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Celtics fall apart down stretch without Isaiah Thomas, lose to 76ers as showdown with Wizards looms 03.19.17 at 3:57 pm ET
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Celtics forward Jaylen Brown soars for two against the Sixers on Sunday. (John Geliebter/USA Today Sports)

Celtics forward Jaylen Brown soars for two against the Sixers on Sunday. (John Geliebter/USA Today Sports)

Want to see what an NBA margin-for-error looks like? Pit the Celtics, without Isaiah Thomas, against the up-and-coming 76ers and then start the fourth quarter.

On Sunday, the Celtics once again found themselves running ragged without their All-Star point guard around to remind everyone what time it was with the game on the line, and the result was a disappointing 105-99 defeat.

In the process, they made the race for the No. 2 seed in the Eastern Conference unnecessarily tight, with a showdown in Boston looming against the third-seeded Wizards on Monday night. It’s unclear if Thomas, who is nursing a bone bruise in his right knee, will be able to play.

Without him, the Celtics must determine a way to slow John Wall (25.6 points, 11.1 assists in his last 8 games) and Co., or they’ll be teetering on the precipice of falling to third in the conference.

After Washington threw away Saturday’s game against Charlotte, the Celtics looked to be in a good position to grow their 1 1/2-game lead. But Rookie of the Year favorite Dario Saric scored 20 points to lead the Sixers, who outscored the Celtics 14-8 over the final 3:41 to break a 91-91 tie.

Now, if Washington wins on Monday, it will close the gap to just one game in the loss column in the playoff race, which highlights what a missed opportunity Sunday represented. With Al Horford scoring a season-high 27 points and Terry Rozier (14 points, 10 rebounds) providing a nice lift off the bench, the Celtics appeared to be in the driver’s seat, but they imploded down the stretch on offense without Thomas to bail them out.

They blew leads of 13 in the third quarter and five in the fourth. In one stretch, Marcus Smart attempted a spin move in the lane, but left the basketball behind; Amir Johnson boxed around an entry pass; Jae Crowder clanged a 3. The Celtics lost what felt like 80 percent of the loose balls during this stretch, and the Sixers sealed it when Nik Stauskus made a 3-pointer from the right wing with 38.8 seconds remaining.

There will be no rest for the weary as the Celtics return home to face the Wizards in a game that could decide who finishes second in the East. Washington leads the season series, 2-1, so the Celtics will need this one to have any chance in any potential tie-breakers. As thing stand now, the second seed in the conference will get Miami in the first round (the Heat had won 23 of 28 entering Sunday), while the third seed will face Paul George and the Pacers.

Read More: 76ers, Celtics, NBA playoff standings, Wizards
Bill Belichick visits LeBron James in Cavaliers locker room after Celtics victory 03.02.17 at 12:44 am ET
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The Hoodie introduced himself to the King.

Patriots head coach Bill Belichick watched the Celtics beat the defending-champion Cavaliers in a wildly entertaining game at TD Garden on Wednesday from seats right under the basket near the Celtics bench. During a stoppage in play, Celtics star Isaiah Thomas sauntered over to shake his hand.

During the game, Belichick got an up-close-and-personal look at LeBron James, who landed in his lap during one sequence after sailing out of bounds. After the game, Belichick went one better, visiting the Cavaliers locker room, according to multiple reporters, and making an impression on King James.

It’s enough to make you wonder how Belichick would use James if he could ever get him in pads. Perhaps an even more athletic version of Gronk?

It’s doubtful James gets starstruck around too many professional sports figures, but it looks like Belichick qualifies.

Read More: Bill Belichick, Cavaliers, Celtics, LeBron James
Andrew Bogut reportedly chooses Cavaliers over Celtics, Rockets 02.28.17 at 8:51 pm ET
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Andrew Bogut

Andrew Bogut

In the end, Andrew Bogut ended up exactly where we expected him.

According to the Vertical’s Adrian Wojnarowski, the free-agent big man will sign with the defending champion Cleveland Cavaliers this weekend. The 76ers acquired him from the Mavericks at the trade deadline and then bought him out on Monday. He is expected to clear waivers on Wednesday.

Bogut has been limited to 26 games this year by knee and hamstring injuries. He reportedly narrowed his choices down to the Cavs, Celtics, and Rockets before settling on LeBron James and Co.

The Celtics were interested in Bogut as a potential rebounder who could shore up the inside, where the C’s have taken a beating recently.

Bogut is averaging three points and 8.3 rebounds this year.

Read More: Andrew Bogut, Celtics rumors,
Report: Celtics remain in contention for free agent center Andrew Bogut 02.28.17 at 12:07 am ET
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Andrew Bogut

Andrew Bogut

Don’t send Andrew Bogut to Cleveland just yet.

According to the Boston Globe, the free agent center has narrowed his list of preferred destinations to five or six teams, and the Celtics are one of them.

Bogut was waived by the 76ers on Monday after being acquired from the Mavericks at Thursday’s trade deadline. He’s averaging just 3 points and 8.3 rebounds in 26 games this year, and has been slowed by knee and hamstring injuries.

He’s also a proven rebounder and interior presence, and the Celtics desperately need some size and toughness. They were once again badly outrebounded (55-40) in Monday’s blowout loss to the Hawks.

Celtics hoops boss Danny Ainge told the Globe that he’s not ruling out a dive into the buyout market, but he’s not feeling any pressure, either.

“I like our team right now,” he told the paper, “and unless something really jumps out to us where I feel like we can get significantly better, I’d just assume keep our team intact.”

Bogut is expected to sign on Wednesday after clearing waivers, and a Globe source disputed reports that he’s signed, sealed and delivered to the Cavs, insisting that not only do the Celtics remain in play, but that Bogut hopes to speak to some Boston players to get a feel for the situation on Tuesday.

Read More: Andrew Bogut, Cavaliers, Celtics rumors,
Danny Ainge explains why Celtics didn’t make any moves at deadline: ‘Nothing that was good enough’ 02.23.17 at 4:05 pm ET
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Danny Ainge

Danny Ainge

Danny Ainge tried, but he’s not in a rush to give away Brooklyn picks, and he likes his team.

Those were the messages from the Celtics boss to reporters after Thursday’s trade deadline passed without Ainge making a deal.

“We had a lot of conversations about things that we could do to improve our team but nothing that was good enough to do,” Ainge told reporters, including Richie Thompson of the Boston Herald. “It’s hard to say and I think it takes two teams and a lot of times we don’t know how close. A lot of times it is very easy to tell but [sometimes] teams are very far apart. A lot of discussion, good conversation and a lot of rumors that were true and a lot of rumors that were not true.”

The Celtics were linked to Pacers All-Star Paul George, but never came close to consummating a deal. They also failed to address their lack of rebounding with a secondary deal.

Ainge made it clear that the Celtics value their two remaining first-round picks from the Nets, noting that executives across the league recognize how valuable those selections could be, especially with deep drafts forecast in 2017 and 2018.

“The ball has bounced our way,” Ainge told reporters, “and we need to make the most of that.”

Regardless, Ainge said he likes his team, especially with injured guard Avery Bradley due back soon, and young forward Jaylen Brown expected to return on Friday night when the Celtics open the second half in Toronto.

“The outcome is that we have a team that is getting ready to head to Toronto, the same team we’ve had since training camp,” said Ainge. “A team that is very close to being healthy.”

(For more on the trade deadline and how the inactivity leaves the Celtics as potentially only the fourth-best team in the Eastern Conference, check out this column.)

Read More: Celtics rumors, Danny Ainge, NBA Trade Deadline, Nets picks
Celtics rumors: P.J. Tucker traded to Toronto Raptors for old friend Jared Sullinger 02.23.17 at 3:09 pm ET
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The Celtics didn’t just miss out on a big fish like Paul George. They apparently didn’t even land a perch like P.J. Tucker.

According to (who else) Adrian Wojnarowski of the Vertical, the Raptors acquired Tucker from the Suns for former Celtics forward Jared Sullinger, as well as pair of second-round picks.

Tucker, 31, is averaging seven points and six rebounds a game. He’s also a solid a 3-point shooter.

Celtics rumors: Woj says Pacers won’t trade Paul George, so looks like that deal is dead 02.23.17 at 2:52 pm ET
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Adrian Wojnarowski says the Paul George deal is dead, so that’s the end of that.

The host of The Vertical podcast just tweeted the Pacers star isn’t going anywhere.

Based on Woj’s impeccable track record, that would appear to be it. Now the question is if the Celtics can pull off a minor deal to help the margins of their roster, particularly in the rebounding department.

Oh well. Those rumors were fun while they lasted.

Read More: Celtics rumors, NBA Trade Deadline, Paul George,
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