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Monday’s loss to the Hawks reveals the true need for Andrew Bogut, and why Isaiah Thomas can’t do everything 02.27.17 at 9:54 pm ET
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The Celtics might be able to skate past the dregs of the Eastern Conference, as they barely did Sunday night in Detroit.

But if Monday proved anything, come springtime, the Celtics are going to have to play bigger and tougher in the paint if they have any aspirations of extending play into May. 

Dennis Schroder outplayed Isaiah Thomas and the Atlanta Hawks blasted the Celtics after Dwight Howard’s ejection in a 114-98 rout of Boston Monday night at TD Garden. Thomas had just two points in the fourth quarter and finished with 19, ending his franchise streak of games with at least 20 points at 43 games. 

The Celtics, who hosted a beardless Julian Edelman next to their bench, were abused in the paint in the first half, getting outscored 28-14 and out-rebounded 32-21. Brad Stevens has said all season that he’s fully aware that his team will not be winning any rebounding battles. 

But there comes a time and a place where getting overpowered eventually wears you down. That was the case Monday. When Isaiah Thomas is your leading rebounder through three quarters, Marcus Smart is your best low post option and the other team has Dwight Howard, that’s an issue. 

If there’s any truth to the report from the Globe’s Adam Himmelsbach that Andrew Bogut, officially bought out Monday by Philadelphia, is interested in coming to Boston, the Celtics should do everything in their power to make sure he doesn’t leave Tuesday’s meeting without signing on the dotted line. 

Monday’s game was much more than just a team playing on the second night of a back-to-back. It was about a bigger, stronger team taking it to them physically. Al Horford is a lot of things. A true big man he is not. Down 17 with six minutes left in the game, Stevens rested Horford, presumably to save him for the defending world champs Wednesday night at TD Garden. 

For a full box score and summary of Monday’s game vs. Atlanta, click here

The Celtics raced out to a 15-7 lead as Avery Bradley returned, showing the same sharp-shooting form he showed before his Achilles injury of early January that forced him to miss 22 of his previous 23 games. Bradley hit the first shot he took, a wide-open 25-footer for three from the left wing. As a matter of fact, the Celtics connected on their first three attempts from beyond the arc as they built the early cushion. 

But Atlanta responded with an 11-0 run midway through the first quarter, turning a seven-point Celtics lead into a four-point hole. 

Dennis Schroder and Isaiah Thomas seemed to put their running – sometimes acrimonious – rivalry to the side. It was Schroder who accused Thomas of disparaging comments during a January game directed at Schroder’s mother. Thomas vehemently denied this charge. The two had a very animated but civil exchange in which both appeared to smile and joust with one another. 

Then, following a Thomas drive to the basket midway through the second quarter, it was Schroder who helped Thomas back to his feet. 

Things were more intense in the second half. After Dwight Howard grabbed a driving Isaiah Thomas from behind on a move to the basket, Howard escaped a flagrant foul after review. Then, less than a minute later, as Howard was fighting for a rebound under the Celtics basket, Al Horford fouled Howard hard. Howard responded with a shove to the chest of Horford and was given a technical foul. 

The Celtics then caught a huge break when Howard picked up up second technical of the game for hanging on the rim and flipping his head back on a dunk with 4:03 left in the third quarter. The dunk made it 74-65 Hawks. 

Horford continues to do most of his offensive work on the perimeter. This paid dividends in the third quarter when he found a back-cutting Jaylen Brown for a crowd-energizing, alley oop dunk. 

Without Howard, things only got worse for the Celtics as they trailed 84-71 after three. Boston fell behind by 17, 90-73, with just over nine minutes left. 

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Read More: Atlanta Hawks, Boston Celtics, Dennis Schroder, Dwight Howard
Celtics pregame: Avery Bradley returns after 18-game absence, starts vs. Hawks 02.27.17 at 6:27 pm ET
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Jan 6, 2017; Boston, MA, USA;  Boston Celtics guard Avery Bradley (0) during the second half against the Philadelphia 76ers at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

Avery Bradley returns after an 18-game absence with a sore Achilles. (Bob DeChiara/USA Today Sports)

For the first time since Jan. 16, Avery Bradley will take the court for the Celtics in a game.

And coach Brad Stevens is going to see quickly if the shooting guard is really ready.

Stevens announced before Monday’s game that Bradley will start against the Hawks after missing the previous 18 games with a sore right Achilles.

Stevens did indicate that Bradley – averaging 34.9 minutes in 36 games this season – would be on a restriction of “15-to-25 minutes” this week as he returns against the Hawks, Cavaliers and Lakers. 

Bradley, who is averaging 17.7 points, 6.9 rebounds and 2.4 assists this season, played against the Hornets on Jan. 16 but clearly wasn’t himself.

He made just 2-of-9 shots from the field (1-for-6 from long range) in 33 minutes, adding three rebounds and three assists in Boston’s 108-98 win.

Prior to that game, Bradley missed the previous four games with the Achilles injury. 

Bradley reiterated before the game what he said two weeks ago, that he was anxious to return “four weeks ago” but understood the team’s precaution. 

Bradley’s biggest impact could come in an area the Celtics need help – rebounding. His 6.9 average per game leads the team, 0.3 more than Al Horford. He is one of the more athletic No. 2 guards in the league and uses it to effectively rebound. He and Marcus Smart are two of the more physical guards in the East and it’s no coincidence that the Celtics struggled with offensive rebounding in his absence. 

That, of course, was offset by the fact that the other guard, Isaiah Thomas is in the midst of an MVP-caliber season offensively. In Bradley’s 18-game absence, the Celtics went 12-6. They are 15-7 in the last 22 games without him in the lineup. 

With Bradley starting and Stevens indicating that he doesn’t plan to alter his minutes early in the games this week, it means that rookie Jaylen Brown returns to the bench. This move deepens the bench significantly with the likes of Kelly Olynyk and Marcus Smart, who returned to his customary sixth-man role beginning with the Raptors game after the All-Star break. 

Read More: Atlanta Hawks, Avery Bradley, Boston Celtics,
Win in Detroit shows Celtics need their young guns now more than ever 02.26.17 at 8:51 pm ET
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Feb 26, 2017; Auburn Hills, MI, USA; Detroit Pistons forward Stanley Johnson (7) dribbles the ball during the second quarter as Boston Celtics guard Terry Rozier (12) defends at The Palace of Auburn Hills. Mandatory Credit: Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports

Stanley Johnson (7) dribbles the ball during the second quarter as Boston Celtics guard Terry Rozier (12) defends at The Palace of Auburn Hills. Mandatory Credit: Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports

Ugly is as ugly does. 

In one of the choppiest and most disconcerting games of the season, the Celtics blew a 15-point third-quarter lead and allowed the ice-cold Pistons to take a late lead. 

Jaylen Brown drilled a baseline three with 37.6 seconds left to give the Celtics the lead for good and Marcus Smart showed his typical toughness by drawing a foul and making two free throws to power the Celtics past the Pistons, 104-98, Sunday night at the Palace of Auburn Hills. 

The win snapped a two-game skid and lifted Boston to 38-21 on the season. 

The Celtics were awful on the offensive glass after misses by the Pistons at the free throw line. They allowed five offensive rebounds by the Pistons on such instances, two of them leading to wide-open 3-pointers. 

The Pistons were awful at the free throw line, led by Andre Drummond, the worst free-throw shooter in NBA history. The Detroit big man missed 10 of his 11 attempts on the night and the Pistons were 16-for-35 as a team from the charity stripe. 

Isaiah Thomas scored 16 of his game-high 33 points in the first half as the Celtics used an 18-3 run to build their lead up to as many as 12, 47-35. 

Terry Rozier and Jaylen Brown were a combined 7-for-9 from the field in the first half. Rozier, a key player with Avery Bradley out of action for the last six weeks, made offensive impact backing up Isaiah Thomas at the point. He also saw some playing time with Thomas. (Coach Brad Stevens indicated before Sunday’s game that Bradley could return this week, possibly against the Hawks Monday night after missing the last 18 games with a sore right Achilles). 

Brown has turned into one of the very best two-way transition players the Celtics have. He showed both in the first half as the Celtics held control most of the time. He was a plus-14 in 12 minutes of action. 

Morris connected on a 30-foot three at the buzzer that cut it to a 54-50 Celtics lead. The Celtics took 17 threes and made five. 

For a full box score and statistical recap of Sunday’s game in Detroit, click here.

With former teammates like Chauncey Billups, Rasheed Wallace and coaches Larry Brown and Jim Calhoun looking on, the Pistons then held an extended, emotional halftime ceremony to retire the No. 32 of former UConn and Pistons star Richard “Rip” Hamilton. “This is surreal. This is surreal,” Hamilton said in his opening remarks.

“See what Ray Allen do? I’m going to do the same thing for you that I did for Ray Allen,” Hamilton told Calhoun as he recalled Calhoun’s message to him at UConn in 1996. Hamilton was the most outstanding player for the Huskies as UConn won their first national championship in 1999. 

Hamilton played nine seasons in Detroit and was a key part of the 2004 Pistons team that swept the Lakers in the NBA Finals. 

James Young, a Detroit native, told CSNNE’s Abby Chin before the game that Hamilton was his role model and idol growing up. 

Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Boston Celtics, Detroit Pistons, Isaiah Thomas, Jaylen Brown
Danny Ainge explains why Celtics didn’t make any moves at deadline: ‘Nothing that was good enough’ 02.23.17 at 4:05 pm ET
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Danny Ainge

Danny Ainge

Danny Ainge tried, but he’s not in a rush to give away Brooklyn picks, and he likes his team.

Those were the messages from the Celtics boss to reporters after Thursday’s trade deadline passed without Ainge making a deal.

“We had a lot of conversations about things that we could do to improve our team but nothing that was good enough to do,” Ainge told reporters, including Richie Thompson of the Boston Herald. “It’s hard to say and I think it takes two teams and a lot of times we don’t know how close. A lot of times it is very easy to tell but [sometimes] teams are very far apart. A lot of discussion, good conversation and a lot of rumors that were true and a lot of rumors that were not true.”

The Celtics were linked to Pacers All-Star Paul George, but never came close to consummating a deal. They also failed to address their lack of rebounding with a secondary deal.

Ainge made it clear that the Celtics value their two remaining first-round picks from the Nets, noting that executives across the league recognize how valuable those selections could be, especially with deep drafts forecast in 2017 and 2018.

“The ball has bounced our way,” Ainge told reporters, “and we need to make the most of that.”

Regardless, Ainge said he likes his team, especially with injured guard Avery Bradley due back soon, and young forward Jaylen Brown expected to return on Friday night when the Celtics open the second half in Toronto.

“The outcome is that we have a team that is getting ready to head to Toronto, the same team we’ve had since training camp,” said Ainge. “A team that is very close to being healthy.”

(For more on the trade deadline and how the inactivity leaves the Celtics as potentially only the fourth-best team in the Eastern Conference, check out this column.)

Read More: Celtics rumors, Danny Ainge, NBA Trade Deadline, Nets picks
Celtics rumors: P.J. Tucker traded to Toronto Raptors for old friend Jared Sullinger 02.23.17 at 3:09 pm ET
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The Celtics didn’t just miss out on a big fish like Paul George. They apparently didn’t even land a perch like P.J. Tucker.

According to (who else) Adrian Wojnarowski of the Vertical, the Raptors acquired Tucker from the Suns for former Celtics forward Jared Sullinger, as well as pair of second-round picks.

Tucker, 31, is averaging seven points and six rebounds a game. He’s also a solid a 3-point shooter.

Celtics rumors: Woj says Pacers won’t trade Paul George, so looks like that deal is dead 02.23.17 at 2:52 pm ET
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Adrian Wojnarowski says the Paul George deal is dead, so that’s the end of that.

The host of The Vertical podcast just tweeted the Pacers star isn’t going anywhere.

Based on Woj’s impeccable track record, that would appear to be it. Now the question is if the Celtics can pull off a minor deal to help the margins of their roster, particularly in the rebounding department.

Oh well. Those rumors were fun while they lasted.

Read More: Celtics rumors, NBA Trade Deadline, Paul George,
Not so fast on Paul George — Pacers star reportedly ‘hell-bent’ on joining Lakers 02.23.17 at 2:45 pm ET
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Well this should throw some water on those Paul George rumors.

According to USA Today’s Sam Amick, George wants to either win a title in Indiana or head home to join the Lakers when he hits free agency after next season.

George grew up in Palmdale, California and played at Fresno State. He can opt out of his contract after next season and has reportedly always been enamored with playing for the Lakers.

That makes a trade by the Celtics that much more difficult, because they don’t want to surrender Nets picks and players from their current roster, only to have George bolt in free agency after next season.

Read More: Celtics rumors, NBA Trade Deadline, Paul George,
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