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Marcus Smart, Isaiah Thomas shine as Celtics set new record for ball-handling 03.05.15 at 12:52 pm ET
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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.”

Thomas had just one turnover in 27 minutes while Smart played a perfect game over his 40 minutes. The only other turnovers came from hero Tyler Zeller and Avery Bradley.

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.”

What makes this all the more impressive is they did it against one of the longest teams in the NBA, as Stevens calls the Jazz, and one of the most defensive. Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Boston Celtics, Brad Stevens, Isaiah Thomas, Jo Jo White
Brad Stevens shows his smarts in diagramming game-winning play 03.05.15 at 10:58 am ET
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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.

‘€œIt 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 »

Read More: Brad Stevens, Gordon Hayward, Tyler Zeller,
Marcus Smart earns Eastern Conference Rookie of the Month award for February 03.04.15 at 9:26 pm ET
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Marcus Smart

Marcus Smart

Marcus Smart has been recognized for his efforts to keep the Celtics in the playoff hunt through a crazy trade season in Boston.

Smart and Minnesota Timberwolves sensation Andrew Wiggins were named Wednesday the Kia NBA Eastern and Western Conference Rookies of the Month, respectively, for February.

Smart ranked third among East rookies in scoring (9.8 ppg), assists (4.3 apg) and steals (1.64 spg) for the month. He also was fourth in rebounding (4.5 rpg) and averaged a conference-rookie-high 32.6 minutes in 11 games for the Celtics, whose 7-4 record was tied for fourth best in the East.

The 6-4, 220-pound point guard set single-game career highs in rebounds (10), assists (nine) and steals (five) during February. Smart scored in double figures in six of his final seven games of the month.

Smart’s playing time increased significantly following the Dec. trade of Rajon Rondo to Dallas. He continued to impress even as Danny Ainge brought in Isaiah Thomas in a deadline deal with Phoenix. Wednesday against Utah marked Smart’s 16th start of the season.

As for Wiggins, the rookie out of Kansas won the West award for the fourth consecutive month and helped the Timberwolves to a 5-6 record, their best mark in a full calendar month this season. The 6-8, 199-pound forward led all rookies in scoring (16.8 ppg) and minutes (38.7 mpg), and he shot 45.7 percent from the field and averaged 4.8 rebounds.

On Feb. 23, Wiggins scored 30 points in a 113-102 loss to the Houston Rockets, his third 30-point game of the season, matching the Minnesota rookie record set by Isaiah Rider in 1993-94.

Here are just some of the highlights of the month for Smart:

  • Feb. 1 vs. Miami: Dished out a career-high nine assists and had only one turnover in an 83-75 loss to the Heat.
  • Feb. 4 vs. Denver: Grabbed a career-high 10 rebounds and added four points, eight assists and three steals in a 104-100 victory over the Nuggets.
  • Feb. 20 @ Sacramento: Scored 16 points and contributed five rebounds and a career-high five steals in a 109-101 loss to the Kings.
  • Read More: Boston Celtics, Marcus Smart, NBA rookie of the month,
    Brad Stevens isn’t worried about ‘managing feelings’ anymore 01.17.15 at 9:33 am ET
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    There comes a point in time where an NBA coach can’t worry about massaging the egos of his team. That time has come for Brad Stevens.

    After another close-but-no cigar special Friday night at TD Garden, Stevens said that he’s seeing some signs of life from his now 13-25 squad. But not enough. The Celtics shot 60 percent in the first half, competed hard for three quarters and even led the Bulls by three at the half. But Boston, as it often has this season, ran out of gas in the fourth and fell, 119-105.

    Asked if he’s concerned about his constantly changing roster and the impact it might have heading on a brutal six-game western road swing, Stevens was brutally honest.

    “I’€™m not as worried about keeping them up,” Stevens said. “I think we need to get better off of that. I thought we didn’€™t have enough ‘€“ we weren’€™t as tight as we need to be against that level of talent. We were loose in our coverages and a little loose on the ball and it hurt us. They’€™ve got some great, great players that stepped up and made plays and really separated the game.

    “But even when we were going back and forth I didn’€™t feel like ‘€“ I didn’€™t feel like it was sustainable at that rate, the way we were playing. So, yeah, I don’€™t know, hey’€¦we’€™re employed to do everything we can, to have everything we have, and to manage the ups and downs throughout a season. Players and coaches. And it’€™s on us as individuals to be up and ready. And certainly you have to help some guys through that and help manage some of that but, you know, we can’€™t spend our time managing feelings right now; we have to spend our time getting better.” Read the rest of this entry »

    Read More: Boston Celtics, Brad Stevens, Chicago Bulls, NBA
    Brad Stevens envies the ‘beautiful basketball’ of the Atlanta Hawks after seeing it up close and personal 01.15.15 at 10:24 am ET
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    Brad Stevens had the perfect model for his players to see Wednesday night. The Atlanta Hawks came in winners of nine straight, despite missing star big man Al Horford and sharpshooter Kyle Korver.

    He thought maybe his team would see how Atlanta (31-8) is playing the game right now for their coach Mike Budenholzer and be inspired. He thought wrong.

    Not three minutes into the game, Stevens had to call a timeout to remind his young team, still working to learn each other’s game, that he wants them to run basic offense.

    “I thought our offense was pretty poor all night, and I think they’€™re obviously a difficult-enough offense to guard,” Stevens said. “But when you give them run-out dunks, it doesn’€™t help anything, and we just turned the ball over too much. Put too much pressure on ourselves to be good in the half-court defensively, and then to come back.

    “We had cut it to nine and we were playing with some pretty good energy, but then at the end of the day they made us pay on a few different plays. And they do such a great job of ‘€“ they don’€™t over-dribble, you know? They attack, they space, they pass ‘€“ it’€™s beautiful basketball. They really move the ball well. And I thought we never really got into anything from a movement standpoint. We got pushed out a little bit out of our space and we fumbled the ball all around as a result of that.”

    The Celtics responded in the first quarter and managed a 24-24 tie after 12 minutes. But the roof started to cave in when the shots didn’t fall in the second and they could never really recover from a 57-45 halftime hole. Still, it was the start of the game that stuck in Stevens’ craw.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Read More: Atlanta Hawks, Boston Celtics, Brad Stevens, NBA
    Jared Sullinger: ‘We can’t play hero ball [because] we don’t have heroes’ 01.06.15 at 8:58 am ET
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    Jared Sullinger played one season with Paul Pierce. But that one season was enough to learn a very valuable lesson from the former captain.

    One man can’t win a game. He can make a shot or haul in a rebound or make a big defensive play. But Paul Pierce learned from Doc Rivers at an early age that “hero ball” – the act of putting your team on your shoulders and trying to do it all yourself.

    Monday night was yet another example of that for the 11-21 Celtics as they fell behind 50-36 at the half and by 22 in the second half before making a meaningless run in a 104-95 loss to the lowly Hornets at TD Garden.

    Down 22, Stevens took most of his regulars out and turned to his bench, led by 13 points apiece from rookie James Young and Jae Crowder. But it wasn’t enough. The lesson?

    “It’s a natural habit from a ton of great players,” Sullinger said. “These are all great players. We didn’t get to the league by accident. We’re great players and our natural ability comes out and we try to make that home run play. But as a team, that hurts you. As a team, that hurts you. It’s not just one individual, it’s everybody. Sometimes, I do it. We just have to step outside of ourselves and put he team first and then the home run plays will naturally spit themselves out in our system.

    “We have to understand that one play is not going to make up an 18-point deficit,” Sullinger said. “That’s definitely what it’s called. It’s called hero ball. We can’t play hero ball. We don’t have heroes.

    “Being a hero makes you a failure, makes you a failure. You can’t play one on five at all. As a team, the system is going to spit out who’s going to score, who’s night it is. You just have to play basketball and do better.”

    Brad Stevens tried to make the same point.

    “That’s the type of coach he is but as a team, we just have to do better,” Sullinger said.

    Sullinger made a point after Monday’s 104-95 loss shows the weaknesses a fragile, young team has.

    “No, not at all. Not at all,” Belichick said. “It’s natural. If you look around at everybody in this room was a big impact in college basketball or a big impact at wherever they played. And, their ability of us as individuals automatically says, ‘let me put the team on my back.’ As a team, you can’t do that. It’s not just one person, it’s everybody.

    Look at Evan. He was a national player of the year. Tyler was an 18-10 guy at North Carolina. Marcus Smart was the man at Oklahoma State. James Young was the man at Kentucky. Jeff Green at Georgetown. I could go on and on and on. Everybody at one point was a focal point.”
    Re: James Young back in: ‘€œYea all his hard work he’€™s been putting in. Going back and forth from Maine to Boston and all the hard work he’€™s been putting in throughout the couple weeks is finally showing. I’€™m so proud and happy for him and the best is yet to come.’€

    Read More: Boston Celtics, Charlotte Hornets, Hero Ball, Jared Sullinger
    Brad Stevens takes blame for messy Celtics: ‘I’ve got to figure out how to coach this team better’ 01.05.15 at 11:30 pm ET
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    Brad Stevens has reached a low point in his second season as Celtics head coach.

    Stevens sounded an ominous signal Monday following a 104-95 lifeless loss to the lowly Charlotte Hornets on “Seats for Soldiers” night at TD Garden.

    His team started slow out of the gate and really never recovered, trailing 22-11 late in the first quarter and 50-36 at the half.

    “First of all, they played at a great pace, and they made shots and Kemba (Walker) was great,” Stevens said. “We couldn’€™t stop him. Cody Zeller was playing at a higher energy-level than anybody else on the floor a lot of the game, and you know (Gerald) Henderson has always really given us fits. I thought all three of those guys looked like they were at a different level early. And we weren’€™t very good.”

    It got so bad that Stevens ran through his entire 13-man roster by the end of the third quarter. What was he hoping to accomplish?

    “No idea. I think tonight was more of an anomaly because I was throwing darts. I can act like I know the answer to your question, but I was throwing darts,” Stevens said.

    Asked a question about the breakout game for James Young and whether it might mean more playing time for the rookie, Stevens instead took the opportunity to do a little soul searching.

    “€œI don’€™t know,” Stevens said. “I don’€™t know. I’€™ve got to figure out how to coach this team better. I’€™m not doing a very good job. We’€™re not playing well and we’€™re playing almost ‘€“ it’€™s not good basketball. We’€™ve got to do a better job playing good basketball. I’€™ll figure out the rotations later, once we start playing good basketball and once we all are very focused on very good basketball. And that’€™s on me. I’€™ve got to do a better job.”

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    Read More: Bill Belichick, Boston Celtics, Brad Stevens, Charlotte Hornets
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