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Celtics podcast: Mike Petraglia, Ben Kichen talk end-of-game woes, Al Horford and DeMarcus Cousins 12.07.16 at 7:18 pm ET
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WEEI.com’s Mike Petraglia and Ben Kichen of ‘The Dale and Holley Show’ talk about last night’s disappointing finish against the Rockets and they talk about their love for DeMarcus Cousins.

JBL_CMYK_NoHarmanNoRBallWEEI is how you listen to Celtics coverage. JBL cutting-edge wireless headphones and speakers are how you feel like you’re there. As the official Sound of the Celtics, Isaiah Thomas and the NBA, JBL is Made for the Biggest Stage.

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Marcus Smart receives warning from NBA for flopping 12.07.16 at 3:40 pm ET
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Marcus Smart may only be 22, but he’s starting to develop around reputation around the NBA — and it’s not just for his sound defensive abilities.

Smart has become renowned across the league for his seemingly incessant flopping, and the NBA is trying to put a stop to it, giving him a warning for violating the league’s anti-flopping rule.

The flop came on the final play of Monday night’s loss to the Rockets. As Al Horford drove to the basket and missed a would-be game-winning layup, Smart flailed onto the baseline from under the basket as if he had been forcefully shoved by either Trevor Ariza or James Harden.

The move drew the ire of many, and for good reason.

The rebound off the missed finger roll was grabbed by 6-foot-5 James Harden. Smart, standing at 6-foot-4, could have conceivably grabbed a put-back had he not flopped.

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Isaiah Thomas sent back to Boston to begin treatment on pulled groin 12.07.16 at 2:59 pm ET
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Isaiah Thomas

Isaiah Thomas

The injury bug continues to bite Celtics starters.

Starting point guard and offensive catalyst Isaiah Thomas was ruled out for Wednesday night’s tilt against the Magic in Orlando with a pulled groin, with the team taking it a step further and sent the 27-year-old back to Boston Tuesday night to get begin treatment on the injury.

According to coach Brad Stevens, Thomas was “very sore” on Tuesday. He sat out practice on Tuesday, but did get up and do a little shooting afterward.

Stevens told reporters after Wednesday morning’s shootaround, “Like Isaiah is, he had convinced himself he wanted to play, and he really wants to play. Obviously, it’s an injury you’re wary of because it can hamper you … if it continues to exist.”

The injury happened in the second quarter of Monday’s one-point loss to the Rockets. 

The point guard has been an essential part of the Celtics’ offense, averaging 26 points per game — good for second in the east behind the Raptors’ DeMar DeRozan. The additional benefit of Thomas that is now lost is his late-game ability. For a team that tends to struggle in the fourth quarter like the Celtics have periodically this season, Thomas has bailed the Celtics out multiple times with their backs against the wall.

There is no definite timetable as to when Thomas will be back, but given his status from Wednesday and the Celtics set to return home anyways for Friday’s game against the Raptors, it made sense to give him a head start in treatment.

“You put him on the plane so you can get him back to get treatment around the clock in our training room, see our doctors, and everything else,” Stevens said.

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Fast Break: Al Horford misses last-second layup as Celtics let one slip away to Rockets 12.05.16 at 10:46 pm ET
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Avery Bradley defends James Harden during Monday's game. (Troy Taormina/USA Today Sports)

Avery Bradley defends James Harden during Monday’s game. (Troy Taormina/USA Today Sports)

The Celtics were handed a gift Monday night in Houston, but they treated it like an ugly sweater on Christmas morning — something they’ll look back on only with disgust.

Houston led by three points and had the ball with 16 seconds left, but in an instant the C’s were put in position to win after Rockets star James Harden was called for an offensive foul — and a flagrant 1 to boot — after throwing his elbow into Marcus Smart’s face while trying to create space. However, Boston could not capitalize.

After Smart (a 60 percent shooter from the line) hit two free throws to get the C’s within a point, Isaiah Thomas missed a driving layup, although the C’s retained possession when Harden knocked it out of bounds. On the ensuing inbounds, Al Horford caught the ball at the 3-point line and found an open lane to the basket but missed a layup with one second remaining, allowing Houston to escape with a 107-106 decision.

“I felt good when I shot it,” Horford told reporters about the final shot. “It just didn’t go down.”

“We got two good looks,” Celtics coach Brad Stevens said in his postgame press conference. “The guys did a great job in those moments.”

Harden led all scorers with 37 points on 8-of-14 field goals (3-of-5 treys) and 18-of-18 free throws. He also had eight rebounds, eight assists and 10 turnovers.

Horford led the Celtics with 21 points and nine assists. Thomas scored 20 points. Bradley had 16 points and 10 rebounds — and he’ll rue the additional point he thought he had. With 46 seconds left and the C’s trailing by five, Bradley lined up at the arc and drilled a big shot to end a 13-2 Houston run, but the officials ruled his toe was on the line, and it held up on review despite protestations from the Celtics, who saw the replay on the arena scoreboard.

“They said it was inconclusive and it was called a 2,” Stevens related.

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Bulls suspend Rajon Rondo 1 game for conduct detrimental to team 12.05.16 at 4:50 pm ET
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Rajon Rondo

Rajon Rondo

Former Celtics guard Rajon Rondo is already making friends in Chicago.

The mercurial point guard, whose talent is often dwarfed by his behavior, was suspended for one game by the Bulls for conduct detrimental to the team after getting in a “heated argument” with an assistant coach, according to Yahoo’s Adrian Wojnarowski.

Wojnarowski added that Rondo apologized and accepted responsibility for his actions.

Rondo’s outburst came after Saturday’s 25-point loss to the Mavericks, in which Rondo submitted his worst game of the season (2 points, 2 assists, 5 turnovers). Returning to Dallas may have brought out the worst in him, because the Mavericks memorably benched Rondo after repeated disputes with head coach Rick Carlisle during the 2015 postseason.

Rondo was suspended by the NBA last year for directing a homophobic slur at referee Bill Kennedy.

One year after leading the league in assists with Sacramento, Rondo is averaging 8.2 points and 7.2 assists per game with the Bulls, who are 11-8.

JBL_CMYK_NoHarmanNoRBallWEEI is how you listen to Celtics coverage. JBL cutting-edge wireless headphones and speakers are how you feel like you’re there. As the official Sound of the Celtics, Isaiah Thomas and the NBA, JBL is Made for the Biggest Stage.

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Fast Break: Celtics overcome weak start, beat Sixers 12.04.16 at 8:55 am ET
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Dec 3, 2016; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Boston Celtics center Al Horford (42) has his shot blocked by Philadelphia 76ers center Jahlil Okafor (8) during the fourth quarter at Wells Fargo Center. The Celtics defeated the 76ers 107-106. Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

Al Horford (42) had this shot blocked by Jahlil Okafor, but the Celtics managed to win in the end. (Eric Hartline/USA Today Sports)

It didn’t look good in the beginning, but the Celtics ultimately beat the Sixers 107-106 on Saturday for their second win in as many nights. 

The Sixers are not a great team, and even with Joel Embiid on the bench, the Celtics struggled at first on defense. The intensity was lacking for Boston in a rough first quarter that ended with the team trailing 30-22 and missing both 3-point shot attempts.

The Celtics let the Sixers knock down nine 3-pointers in the first half, while Boston themselves only ended up making two. Lack of rebounding and defense in the paint were the team’s other biggest weaknesses as they found themselves down 53-45 at halftime. 

“We weren’t very good in the first half. I don’t think that’s rocket science to figure out,” coach Brad Stevens said after the game. “The second half we really competed. They made great plays and great shots. … It was a heck of a tough win for us. Considering we didn’t play well in the first half, it’s a good win.” 

Isaiah Thomas did not take this game lightly and played aggressively throughout, leading the Celtics with 37 points. Avery Bradley came in second in points with 20. 

For a complete box score, click here

Boston picked up its defense enough in the third quarter to take the lead for the first time since the opening minutes of the game. Still the score was closer than it should have been for much of the second half before the Sixers tied it at 100 with 34.6 seconds left in the game. Thomas made a layup to give the Celtics a 102-100 lead before they ultimately won the game on free throws. 

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Full Court Press: Does Brad Stevens really want his team swinging for the fences so much? Depends 12.03.16 at 9:24 am ET
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Nov 30, 2016; Boston, MA, USA;  Boston Celtics guard Avery Bradley (0) takes a shot while guarded by Detroit Pistons point guard Ish Smith (14) during the fourth quarter at TD Garden.  The Detroit Pistons won 121-114. Mandatory Credit: Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports

Avery Bradley is one of the Celtics leading the 3-point barrage this season. (Greg M. Cooper/USA Today Sports)

The 3-point shot is the home run of basketball. It’s a play that can get you back in a game and one that can close the door just as fast. 

Stevens, who earned three letters apiece in high school basketball and track, also earned on in baseball in his days at Zionsville, Indiana. On Wednesday, he used a baseball metaphor to make his point about shot selection and tempo. 

Brad Stevens, the man who wore No. 31 in high school after idol Reggie Miller, certainly saw the down side of it on Wednesday in a 121-114 loss to the Pistons, during which his team took 42 shots from beyond the arc. The Celtics made a reasonable number (15) and percent (35) but that doesn’t tell the whole story. His team committed just six turnovers and shot 44 percent. 

“I think we’re taking care of the ball, pretty obviously, really well. I wasn’t overly happy with some of our shots. I felt like some of shots were rushed. But again, when we play good offense we’re really good on that end of the floor. But we have a tendency when teams are making runs against us or things aren’t going our way to try to get it all back at once, and you just can’t do that. You have to keep hitting singles.”

The Celtics are averaging 31.1 3-point attempts a game (making 11.3). The 31.1 figure is fifth in the NBA, just behind Golden State. The three other teams ahead of Boston are Houston (37.0), Brooklyn (34.9) and Cleveland (34.3).

The problem Wednesday wasn’t the 42 threes the Celtics took. It was the 27 misses. Long shots usually lead to long rebounds, and that’s a problem for a team that can’t rebound. The Celtics were battered again on the glass Wednesday (52-33) and many of those were Detroit hauling in the long rebounds from the missed shots. 

While Stevens indicated that he wanted more “singles” after Wednesday’s game, he seemed to clarify that before Friday’s game with Sacramento, suggesting the Celtics were taking the right kind of threes.

“They are,” Stevens said. “At the end of the day, we want layups. If we don’t get layups, we want the floor to be shrunk. The defense shrinks in and you’re able to touch the paint and kick it out, in two of our last three games, maybe three of our last four games, two-thirds of our possessions we’ve touched the paint or shrunk the defense with a roll. That’s kind of our objective. Hey, we’re not a team that gets to the foul line a lot, we’re not a team that rebounds at a high rate, and we haven’t scored it in transition so to be able to be sitting where we are, offensively, I think a big reason is because we space the floor.”

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WEEI is how you listen to Celtics coverage. JBL cutting-edge wireless headphones and speakers are how you feel like you’re there. As the official Sound of the Celtics, Isaiah Thomas and the NBA, JBL is Made for the Biggest Stage.

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