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Danny Ainge says Isaiah Thomas ‘probably’ out Friday vs. Toronto after PRP injection for groin 12.08.16 at 10:00 am ET
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Isaiah Thomas dives on the floor for a loose ball during Wednesday's win over the Nets. (Brad Penner/USA Today Sports)

Isaiah Thomas has again been playing all-out this season for the Celtics. (Brad Penner/USA Today Sports)

The Celtics are being very cautious with the sore groin of Isaiah Thomas. 

The star point guard will likely miss his second straight game with the injury suffered Monday night in Houston after receiving a platelet-rich plasma (PRP) injection on Wednesday. The 13-9 Celtics take on Atlantic Division-leading Toronto Friday night at TD Garden and stand just 1.5 games back of them for the No. 2 seed in the East. 

“It’s just day to day. He is a warrior. He loves to play,” Ainge said of Thomas on the team’s flagship station Thursday morning. “He’ll be back faster than most players would be back after an injury. But at the same time we really have to be careful with Isaiah for the long haul and make sure that he doesn’t come back and re-injure it. So I’m not sure about the answer.

“I don’t know if he’ll play Friday. Probably not. We’ll just try to get him as much rest as we can and get him back on the court when he’s ready.”

Head coach Brad Stevens told reporters before Wednesday’s game that the team will be cautious with its All-Star point guard due to the nature of the injury. 

The Celtics didn’t need Thomas Wednesday night as they blew out Orlando, 117-87, outscoring the Magic, 68-37, in the second half. 

Thomas is again leading the Celtics in scoring this year, averaging 26 points and 6.2 assists in 21 games. Wednesday’s game was the first Thomas missed this season. 

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Full Court Press: Does Brad Stevens really want his team swinging for the fences so much? Depends 12.03.16 at 9:24 am ET
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Nov 30, 2016; Boston, MA, USA;  Boston Celtics guard Avery Bradley (0) takes a shot while guarded by Detroit Pistons point guard Ish Smith (14) during the fourth quarter at TD Garden.  The Detroit Pistons won 121-114. Mandatory Credit: Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports

Avery Bradley is one of the Celtics leading the 3-point barrage this season. (Greg M. Cooper/USA Today Sports)

The 3-point shot is the home run of basketball. It’s a play that can get you back in a game and one that can close the door just as fast. 

Stevens, who earned three letters apiece in high school basketball and track, also earned on in baseball in his days at Zionsville, Indiana. On Wednesday, he used a baseball metaphor to make his point about shot selection and tempo. 

Brad Stevens, the man who wore No. 31 in high school after idol Reggie Miller, certainly saw the down side of it on Wednesday in a 121-114 loss to the Pistons, during which his team took 42 shots from beyond the arc. The Celtics made a reasonable number (15) and percent (35) but that doesn’t tell the whole story. His team committed just six turnovers and shot 44 percent. 

“I think we’re taking care of the ball, pretty obviously, really well. I wasn’t overly happy with some of our shots. I felt like some of shots were rushed. But again, when we play good offense we’re really good on that end of the floor. But we have a tendency when teams are making runs against us or things aren’t going our way to try to get it all back at once, and you just can’t do that. You have to keep hitting singles.”

The Celtics are averaging 31.1 3-point attempts a game (making 11.3). The 31.1 figure is fifth in the NBA, just behind Golden State. The three other teams ahead of Boston are Houston (37.0), Brooklyn (34.9) and Cleveland (34.3).

The problem Wednesday wasn’t the 42 threes the Celtics took. It was the 27 misses. Long shots usually lead to long rebounds, and that’s a problem for a team that can’t rebound. The Celtics were battered again on the glass Wednesday (52-33) and many of those were Detroit hauling in the long rebounds from the missed shots. 

While Stevens indicated that he wanted more “singles” after Wednesday’s game, he seemed to clarify that before Friday’s game with Sacramento, suggesting the Celtics were taking the right kind of threes.

“They are,” Stevens said. “At the end of the day, we want layups. If we don’t get layups, we want the floor to be shrunk. The defense shrinks in and you’re able to touch the paint and kick it out, in two of our last three games, maybe three of our last four games, two-thirds of our possessions we’ve touched the paint or shrunk the defense with a roll. That’s kind of our objective. Hey, we’re not a team that gets to the foul line a lot, we’re not a team that rebounds at a high rate, and we haven’t scored it in transition so to be able to be sitting where we are, offensively, I think a big reason is because we space the floor.”

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Friday pregame notes: Celtics preparing for the boogie monster that is DeMarcus Cousins 12.02.16 at 7:14 pm ET
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Nov 28, 2016; Washington, DC, USA; Sacramento Kings center DeMarcus Cousins (15) shoots over Washington Wizards center Marcin Gortat (13) during the second half at Verizon Center. Mandatory Credit: Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

DeMarcus Cousins is the most dominant offensive big man in basketball. (Brad Mills/USA Today Sports)

The Celtics will get an up close-and-personal look at the player many believe is the biggest hope for them to transform their roster into an instant contender. 

DeMarcus Cousins entered Friday’s game fifth in the NBA in points (28.7) and rebounds (10.4) points while dishing out 3.2 assists per game. Before making just one of six from 3-point range against the Wizards last Monday, Cousins was on fire from deep, hitting 15-of-25 in his previous four games. He’s doing every any NBA team would want from a big man. In fact, he is arguably the most versatile big man in basketball. 

“He’s playing in space and attacking the basket and I think his 3-point percentage is pretty high in the last four games also so it becomes a kind of pick your poison deal when he’s out on the perimeter,” Kings coach Dave Joerger said. 

“He’s a tough guy to guard,” added Brad Stevens. “A good example is, in a simple pick-and-roll what do you do? Usually with guys who shoot 40 percent (from three) you switch or mix in switches. With his size it becomes a lot more difficult because he can bury you in the post. He’s a great low post scorer and a good offensive rebounder, especially against guys who are smaller. He’s a handful.”

Cousins is under contract for this season and next, averaging $17.5 million per season. Cousins is averaging 20.5 points and 10.8 rebounds in his eight-year career. That puts him in hall of fame company over the last 20 years. Only Charles Barkley, Karl Malone, Hakeem Olajuwon, Shaquille O’Neal and David Robinson have averaged 20 points and 10 rebounds for their career. 

After giving up 121 points on Wednesday to Detroit, Brad Stevens was asked before Friday’s game how comfortable he is with his team’s overall defense. 

“In the last three weeks we’ve actually been a little bit better,” Stevens said. “We were better on Wednesday than the score indicated, after I watched it. There were a few missed contests, a couple of moments in transition that were poor. But I thought it was pretty good. Detroit made great plays. Looking at it objectively with the sound off it was pretty obvious they played a hell of a game and we didn’t play quite as well. We’re focused on the things we can control. We have to shore up the rebounding. Then there’s little correctible things.”

Don’t blame the Kings if they were looking at the parquet a little suspiciously before Friday’s game. The last time they tried to play the court in Philadelphia was too wet from condensation to hold a game and the game with the Sixers had to be postponed. As a matter of fact, the Kings haven’t played since Monday when they lost in overtime at Washington, 101-95.

“We hadn’t played in two days so tried to scrimmage a little bit and keep our timing as much as possible,” Kings coach Dave Joerger said. 

Joerger also praised the play of Celtics star Isaiah Thomas, who entered play Friday averaging 26.1 points, ninth in the league.

“He’s a good player. I’m very impressed with what he’s become as a player,” Joerger said. “He plays in a lot of space because their bigs kind of invert the floor being able to step out and shoot. So they have an open court. They don’t post up a lot. They play their post-up game and scoring in the paint off of drives and playing in space.”

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Why Al Horford taking just 5 shots in a game is ‘unacceptable’ 12.01.16 at 11:14 am ET
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After Wednesday’s loss to the Pistons, the first stat that jumped out at Brad Stevens when he looked at the white piece of paper with the box score on it was in the middle of the line for his $113 million man. 

The Celtics were able to get Horford just five shots in 31 minutes of play in his first game back from becoming a father for the second time. He wasn’t tired. He just didn’t get the ball. Why?

“That’s a good question, and that’s the first thing I saw when I looked at the stat sheet,” Stevens said following a 121-114 loss to the Detroit Pistons at TD Garden. “It’s not enough. I know that. So we need to do a better job of making sure that we help put him in position to be successful.”

Jae Crowder termed five shots for his fellow big as “unacceptable,” noting the team has to find better ways for Horford to get his shots. 

Horford had one most assist (4) than shots made (3). Horford’s a great passer for a big man but that’s not what they’re paying him for. 

“Yeah that has happened before,” Horford said. “I think that I probably could’ve got more shots but at the end of the day we needed to be better on the defensive end and we just didn’t get the job done on defense.”

The last time Horford playing a full game and took so few shots was last March 4 with the Hawks on the road against the Lakers. He was 2-for-5 in 26 minutes.  

The Celtics took a stunning 42 3-point field goal attempts on the night, including 10 from Crowder (2 made) eight apiece from Marcus Smart (2) and Avery Bradley (4). Horford sensed that Detroit, with its bigs like Andre Drummond, were intent on doubling him in the post and allowing the Celtics to fire away from deep.

“It was probably the way that they were playing us a little more,” Horford said. “They would double me a lot and forcing me to pass the ball out or on the pick and pops when we’ve been able to give me the ball up top their guards were even switching that tonight. I think it was just a mixture of that. As a team we just have to make sure that we move the ball. When we have high assists usually we have good nights.”

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WEEI 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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Can the Celtics reel in Marcus Smart? Jae Crowder and Brad Stevens are working on it 11.29.16 at 8:15 pm ET
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WALTHAM — Jae Crowder could see and hear Miami coach Erik Spoestra trying an old trick Monday night to get under the skin of Marcus Smart. 

Crowder and everybody else familiar with Smart knows the third-year guard came out of Oklahoma State with a reputation for letting his intensity turn into anger and frustration, eventually leading to technical fouls or worse. 

“It’s funny because I was telling him [Monday] during the game, Spoelstra was saying, ‘He’s a hothead. He’s a hothead.’ So obviously that was part of the game plane to try to get under his skin a little bit,” Crowder said with a brotherly smile after practice Tuesday.

“A lot of teams know he wears his emotions on his sleeves so they’re going to do stuff like that. And you just have to be more cautious of it and know that it’s just a game they’re trying to play with him. I’m sure as the season goes on he’ll be more aware of it. And hopefully he gets better.”

Tired of getting hacked by Goran Dragic, Smart indeed took a technical foul when he complained about a double-foul with 2:26 left in the game. There’s clearly a fine line for Smart to walk and always has been since he came into the NBA in 2014. 

“I was begging for Spoelstra to get a technical foul because he was saying a lot of stuff. He was everywhere last night, but that’s one of the things he did say. When they went to intentional foul Marcus it was obvious that what they were trying to do was more than just foul. They were trying to get under his skin and play a little physical, and knowing he wanted to retaliate for the most part. So it’s just part of the scouting report on I guess Marcus that he wears his emotions on his sleeve.”

Crowder got his wish when Spoelstra was finally T’d up with 2:11 left as the Celtics pulled away for the 112-104 win. 

“It’s a very fine [line]. He as a person, as an individual, has to control it,” Crowder said. “We as teammates can keep being on him about it, but it’s about him and being able to control it. A lot of players and coaches in this league know he’s an emotional type of guy, so they’re going to try to do everything they can to get under his skin and in his head. But he has to want to put his pride aside and put his emotions aside for the team’s sake. And take care of business.”

Can Crowder see a maturity in Smart?

“Of course. He has not gone backwards in that regard,” Crowder said. “But he’s playing more minutes now than he was when he was a rookie. He’s playing a bigger role now, so we need him to be more locked in on that standpoint. You can’t just give away points at the free throw line on technicals and flagrants and stuff like that. So, we’ll keep pounding it in his head, and he keeps [telling] us he wants to change, so he’ll get better, hopefully.” 

Brad Stevens is also keeping a close eye on Smart’s on-court intensity. 

“I think toughness is such a critical component of a team and everybody brings their own levels of skill to the table and everything else but you have to have a competitiveness and an ability to figure out a way to win that possession,” Stevens said. “He’s able to do that on a lot of possessions.”

There’s an obvious irony to what happened Monday as it’s usually Smart and his intense defense that agitates and gets opposing players out of their game. 

“Well, he plays physical. For the most part, a lot of guys don’t like to play physical,” Crowder said. “They want an easy-flowing game and Marcus don’t play like that. That alone just gets under guys’ skin, just him playing physical and him being a presence on the basketball court with his body and his stature. A lot of players don’t like it. [Hassan] Whiteside is one of those guys who doesn’t like to play that physical. He likes to play physical as long as guys don’t play physical back with him. So, he didn’t like the foul Marcus laid on him late in the first quarter.”

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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Celtics notes: Al Horford doesn’t ‘really read into’ criticism over paternal leave, Brad Stevens has his back 11.29.16 at 4:24 pm ET
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WALTHAM — There were some who criticized Celtics star center Al Horford for taking a one-game leave of absence Monday to be with his wife for the birth of their second child, Alia. Horford clearly wasn’t bothered and had his priorities in line. 

“I don’t really read into anything. I don’t read Twitter and stuff, and the radio and all that,” Horford said after rejoining the team for practice Tuesday. “I just kind of focus on the court, on my job here, and then off the court on my family.

“Everybody has their opinion. I respect anything that anybody has to say. I care a lot about the group and our guys. For my family’s sake, it was important for me to be there for them. Just with our transition and everything. So that’s that. Now I can put that behind me and get focused again on [Wednesday] night.”

The Celtics, the team paying Horford $113 million over four seasons, made it clear Tuesday, the day after Horford missed Boston’s 112-104 win in Miami, that they had no such issues with the one-game leave. 

“I don’t know from a culture standpoint as much as it is just I think our greatest responsibilities are as sons, husbands, fathers. I think that’s your No. 1 job,” coach Brad Stevens said. “We’re thrilled for the Horfords and we’re thrilled to have Al back at practice today and be ready to go tomorrow. Obviously, family is really really important.”

Horford and former Miss Universe (2003), Amelia Vega married in 2011 and had their first child, a son named Ean Horford Vega in Feb. 2015.

“It means a lot. My family’s very important to me,” Horford said. “For me. I’m in more of a unique situation because this is our first year hear and my wife, we all moved in the middle of the pregnancy. And just a lot going on. So I just felt like it was important for me to really be there, supporting her. And we have a son as well. So for her, it’s been a lot thrown at her these past few months. So I know that it meant a lot for me to be there with her, and knowing our schedule ahead and everything. So I’m just very happy that the Celtics really take the time and they consider us not only as players but as people. And people that have families.”

And how is baby Alia?  

“Everybody’s healthy. That was the most important thing,” Horford said. “And she’s been great so far. Her and my wife, today she got released so she’s home and resting. The guys were supportive. It was hard for me but I felt like it was the right thing for me to be next to my wife. And they supported me throughout. That’s always helpful. Just excited. Everybody was happy to have me back. And I’m happy to be back here, and we can put everything behind and get looking forward ahead to [Wednesday’s] game.”

Horford did watch Monday’s game, in which Tyler Zeller started in place of Horford.

“I was able to watch it and I was just very proud with our guys, how they responded,” Horford said. “I feel like in our short season already we haven’t been fully available, all of us, through all the games. It’s just impressive to see a guy like Isaiah not making any excuses. And the list goes on. Not only Isaiah. All the other guys, but everybody just making sure they go in and they put in the work. And they don’t make excuses.

“I’m looking forward for us to keep getting better as a group. The encouraging thing is that there’s a lot of room for growth with our group. Now we have some tough tests ahead, and I’m just looking forward to get it rolling. I waited long enough throughout the summer. Now that I’m here, now we can finally really get focused on that.”

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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Full Court Press: Brad Stevens, Gregg Popovich, Bill Belichick and link 3 share, Isaiah Thomas ‘a tricky little dude’ and nasty David Lee 11.26.16 at 6:36 am ET
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Nov 25, 2016; Boston, MA, USA;  San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich yells at his players during the first half against the Boston Celtics at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

Gregg Popovich yells at his players during the first half against the Celtics at TD Garden. (Winslow Townson/USA Today Sports)

In Philadelphia, they “trust the process.” In Boston, where they are light years ahead in the NBA galaxy, it’s not the process but the system that matters.

And Brad Stevens has two mentors that have set the standard in two professional sports.

This past spring, Belichick was the guest of the Celtics and Stevens courtside at the end of the regular season and in the three home playoff games against Atlanta.

In the fall, Belichick invited Stevens to speak at his foundation’s event and said it was actually the 39-year-old Celtics coach who provided “a lot of insight” into coaching. Stevens said Belichick was very supportive and offered advice.

On Friday, one of the people Belichick respects the most in the coaching ranks, Gregg Popovich, was in town. The two have had lengthy conversations in the past about coaching and what it is to manage modern-day pro athletes. Belichick and Popovich are the two undisputed kings of coaching in their respective sports and Brad Stevens has a relationship with both.

Popovich has five rings and six NBA finals appearances with the Spurs, and Belichick has four rings and six Super Bowl appearances with the Patriots.

Now that Stevens — in his fourth NBA season — is the coach of a team with expectations to make a run into the NBA stratosphere that includes perennial power San Antonio, Friday provided a good chance for Stevens to measure up to what Popovich has built over the last 20 years in San Antonio. 

“I talk to him occasionally,” Stevens said before Friday’s matinee. “But I’ve said this before, he’s always been very kind, open and helpful whenever I’ve called or needed something. Couldn’t respect a coach or a person more.

“I just think they have a clear way of doing things with regard to every detail matters, every possession matters on both sides of the ball. They’ve always had an emphasis on skilled players, but sometimes those guys come in different positions. And they’re just outstanding at what they do.”

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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