|Isaiah Thomas: Making playoffs would mean ‘everything’||04.13.15 at 8:49 am ET|
With the playoffs just a win away, Isaiah Thomas can sense a dream finally coming true.
Thomas has been a key spark to the Celtics improbable run to the postseason, and he was again Sunday. As the Celtics raced out to a 9-0 lead, a cakewalk seemed likely.
But the Cavaliers, playing without LeBron James, Kyrie Irving, Kevin Love and JR Smith, actually made a 18-4 run and the Celtics were back on their heels. Enter Thomas. His energy and drive to the basket turned the Celtics back in the right direction and the Celtics outscored Cleveland, 34-9, in the second quarter. Game over.
“Just how locked in,” Thomas said of the second quarter. “What we’re trying to do is get to the playoffs so coach [Brad Stevens] said we were a very mature team, for 48 minutes. That’s a good thing.”
Thomas had a big impact with his 17 points off the bench Sunday. But he couldn’t control what happened in Indianapolis as the Pacers stayed alive with a win over Oklahoma City. So, Thomas had to wait another two days to celebrate his first playoff berth. If the Celtics can beat the Raptors Tuesday night at TD Garden, Thomas and the Celtics won’t have to worry about what the Pacers do against Washington.
“It’s everything,” said Thomas, who has toiled four years for the Kings and Suns. “In my NBA career I haven’t been to the playoffs so it’s something that I want to experience. I heard it’s fun, it’s exciting and it’s a new season. Once you make the playoffs, everybody’s 0-0 and it’s a new season so I’m excited about it, hopefully we do get it.
“We’ve just been trying to lock in and focus in on what we’re trying to do which is get to the playoffs. Staying in the moment, taking every day by day, game by game, and like I said, really focusing in on what we’re trying to do.”
Thomas is one of several Celtics who have fed off the mindset of Brad Stevens. The coach has drilled into his team the importance of not looking beyond the next game. It’s worked.
“He’s just laid back, you try to feed off of him as much as possible but he’s so even-keeled, you can’t really read his mind,” Thomas said. “He’s just always about staying in the moment, no matter what it is, good or bad, stay in the moment, don’t think about the future or the past, have a short memory. That’s one thing coach is very, very positive with.
“Your coach is your leader, basically. You look to him for advice, for confidence, things like that. He’s so even-keeled that he’s at the same [point], he’s never too high, never too low. That’s a great thing to have, everybody’s not like that.”
|How triple-double machine Evan Turner has found his groove with Celtics||04.02.15 at 11:05 am ET|
The small forward/point guard has three career triple doubles, all coming since Feb. 26. The player the Celtics thought could bring a dynamic force to the offense has arrived just in time for the Celtics’ playoff push.
In a team-leading 35 minutes Wednesday, Turner had 13 points, 11 rebounds and 12 assists in a 100-87 win over the Pacers. What’s becoming very clear is that Turner feels very comfortable with the ball in his hand and the team trusts running their offense through the fifth year player out of Ohio State.
“I think I’m getting used to, obviously the system, the personnel’s pretty good, we’re making shots and I think when we execute we’re really tough to beat,” Turner said. “It’s not me having the rock in my hand that’s just a team thing, a unit thing.”
Instead of running the entire offense through either Marcus Smart or Isaiah Thomas, Brad Stevens has decided to let Evan Turner run the offense to get a better feel of things. Though not taking credit for the move, Stevens can see the difference in Turner’s game, and his production.
‘It’s not anything to do with me,” Stevens said. “I think the one thing is he plays in a line-up where he has the ball a lot, and he’s probably never had the ball that much before, as far as playing the point. You know, Marcus can play the point when they’re in together as starters, but even today, Isaiah was in with both Evan and/or Marcus and we put Isaiah off the ball a little bit because that stretches your defense. Read the rest of this entry »
|Brad Stevens avoids talking playoffs: ‘Nothing is more important than the next game in our world’||04.02.15 at 10:06 am ET|
Maybe it’s superstition or maybe it’s just part of sending a message. But Brad Stevens didn’t mention the word playoffs once in his post-game press conference Wednesday after a 100-87 win over the Pacers that keeps his Celtics right in the hunt for the final two postseason spots in the East.
The way Stevens talked made it feel like he wants his team focused only on the here-and-now, knowing that any slip up in focus on the game at hand will likely cost them any chance of advancing to the playoffs for the first time in his two-year NBA coaching career.
“All 82 count the same,” Stevens said. “That’s kind of the way I’ve always looked at it. Every game carries equal weight and equal importance. Obviously because of the hole we dug, we’ve been fighting uphill all year. It adds more importance at the time but nothing is more important than the next game in our world, and we have to keep it that way.”
As Stevens was talking, the Nets were hanging on for a 100-98 win over the Knicks that kept them a half game ahead of the Celtics for the eighth and final playoff spot. The game-by-game approach should come in handy as the Celtics have LeBron James and the Cavaliers and the division-leading Raptors twice apiece in the final two weeks.
“At the same time, as we enter these last couple of weeks, it’s so very important to stay in the moment and take advantage of every day and focus again on the things we can control,” said Stevens. “If we get to the point where you play beyond that, maybe I’ll feel differently. Maybe this feels a little bit more like late February than the NCAA tournament.”
The Celtics have shown in their last two games the ability to do something that was sorely lacking for much of the season: the ability to close out. On Monday, the Celtics found a way to pull away from the Hornets in the final minutes and hang on for a valuable road win. On Wednesday, the Celtics led 77-71 with 8:23 left in the fourth. They went on a 17-7 run in the next four minutes to put the game away.
“The effort was really good,” Stevens said. “We talked about it before the Charlotte game; we have to play with a defensive DNA. And the last two games we have. But you know it’s one of those things like, you don’t now all of a sudden it’s not part of who we are; we have to make it part of who we are every day and that’s got to continue to be the emphasis. And I think that’s a good emphasis to have, because you’re focused only on what you can control and nothing else.”
That focus needs to continue at home on Friday against another desperate Eastern team with playoff aspirations, the Milwaukee Bucks, at TD Garden. They’ll be no talk of playoffs then, either.
|Kelly Olynyk proves he’s as tough as any hockey player||04.02.15 at 9:34 am ET|
Too bad Kevin Garnett never played with Kelly Olynyk.
Garnett, one of the most fierce competitors in recent Celtics lore, would’ve been proud to watch how Olynyk handled himself Wednesday night. The second-year swing man out of Gonzaga insisted on playing with his left eye shut thanks to a pregame accidental elbow from teammate Shav Randolph.
Good thing since Olynyk made seven of his 10 shots, including 3-of-4 from 3-point range, scoring 19 off the bench in a 100-87 win over the Pacers that keeps Boston right in the mix of race for the final two playoff spots in the East.
“It didn’t affect me a lot except I couldn’t see that well from that eye,” Olynyk said. “I felt good, we played well as a team, moved the ball, got open looks from the start and just got rolling.”
“I gave him no hope of playing,” marveled Tyler Zeller, who matched Olynyk’s team-high 19 points. “He looked like he just got out of a boxing fight. I was impressed with his ability to go out and play and be able to produce like he did. He couldn’t have been able to see out of that eye so he did a great job of playing through it.”
What was particularly amazing was how his teammates, realizing he had the hot hand with just one eye, kept feeding him the ball. His three-ball with 3:53 left in the fourth quarter was the perfect capper on the night, extending the Celtics‘ lead out to 16, 94-78.
“[Tuesday] night I went in the gym and got a lot of shots up, just kind of repped it out and just felt really good,” Olynyk said. “I was feeling good, before the game I was feeling good even after I got hit, I came back out and tried it out so I knew I was going to have a good one.”
|Brad Stevens has no regrets about putting game in hands of Evan Turner||03.23.15 at 11:06 am ET|
Brad Stevens is obviously a historian of buzzer-beaters.
His Butler Bulldogs almost pulled out the most dramatic last-second shot in NCAA tournament history when Gordon Hayward’s bank shot from half-court went off the front rim and out in the 2010 NCAA tournament final.
More recently, he’s seen Evan Turner do the trick for and against his team many times. There was the game-winner against his Celtics for the Sixers last season at TD Garden in a 95-94 Philly win. Later that season, Turner did it again against the Nets. That late-game magic may have been one of the reasons Danny Ainge wanted to bring Turner to Boston this season.
It’s worked pretty well. Three times this season, he’s beaten the buzzer at the end of regulation. Twice it won games, and once it sent the game into overtime. Against two of the top teams in the NBA, it provided the winning margin, as the Celtics beat the Trail Blazers and Hawks this season.
So naturally, with Sunday’s game against the Pistons tied, 88-88, at the end of regulation, Stevens looked to ET for another otherworldly end to a game.
“We just wanted to do a little misdirection for Evan to drive and let him create space,” Stevens said. “I thought if he gets that shot off, that’s his shot. I felt good about it to be honest, it didn’t end well because it got knocked out of his hand or maybe it even slipped out of his hand; I haven’t seen the replay. I thought he had separation and I thought he was going to get a good look and when the clock was winding down I felt pretty good about our chances.”
As it turned out, fate was not on Boston’s side Sunday night. Turner couldn’t get a clean shot off because he could never get a grip.
“Part of the ball just slipped out of my hand and I knew Reggie [Jackson] was going to try and contest it. I tried to put a little arc on my shot. When I came up with it, it just slipped. He drew up a good play. Kelly did what he was supposed to do down there. I felt confident but the ball slipped. I felt confident going to the right baseline and doing a pull-up. I’ve done that shot a million times but unfortunately the ball slipped and we couldn’t [regroup].”
|Evan Turner says Marcus Smart ‘owes us one’ after missing Sunday with suspension||03.23.15 at 1:43 am ET|
Marcus Smart may insist that his shot to the groin of Matt Bonner Friday night was an accident. But the NBA didn’t see it that way. His coach didn’t see it that way and, as it turns out, his teammates didn’t exactly see it that way.
His teammates, who have found Smart to be a fiercely loyal and hard-working colleague in the NBA trenches, had to take the court Sunday night against an inferior Pistons team in a game the Celtics needed at home. But due to his one-game suspension for Friday’s inopportune low blow, he was not available.
The Celtics blew a pair of 10-point leads in the second half and lost in overtime, 105-97, to the Pistons.
How will Smart respond tonight in Brooklyn?
“I don’t know,” answered Evan Turner, who scored a team-high 23 points, with six rebounds and eight assists. “I’m not in Marcus’ head. Obviously, as a team, he owes us one. I think we’re all motivated.”
Gerald Wallace made it clear after the game, in a speech to his younger teammates, that everyone needs to focus better in the final 13 games. Wallace is pretty sure Smart will be on board when he returns against the Nets.
“I’m pretty sure he’ll be competitive,” Wallace said. “I know he’ll be ready to play. Questioning his spirit is never a question for me.”
|Gerald Wallace calls a players-only meeting: ‘We gave this game away’||03.23.15 at 1:33 am ET|
Gerald Wallace played just 12 minutes and scored just two points in Boston’s dreadful 105-97 overtime loss Sunday night to the Pistons at TD Garden.
But what he told the team afterward could prove to be his most important contribution. The Celtics were coming off two losses in Oklahoma City and San Antonio but appeared back on track when they went up 10 points twice in the third quarter.
But the Pistons got hot in the fourth quarter to tie the game and the Celtics went ice cold in overtime. The result the Celtics fell to 30-39 and out of playoff position in the Eastern Conference. The Celtics are now tied with the Pacers in the East, each team a half game behind the 30-38 Charlotte Hornets for the eighth and final spot.
It was time for the 32-year-old Wallace to speak to his teammates.
“I told the guys that we have to more serious because giving away games like this or losing games like this, we don’t have the length of the schedule [remaining] to kind of make up games,” Wallace said. “Every game counts right now. We have to take it one game at a time and take care of those games.”
What was the reaction to Wallace’s message?
“I think everybody understood by the way everybody felt,” Wallace said. “They kind of felt this loss. They know that we weren’t supposed to lose this game. We already had two tough games on the road. Coming home, with the way our schedule is, this was a game we had to win, we needed to win. I think they understand we gave this game away and we have to take advantage of them.
“We have  games left. Probably out of those 13 games, nine or 10 of those games are [against] playoff teams or teams that are fighting us for that playoff position. They’re competing and they’re fighting just as hard as we are. We’ve got to understand that we just can’t anticipate just showing up and expecting to win the ballgame.”
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