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Brad Stevens named coach of the Eastern Conference All-Stars 02.04.17 at 12:12 pm ET
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Feb 3, 2017; Boston, MA, USA; Boston Celtics head coach Brad Stevens reacts during the first half against the Los Angeles Lakers at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

Celtics coach Brad Stevens becomes the first Celtics coach to earn the right to coach the Eastern Conference All-Stars since 2011 (Bob DeChiara/USA Today)

After clinching the second-best record in the East, Celtics coach Brad Stevens and his coaching staff have earned the right to coach the Eastern Conference All-Star team. 

The Celtics’ 113-107 win over the Lakers put them 2.5 games ahead of the Wizards, while only two games separate the C’s from first place. Stevens becomes the sixth Celtics coach to ever coach the Eastern All-Star team, the first since Doc Rivers’ coaching staff in 2011. 

Although Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue, who holds the best record in the Eastern Conference, should be coaching the Eastern All-Stars, he couldn’t because of the NBA rule that disallows coaches to make back-to-back appearances at All-Star games. 

The Celtics held onto the second-best record in the East before the deciding Feb. 5 deadline.

“It should be Ty Lue,” Stevens said. “But the way the rules work then it’s the next-best record because he did it last year. 

“But what’s nice about it is, there’s no politics in it. There’s no subjectivity. It’s what your team has accomplished. And that’s a credit to the players in the locker room. You know, it’s almost a little bit, I almost, feel bad that I’m the one that’s going. I’d rather have another one or two of those guys (the players) playing in it. But our staff will really enjoy it, and our staff’s kids will really enjoy it. And we’ll go from there.”

Stevens was quick to credit his players for putting him in a position to succeed and explained how it takes hard work from talented guys in order for a coach to be successful. 

“I think none of us (coaches) are crazy enough to think you get there without really good players, and the players certainly carry the coaches,” Stevens explained. “That’s been the way it’s always been. But with regard to the staff, I think our staff works really hard. I’ve said before that I’ve tried to prioritize hiring humble, hardworking and intelligent people. And they come every day, they work really hard, they do a lot behind the scenes, they put in a lot of time and effort, and so it’s nice that they’re going to be a part of that as well.”

The 2017 All-Star game will be played on Feb. 19 in New Orleans. 

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Isaiah Thomas (38 points), Celtics beat Lakers, reach franchise milestone 02.03.17 at 11:43 pm ET
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Feb 3, 2017; Boston, MA, USA; Boston Celtics guard Isaiah Thomas (4) drives to the basket past Los Angeles Lakers center Timofey Mozgov (20) during the second half at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

Isaiah Thomas (38 points) has now scored 30-plus points in four consecutive games (Bob DeChiara/USA Today)

The Boston Celtics now have the most wins in NBA history.

In a showdown between two of the league’s most storied franchises, the Celtics defeated the Lakers, 113-107 and set the NBA team record for most cumulative regular-season wins. 

Both teams entered Friday’s contest at TD Garden tied at 3,252 all-time regular-season victories before Isaiah Thomas and the Celtics fended off their opponent in the final frame and improved to 32-18. Thomas finished with a game-high 38 points and poured in 17 fourth-quarter points to push the Celtics to their sixth consecutive win. 

With 3:50 left, the Lakers pulled to within seven points (101-94) and gave up a golden opportunity to make it a four-point game after the C’s surrendered three offensive rebounds. Boston allowed Louis Williams and D’Angelo Russell each take turns jacking up four straight 3-pointers until Al Horford finally pulled down a defensive rebound — which led to Thomas scoring four straight points.

From there, the Celtics held on.

Jae Crowder finished with 18 points and Jaylen Brown added 12 points to go with his 7 rebounds while Horford flirted with a triple-double (11 points, 8 rebounds, 8 assists). 

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Isaiah Thomas named Eastern Conference Player of the Month 02.02.17 at 11:07 pm ET
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Feb 1, 2017; Boston, MA, USA; Boston Celtics guard Isaiah Thomas (4) celebrates during the fourth quarter against the Toronto Raptors at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

Isaiah Thomas is the first Celtics player since Paul Pierce to win the Eastern Conference Player of the Month (Winslow Townson/USA Today Sports)

This month, Isaiah Thomas made the decision easy for the NBA. 

After putting together one of the greatest scoring months in franchise history, Thomas was named the Eastern Conference Player of the Month on Thursday.

Leading the Celtics to a 10-4 record, Thomas averaged 32.9 points and 6.9 assists throughout the month of January and is now the first Celtics player since Paul Pierce (March of 2012) to take home the award.

In light of Wednesday’s 44-point performance, Thomas also stretched his streak of scoring 20 or more points to 33 consecutive games. 

He’s also been invited to participate in All-Star Saturday night’s Skills Challenge. Thomas will compete against a combination of guards and big men including Anthony Davis, DeMarcus Cousins, Gordon Hayward, John Wall, Devin Booker, Kristaps Porzingis and Joel Embiid on February 18 in New Orleans.

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Isaiah Thomas (44 points) leads comeback win over Raptors, with help from supporting cast 02.02.17 at 12:22 am ET
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Feb 1, 2017; Boston, MA, USA; Boston Celtics guard Terry Rozier (12) and forward Jae Crowder (99) celebrate after Toronto Raptors forward Patrick Patterson (54) was called for a foul during the second half at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

Terry Rozier earned some late-fourth quarter minutes in comeback win against Raptors (Winslow Townson/USA Today)

The unsung heroes set the stage. And then Isaiah Thomas, as he seems to do on a nightly basis, danced on it.

Trailing by 18 points in a showdown with the Raptors for the second seed in the Eastern Conference, the Celtics closed the game on a monster 52-29 run behind 44 points from their All-Star point guard to complete a 109-104 victory.

Thomas put together another incredible fourth quarter, scoring 19 of his 44 points, but the Celtics reserves set the stage for his heroics. Led by Marcus Smart (10 points, 5 assists, 5 rebounds), the bench helped chip away at a double-digit deficit and carried their momentum into the fourth quarter. 

Throughout the third quarter, Smart applied pressure on Raptors guard Kyle Lowry and finished strong on the offensive end by making cuts to the basket for easy layups. He was also finding his teammates for easy assists but was most effective in disrupting the flow of Toronto’s offense. 

Terry Rozier, who finished with 5 points and 7 rebounds, nailed a 3-pointer at the end of the third quarter to pull the Celtics to within eight. He also pulled down two offensive rebounds in the second half to keep possessions alive and slowed down the Raptors’ reserve guards on the defensive end. Tyler Zeller, who finished with five rebounds and four points, made a reverse dunk and tossed an alley-oop to rookie Jaylen Brown to trim the deficit down to five (91-86).

From there, Thomas went on a 7-0 run — giving the Celtics their first lead with 4:39 left. 

However, Lowry, who led the Raptors with 32 points, helped his team regain the lead by draining five straight points for Toronto. With 48 ticks left, Thomas knocked in a 3-pointer to give the C’s a two-point lead before Patrick Patterson missed a 3-pointer and the Raptors were forced to intentionally foul the Celtics in the final seconds.

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Isaiah Thomas (41 points) wraps up one of the highest-scoring months in Celtics history with another incredible 4th quarter in win over Pistons 01.31.17 at 4:35 pm ET
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Jan 30, 2017; Boston, MA, USA; Boston Celtics guard Isaiah Thomas (4) is congratulated after making a three point basket during the second half of the Boston Celtics 113-109 win over the Detroit Pistons at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

Isaiah Thomas scored the last 11 points for the Celtics in Celtics’ 113-109 win over Pistons (Winslow Townson/USA TODAY)

Topping off one of the best scoring months in franchise history, Isaiah Thomas’ 24-point fourth quarter performance against the Pistons was an emphatic exclamation point to an amazing month of January. 

The two-time All-Star scored a game-high 41 points in a 113-109 Celtics win over the Pistons at TD Garden, leading his team to their fourth straight victory and ultimately guiding them to a one-game lead ahead of the Raptors (29-19) for second place in the Eastern Conference.

His 41 points on Monday pushed his average up to 32.9 points per game for the month of January — the fourth-highest scoring month in Celtics history behind Larry Bird (twice) and Paul Pierce. 

“That doesn’t even seem real,” Thomas said. “It doesn’t sound real. So many great players who did it before me, to have my name up there with those legends is unbelievable. I’m going to just keep going, keep trying to catch those guys, and keep winning.”

The Celtics (30-18) win also sets the stage for Wednesday night’s big showdown between the two best teams in the Atlantic Division. The Raptors have had the Celtics’ number throughout the season — beating them twice over the last two months. But if Thomas can continue this amazing streak of excellence that he’s on, it could be enough for the Celtics to pull out a win against DeMar DeRozan, Kyle Lowry and company. 

Along with averaging 32.9 points in January, Thomas also set a season-high average of 6.9 assists per game. Jae Crowder, one of many of Thomas’ beneficiaries in the starting lineup, is also finishing his best month of the season — averaging 16.3 points while shooting 50.3 percent from the floor, including 46.6 percent from behind the arc.

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Win over Magic reminded us of Jaylen Brown’s potential 01.27.17 at 10:35 pm ET
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Jaylen Brown (Jerry Lai/USA Today Sports)

Jaylen Brown put together a strong performance against the Magic at TD Garden (Jerry Lai/USA Today Sports)

Not many people had high expectations for the league’s No. 3 pick Jaylen Brown this season.

In fact, the Celtics were criticized for their selection by most critics when the So. Cal product’s name was announced in last summer’s NBA Draft. 

But if there’s one thing that we can take away from the Celtics’ 128-98 lopsided win over the Magic, it was that Brown has the potential to blossom into a viable scoring option for the Celtics, sooner rather than later. 

For the second straight night, Brown started in the backcourt in place of the injured Avery Bradley (right Achilles) and finished with a season-high 20 points to go with his eight rebounds. Sure, this was against the Magic (18-29) — third-worst team in the Eastern Conference — but the rookie still gave you a glimpse of how valuable he could be in less than three months from now when Brad Stevens will be competing to win his first NBA playoff series. 

Whether it was because he started in place of Avery Bradley for the second consecutive night or the fact that he was left out off the roster of the BBVA Compass Rising Star Challenge at All-Star Weekend, Brown played with a chip on his shoulder. He played with a sense of urgency. After scoring nine of his 13 first-half points in the game’s opening seven minutes, Brown was dialed in. 

The third overall pick was active on defense, crashing the glass for boards and was assertive on offense. Doing what he does best when the ball is in his hands, Brown took his defender to the hoop. Sometimes he finished, sometimes he kicked it out, other times he earned trips to the free-throw line but what was promising was his knack for wanting to make plays. 

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Celtics defense shines in impressive win over Rockets 01.26.17 at 6:15 pm ET
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Jan 25, 2017; Boston, MA, USA; Houston Rockets guard James Harden (13) and Boston Celtics forward Jae Crowder (99) battle for the ball during the first half at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

Celtics defense forced 17 turnovers in their 120-109 win at TD Garden (Bob DeChiara/USA Today)

In their most impressive win of the season, the Celtics outscored one of the best offenses in the league while containing Houston’s leading scorer in a 120-109 victory over the Rockets.

The Celtics snapped a three-game losing streak on Wednesday night at TD Garden. Isaiah Thomas scored a game-high 38 points, Al Horford flirted with a double-double (23 points, 9 assists) and Jae Crowder (23 points, 10 rebounds) had a productive night but what stood out the most about the Celtics’ much needed win was their defense.

Harden, who entered last night’s game as the league’s second leading scorer, went cold in the third quarter (1-of-5) after Crowder — the team’s defensive anchor — cranked up his intensity and rattled the MVP candidate. Although Harden finished with a team-high 30 points, it took him 18 attempts to get there as he finished the night shooting 33.3 percent from the floor and committed seven of the team’s 17 turnovers.

More than half of Harden’s points came from the free-throw line — where he drained 16-of-19 attempts.

Throughout the Celtics’ three-game losing streak, the defense in the back court had been a turnstile for opposing guards like Bradley Beal, John Wall, C.J. McCollum, Damian Lillard and Derrick Rose. All five guards finished with at least 28 points or more against the C’s while shooting over 50 percent from the floor. With Avery Bradley still out of the lineup, the stars were aligned for Harden to have a monster shooting night but that certainly wasn’t the case.

Celtics rookie Jaylen Brown, who got the start over Marcus Smart in the backcourt, kept up with Harden in the first quarter before Smart and Crowder took turns pestering the veteran and forcing him to commit turnovers throughout the second half. For the first time in a while, the Celtics were a cohesive unit on the defensive end of the floor. It started with Crowder but was sustained with help from guys like Smart, Horford — who finished with a game-high plus-21 rating — and Jonas Jerebko in the front court. 

Jerebko, along with Brown, was another addition in the starting lineup against the Rockets in place of Amir Johnson and didn’t disappoint, especially on the defensive end of the floor. He finished with 7 rebounds and made the most of 23 minutes of playing time by clogging the lanes and providing plenty of help-defense in the post.

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