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5 things we learned in Celtics’ win over Nuggets 02.04.15 at 10:01 pm ET
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Sandwiched between a successful West Coast trip and a wire-to-wire road victory against the Knicks, the Celtics lost a pair of home games to the Rockets and Heat. But with Malcolm Butler, Robert Kraft and a host of Patriots on hand at TD Garden on Wednesday night, the C’s delivered their first home victory in more than three weeks.

A pair of Jared Sullinger free throws with just 22.8 seconds remaining gave Boston a 102-100 lead, and Jae Crowder’s ensuing steal helped seal a 104-100 victory against the visiting Nuggets. The C’s improved to 18-30 on the season, moving within two losses of Miami for the eighth seed in the Eastern Conference.

Avery Bradley and Marcus Thornton led the Celtics with 17 points apiece. Tyler Zeller, Crowder and Sullinger each added 14 points. Zeller replaced Sullinger in the starting lineup after the 22-year-old showed up late for the second time in four days. Ty Lawson led Denver (19-31) with 23 points and eight assists.

For a complete box score, click here.

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Read More: Avery Bradley, Malcolm Butler, Robert Kraft,
Jared Sullinger benched for second time in 3 games 02.04.15 at 6:22 pm ET
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Jared Sullinger

Jared Sullinger

After Jared Sullinger missed a pregame walkthrough on Wednesday, Celtics coach Brad Stevens benched his starting power forward for the second time in three games. Sullinger also sat out the start of Sunday’s loss to the Heat for showing up late to a walkthrough.

“It’s the second time in two years,” said Stevens, who “absolutely” addressed the issue with Sullinger. “It just happens to be the second time in [four] days. Again, I said it the other day, I don’t think it’s an issue. You’ve just got to be here. Our precedence is set.”

Sullinger recorded just seven points and three rebounds in 19 minutes off the bench in Sunday’s loss to Miami. Reinserted into the starting lineup in Tuesday’s win over the Knicks, he collected 22 points, nine rebounds and six assists in 36 minutes. Sullinger finished with 14 points, seven rebounds and four assists in 21 minutes as a reserve in Wednesday’s victory against the Nuggets. Tyler Zeller started in his place.

Addressing reporters about the incident, Sullinger blamed “traffic” for his late arrival –€” an understandable excuse given the Patriots’ Super Bowl parade. Except, his C’s teammates showed up on time, and Comcast’s Kyle Draper reported that Sullinger was instead pulled over and cited for a traffic violation.

“Everybody in this locker room was probably late one time,” a defiant Sullinger said prior to the game. “Things happen. You can’t let it affect you. We’ve still got a game. Just because I was late [to walk-through], doesn’t mean I was late to the game. We’ve still got to play a game. Our main objective is to win, whether I start, whether I get benched, whether I not dress at all. We just want to win basketball games.”

Stevens will leave the decision on whether to fine Sullinger up to Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge.

“I don’t want to make any excuses,” the coach said of Sullinger. “He won’t make any excuses.”

Read More: Jared Sullinger,
Knicks help Celtics snap 3-game losing streak 02.03.15 at 9:58 pm ET
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Avery Bradley

Avery Bradley

Nothing like a game against the Knicks to bust out of a slump.

Led by Avery Bradley and Jared Sullinger, who each played their best game in weeks, the Celtics snapped a three-game losing streak with a 108-97 victory in New York. Despite the last-place Knicks (10-39) making it a two-possession game midway through the fourth quarter, the C’s (17-30) led wire to wire, staying within four wins of the Hornets and Heat for the final two playoff spots in the East.

Bradley led all scorers with 26 points in a remarkable 11-of-14 shooting performance to go along with four assists. Sullinger busted out of a slump of his own, collecting 22 points (11-19 FG), nine rebounds and six assists. Marcus Smart started in place of Jae Crowder, and they netted 13 points apiece in their new roles. Brandon Bass added 12 points as the only other Celtics player in double figures. The C’s shot 54.5 percent as a team.

Evan Turner (5 points, 5 assists, 8 rebounds) helped hold Carmelo Anthony to 21 points on 23 shots. For a complete box score, click here.

5 things we learned as Hassan Whiteside’s Heat stop Celtics 02.01.15 at 4:11 pm ET
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Tyler Zeller

Tyler Zeller

If someone asks you about Sunday’s Celtics game, make sure to emphasize its “€œgreat personality,”€ because by no means was it visually pleasing.

In a low-scoring affair that saw neither team playing particularly well, the Celtics ‘€” wearing their bizarre and unbecoming gray “€œParquet Pride”€ jerseys ‘€” fell 83-75 to the Heat at the TD Garden. The C’€™s struggled early and couldn’t regain the lead despite coming back to tie the game.

Without stars Dwyane Wade and Luol Deng, Miami relied heavily on their big men. Hassan Whiteside led all scorers with 20 points and nine rebounds while Chris Bosh added 18 points and seven rebounds. Avery Bradley and Tyler Zeller each netted 17 points to lead the way for the Celtics. Zeller started in place of Jared Sullinger, who was benched to start the game for arriving late to a pregame walkthrough. Marcus Thornton (15 points) was the only other Celtics player in double figures.

For the complete box score, click here.

CELTICS SHOOT TERRIBLY IN THE FIRST HALF

Even if there was some sort of bucket emporium that exclusively sold buckets and the team had a variety of currency options available, the Celtics still would not have been allowed to purchase a bucket. The C’€™s finished 13 for 41 from the field for an unimpressive 32.7 percent. Chris “Birdman” Andersen made as many 3-pointers as the Celtics, who made just one of their 10 attempts. Their inability to acquire aforementioned buckets, I’d argue, directly contributed to their 13-point deficit at halftime.

12 GOOD MINUTES OF BASKETBALL

Evan Turner may have started the game at point guard, but after missing his first six shots he quickly found himself on the bench. With Marcus Smart playing in his place to open the second half, the Celtics cut the Heat’€™s 13-point lead down to two. With the hyper-athletic lineup of Smart, Bradley and Jae Crowder in the game, the C’€™s increased their intensity and ball pressure on the defensive end. The Heat scored only 17 points in the quarter, turning the ball over seven times.

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Read More: Boston Celtics, Hassan Whiteside, Jared Sullinger, Miami Heat
5 things we learned as Rockets hold off Celtics’ comeback 01.30.15 at 9:59 pm ET
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After a dismal start, Marcus Smart’s defense and offensive contributions from a band of Celtics veterans sparked a furious comeback against the visiting Rockets, but the C’s couldn’t get over the hump in a 93-87 loss at TD Garden.

Smart held Houston’s MVP candidate James Harden to just 14 points on 4-of-21 shooting and the trio of Brandon Bass (17 points, 8 rebounds), Marcus Thornton (17 points, 4-6 3P, 7 rebounds) and Tayshaun Prince (13 points) combined for 47 points, leading the Celtics within a single possession yet again in the final minute after trailing by as many as 19 points in the first half — but it wasn’t enough to upset another Western Conference power.

“He’s pretty good,” Harden said of Smart. “He fits well in their system, and he made a lot of big plays.”

The Celtics dropped to 16-29, falling two games in the loss column behind the Charlotte Hornets for the Eastern Conference’s eighth seed. For a complete box score, click here.

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Will any current Celtics make a future All-Star Game? 01.30.15 at 12:55 pm ET
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Marcus Smart

Marcus Smart

Is anybody on this Celtics team capable of playing in a future All-Star Game?

The current 14-man roster shares one All-Star bid, as Gerald Wallace appeared as a reserve in 2010, but the real question is whether or not any of the eight players currently under the age of 25 will ever receive an invitation. Needless to say, nobody on this year’s Celtics even cracked the top 50 vote-getters for good reason.

While we shouldn’t give up all hope on Kelly Olynyk or James Young just yet, it’s safe to assume Jared Sullinger and Marcus Smart offer the best hopes among these Celtics for a future All-Star nomination. So, let’s take a look at how the 2015 NBA All-Stars fared at the same stage of their careers as that C’s tandem.

BACKCOURT

Midway through his rookie season, Smart has averaged 6.7 points (54.3 true shooting percentage), 3.2 assists against 1.2 turnovers, 2.4 rebounds and 1.1 steals in 22.2 minutes over 30 games. How do those numbers rate against the pre-All-Star rookie averages for the 12 guards who made this year’s East and West rosters?

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Read More: Boston Celtics, Jared Sullinger, Marcus Smart, NBA
Positive road trip gives hope to Celtics’ playoff odds 01.29.15 at 6:21 pm ET
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Last season the Celtics‘ record against the Western Conference on the road was 0-15. If there’s a positive way to spin that, it’s that Brad Stevens certainly left his team with room for improvements on the road for this season.

“It could go a bunch of different ways,” Brandon Bass said as the C’s prepared to depart for the six-game trip through three different Western Conference time zones. Yes, Brandon, it could have gone a bunch of different ways. However, I don’t think many predicted the Celtics would return home to almost three feet of snow with three more victories under their belts.

Finishing the trip with a loss in Minnesota left a sour taste in the team’s mouth, but the trip could have been far less successful in Stevens’ eyes.

“We had our moments where we played well,” the coach said of the road trip after returning home to practice on Thursday. “We won two 1-point games [back-to-backs in Portland and Denver] which could have gone either way. If we’re sitting here at 1-5 because those last two shots bounce in, do we feel worse about ourselves? Absolutely. Is it a lot less of a successful trip? Absolutely. But, because those bounces went our way, we feel better.”

With the unexpected success, the Celtics amazingly sit just two games back of the eight-seed in the Eastern Conference at 16-28. But the C’s haven’t just been getting lucky bounces in their own games lately, they’ve been lucky across the league.

The Pistons had been surging, and sit just a half-game back of Boston in the standings. But Brandon Jennings‘ achilles tear recently ended the point guard’s season, and may well keep Detroit from rolling into the playoffs after their turnaround in the post-Josh Smith era.

The Nets are currently sitting in the nine-seed, but Brooklyn has made it clear that they intend to sell, sell, sell as the deadline approaches. Deron Williams, Brook Lopez and Joe Johnson are all on the table. If they can find a taker on even one of those players, especially Johnson, Brooklyn could remain looking in from the outside at the playoffs.

The eight-seeded Hornets have lost arguably their best player in Kemba Walker for a long period of time after the UConn product recently underwent knee surgery. Unless they make a trade that brings them back some high-end talent, it would be silly to think that they wouldn’t slip in the standings.

Finally, there’s the Heat. Miami has a grasp on the seven-seed, but with a record of just 20-25, and Dwyane Wade injured again, they are far from untouchable in the standings.

Enter the Celtics. Their goal (or at least Danny Ainge’s goal) might not be to make the playoffs this season. Ainge admitted it wasn’t a goal of his last season. But the Eastern Conference is shaping up in a way that they just may sneak right in, even with a losing record. This current Celtics unit has not been together particularly long — it’s been a season filled with moving parts — but as Stevens said on Thursday: “There’s no better team building activity than winning a close game on the road.”

If the C’s can pull out a couple more close games on the road, then who knows? We might be watching this team compete during the playoffs whether it’s in Ainge’s plans or not.

Read More: Boston Celtics, Brad Stevens, Brandon Bass,
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