|5 things we learned in Celtics’ amazing Hawks upset||02.11.15 at 10:05 pm ET|
Brandon Bass called it.
As the Celtics exited a timeout trailing the first-place Atlanta Hawks by one with 6.3 seconds remaining, the veteran forward turned to his teammates and said, “E.T.’s going to win it with a floater.” Sure enough, Evan Turner‘s runner swished through the net for an 89-88 win, capping an 18-point comeback against a team with just 10 previous losses.
“I think it says a lot for us as a team,” said Turner. “We were able to come back against the best team in the league, down . We shot like 30 percent, but once we try to put together a whole game — put together the defensive and offensive game — we’ll be all right. It’s a great win, and it’s always better to go in on a break on a win and not a loss.”
Indeed, the Celtics (20-31) pulled within one loss of the Charlotte Hornets (22-30) and Miami Heat (22-30) for the final two playoff spots in the Eastern Conference with a 7-5 record in their final 12 games before the All-Star break.
Having won three of their last four games, the Celtics looked to stay hot in their final game before entering the All-Star break. Unfortunately for Brad Stevens & Co., the first-place Hawks stood in their way.
Turner’s game-winner gave him 12 points, nine assists and seven rebounds in the victory against Atlanta. Jared Sullinger added 17 points and 15 rebounds. And Marcus Thornton contributed 14 points off the bench. Al Horford led the Hawks (43-11) with 22 points and 12 rebounds.
For a full box score, click here.
|Kelly Olynyk discusses returning from ankle injury||02.11.15 at 7:37 pm ET|
Kelly Olynyk will be missing his 11th consecutive game due to a right ankle sprain when the Celtics take on the Hawks at TD Garden on Wednesday — the C’s final game before the extended All-Star break.
“Yeah, it was a pretty good one,” Olynyk said of the injury while half-smiling to reporters. “I saw a little bit of it [on replay], it was pretty bad.”
“We have another week off, it just makes more sense to hold off,” offered the Gonzaga product on why he would be sitting out Wednesday’s game.
So when will Olynyk be cleared to play?
“I’m not sure,” he replied. “[I’ve] just got to see how everything progresses. It’s kind of ambiguous but that’s how it is.”
The Celtics will be out West following the All-Star break, their first game is Feb 20 when they take on the Kings in Sacramento.
|Trades worth the Celtics’ while: Part 6||02.11.15 at 1:27 pm ET|
A major theme of the rebuilding Celtics has been that no player is safe from being traded for the betterment of the team ‘ something Danny Ainge has shown the willingness to do throughout his career (and now once again by trading Rajon Rondo). Here are some trades that make sense for the mess that is the Boston Celtics. Again, these specific trades are not rumors, simply ideas. This is part six.
After a flurry of trades, Danny Ainge’s phone has finally cooled off. At least for the last couple of weeks. But now the trade deadline is a mere eight days away, so expect things to begin to heat back up.
If you take a look around the league (which to me means skim through the ESPN trade machine for an hour), it makes sense that the Celtics haven’t been able to piece together any more moves that accomplish the goal of selling unneeded parts for future draft picks. Most teams that are considered buyers have either already made their moves to add help, or simply don’t have the contracts or assets that would match what Boston is trying to do.
However, there are still buyers out there.
The Hawks are back in Boston on Wednesday, and despite continuing to run away with the Eastern Conference, Atlanta still has many doubters. The Hawks just traded rookie Adreian Payne to the Timberwolves in order to add a 2017 first-round pick — a pick that figures to be used to add more firepower for this season. Furthermore, Atlanta has also been rumored as a potential landing spot for free-agent guard Ray Allen.
But with the Hawks still under the cap, here’s a move that could help them build their bench:
HAWKS GET: Brandon Bass
CELTICS GET: Elton Brand and a future second-round draft pick
*Brand would have to waive his trade clause
This deal makes perfect sense for both sides, but would probably need to wait until Atlanta knows if they will be making a bigger move first. Coming off a month where the Hawks entire starting lineup won Conference Player of the Month (which is absolutely remarkable), it’s now time to build their bench. The addition of Allen — or any other guard around the league that they can lure with their newly acquired first-rounder — would sure-up Atlanta’s backcourt, but they still need help off the bench in the form of a big. Bass is that guy.
Because the Hawks are under the cap, they are able to swap Brand’s $2 million expiring contract for Bass’ $6.9 million expiring deal without any problems. Boston would most likely buy Brand’s contract out, saving them money for the rest of the season, while Bass provides the perfect spark for the Hawks. In addition, Ainge tosses another second-rounder in his pile … you never know when all of them may come in handy.
|Marcus Smart earning trust as starting point guard||02.05.15 at 5:40 pm ET|
When Marcus Smart was selected No. 6 overall in this past June’s NBA Draft, many believed it would be to replace Rajon Rondo. The rookie had a slow start to the season that included an ankle injury and even limited minutes at times when he was available.
Rondo was shipped to Dallas on Nov 18, and since then Smart has continued trying to earn the trust of his coaches and teammates. On Feb 3 all of his hard work paid off when Brad Stevens named him the starting point guard for the Celtics. Smart’s playing time has gone up in each of his last five games, but he has set a career-highs in minutes in each of his two starts at the point.
In 37 minutes on Tuesday in New York, the Oklahoma State product poured in 13 points while also grabbing four rebounds, three assists and two steals. The next night, in 41 minutes of action while hosting the Nuggets, Smart only managed four points, but had maybe one of his most impactful games. Despite his lack of scoring, the 20-year old racked up 10 boards, dished out eight assists, and plucked three steals in the process.
“I just try to come out there and play hard,” Smart said of his new starting role. “Not worry about all the other things and just let my game come to me and let the rest fall into place.”
“I’m trying to push the ball and keep the pace up. I’m trying to attack the defense before they get set,” he said of his job as a facilitator.
Development with the ball in his hands is great, but may take some time. For now, defense is Smart’s calling card.
“I think you feel so good and comfortable with him defensively in the game,” Stevens said of Smart following Wednesday’s game. “I thought he did fine offensively. He had eight assists to two turnovers. He didn’t shoot a high volume of shots. I can’t think of many times where he made many mistakes defensively.
“He’s playing pretty well — without impacting the stat sheet too much, which is a good thing,” Smart’s coach concluded regarding his impact.
Even Smart’s peers around the league are taking notice of his abilities.
“I think he’s pretty good,” Denver point guard Ty Lawson confirmed following the game. “He’s tough. He’s pretty strong. He’s going to be a good defender in this league.”
But what’s the biggest impact of the C’s lineup change so far? Marcus Smart is a winner. The Celtics are 2-0 so far when he starts at point guard.
|5 things we learned in Celtics’ win over Nuggets||02.04.15 at 10:01 pm ET|
Sandwiched between a successful West Coast trip and a wire-to-wire road victory against the Knicks, the Celtics lost a pair of home games to the Rockets and Heat. But with Malcolm Butler, Robert Kraft and a host of Patriots on hand at TD Garden on Wednesday night, the C’s delivered their first home victory in more than three weeks.
A pair of Jared Sullinger free throws with just 22.8 seconds remaining gave Boston a 102-100 lead, and Jae Crowder’s ensuing steal helped seal a 104-100 victory against the visiting Nuggets. The C’s improved to 18-30 on the season, moving within two losses of Miami for the eighth seed in the Eastern Conference.
Avery Bradley and Marcus Thornton led the Celtics with 17 points apiece. Tyler Zeller, Crowder and Sullinger each added 14 points. Zeller replaced Sullinger in the starting lineup after the 22-year-old showed up late for the second time in four days. Ty Lawson led Denver (19-31) with 23 points and eight assists.
For a complete box score, click here.
|Jared Sullinger benched for second time in 3 games||02.04.15 at 6:22 pm ET|
After Jared Sullinger missed a pregame walkthrough on Wednesday, Celtics coach Brad Stevens benched his starting power forward for the second time in three games. Sullinger also sat out the start of Sunday’s loss to the Heat for showing up late to a walkthrough.
“It’s the second time in two years,” said Stevens, who “absolutely” addressed the issue with Sullinger. “It just happens to be the second time in [four] days. Again, I said it the other day, I don’t think it’s an issue. You’ve just got to be here. Our precedence is set.”
Sullinger recorded just seven points and three rebounds in 19 minutes off the bench in Sunday’s loss to Miami. Reinserted into the starting lineup in Tuesday’s win over the Knicks, he collected 22 points, nine rebounds and six assists in 36 minutes. Sullinger finished with 14 points, seven rebounds and four assists in 21 minutes as a reserve in Wednesday’s victory against the Nuggets. Tyler Zeller started in his place.
Addressing reporters about the incident, Sullinger blamed “traffic” for his late arrival – an understandable excuse given the Patriots’ Super Bowl parade. Except, his C’s teammates showed up on time, and Comcast’s Kyle Draper reported that Sullinger was instead pulled over and cited for a traffic violation.
“Everybody in this locker room was probably late one time,” a defiant Sullinger said prior to the game. “Things happen. You can’t let it affect you. We’ve still got a game. Just because I was late [to walk-through], doesn’t mean I was late to the game. We’ve still got to play a game. Our main objective is to win, whether I start, whether I get benched, whether I not dress at all. We just want to win basketball games.”
Stevens will leave the decision on whether to fine Sullinger up to Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge.
“I don’t want to make any excuses,” the coach said of Sullinger. “He won’t make any excuses.”
|Positive road trip gives hope to Celtics’ playoff odds||01.29.15 at 6:21 pm ET|
Last season the Celtics‘ record against the Western Conference on the road was 0-15. If there’s a positive way to spin that, it’s that Brad Stevens certainly left his team with room for improvements on the road for this season.
“It could go a bunch of different ways,” Brandon Bass said as the C’s prepared to depart for the six-game trip through three different Western Conference time zones. Yes, Brandon, it could have gone a bunch of different ways. However, I don’t think many predicted the Celtics would return home to almost three feet of snow with three more victories under their belts.
Finishing the trip with a loss in Minnesota left a sour taste in the team’s mouth, but the trip could have been far less successful in Stevens’ eyes.
“We had our moments where we played well,” the coach said of the road trip after returning home to practice on Thursday. “We won two 1-point games [back-to-backs in Portland and Denver] which could have gone either way. If we’re sitting here at 1-5 because those last two shots bounce in, do we feel worse about ourselves? Absolutely. Is it a lot less of a successful trip? Absolutely. But, because those bounces went our way, we feel better.”
With the unexpected success, the Celtics amazingly sit just two games back of the eight-seed in the Eastern Conference at 16-28. But the C’s haven’t just been getting lucky bounces in their own games lately, they’ve been lucky across the league.
The Pistons had been surging, and sit just a half-game back of Boston in the standings. But Brandon Jennings‘ achilles tear recently ended the point guard’s season, and may well keep Detroit from rolling into the playoffs after their turnaround in the post-Josh Smith era.
The Nets are currently sitting in the nine-seed, but Brooklyn has made it clear that they intend to sell, sell, sell as the deadline approaches. Deron Williams, Brook Lopez and Joe Johnson are all on the table. If they can find a taker on even one of those players, especially Johnson, Brooklyn could remain looking in from the outside at the playoffs.
The eight-seeded Hornets have lost arguably their best player in Kemba Walker for a long period of time after the UConn product recently underwent knee surgery. Unless they make a trade that brings them back some high-end talent, it would be silly to think that they wouldn’t slip in the standings.
Finally, there’s the Heat. Miami has a grasp on the seven-seed, but with a record of just 20-25, and Dwyane Wade injured again, they are far from untouchable in the standings.
Enter the Celtics. Their goal (or at least Danny Ainge’s goal) might not be to make the playoffs this season. Ainge admitted it wasn’t a goal of his last season. But the Eastern Conference is shaping up in a way that they just may sneak right in, even with a losing record. This current Celtics unit has not been together particularly long — it’s been a season filled with moving parts — but as Stevens said on Thursday: “There’s no better team building activity than winning a close game on the road.”
If the C’s can pull out a couple more close games on the road, then who knows? We might be watching this team compete during the playoffs whether it’s in Ainge’s plans or not.
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