|Jae Crowder says he will ‘push [right ankle] to the limit’ in effort to return Thursday||03.30.16 at 6:31 pm ET|
The Celtics may have their most versatile player back in uniform when they take on the Trail Blazers Thursday night at the Moda Center.
“I’m hopeful that we can get back to playing the way that we were playing when we’d been all healthy earlier this year,” coach Brad Stevens told reporters before practice.
Crowder started Boston’s first 66 games before missing the last eight with the right ankle injury. The team has played .500 ball (4-4) in those games. Crowder’s value came not just in his 15.4 points per game but consistently drawing the opposing team’s best scorer as well as providing a legitimate second scoring option behind Isaiah Thomas. In losses to teams like Oklahoma City, Toronto and the Clippers on Monday, his absence was dramatically felt.
|Brad Stevens defends (sort of) his team’s lack of defense: ‘We didn’t play with any composure’||03.29.16 at 2:35 am ET|
All effort and no execution will make for a losing formula every time on the road in the NBA.
That was certainly the case Monday as the Celtics, fighting for playoff positioning at 43-31, allowed the Clippers to shoot a scorching 58.5 percent from the field in the first half while yielding a remarkable 7-of-11 from beyond the arc. Those two stats alone allowed Los Angeles to race out to a 67-50 halftime lead.
Everyone was hitting shots in a Clippers uniform Monday night, including four players off the bench who scored in double figured and led a season-best 67-point effort.
“I don’t how you would say it’s bench or starters, but it’s depth,” Stevens said, referring to the 16 points of Austin Rivers and 15 of Jamaal Crawford. “It’s the ability to bring Evan [Turner] off and be versatile at that spot and play him and Smart together with the skilled bigs is obviously we like to do. But we haven’t been able to do it. Hey, those guys in the last few games have been pretty good off the bench. I thought certainly, today wasn’t a bench or starters thing. It was a Clippers thing. Credit goes to them.
“They deserve a lot of credit for the way they made shots, the way they made plays,” Stevens told reporters after his team’s 114-90 loss that ended a four-game win streak. “I thought any time we got close, we didn’t play with any composure to get back over the hump. Part of that has to do with being competitive and trying to hit home runs all the time when you’re trying to mount a comeback.
“We’ve got to do a better job in those situations than we did tonight. Defensively, I actually felt like, especially on the perimeter, we were pretty locked in and pretty good, for the most part. I thought they obviously made some contested shots that you’re going to have to defend and make. We missed some opportunities to challenge them at the rim with some rotations. All told, their play is the reason they won the game.”
|Doc Rivers on Paul Pierce injury scare: ‘Of course, Laker fans, they were going to bring out a wheelchair’||03.29.16 at 1:43 am ET|
Doc Rivers could laugh about it after his team’s 114-90 win over the Celtics on Monday night, but the moment Paul Pierce went down in the second quarter clutching his right knee, joking was the last thing from his mind.
With just over two minutes left in the first half, Pierce drove to his left and lifted a finger roll to the basket that fell through for two points. But Pierce fell very awkwardly. He stayed on the floor for several minutes while trainers took a close look. He got up and limped off, later being diagnosed with a sprained ankle and just a bruise on his kneecap.
“It’s his ankle, which is the good news because when he went down, I thought it was his knee,” Rivers said. “Of course, the Laker fans, they were going to bring out a wheelchair at some point. They didn’t do that so that was good. He’s going to be out for a little bit. We don’t know how long. It’s one of those things.
“When he went down, I thought it was his knee because he grabbed his knee. He said he grabbed his knee because he got kneed and he hit [the floor]. The pain was there [in knee] but he twisted his ankle.”
Of course, the incident Rivers was referring to was Game 1 of the 2008 NBA finals when Kobe Bryant drove to the basket and scored in the third quarter. Kendrick Perkins came down on Pierce’s right leg and Pierce fell on the baseline, clutching his right knee. He left in a wheelchair, only to return in Willis Reed-style later in Game 1.
Rivers was relieved to find out from his staff in the second half that the Clippers had dodged a bullet. And while he may be out for the final two weeks of the regular season, Rivers and the Clippers sounded hopeful Pierce would return by the playoffs.
“For a second, when he grabbed his knee, I definitely thought, ‘Oh boy.’ Then I’m thinking, ‘Against the Celtics.’ I was thinking, ‘No.’ It didn’t happen, so that’s good,” Rivers said.
|Studs and Duds: Defenseless Celtics can’t stop Chris Paul; Paul Pierce injuries ankle, knee||03.29.16 at 12:48 am ET|
There was no dramatic comeback this time against the Clippers. Just a mismatch.
On Feb. 10 at TD Garden, the Celtics came back late in the fourth quarter to force overtime and win, 139-134. The Clippers repeated their offensive effort but the Celtics could not keep up Monday at Staples Center in a 114-90 Clippers’ win.
Austin Rivers (16 points) and Jamaal Crawford (15) led a potent bench effort that dominated the Celtics all night. The Clippers’ bench scored a season-high 67 points and outscored Boston’s reserves, 67-37. Chris Paul had 13 points and 14 assists while DeAndre Jordan dominated the glass with 15 points and 13 rebounds. Paul also had three steals in his 26 minutes. Isaiah Thomas led the Celtics in scoring for a 13th straight game, pouring in 24 points.
In addition to seeing their four-game win streak come to an end, it was a costly loss for the Celtics in the Eastern Conference standings. The fifth-place Celtics fell to 43-31 and a half-game behind Miami (43-30) for fourth place in the East. They are now just a half-game ahead of sixth-place Charlotte (42-31) in the East.
In what could’ve been his last game against his former team, Paul Pierce escaped what appeared to be a serious knee injury when he drove to the basket for a made a finger roll layup with 2:07 left in the second quarter. He landed awkwardly on his right knee, which bent underneath him.
Pierce laid on the court for several minutes as the Clippers training staff tended to him. He got up and made his way to the locker room under his own power. He was ruled out for the rest of the game with a right knee contusion and a sprained right ankle.
Pierce was having a very solid game at the time of his injury, scoring eight points on 4-of-6 shooting, with three rebounds, two assists and a steal in 11 minutes. Clippers coach Doc Rivers was furious that no foul was called on the play and Rivers’ son Austin picked up a technical foul for continuing the argument during the injury timeout.
Thomas continued two impressive streaks. The diminutive guard has led the Celtics in scoring for 13 straight games, the best streak since Larry Bird accomplished it in 13 in a row in March 1988. In those 13 games, Thomas had also scored at least 20 points, the longest streak since Paul Pierce scored 20 or more in 16 straight games Feb. 4-March 16, 2006.
|Jae Crowder to return to practice Wednesday||03.28.16 at 3:14 pm ET|
The next step in the return of Jae Crowder will come Wednesday in Portland.
Brad Stevens told reporters Monday in Los Angeles that the Celtics’ versatile swingman, who suffered a high ankle sprain of his right foot on March 11 against Houston, will practice at the University of Portland the day before the scheduled Thursday game against the Trail Blazers.
Crowder returned to shooting drills on Wednesday before the game against the Raptors but was limited to shooting in place.
Crowder also told reporters that his hope is to return to action on Thursday but Stevens said Wednesday’s practice and Crowder’s response to it will be the guideline the team uses to determine if he’s ready to play.
Crowder started in Boston’s first 66 games, averaging 14.4 points and 5.1 rebounds, but will miss Monday’s game at Staples Center against Paul Pierce, Doc Rivers and the Clippers, marking the eighth straight game he’s been out. The Celtics have posted a 4-3 record in his absence.
|Even with shots not falling, Marcus Smart still determined to ‘find a way to impact the game’||03.27.16 at 2:10 am ET|
This might be just the second year in the NBA for 22-year-old Marcus Smart, but he’s been around long enough now to know that you don’t have to score to help your team win important games.
Saturday night was such a night for the player who right know can’t buy a shot.
Smart finished just 2-of-7 from the field and missed all five 3-point shots in Boston’s 102-99 win over the Suns in Phoenix. But he made several key hustle plays down the stretch, including one offensive rebound with four minutes left where he grabbed the ball, spun it around his back to keep it away from the defender and managed to get the Celtics another 24 seconds on the shot clock.
Smart played 32 minutes off the bench, helping to take some of load off Avery Bradley (weak from an illness and a cross-country flight Saturday). He had eight rebounds, four assists, one steal and even a blocked shot.
“My main focus is try to, even though my shot’s not falling still, find a way to impact the game,” Smart told reporters after the game. “We have a lot of guys on this team that can do a lot of things. If my shot’s not falling, I try to pick us up some other way, especially when we have guys that are knocking down shots.”
There’s been almost constant talk about Smart’s inability to score, and for good reason. In the last three games, all Celtics wins, he’s made just 4-of-26 from the field and has missed all 11 attempts from beyond the arc. But his offensive rebound and his defensive intensity are just two things he did that helped the Celtics win their fourth straight.
“Those are the things that makes Marcus special,” coach Brad Stevens said. “Sometimes those go in a box score, sometimes they don’t but he does them every game. It’s why I don’t get too caught up in the box score stuff with him. He impacts winning and tonight was a good example of that.”
|Studs and Duds: Isaiah Thomas saves Celtics from themselves, sparks win over Suns||03.27.16 at 12:39 am ET|
Three quarters was enough Saturday night. Barely.
Isaiah Thomas, who was traded from Phoenix at the trading deadline in Feb. 2015, scored 28 points while Evan Turner added 17 points and 11 rebounds as the Celtics barely held off the woeful Suns, 102-99, Saturday night at Talking Stick Resort Arena. The Suns (20-53) were led by rookie Devin Booker with 21 points.
Avery Bradley finished with 15 points, including 13 in the first half. That was particularly impressive considering he just arrived in Phoenix on Saturday after staying back in Boston with a stomach illness that kept him out of action on Thursday and Friday.
“He felt pretty good,” coach Brad Stevens said. “It’s hard to come back and play like that. I think the hardest part of today is not necessarily how he felt on Thursday but the fact that he sat on a six-hour flight and then got off the plane and played. That’s not easy. He did a good job.”
The win was crucial for the Celtics in the standings. Not only was it their fourth straight after a four-game skid, it improved them to 43-30 and kept them just a half-game behind third-place Atlanta in the East. Boston pulled a half-game ahead of idle Miami for fourth place. Charlotte (42-31) is just a game back of Boston, and in sixth place.
Saturday night appeared to be a walk in the park early, as the Celtics built a 58-41 halftime lead. Evan Turner had 15 of his 17 points in the first half and Bradley had 13 points in the first half as the Celtics led 55-34 at one point.
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