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Marcus Smart returns to practice, while Avery Bradley tries to focus on being aggresive 11.26.14 at 4:37 pm ET
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The Celtics main focus during their practices on Wednesday and Thursday will be on preparing to battle a tough Bulls team when they come to Boston for a Black Friday matinee. However, a share of the spotlight will be on Marcus Smart’€™s return to practice, with the hope that he can suit up after missing seven games with a sprained left ankle.

“It’€™s just a matter of him getting back out here, and it’€™s more about conditioning than it is about anything else right now,” offered Brad Stevens.”€œJust because he hasn’€™t done anything on the court physically, as far as 5-on-5 in the last three weeks, or whatever it’€™s been.”

One thing that the team certainly will not do is rush Smart,€“ especially after Avery Bradley attempted to return prematurely from an ankle injury just last season.

“I don’€™t know [if Bradley can offer Smart any help on returning],”€ Stevens admitted. “Again, I trust our medical team and medical staff, and, you know, I think that Marcus and Avery, I’€™m sure, will share that discussion and talk about that. You know, we don’€™t want anybody to come back before they’€™re physically able, because, obviously, you don’€™t want to put yourself in a bad spot.”

Bradley knows he put himself in a bad spot last year, so his advice to Smart was simple.

“€œIt’€™s tough; this is his first year. Obviously he wants to help our team out and he’€™s a little disappointed that he hasn’€™t been able to every single game. You know, he’€™s back, but one thing everyone’€™s been telling him is just make sure that your body feels good; listen to your body.”

So, did Bradley listen to his body last season? “Obviously not, I re-hurt myself,”€ he said.

Assuming Smart is able to play on Friday, Stevens is not planning on using him any differently than he was before, despite Smart’€™s recent lack of conditioning.

“€œI don’€™t know more so than normal,” Stevens said of Smart’€™s minutes. “€œHe’€™s not a starter, so there’€™ve been a couple games early, especially the Dallas game, where he probably played close to starter minutes. You know, I think if he’€™s in the mid-twenties it’€™s not really limiting minutes, it’€™s probably about what he would be playing anyway.”

After starting Wednesday’s practice, Smart was unable to finish the session. He will get another chance to prove himself before the Bulls come to town as the Celtics will also practice on Thanksgiving.

Bradley has some concerns of his own

Bradley has not been to the free throw line in the past five games. Something his coach feels he needs to figure out.

“We need him to get to the foul line more,” Stevens said. “I think the interesting part is that his free throw have really come on jump shots, so they haven’€™t come on drives. There’€™s a fine line between that, because he is a really good catch and shoot, run and shoot type of guy who can get a guy on his back, and might get fouled on a jump shot. And at the same time, he’€™s a guy that when he gets into the paint, he’€™s not big. So, you know, he’€™s got to get an angle to finish, and he’€™s seeking and searching for that angle. Again, there’€™s a fine line. We’€™d like him to get to the foul line more, he’€™d like to get to the foul line more.”

Although Bradley won’€™t be paying special attention to his drought of getting to the line, he knows what he needs to do to get there.

“You just have to be aggressive and not think about it,” Bradley said. “Going into the game you just have to be aggressive and make plays and hopefully get the call. That’€™s my mindset, just to be aggressive.”

Bradley and Smart (if he plays) will likely be asked to play very aggressive on Friday if they are going to have success when they face a backcourt of Derrick Rose and Jimmy Butler — one of the best backcourts in the NBA when fully healthy themselves.

Follow Julian Edlow on Twitter @julianedlow

5 things we learned in the Celtics’ win over the winless 76ers 11.19.14 at 9:39 pm ET
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The Celtics arrived in Philadelphia on a three-game losing streak, but they had to feel confident knowing they would be facing off against a horrid 0-10 76ers team.

In the end, it wasn’€™t pretty, but the Celtics got the job done with a 101-90 victory for their second road win of the season, improving to 4-6 overall.

Here are five things we learned in the victory:

THE CELTICS PLAYED DOWN TO THE COMPETITION IN THE FIRST HALF

The Celtics came into the game sporting the third-best offense in the NBA, but the scoreboard read just 46-46 at halftime. The C’€™s matched the 76ers with 10 turnovers while getting outrebounded 27-19 by Philly — never good things when facing a winless opponent that ranks last in the league in rebounding.

Had it not been for 12 points from Brandon Bass off the bench, this one could have slipped away early. Bass was really the only player that put forward a noteworthy performance in the first half — he shot 5-for-8 in his 13 minutes.

THE BENCH VETERANS WERE KEY

Brad Stevens would have been in a whole lot of trouble in this one without key contributions from veterans off the bench. Bass’€™ strong first half carried over to the second half, while Marcus Thornton came up big as well.

Bass wound up with a game-high 23 points to go along with six boards, and Thornton finished with 13 points while also coming up with four steals.

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Read More: Brandon Bass, Rajon Rondo,
Tyler Zeller rarely misses a shot these days 11.18.14 at 7:50 pm ET
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Tyler Zeller

Tyler Zeller

Tyler Zeller has always had the trust of coach Brad Stevens, but his minutes have yet to put that trust on display — until Monday night.

Zeller had his coming out party in the Celtics‘ 118-114 home loss to the Suns, playing a total of 27 minutes. Although Boston came up short in the win column, Zeller surely was not at fault, while Stevens was rewarded for trusting his fellow Indiana native.

The UNC product finished Monday’s game with 19 points, seven rebounds and three assists, to go along with a block and a steal. However, it was how Zeller got those numbers that made it so impressive. Besides playing with unmatched hustle — whether is be changing a shot on the defensive end or tipping a rebound to a teammate — Zeller shot an incredibly efficient 8-for-9 from the field.

As crazy as it sounds, that has been an average game in terms of shooting the ball for Zeller this season, just in smaller samples due to playing fewer minutes.

As of Tuesday, Zeller is shooting an eye popping 25-for-29 from the field in nine games this season. That’s good for 86.2 percent — tops among players in the NBA who have attempted more than four shots on the year.

“Some of it’s [knowing what you can and can’t do],” Zeller said following the loss. “Some of it’s my teammates, again, do a great job of getting the ball to me on time where I have time to make plays.”

“Some of it’s just taking easier shots,” he added.

So, will we see any bad shots from the seven-footer this season?

“Give it time, it will happen,” joked Zeller. “But, I mean, you’ve just got to take smart shots and make the plays you can.”

In case you were wondering, Cedric Maxwell shot 60.9 percent from the field in the 1979-80 season, which is the Celtics‘ single-season record for field goal percentage.

Read More: Tyler Zeller,
Jeff Green has been remarkably consistent so far this season 11.18.14 at 9:43 am ET
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Last year, Jeff Green began the season with a 25-point effort against the Raptors. “Maybe this will be the year that Green pulls it all together,” many said.

Green then scored 13 points in the second game of the year, followed by just seven points in his next game. Concerns about Green were answered early; he still couldn’t preform with the type of consistency that many hoped and believed he would upon arriving in Boston.

Coming into this season, there was no reason to believe anything would change, but clearly, Green has found his groove.

The season is still young, but nine games in, Green has been remarkably consistent, despite the Celtics‘ 3-6 record. Green has scored no less than 14 points in a game, and has carried the load on offense most nights —  like his season-high of 35 points in the Celtics‘ failed comeback in Dallas or the 28 he scored in Monday’s loss to the Suns.

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5 things we learned in a wild Celtics loss to the Suns 11.17.14 at 10:06 pm ET
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Rajon Rondo and the Celtics came up short once again. (Getty Images)

Rajon Rondo and the Celtics came up short once again. (Getty Images)

We were expecting an exciting game from the Celtics and Suns at the TD Garden on Monday night, and that’€™s exactly what we got.

In the end it was an Avery Bradley turnover that led to an Eric Bledsoe fast break dunk with 29.5 seconds remaining that sealed the Suns’ 118-114 victory. (Click here for a complete box score)

The Celtics had trouble finding a shot on their final possession again, as a whole lot of dribbling and fumbling the ball around eventually led to three Rajon Rondo free throws, and Rondo went on to miss all three attempts.

Jeff Green was the high-scorer for the Celtics yet again, as he is beginning to find the consistency he has long lacked. Green totaled 28 points on the night and had a pair of monster dunks in the game.

Goran Dragic and Markieff Morris carried the load for the Suns. Dragic finished with 22 points, six rebounds and seven assists, while Morris dropped 30 to go with seven boards and five helpers.

THE FAST PACE CONTINUED

The Celtics have been an elite offensive team all season. So when they welcomed the run-and-gun Suns to town, a wild game was to be expected. As has been the case with many games this year, the score at the end of the third quarter looked like it could have been the final score (89-88).

The teams got up a combined 91 shots in the first half, while also combining for 24 free throw attempts. The up-and-down pace typically favors the C’€™s, but in this scenario, both teams were playing the way that they wanted to. 

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Read More: Avery Bradley, Jeff Green, Rajon Rondo,
James Young, Dwight Powell impress in D-League debuts 11.17.14 at 1:19 pm ET
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James Young

James Young

The Celtics sent rookies James Young and Dwight Powell to the Maine Red Claws of the NBA D-League this past weekend. Both players made their debuts Sunday and showed why the Celtics feel so strongly about them.

Young and Powell were in the starting lineup and played big minutes as expected (36 and 38, respectively). They shared the role of leading scorer, each dropping 21 points, but in far different fashion.

Young stayed mostly on the perimeter, shooting 3-for-11 from downtown and 7-for-19 from the field overall. He added five rebounds, two assists and two steals while showing some hustle on the defensive side of the ball. We already know that Young is gifted offensively, so it was good to see him display so much effort on his defense — something that he will need to earn minutes in Boston.

Powell, on the other hand, was a force around the rim. He shot 9-for-16 while ripping down 17 boards to go along with a pair of assists. It was nice to finally see what Powell is capable of, as he has had literally no chance to do so outside of practice with the Celtics (Young has at least played limited minutes on occasion). He also was very strong on defense, displaying great quickness for a 6-foot-11 player. Powell has the ability to defend in the paint but also get out and cover the perimeter, something that could be valuable when he gets the chance to try to earn minutes in the NBA.

The Red Claws beat the Fort Wayne Mad Ants, 81-80, if you care about the final outcome.

It’s just one game, but it was a strong first showing for both Young and Powell, who figure to be back and forth between Boston and Maine this season. Both were recalled back to the Celtics on Monday morning.

Read More: Dwight Powell, James Young,
5 Things We Learned as LeBron James leads Cavs’ fourth-quarter charge past Celtics 11.14.14 at 10:21 pm ET
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LeBron James scored 41 to lead the Cavaliers' furious fourth-quarter win over the Celtics. (Getty Images)

LeBron James scored 41 to lead the Cavaliers‘ furious fourth-quarter win over the Celtics. (Getty Images)

A Friday night nailbiter became a LeBron James classic against the Celtics, as the superstar led a furious fourth-quarter comeback that was sealed when Rajon Rondo was unable to get a potential game-winning shot off before the final buzzer.

The Cavaliers got the victory, 122-121, behind 41 points from James. Rondo seemed to dribble the clock out to end the game on a possession when the Celtics had seven seconds to create something, and the crowd seemed understandably baffled by his inability to create or even force a shot.

The win for the Cavs now puts them above .500 (4-3) as the Celtics now drop down to 3-5 on the season.

Here are five takeaways from the loss:

BOSTON STILL DOES NOT LIKE LEBRON JAMES

The Celtics were the home team, but the loudest noises from the crowd came for James. Some cheered, many booed, but the electricity in the building was apparent.

For every missed shot, every time he complained to the refs, every turnover he had and every foul he committed, the Boston fans rejoiced — even during a 41-point effort. Returning to Cleveland redeemed James’€™ likeability in the eyes of many, but not at the TD Garden.

A BACK-TO-THE-FUTURE TEMPO ARRIVED

Did the final score give it away?

If you like up-and-down basketball, you would have enjoyed this game. The pace seemed to play into the Celtics‘€™ favor aside from James’€™ ability to get out in transition. But even he missed two contested layups on fast breaks in the first half alone.

The Celtics pushed the tempo the entire game, and were almost rewarded. Rajon Rondo was the head of the monster, finishing with 16 assists on the night (the first one being a milestone that we’€™ll get to later).

However, the pace slowed down in the fourth quarter and was a huge part of why the Cavs were able to come away victorious.

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