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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
Anna Horford sounds off on Boston media: ‘I don’t know if they’re even watching’ 05.15.17 at 4:17 pm ET
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The Celtics are taking on the Wizards in Game 7 Monday.  (Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports)

Anna Horford is perhaps the Celtics’ most passionate fan. (Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports)

Those who cross the Celtics can expect to face Anna Horford’s wrath. 

Al Horford’s sister seldom shies away from sharing her opinion, most recently ripping Warriors forward Draymond Green for calling Kelly Olynyk a dirty player. Her Twitter feed will likely be active during the Celtics’ Game 7 showdown against the Wizards Monday, serving as a stream of consciousness as she watches the game unfold. 

Though Horford isn’t afraid to lambast other players in the league, she saves some of her sharpest commentary for members of the Boston sports media, going after personalities who criticize her brother and his team. 

In a phone conversation with WEEI.com, Horford explained her critiques of the Boston sports media scene. She also offered some insight into the apparent animosity between the Celtics and Wizards. 

Alex Reimer: Why do you think there’s so much animosity between the Celtics and Wizards?

Anna Horford: “The Cavs have been king in the East and [the Celtics and Wizards] are fighting each other for who’s next in line. I think that’s where a lot of the animosity and competitiveness stems from. We’re just trying to battle it out and see who’s the better team. I think it’s Boston, obviously, but I think that’s where that comes from –– just trying to figure out who’s better.”

AR: What is the biggest thing a lot of talking heads miss when analyzing the Celtics?

AH: “I can just tell a lot of the media has been very clickbait, attention-grabbing. They just want the hot takes. I’m not sure if the hosts actually watch the games, or if they go purely based on the box score.

“As far as this series goes, I don’t know if they’re even watching. But if they are, they’re clearly not seeing the little things that are happening that are magical. We had a great Game 5 at home and we just played so well –– our offense flowed so well. We looked like a really well put together team and I think it’s the little things people miss when they’re just paying attention to points and rebounds. And then as well as looking at just the positives. So for example, comparing this season to previous seasons and postseasons, this team has had a tremendous amount of growth. A lot of our individual players have also had a lot of growth. I think that’s really impressive. So if you’re paying attention, you know that we’re on the right track and we’re only going to get better from here.”

AR: How does the media coverage in Boston compare to Atlanta?

AH: “In Atlanta, they were a little more laid back. The media that I’ve had the pleasure of speaking with, they all seemed very informed. They were all very kind, they all really like Al. I think that’s the difference. Atlanta knew Al, knew his character and knew his style of play. In Boston, you almost have to come in and kind of prove yourself to fans and radio hosts and the media. I think they’ve been a little harder on him, just because they don’t know him on a certain level. They will, eventually, but I think that’s a big difference.”

AR: It must be bizarre to hear strangers talk about your brother.

AH: “It’s definitely interesting. I don’t think any of these people would say these negative things to his face, or if they say bad things about Isaiah [Thomas], they’d never say that to his face. So it’s interesting how below [the belt] people are at certain times if they’re not face-to-face with the person they’re talking about, or even taken the time to get to know them.”

AR: Has Al talked to you about your tweeting?

AH: “He knows the kind of person I am. I’m very fierce when it comes to my family and my friends. We’ve talked about it –– we laugh about it. But at the same time, he’s not paying attention to social media anyway or anyone’s opinion. He just kind of goes out there and does the best he can. He just kind of goes based on how he’s feeling personally based on how other people feel about him.”

AR: Do you tweet as a stream of consciousness, or just blurt things out?

AH: “My most popular tweets are the ones that I just blurt out. Sometime I do that without thinking, sometimes I do think to myself that I could’ve worded it a little bit better, or maybe not used as many F-bombs. But that’s how I’m feeling in the moment, and I think people appreciate that sincerity and that truth.” 

Some answers have been edited for brevity.

Read More: Al Horford, Anna Horford, Boston Celtics,
Report: Agents may hold top prospects out of pre-draft workouts with Celtics 05.15.17 at 3:52 pm ET
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The Celtics have a 25 percent chance of landing the No. 1 overall pick this year. (Winslow Townson/USA Today Sports)

The Celtics have a 25 percent chance of landing the No. 1 overall pick this year. (Winslow Townson/USA Today Sports)

The Celtics are in an enviable position in today’s NBA. 

Not only are the Celtics winning now, and with room for another max-contract player, but they also possess high-end draft picks thanks to their 2013 fleecing of the Brooklyn Nets, including a 25 percent chance at the No. 1 overall pick in the 2017 NBA Draft. 

But according to ESPN’s Chad Ford, it may not be a situation that one of the 2017 draft’s best (which, with the No. 4 overall pick at the very worst coming to the Celtics, will be the case) wants to land in to begin his career, according to one NBA agent. 

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Despite their inexperience, Celtics realize the magnitude of Game 7 in Boston 05.15.17 at 2:57 pm ET
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The Celtics are playing in their first Game 7 since 2012. (David Butler II/USA TODAY Sports)

The Celtics are playing in their first Game 7 since 2012. (David Butler II/USA TODAY Sports)

Despite their status as the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference, the Celtics remain an unfinished product, and their time is not yet here.

But if the C’s are able to close out their second-round series with the Wizards in tonight’s Game 7 at TD Garden, the core pieces of this team — many of whom have been here since the beginning of the post-Big Three rebuild — take that next step towards proving that their time is closer than the current NBA landscape would suggest. 

“Every game in the playoffs is a big game, but this definitely means a lot for us as a team,” Celtics guard Avery Bradley admitted at practice on Sunday. “I think it’s gonna say a lot about us as a team as well. All the adversity we’ve been through this year, I think there couldn’t be a better situation we could be in than to go up against a great team like the Wizards, the great individual players that they have in a Game 7, and come out on top and move on to the conference finals.

“A lot of people counted us out this year and I feel like every single game throughout this year we got better and better and better and better. I feel like the teams that continue to get better in the playoffs, it really says a lot about them. And we’ve been one of those teams and I’m hoping that we continue to grow and we can finish this series and play against Cleveland.”

But this is a situation that’s yet to be experienced by just about everybody in that C’s locker room. 

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Celtics’ Isaiah Thomas ‘works too hard’ to feel pressure of Game 7 05.14.17 at 3:44 pm ET
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Isaiah Thomas and the Celtics play the Wizards in Game 7 on Monday night. (Brad Mills/USA Today Sports)

Isaiah Thomas and the Celtics play the Wizards in Game 7 on Monday night. (Brad Mills/USA Today Sports)

WALTHAM — It’s win or go home for the Celtics tomorrow night. 

Back in Boston for the the conclusion of a second-round war with the Wizards with Monday’s Game 7 at TD Garden, there’s undeniable pressure on the top-seeded Celtics to take that next step in their slow build return to contention and punch their tickets to an Eastern Conference Finals meeting with the Cavaliers. 

But don’t try to tell that to Celtics guard Isaiah Thomas. 

“I don’t believe in pressure,” Thomas, who scored 27 points in over 38 minutes in Friday’s 92-91 loss in Washington, said following Sunday’s practice. “I work too hard to be scared of any type of pressure. I’m treating it just like it would be Game 1.”

Still, there’s a definite buzz that comes with a Game 7, and one that Thomas has envisioned himself in long before Game 6 went final. 

“The best players play at their best in those type of situations,” Thomas said of the club’s opportunity in this game. “You always think of Game 7s. Those are exciting times. I definitely, as a little boy, dreamed of being in a Game 7 and winning a Game 7. And hopefully we can do that. It would be so good for this city and so good for this team to win tomorrow night.”

In a postseason run that’s come with Thomas receiving advice from a significant lot of NBA legends — Kobe Bryant, Paul Pierce, and Kevin Garnett just to name a few — Thomas recalled a few Game 7 performances that have stuck out to him. 

“Paul Pierce vs. LeBron. That was a good one,” Thomas said of memorable Game 7 games that he’s watched. “Kobe’s had a few really good Game 7s. The last one I’ve seen, that I watched the other day, was [Allen] Iverson vs. Vince Carter.

“I think everybody’s excited. I think everybody’s ready. We know the Garden is probably gonna be the best we’ve ever seen.”

The Celtics have won an NBA-most 21 Game 7 contests in their franchise history, and are 18-4 at home in such situations. 

NBA confirms Celtics were robbed of a crucial second in Game 6 loss to Wizards 05.13.17 at 7:43 pm ET
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Wizards guard John Wall scored the game-winning shot in Friday's 92-91 win over the Celtics.

Wizards guard John Wall scored the game-winning shot in Friday’s 92-91 win over the Celtics.

There’s been no shortage of drama when it comes to the second-round series between the Celtics and Wizards. 

So, naturally, the ending of Game 6 has come with some more. 

On the wrong end of a 92-91 final that will send this series back to Boston for a decisive Game 7 on Monday night, Celtics guard Isaiah Thomas was left with 1.7 seconds left on his series-winning shot that came up just short.

But according to the NBA’s Last Two Minutes Report released following the game, Thomas should have had more time. 

A whole second more, actually. 

With a foul to give, Wizards forward Kelly Oubre Jr. fouled Kelly Olynyk on an attempted inbounds pass from Al Horford with 3.5 seconds left in the game. And by the time the Oubre Jr. was whistled for the foul, the Celtics had 2.7 seconds left on the clock, but the clock bled all the way down to 1.7. 

“The foul is whistled with approximately 2.7 seconds left on the clock, but the clock runs to 1.7 seconds before stopping,” the NBA commented in their report. “The clock should have been stopped earlier automatically on the whistle or by the neutral clock operator. Instant replay is not permitted in this situation.”

While it’s easy to think of what could have been with that extra second, the report also indicated that Horford should have been called for an illegal screen on the Avery Bradley go-ahead basket scored with 39 seconds left in the fourth quarter.

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