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Brad Stevens says changes will be made for Game 3: ‘We’ve got to be a lot better out of the gate’ 04.19.16 at 10:40 pm ET
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Isaiah Thomas (4) attempts a shot against Atlanta Hawks guard Kyle Korver (26) in the second quarter of Game 2 Tuesday. (Jason Getz/USA Today Sports)

Isaiah Thomas attempts a shot against Hawks guard Kyle Korver in the second quarter of Game 2 Tuesday. (Jason Getz/USA Today Sports)

It was pretty obvious from the start, the Celtics were not at the level of the Hawks on Tuesday night. The Celtics dropped an 89-72 decision that puts them in an 0-2 hole as the series shifts to Boston on Friday. 

Now it’s up to coach Brad Stevens to figure out what to do about it.

Stevens started Marcus Smart in place of the injured Avery Bradley in Game 2, along with Isaiah Thomas, Jared Sullinger, Amir Johnson and Jae Crowder. That group went 4-1 this season as a starting lineup, including a 106-93 win over Atlanta on Nov. 13 at TD Garden. 

That was the regular season. Tuesday night in Game 2, the C’s came out slow and never recovered. 

“I think that tonight had a different feel than even the other night,” Stevens told reporters after. “I thought the other night, it was one of those nights we didn’t shoot it great but we had done some really good things. We had settled ourselves, defensively. Then, when we started making some shots, we felt pretty good about our chances.

“Here, it never felt like we were at their level. Hey, we’re going to have figure that out. We’re going to have to get to their level and play a lot better on Friday night.”

With Thomas, Crowder and Smart combining to go 6-for-34 from the field, Stevens turned to Evan Turner, who was one of four Celtics in double figures with 12 points. He did not start the game but did start the second half. 

“I’ll go back and look it, watch it without sound, watch it without emotion and figure out what looked right, what didn’t look right and see if we can’t bottle more of that up,” Stevens said. “Listen, we start down 24-7 and we look like we’re moving at a speed far less than them. It’s going to be a tough night. It doesn’t matter where we’re playing or when we’re playing. We’ve got to be a lot better out of the gate.”

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Read More: 2016 NBA playoffs, Atlanta Hawks, Boston Celtics, Brad Stevens
Brad Stevens on Game 2 humiliation: ‘They way outplayed us in every category in that first quarter’ 04.19.16 at 10:16 pm ET
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Celtics head coach Brad Stevens was busy trying to point out Kyle Korver Tuesday night. (John David Mercer-USA Today Sports)

Celtics coach Brad Stevens was busy trying to point out Kyle Korver on Tuesday night. (John David Mercer/USA Today Sports)

If Tuesday night showed anything to the Celtics, it’s that it only takes about six minutes to get blown out of a playoff game and never have a chance to recover. 

It just so happened those six minutes came at the very start of an 89-72 loss in Game 2 to the Hawks. How bad were the opening six minutes?

The Celtics were outscored 24-3. They allowed Kyle Korver to triple their point total with three 3-pointers. They were down double digits for the final 45 minutes of the game. They made just 3-of-23 shots from the field and missed all six 3-point attempts. They committed five turnovers. They wound up with seven points for the quarter, the fewest ever by an NBA team in the first quarter of any playoff game and the fewest in any quarter by any Celtics team in the illustrious history of the franchise. 

“They way outplayed us in every category in that first quarter,” Stevens said matter-of-factly after. “That wasn’t just about shots by any means. I thought that was one team playing and one team not, to be quite candid. We’ll look at it, make the necessary changes and we’ll move forward. 

“As I told the team, we can’t get off to starts like that. The only part of the defensive effort that I was upset by was losing Korver a few times and then the transition defense. But other than that, we really guard. We just put too much pressure on ourselves to make shots later because every one of them mattered so much just to have a chance to get back in the game. You can’t start like that. Again, we’ll look at it, figure out what the right changes are to make and make them.”

Stevens, who rarely shows emotion, was screaming at R.J. Hunter for losing Korver on a back screen when Hunter came in for Smart, who left briefly with a hip bruise. Korver drilled one of his three first-quarter treys as Atlanta got rolling. 

This did not come as a surprise to Stevens, who knew Korver, after going 1-for-10 in Game 1 (0-for-7 from deep) would be on a mission Tuesday.  

“Korver is like one of the main things we talk about every time we walk in this building, every time we walk into the hotel, every time we land in Atlanta, we know that we have to be in his airspace or else we’re toast,” Stevens said. “And you knew coming off a 1-for-10 game, he was going to have the hunger to make shots and take shots early on so we talked about that.

“But it was just a matter of we lost him a few times and our transition D was bad, especially in that first quarter. We had some moments throughout the game where our transition D was bad, but that first quarter, they moving at one speed we weren’t at.”

Read More: 2016 NBA playoffs, Atlanta Hawks, Boston Celtics, Brad Stevens
Studs and Duds: Historically bad start sets table for another Celtics playoff loss, 0-2 hole 04.19.16 at 9:27 pm ET
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Hawks center Al Horford (15) grabs a pass against against Marcus Smart (36) in the first quarter Tuesday at Philips Arena. (Jason Getz-USA Today Sports)

Hawks center Al Horford grabs a pass over Marcus Smart in the first quarter Tuesday at Philips Arena. (Jason Getz/USA Today Sports)

Talk about adding insult to injury. 

The Celtics were embarrassed Tuesday night in epic fashion, falling behind by 21 points in the first six minutes and never fully recovering in an 89-72 loss to the Hawks in Game 2 at Philips Arena. Atlanta leads the best-of-seven series 2-0 as it shifts to Boston for Game 3 on Friday night at TD Garden. 

Isaiah Thomas was ice cold at the start but finished strong and led Boston with 16 points while Amir Johnson added 14. The trio of Thomas (4-for-15), Marcus Smart (1-for-11) and Jae Crowder (1-for-8) combined to shoot just 6-for-34.

The Celtics were down by double digits for the final 44 minutes, 57 seconds, and finished just 5-for-28 from 3-point range as they desperately tried to get back in the game. 

Al Horford and Kyle Korver each scored 17 for the Hawks, who are two wins away from their first playoff series win over the Celtics since the 1958 NBA Finals, when the franchise was still in St. Louis. 

Already down Avery Bradley and Kelly Olynyk, the Celtics lost Smart briefly in the first 15 seconds when Kent Bazemore went up for a layup and kneed Smart in the right hip. 

Smart, who started in place of Bradley, would play just six minutes in the opening quarter before leaving with Dr. Brian McKeon. He was evaluated with a hip contusion and cleared to return. In his place, Terry Rozier and R.J. Hunter struggled to help Thomas get the offense going. 

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Read More: 2016 NBA playoffs, Atlanta Hawks, Avery Bradley, Boston Celtics
Marcus Smart starts, Kelly Olynyk (shoulder) sits out Game 2 04.19.16 at 6:41 pm ET
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Marcus Smart

Marcus Smart

Brad Stevens will have limited options as he approaches Game 2. 

Kelly Olynyk will sit out to rest his right shoulder, after re-aggravating the injury from February while Marcus Smart will start tonight in place of the injured Avery Bradley.

Stevens told reporters in his pregame press conference that his decision to start Smart over Evan Turner in place of Bradley was aimed at achieving balance. It should be noted that Turner has been one of the best bench players in the NBA this season, finishing fifth in “Sixth Man” voting in results made public by the league on Tuesday. 

Tuesday’s starting lineup of Smart, Isaiah Thomas, Jared Sullinger, Amir Johnson and Jae Crowder spent just over 78 minutes on the court together this season at some point. This is the sixth time the quintet has started a game, but the first time since Nov. 20. In the stretch from Nov. 13-20, they posted a 4-1 record. Ironically, the first time this group started a game together, it was against Atlanta, in a 106-93 win at TD Garden on Nov. 13. 

Keeping Turner on that unit clearly played into Stevens’ decision. 

“The way that Evan plays with some of the guys that are going to be off of the bench is important,” Stevens said.

In the first two of eight games Jae Crowder missed with a sprained right ankle, Stevens went with Smart in the starting lineup before turning to the bigger Turner for his scoring to replace Crowder. Losing Bradley, it’s apparent that Stevens is going with Smart’s defense. 

“The bottom line is all four of those guards – and when I talk ‘all four of those guards, Isaiah (Thomas), Marcus, Jae and Evan – will all play 30-plus minutes,” Stevens said. “So we can start any three of them but they’re all going to play a lot.”

Look for Terry Rozier and R.J. Hunter to see increased playing time Tuesday if foul trouble arises. 

As for who will replace Olynyk’s minutes off the bench, Jonas Jerebko is one option but Stevens suggested Tyler Zeller could see a bigger role. 

“Tyler’s ability to bring an obvious energy with his rim-runs with his speed, and his ability to roll off of pick-and-rolls and create a paint threat are really important,” said Stevens. “Whether or not he touches the ball or not, just having that threat is really important.”

Read More: 2016 NBA playoffs, Atlanta Hawks, Boston Celtics, Kelly Olynyk
Evan Turner finishes 5th in NBA ‘Sixth Man’ voting 04.19.16 at 5:29 pm ET
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Evan Turner

Evan Turner

Evan Turner might have a hole in his tongue when he takes the court Tuesday night in Atlanta for Game 2.

The hard-working versatile player, who spent most of the season becoming an indispensable part of Brad Stevens’ bench, took the news Tuesday very calmly that he finished fifth in NBA “Sixth Man” award.

“I don’t really have a real reaction in general,” Turner told reporters when informed of his place behind winner Jamal Crawford of the Los Angeles Clippers. “Jamal Crawford won once again. I think that’s great for the organization. I think nobody’s ever done what he did.”

Then he offered up some insight. 

“I thought Enes Kanter was gonna win,” Turner said, referring to the Oklahoma City Thunder center. “[Monday] night when I was watching games I didn’t realize he had so many double-doubles. But I didn’t really expect to win in general, so fifth or first it doesn’t really obviously matter. But it’s cool to be getting that recognition and be acknowledged for that. That’s definitely cool. But right now the focus is just on playoffs.”

Crawford captured the award for a record third time, as announced Tuesday by the NBA. Turner received three first-place votes, seven second-place votes and 10 third-place votes to finish behind Crawford, Andre Iguodala (Golden State), Kanter and Will Barton (Denver). A panel of 130 sportswriters and broadcasters participated in the balloting.

While Turner didn’t light any fires, his coach Brad Stevens was a bit more opinionated. 

“It’s kind of like what I said about Avery [Bradley],” Stevens said, referring to the NBA defensive player of the year award. “I can’t imagine anybody being more valuable off the bench than Evan. So, I didn’t realize that he was voted fifth-most, but we wouldn’t prefer to have anybody else at that spot. He’s been extremely valuable. He guards three positions a night, sometimes four positions. Obviously we have him with the ball all the time. He’s just had a great year and really impacted us in the last two years.”

Read More: 2016 NBA playoffs, Boston Celtics, Evan Turner, NBA
Brad Stevens mum on plans for Kelly Olynyk (shoulder), Evan Turner and Marcus Smart 04.19.16 at 5:06 pm ET
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Boston's multitude of injuries has given Brad Stevens a headache. (Jeff Hanisch/USA TODAY Sports)

Boston’s multitude of injuries has given Brad Stevens a headache. (Jeff Hanisch/USA TODAY Sports)

Brad Stevens is a man of considerable thought and calculation. 

It’s that measured approach that has taken him to 48 wins in his third season at the helm of the Celtics with the NBA’s third-youngest roster. 

It’s also that approach that he’s going to rely on when determining if and how much Kelly Olynyk and his re-aggravated right shoulder will play tonight in Game 2. It’s also that thinking that will play into how Stevens plans to replace the injured Avery Bradley, who is out for Game 2 and “very likely” the rest of the series with a significant strain of his right hamstring. Will he increase the load on players like Isaiah Thomas, Jared Sullinger and Jae Crowder?

“Depends on if it’s beneficial or not,” Stevens told reporters Tuesday at Philips Arena. “I think, at the end of the game, you better have all the juice you need. I think each guy is a little bit different. We know where each guy sits with that so the better players will play, or the guys that have been more productive will play closer to what we think their max would be in such a scenario.

“We’ve got all kinds of stuff to go through. As much as anything, some of the sports science stuff, but more so the 90 games worth of data on, if a guy plays a 14-minute stint, how does he come back in the next game? If the guy plays an early stint, how does he come back? Each guy has his own set of points that we can draw from from the whole season.”

Stevens could go with Evan Turner or Marcus Smart in the starting lineup to replace Bradley, depending on matchups and needs on the court. 

“I think you go through the combos in practice, you go through the stats on the different group that have played together, you go through their matchups, you go through what has looked good as far as in film against Atlanta, more so than maybe — you take that into account more so because you’ve played them five times now,” Stevens added. “And then you also go through how you’re going to rotate the second group, which is probably the most challenging part. Replacing one person in the starting lineup isn’t as much of a tinkering, it’s more the second group that it affects.”

Via MassLive’s Jay King, Turner told reporters Tuesday morning he had no idea if he were starting or not. 

“I’m gonna see at shootaround I guess,” Turner said. “I don’t really pay attention. I mean I pay attention (to Stevens) but I haven’t really paid attention to (the lineup) yet. So we’ll see at shootaround. I think we’re still deciding what’s the best route to go and that’s pretty much it. Figure it out later, I guess.”

As for Olynyk and his availability?

“We’ll see how it is,” Olynyk told reporters. “See how the strength is, and just go test it. See if it’s good or not.”

Read More: 2016 NBA playoffs, Atlanta Hawks, Boston Celtics, Evan Turner
2016 Celtics Mock Draft Pick Power Rankings v5.0 04.19.16 at 10:42 am ET
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The Celtics own eight draft picks in June 2016 — only one of which is their own — and the unprotected selection from the Nets is legitimately one of the most fascinating storylines in the entire NBA this season. We’ll semi-regularly update the status of those selections, speculating when and who the Celtics will pick.

FIRST ROUND

3. Boston Celtics (from Brooklyn): Dragan Bender.

I mean, his name is Dragan Bender. He can Bend Dragans. Need we say more? OK, well, he’s 18 years, 7 feet tall, athletic and shot nearly 40 percent on two 3-point attempts per game. What’s not to like? Just the time he’ll take to develop.  

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Read More: 2016 Celtics Mock Draft Pick Power Rankings,
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