|Avery Bradley, Tyler Zeller making believers of themselves, others||03.17.15 at 11:09 am ET|
With winning comes confidence. With confidence late in the season comes expectation. And these Celtics are talking and acting like a team that expects to make a run to the Eastern Conference playoffs with 16 games left in their season.
Avery Bradley is one of only three players left from the last Celtics team to make the playoffs just two seasons ago. He, Brandon Bass and Shav Randolph were all on the 2013 team that lost in six games to the Knicks.
When the Celtics were 20-33 this season and headed for another seemingly dead end to the season, could he picture his teammates making an improbable run to the postseason?
“For sure, I saw that we were improving every single game and I knew we would have a chance if we set our mind to it and started [believing] in our [potential] and that’s what we were doing. We never thought we didn’t have a chance to make the playoffs. Now we’re right there.”
Indeed, after Monday’s 108-89 blowout of the hapless Sixers, the Celtics are definitely in the mix. While technically ninth and on the outside looking in due to their 18-21 record in the East, they are tied with the Pacers and Heat for seventh in the East with a 30-36 record.
Monday, the Celtics came in focused, even in shootaround, determined not to let a game against the 15-51 Sixers stand in their way of their first five-game win streak under Brad Stevens. They outscored Philly 38-18 in the first quarter and it wasn’t a game after that.
“It’s hard, especially when you come in at halftime up by 20 and your coach might say, ‘let’s go out there and continue to play hard,’ you get a little nervous,” Bradley said. “You start thinking once you get back out there on the floor and that’s one thing we didn’t do. Even though they were scoring we continued to execute our plays on both ends of the floor and it helped us continue to have a 20 point lead.”
When the Celtics, who shot 67 percent in the first quarter, looked inside, there was Tyler Zeller leading the way. He found his comfort zone and poured in a career-high 26 points.
“I don’t know, I mean the shots fell down,” Zeller said. “Jump shot felt really good and then they kept leaving me open so I just kept shooting it. Once again my teammates do a great job of getting me the ball on time and it makes it a lot easier.”
Road games against teams like Oklahoma City and San Antonio can be intimidating for young teams in transition. But that’s not the way these Celtics are looking at Wednesday and Friday. It’s a chance to show how much fun they’re having chasing an improbable playoff spot.
“It’s a lot of fun,” Zeller said. “The whole year we’ve been changing, I think Danny’s done a great job putting together the team that we’ve got. We’ve been playing with different players every night and finally have a team where we’ve settled in, playing with the same players every night and it’s fun to go to battle that way. We do a great job of playing hard and playing together.”
|Brad Stevens insists he hasn’t ‘once’ heard his team talking about playoffs||03.17.15 at 10:15 am ET|
With Monday’s 108-89 dispatch of the lowly 76ers, the Celtics had posted their first five-game win streak since the Doc Rivers era. They are 30-36, heading into a two-trip across the heartland, beginning with a game against the red-hot Oklahoma City Thunder on Wednesday and ending with a game against the defending champion Spurs in San Antonio Friday night.
They are tied with Miami and Indiana for seventh in the East but technically would not make the cut right now because of their 18-21 record against the East. Indiana would be seventh by virtue of its 22-18 mark while Miami is eighth with a conference record of 20-20.
With all the newfound excitement abound, Stevens was asked if he’s hearing the team talking about the playoff race
“I don’t know. I haven’t heard them talk about it once,” Stevens insisted. “I’m dead serious. I mean, we’ve talked about it, we’ve seen the standings, like you see it but I don’t hear it. I have not hear them say whoever Miami’s playing today, or who’s Charlotte playing today? They haven’t talked about it around me; maybe they are, I don’t know.
“But I just want to play good basketball and I think our guys just want to play good basketball, and I think as a result you have a lot more fun when you spray the ball around the way we’re spraying it around and when you’re competing together and pulling for one another and five guys playing together on a string defensively. And we’re still not as good as we need to be, even with ‘ I think our team that’s out there right now without Isaiah can play better. And you know, we’re going to need to play better in the next two games to have a chance to win.”
|5 things we learned as Celtics show right kind of fight in win over Heat||03.09.15 at 10:14 pm ET|
This time the Celtics showed they could take a punch.
Isaiah Thomas scored a team-high 25 points off the bench, including 12 in the final quarter, while Brandon Bass added 14 as the Celtics closed out strong in a 100-90 road win over the Miami Heat in a critical matchup for the final two playoff spots in the Eastern Conference.
The Celtics improved to 26-36 while the Heat fell to 28-35. With Charlotte (28-34) getting blown out at home by Washington, 95-69, the Celtics now trail Charlotte and Indiana by just two games for the final two spots in the East. Miami, led by Dwyane Wade‘s 34 points, is now just a half-game ahead of Boston for ninth place.
Heat big man Hassan Whiteside threw a elbow to the back of Kelly Olynyk as Olynyk was trying to get in position for a defensive rebound late in the third quarter and was ejected, like Marcus Smart was the night before in Orlando.
The ejection was the part of a key 15-1 run by the Celtics at the end of the quarter that gave the Celtics a 73-64 lead heading into the final quarter.
Evan Turner and Henry Walker exchanged shoves with 26 seconds left in the game and both were ejected. The shoves were very mild but the officials took no chances as the game was in hand. The Celtics take two of three on the road trip and now play host to Memphis Wednesday night at TD Garden.
For a complete box score, click here.
ANOTHER GOOD START
The Celtics raced out to a 24-19 lead after 12 minutes thanks to good defense. As was the case the night before in Orlando, the Celtics showed the ability to defend in the paint, holding the Heat to 9-of-21 shooting from the floor.
|Celtics rule out Avery Bradley for New Orleans with left elbow sprain||03.05.15 at 4:37 pm ET|
The Celtics backcourt just became a little less crowded.
The team announced on Twitter, prior to their trip to New Orleans Thursday, that Avery Bradley did not make the trip and would be out against the Pelicans Friday night when they open a three-game road trip.
Bradley will miss the contest with a sprained left elbow, suffered Wednesday night during the first quarter of their win over the Jazz. After briefly exiting to the locker room, he returned, donned a black arm sleeve and finished with 13 points, seven rebounds and three assists. He played 36 minutes but still appeared to favor the left arm, as he did when he initially left late in the first quarter.
The Celtics announced Thursday afternoon on Twitter that Bradley did not travel to New Orleans with his team. The tweet included no word on whether he could potentially meet up with his teammates before the end of their three-game road trip.
Isaiah Thomas and Marcus Smart combined to help the Celtics set a new franchise record for fewest turnovers (3) in a game and figure to make up the slack until Bradley returns. Thomas, as he did on Wednesday, has been coming off the bench to provide a scoring spark. It’s not clear if he will continue in that role or replace Bradley in the starting lineup. Smart started the 16th game of his rookie season on Wednesday.
Avery Bradley Injury Update: He will not travel with team to New Orleans today for tomorrow night’s game. He’s out with a left elbow sprain.
|Report: JaVale McGee deal to Celtics falls apart||03.05.15 at 2:27 pm ET|
Put all those “Shaqtin A Fool” parties on hold for now.
According to Steve Bulpett of the Boston Herald, big man JaVale McGee will not be coming to Boston after all. Bulpett reported Thursday afternoon that his representative and the Celtics could not come to an agreement on a contract.
As a result, McGee remains a free agent center available for any team to scoop him up.
Earlier Thursday, Jeff Goodman of ESPN reported the Celtics and McGee were all but set on a deal that would land him in Boston as the Celtics try to make a stretch run for a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. Danny Ainge confirmed that report on the team’s flagship station before Bulpett’s report Thursday that the deal fell through.
Goodman later reported that the deal broke down when McGee, and his representative Arn Tellem, wanted a player option for next season while Ainge insisted on a team option, likely based on what the Celtics saw from him the rest of this season.
The 7-foot, 270-pound center started this season, his seventh in the NBA, with the Nuggets. On trade deadline day, Feb. 19, he was sent packing, along with the rights to Chukwudiebere Maduabum and a 2015 first-round pick to Philadelphia, where he was waived on March 1 after appearing in just six games.
McGee, still just 27, has shown glimpses over his career of being a dominating offensive big man. In the 2012 playoffs, which was his first playoff appearance in his career, McGee scored 21 points in Game 5 of a first-round series against the Lakers. McGee’s numbers were up and down throughout the series, including Game 7, when he scored just six points on 1-for-7 shooting in 32 minutes. But on July 18, 2012, McGee re-signed with the Nuggets on a four-year, $44 million contract, which included a $12 million salary for 2015-16.
It’s likely the McGee wanted a guaranteed option for next season after the Sixers waived him and the Celtics would not approach the $12 million McGee was originally scheduled to make.
McGee’s 2013’14 season was ended on Feb. 20, 2014 when he underwent surgery to repair a stress fracture in his left tibia, initially injured at the start of the 2013-14 season.
JaVale McGee will NOT be coming to the Celtics. The sides couldn’t reach agreement on a contract.
‘ Steve Bulpett (@SteveBHoop) March 5, 2015
|Marcus Smart, Isaiah Thomas shine as Celtics set new record for ball-handling||03.05.15 at 12:52 pm ET|
The Celtics certainly were not perfect Wednesday night. They shot miserably from the floor (33-of-88) and from the line (11-of-20).
But when you commit just three turnovers the entire game leading to zero points for the opposition, your margin of error is as wide as the Grand Canyon they couldn’t find with a jump shot. Or, at least, it should be.
The Celtics set a new franchise record for fewest turnovers in a game (3) since the NBA started keeping such records in the 1970-71 season. Think about that. That covers a period that included Jo Jo White, Tiny Archibald, Dennis Johnson and Rajon Rondo. Never had a Celtics team taken such meticulous care of the rock than they did Wednesday night in the heart-pounding 85-84 win.
“You only end up the game with three turnovers, you should win the game,” Marcus Smart said. “That’s what we did. We turned the ball over a lot against [Cleveland]. We just wanted to come out and be strong with it and execute on the offensive and defensive end.”
Added Isaiah Thomas, “That was great. We were decisive, we played with energy and we made the right plays for the most part.”
The Celtics committed just eight turnovers against Golden State on Sunday night and should’ve won the game, but fell apart down the stretch offensively while not getting any transition stops.
“That’s one of our five things that we have made a big deal for our team and moving forward,” coach Brad Stevens said. “We went into the game eighth in the league in turnover percentages, which is good, and last time we allowed Utah back in the game because we threw the ball all over their gym and almost lost that game there. So we placed a huge priority on it, but it helps to have Isaiah handling the ball because he’s a hard guy to get it from.”
|Brad Stevens shows his smarts in diagramming game-winning play||03.05.15 at 10:58 am ET|
If there was one person in the building not surprised by the brilliant adjustment made by Celtics coach Brad Stevens on the game-winning inbounds play from Marcus Smart Wednesday night, it was Gordon Hayward.
He was, of course, a star player for Stevens at Butler University when the Bulldogs went to back-to-back national title games, losing to Duke and UConn. Hayward was also the man who scored what appeared to be the game-winning basket with 1.7 seconds left, giving Utah an 84-83 lead.
Then the Celtics called timeout. They wanted Smart to inbound the ball. But the rookie was having all sorts of problems getting the ball in. Another timeout. Then Stevens diagrammed a play to get the look that would free Tyler Zeller at the rim, if Smart could get the ball in.
“They switched the play before when Marcus couldn’t get it inbounded with Hayward and (Derrick) Favors,” Stevens said. “So, we wanted to try to get that switch again, so we just ran a little action to get that switch again and then (Rudy) Gobert was on the ball so he wasn’t at the rim. So we were hoping to slip and catch it a little bit cleaner and lay it in, but, you know, that was the goal – and it ended up being Ok.”
Was Stevens surprised that Gobert was on the ball?
“That’s a hard call, and I think that with Marcus Smart taking it out and Gobert on the ball it’s hard to deliver a good pass,” Stevens said.”If Gobert tips it the game’s basically over, unless it tips right to us. So it’s easy to second-guess that stuff, but I won’t because I saw how long Marcus had to throw over just to get the pass to where it was. It’s another reason why we had to throw the ball in the air, though.”
“Coach Stevens drew up a great play,” Smart added. “The first play was supposed to go to Jae Crowder, Utah played it very well and he came back with the counterattack. It was tough, they put a tall defender on the ball and I had to pass-fake the ball to get him leaning one way and Tyler did a great job shoving his man off and just put it at the back of the backboard.”
Zeller caught the ball, gave a quick pump fake and delivered the game-winner as time expired.
‘It was a great pass,” Hayward said of the Smart entry pass from midcourt. “That’s what Coach Stevens does. He’s excellent in those situations of coming up with a play, I know it better than anybody. It’s a great play, great design, they knew we were switching. The pass had to be perfect to get over Rudy (Gobert) and Rod (Rodney Hood), and it was. And then (Zeller) made a good finish too. Credit them with their finish, too, but that’s not where we lost it, though. We should have been better.” Read the rest of this entry »
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