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5 things we learned as LeBron James, Cavaliers push Celtics to brink 04.23.15 at 9:40 pm ET
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Different building, same script.

Trailing by three late in the fourth quarter, the Celtics had a chance to tie Game 3 at home, but failed to corral an offensive rebound, and Kevin Love made them pay with a wide-open 3-pointer with 2:13 remaining. And once again, the C’s submitted an inspired effort, but had no answer for LeBron James, who amassed 31 points and 11 rebounds in a 103-95 victory that gave his Cavaliers a 3-0 series lead.

The Celtics‘ last opportunity to avoid a sweep comes in Game 4 at the Garden on Sunday afternoon.

On Thursday, Evan Turner enjoyed his best game of the series, collecting 19 points, eight rebounds and eight assists, but failed to match a dominant performance by the game’s greatest active player. Jae Crowder added 16 points, seven rebounds and four assists off the bench, and Avery Bradley scored 18, albeit on 18 shots. Jared Sullinger (10 points, 8 rebounds) was the only other Celtic in double figures. After scoring 22 points in each of his first two playoff appearances, Isaiah Thomas finished with only five points on 2-of-9 shooting.

For a complete box score, click here.

LAYUP LINE

In the first 1:18, LeBron James got to the rim with ease on back-to-back possessions, giving the Cavaliers an early 4-0 lead. After an uncontested 3-pointer from Kevin Love, Timofey Mozgov beat Tyler Zeller on the block twice in a row — dunking over the C’s center and driving around him for an uncontested layup. A third drive to the basket delivered Cleveland a 15-10 lead and forced the first Celtics timeout.

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Packard’s Corner: Celtics – Cavs Game 3 Live Blog 04.23.15 at 6:59 pm ET
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Live Blog Celtics – Cavs Game 3 Live Blog
 

Brad Stevens not changing Celtics starting line-up for Game 3 04.23.15 at 6:21 pm ET
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BOSTON – Celtics head coach Brad Stevens has decided not to change his starting line-up heading into game 3 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals against the Cleveland Cavaliers. At practice on Wednesday, Stevens suggested he may make a change, but eventually declined to do so, stating he trusted his starters.

It’s not that Stevens was afraid to alter the lineup, rather that the players had earned their respective minutes. He said before the game Thursday,  “[w]hen I’ve gotten to the point where I’€™ve considered changing with this group. these guys have played really well.”

Stevens noted that, when on the floor, the starters have to be more aggressive.

“I think the biggest thing is we are not going to expect them to play the whole day. I don’€™t expect anyone to go for 15 in the first five minutes. The way that they are choosing to guard a couple of our guys, they have to be more opportunistic.”

The Celtics will continue to rely on their depth, something Stevens sees as one of the strengths of the team.

“One of the things that helped get us here was everybody being ready and everybody contributing. Sometimes 9 deep, sometimes 10 deep, sometimes 12 deep and I think with our team, that’€™s a real positive thing.’€

Celtics Starters

Avery Bradley, Marcus Smart, Evan Turner, Brandon Bass, Tyler Zeller

Cavaliers Starters

Kyrie Irving, J.R. Smith, LeBron James, Kevin Love, Timofey Mozgov

 

 

Wyc Grousbeck on MFB: Celtics not just ‘glad to be here’ 04.22.15 at 12:51 pm ET
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Celtics co-owner and CEO Wyc Grousbeck joined Middays with MFB on Wednesday afternoon to give his thoughts on the state of his team in the playoffs as well as hit on some current events regarding former C’s. To hear the interview, go to the MFB audio on demand page.

After the beginning of the season that the Celtics had, it’s not a stretch to say that people had a hard time imagining them in the playoffs come April. A hot second half propelled Boston to where it is now, heading back to TD Garden for game three of its opening round series against the Cavaliers. While Cleveland might not have been the most favorable matchup for the Celtics, Grousbeck is just happy the team is where it is.

“It was a lot of fun last night [Tuesday],” he said. “I’m very very proud of our team, and I saw the Cavs winning the game, they’ve beaten us twice, it wasn’t super close at the end of either game, but we gave them a scare last night. We played them super hard as a team, missed some shots we could have made, I suppose we deserved to lose. The Cavs are a great team, but I was really proud of how we played last night.”

Losing by 13 points in game one and then by eight on Tuesday night for game two, the C’s are in a bit of a hole going into Thursday. Despite the hole, though, Grousbeck is optimistic of his squad’s chances.

“We’re going be on home turf, we played these guys pretty tough for two games,” he said. “I like the fact that we are going to play hard, we’re going to play as a team, we’re very, very well-coached, we’re playing a team that’s definitely got more talent and has got the edge on us in the series and are contenders for the championship, the Cavs, but I really cannot wait for tomorrow night to kick off. I think it’s going to be a memorable night. I don’t know what will happen, but I know we’ll play hard and we’re going to give them a game.”

And while Grousbeck acknowledged that Cleveland does have the edge over Boston, he expects the Celtics to give their opponents a fight.

“This isn’t a ‘glad to be here, grab a couple appetizers and leave the party early,'” he said. “We’d like to tie this thing up.”

Grousbeck also noted that no one has deluded themselves into thinking that the Celtics have the elite level of talent that some other teams do, but they do possess other qualities that give them a fighting chance.

“We’ve got the heart, we’ve got the teamwork, we’ve got the coaching, we’ve got some great talent, really good players,” he said.

“We are not there yet,” Grousbeck added. “We’re not fooling anybody by saying we’re there, and we’re going to continually try and improve, but I also just love watching these guys step up their games … I love how our guys have stepped up their games and I love the possibilities we have in the future to even get better.”

Regardless of the outcome of the series, Grousbeck knows that making the playoffs and getting to this point is what helps draw people to Boston.

“I love being in the playoffs,” he said. “This is how you build a team, you make it a place that people want to come play.”

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Evan Turner wasn’t too thrilled with some ‘crazy’ calls that ‘didn’t make any sense’ 04.22.15 at 12:31 am ET
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Evan Turner gave his props to LeBron James and Kyrie Irving after Cleveland outlasted the Celtics 99-91 in Game 2 at Quicken Loans Arena.

But the Celtics guard thought he and his teammates could’ve had a much better chance to pull the upset if a couple of calls had gone Boston’s way.

The first one was a foul called by official Bennett Salvatore on Avery Bradley with 3:08 left. As the shot clock was expiring, Irving was spinning around near the baseline and was actually behind the backboard when he unloaded a desperation shot and fell to the floor.

Salvatore blew his whistle and bailed out Irving and the Cavs. Instead of getting the ball back down just four, 91-87, the Celtics watched as Irving made both from the charity stripe and bumped their lead back up to six, 93-87.

“Avery’s [got position there]. To call a foul right there and to call a foul when a guy’s behind the backboard in that type of possession, it should never be called,” Turner said. “It wasn’t a playable shot. It wasn’t a makable shot. It wasn’t anything. That was crazy call.”

Then, with the game already decided, Irving was called for a traveling violation, the only one of the game, with 16.6 seconds left. Turner found that quite odd as well.

“And then at the game, you call a travel when he’s been [carrying] it the same way the whole time, that’s the only tough part about today. That really didn’t make any sense,” Turner said.

But then Turner, who started and had nine points and a team-high 12 rebounds, turned the focus back on the Celtics, down 0-2.

“You just can’t really worry about it,” Turner said. “You try to do the right thing. The refs are trying their hardest. They can’t see everything. You just try to play hard. The one behind the backboard, in the corner. That was a crazy call, a game-changer down the stretch.

“They’re playing very great. Obviously, Kyrie definitely gifted offensively. When he starts off like that, sometimes you have to worry about him to a certain extent. LeBron tonight kind of kicked in his scoring late and you really have to play close attention to him. Mozgov did a great job as well. It’s definitely tough.”

Read More: Boston Celtics, Cleveland Cavaliers, Evan Turner,
Even down 2-0, Brad Stevens very confident in his Celtics: ‘We just have to be a little bit tighter’ 04.21.15 at 11:28 pm ET
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Brad Stevens sounded an cautious yet optimistic tone Tuesday night after his team dropped a 99-91 decision to LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers at Quicken Loans Arena that put his Celtics in a 2-0 series hold heading back to Boston for Game 3 Thursday night.

“We have another game to play,” Stevens said. “We have another game to prepare for. We have to prepare to the best of our ability. We’ve been of a collective mindset of the only day that matters is today and you move on to what’s next. I know that gets really old to hear but I think it’s the only way to live and certainly the only way to live in this business and it allows you to keep your focus on the task at hand.”

For the second straight game, the Celtics managed to outscore the Cavaliers after one quarter, leading 16-8 at one point. They were hanging tough heading into halftime in both games. Tuesday, they trailed by just one, 51-50, at the break. But in each of the first two games, Boston has laid a collective egg in the third quarter. Tuesday, they were outscored 17-4 out of the halftime break. The Celtics battled back but could never completely climb out of the hole.

“They came out both times very good but we were very poor at the start of the third,” Stevens said. “Both times I thought we were slow coming out of the gates for whatever reason. Again, they’re going to have their runs but their runs can’t become 9-0, 11-0, 13-0 or whatever it is. We’ve got to stop them at five or six and make it a 5-2 run or a 7-4 run. Easier said than done. Everybody glorifies the guy who makes the last-second shot. But the guy who can stop a run, that’s big-time toughness. We’ve got to be able to do that a little bit better and we’ve got guys in our room capable of doing that.

“Nobody has ever played a perfect basketball game, right? But you’re on a quest to play perfect in what you can control. We were good but we weren’t near good enough. But we did play better in a lot of ways. This team will compete and I feel pretty comfortable saying we’ll compete. We just have to be a little bit tighter. And that’s because of the game demands that and it’s also because our opponent is awfully good.”

The Celtics were downright dominant on the offensive glass in the first half, holding a 7-1 edge and outscoring Cleveland 12-2 in second chance points. But that changed drastically in the second half, as the Cavs outscored the Celtics 16-4 in second chance points and 9-4 on the offensive glass.
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Read More: 2015 playoffs, Boston Celtics, Brad Stevens, Cleveland Cavaliers
5 things we learned as Cavaliers hold off Celtics for 2-0 series lead 04.21.15 at 9:41 pm ET
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The Celtics achieved almost everything they set out to do in Game 2 — as Avery Bradley terrorized Kyrie Irving, the Cavaliers shot just 24.1 percent from 3-point range and the C’s out-rebounded Cleveland on the offensive glass — and yet they still lost by eight.

Despite all that went right for the Celtics, they still had no answer for LeBron James, who finished with 30 points, nine rebounds and seven assists in a 99-91 victory that gave the Cavaliers a 2-0 series lead. Even with Bradley all over him, Irving managed 26 points, six assists and five boards, spoiling what may have been the C’s best chance for a win.

“Obviously, they’re great players,” Celtics coach Brad Stevens said in his postgame press conference. “I thought we challenged Kyrie a little bit better. He’s a hard one because he gets fouled on some of those jump shots. That’s tough, but he’s a really explosive ball-handler and scorer. And when LeBron just puts his shoulder down and wants to get to where he wants to go, it’s hard to stop him from getting there. But I thought our guys actually did a pretty good job on different plays. … Those guys are hard to stop, but that’s why we can’t start the third quarter slowly and that’s why we’ve got to finish plays. That’s why every issue we’re having is magnified.”

Isaiah Thomas again led the Celtics with 22 points and seven assists. Jared Sullinger added 14 points, Tyler Zeller scored 11 and Jae Crowder and Marcus Smart each netted 10.

For a complete box score, click here.

BRINGING THE ENERGY

Midway through the first quarter, Brandon Bass wrestled an offensive rebound from Tristan Thompson and LeBron James, and then kicked it out to an open Marcus Smart, who knocked down a 3-pointer that pushed the Celtics‘ lead to 16-8 and forced the Cavs’ first timeout. It was indicative of a tremendous early effort by the Celtics. They matched their Game 1 total of seven offensive boards in the first quarter of Game 2 and added eight points off five Cleveland turnovers in the opening 12 minutes, taking a 26-25 lead after one.

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