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Blowout win against Bulls proves why the Celtics’ defense makes all the difference 03.12.17 at 5:46 pm ET
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Mar 12, 2017; Boston, MA, USA; Boston Celtics guard Isaiah Thomas (4) smiles from the bench during the second half of the Boston Celtics 100-80 win over the Chicago Bulls at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

Isaiah Thomas smiles from the bench during the second half of the Boston Celtics 100-80 win over the Chicago Bulls at TD Garden. (Winslow Townson/USA TODAY Sports)

The Bulls needed the second quarter to reach double figures in points, the third quarter to score at least 30 and a miracle to close their deficit. 

The Celtics not only held Chicago to nine first-quarter points in Sunday’s 100-80 blowout victory, they also played with the kind of defensive intensity that should put them in great position to grab the second seed in the Eastern Conference, and hold onto it.

The Celtics’ defense set the tone early as the Bulls finished the first quarter 3-of-22 from the floor. Avery Bradley and Jae Crowder were very physical with Chicago’s best scorers — Jimmy Butler and Dwyane Wade — and kept them in check throughout the afternoon. Wade (8 points) and Butler (5 points) combined for just 13 points on 6-of-22 shots.

The Bulls never led once.

Isaiah Thomas finished with a game-high 22 points, Bradley added 17 points, 6 rebounds and three steals and Al Horford chipped in 12 points, 7 rebounds and 6 assists. Six Celtics players scored in double figures. 

For a complete recap of Sunday’s win, click here. 

Boston’s commitment on the defensive end disallowed the Bulls to find their offensive rhythm and much like we’ve seen throughout the regular season — the Celtics’ defensive stops catapulted their offense. But it wasn’t just a few guys creating stops, it was a group effort. 

Al Horford and Amir Johnson each finished with two blocks and a number of stops, while the Celtics bench — led by Marcus Smart and Jaylen Brown — combined for 5 steals. The Celtics finished the night with 14 steals and coerced the Bulls to commit 17 turnovers.

With 15 games remaining in the regular season, the Celtics (42-25) are in a tie with the Wizards for second place but due to their relatively light schedule, have a great opportunity to head into the playoffs with the second best record in the east. This week, the C’s will take on the Timberwolves, Nets and 76ers — three of 11 below .500 teams that are left on their remaining schedule. 

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Celtics prove why they’re one of the best teams in 4th quarter in win over Cavaliers 03.01.17 at 11:42 pm ET
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Mar 1, 2017; Boston, MA, USA; Cleveland Cavaliers guard Kyrie Irving (2) looks to make a pass while guarded by Boston Celtics shooting forward Jaylen Brown (7) during the fourth quarter at TD Garden.  The Boston Celtics won 103-99.  Mandatory Credit: Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports

Brad Stevens reinserted Avery Bradley towards the end of the 4th quarter to help slow down Kyrie Irving (Greg M. Cooper/USA Today)

Early Wednesday afternoon, Brad Stevens issued a plan of attack and that evening his team executed it and turned it into one of their most impressive wins of the season.

Wednesday night’s 103-99 win over the Cavaliers was a testament to how tough the Celtics can be in the fourth quarter.

Even with their best scorer not hitting shots (1-of-4), the Celtics rallied behind defensive stops by Marcus Smart and Avery Bradley instead of relying on Isaiah Thomas to keep them in the game.

Facing a two-point deficit, Smart drew back-to-back offensive fouls against the Cavaliers before Jae Crowder (17 points) drained a 3-pointer under two minutes to go. Then, it was Bradley’s turn as he rattled Kyrie Irving (28 points) and drained a 3-pointer on the other end to keep his team ahead. 

Out of a Cavaliers timeout, Cleveland set up sharp shooter Kyle Korver for an open 3-pointer before Thomas drained his only field goal of the fourth quarter. Irving responded with a reverse layup to tie the game (99-99) before Thomas drew a shooting foul and drained a pair of free-throws to put the C’s ahead, 101-99.

LeBron James (28 points, 13 rebounds, 10 assists) passed up an opportunity to tie the game by passing the ball to Deron Williams, who missed the potential game-winning 3-pointer. 

For a full box score and summary of Wednesday’s game vs. Cleveland, click here.

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Read More: Avery Bradley, Boston Celtics, Cleveland Cavaliers, Isaiah Thomas
Celtics Pregame: With Avery Bradley on minutes restriction, Brad Stevens will rely on Jaylen Brown against Cavaliers 03.01.17 at 8:14 pm ET
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Brad Stevens says Bradley will continue to play limited minutes for the Celtics (Josue Pavon/WEEI.com)

While Avery Bradley will continue playing on a minutes restriction, Celtics coach Brad Stevens will continue to lean on his rookie for steady production in the second half.

After missing 18 straight games, Bradley returned to the starting lineup against the Hawks on Monday. He finished with six points on 2-of-4 shots in 15 first-half minutes.

Bradley will most likely have a similar outing against the Cavaliers, which will give Jaylen Brown another opportunity to play extended minutes, especially in the second half.

Brown, who has clocked in over 25 minutes in each of his last three games, has been very efficient for the Celtics. Since the All-Star break, Brown is averaging 13.6 points while shooting at a 59.2 percent clip.

“Jaylen has been playing well,” Brad Stevens said. “I think he’s made a strong case to stay in that rotation. We’ll just continue to play like that.”

Lately, Brown has also proven he isn’t afraid to take big shots towards the end of the fourth quarter. His go-ahead 3-pointer with 37 seconds left against the Pistons last Sunday gave the Celtics a two-point lead and they never looked back in the Celtics’ only win in the last four games.

According to Stevens, the 15-25 minutes restriction on Bradley will be lifted by next week but until then the Celtics will need more minutes for Bradley than the 15 he saw against the Hawks. Against an offensive powerhouse like the Cavaliers, Bradley can do a good job in slowing down All-Star guard Kyrie Irving.

The Cavaliers enter Wednesday night’s game averaging 111.1 points per game, third in the NBA behind the Rockets and Warriors. However, against the Celtics, the Cavs averaged 126 points in their last two outings, including  LeBron James and Irving averaging a combined 54 points. 

Stevens will look to get the most out of his best on-ball defender in Bradley in the first half before giving Brown meaningful minutes against the champion Cavaliers. 

Isaiah Thomas makes franchise history, ties John Havlicek 02.15.17 at 11:44 pm ET
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Isaiah Thomas has earned superstar status. (Winslow Townson/USA Today Sports)

Isaiah Thomas tied two franchise scoring records on Wednesday night at TD Garden. (Winslow Townson/USA Today Sports)

Isaiah Thomas became the second player in Celtics history to score 20-plus points in 40 consecutive games on Wednesday night at TD Garden. 

Thomas finished with a game-high 33 points in the Celtics’ 116-108 win over the 76ers. He is now tied with hall-of-fame legend John Havlicek, who completed the feat on Jan. 30, 1972.

If Thomas is able to score 20 or more points in Thursday night’s game against the Bulls, he will become first Celtics player to score 20-plus points in 41 straight games. 

Can he make history on Thursday?

“I’m confident I can but like I’ve said, I’m not chasing that,” Thomas said. “Maybe it happens, maybe it doesn’t. I always say it — it doesn’t seem real for my name to be mentioned with certain greats and hall of famers, you know? It doesn’t seem like it should be like that but you know it means I’m doing something [right] and I’m just glad we’re winning on top of it.”

Thomas also made Celtics history from behind the arc in Wednesday’s win when he drained his 168th 3-pointer of the season. He’s now in second place for most 3-pointers made in a single season, tying Ray Allen who finished the 2010-2011 season with 168 3’s.

Antoine Walker holds the franchise record for most 3-pointers made in a single season, he drained 222 3’s throughout the 2001-2002 season. 

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In win over 76ers, Kelly Olynyk continues to lead the second unit 02.15.17 at 10:20 pm ET
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Feb 15, 2017; Boston, MA, USA; Philadelphia 76ers guard TJ McConnell (1) shots against Boston Celtics center Kelly Olynyk (41) in the second quarter at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

76ers guard TJ McConnell (1) shots against Celtics center Kelly Olynyk (41) in the second quarter at TD Garden. (David Butler II/USA Today Sports)

Kelly Olynyk is quietly becoming one of the Celtics’ most reliable players off the bench. 

For the fifth straight game, Olynyk led the reserves in scoring. He finished with 16 points on 6-of-8 shots and 7 rebounds in the Celtics’ 116-108 win over the 76ers.  

His contributions on both ends of the floor has made him a leader for the second unit — one that’s playing without Marcus Smart — and has helped fend off opposition from grabbing big leads while the starters are resting.

Isaiah Thomas finished with a game-high 33 points. It was the 40th consecutive game that Thomas scored at least 20 points, matching the mark of John Havlicek in the 1971-72 season. Thomas also has a chance to break Larry Bird’s franchise record of 29.9 points per game for a season, set in 1987-88. After 56 games, Thomas is averaging 29.8 points, second only to Russell Westbrook’s 30.8 average. 

“When you know you’re getting 20-plus points from a guy on a given night, it’s pretty a special trait,” coach Brad Stevens said. “It’s pretty special to know that. He’s been amazing with his consistency regardless of how he feels, regardless of little nicks and bruises and everything else. He just kind of keeps going. And he’s a tough guy, he’s a tough-minded guy, and his consistency’s been impressive. And I think consistency and being able to do it every night is what separates – right? – the guys that, obviously [like] Havlicek, but the great ones.”

Smart added 21 points and Crowder chipped in 18 but it was Olynyk’s effort that not only led the bench but prevented the C’s from falling behind in the first half. He scored 10 of his 16 points in the second quarter as the Celtics and 76ers headed into halftime tied at 61.

Olynyk continued to play well in the second half by pulling down rebounds and defending the paint. He helped the Celtics keep up their offensive momentum before Thomas and the starting unit returned to close out the win in the fourth quarter. 

For a full box score and statistical round-up of Wednesday’s win over the Sixers, click here

After a slow start, including December when he averaged a woeful 6.5 points in 18.2 minutes, Olynyk has turned things around this month by making an effort on the defensive end, pulling down rebounds and finding ways to score inside the arc.

Olynyk is averaging 12.7 points in his last eight games, while shooting 56.4 percent from the floor. The biggest reason for the spike in his scoring statistics has to do with his effort in seeking high percentage shots instead of settling for 3-pointers. 

He’s only averaging three 3-point attempts a game while averaging six shots from in or around the paint. And on Wednesday night he finished a perfect 2-for-2 from deep.

Olynyk has not only been making cuts to the baskets and converting layups, he’s also averaging 7 rebounds. He’s made an effort in chasing down boards and boxing out big men — a facet of his game that has always been the biggest knock about the 7-footer, who averages a 4.7 boards for his career. 

Celtics have now won 11 of their last 12 games and will look to make it five straight when they take on the Bulls tomorrow night at Chicago in their final game before the All-Star break. 

JBL_CMYK_NoHarmanNoRBallWEEI is how you listen to Celtics coverage. JBL cutting-edge wireless headphones and speakers are how you feel like you’re there. As the official Sound of the Celtics, Isaiah Thomas and the NBA, JBL is Made for the Biggest Stage.

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Isaiah Thomas named Eastern Conference Player of the Week 02.07.17 at 5:10 pm ET
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Feb 5, 2017; Boston, MA, USA;  Boston Celtics guard Isaiah Thomas (4) during the second half against the LA Clippers at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

After winning January’s Player of the Month award, Isaiah Thomas wins the Player of the Week award for the second time this season  (Bob DeChiara/USA Today)

Isaiah Thomas followed up his incredible month of scoring by earning the Eastern Conference Player of the Week award.

After winning Eastern Conference Player of the Month honors for the month of January, Thomas led the Celtics to a 4-0 record, while averaging 37.8 points and 6.8 assists. In two of those four games, he scored 40-plus points against the Pistons (41) and Raptors (44). 

Thomas also averaged an astonishing 17.5 fourth-quarter points last week.

Since his 52-point performance on Dec. 30, the All-Star guard has been on an unbelievable tear — averaging 34.8 points and 6.6 assists in 16 games.

The Celtics (14-4) are tied with the Pacers (14-4) for the second-best record since Dec. 30. Warriors (15-3) have been the hottest team in the league throughout that span. 

The C’s (33-18) are currently in second place in the Eastern Conference and will look to stretch their winning streak to seven consecutive games on Wednesday when they kick off a four-game road trip in Sacramento against the Kings.

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Paul Pierce discusses “Rajon being Rajon,” relationship with members of “The Big 3” 02.06.17 at 7:01 pm ET
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Paul Pierce looks forward to the day he, Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen and Rajon Rondo will have a reunion for the first time since 2012 (Josue Pavon/WEEI.com)

Before playing his final game in Boston, Paul Pierce answered an array of questions about his legacy, playing at TD Garden one last time and his role with the Clippers.

But when Pierce was asked about his relationship with Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen and Rajon Rondo, he smiled. And talked about how he still keeps in touch with most of them.

Garnett is “having the time of his life,” said Pierce. He says Garnett’s show “Area 21,” a segment part of TNT’s weekly Thursday night broadcast along with being a consultant for the Clippers, has kept him busy throughout his first post-retirement season.

When he was asked about Rondo, Pierce said him and Rondo “talk all the time” and that Rondo’s rift with Bulls teammates Dwyane Wade and Jimmy Butler was simply, “Rajon being Rajon.”

“Just like Manny being Manny, he’s Rajon being Rajon,” Pierce jokingly said. “Man, you know what, I respect Rajon with some of the stuff he said, truthfully. I thought it was the truth. I didn’t have a problem with none of the stuff he said about Wade or Jimmy Butler because it was the honest truth. [If you] see the next game, Wade and Jimmy they got benched because what Rondo said was right.”

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Read More: Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, Rajon Rondo, Ray Allen
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