|5 things we learned as Jae Crowder, Celtics bury Raptors late||04.14.15 at 10:18 pm ET|
Don’t tell the Celtics a game is meaningless; they won’t listen.
When his idle team clinched a playoff spot with a Brooklyn Nets loss on Monday, Celtics coach Brad Stevens texted his players asking them to keep their collective feet on the proverbial gas pedal, and they responded with a hard-fought, 95-93 win over the division champion Toronto Raptors — capped by Jae Crowder’s improbable fadeaway jumper in the final 2.5 seconds.
Evan Turner led the Celtics with 14 points, nine assists, and seven rebounds, while Avery Bradley (14 points), Brandon Bass (13), Tyler Zeller (12), and Isaiah Thomas (11) all scored in double figures. Kyle Lowry and Lou Williams each scored 16 points for the Raptors.
For a complete box score, click here.
With a fifth straight win, the Celtics improved to 39-42 and clinched the seventh seed in the Eastern Conference. They will play their final regular season game on Wednesday in Milwaukee before starting their first-round playoff series against the Cleveland Cavaliers either Saturday or Sunday in Cleveland.
AVERY BRADLEY HURT AFTER 14-POINT SECOND QUARTER
Bradley missed his first four shots of the game and did not score a point in the first quarter. Then, with eight minutes left in the half, something clicked for the veteran guard, as he hit five of his next seven shots. Bradley ended up scoring 14 points in the quarter and was the primary reason the Celtics were only down seven entering the locker room. As a team, the Celtics only shot 38 percent from the field in the first half, including a dreadful 23 percent from beyond the arc. But Bradley left the game early in the third quarter with a left quad contusion and did not return. Stevens said afterwards he will rest Bradley on Wednesday in anticipation of his starting two-guard being healthy for the playoffs.
|Celtics clinch playoff spot with Nets’ loss to Bulls||04.13.15 at 10:29 pm ET|
The Celtics have clinched a playoff spot thanks to the Nets‘ 113-86 loss to the Bulls on Monday night. The Celtics currently sit in seventh in the Eastern Conference, a game ahead of the eighth-place Pacers. The Nets drop to ninth with Monday’s loss and can no longer catch Boston. The C’s wrap up the regular season with games against the Raptors on Tuesday and Bucks on Wednesday.
Check back later for more.
|Isaiah Thomas: Making playoffs would mean ‘everything’||04.13.15 at 8:49 am ET|
With the playoffs just a win away, Isaiah Thomas can sense a dream finally coming true.
Thomas has been a key spark to the Celtics improbable run to the postseason, and he was again Sunday. As the Celtics raced out to a 9-0 lead, a cakewalk seemed likely.
But the Cavaliers, playing without LeBron James, Kyrie Irving, Kevin Love and JR Smith, actually made a 18-4 run and the Celtics were back on their heels. Enter Thomas. His energy and drive to the basket turned the Celtics back in the right direction and the Celtics outscored Cleveland, 34-9, in the second quarter. Game over.
“Just how locked in,” Thomas said of the second quarter. “What we’re trying to do is get to the playoffs so coach [Brad Stevens] said we were a very mature team, for 48 minutes. That’s a good thing.”
Thomas had a big impact with his 17 points off the bench Sunday. But he couldn’t control what happened in Indianapolis as the Pacers stayed alive with a win over Oklahoma City. So, Thomas had to wait another two days to celebrate his first playoff berth. If the Celtics can beat the Raptors Tuesday night at TD Garden, Thomas and the Celtics won’t have to worry about what the Pacers do against Washington.
“It’s everything,” said Thomas, who has toiled four years for the Kings and Suns. “In my NBA career I haven’t been to the playoffs so it’s something that I want to experience. I heard it’s fun, it’s exciting and it’s a new season. Once you make the playoffs, everybody’s 0-0 and it’s a new season so I’m excited about it, hopefully we do get it.
“We’ve just been trying to lock in and focus in on what we’re trying to do which is get to the playoffs. Staying in the moment, taking every day by day, game by game, and like I said, really focusing in on what we’re trying to do.”
Thomas is one of several Celtics who have fed off the mindset of Brad Stevens. The coach has drilled into his team the importance of not looking beyond the next game. It’s worked.
“He’s just laid back, you try to feed off of him as much as possible but he’s so even-keeled, you can’t really read his mind,” Thomas said. “He’s just always about staying in the moment, no matter what it is, good or bad, stay in the moment, don’t think about the future or the past, have a short memory. That’s one thing coach is very, very positive with.
“Your coach is your leader, basically. You look to him for advice, for confidence, things like that. He’s so even-keeled that he’s at the same [point], he’s never too high, never too low. That’s a great thing to have, everybody’s not like that.”
|5 things we learned as Celtics smash LeBron-less Cavs||04.12.15 at 5:39 pm ET|
These Celtics are getting hot at the right time.
Fighting for their playoff lives, the C’s have now won six of their last seven games following a 117-78 demolition of the Cavaliers in Sunday’s matinee at the TD Garden. Cleveland did help Boston’s cause considerably by resting four of their starters: LeBron James, Kyrie Irving, Kevin Love and J.R. Smith. But the Celts obviously earned this win in convincing fashion.
Isaiah Thomas was key for Boston with 17 points, but as you’ll see, the C’s got contributions from across the board. Iman Shumpert was the high-man for the Cavs with 15 points, but also carried a game-worst plus/minus of minus-36. A laughable 71 points worse than Marcus Smart’s plus-35.
For a full box score, click here.
The severely shorthanded Cavs found a way to escape the first quarter with a 22-21 lead. Things changed rather quickly after that. The C’s won the second quarter by a score of 34-9, and never looked back. In fact, they only continued to extend their lead throughout the game, coming away with their largest margin of victory this season, 39 points.
“STEALING” A VICTORY
The Celtics literally stole this game away from the Cavaliers. Of Cleveland’s 24 turnovers, Boston came up with an absurd 20 total steals — just one shy of the franchise record of 21. Marcus Smart and Evan Turner led the defensive charge with four thefts each, while Jay Crowder provided three off the bench.
Much like their contributions on defense, the Celtics were extremely well balanced on the offensive side of the ball. Thomas had a game-high 17 points off the Boston bench, and Turner was right behind him with 15 of his own. But all 12 C’s that played in the game scored at least four points, while seven of those players scored in double figures. Gerald Wallace was the only member of the green that was dressed but registered a DNP.
|5 things we learned as Celtics beat LeBron and Cavaliers||04.10.15 at 10:04 pm ET|
The playoffs are getting closer and closer for the Celtics.
With their third straight win, the Celtics improve to 37-42 and remain tied with the Brooklyn Nets for the seventh seed in the Eastern Conference. Boston swept its three-game road swing, with wins in Toronto, Detroit and Cleveland. Boston is just two games behind Milwaukee for the No. 6 seed in the East, with three games remaining.
The Celtics led the game by as many as 16 points early in the third quarter before LeBron James took over. The superstar, who played just 26 minutes, led a 37-point Cleveland third quarter that brought the Cavaliers all the way back to a tie game. James finished with 14 points and none in the fourth quarter as Cleveland rested all of their starters.
Playing without star point guard Kyrie Irving, who sat out with a sore left hip, the Cavs struggled to score points in their half court offense. Kevin Love led the team with 19 points while LeBron James added 14.
For a full box score, click here.
SMART LEADS FIRST QUARTER
On Thursday, Marcus Smart noted in the Boston Globe that his ankle has not been 100 percent this season and it has made it harder to be aggressive on offense. He also mentioned that his ankle was starting to feel better, which was evident tonight. Smart started the game by making his first four shots, including three triples from beyond the arc. He scored 11 points as the Celtics built an eleven-point lead after the first 12 minutes. Without Kyrie Irving the Cavaliers had a difficult time staying with the C’s backcourt, as Avery Bradley also added 9 points.
CELTICS DEFENSE SHINES IN FIRST HALF
The Celtics played excellent defense, holding the Cavs to only 40 points in the first half, as the Cavs only shot 37% from the field and turned the ball over ten times. The C’s did a great job of challenging the highflying Cavs especially in transition. Cleveland scored zero fast break points and only had 2 points off Celtics turnovers. The Celtics finished the half on an 8-2 run and lead by 14 at the half.
ISAIAH THOMAS: 6th MAN OF THE YEAR?
Before the game, Celtics Head Coach Brad Stevens campaigned for Isaiah Thomas to be the league’s sixth man of the year, stating ‘”I don’t know who else is even up for it. I don’t really pay attention. But I can’t imagine somebody impacting their team — whether he’s in Phoenix or here — more. I mean, there’s no question about that. Tonight, Thomas followed up his 34-point performance in Detroit by dropping 17 points on 4 of 12 shooting. Although he struggled with his shot, he added seven points from the charity stripe.
JARED SULLINGER GETS HIS MINUTES
Sullinger played 19 minutes, the most since returning from his foot injury. He made his first three-pointer, but only added a total of 5 points. Sullinger also grabbed 8 rebounds, but was generally ineffective in the fourth quarter, committing two costly turnovers on open looks. Stevens played him during important minutes down the stretch, as his low post defense will have a huge impact in a potential playoff series.
LEBRON PLAYS LIMITED MINUTES
Despite speculation before the game that he may sit this game out, LeBron James played 26 minutes and, for a brief stint, made his case for being the league’s MVP. James scored 14 points and dished 7 assists.5 of those assists came in the third quarter, where LeBron was an integral part in the Cavs comeback. The Celtics were lucky LeBron played limited minutes and it will be interesting to see if he even suits up for the re-match on Sunday.
|LeBron James says he’ll play against Celtics||04.10.15 at 12:23 pm ET|
With the Cavaliers locked into the No. 2 seed in the Eastern Conference, there has been discussion about LeBron James sitting out one or more of the team’s remaining games in order to be rested for the playoffs — fueled by James saying Wednesday that he “probably would take one game or two games off before the postseason starts.”
However, that rest won’t come Friday in Cleveland against the Celtics.
James said Friday morning that he would play against the C’s in the opening game of a home-and-home that concludes Sunday in Boston, telling reporters in Cleveland that he “never had that in my mind” to skip the game. And if history is any indication, he might suit up for Sunday’s game as well.
In each of his last three seasons as a member of the Heat, James took off the final two regular-season games. If he stuck to that plan, he would play both games against the C’s and then miss Monday’s game against the Pistons and Wednesday’s finale against the Wizards.
James has missed a career-high 11 games this season due to injury. The Cavaliers have a 2-9 record in those games.
James’ backup, former Knick Iman Shumpert, is questionable for Friday’s game with a right quad contusion he suffered in Wednesday’s win over the Bucks.
The Celtics enter play Friday tied with the Nets for the seventh-best record in the East, one game ahead of the Heat and 1 1/2 games in front of the Pacers. The Celtics own the tiebreaker against the Nets, so based on the current standings they would play the Cavs in the opening round.
The Cavaliers have won 18 straight games at home.
|Irish Coffee: The case for Isaiah Thomas as Sixth Man of the Year||04.10.15 at 12:02 pm ET|
When I tried to make a case for Brad Stevens as the NBA’s Coach of the Year, I couldn’t talk myself into it, even though he most certainly belongs on the short list of candidates. But making an argument for Celtics point guard Isaiah Thomas as the NBA’s Sixth Man of the Year is easier, because he deserves the award.
Thanks to his 34-point effort in Wednesday night’s victory against the Pistons, the Celtics improved to 16-11 since the trade deadline deal for Thomas, climbing to seventh place in the Eastern Conference standings. Prior to his arrival at the All-Star break, the C’s owned a 20-31 record and sat 10th in the East.
Conversely, the Suns started 29-25 with Thomas coming off the bench and owned the eighth seed in the brutal Western Conference at the All-Star break. Since the trade deadline, when Phoenix also swapped Goran Dragic for Brandon Knight, the Suns are 10-15 and have all but clinched 10th place in the West.
Plenty of factors have contributed to the Celtics rising and the Suns setting since the Thomas trade. Phoenix soon lost Knight to a season-ending heel injury, while the additions of Jonas Jerebko and Gigi Datome have also improved the C’s depth. But there’s no denying Thomas’ impact in both cities.
Unfortunately, we don’t have the luxury of evaluating how each Sixth Man of the Year candidate impacted two separate teams’ playoff chances, since none of the other top contenders swapped rosters this season, but we do have a season’s worth of statistics to compare a field I’ve whittled down to six — Thomas; usual suspects Lou Williams (Raptors), Jamal Crawford (Clippers) and Manu Ginobili (Spurs); reigning First Team All-Defensive wing Andre Iguodala (Warriors); and rookie forward Nikola Mirotic (Bulls).
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