|Celtics Midseason Report||02.08.17 at 8:08 pm ET|
With 51 games through the regular season, the Celtics (33-18) have the second-best record in the East and will look to finish strong and make a deep run in the playoffs. WEEI.com’s Josue Pavon and Logan Mullen recap the highs and lows of the 2016-17 season, and make predictions for how far the C’s will go and what needs to happen for them to get there in this Celtics midsesaon report.
When the Celtics signed Al Horford over the summer, guys like Isaiah Thomas and Avery Bradley were destined to see a bump in their scoring average. However, Thomas becoming the NBA’s second-best scorer (29.9) isn’t what I had in mind.
According to basketball-reference.com, he’s averaging 43.2 points per 100 possessions this season and his fourth-quarter scoring has made him an MVP candidate behind Russell Westbrook and James Harden. Thomas is averaging a league-leading 10.7 points in the fourth quarter and is easily the biggest surprise of the season for the Celtics.
(Logan) Fourth-quarter Isaiah Thomas
After finishing last season as one of the best defensive teams, the Celtics entered the 2016-17 season with lofty expectations. Adding big man Al Horford certainly had a lot to do with those assumptions, however, the slippage falls on the entire roster.
Last year, the C’s were great defensively because it was a group effort and made the difference in narrow victories against last season’s top-notch teams. Although scoring is up across the league this year, it still doesn’t prove why there’s been such a dramatic drop off. It could be a combination of Amir Johnson having a down year compared to last season, Jae Crowder not being the same lock-down defender he was a season ago or the fact that the small-ball lineup – while it’s effective offensively – welcomes mismatches that favor their opponents.
One of the biggest differences between last season’s team and this year’s is their decline in forcing turnovers. The Celtics finished second in forced turnovers last season – averaging 16.3 per game. This year, they’ve dropped to 14th in that department.
(Logan) Marcus Smart’s offense
|Isaiah Thomas named Eastern Conference Player of the Week||02.07.17 at 5:10 pm ET|
Isaiah Thomas followed up his incredible month of scoring by earning the Eastern Conference Player of the Week award.
After winning Eastern Conference Player of the Month honors for the month of January, Thomas led the Celtics to a 4-0 record, while averaging 37.8 points and 6.8 assists. In two of those four games, he scored 40-plus points against the Pistons (41) and Raptors (44).
Thomas also averaged an astonishing 17.5 fourth-quarter points last week.
Since his 52-point performance on Dec. 30, the All-Star guard has been on an unbelievable tear — averaging 34.8 points and 6.6 assists in 16 games.
The Celtics (14-4) are tied with the Pacers (14-4) for the second-best record since Dec. 30. Warriors (15-3) have been the hottest team in the league throughout that span.
The C’s (33-18) are currently in second place in the Eastern Conference and will look to stretch their winning streak to seven consecutive games on Wednesday when they kick off a four-game road trip in Sacramento against the Kings.
|Paul Pierce discusses “Rajon being Rajon,” relationship with members of “The Big 3”||02.06.17 at 7:01 pm ET|
Before playing his final game in Boston, Paul Pierce answered an array of questions about his legacy, playing at TD Garden one last time and his role with the Clippers.
But when Pierce was asked about his relationship with Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen and Rajon Rondo, he smiled. And talked about how he still keeps in touch with most of them.
Garnett is “having the time of his life,” said Pierce. He says Garnett’s show “Area 21,” a segment part of TNT’s weekly Thursday night broadcast along with being a consultant for the Clippers, has kept him busy throughout his first post-retirement season.
When he was asked about Rondo, Pierce said him and Rondo “talk all the time” and that Rondo’s rift with Bulls teammates Dwyane Wade and Jimmy Butler was simply, “Rajon being Rajon.”
“Just like Manny being Manny, he’s Rajon being Rajon,” Pierce jokingly said. “Man, you know what, I respect Rajon with some of the stuff he said, truthfully. I thought it was the truth. I didn’t have a problem with none of the stuff he said about Wade or Jimmy Butler because it was the honest truth. [If you] see the next game, Wade and Jimmy they got benched because what Rondo said was right.”
|Paul Pierce knocks down a farewell 3-pointer in Celtics win over Clippers||02.05.17 at 6:09 pm ET|
It was a perfect ending for Celtics fans.
Paul Pierce knocked in the final shot, and the Celtics won the game.
Towards the end of a 107-102 Celtics win over the Clippers, fans spent the most of the second half chanting for Pierce to come back in the game. With 19.8 second left, Clippers head coach Doc Rivers finally reinserted Pierce — who had been on the bench since the first quarter — and TD Garden went nuts.
With the game out of reach, the Celtics legend took a deep 3-pointer in front of Isaiah Thomas, and drained it.
The Garden erupted.
It was a fitting moment by Pierce to knock down the final shot, just like he’s done dozens of times throughout his 15 years with the Celtics.
“It’s a tough situation, been sitting for like the last two hours, then had to come in there and get a shot,” Pierce said with a smile on his face. “But I’m glad I ended it that way, [glad] I was able to. You know, you want to come in and get a win but it was a tough day, not only for me but for my teammates, it was a lot of emotion running through; my teammates kind of felt it too. I’m glad I was able to cap it off, my last game in the Garden, at least I can just say I put one last bucket in at the end of the game.
TD Garden wasted little time in showering Paul Pierce with a tribute video. During the first timeout of the first quarter — which was called at the 8:13 mark — a montage of some of Pierce’s greatest moments on the court played on the jumbotron to commemorate his final game. After Celtics fans gave a thunderous standing ovation for Pierce, one that continued as the game resumed, fans began chanting a “Thank you, Paul Pierce” chant.
“It was tough, man,” Pierce said on having to sit throughout most of the game. “The fans are awesome. These are the best fans in the world. I never felt anything like this. I truly appreciate my time here. I truly appreciate tonight. The fans showered me with a lot of love.”
|Boston says farewell to Paul Pierce, the purest scorer in Celtics history||02.04.17 at 11:30 pm ET|
History won’t only take place in Houston’s NRG Stadium on Sunday.
Nearly 2,000 miles away from Super Bowl LI, the purest scorer in Celtics history will play his last game in Boston.
Paul Pierce, who plans to retire after this season, will give Celtics fans one final performance on his beloved parquet when the Clippers visit TD Garden in a pre-Super Bowl matinee at 2 p.m.
Although it’s been nearly four years since Pierce donned a Celtics uniform, his contributions to the city and organization feel fresh. Fifteen years and one unforgettable title ensure him of immortality.
Celtics legends Larry Bird and John Havlicek often headline discussions of the franchise’s best pure scorer, but was there a more dynamic offensive force than Pierce? He could score at a high rate in every way imaginable.
Pierce could take his defender to the rim, score from the mid-range, hit 3’s, and make shots with victory on the line, as his dozen-plus game-winners prove. The 10-time All-Star was an offensive assassin. And his career numbers back it up.
Not only does he lead the Celtics in most 3-pointers and free-throws made but in both statistical categories, he’s top-10 in NBA history. Only three NBA players have drained more 3-pointers than Pierce (2,137) and he’s eighth in free-throws made (6,916).
He enters Sunday’s game as the 16th leading scorer in league history with 26,361 career points, fittingly, right behind Celtics legend Havlicek (26,395), who is 15th on the list.
Pierce is not only the best pure scorer in Celtics history, he’s also one of the most gifted offensive talents in league history. Despite being overshadowed by great scorers throughout his prime, starting with Allen Iverson and Kobe Bryant in the early 2000s and ending with LeBron James today, Pierce eventually earned his place in their company. Read the rest of this entry »
|Isaiah Thomas reacts to Paul Pierce calling him a ‘Championship-type player”||02.04.17 at 4:25 pm ET|
Celtics All-Star Isaiah Thomas found out on Friday that a future Hall of Famer thinks the 5-foot-9 guard has what it takes to win an NBA title.
In a recent one-on-one interview with Boston Globe’s Adam Himmelsbach, Paul Pierce commented on this season’s Celtics team and called Thomas a “championship-type player.” The former Celtics captain said that he believes that Thomas, along with the intelligence and guidance of head coach Brad Stevens, have a chance to compete for a championship one day.
A smile stretched across Thomas’ face when he found out what the Celtics legend had to say about him.
“I didn’t know that,” Thomas said. “That means everything. From a first-ballot Hall of Famer, a Celtics legend, to say that about me, that means a lot. Like I always say, I don’t care what anybody says but my peers and the people who did it before me. For a guy like that to say that, that’s crazy.”
In light of Pierce playing his final game at TD Garden on Sunday, Thomas added:
“I’m going to try to find his jersey, so I can get it signed.”
After a 38-point performance in Friday’s win over the Lakers, Thomas is now averaging 29.9 points per game, less than one point away from Russell Westbrook’s league-leading 30.8 point average.
The last Celtics player to finish a season averaging 29.9 points per game was Larry Bird back in the 1987-88 season.
|Brad Stevens named coach of the Eastern Conference All-Stars||02.04.17 at 12:12 pm ET|
After clinching the second-best record in the East, Celtics coach Brad Stevens and his coaching staff have earned the right to coach the Eastern Conference All-Star team.
The Celtics’ 113-107 win over the Lakers put them 2.5 games ahead of the Wizards, while only two games separate the C’s from first place. Stevens becomes the sixth Celtics coach to ever coach the Eastern All-Star team, the first since Doc Rivers’ coaching staff in 2011.
Although Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue, who holds the best record in the Eastern Conference, should be coaching the Eastern All-Stars, he couldn’t because of the NBA rule that disallows coaches to make back-to-back appearances at All-Star games.
The Celtics held onto the second-best record in the East before the deciding Feb. 5 deadline.
“It should be Ty Lue,” Stevens said. “But the way the rules work then it’s the next-best record because he did it last year.
“But what’s nice about it is, there’s no politics in it. There’s no subjectivity. It’s what your team has accomplished. And that’s a credit to the players in the locker room. You know, it’s almost a little bit, I almost, feel bad that I’m the one that’s going. I’d rather have another one or two of those guys (the players) playing in it. But our staff will really enjoy it, and our staff’s kids will really enjoy it. And we’ll go from there.”
Stevens was quick to credit his players for putting him in a position to succeed and explained how it takes hard work from talented guys in order for a coach to be successful.
“I think none of us (coaches) are crazy enough to think you get there without really good players, and the players certainly carry the coaches,” Stevens explained. “That’s been the way it’s always been. But with regard to the staff, I think our staff works really hard. I’ve said before that I’ve tried to prioritize hiring humble, hardworking and intelligent people. And they come every day, they work really hard, they do a lot behind the scenes, they put in a lot of time and effort, and so it’s nice that they’re going to be a part of that as well.”
The 2017 All-Star game will be played on Feb. 19 in New Orleans.
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