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Celtics conduct FaceTime call with injured star Isaiah Thomas after miraculous comeback against Cavaliers 05.22.17 at 6:08 pm ET
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Isaiah Thomas

Isaiah Thomas

CLEVELAND — Isaiah Thomas may be gone, but he’s not forgotten.

In the moments after the Celtics completed a remarkable comeback victory over the Cavaliers in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Finals on Sunday night, forward Kelly Olynyk decided to get Thomas on a FaceTime connection to celebrate.

Thomas is out for the playoffs with a hip injury and did not accompany the team to Cleveland, but he was with them in spirit, and then with them via video connection in the victorious locker room, as his teammates relayed after Monday’s practice.

“He was just happy. He was happy. He was excited,” said Avery Bradley, whose buzzer-beating 3-pointer gave the C’s the 111-108 win. “He sent everybody a text, and then Kelly just called him, or he might have been calling Kelly right after the game, so it was nice to see a smile on his face. I just wish he was here.”

The heart and soul of the Celtics, Thomas endured the death of his sister, the loss of a tooth followed by extensive dental surgery, and then finally the hip condition that had bothered him since March before shutting it down.

The Celtics found a way without him.

“It’s very different,” Thomas said. “But all we can do is play hard for him. Like I said, he was excited with the way that we played. We’re a family, and other guys got opportunities to step up for us, and Marcus [Smart] had a big game for us and it could be somebody else next game.”

Smart was happy to play his part, and even happier to share it with Thomas, even if only on a screen.

“He’s ecstatic,” Smart said. “I told him I channeled my inner IT, and he kind of laughed a little bit. It felt good. It felt good to see him smile. He’s been down with everything he’s been going through, and then for him not to be here, I know that hurts him even more. So to see him happy and smiling, it was a good feeling for us.”

Read More: Cavaliers, Celtics, Eastern Conference finals, Game 3 comeback
Sensitive superstar? LeBron James blasts reporter after game: ‘You only ask questions when we lose’ 05.22.17 at 9:31 am ET
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LeBron James does not like being questioned after losses by the likes of you, Kenny.

That’s not some obscure South Park reference. It’s what happened after the Celtics dealt the Cavaliers their first loss of the postseason on Sunday night with an epic comeback, and a Cleveland radio reporter decided to ask The King a slightly negative question.

Kenny Roda of WHBC in Canton, Ohio asked James two questions — what happened to the defense in the third and fourth quarters, and then one about James struggling.

“You couldn’t get into a rhythm tonight based on their defense or just not feeling it, or what?” he asked.

James did not take kindly to the followup.

“I was just pretty poor. What do you want me to say?” he said. “It seems you like you only ask questions when we lose, huh? It’s this weird thing with you, Kenny. You always come around when we lose. That’s fine. Yeah, OK.”

Roda took to Twitter to defense himself, noting that he has attended every home game this postseason. “Ask questions win or lose,” he Tweeted.

That’s not the way James sees it. After leaving the podium, he continued to complain loudly about Roda in a hallway outside the interview room.

Read More: Cavaliers, Celtics, Kenny Roda, LeBron James
Marcus Smart delivers game of his life in place of Isaiah Thomas to lift Celtics past Cavaliers in Game 3 05.22.17 at 2:12 am ET
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Celtics guard Marcus Smart (36) celebrates after the Celtics beat the Cavaliers on Sunday. (Ken Blaze/USA Today Sports)

Celtics guard Marcus Smart (36) celebrates after the Celtics beat the Cavaliers on Sunday. (Ken Blaze/USA Today Sports)

CLEVELAND — Now that’s the Marcus Smart we could get used to.

Starting in place of injured point guard Isaiah Thomas, who will miss the rest of the postseason with a hip injury, Smart delivered the best game of his career, scoring 27 points, making seven 3-pointers, and setting up Avery Bradley for the buzzer-beating game-winner in Boston’s 111-108 victory.

“We can talk about his shooting all year long, but you know when it’s in a big moment, that kid is going to rise to the occasion,” said Celtics coach Brad Stevens. “He just always has. That’s one of the reasons why if he goes through a funk at some time in March, shoot yourself out of it, and we believe in you, and let it fly. Because in this moment when we needed him the most, he made huge shots. He was terrific tonight.”

Smart played all but 38 seconds in the second half, scoring 21 points. Most of his 3-pointers weren’t of the wide-open variety, either. He dazzled with pull-ups off the dribble, as well as a slick between-the-legs, behind-the-back step-back over J.R. Smith to tie the game at 95 with a little over five minutes left.

“Marcus just kind of led us,” Stevens said. “One of the things about Marcus is he’s going to play regardless of the score. Like you mentioned to me, he’s going to compete, and sometimes he’ll try to hit home runs because that’s — and then we talk about those after the game and we always say, and it’s true, those are his greatest strengths. He is a true competitor. He’s a tough guy.”

The Celtics needed it, because without Thomas, they lacked their heart and soul.

“He was aggressive from the beginning of the game,” Bradley said. “That’s what we needed him to be. A lot of people counted us out with Isaiah not being here, and he is a big part of this team. But Smart took this opportunity to come out and be aggressive on both ends of the floor and make plays.”

Smart said he didn’t try to change his mindset in place of Thomas, except to take any extra pressure off himself.

“Coming in, I just kept telling myself, you have nothing to lose, just go out there and play,” Smart said. “You’ve been working hard throughout this whole year on your game. Just let it flow and let it show. These guys and the coaching staff did a really good job of just encouraging me, especially when my shot hasn’t been falling. Free throws, missing those. They’ve just really been on me, staying on me to stay positive and keep going.”

Read More: Cavaliers, Celtics, Eastern Conference finals, Marcus Smart
Former Celtics great Paul Pierce takes credit for team earning No. 1 pick 05.16.17 at 9:21 pm ET
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Paul Pierce may have finished his career with the Nets, Wizards, and Clippers, but he’ll always be a member of the Celtics.

On Tuesday, the recently retired future Hall of Famer took to Twitter after the Celtics won the NBA draft lottery for the first time and earned the No. 1 overall pick in the draft.

Pierce is referring, of course, to the masterful trade that sent him to the Nets, along with Kevin Garnett, for four No. 1 picks in 2013. Pierce has ridden off into the sunset, but the Celtics continue to reap the benefits of that deal.

Read More: Celtics, NBA draft lottery, Nets, Paul Pierce
Celtics win NBA draft lottery, will choose first overall for first time in the lottery era 05.16.17 at 8:59 pm ET
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Washington guard Markelle Fultz (left) and UCLA counterpart Lonzo Ball (right) are considered the two best prospects in the NBA draft. (Jennifer Buchanan/USA Today Sports)

Washington guard Markelle Fultz (left) and UCLA counterpart Lonzo Ball (right) are considered the two best prospects in the NBA draft. (Jennifer Buchanan/USA Today Sports)

The ping pong balls finally smiled on the Celtics.

Snakebitten in previous trips to the NBA lottery, the Celtics on Tuesday finally cashed in some major luck when they claimed the first overall pick in the 2017 NBA Draft on Tuesday night.

This is the first time in the modern draft era that the Celtics have earned the No. 1 pick.

“This is pretty good,” Celtics owner Wyc Grousbeck told ESPN. “It’s a good time to be a Celtics fan.”

The C’s entered Tuesday night’s lottery as the team with the best chance of landing the No. 1 overall pick via their trade with Brooklyn, and they cashed in. The C’s have never moved up in the lottery, but there was no possibility of that this year, since the best they could hope for was remaining steady at No. 1.

The Celtics entered the lottery with a 25 percent chance of picking first and a 46.5 percent chance of choosing in the top two. They could pick no worse than fourth, thanks to a trade that allows them to swap draft positions with the Brooklyn Nets, who finished with the worst record in the NBA.

This is considered a deep draft with no shortage of talented players in the top five or six positions. The consensus No. 1 pick is Washington point guard Markelle Fultz, an explosive 6-foot-4 scorer and floor general with the most complete game in the draft.

Beyond Fultz, there’s UCLA point guard Lonzo Ball, who might be the best pure passer to enter the NBA since Jason Kidd left Cal nearly 25 years ago. Beyond those two are forwards Josh Jackson of Kansas and Jayson Tatum of Duke. (For more on this quintet, click here.) Kentucky guards De’Aaron Fox and Malik Monk are also expected to go in the top 10.

What this means for the Celtics is they now know what options they have this summer. One option is to sign a free agent like Utah’s Gordon Hayward to a max contract and then augment that acquisition with a young piece in the draft such as Fultz.

The other is to push their chips to the center of the table and attempt to trade the pick for a player like Chicago’s Jimmy Butler or Indiana’s Paul George, thereby accelerating the rebuilding process.

What’s clear is the C’s have options, and that’s never a bad place to be.

Read More: Boston Celtics, Danny Ainge, Markelle Fultz, NBA Draft
Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue likens potential Finals matchup with Warriors to classic 1980s Lakers vs. Celtics 05.11.17 at 1:18 pm ET
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Tyronn Lue

Tyronn Lue

Tyronn Lue and the Cavs may not be looking ahead to an NBA Finals three-match with Golden State just yet, but everyone else is. And Lue understands why.

Speaking to reporters after practice on Wednesday, the Cleveland head coach compared a potential third straight meeting with Steph Curry and Co. in the NBA Finals to a classic matchup of yore with local significance — Magic vs. Bird.

“Is it a problem? I don’t think so,” Lue told reporters. “I think a lot of people wanted to see Boston and the Lakers back in the day. I think nowadays, a lot of people want to see Golden State-Cavs. And it’s not a problem. Right now, it’s two of the teams playing some of the best basketball.”

The two squads have split their first two Finals encounters, with the Warriors outlasting a depleted Cleveland squad in 2015, and James exacting his revenge by overcoming a 3-1 deficit last year.

However, since then the Warriors have added Kevin Durant to take their game to another level. Both clubs are unbeaten this postseason, with Cleveland winning by an average of 16.5 points a game, and Cleveland’s average margin checking in at 9.6 points.

“So two of the teams that have been in back-to-back Finals — so, why not? Why not want to see it again?” Lue told reporters. “I don’t see why it would be a problem. I think last year had some of the best ratings, I think, in NBA history. I think now with them adding [Kevin] Durant and the way they’re playing, the way we’re playing, it can be even higher.”

Read More: Cavaliers-Warriors, Celtics-Wizards, LeBron James, NBA Finals
Wizards react to F-bomb chants against Kelly Oubre: ‘That’s Boston, man’ 05.11.17 at 10:51 am ET
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Kelly Olynyk (41) is fouled by the Wizards' Kelly Oubre Jr. (12) on Wednesday. (David Butler II/USA Today Sports)

Kelly Olynyk (41) is fouled by the Wizards’ Kelly Oubre Jr. (12) on Wednesday. (David Butler II/USA Today Sports)

Wizards forward Kelly Oubre already knew he’d be hearing it from TD Garden fans before facing the Celtics in Game 5 on Wednesday in Boston. That’s what happens when you’re suspended for steamrolling Celtics counterpart Kelly Olynyk during a chippy Game 3.

A bit more surprising was the choice of words.

With fans chanting, “[Bleep] you, Oubre!” late in Boston’s 123-101 win, even the Wizards were a bit taken aback by the level of vitriol.

“It’s Boston, man,” forward Markieff Morris told reporters, including Kevin Duffy of MassLive. “You’ve got to be prepared for anything. That’s how I look at it.”

Shooting guard Bradley Beal turned to a phrase favored by courtside visitor Bill Belichick.

“It is what it is, man,” he said. “It is what it is. They’re trying to make it bigger than what it needs to be. We’re playing basketball here. They’re going to protect Olynyk here. We’re going to protect Oubre on our team. When he comes to D.C., Friday’s going to be the same thing. We booed him. It’s just part of the game. We don’t pay attention to that.”

Oubre finished with 13 points and three rebounds in 19 active minutes.

“They’re going to do what they’re going to do,” said Wizards point guard John Wall, per Duffy. “I think Kelly did a great job of handling it. He didn’t let it bother him. He kept playing basketball. We told him what to expect from the crowd. We didn’t think those types of words, but all we’ve got to do is play basketball. We’re his brothers. We stick behind him.”

Read More: Celtics fans chant, Kelly Olynyk, Kelly Oubre Jr., NBA playoffs
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