.
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|Fast Break: Celtics end Russell Westbrook’s triple-double streak but fall to Thunder||12.11.16 at 9:38 pm ET|
The Celtics entered Sunday’s game in Oklahoma City having yet to beat a contending NBA team this season. They also started the day with the longest streak in the league of having not allowed a triple-double against them.
Both streaks remain intact.
Although Thunder star Russell Westbrook fell short of an eighth consecutive triple-double, the Celtics could not get a breakthrough win, as Oklahoma City closed the game on a 19-8 run to take a 99-96 victory.
Westbrook finished with 37 points (23 in the second half) and 12 rebounds but just six assists. He struggled from the line, hitting just 7-of-12 free throws. When he missed the second of two with 5.1 seconds left, the Celtics had a chance to force overtime. Marcus Smart dribbled up the court and pulled up for an open 3-pointer from the top, but his shot bounced off the left side of the rim as the buzzer sounded.
“That’s a frustrating loss, because we played really hard on the defensive end of the floor for most of the night,” Celtics coach Brad Stevens said in his postgame press conference. “We screwed up a few coverages throughout the course of the night, but not many. So, hats off to them.”
Al Horford — who revealed before the game that he was “strongly considering” the Thunder during free agency this past summer, intrigued by the thought of reuniting with his former college coach, Billy Donovan — led the C’s with 19 points.
Avery Bradley netted 18 and shared time with Smart guarding Westbrook. Jae Crowder scored 18 points on 7-of-9 shooting (3-of-4 treys) before fouling out midway through the fourth quarter. Smart had 11 points and a game-high nine assists. Rookie Jaylen Brown scored all 10 of his points in the fourth quarter, hitting 4-of-5 shots.
|Fast Break: Avery Bradley, balanced attack fuels C’s rout of Magic||12.07.16 at 9:33 pm ET|
With Isaiah Thomas back in Boston receiving treatment on his strained groin, the question for the Celtics was who would replace the production of their leading scorer Wednesday night. The answer: everyone.
Seven Celtics scored in double figures (and Kelly Olynyk was one point short of being the eighth) as the C’s dominated the Magic in the second half en route to an impressive 117-87 victory.
Avery Bradley led the offensive onslaught with 23 points on 7-of-14 shooting and 6-of-7 free throws. Terry Rozier came off the bench to pour in 16 points, Jae Crowder had 15 points and 10 rebounds. Marcus Smart, Amir Johnson and Jaylen Brown — who had a highlight-reel dunk early in the second quarter, driving from the 3-point line and hammering down a one-hander over Magic 7-footer Nikola Vucevic — each netted 13. Al Horford amassed 10 points, eight assists and six boards — and was a plus-31.
And before you dismiss the Magic, consider that Orlando was coming off a road trip in which it won four out of five, including an eye-catching win over the Spurs.
The C’s outscored Orlando 68-37 in the second half. They opened the half on a 10-2 run, playing fierce defense and unselfish offense. On one sequence Bradley hounded Evan Fournier and eventually blocked his runner out of bounds. The C’s continued to pour it on at both ends — the run went to 18-2 — and pushed their newfound lead up to 18 points at 78-60 late in the period after a three-point play by Brown. At that point the C’s had hit 11 of their 13 shots in the period, and assists were credited on 10 of the 11 baskets.
But it was at the defensive end where Bradley said the C’s were focused.
“Every possession counts, and we showed that,” Bradley told CSNNE’s Abby Chin. “We got together at halftime and we told each other, ‘We’ve got to come out and player harder. We’ve got to get consistent stops. We can’t worry about the offensive end.’ And it showed in the second half.”
|Fast Break: Al Horford misses last-second layup as Celtics let one slip away to Rockets||12.05.16 at 10:46 pm ET|
The Celtics were handed a gift Monday night in Houston, but they treated it like an ugly sweater on Christmas morning — something they’ll look back on only with disgust.
Houston led by three points and had the ball with 16 seconds left, but in an instant the C’s were put in position to win after Rockets star James Harden was called for an offensive foul — and a flagrant 1 to boot — after throwing his elbow into Marcus Smart’s face while trying to create space. However, Boston could not capitalize.
After Smart (a 60 percent shooter from the line) hit two free throws to get the C’s within a point, Isaiah Thomas missed a driving layup, although the C’s retained possession when Harden knocked it out of bounds. On the ensuing inbounds, Al Horford caught the ball at the 3-point line and found an open lane to the basket but missed a layup with one second remaining, allowing Houston to escape with a 107-106 decision.
“I felt good when I shot it,” Horford told reporters about the final shot. “It just didn’t go down.”
“We got two good looks,” Celtics coach Brad Stevens said in his postgame press conference. “The guys did a great job in those moments.”
Harden led all scorers with 37 points on 8-of-14 field goals (3-of-5 treys) and 18-of-18 free throws. He also had eight rebounds, eight assists and 10 turnovers.
Horford led the Celtics with 21 points and nine assists. Thomas scored 20 points. Bradley had 16 points and 10 rebounds — and he’ll rue the additional point he thought he had. With 46 seconds left and the C’s trailing by five, Bradley lined up at the arc and drilled a big shot to end a 13-2 Houston run, but the officials ruled his toe was on the line, and it held up on review despite protestations from the Celtics, who saw the replay on the arena scoreboard.
“They said it was inconclusive and it was called a 2,” Stevens related.
|Fast Break: Celtics use balanced attack to turn away Heat||11.28.16 at 10:08 pm ET|
Although the Heat are one of the weaker teams in the Eastern Conference, the Celtics had to be a little concerned when center Al Horford stayed in Boston for the birth of his second child. After all, one of the Heat’s strengths is Hassan Whiteside, who came in leading the league in rebounds (14.9) and second in blocks (2.5) per game.
It turns out the C’s had nothing to worry about.
Despite an off shooting night from Isaiah Thomas, Boston used a big second quarter to pull away early and kept a safe distance from Miami the rest of the way in a 112-104 victory, its fourth in five games and its fourth straight road win.
The C’s led by two points after one period, then outscored the hosts 27-12 in the second quarter. Miami stayed within striking distance the rest of the night but never was able to make a serious challenge for the lead.
“I never felt really good about getting a stop in the second half, which isn’t good, but we scored enough to win,” C’s coach Brad Stevens told reporters in his postgame press conference.
Thomas rallied to finish with 25 points on 7-of-23 shooting (just 2-of-10 treys) and 9-of-9 free throws. He also had eight assists.
Boston had six players in double figures. Jae Crowder had an efficient game with 17 points on 6-of-11 shooting. Avery Bradley scored 18 points. Kelly Olynyk netted 14 (more on his strong all-around effort below). Marcus Smart (12) and Tyler Zeller (10) were the other double-figure scorers.
Tempers flared in a chippy fourth quarter, with Smart (no surprise) in the middle of things. After Whiteside grabbed a rebound with 3:17 remaining and cleared some space as he prepared to finish, Smart raced in and knocked over Whiteside, earning a flagrant-1. Later, the Heat repeatedly intentionally fouled Smart (a 55 percent free throw shooter), and he took exception and pushed Goran Dragic, earning a technical foul.
|Fast Break: Celtics find swagger, pull away from pesky Nets||11.23.16 at 10:00 pm ET|
If you missed the Celtics’ 111-92 victory over the Nets on Wednesday night, take a break from your Thanksgiving meal Thursday and check out the highlights.
The C’s played their most entertaining game of the young season, demonstrating tremendous ball movement — leading to 26 assists — and coming up with a handful of dazzling plays in a dismantling of the Nets that capped a 3-0 road trip.
Isaiah Thomas led the way with 23 points and five assists. Avery Bradley had 22 points, seven rebounds and five steals. Al Horford amassed 17 points, five rebounds and eight assists. Jae Crowder added 15 points and five boards.
“Just [regained] our swagger,” Thomas told CSNNE’s Abby Chin in an on-court interview after the game. “We’re hitting first. Other than the Golden State game, we’re hitting first. We’re playing with that swagger where we’re not backing down from anybody and we’re bringing that energy and that grit and that toughness that Celtics basketball is about.”
Contributions came from everywhere. Jonas Jerebko (10 points) did his part to keep the Celtics in charge when the Nets were trying to make a run early in the fourth quarter. The Swede hit three shots in a row, including a corner trey. However, Brooklyn was able to close to within seven before Boston finally put it away. Bradley had a big bucket in the closing stretch when he drove baseline past Robin Lopez, who had switched out on him, missed a lay-in but then immediately jumped up from the other side of the rim and tapped in the rebound with one hand for a 13-point lead with 5:11 remaining, leading to a Nets timeout.
The Celtics looked like they were ready to deliver the knockout blow when they went on a 16-4 run to close out the third quarter and take a 79-66 lead. The spurt featured a nice play by Marcus Smart when he drove to the top of the lane, dribbled behind his back, then made a nifty pass to a cutting Tyler Zeller for a wide-open layup and one of his eight assists.
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