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Brad Stevens believes Celtics need to simply play harder, Amir Johnson will start in Game 4 05.07.17 at 5:53 pm ET
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maxresdefaultThe Wizards played with a lot of effort in Game 3, they played harder than the Celtics and it was the best Brad Stevens had seen from Washington throughout their best-of-7 series.

When asked why the Wizards were able to get out to such a large lead in Thursday’s 116-89 loss at the Verizon Center Stevens pointed to Washington’s hustle as the biggest reason while reminding the media that the C’s are facing a very good team.

“They’re just a really good, talented group, whether it’s the first quarter, last quarter, whatever — it’s a group that has a lot of options,” Stevens said. “They’ve tried to post us with a variety of guys. And then Gortat, you know, Gortat’s a guy with his ability to play in seams as a passer but also roll to the rim or seal you up the lane and make lobs to the rim– makes a lot of good plays for them. Very versatile, deep offensive lineup and then you know, I thought defensively the other night they were great.” 

Isaiah Thomas, who finished with 13 points in Game 3, credited the Wizards’ defense in their double and triple teaming coverage as a catalyst to his poor scoring night. However, when Stevens was asked about how will the Celtics adjust in making sure Thomas gets better looks in Game 4, he said it was the effort by Washington that made the biggest difference. And if the Celtics want to head to Boston for Game 5 with a 3-1 lead, they’re going to need to match that hustle.

“The thing that I saw that they did the other day — obviously they put a lot of attention on Isaiah as every team that we play does but the thing I saw is they did it really hard,” Stevens explained. “They were playing exceptionally hard and that’s the deal. It’s not how many guys, it’s how hard those guys are playing and that’s a credit to them. But Isaiah’s played against doubles and triples and all that other stuff all year and we just all have to be better. And that’s everybody on the roster, on the bench, on the coaching staff, we all have to do a better job of helping each other in those moments. Again, credit Washington. They played really well and they played really hard, much harder than we did.”

The tension between these two teams boiled over in what was a technical-foul filled Game 3. There were eight technical fouls, and three ejections total. Wizards head coach Scott Brooks and Stevens were each handed a technical foul.

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Read More: Boston Celtics, Brad Stevens, NBA, NBA playoffs
Terry Rozier isn’t worried about Brandon Jennings 05.07.17 at 11:50 am ET
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20170507_114249Celtics guard Terry Rozier said he isn’t going to get into another altercation with veteran guard Brandon Jennings in Game 4. He’s learned his lesson.

Rozier and Jennings were both ejected in the fourth quarter of Game 3 on Thursday after the two couldn’t stop jawing at each other and were eventually handed a pair of technical fouls.

It was a tiff that Rozier says got the best of him at the tail-end of a lopsided game.

“I just think that the way the game was going, we were down by a lot the whole game, things weren’t going [well], so I got caught up in that at the end of the game,” Rozier explained. “If it was a close game, I wouldn’t have went down that road with him. But he pulled a vet move and it worked. He got under my skin or whatever you want to call it. But I’m not going to feed into that. I’m worried about Game 4.”

It certainly was a veteran move by Jennings. Rozier says it’s Jennings’ job to get under his skin and added that aside from that, Jennings isn’t a factor.

“He’s an instigator, just not to let him get under my skin and things like that,” Rozier said. “And I’m not worried about him at all. He’s not a factor. I don’t go home, I don’t lay down, I don’t think about him before I go to sleep. I don’t think about him outside the basketball court. He’s not a factor, so I’m not worried about him. I’m just worried about Game 4 and worried about what we can do to win the game.” 

Celtics All-star point guard Isaiah Thomas chimed in on the Rozier-Jennings spat, saying that while Jennings was the instigator between the two, Rozier isn’t the one he should be picking on. 

“A lot of people don’t wanna mess with Terry. He’s really with that,” Thomas said. “That’s what Jennings is doing, I guess he got the best of him last game but Jennings’ been doing that all year. I mean, Jennings’ a good friend of mine as well but he’s been that guy to just [get] real physical when he comes in the game and tries to change the outcome of the game and that’s his job. I guess he did a really good job at it last game.”

Read More: Boston Celtics, brandon jennings, Isaiah Thomas, NBA
Celtics react to Kelly Oubre Jr.’s suspension 05.06.17 at 6:23 pm ET
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20170506_181822After the NBA handed down its one-game suspension to Kelly Oubre Jr. for his Flagrant-2 foul on Kelly Olynyk, most of the Celtics players weren’t surprised by the decision but admitted they had other things on their minds. 

Although Isaiah Thomas agrees with the league’s decision to suspend Oubre Jr. for Game 4, he says Washington’s back up forward is the least of his worries. 

“He should be suspended. If you do that, that should be automatic,” Thomas said. “We’re not really worried about him or what they’re doing. We’re worried about Celtics right now.”

With the chance of grabbing a commanding 3-1 lead in their best-of-7 series, the Celtics know how pivotal Game 4 will be on Sunday. Coach Brad Stevens replied, “no reaction” when initially asked about the suspension and said it doesn’t matter to him who’s playing for the Wizards, it’s his team that needs to play better on Sunday. 

“We’ve got to play better than we did the other day,” Stevens said. “Regardless of who’s playing.”

Stevens also gave credit to Olynyk for keeping his cool after he was shoved to the ground by Oubre Jr. and said the same about both teams that were involved in the scuffle. 

“I thought he did an unbelievable job keeping his emotions cool in that moment,” Stevens said. “I credit all the guys that were on the court, both teams, after that. I thought that could have started something a lot worse than it started because nobody saw it coming. I thought both teams kept their cool in that moment, for sure.”

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Read More: Boston Celtics, Brad Stevens, Isaiah Thomas, Kelly Olynyk
Scott Brooks doesn’t blame Kelly Oubre for getting ejected in Game 3 05.06.17 at 11:32 am ET
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20170506_110914Head coach Scott Brooks didn’t agree with Kelly Oubre’s reaction to Kelly Olynyk’s hard screen, but understands why Oubre did it. 

Brooks and his Wizards expressed their frustration with the Celtics’ physicality after Game 3, and say it’s something they’ve been dealing with the entire series. After Olynyk committed a hard screen on Oubre in the first half of Game 3, Oubre got back on his feet, charged towards Olynyk and shoved him to the floor.

Oubre was ejected but that didn’t slow down the Wizards as they cruised to a 116-89 blowout win. When Brooks was asked about Oubre’s second-quarter ejection he made it clear that he doesn’t support the retaliation made by his young forward, but understood why Oubre was so frustrated.

“I think we’ve got to control our emotions. We can’t respond that way, but when you get hit in the head a few times, I mean, we’re very competitive guys out there,” Brooks said. “You keep getting hit in the head, you might respond that way and I think that’s what he did.

“I’m not saying that that was the right thing to do. We have to focus on playing basketball. We can’t control what they’re doing; we just have to control within our gameplan and stay focused. I haven’t talked to him, definitely will talk to him. We’ve got to keep our control. You’ve got to let the referees call those calls. At that particular time, they did call the right call.”

After Game 3, Wizards big man Marcin Gortat expressed his feelings on how physical the Celtics have been throughout the series and says it’s a tactic by Boston that the Wizards have to make sure they don’t fall into. Gortat echoed the same feelings his coach had about Oubre’s reaction to Olynyk’s screen — he didn’t agree with it — but says that the Celtics have been the one initiating all the tough talk, pushing and shoving.

“We can’t fall into their game; shoving and pushing and talking and trash talking, we have to stay and be who we are,” Gortat said. “We gotta play hard, we gotta hit, we gotta foul hard if we have to but we ain’t gonna have to start doing stuff that’s gonna take us out of our game. We had situations today obviously with Kelly — he lost his cool a little bit but he’s still young. He has to learn from it and we just have to play our game, play together, help each other, play for each other and that’s how we’re gonna beat them.”

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Read More: Boston Celtics, Kelly Olynyk, Kelly Oubre, Marcin Gortat
Celtics 123, Wizards 111: Down 16-0, C’s come roaring back to take Game 1 of Eastern Conference semifinals 04.30.17 at 3:45 pm ET
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Marcus Smart reacts after making a 3-pointer against the Wizards on Sunday. (Winslow Townson/USA Today Sports)

Marcus Smart reacts after making a 3-pointer against the Wizards on Sunday. (Winslow Townson/USA Today Sports)

One down, three more to go. 

The Celtics erased a 17-point first half deficit and topped the Wizards, 123-111 in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference semifinals.

Behind 33 points from grieving star Isaiah Thomas and another near triple-double from big man Al Horford, the Celtics overcame a 16-0 deficit and blitzed the Wizards at a raucous TD Garden.

The Wizards wasted no time sucking the life out of the TD Garden with a 16-0 run to open the game en route to a 20-3 lead. It took nearly four minutes for the Celtics to score their first points — Thomas made three free throws to put his team on the board before having one of his front teeth knocked out. 

He finished the quarter with 12 of the Celtics’ 24 points while the Wizards tacked on 38. Kelly Olynyk was a spark off the bench with 10 points in the opening frame but it did little to extinguish Washington’s sizzling offense. 

However, the Celtics didn’t need much time to erase the deficit. They kicked off the second quarter with a 16-4 run, tying the game at 42 with 7:41 left in the first half and by halftime only trailed the Wizards by five (64-59).

Jae Crowder’s 3-pointer from the corner gave the Boston their first lead of the night — 73-71 — with 6:54 left in the third quarter, starting a 16-4 run and swung the momentum into the hands of the Celtics. Thomas poured in 31 points before the final frame and bounced back from his poor outside shooting in the first round by draining 5-of-9 from behind the arc. 

The Wizards scored only 16 points in the third quarter and faced a 15-point hole. 

From there it was a shootout. Rookie Jaylen Brown, who hasn’t seen meaningful minutes in four straight games, checked in with under six minutes left and made an immediate impact. He drained a corner 3-pointer on one possession and found Crowder (24 points, 6 3-pointers) behind the arc on the very next. Although Bradley Beal responded to both with a 3 of his own, Horford (21 points, 9 rebounds, 10 assists) made an open jumper, pushing the lead to 116-105. 

With under two minutes left, the Celtics converted turnovers into 3-pointers and easy layups and cruised victory.

On the afternoon, the Celtics made 19 of 39 3-pointers.

Read More: Al Horford, Celtics, Isaiah Thomas, Wizards
Al Horford says Gerald Green is biggest reason Celtics won in Chicago. Will it continue? 04.26.17 at 8:24 pm ET
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Al Horford

Al Horford

After facing a 2-0 hole in the best-of-7 series, Celtics coach Brad Stevens knew a change had to be made to the starting lineup. 

Stevens’ decision to start Gerald Green over Amir Johnson was a surprising one, to say the least, but certainly made a difference in Chicago — where the Celtics won two straight against the Bulls to tie the series, 2-2. It was a move that Al Horford says is the biggest reason why the C’s topped the Bulls twice on their own floor.

“For us, the lineup change is what helped us [the most], I think,” Horford said. “Being able to add Gerald to the starting lineup, I felt like that gave us better spacing.”

Green certainly made his presence felt in Chicago, especially in Game 4 when he scored 16 of his 18 points in the first half and finished with 7 rebounds in the crucial momentum-changing win. Now as the series swings back to Boston for Game 5, Horford is confident the Celtics can top the Bulls at home for what would be their first home victory of the series. 

“We’re gonna do what we do, that’s just playoff basketball after you play a certain amount of games,” Horford explained. “This is the ninth time we’ve played this team this year. I think it’s just a matter of keep seeing the same guys, keep running the same plays over and over and over. For us it’s just to make sure we go out and handle our business.”

Aside from Green’s Game 4 scoring outburst, Isaiah Thomas’ attitude, along with his 33-point performance of course, and his smile, certainly stood out on Sunday. It was the first time in the series we’ve seen that side of Thomas, since the untimely passing of his young sister, Chyna Thomas. 

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Read More: Al Horford, Boston Celtics, Chicago Bulls, NBA
Rajon Rondo out of arm cast, could return after Game 5 04.25.17 at 7:18 pm ET
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Apr 18, 2017; Boston, MA, USA; Chicago Bulls point guard Rajon Rondo (9) during the first quarter in game two of the first round of the 2017 NBA Playoffs against the Boston Celtics at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports

Chicago’s offense hasn’t looked the same without Rondo (M. Cooper/USA Today Sports)

Rajon Rondo has been ruled out for Game 5 in Boston on Wednesday, but Games 6 and 7 still remain open.

Rondo, who injured his right thumb in Game 2, had his hard cast removed this week and was taking jump shots on Tuesday before team practice. He was initially expected to miss seven to 10 days — ruling him out for the rest of the series — but after the Bulls dropped two straight in Chicago and are now on the verge of falling behind, 3-2, in their best-of-7 series against the Celtics, the Bulls could turn to Rondo for help.

However, Bulls head coach Fred Hoiberg is calling a potential comeback against the Celtics unlikely, but stated if there’s one person who can pull it off it’s Rondo.

“This is honestly the first time he’s touched a basketball with that right hand,” Hoiberg said. “We’ll see. We’ll see how it goes. He’s going to continue to condition and do everything that he can. He was in the weight room yesterday getting a good session in there. It was his first time back in the weight room. He’s just getting this whole process started.

“Just watching him wince a little bit when the ball was coming to him makes me think it’s a longshot. But if there’s anybody who can do it and will try to fight through it, it’s Rondo because of the competitor he is.” (Chicago Tribune)

If the Bulls were to fall behind 3-2, it’d be hard to envision Rondo sitting on the bench in street clothes given the Bulls haven’t won a game in this series without him. One thing’s for sure is Rondo will not play in Game 5 but the rest of the series is still up in the air.

Rondo averaged 11.5 points, 10 assists and 8.5 rebounds in Games 1 and 2 before he was forced to sit out the rest of the series.

Read More: Boston Celtics, Chicago Bulls, Fred Hoiberg, NBA
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