|Studs and Duds: Paul Millsap, Hawks crush Celtics, take control of third place||04.09.16 at 10:19 pm ET|
In an intense playoff-like atmosphere, the Hawks defeated the Celtics 118-107 on Saturday night in Atlanta.
Hawks forward Paul Millsap was dominant, finishing with 31 points and 16 rebounds, while knocking down 5-of-7 attempts from beyond the arc. Jeff Teague and Kent Bazemore added 24 and 21 respectively, as the Hawks shot an outstanding 51 percent (17-33) from the 3-point line.
Isaiah Thomas, who had his 18-game streak of scoring more than 20 points snapped on Friday, turned in one of his worst performances in recent memories. Thomas finished with 16 points on 6-of-19 shooting.
Marcus Smart, who has been struggling for two months with his outside shot, knocked down four of his six attempts from beyond the arc and finished with a team-high 19 points. Jae Crowder, Amir Johnson, Avery Bradley and Evan Turner also finished in double figures.
In a wild and fast-paced first half that featured six ties and nine lead changes, the Celtics and Hawks engaged in a shootout. The C’s were initially able to pick up the slack for Thomas, scoring 71 first-half points by making 10 3-pointers and shooting over 55 percent from the field. The Hawks stayed with the Celtics, making 10 3’s of their own, while also shooting better than 55 percent.
To start the second half, Brad Stevens went small, substituting Smart for Jared Sullinger. The small-ball lineup seemed to work, as the Celtics quickly jumped out to a 12-point lead. Crowder did an excellent job defending the much larger Al Horford in the post during this stretch. With Crowder containing Horford, the Hawks turned to Millsap, who scored 13 of his 31 points in the quarter. To end the third quarter, the Hawks went on two separate 8-0 runs to retake a 93-91 lead entering the final frame. The Celtics only shot 30 percent from the field in the quarter, scoring only 20 points.
In the fourth quarter, the Hawks pulled away, as Thomas’ shooting woes continued. The All-Star guard missed all four of his attempts down the stretch, and the Celtics only scored 16 points.
The win almost guarantees the Hawks will be the third seed in the Eastern Conference. In addition to now being a game ahead of the Celtics in the standings, the Hawks hold the head-to-head tiebreaker over the C’s.
With the loss, the Celtics (47-33) are now engaged in a battle with the Hornets and Heat for fourth place in the East. The Celtics are a game ahead of both teams in the standings with two games remaining in the season. The Celtics can control the fourth seed, as they will host the Hornets on Monday before playing the Heat in the season finale.
|Mike Petraglia, Sam Packard on Celtics beating Bucks to close in on No. 3 seed||04.08.16 at 11:32 pm ET|
WEEI.com’s Mike Petraglia and Sam Packard explain how the Celtics were eventually able to get their engines going and blow out the short-handed Bucks, 124-109, Friday night at TD Garden. As a result, the Celtics won their fourth straight and improved to 47-32 on the season, tying the Hawks for third in the East heading into their Saturday night showdown in Atlanta.
|Studs and Duds: Tyler Zeller (26 points), Celtics cruise past Bucks||04.08.16 at 10:24 pm ET|
There’s nothing like a blowout win at home for a team that’s fighting for a No. 3 seed in the Eastern Conference.
Behind a steady defense and a second-half offensive surge, the Celtics beat the Bucks 124-109 on Friday night at TD Garden.
After Milwaukee’s quick start, the Celtics outscored the Bucks in the final three quarters and cruised to their 47th win of the season. Tyler Zeller’s 26 points match a career-high — he led five Celtics in double figures.
Isaiah Thomas did not lead the Celtics in scoring for the first time since Feb. 29 but he did reach the 20-point plateau for the 18th straight game with 20 points. Kelly Olynyk and Avery Bradley each finished with 16 and Jared Sullinger added 15.
Giannis Antetokounmpo’s 27 points led the Bucks, he also finished with 7 rebounds and 7 assists. Jabari Parker added 18 points and Miles Plumlee finished with 16.
Led by Antetokoumpo’s 17 first-quarter points, the Bucks got off to a hot start and opened up an 11-point lead before the Celtics closed the quarter on an 11-5 run and pulled within five, 35-30. However, the Celtics found their offensive rhythm before halftime — scoring in transition off of missed attempts and 3 steals.
By halftime, the Celtics scored 14 fast break points and a 65-58 lead. Their momentum carried into the second half where they opened up a 27-point lead — their biggest of the night. They viciously attacked the Bucks — finishing with 70 points in the paint and 27 fast-break buckets. Led by Zeller’s career night, the Celtics bench tallied up 60 points.
|Celtics make case for Jae Crowder as Most Improved Player in NBA||04.08.16 at 7:41 pm ET|
Another home game, another public relations blitz from the Celtics.
On Wednesday, the Celtics articulated their case for Isaiah Thomas on the All-NBA team.
This time, the Celtics are pushing Jae Crowder as the most improved player in the Association.
To their argument, Crowder has set career highs in:
- Points per game (14.5)
- Assists per game (1.9)
- Minutes per game (31.9)
- 3-point FG percentage (34.1)
- Rebounds per game (5.2)
- Steals per game (1.8)
- FG percentage (44.5)
- FT percentage (82.4)
Brad Stevens has maintained all season that Crowder has been one of, if not their best, versatile player, almost always drawing the opposing team’s best scorer. The Celtics have been able to win games, like Golden State, without him.
|How hard will Brad Stevens push for home court? ‘That’s so far down the road for me’||04.08.16 at 6:55 pm ET|
There’s no question that home court advantage plays a role in the NBA playoffs.
The real issue is how hard does Brad Stevens step on the gas in the final week to get a potential Game 7 on the TD Garden parquet?
The 46-32 Celtics enter Friday night a half-game behind the Hawks (47-32) for third in the East, with a chance to pull into a tie heading into Saturday night’s showdown in Atlanta. Boston is tied with Miami for fourth. Both are a game ahead of Charlotte. A showdown with the Hornets at the Garden looms Monday night before the Celtics wrap up the regular season against the Heat Wednesday night in Boston.
So much to consider but first the games need to be played – and won.
“I think the biggest thing is we want to try to be playing our best,” Stevens said pregame Friday. “We want to play well, we’re focused on that. Regardless of the guys that are in the game, we need to be playing at a good rate, defensively and offensively, as we head into next week. Obviously, health is incredibly important as you get into the playoffs but there’s a lot of things that go into being successful and we want to be playing well.”
Will Stevens consider rest players?
“If they need it,” Stevens answered. “See how it goes, see who you’re playing and all that other stuff. I don’t think you can make any decisions until you know who you are playing and what kind of matchup problems they present.
“It would be nice to be done in four. That’s so far down the road for me, I’m not even thinking about it. So, we could play really well in any of the next four games and get beat. But we have to just focus on playing on the way that we can play. We’re playing good teams. We’re playing very talented teams.
|Evan Turner (left eye) cleared to play, will wear glasses||04.08.16 at 6:31 pm ET|
After watching his 212-game streak of games played end Wednesday night, Evan Turner returns against the Bucks.
The news is not all that surprising considering Turner was diagnosed with just a left eye abrasion on Monday and no retina damage after getting poked in the eye with 20 seconds left in the win over the Lakers Sunday night.
Brad Stevens was asked so much Tuesday and Wednesday about the possibility of Turner wearing goggles that he joked after Marcus Smart took four stitches above the right eye against the Pelicans that Smart wouldn’t need goggles.
As it turns out, Turner will wear protective glasses against the Bucks after going through a light workout on Thursday.
“It feels better, I can see out of my peripheral,” Turner said before Friday’s game. “I got in some shooting [Thursday] and some cardio, so I should be ready to rock. I could see a little bit. I think I’ll be fine. Once I get into a rhythm and flow I’m sure I’ll be good. One thing I was worried about was getting in some cardio workouts more than anything.
“There weren’t many choice,” Turner said of his choice of eyewear. “I had Chris Douglas-Roberts and a choice from Horace Grant or Kurt Rambis. CDR [was the choice] and that was pretty much it. I never had to do that. This will be my first time, and that should be good, be cool. No pain, it’s just red. I’ll be fine.
“If I did [keep wearing them], it would be moreso to protect the eye, especially after going through things with the doctors. I know the eye is fragile, and it could be way worse the next time.
“Didn’t do much,” Stevens said. “Shot a little bit [Thursday] but hasn’t done anything contact wise. He’ll wear a pair of glasses tonight, don’t know how long he’ll have to have those on, as far as multiple days whatever the case may be. Obviously, err on the side of protecting his vision and his eye. But he’s having no trouble seeing peripherally or anything else. Should be good to go.”
|Jackie MacMullan on OM&F: ‘The thing about the Celtics is they control their own destiny’||04.08.16 at 4:47 pm ET|
ESPN’s Jackie MacMullan joined the Ordway, Merloni & Fauria show on Friday and discussed the Celtics’ chances in the upcoming playoffs.
First off, she was extremely impressed with last week’s win over the Warriors.
“I thought it was incredibly meaningful, and I’ll tell you why,” he said. “They didn’t show up against the Clippers on that road trip. They have a really crummy practice in advance of that Portland game. And from what I understand, [coach Brad] Stevens called them all together and said, ‘You guys aren’t nearly as good as you make think you are. This is a good Portland team and we could lose to them tonight.’ And they went out and played pretty well in that game, but they lose anyway.
“Now, if they don’t come out of that road trip 3-2, we’re all going to say, ‘That was a disappointing road trip,’ right? So you know they’re going to beat the Lakers, or at least you hope they can. But that game, they’re the perfect team to play Golden State, because of the way they hawk the ball, the way they hawk those guards and pressure the ball defensively. They gave Stephen Curry trouble, there’s no question about it. To me, that win was more about the psyche of the team now going forward.”
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