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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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Read More: Boston Celtics, Gigi Datome, Kelly Olynyk,
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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Read More: Avery Bradley, Boston Celtics, Charlotte Hornets,
Hot Celtics might not only make playoffs, but have chance to advance 03.24.15 at 6:17 pm ET
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If the NBA and NHL playoffs were to start today, then the Celtics would be off to Atlanta for a first-round series while the Bruins cleaned out their lockers. Not many people in Boston saw this being the case on March 24.

Of course, the 31-39 Celtics still have 12 games to play, and while they currently sit in the East’s eighth seed, they are by no means a lock to make the playoffs. According to John Hollinger’s playoff odds on ESPN.com the C’s hold a 48.6 percent chance of landing in the postseason. If you want to see what the remainder of the regular season entails for all the teams competing for the final spots in the East, Ben Rohrbach gave us a pretty good look last week.

But let’s have some fun here. If the Celtics do make the playoffs, what’s their ceiling? We can all likely agree that if the Celts draw LeBron JamesCavaliers in the first-round that they stand no chance. Maybe they steal a game, but LeBron would prove to be too much. Boston could probably give the Hawks a good run and make it a series, but likely still fall in five or six games despite making Atlanta sweat.

What’s changed in the East over the past month is the fact that the Bucks are no longer locked into the sixth seed as they seemingly were just a month ago. Going into the All-Star break, Milwaukee had withstood Jabari Parker’s ACL tear and compiled a 30-23 record — becoming the first team to double their previous season’s win total (15) by the All-Star break in the following season. Since then? Frankly trading away Brandon Knight completely crippled them. Despite still holding onto the sixth seed by the skin of their teeth, the Bucks are just 4-13 since the break. Their 34-36 record means they are just three games ahead of the Celtics and a game and a half ahead of the Heat (who sit in control of the seven spot).

In their final 12 games, the C’s face seven opponents with losing records and five with winning records. If they can win seven or eight of those games (including two huge must-wins over the Bucks and games against the Heat and Pacers), the sixth seed is in sight. To further help Boston’s cause, Isaiah Thomas is expected to return on Wednesday for the important matchup against Miami, and ideally the rest of the playoff push.

The C’s clearly wouldn’t own home court, but would a matchup against the third seeded Raptors, or potentially Derrick Rose-less Bulls be something these resilient Celtics couldn’t overcome? Personally, I’d like their chances.

The Raptors have lost 11 of their last 16 games, and look like they’ll be limping into the playoffs. They are also coming off a season in which they were upset on their home floor in game 7 of the first-round by Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett‘s Brooklyn squad. The Bulls may be a tougher opponent than Toronto, but with Rose’s future as uncertain as any player in the league, the feisty Celtics would surely have a shot at an upset here if Chicago were to climb into the third seed.

I don’t want to take the fun out of Brad Stevens‘ first playoff race by raising expectations. Like I said, we never expected this to be the case from the beginning.  So for now, enjoy these final 12 games. But if the C’s can get hot for this home stretch — with some help from Miami and Milwaukee — we could be watching a Celtics team that gets hot at just the right time go from making a little more noise than we thought this season to a whole lot more noise in the postseason.

Follow Julian Edlow on Twitter @julianedlow

Read More: Boston Celtics, NBA playoffs,
5 things we learned as Celtics roll over 76ers 03.16.15 at 9:55 pm ET
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The hottest team in the NBA? Well, that might just be the Boston Celtics.

The C’s destroyed the lowly 76ers 108-89 on Monday night, wining their fifth straight game and moving into a tie with the Pacers and Heat for the seventh seed in the Eastern Conference. Yes, the Celtics (30-36) would now be in the playoffs if they were to start tomorrow.

Tyler Zeller scored a career-high 26 points on 11-of-15 shooting in an incredibly efficient 28 minutes. Avery Bradley also netted 20 points for the Celtics, who received double-digit scoring from all five starters as well as Jae Crowder and Gigi Datome off the bench. Massachusetts product Nerlens Noel was the leading scorer for Philadelphia with 18 points.

For a full box score, click here.

A FIRST FOR BRAD STEVENS

Stevens now has his first five-game winning streak as a head coach in the NBA — an impressive run, even if the latest victory came against Philly. Maybe even more impressive? The C’s have now won 14 of their last 20 games. No matter how you spin it, this stretch has proved Stevens can flat out coach. He just may sneak a team that has undergone several identity changes this season into the playoffs, so imagine the possibilities when Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge provides Stevens with the roster that many expect in the future.

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Read More: Avery Bradley, Boston Celtics, Tyler Zeller,
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