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Marcus Smart ‘can’t buy a bucket’ in March 03.24.16 at 12:17 pm ET
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Marcus Smart

Marcus Smart

You can’t knock Marcus Smart for his effort. But when it comes to his shooting, it’s time to have a discussion.

Any Celtics fan knows that the defensive-minded guard plays all-out on every possession, and has through the entirety of his two-year career. Smart has not only maintained the aggressiveness he showed during his rookie season, he’s improved upon it.

“I’m more aggressive going to the rim, attacking, making plays,” Smart said of his improvements since he’s been in the NBA prior to Wednesday’s home victory over Toronto.

Fair self-evaluation, but everyone (including Smart) was hoping by now that the answer to that question would be a much-improved shooter.

Smart has shot over 50 percent from the field in just one game since the end of January (5-for-9 vs. Miami on Feb. 27), and is now experiencing his worst shooting month of the season. The former Oklahoma State product’s best month shooting the ball this season was actually January, but he was still only knocking down 37.4-percent of his field goals.

March has been far worse for Smart. Through the first 11 games he’s shooting a mere 28.6-percent, and that number has been trending downward of late. Subtract his two best shooting performances of the month (6-for-12 vs. Philly and 5-for-12 vs. Portland), and Smart has connected on a horrific 17-of-74 attempts from the field during nine other games so far in March.

Smart vows that he’s been working on his jumper, but the numbers just keep getting worse. In his last five games, Smart has shot 12.5-percent or worse three separate times — 1-for-10 vs. OKC, 1-for-11 vs Orlando, and then 1-for-8 in Wednesday’s showdown with the Raptors.

“I try to make sure I keep my body straight, my process straight up and down, and keeping my follow through,” Smart responded when asked about his shooting routine. “Just things like that, and practice those corner open shots because that’s a lot of the shots that I get. It’s weird because when I’m practicing those I’m knocking them down and in the game I can’t buy a bucket.”

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Jae Crowder injury blessing in disguise? 03.17.16 at 1:59 am ET
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Jae Crowder

Jae Crowder

Jae Crowder has only missed the last two games due to a high ankle sprain, but his value to the Celtics has never been more clear than it is right now.

The main causes of back-to-back losses to the Thunder and Pacers has been a combined 53 points from the opposing starting small forwards — Kevin Durant and Paul George. Toss in Friday night’s loss against perimeter scoring stud James Harden’s Rockets (the game Crowder went down) and it’s pretty evident that the C’s desperately miss Crowder’s services.

Crowder has been on an interesting NBA journey of late. An afterthought in the Rajon Rondo trade with Dallas, the Marquette product impressed during his four-month stint in Boston last season. So much so that Danny Ainge inked him to a five-year $35 million deal — a hefty commitment to someone who hadn’t been productive for all that long.

Fast-forward less than a year and the deal appears to be another genius move by Ainge, as Crowder is widely considered one of the best contracts in the NBA. Put him on the open market this offseason and he’s easily worth double what Ainge scooped him up for.

After a season of praise for the rising star, and deservingly so, Wednesday’s blowout loss to the Thunder offered the perfect excuse for Crowder’s coach and teammates to deflect admitting just how much they’re really missing him.

“Hey, I think Jae’s really, really good,” Brad Stevens said following the 130-109 defeat. “But I think we would’ve needed our whole team to play better tonight. Obviously we missed Jae, we love having Jae, we want him to be healthy and back. But we have to play well without him. That’s the bottom line. There should be no excuses.”

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What we learned about Celtics in double-OT loss to Warriors 12.12.15 at 4:26 pm ET
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Friday night at TD Garden undoubtedly was the game of the year in the NBA.

The unbeaten Warriors came into Boston and topped the Celtics‘ best effort by a score of 124-119. It wasn’t easy. It took double-overtime for Golden State to improve to a historic 24-0 on the season.

After the game, Celtics coach Brad Stevens was asked if he believes in such a thing as a “great loss.”

After about 10 seconds of silence in which you could tell his blood was boiling, Stevens gave the reporter the courtesy of answering his question.

“Not even a good one,” Stevens replied before swiftly moving on to the next question.

The coach certainly has created a trickle-down effect, as his players all agreed that there was nothing good about losing a game in which they spent 58 minutes going toe-to-toe with the defending champions.

All that said, we still learned somethings about this never-say-die C’s squad during Friday’s showing.

FEAR NO OPPONENT

Many teams have come out of the locker room to face the Warriors this season with the game already over. You can tell that they’re scared to begin with, but once Golden State gets on one of its runs, that’s when it’s officially over. The opposition waves the white flag and the Dubs run away with the game.

The Celtics weren’t going to let themselves be the hunted on Friday. They were the hunter.

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Celtics, Cavs view dirty plays very differently 04.26.15 at 6:25 pm ET
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Sunday afternoon was a wild one at TD Garden.

In the end, the mighty Cavaliers swept the youthful Celtics out of the playoffs. But there were plenty of other story lines throughout the game. They just weren’t very positive ones.

It started in the first quarter when Kelly Olynyk and Kevin Love got tangled going ofter a loose ball. Olynyk dislocated Love’s shoulder in the process and Love was obviously out for the rest of the game — and likely the foreseeable future.

Then, in the second quarter, old friend Kendrick Perkins set a hard pick that knocked Jae Crowder to the floor. This was followed by a near brawl in which Perkins slapped Crowder across the face.

Just as it seemed things were starting to calm down early in the second half, J.R. Smith made a dirty play, swinging his arm back at Crowder and connecting with his chin, sending the Celtics forward to the ground. Smith was ejected for a flagrant-2 foul, while Crowder left the game with a sprained knee and will have more tests done soon. Read the rest of this entry »

5 things we learned about Celtics playoff run after win over Bucks 04.15.15 at 10:26 pm ET
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Jonas Jerebko

Jonas Jerebko

The Celtics and Bucks met in Milwaukee on Wednesday for a meaningless season finale.

Many would have guessed as much at the start of the season, but for all the wrong reasons. Of course, the Bucks and C’s have already locked up the sixth and seventh seeds (respectively) in the Eastern Conference.

Isaiah Thomas, Avery Bradley and Jae Crowder all rested, but Boston was still able to collect the win, 105-100. The C’s finished up their improbable regular season by collecting their 40th win.

They were led by Gigi Datome, obviously, who finished with a game-high 22 points (also a career-high) in his first career start. Jonas Jerebko (16 points), Kelly Olynyk (16) and Jared Sullinger (11) all chipped in with double figures off the bench.

For a complete box score, click here.

There really aren’t five things you need to know about this game, so we’ll go off script a bit. Here’s five things we’ve learned about the Celtics on this remarkable charge to the postseason.

ADDITION BY SUBTRACTION

This team was not playoff bound as it stood at the beginning of the season. Brad Stevens is an amazing coach, but he never would have been able to turn the C’s around until they cut ties with the players that were holding them back. Against popular opinion, those players were Rajon Rondo and Jeff Green — both of whom will play in the playoffs out West. But don’t forget that both their teams have been worse with them than without them, while Boston has only been improving.

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5 things we learned as Celtics smash LeBron-less Cavs 04.12.15 at 5:39 pm ET
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Marcus Smart drives to the basket Sunday night against Cleveland. (Jesse D. Garrabrant/Getty Images)

Marcus Smart drives to the basket Sunday night against Cleveland. (Jesse D. Garrabrant/Getty Images)

These Celtics are getting hot at the right time.

Fighting for their playoff lives, the C’s have now won six of their last seven games following a 117-78 demolition of the Cavaliers in Sunday’s matinee at the TD Garden. Cleveland did help Boston’s cause considerably by resting four of their starters: LeBron James, Kyrie Irving, Kevin Love and J.R. Smith. But the Celts obviously earned this win in convincing fashion.

Isaiah Thomas was key for Boston with 17 points, but as you’ll see, the C’s got contributions from across the board. Iman Shumpert was the high-man for the Cavs with 15 points, but also carried a game-worst plus/minus of minus-36. A laughable 71 points worse than Marcus Smart’s plus-35.

For a full box score, click here.

SMOOTH SAILING

The severely shorthanded Cavs found a way to escape the first quarter with a 22-21 lead. Things changed rather quickly after that. The C’s won the second quarter by a score of 34-9, and never looked back. In fact, they only continued to extend their lead throughout the game, coming away with their largest margin of victory this season, 39 points.

“STEALING” A VICTORY

The Celtics literally stole this game away from the Cavaliers. Of Cleveland’s 24 turnovers, Boston came up with an absurd 20 total steals — just one shy of the franchise record of 21. Marcus Smart and Evan Turner led the defensive charge with four thefts each, while Jay Crowder provided three off the bench.

BALANCED ATTACK

Much like their contributions on defense, the Celtics were extremely well balanced on the offensive side of the ball. Thomas had a game-high 17 points off the Boston bench, and Turner was right behind him with 15 of his own. But all 12 C’s that played in the game scored at least four points, while seven of those players scored in double figures. Gerald Wallace was the only member of the green that was dressed but registered a DNP.

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5 things we learned in a Celtics road win over the Hornets 03.30.15 at 9:29 pm ET
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The Celtics got knocked out of the Eastern Conference’s eighth seed on Sunday when they were blown out on their home floor by the Clippers. Monday in Charlotte offered the C’s a chance to grab that spot back from the Nets, but the Hornets are battling for a playoff berth just like the Celtics, so it wasn’t going to be easy.

The Celtics came out hot, and in the end showed more heart despite a late run from the Hornets, coming out on top, 116-104. Boston improved to 33-41 on the season, while knocking the Hornets to 31-42.

Avery Bradley had a game-high 30 points to lead six Celtics in double figures. Kemba Walker led the way for Charlotte, netting 28 of his own to go along with 12 assists.

For a complete box score, click here.

AVERY BRADLEY GOT HOT

Bradley was already having a solid game as he led the C’s with 11 first half points, but then Bradley went off for 15 points in the third quarter alone to balloon the Celtics’ lead up to 85-69. Bradley finished the game with 30 points on 12-for-23 shooting, while ripping down eight boards.

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