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Celtics pregame: Avery Bradley, Jaylen Brown out through break, Brad Stevens makes Al Horford All-Star argument 02.15.17 at 7:50 pm ET
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Avery Bradley really wants to get back to playing.

But the Celtics want him 100 percent when the games really matter in April and May.

To that end, Bradley understands the Celtics being ultra-cautious with his sore right Achilles, which is just about fully healed.

That injury forced him to miss his 15th straight game Wednesday and will keep him out as well on Thursday night in Chicago. Bradley has played just once since Jan. 6.

“It’s frustrating,” Bradley said before Wednesday’s game against Philadelphia. “I guess it’s just part of the game and part of being smart. I want to play and play through it but the team advised me that this is not the time to take that risk right now and something potentially happen to my Achilles or a different injury.”

Bradley and the team are not just protecting against the existing injury but trying to make sure he doesn’t compensate unconsciously and injure something else.

“It was just a decision to make together and we felt like it’s the best one,” Bradley continued. “It’s feeling really good.”

But Bradley admitted he hasn’t worked on the court much lately and getting back in basketball shape will be key.

“I really haven’t done much,” he said. “I’ve been doing more conditioning and strengthening, upper body and lower body, just making sure I’m strong enough for when I do return. Now, we’re getting the basketball stuff in, so I’m hoping over the All-Star [break], I can play some basketball and be ready for the first game.”

Brad Stevens sounded much more cautious when asked about Bradley and Jaylen Brown (hip).

“Both guys are out for the next two games with the hope of doing some practice when we return,” Stevens said.

After Thursday’s game in Chicago, the Celtics are off for eight days, resuming their schedule in Toronto on Feb. 24 against the Serge Ibaka-revitalized Raptors.

All-Star push: Brad Stevens suddenly has an open roster spot on his Eastern Conference squad Sunday in New Orleans. Kevin Love is out at least six weeks with impending knee surgery. Stevens has no say in Love’s replacement but he has a natural suggestion should anyone ask.

Al Horford may not be putting up huge numbers (14.8 PPG, 6.7 RPG, 5.0 APG) but they are first, second and second respectively on a team that is just two games out of first place in the East. Expectations have been as big as Horford’s four-year, $113 million contract. But according to his coach, he’s been a big part of why the Celtics have risen to the top in the East.

“I always base my decision on who is really impacting winning, and I think that’s why Al would be a good choice,” Stevens said before Wednesday’s game. “I’m hopeful Al gets that call. It’s not our call. But there’s a lot of good players in this league. It doesn’t take anything away from anybody else. We certainly hope Al gets that call.”

If Stevens was being somewhat (understandably) understated in his praise of Horford, Sixers coach Brett Brown was not. He also said the Celtics have risen to the top but went even further in his praise of the man once coached by Brett Brown’s good friend Mike Budenholzer in Atlanta. Brown and Budenholzer coached together under Gregg Popovich in San Antonio. 

“You can’t even put a price tag on that. He was coached by a close friend of mine in Atlanta for a while,” Brown said of Horford’s days in Atlanta. “If you just go to the person, there’s a veteran class and there’s an elite mind, basketball mind, and then you can start talking about his actual game. So, what he does to a locker room, what he does from experience perspective and you take the unusual skill package in that he can bring you out and stretch the court.

“Even when you study the last time that we played here, Joel [Embiid] gets sucked in on a drive and they kick it to Al in the corner for a three, that’s an unusual match-up for a 7-foot-2 center. I think that Brad does a really good job, creative job on using Olynyk and Horford, especially, with how they can stretch the floor, and Amir [Johnson], letting Amir shoot corner threes. Kind of all over the place, off-the-court locker room stuff, I think it’s just a sensational acquisition and piece that they have made to legitimately look at them now as one of the elite teams in the East. It’s a wonderful building block, for sure.” 

The Celtics are 7-5 without Horford in the lineup this season.

JBL_CMYK_NoHarmanNoRBallWEEI is how you listen to Celtics coverage. JBL cutting-edge wireless headphones and speakers are how you feel like you’re there. As the official Sound of the Celtics, Isaiah Thomas and the NBA, JBL is Made for the Biggest Stage.

Read More: Al Horford, Avery Bradley, Boston Celtics, Kevin Love
Al Horford on Wednesday’s shooting struggles: ‘It just wasn’t going for me’ 01.18.17 at 11:19 pm ET
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The Celtics didn’t bring Al Horford to Boston so he could blow everyone away with his perimeter shooting. But he’s proven at times to be more than adept with a jump shot.

Wednesday just wasn’t his night.

In the Celtics’ 117-106 loss to the Knicks at TD Garden, Horford looked lost from the perimeter, missing wide open looks. When he clanked a 3-point attempt with 4:31 left in the game and the Celtics down by 10, the Garden was not afraid to hammer him with some boos.

Horford can’t remember ever having a night this bad offensively — especially in a Celtics uniform.

“I struggled bad offensively,” Horford said. “I tried to do everything I could to help us, but it just wasn’t going for me.”

The bigman ultimately went 1-for-8 on the night from distance, 2-for-14 overall from the field.

“It was just bad, and I have to be better,” he lamented after the game.

Horford was aware of how bad his perimeter shooting was getting. Later in the game, he started to try and help more in the post and with both on- and off-ball screens.

The problem was, the looks he was getting were just too good to pass up. 

“One thing I noticed was I kept missing short,” Horford said. “And I try to remind myself that it was at the point that I didn’t have it, and that was tough. So I try to impact the game in other ways, whether it was setting screens, giving people shots, stuff like that. But that was definitely tough for me because they were good looks, I even felt good about a few of them, they just didn’t go in.

Horford has always been equipped with a short memory. He acknowledged that it wasn’t a permanent flaw, rather just a bad showing. He’s bought into Brad Stevens’ system since day one, and knows that when the TrailBlazers come to town on Saturday, it will be a clean slate.

“I think we just need to keep trusting and running our offense, making sure that we play with a little more energy and refocus,” Horford said. We have a big one on Saturday here at home and we’ll have a chance to redeem ourselves and be better.

“I’ll come in tomorrow, do some work. I’ll look at the film, see which way I can get better. It’s just one game, I’ll be fine.”

Read More: Al Horford,
Isaiah Thomas once again leads Celtics, but Jaylen Brown intrigues in win over Hornets, too 01.16.17 at 10:00 pm ET
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Al Horford salutes teammates during a win over the Hornets on Monday. (Bob De Chiara/USA Today Sports)

Al Horford salutes teammates during a win over the Hornets on Monday. (Bob De Chiara/USA Today Sports)

Isaiah Thomas once again reminded us what time it is, but after watching the Celtics beat the Hornets on Monday night, I’m fascinated by Jaylen Brown.

The rookie didn’t do much down the stretch of the 108-98 victory — he was at least on the floor for much of the fourth quarter when Thomas delivered his nightly explosion — but we’re starting to get a clearer picture of his skill set.

Brown scored seven points in the first half by highlighting his explosive athleticism. He went coast-to-coast for a basket right before the half, he made an acrobatic layup inside while heavily defended, and he led another break that ended with a tough hoop inside after he laid the ball down to Jonas Jerebko and then got it back.

Brown almost completely lacks any semblance of an outside game, which is ultimately going to decide what kind of an impact he’ll make as a pro. He’s also got that lost-in-headlights look at times, too. But considering that he’s only 20 years old and is basically taking a red-shirt rookie season, the skills he’s exhibiting suggest an intriguing future.

“Jaylen Brown played one of his best games of the season,” head coach Brad Stevens told Comcast’s Abby Chin on the postgame show.

What is he? Your guess is as good as mine. As athletic as he may be, it’s also worth noting that Michael Kidd-Gilchrist cleanly turned him away at the rim on a two-handed dunk attempt in the fourth quarter. He’s not such a high-flyer that he can just throw down on anyone.

Brown had a great view while Thomas went off during another monster fourth quarter, where he scored 17 of his game-high 35. Thomas did it everywhere except from the free throw line, becoming the first Celtic since Larry Bird in 1984 to score at least 35 points without a free throw.

Thomas’s best basket may have been a corner jumper over Hornets big man Cody Zeller that started with a reverse dribble into an up-fake that got the 7-footer off his feet before Thomas calmly drilled the shot in his face.

“Isaiah doesn’t even come up to his lettahs!” broadcaster Tommy Heinsohn yelled.

Al Horford scored 22, and Kelly Olynyk and Jae Crowder added 15 points apiece as the Celtics (26-15) hit the official halfway point of the season with 13 wins in their last 16 games.

Read More: Al Horford, Celtics, Hornets, Isaiah Thomas
Wednesday’s win over Wizards shows Isaiah Thomas is MVP-worthy, Floyd Mayweather eats it up 01.11.17 at 10:20 pm ET
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Jan 29, 2016; Boston, MA, USA; American boxer Floyd Mayweather Jr. laughs with Boston Celtics guard Isaiah Thomas (R) after defeating the Orlando Magic at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: Mark L. Baer-USA TODAY Sports

Boxer Floyd Mayweather Jr. had plenty to laugh about Wednesday with good friend Isaiah Thomas. (Mark L. Baer/USA Today Sports)

Brad Stevens said before Wednesday’s encounter with the Wizards that he doesn’t pay much attention to stats. 

That’s a good thing because with no Avery Bradley, Jaylen Brown and Amir Johnson, the stats certainly weren’t in Boston’s favor as they squared off against the hottest backcourt in the East. 

“No excuses from my standpoint,” Stevens said. “You’ve got games to play, let’s play.”

Isaiah Thomas certainly did – lighting it up again in the fourth quarter – scoring 20 of his game-high 38 points in the final period to lead the Celtics past the Wizards, 117-108, at TD Garden. 

And on a night second-year forward Jordan Mickey was making his first NBA start and Floyd Mayweather was sitting courtside, they needed the knockout shot from their MVP-caliber point guard in the end.

How clutch has Thomas been? He is now averaging 9.8 points per game in the fourth quarter alone, tops in the NBA. His 38 points Wednesday raises his game average to 28.2 points. He is tied with DeMar DeRozan for fourth in the NBA, behind Russell Westbrook (31.2), Anthony Davis (29.1) and James Harden (28.5). 

“He’s been playing as impressive as I’ve seen someone play,” Al Horford said after the win that raised Boston’s record to 24-15 on the season. 

Speaking of Horford, the first half Wednesday was not one for Horford’s highlight reel. In over 16 minutes, he was 3-for-6 from the field for six points, didn’t get to the free throw line, committed two turnovers and was a minus-8. He did grab five rebounds and blocked two shots but looked out of sorts at times, playing the 5-spot with Mickey filling in for Johnson. 

For a full recap and box score of Wednesday’s win over the Wizards, click here

Horford’s numbers this year have been very good (15.3 PPG, 6.8 rebounds, 4.9 assists). That cannot be disputed. But to Stevens point before the game, sometimes the stats don’t tell the story. And remember, some of this is also on the coaches, like earlier in the season when Stevens took responsibility for Horford not getting his shots

Wednesday was not about the what but the when. The Celtics, without starters Bradley and Johnson and reserves Brown, James Young and Tyler Zeller, needed Horford to step up his game and take over in the paint. They needed an attitude. 

On a night when the Celtics were playing a fast-riser in the East at home a night after a gut-punching loss in Toronto, they needed their big man to play big. Jason Smith outplayed Horford Wednesday night. Who you ask? You know, the ninth-year reserve out of Colorado State. With nine minutes left, Smith had 13 points and five rebounds in 14 minutes while Horford had 9 points and six rebounds in 25. 

But by that time, the Celtics were close enough to let Isaiah Thomas do what he always does and that is dominate the fourth quarter. He scored 13 of Boston’s first 19 points in the final quarter and electrified the crowd, which included dapping with Mayweather courtside after one of his five threes on the night. 

There were issues Wednesday, namely the Celtics committing 10 turnovers in the first half, offsetting the team’s 9-for-19 sharpshooting from 3-point range. 

John Wall, fresh from his December Eastern Conference player of the month honor, entered the game averaging 23.2 points and 10.3 assists per game. Bradley Beal came to town averaging 22.1 points. Together, their 45.3 points per game were eight points higher than Isaiah Thomas (27.9) and Marcus Smart (10.2). 

Of course, the Celtics were without the 18 points-per-game from Bradley, who was missing his third straight game with a sore right Achilles. 

“Welcome to the NBA. It’s fun,” Stevens said, referring to playing the Wall-Beal combo a night after Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan. The Celtics hung in there Tuesday against the Raptors before falling apart at the end. Stevens was asked how he thinks the Celtics match up with the elite backcourts when Bradley is healthy.


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Read More: Al Horford, Boston Celtics, Washington Wizards,
Escape act against Sixers shows Celtics still have big problems down low 01.06.17 at 10:07 pm ET
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The Celtics are lucky their best big man was also their most clutch 3-point shooter Friday night. 

On a night when Joel Embiid owned the paint with 23 points and eight rebounds, Al Horford countered with 19 points and 12 rebounds, including four threes in the final 12 minutes to allow Boston to escape, 110-106, at TD Garden. 

Horford connected on the decisive three with 17.2 seconds left to put the Celtics up 107-106. Boston won for ninth time in 11 games to improve to 22-14 on the season. 

The Celtics can also count themselves fortunate that Ben Simmons – who traveled with Philly for the first time Friday – was not in uniform and playing. If he were, the Celtics would not have had enough answers. 

Sixers coach Brett Brown raved and raved and raved pregame about Isaiah Thomas. Then Avery Bradley came out and dropped 14 points in the opening quarter against Philly to remind him and everyone else just how good the Celtics (at least on offense) can be when it’s not just Thomas doing the scoring.

On the night that the Celtics handed out pamphlets pushing Bradley as their second worthy All-Star candidate, the guard made the team’s media relations department look smart. Bradley finished just six points shy of his career-high with 26 points while Thomas added 24. The two combined for 50 points to offset the Sixers’ dominance inside.

The Sixers abused the Celtics in the first half in the paint, outscoring the Celtics, 30-6, and taking a commanding 62-51 lead. Philly ended the game outscoring Boston 46-18 in the paint.

Philadelphia showed the glimpses of the team they might become if Ben Simmons comes back healthy and joins the likes of Joel Embiid, Nerlens Noel and Ersan Ilyasova. There was the monstrous block of Al Horford from behind by Noel midway through the first half. There was the 17 points in 14 minutes from Embiid. And Ersan Ilyasova poured in 11 points on 3-of-5 shooting from deep. 

In the first half, the 9-24 visitors were clearly the more athletic and energetic team.  

(For a complete recap of the Celtics’ win, click here.)

The fact that the young Sixers came out strong and with energy in the opening 24 minutes should not concern Celtics fans. 

The face that they dominated the Celtics physically in their own building should. Al Horford did have 10 rebounds and was 1-for-7 from the field. But the rest of Boston’s inside game was MIA. 

Ironically, it was Thomas who was struggling badly to start the game, matching a season-high with five turnovers in the first 17 minutes of the game. 

The Sixers haven’t won a game in Boston since the end of the 2013-14 season, Stevens’ first in Boston and a season that ended 25-57. That year, the Sixers took three of four from the Celtics. Including Friday, the Celtics have now won 10 straight from the Sixers.

With 11:34 left in the fourth, the Celtics finally drew back even when Marcus Smart got into the paint and threw one up and in. On the next possession, the Celtics took their first lead since 27-25 early in the second quarter. 

With 7:33 remaining, the Sixers reclaimed the lead, 90-89, on a Noel alley-oop dunk after the Celtics went up by five, 89-84. But the Celtics came back with a three from Horford to take the lead. Horford did it again five minutes later to snap a 97-97 tie. Horford’s fourth trey of the fourth put the Celtics up, 107-106, with 17.2 seconds left. 

Read More: Al Horford, Avery Bradley, Boston Celtics, Joel Embiid
Celtics pregame notes: After 6-6 start at home, Celtics looking to improve at Garden 12.27.16 at 6:33 pm ET
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Brad Stevens

Brad Stevens

Following a stretch of five games in which four were played on the road, reasonable minds would believe it’s a welcome change for the Celtics to have a home tilt on the docket as they do Tuesday against the Grizzlies.

Not so fast.

The Celtics are off to a 6-6 start at home, they’ve shot 44-percent or less from the field in eight of those games and enter Tuesday 2-3 in their last five home games.

For coach Brad Stevens, it’s about playing strong regardless of venue.

“I don’t really look at whether or not you’re playing at home or on the road. You’ve just got to play well between the lines,” Stevens said prior to Tuesday’s game. “I don’t know if there’s enough of a sample size necessarily to say you play well on the road or well at home.

“At the end of the day we’ve got to figure out a way to win some of those games and get over the hump a little bit more. That is what it is, I haven’t lost sleep over that as much as just trying to get better as a team and play well when the clock starts.”

The Celtics will need to find a way to win games at home sooner rather than later with home matchups scheduled to ramp up in the coming weeks. After playing just 12 games at home as opposed to 19 on the road thus far into the season, the C’s have six of the next eight games at TD Garden between Tuesday and Jan. 11.

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Read More: Al Horford, Isaiah Thomas, Memphis Grizzlies,
Mike Petraglia recaps Isaiah Thomas’ return (26 points), Al Horford’s presence (5 blocks) in win over Hornets 12.16.16 at 10:51 pm ET
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Isaiah Thomas made his return after a four-game absence due to a groin injury Friday night. And the Celtics needed his 26 points and Al Horford’s 18 points and five blocks to help beat the Charlotte Hornets to end a three-game losing streak. Mike Petraglia has your recap inside TD Garden.

JBL_CMYK_NoHarmanNoRBallWEEI is how you listen to Celtics coverage. JBL cutting-edge wireless headphones and speakers are how you feel like you’re there. As the official Sound of the Celtics, Isaiah Thomas and the NBA, JBL is Made for the Biggest Stage.

Read More: Al Horford, Boston Celtics, Charlotte Hornets, Isaiah Thomas
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