|Introducing the official ‘Celtics are Wahlberg’ game||03.26.16 at 10:28 am ET|
When Celtics point guard Isaiah Thomas found out Hollywood icon Mark Wahlberg was in the building on Wednesday night, he sent a message to the “Basketball Diaries” star at TD Garden.
“That was my first time ever seeing him,” said Thomas, “so once they showed him on the Jumbotron, I had to find out where he was. I hit the shot; I definitely had to point to him.”
Wahlberg pointed back.
“Yeah, he did,” added Thomas, “so we’ve got a little friendship brewing.”
Thus began the process of landing Thomas a role in “Patriots Day.”
“Something,” said Thomas. “I need something.”
Even better, the interaction between Boston’s best basketball player and the world’s greatest living actor gave birth to the “Celtics are Wahlberg” game on the WEEI Celtics Podcast, hosted by Sam Packard and Jared Weiss, featuring Ben Rohrbach (accepting five-star reviews now).
Basically, the gang broke down which Celtics player best matches various Wahlberg characters, and comedy ensued, including a potential “Truman Show 2” plot starring coach Brad Stevens.
Anyhow, you can now play along to “Celtics are Wahlberg” as you listen for the correct answers (and remember, please only vote for each Celtics player once throughout this important exercise):
|Marcus Smart ‘can’t buy a bucket’ in March||03.24.16 at 12:17 pm ET|
You can’t knock Marcus Smart for his effort. But when it comes to his shooting, it’s time to have a discussion.
Any Celtics fan knows that the defensive-minded guard plays all-out on every possession, and has through the entirety of his two-year career. Smart has not only maintained the aggressiveness he showed during his rookie season, he’s improved upon it.
“I’m more aggressive going to the rim, attacking, making plays,” Smart said of his improvements since he’s been in the NBA prior to Wednesday’s home victory over Toronto.
Fair self-evaluation, but everyone (including Smart) was hoping by now that the answer to that question would be a much-improved shooter.
Smart has shot over 50 percent from the field in just one game since the end of January (5-for-9 vs. Miami on Feb. 27), and is now experiencing his worst shooting month of the season. The former Oklahoma State product’s best month shooting the ball this season was actually January, but he was still only knocking down 37.4-percent of his field goals.
March has been far worse for Smart. Through the first 11 games he’s shooting a mere 28.6-percent, and that number has been trending downward of late. Subtract his two best shooting performances of the month (6-for-12 vs. Philly and 5-for-12 vs. Portland), and Smart has connected on a horrific 17-of-74 attempts from the field during nine other games so far in March.
Smart vows that he’s been working on his jumper, but the numbers just keep getting worse. In his last five games, Smart has shot 12.5-percent or worse three separate times — 1-for-10 vs. OKC, 1-for-11 vs Orlando, and then 1-for-8 in Wednesday’s showdown with the Raptors.
“I try to make sure I keep my body straight, my process straight up and down, and keeping my follow through,” Smart responded when asked about his shooting routine. “Just things like that, and practice those corner open shots because that’s a lot of the shots that I get. It’s weird because when I’m practicing those I’m knocking them down and in the game I can’t buy a bucket.”
|Evan Turner gets pushed in back, doesn’t want to take it anymore||03.24.16 at 9:37 am ET|
Evan Turner is, for the most part, a pretty chill, laid-back guy on the Celtics. He can laugh, make a joke and have fun.
But on Wednesday, the Celtics swingman, who finished with 17 points in Boston’s 91-79 win over the Raptors, had a bad flashback to what can happen when you put yourself in a vulnerable position going up for a shot near the basket.
As the first quarter was winding down, he drove the lane and the Toronto defense collapsed on him in the form of big men Jason Thompson and Bismack Biyombo. He felt a push in the back near the basket and had a really bad flashback to his days at Ohio State.
In a game on Dec. 5, 2009, Turner went up for a dunk against Eastern Michigan and got nudged in the back as he was going up. He dunked the ball but lost his balance and fell on his upper back. He broke two vertebrae and sat out eight weeks.
What made Wednesday infuriating to Turner was that he told the referee crew, led by veteran Monty McCutcheon, and felt it fell on deaf ears.
“One, I got pushed in the back two or three times, and when I said it, I said it calmly. I’m the kind of guy I just kind of laughed about it. I made a move when I was going up [to the basket] when I was in college and I got pushed. I kind of got pushed the same way so when that occurred I was more worried about it. It was a crazy play.”
|Mike Petraglia, Sam Packard on Isaiah Thomas, Mark Wahlberg, Celtics win||03.24.16 at 12:06 am ET|
WEEI.com’s Mike Petraglia and Sam Packard break down the third straight win for the Celtics, a 91-79 win over the Atlantic Division-leading Raptors on Wednesday night at TD Garden. Isaiah Thomas hit a pair of key 3-pointers in the fourth quarter and pointed to movie icon and Celtics fan Mark Wahlberg after the second. Thomas finished with 23 points in the win, which improves Boston to 42-30 and clinches the C’s first winning season under coach Brad Stevens. The Raptors were playing without Kyle Lowry (elbow) and Patrick Patterson (ankle).
|Brad Stevens on 1st winning season: ‘You don’t sign up to come to the Boston Celtics to win 42 games’||03.23.16 at 11:39 pm ET|
For the man who has made a career out of playing it low key, Brad Stevens was in rare form Wednesday.
After his team beat the shorthanded Raptors, 91-79, to lock up his first winning season in Boston and the first winning campaign of his NBA coaching career, Stevens brought some perspective to the table.
“The one thing that I will say is, I’ve felt like — especially in the last year, 14 months, whatever it is — that we really — I feel like there’s real progress,” Stevens said. “And it’s been pretty consistent progress. We’re certainly going to have our bad games and we’re certainly going to have games that are unique throughout an 82-game season, but there’s been good progress, there’s been good growth. And that’s my biggest focus.”
But then he repeated what he told Celtics TV reporter Abby Chin after the game.
“It’s like I told Abby, you don’t sign up to come to the Boston Celtics to win 42 games. So we’ve got a long way to go.”
The Celtics have won three straight after a season-long four-game skid. They’re 42-30 and right in the mix for the No. 3 seed in the Eastern Conference and they beat a Raptors team that had their number in the first three games.
“You’re focused on the next opponent, you’re trying to play your best against the next opponent, but certainly a team that’s beaten you three times, there’s a part of you that — a necessarily competitive side of you — that wants to play better. And our guys have some of that.”
|Studs and Duds: Isaiah Thomas, Celtics topple division-leading Toronto||03.23.16 at 10:42 pm ET|
Sure, the Raptors were without All-Star guard Kyle Lowry and a couple other key contributors, but a win’s a win, right?
Isaiah Thomas scored a game-high 23 points, and the Celtics outscored the Toronto 45-33 in the second half to cruise to a third consecutive win, 91-79, on Wednesday at TD Garden.
Evan Turner added 17 points and seven assists, Avery Bradley netted 16 points and Amir Johnson notched his second straight double-double (11 points, 14 rebounds).
Both teams struggled to build a big lead in the first half, but the Celtics distanced themselves behind a 10-4 run to the start the third quarter. In that frame, Turner caught fire, scoring 13 of his 17 points and pushing the Celtics to a nine-point lead before Marcus Smart fouled DeMar DeRozan (21 points) on a 3-pointer with 0.1 seconds left in the quarter.
Still, the Celtics kept their composure, closing Toronto out on a 12-5 run in the game’s final four minutes. The C’s also took care of the basketball, limiting themselves to just eight turnovers on the evening and outscoring the Raptors 48-36 in the paint.
The Celtics (42-30) remain tied with the Hawks for for fourth place in the East entering a five-game road trip out west.
|Even without Kyle Lowry, Raptors, Luis Scola present test for Celtics||03.23.16 at 8:17 pm ET|
The irony of the question was only apparent just before tipoff Wednesday night.
Longtime Celtics beat writer Bill Doyle asked Brad Stevens what made the Raptors backcourt of Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan so effective. DeRozan came in averaging 23.9 points per game while Lowry average stood at 21.9.
“Really strong, physical, excellent athletes,” Stevens said. “Obviously, Lowry and DeRozan ability to hit really tough shots and get to the line at an elite rate. All those things combined is why they’re so difficult to defend. It’s easier said than done because they usually have a physical advantage on their position from a size standpoint and a strength standpoint. And then they don’t give up anything in athleticism and speed. So, it’s a really good duo but they’ve got other good players, too. It’s a heck of a team.”
Just before the start of the game, Lowry was scratched from the starting lineup as a precaution with a sore right elbow. He was dressed and available but expected to sit the game out.
One player the Celtics wish would sit out, at least in the first quarter, is Luis Scola. The 36-year-old veteran from Argentina hit a pair of threes in the first six minutes. In the last two games against Boston, Scola has 30 points in the first quarter alone, including 17 last Friday in Toronto’s win.
“He’s been really good in the first quarter of both of those games. I do think it’s one of those things where you have to go back and say, ‘OK, were we defending the right way? Why did he get his points? Are there things we can do different without overreacting and without saying, OK, those other two guys are critically important, too.’ Making sure you’re good on the glass is critically important and everything else.
“Scola is a good player. He’s been a good player for a long time. I think people and fans of international basketball knew it long before he came into the NBA. He’s given us fits the last two games, specifically in the first quarter.”
Even though Lowry sat out, the Raptors still have plenty to play for. They entered Wednesday’s game just 1.5 games behind Cleveland for the top spot in the East. The Celtics, at 41-30, are still in the mix for the No. 3 seed in the East, coming into play just .003 behind Miami. Problem is, the Celtics have lots of competition for that spot as they are tied with Charlotte and Atlanta. All three have 41-30 records.
“It’s hard to be naive to it but I don’t spend a whole lot of time thinking about it. I’ve got a general feel for where all the teams are. I don’t know the exact records. I don’t the exact tie-breakers and all that other stuff,” Stevens said.
“We’ve said all year the East is deep and the East has been good and you’re going to have to play well through 82 games to get into the playoffs. Here we are.”
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