|Studs and Duds: Historically bad start sets table for another Celtics playoff loss, 0-2 hole||04.19.16 at 9:27 pm ET|
Talk about adding insult to injury.
The Celtics were embarrassed Tuesday night in epic fashion, falling behind by 21 points in the first six minutes and never fully recovering in an 89-72 loss to the Hawks in Game 2 at Philips Arena. Atlanta leads the best-of-seven series 2-0 as it shifts to Boston for Game 3 on Friday night at TD Garden.
Isaiah Thomas was ice cold at the start but finished strong and led Boston with 16 points while Amir Johnson added 14. The trio of Thomas (4-for-15), Marcus Smart (1-for-11) and Jae Crowder (1-for-8) combined to shoot just 6-for-34.
The Celtics were down by double digits for the final 44 minutes, 57 seconds, and finished just 5-for-28 from 3-point range as they desperately tried to get back in the game.
Al Horford and Kyle Korver each scored 17 for the Hawks, who are two wins away from their first playoff series win over the Celtics since the 1958 NBA Finals, when the franchise was still in St. Louis.
Already down Avery Bradley and Kelly Olynyk, the Celtics lost Smart briefly in the first 15 seconds when Kent Bazemore went up for a layup and kneed Smart in the right hip.
Smart, who started in place of Bradley, would play just six minutes in the opening quarter before leaving with Dr. Brian McKeon. He was evaluated with a hip contusion and cleared to return. In his place, Terry Rozier and R.J. Hunter struggled to help Thomas get the offense going.
|Marcus Smart starts, Kelly Olynyk (shoulder) sits out Game 2||04.19.16 at 6:41 pm ET|
Brad Stevens will have limited options as he approaches Game 2.
Kelly Olynyk will sit out to rest his right shoulder, after re-aggravating the injury from February while Marcus Smart will start tonight in place of the injured Avery Bradley.
Stevens told reporters in his pregame press conference that his decision to start Smart over Evan Turner in place of Bradley was aimed at achieving balance. It should be noted that Turner has been one of the best bench players in the NBA this season, finishing fifth in “Sixth Man” voting in results made public by the league on Tuesday.
Tuesday’s starting lineup of Smart, Isaiah Thomas, Jared Sullinger, Amir Johnson and Jae Crowder spent just over 78 minutes on the court together this season at some point. This is the sixth time the quintet has started a game, but the first time since Nov. 20. In the stretch from Nov. 13-20, they posted a 4-1 record. Ironically, the first time this group started a game together, it was against Atlanta, in a 106-93 win at TD Garden on Nov. 13.
Keeping Turner on that unit clearly played into Stevens’ decision.
“The way that Evan plays with some of the guys that are going to be off of the bench is important,” Stevens said.
In the first two of eight games Jae Crowder missed with a sprained right ankle, Stevens went with Smart in the starting lineup before turning to the bigger Turner for his scoring to replace Crowder. Losing Bradley, it’s apparent that Stevens is going with Smart’s defense.
“The bottom line is all four of those guards – and when I talk ‘all four of those guards, Isaiah (Thomas), Marcus, Jae and Evan – will all play 30-plus minutes,” Stevens said. “So we can start any three of them but they’re all going to play a lot.”
Look for Terry Rozier and R.J. Hunter to see increased playing time Tuesday if foul trouble arises.
As for who will replace Olynyk’s minutes off the bench, Jonas Jerebko is one option but Stevens suggested Tyler Zeller could see a bigger role.
“Tyler’s ability to bring an obvious energy with his rim-runs with his speed, and his ability to roll off of pick-and-rolls and create a paint threat are really important,” said Stevens. “Whether or not he touches the ball or not, just having that threat is really important.”
|Evan Turner finishes 5th in NBA ‘Sixth Man’ voting||04.19.16 at 5:29 pm ET|
Evan Turner might have a hole in his tongue when he takes the court Tuesday night in Atlanta for Game 2.
The hard-working versatile player, who spent most of the season becoming an indispensable part of Brad Stevens’ bench, took the news Tuesday very calmly that he finished fifth in NBA “Sixth Man” award.
“I don’t really have a real reaction in general,” Turner told reporters when informed of his place behind winner Jamal Crawford of the Los Angeles Clippers. “Jamal Crawford won once again. I think that’s great for the organization. I think nobody’s ever done what he did.”
Then he offered up some insight.
“I thought Enes Kanter was gonna win,” Turner said, referring to the Oklahoma City Thunder center. “[Monday] night when I was watching games I didn’t realize he had so many double-doubles. But I didn’t really expect to win in general, so fifth or first it doesn’t really obviously matter. But it’s cool to be getting that recognition and be acknowledged for that. That’s definitely cool. But right now the focus is just on playoffs.”
Crawford captured the award for a record third time, as announced Tuesday by the NBA. Turner received three first-place votes, seven second-place votes and 10 third-place votes to finish behind Crawford, Andre Iguodala (Golden State), Kanter and Will Barton (Denver). A panel of 130 sportswriters and broadcasters participated in the balloting.
While Turner didn’t light any fires, his coach Brad Stevens was a bit more opinionated.
“It’s kind of like what I said about Avery [Bradley],” Stevens said, referring to the NBA defensive player of the year award. “I can’t imagine anybody being more valuable off the bench than Evan. So, I didn’t realize that he was voted fifth-most, but we wouldn’t prefer to have anybody else at that spot. He’s been extremely valuable. He guards three positions a night, sometimes four positions. Obviously we have him with the ball all the time. He’s just had a great year and really impacted us in the last two years.”
|Brad Stevens mum on plans for Kelly Olynyk (shoulder), Evan Turner and Marcus Smart||04.19.16 at 5:06 pm ET|
Brad Stevens is a man of considerable thought and calculation.
It’s that measured approach that has taken him to 48 wins in his third season at the helm of the Celtics with the NBA’s third-youngest roster.
It’s also that approach that he’s going to rely on when determining if and how much Kelly Olynyk and his re-aggravated right shoulder will play tonight in Game 2. It’s also that thinking that will play into how Stevens plans to replace the injured Avery Bradley, who is out for Game 2 and “very likely” the rest of the series with a significant strain of his right hamstring. Will he increase the load on players like Isaiah Thomas, Jared Sullinger and Jae Crowder?
“Depends on if it’s beneficial or not,” Stevens told reporters Tuesday at Philips Arena. “I think, at the end of the game, you better have all the juice you need. I think each guy is a little bit different. We know where each guy sits with that so the better players will play, or the guys that have been more productive will play closer to what we think their max would be in such a scenario.
“We’ve got all kinds of stuff to go through. As much as anything, some of the sports science stuff, but more so the 90 games worth of data on, if a guy plays a 14-minute stint, how does he come back in the next game? If the guy plays an early stint, how does he come back? Each guy has his own set of points that we can draw from from the whole season.”
Stevens could go with Evan Turner or Marcus Smart in the starting lineup to replace Bradley, depending on matchups and needs on the court.
“I think you go through the combos in practice, you go through the stats on the different group that have played together, you go through their matchups, you go through what has looked good as far as in film against Atlanta, more so than maybe — you take that into account more so because you’ve played them five times now,” Stevens added. “And then you also go through how you’re going to rotate the second group, which is probably the most challenging part. Replacing one person in the starting lineup isn’t as much of a tinkering, it’s more the second group that it affects.”
Via MassLive’s Jay King, Turner told reporters Tuesday morning he had no idea if he were starting or not.
“I’m gonna see at shootaround I guess,” Turner said. “I don’t really pay attention. I mean I pay attention (to Stevens) but I haven’t really paid attention to (the lineup) yet. So we’ll see at shootaround. I think we’re still deciding what’s the best route to go and that’s pretty much it. Figure it out later, I guess.”
As for Olynyk and his availability?
“We’ll see how it is,” Olynyk told reporters. “See how the strength is, and just go test it. See if it’s good or not.”
|Kelly Olynyk dealing with ‘pain, discomfort’ heading into Game 2, Jae Crowder ‘not 100’ percent||04.18.16 at 4:16 pm ET|
Suddenly, the Celtics’ injury woes go well beyond Avery Bradley.
There are a number of uncertainties regarding the availabilities of the Celtics heading into Game 2 in Atlanta.
Aside from Bradley, who has been ruled out by Brad Stevens for Tuesday night, the most troubling might be the status of the C’s best 3-point shooter, Kelly Olynyk. The 7-footer re-aggravated the same (shooting) shoulder he injured on Feb. 10 against the Clippers. He missed 12 games after the All-Star break.
Olynyk missed his second straight practice Monday and is questionable for Tuesday.
“Got the impression he got aggravated the other day and he’s been dealing with it for a while, obviously, since the [initial] injury,” Stevens said. “So he’s going to sit out today and we’ll see about [Tuesday] night.”
If Olynyk can’t go, the Celtics would be without two of their top three perimeter shooters in Bradley and Olynyk.
“We’ll see. Hopefully. Probably just rest it today, see how it goes,” Olynyk said. “Just sore, pain, discomfort. I’m just trying to get it back.”
Olynyk told reporters Monday at Philips Arena he doesn’t recall exactly when he injured the shoulder but believes it happened sometime during the Game 1 loss.
“During the game you could definitely tell something wasn’t the same as it was for the start,” Olynyk said. “Hopefully just a little rest and recovery and get back out there.”
|Avery Bradley ‘very unlikely’ to return to series; Marcus Smart, Kelly Olynyk also banged up||04.17.16 at 2:35 pm ET|
The news on Avery Bradley does not sound promising for a return in the first-round series against the Hawks.
Celtics coach Brad Stevens told reporters Sunday at the team’s practice at Georgia Tech that Bradley suffered a “pretty significant” strain of his right hamstring and is “very unlikely” to return at anytime during the rest of the series.
Bradley told Stevens during the game Saturday that he heard “a pop” but told reporters after the game that he would take every type of treatment and hold out hope of returning, if not Tuesday for Game 2 then sometime during the series.
On Sunday, Stevens made it sound like that would likely take an act of God.
“Certainly very unlikely Tuesday night [for Game 2],” Stevens told reporters before practice Sunday. “As of now I would say he’s out Tuesday night. Obviously he’ll continue to get treatment around the clock and go from there.”
Bradley injured his right hamstring after going up to block a shot from Hawks guard Jeff Teague with just over six minutes left in the fourth quarter Saturday night. He came down and began to race up court when he suddenly pulled up lame.
“We’ve obviously had games without him before, and we have to have other guys step up,” Stevens continued. “I think the biggest challenge is that we’re playing small anyways. So you might have to go even deeper into that, which is OK.”
|Avery Bradley on Celtics’ big holes: ‘We have to get out of that pattern’||04.17.16 at 12:04 am ET|
Long before coming out of Saturday’s game with a strained right hamstring, Avery Bradley watched as his Celtics teammates continued a troubling trend.
They fell behind by 19 points in the first half and trailed by 17 at halftime, 51-34.
The stats were beyond ugly. They made just 12-of-51 shots for 23.1 percent. They were 2-for-16 from 3-point range. They had three players in foul trouble as Jared Sullinger, Amir Johnson and Marcus Smart all had two fouls. The Hawks by contrast were doing everything they wanted in the first six minutes of the game. Inside, outside and in between.
The Celtics were getting beaten to loose balls and Atlanta was ahead 26-8 in the paint. The Celtics were outscored 30-19 in the first quarter Saturday. That’s an improvement from Wednesday when they trailed 35-13 and from the second quarter on Monday when they were throttled by Charlotte, 39-13, in the second quarter.
“I feel like we dig a hole for ourselves,” Bradley said. “We have to get out of that pattern. I feel like if we’re able to do that, the series would be a lot different. The game would’ve been a lot different. I feel like we would’ve given ourselves a better chance throughout this entire game if we started out this game a little better.”
What did their coach think?
“We’re going to have to knock down some more shots, obviously,” Brad Stevens said. “I think at halftime we were even talking, we felt like we attacked them better in the first half than they we did last week when we scored 71 [in the first half]. We just missed a lot of open ones. We’re going to eventually have to knock those down because that’s part of what we’re going to have to get on all those rotations and extra passes. They’re pretty active at the rim against us.”
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