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5 things we learned as Kelly Olynyk keeps an eye on playoffs 04.01.15 at 9:57 pm ET
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Kelly Olynyk

Kelly Olynyk

Maybe Shavlik Randolph should abuse his teammates before every game.

During warmup drills, Randolph smacked Kelly Olynyk with an elbow to the face. Olynyk’s eye quickly swelled to the size of a golf ball, and trainers were doubtful he would even be able to play. Deciding to forego a protective mask or goggles, Olynyk opted to play and ended up leading the Celtics to a 100-87 victory against the visiting Indiana Pacers on Wednesday night.

Olynyk and Tyler Zeller led the Celtics with 19 points apiece, while Evan Turner (13 points, 12 assists, 11 rebounds) submitted his third triple-double of the season. Avery Bradley (11 points) and Jae Crowder (10 points) also scored in double figures. Despite only shooting 22 percent from the 3-point line, the Celtics controlled the game for all four quarters, not relinquishing a lead they took four minutes into the game. George Hill led the Pacers with 21 in the loss.

The Celtics (34-41) moved two games ahead of the Pacers (32-43) with seven to play, and they now own the head-to-head tiebreaker with a 3-1 series victory this season. The C’s trail both the Brooklyn Nets (34-40) and Miami Heat (34-40) by a half-game for the seventh and eight seed.

For a complete box score, click here.

TYLER ZELLER DOMINATES FIRST HALF

Starting opposite 7-footer Roy Hibbert, Zeller dominated the first half, scoring 17 of his 19 points. Zeller opened the game by hitting his first four shots and drawing two early fouls on Hibbert. With Hibbert on the bench for the majority of the half, the Celtics dominated the paint, outscoring the Pacers 26-12.

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Read More: Avery Bradley, Boston Celtics, Kelly Olynyk, Shavlik Randolph
Texas, like everybody, is chatting about Brad Stevens 03.31.15 at 12:40 pm ET
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The University of Texas, which recently fired head men’s basketball coach Rick Barnes, has reportedly joined the growing list of Brad Stevens suitors. Of course, the University of Texas has also joined the growing list of institutions Danny Ainge will laugh at before hanging up the phone.

Brad Stevens is under contract through 2019 at a bargain average annual rate of $3.7 million. Unlike collegiate sports — where contracts aren’t worth the paper they’re written on — the Celtics would have to agree to let their coach out of the deal, and let’s be clear: That ain’t happening.

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Read More: Boston Celtics, Brad Stevens, NBA,
5 things we learned in a Celtics road win over the Hornets 03.30.15 at 9:29 pm ET
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The Celtics got knocked out of the Eastern Conference’s eighth seed on Sunday when they were blown out on their home floor by the Clippers. Monday in Charlotte offered the C’s a chance to grab that spot back from the Nets, but the Hornets are battling for a playoff berth just like the Celtics, so it wasn’t going to be easy.

The Celtics came out hot, and in the end showed more heart despite a late run from the Hornets, coming out on top, 116-104. Boston improved to 33-41 on the season, while knocking the Hornets to 31-42.

Avery Bradley had a game-high 30 points to lead six Celtics in double figures. Kemba Walker led the way for Charlotte, netting 28 of his own to go along with 12 assists.

For a complete box score, click here.

AVERY BRADLEY GOT HOT

Bradley was already having a solid game as he led the C’s with 11 first half points, but then Bradley went off for 15 points in the third quarter alone to balloon the Celtics’ lead up to 85-69. Bradley finished the game with 30 points on 12-for-23 shooting, while ripping down eight boards.

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Read More: Avery Bradley, Boston Celtics, Charlotte Hornets,
Staring down the barrel of the Celtics season 03.30.15 at 5:01 pm ET
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The importance of the next three Celtics games cannot be overstated. Isaiah  Thomas called Monday night’s visit to the Charlotte Hornets “a must win,” and really all nine of their remaining contests could command the same label. But, really, the next three could make or break their playoff chances.

After traveling to Charlotte, the C’s then respectively host the Indiana Pacers and Milwaukee Bucks on Wednesday and Friday, marking a trio of head-to-head battles against teams jockeying for the Eastern Conference’s final three playoff spots. Here is the schedule for those five teams over the next five days.

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Read More: Boston Celtics, NBA,
Irish Coffee: Should Celtics consider starting Isaiah Thomas? 03.30.15 at 1:32 pm ET
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The starting lineup of Marcus Smart, Avery Bradley, Evan Turner, Brandon Bass and Tyler Zeller ‘€” a five-man unit Celtics coach Brad Stevens has employed in 18 of his team’€™s 22 games after the All-Star break ‘€” has been outscored by 10.9 points per 100 possessions since the season resumed on Feb. 20, according to NBA.com/stats. That group has totaled 195 minutes together in that span ‘€” nearly 20 percent of the C’€™s total playing time ‘€” digging an average deficit of 2.6 points per game.

‘€œWe have to punch first; we have to hit first,’€ Isaiah Thomas said after the C’€™s dug themselves a 14-point hole in the first quarter of Sunday’€™s loss to the Clippers. ‘€œI don’t know what it is. We’re waiting to get hit, and then it’s tough for us to get back in it. We have to change that as soon as possible.’€

Meanwhile, every lineup featuring Thomas that has played more than 10 minutes together on the Celtics has outscored the opponent per 100 possessions, including a group of Thomas, Bradley, Turner, Bass and Zeller that has outscored opponents by a point per minute over one quarter’€™s worth of floor time together spread out over four separate games. So, it stands to reason the Celtics could benefit from swapping Smart for Thomas to start the first and second half.

Asked if he was implying his insertion into the starting lineup might help deliver that early punch, Thomas smiled. ‘€œI didn’€™t say that,’€ he responded before wisely leaving roster decisions to Stevens.

‘€œIf coach puts me in the starting lineup, I’ll be happy,’€ added Thomas, a legitimate NBA Sixth Man of the Year candidate. ‘€œIf he doesn’t, it is what it is, but I definitely can help. That’€™s my game ‘€” bring energy and make plays. So, if he calls my name and I’€™m in the starting lineup, I’m going to continue to play the game of basketball the way I know how and just do what it takes to win.’€

Of course, moving Thomas might simply be robbing Peter to pay Paul, as few regular lineups sans the diminutive point guard have enjoyed much success. Stevens must consider whether Thomas’€™ presence would benefit the starting lineup more than his absence would detract from the bench.

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Read More: Boston Celtics, Isaiah Thomas, NBA,
5 things we learned as Clippers snap Celtics out of playoff picture 03.29.15 at 8:42 pm ET
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If the playoffs started today, the Celtics would be on the outside looking in.

They lost their hold on the eighth seed in the East thanks to a 119-106 beatdown from old friend Doc Rivers and the Los Angeles Clippers. Despite another furious fourth-quarter comeback that nearly cut a 35-point deficit to single digits, the Celtics never led.

Meanwhile, Brooklyn’s victory earlier in the day gave the Nets (32-40) a half-game lead over the Celtics (32-41) for the eighth and final playoff spot. The seventh-place Miami Heat (34-49) also won and moved two games ahead of the C’s, who face fellow Eastern Conference playoff contenders Charlotte and Indiana in the next three days.

Isaiah Thomas (19 points) led six C’s in double figures against the Clips. Tyler Zeller (16 points), Kelly Olynyk (14 points), Brandon Bass (13 points), Gigi Datome (12 points) and Jonas Jerebko (10 points) were the others. Chris Paul (21 points, 10 assists) and DeAndre Jordan (15 points, 14 rebounds) both had double-doubles for L.A., and Blake Griffin (21 points, 9 rebounds) came close.

For a complete box score, click here.

WORST FIRST

The Celtics submitted arguably the worst defensive quarter of the Brad Stevens era in the opening 12 minutes. The Clippers scored 34 points on 60 percent shooting — including 3-of-5 from 3-point range — and established a 14-point lead after one. It marked only the second time under Stevens the C’s had allowed 34 points in a quarter. The last time, according to Basketball Reference, came Dec. 3, 2013, when the Celtics outscored the Milwaukee Bucks 39-37 in the fourth quarter of a 108-100 victory. For an encore, the Celtics gave up another 34 points on 50 percent shooting in the second quarter and entered the break trailing 68-47.

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Read More: Boston Celtics, Doc Rivers, Los Angeles Clippers, NBA
5 things we learned as Celtics edge Knicks 03.27.15 at 10:17 pm ET
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A win is a win is a win.

Although they did not play their best basketball, the Celtics defeated the Knicks, 96-92, Friday night at Madison Square Garden. Boston (32-41) gained a game on the Heat, but remains only a half-game ahead of the Nets for the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. The C’s begin a stretch of five games in seven nights when they host the Clippers on Sunday night.

Against the Knicks, Isaiah Thomas  led the Celtics with 18 points, while Jae Crowder (17 points) Brandon Bass (16 points) Evan Turner (15 points), and Avery Bradley (10 points) also scored in double figures. Andrea Bargnani scored 25 points for the last-place Knicks (14-59).

For a complete box score, click here.

CELTICS LOOK DISJOINTED

After a woeful effort against the Heat on Wednesday, the Celtics needed to get off to a strong start. Instead, the C’€™s struggled to create open shots and looked generally lazy on the defensive end of the floor. Luckily for the Celtics, they were not playing a formidable opponent and only finished the quarter down a point, 22-21. To start the third quarter, the Celtics squandered their eight-point lead by quickly giving up a 7-0 run. During the second half of the season, the starters have not performed nearly as well as the bench. Brad Stevens may consider changing the rotations down the stretch.

CROWDER CONTINUES TO PLAY WELL

In addition to his usual excellent defense, Crowder did a great job pushing the pace after turnovers and defensive rebounds. On offense, hi€™s first thought has been to attack the basket, which has served him well recently. Crowder grabbed nine boards and made seven of eight of his free throws. Since Thomas went down with the back injury, Crowder has been the most consistent player on the floor for the Celtics, averaging 13 points and six rebounds per game.

THOMAS BACK TO FORM

Physically, Thomas looked drastically better than he did on Wednesday night in Boston. He did a better job of creating separation and looked more explosive when attacking the rim. Although he looked better from a physical standpoint, early on Thomas struggled to find his stroke, opening the game 1-for-7 from the field. He warmed up a little bit in the second half, finishing with 17 points, including going 8-for-9 from the free throw line.

SILVER IMPRESSED BY BRAD STEVENS

Add Commissioner Adam Silver to the long list of people who are very impressed by Stevens’ coaching. In an interview with Celtics play-by-play announcer Mike Gorman during the second quarter, Silver said Stevens is ‘€”one of the best young coaches in the league.”€ Silver was very impressed by Stevens’ quick transition from college to the pros, noting “€œthere are some legendary failures of some Hall of Fame college coaches who’€™ve come in. I would say Brad has broken the mold from that standpoint.’€”

SHARING THE ROCK

In an interesting statistical note, nine different players made the Celtics’ first nine field goals. Jonas Jerebko broke the streak by hitting two shots in a row early during the second quarter. Of those nine players, eight finished with five points or more, as only Tyler Zeller was unable to score another basket.

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