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Celtics know, but don’t care that they’re the underdog against juggernaut Cavs 05.16.17 at 6:58 pm ET
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The Celtics dropped three of four regular season games against the Cavaliers this season. (David Butler II/USA TODAY Sports)

The Celtics dropped three of four regular season games against the Cavaliers this season. (David Butler II/USA TODAY Sports)

WALTHAM — The Celtics may have been the No. 1 seed in the East by way of a 53-win regular season, but absolutely nobody is giving them a shot against LeBron James and the Cavaliers. 

But that’s business as usual for this club. 

“We’ve been counted out since I’ve been here,” Celtics guard Isaiah Thomas, averaging 25.4 points per game this spring (the ninth-most among playoff scorers), said on Tuesday. “It’s nothing new.”

“Did you hear anybody pick us to win last series, either?” Celtics forward Jae Crowder said when asked about the club’s slim chances against the defending champions. “What about the one before that?”

There’s no sense in trying to deny that the Celtics have toppled some obstacles to get to this point. They dropped the opening two games of their first-round series against the Bulls, and looked straight-up terrible along the way. But they rebounded with four straight victories. They then engaged in a home-winning, six-game war with the Wizards, and even though they dropped Game 6 in deflating fashion, the Celtics responded with one of their best team efforts of the entire postseason with Monday’s 115-105 win. 

It’s been their best and only response needed to answer the critics that have clearly stayed in their heads throughout this run. 

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LeBron James won’t take bait on question about Kelly Olynyk 05.16.17 at 4:55 pm ET
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Lebron James would not comment on Kelly Olynyk. (Bob DeChiara/USA Today Sports)

LeBron James would not comment on Kelly Olynyk. (Bob DeChiara/USA Today Sports)

The headlines have found Celtics big man Kelly Olynyk this spring. 

The latest one came after No. 41 helped push the Celtics to their first Eastern Conference Finals appearance since 2012 behind a 26-point Game 7 effort in Boston’s 115-105 victory over the Wizards on Monday night, but it was far from the first. Olynyk first made headlines for his altercation with Wizards forward Kelly Oubre Jr. in Game 3, and was then called a ‘dirty player’ by the Warriors’ Draymond Green, who also added that he doesn’t respect him.

That latter story has naturally jumped back into frame for the third round, too, as Olynyk will go against Cleveland’s Kevin Love in playoff action for the first time since Olynyk injured Love’s shoulder in the first round of the last Celtics-Cavaliers series, back in 2015. 

But the Cavaliers aren’t expecting a sequel of Olynyk’s arm-tearing endeavors, nor are they taking the bait on questions about him.

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Celtics-Wizards Game 7 draws record TV rating in Boston 05.16.17 at 1:12 pm ET
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Isaiah Thomas led the Celtics with 29 points Monday. (Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports)

Isaiah Thomas led the Celtics with 29 points Monday. (Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports)

It looks like Boston is buying into the Celtics. 

According to Turner Sports, Game 7 between the Celtics and Wizards was the highest-rated TNT game ever in Boston, drawing a massive 18.1 number. The contest drew a 5.4 overnight rating for the network, the best for a non-conference finals game since 2012. 

The extraordinary viewership for Monday’s contest is a testament to the drama of the series and the apparent affinity Celtics fans feel for their team. There was a lot of animosity between Boston and Washington, which climaxed when members of the Celtics wore black prior to their Game 6 showdown in Washington –– copying a gimmick the Wizards used in the regular season. Game 7 came down to the wire, too, with the Celtics pulling away after massive fourth quarters from Isaiah Thomas and Kelly Olynyk. 

Though it’s unlikely the Celtics will push the Cavaliers in the Eastern Conference Finals, they’ve now won two playoff series for the first time since 2012. With the draft lottery Tuesday, this has a chance to be a banner week for the franchise. People are paying attention. 

Read More: Boston Celtics, Washington Wizards,
ESPN’s Jeff Goodman: No huge difference between Celtics landing 1st or 4th pick 05.16.17 at 12:11 pm ET
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Markelle Fultz (James Snook/USA Today Sports)

Markelle Fultz (James Snook/USA Today Sports)

The NBA Draft Lottery takes place Tuesday night and the odds are in the Celtics’ favor to earn the No. 1 pick. But what if they fall to the No. 4 pick?

ESPN basketball insider Jeff Goodman, who may be the foremost authority when it comes to analyzing the draft prospects, believes it wouldn’t be a huge deal.

The difference is “not a big as people think,” Goodman said.

He believes the top four picks are Markelle Fultz, Lonzo Ball, Josh Jackson and Jayson Tatum.

“There’s not a huge disparity [between the four players],” Goodman said. “Most people think there’s a little gap after the top two, but not really. Danny Ainge is going to take who he thinks is going to be an NBA superstar.”

Should the Celtics get the first pick, they are expected to take Fultz, a freshman out of Washington. Lonzo Ball, a freshman from UCLA is expected to go second followed by freshman De’Aaron Fox out of Kentucky and Kansas freshman Jackson. (For an in-depth look at the candidates, click here.)

The Celtics have a 25 percent chance of claiming the top pick in the draft when the lottery is held Tuesday night, with the odds dropping to 21.5 percent for the second pick and 17.8 percent for the third.

What player do you want to see the Celtics end up with?

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Eastern Conference finals schedule: Celtics will host Cavs Wednesday, Friday before series shifts to Cleveland 05.16.17 at 10:45 am ET
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The Celtics will host the Cavs beginning Wednesday night. (Bob DeChiara-USA Today Sports)

The Celtics will host the Cavs beginning Wednesday night. (Bob DeChiara-USA Today Sports)

Thanks to a thrilling Game 7 win over the Wizards Monday night, the Celtics have advanced to the Eastern Conference finals where they will take on the well-rested Cavaliers.

Since the Celtics were the No. 1 overall seed in the East, they will have homecourt advantage.

Here is the complete schedule. All games will begin at 8:30 and be aired on TNT.

Game 1: Wednesday, May 17 at Boston

Game 2: Friday, May 19 at Boston

Game 3: Sunday, May 21 at Cleveland

Game 4: Tuesday, May 23 at Cleveland

Game 5: Thursday, May 25 at Boston*

Game 6: Saturday, May 27 at Cleveland*

Game 7: Monday, May 29 at Boston *

* If necessary

For more Celtics news, visit weei.com/celtics.

After Game 7 thriller, can Celtics give LeBron James, Cavaliers a real run for it? 05.16.17 at 12:17 am ET
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Kelly Olynyk channels Larry Bird, scoring 14 of his playoff career-best 26 points in a stunning fourth-quarter display while Isaiah Thomas was his typical brilliant self, scoring 29, as the Celtics put away the Wizards in Game 7. Not much time to savor as LeBron James and the Cavs are up Wednesday in Game 1 of the Eastern finals. Mike Petraglia and Josue Pavon recap an electric night at TD Garden.

Read More: 2017 NBA finals, Boston Celtics, Cleveland Cavaliers, Isaiah Thomas
Kelly Olynyk, Jaylen Brown help Isaiah Thomas, Celtics vanquish Wizards in electric Game 7, move onto LeBron James 05.15.17 at 10:42 pm ET
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May 15, 2017; Boston, MA, USA; Boston Celtics guard Isaiah Thomas (4) shoots the ball over Washington Wizards guard Bradley Beal (3) during the first half in game seven of the second round of the 2017 NBA Playoffs at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

Isaiah Thomas shoots the ball over Washington Wizards guard Bradley Beal in a tense Game 7 at TD Garden Monday night. (Bob DeChiara/USA Today Sports)

Bring on LeBron.

In a series filled with dramatic swings in momentum and emotion, the Celtics outlasted the Wizards, 115-105, Monday night in a tense Game 7 of their Eastern Conference semifinal series at TD Garden. 

“It was ridiculous, I don’t think this building reached that level, since I’ve been here at least,” Brad Stevens said of the TD Garden crowd. 

“It’s good to be able to validate the progress but it’s about the next game,” Stevens said of reaching the Eastern finals in his fourth season. 

Kelly Olynyk put up a playoff career high of 26 points off the bench – including 14 in an amazing fourth-quarter display – while Isaiah Thomas was his usual electric self with 29 points as the Celtics can now get ready for Game 1 of the Eastern finals against the defending champion Cavaliers Wednesday night in Boston. 

“Kelly was the MVP tonight,” Thomas said. 

“They’re playing better than last year, at least when I watch them,” Stevens said of the Cavaliers. “I think they’re playing better than any of the four times we played them, including the last time when they smashed us.”

The heroics of Olynyk and Thomas offset a playoff career-best 38 points from Bradley Beal in a losing cause. 

The reason the Celtics advanced was simple: They had more in reserve. Specifically, their bench gave them a boost that the Wizards just didn’t enjoy. 

The group of Jaylen Brown, Marcus Smart and Kelly Olynyk gave the Celtics the luxury to rest the likes of Isaiah Thomas, Avery Bradley and Al Horford. 

When when Thomas and Horford were on the court in the fourth quarter, they put away Washington in dramatic fashion. Thomas and Horford dominated. John Wall looked like a superstar entirely out of gas. Wall couldn’t do it all and Washington’s awful bench was his and the team’s ultimate undoing. 

The Celtics’ bench outscored Washington’s reserves, 48-5. 

For the Wizards, their Eastern finals drought continues. They haven’t been to the NBA final four since 1979 when they beat the San Antonio Spurs to advance to the NBA finals against Seattle. The home team won all 11 meetings this season. 

The Celtics advance to the Eastern finals for the first time since 2012, when they also faced LeBron James and fell in a seven-game thriller to the Miami Heat. The Celtics continued their dominance of the Wizards in Boston, beating Washington for the ninth straight time, dating to 2014. 

With an electric Game 7 atmosphere not seen in TD Garden for a Celtics game since beating the 76ers in 2012, the Celtics took advantage of the thunderous crowd. 

Washington missed five of their first six shots while the Celtics hit three of their first six, including a wing three that ignited the crowd and caused Scott Brooks to call his first time out. 

Otto Porter’s put back with seven minutes left ended Boston’s 7-0 run that helped the Celtics to a 10-2 lead. That started a run for the Wizards, which included Amir Johnson picking up his second foul. Another Achilles heel of the Celtics revealed itself in the first seven minutes, as four turnovers led to seven Wizards points. 

(For a complete boxscore, click here.) 

With the game tied at 17, rookie Jaylen Brown came off the bench to spark a 7-0, including a 3-pointer and a pair of free throws. The Wizards again responded with a run that featured Amir Johnson picking up his third foul with a minute left in the opening quarter. The Celtics picked up some momentum when Kelly Olynyk drove to the basket for a layup and was fouled with 5.7 seconds left. Olynyk made the free throw and the Celtics took a 27-23 lead into the second period. 

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Read More: 2017 NBA Playoffs, Avery Bradley, Boston Celtics, Game 7
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