|Celtics open playoffs Saturday night in Atlanta, home games April 22, 24||04.14.16 at 12:07 pm ET|
Saturday night is all right for the Celtics.
The NBA announced its full first-round playoff schedule early Thursday morning, and the league has the No. 5 Celtics and the No. 4 Hawks opening their Eastern Conference series in Atlanta on Saturday night at 7 p.m. on ESPN.
Game 2 will be Tuesday at 7 p.m. before the series shifts to Boston for Games 3 and 4 next Friday (April 22) at 8 p.m. and Sunday (April 24) at 6 p.m.
Game 5 would be Tuesday, April 26, in Atlanta. Game 6 is set for Thursday, April 28, in Boston. If the series goes the limit, Game 7 would be Saturday, April 30, in Atlanta.
The Celtics and Hawks have met 11 times in the postseason, with Boston winning 10 of the 11 series. The only time the Hawks came out on top was in the 1958 NBA Finals, when the franchise was in St. Louis.
The most recent meeting was in 2012, when Boston prevailed in six games.
The two teams have had their epic moments, most notably in 1988, when Larry Bird outdueled Dominique Wilkins in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference semifinals and in Game 7 in 2008, when the Celtics avoided a monumental upset as the No. 1 seed, on their way to a 17th NBA title.
As for the defending NBA champion and record 73-game winners, the Warriors, they open the playoffs on Saturday afternoon in Oakland against the Rockets. The first of four games Saturday features the No. 7 seed Pacers traveling to Toronto to take on the No. 2 Raptors.
|Mike Petraglia, Sam Packard talk Celtics epic comeback, what it means to face Hawks||04.14.16 at 12:37 am ET|
WEEI.com’s Mike Petraglia and Sam Packard discuss how the Celtics were able to execute the greatest comeback in the NBA this season on the season’s final night. The Celtics trailed by 26 points to the Heat at one point in the first half before turning on the defensive jets in the second half, limiting the Heat to five points in the third quarter on 2-of-20 shooting. The defense continued in the fourth quarter, as the Heat managed just 21 points. The Celtics outscored Miami 60-26 in the second half to post a 98-88 win and finish with a 48-34 record. They finished in a four-way tie with the Heat, Hawks and Hornets and by virtue of that tie, they finish as the No. 5 seed and will open the playoffs in Atlanta this weekend. Games 3 and 4 will be back in Boston.
|Avery Bradley on facing Hawks: ‘I think it’s good for us’||04.14.16 at 12:27 am ET|
The guesswork is over.
The No. 5 seed Celtics will be playing the No. 4 Hawks in the first round of the playoffs.
“I think it’s good for us, for our sake we get to play them again especially how, our performance the last time,” Avery Bradley said. “We played them there in Atlanta, gives us a chance to go back and play the way we did [Wednesday].”
Well, at least in the second half Wednesday.
The Celtics were a no-show for 24 minutes on Wednesday night before outscoring the Heat 25-5 in the third quarter and getting themselves back in the game with intense defense.
The Hawks team they will be facing beat them three of four times in the regular season, including this past Saturday, when the Celtics couldn’t hold a late 87-75 lead. In that game, they were outscored 43-20 down the stretch and lost by 11, 118-107.
“Well, obviously Atlanta’s really good,” Brad Stevens said. “Atlanta’s beaten us three out of four times and they’ve got some tough matchups. They’re a good basketball team. A really good basketball team. And so we’ll have our hands full. We’re looking forward to competing against them, we’re looking forward to preparing for them.
“And so, as far as [Wednesday], we just had to decide that we were going to play differently, and we were going to get back to being ourselves a little bit. That didn’t mean that we were going to make every shot, turn them over, or they were going to miss open shots, but it meant that we were going to, you know, compete at a different level than we were.”
|Isaiah Thomas wins Red Auerbach Award, tells fans ‘We’re going to need you for a deep run in playoffs’||04.13.16 at 9:12 pm ET|
Isaiah Thomas accepts annual Red Auerbach award pic.twitter.com/ywnAYB04he
— Mike Petraglia (@Trags) April 14, 2016
The only highlight in the first half Wednesday actually came before tipoff when Isaiah Thomas was awarded the 11th annual “Red Auerbach Award” – given annually to the player who embodies the spirit of the Celtics.
After accepting the award, he gave a brief speech to the fans.
“We want to thank you for all your support. We’re going to need you for a deep run in the playoffs,” Thomas said.
The Celtics then proceeded to go out and lay a 24-minute “egg” against the Heat, falling behind by as much as 26 in the first half and trailing, 62-38 at the half.
Apparently, the Celtics were humiliated to the point that they had no where else to go but up. They outscored Miami, 37-7, to open the second half, holding the Heat to five points in the third quarter, their best defensive effort of the year.
The Celtics outscored the Heat, 60-26, in the second half to complete the largest comeback in the NBA this season, with a 98-88 win. However, with the Hawks losing to the Wizards in Washington, the Celtics finish with the No. 5 seed and start the playoffs on the road in Atlanta this weekend against the No. 4 Hawks.
Despite blowing the 26-point lead in the second quarter, the Heat, by virtue of the four-way tie at 48-34, with their division and seal the No. 3 seed. They will face the No. 6 seed Hornets.
|Brad Stevens on playoff picture: ‘Biggest thing is getting back to playing with aggression’||04.13.16 at 7:32 pm ET|
For all the fret and worry over playoff scenarios, there’s one variable Brad Stevens is counting on: Togetherness.
It’s what the Celtics coach felt was missing the most on Monday night in the 114-100 loss to Charlotte at TD Garden. And it’s exactly what needs to be on display not only in the season finale against Miami but heading into the playoffs.
“I think no matter what, obviously we could win and not finish with home-court advantage,” Stevens said before Wednesday’s game with Miami. “We could win and finish with home-court advantage. I think the biggest thing is getting back to playing with the aggression and the spirit that we’ve played with in the past that has got us to this point. We didn’t play with that on Monday, so that’s really been my focus. All of these scenarios and that stuff, I can’t keep up with it.”
Stevens was still able to joke about Monday’s loss.
“When I was 17, I went and visited one of those people that tell you what you’re going to do with your life and they said you’re going to be an actuary or a basketball coach and I chose coaching,” Stevens said. “It’s probably a good thing because those numbers were spinning in my head when I look at them for five minutes.”
An actuary is defined on a Google search as “a business professional who analyzes the financial consequences of risk.” They use mathematics, statistics, and financial theory to study uncertain future events, especially those of concern to insurance and pension programs.
“I guess on Monday night I was thinking, man, there are probably a lot of people thinking he’d be better off being an actuary. I guess time will tell.”
|How important is home court for Celtics? Maybe not as important as you think||04.12.16 at 8:59 pm ET|
WALTHAM — This has been an odd year for the Celtics on their home court.
They started off 9-10 on the parquet. They suffered humiliating losses to the likes of the Lakers and Brooklyn back-to-back to open the new calendar year.
Then they went on a 14-game win streak, the longest in the 20-year history of TD Garden. They fell back to earth with a thud when they lost at home to schizophrenic Rockets, which preceded a blowout loss to Kevin Durant and the Thunder, a game they trailed by 30 at one point. The rebounded with four straight at home before losing a stinker Monday night to Charlotte, inexplicably getting outscored 39-13 in the third quarter.
All of this leads to one simple question: Will home court, if they earn it Wednesday night against the Heat, really be a factor for the Celtics when the playoffs start this weekend?
“So I’m not going to concern myself with things I can’t control, again,” coach Brad Stevens said in a classic, pleasant-sounding misdirection of a reply. “Hey, I think no matter what, in the playoffs, you can’t be a dud on the road and expect to win a playoff series. And you can’t be good but inconsistent at home and expect to win a playoff series. You just have to play well in the games that you have.
“Again, these guys, our team, as bitter a taste as we may feel from last night, has put ourselves in a great position all year with their play. These guys have really done a lot of good things. And we’ll look forward to playing whoever we play, wherever we play, when that time comes.”
|Brad Stevens doesn’t plan to rest anyone with No. 4 seed on line Wednesday vs. Heat||04.12.16 at 2:46 pm ET|
WALTHAM — The mere thought of playoff scenarios just gives Brad Stevens an ice cream headache.
The Celtics coach had enough on his plate Tuesday before practice digesting what exactly went wrong Monday night and trying to install changes in film and practice to make sure they don’t have a repeat on Wednesday night against Miami in the regular-season finale at TD Garden.
In short, if the 47-34 Celtics win, they wrap up the No. 4 seed and home-court advantage, barring a three-way tie with Miami and Atlanta. If the Heat lose to the Pistons on Tuesday night, that possibility is out the door since the Celtics would pass Miami in the standings with a win and finish No. 4.
If the Celtics lose, they are staring at a No. 5 or 6 seed.
“I think my level of concern or the amount of thoughts that are going through my head are probably the same regardless of the outcome,” Stevens said Tuesday. “I’m interested to see how we respond. This has been a good group as far as responding goes.”
And the playoffs?
“I’m interested to see how we respond to last night’s game today,” Stevens said before Tuesday’s practice. “Then, certainly [Wednesday]. Then, hey, no matter how this stuff all shakes itself out, which, somebody just put on my desk all the scenarios and I said, ‘Would you mind throwing that away?’ Like, it’s a headache to even try to figure out. We’re playing the three teams that we may play in the last three games. I thought we learned a lot of things that we can do well against Atlanta that maybe we haven’t done as well in the past.
“I thought last night we just got killed in that eight-minute stretch and we can take from that. We’ll see how we play tomorrow. Certainly, you’ve got to focus on the things that you can control, and that’s going to continue to stay the same.”
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