By Mike Petraglia | Comments Off on Monday’s loss to the Hawks reveals the true need for Andrew Bogut, and why Isaiah Thomas can’t do everything
The Celtics might be able to skate past the dregs of the Eastern Conference, as they barely did Sunday night in Detroit.
But if Monday proved anything, come springtime, the Celtics are going to have to play bigger and tougher in the paint if they have any aspirations of extending play into May.
Dennis Schroder outplayed Isaiah Thomas and the Atlanta Hawks blasted the Celtics after Dwight Howard’s ejection in a 114-98 rout of Boston Monday night at TD Garden. Thomas had just two points in the fourth quarter and finished with 19, ending his franchise streak of games with at least 20 points at 43 games.
The Celtics, who hosted a beardless Julian Edelman next to their bench, were abused in the paint in the first half, getting outscored 28-14 and out-rebounded 32-21. Brad Stevens has said all season that he’s fully aware that his team will not be winning any rebounding battles.
But there comes a time and a place where getting overpowered eventually wears you down. That was the case Monday. When Isaiah Thomas is your leading rebounder through three quarters, Marcus Smart is your best low post option and the other team has Dwight Howard, that’s an issue.
If there’s any truth to the report from the Globe’s Adam Himmelsbach that Andrew Bogut, officially bought out Monday by Philadelphia, is interested in coming to Boston, the Celtics should do everything in their power to make sure he doesn’t leave Tuesday’s meeting without signing on the dotted line.
Monday’s game was much more than just a team playing on the second night of a back-to-back. It was about a bigger, stronger team taking it to them physically. Al Horford is a lot of things. A true big man he is not. Down 17 with six minutes left in the game, Stevens rested Horford, presumably to save him for the defending world champs Wednesday night at TD Garden.
For a full box score and summary of Monday’s game vs. Atlanta, click here.
The Celtics raced out to a 15-7 lead as Avery Bradley returned, showing the same sharp-shooting form he showed before his Achilles injury of early January that forced him to miss 22 of his previous 23 games. Bradley hit the first shot he took, a wide-open 25-footer for three from the left wing. As a matter of fact, the Celtics connected on their first three attempts from beyond the arc as they built the early cushion.
But Atlanta responded with an 11-0 run midway through the first quarter, turning a seven-point Celtics lead into a four-point hole.
Dennis Schroder and Isaiah Thomas seemed to put their running – sometimes acrimonious – rivalry to the side. It was Schroder who accused Thomas of disparaging comments during a January game directed at Schroder’s mother. Thomas vehemently denied this charge. The two had a very animated but civil exchange in which both appeared to smile and joust with one another.
Then, following a Thomas drive to the basket midway through the second quarter, it was Schroder who helped Thomas back to his feet.
Things were more intense in the second half. After Dwight Howard grabbed a driving Isaiah Thomas from behind on a move to the basket, Howard escaped a flagrant foul after review. Then, less than a minute later, as Howard was fighting for a rebound under the Celtics basket, Al Horford fouled Howard hard. Howard responded with a shove to the chest of Horford and was given a technical foul.
New: According to a league source, Andrew Bogut has strong interest in joining the Celtics: https://t.co/oN9SsTZlO7
The Celtics then caught a huge break when Howard picked up up second technical of the game for hanging on the rim and flipping his head back on a dunk with 4:03 left in the third quarter. The dunk made it 74-65 Hawks.
Horford continues to do most of his offensive work on the perimeter. This paid dividends in the third quarter when he found a back-cutting Jaylen Brown for a crowd-energizing, alley oop dunk.
Without Howard, things only got worse for the Celtics as they trailed 84-71 after three. Boston fell behind by 17, 90-73, with just over nine minutes left.
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By Mike Petraglia | Comments Off on Celtics pregame: Avery Bradley returns after 18-game absence, starts vs. Hawks
Avery Bradley returns after an 18-game absence with a sore Achilles. (Bob DeChiara/USA Today Sports)
For the first time since Jan. 16, Avery Bradley will take the court for the Celtics in a game.
And coach Brad Stevens is going to see quickly if the shooting guard is really ready.
Stevens announced before Monday’s game that Bradley will start against the Hawks after missing the previous 18 games with a sore right Achilles.
Stevens did indicate that Bradley – averaging 34.9 minutes in 36 games this season – would be on a restriction of “15-to-25 minutes” this week as he returns against the Hawks, Cavaliers and Lakers.
Bradley, who is averaging 17.7 points, 6.9 rebounds and 2.4 assists this season, played against the Hornets on Jan. 16 but clearly wasn’t himself.
He made just 2-of-9 shots from the field (1-for-6 from long range) in 33 minutes, adding three rebounds and three assists in Boston’s 108-98 win.
Prior to that game, Bradley missed the previous four games with the Achilles injury.
Bradley reiterated before the game what he said two weeks ago, that he was anxious to return “four weeks ago” but understood the team’s precaution.
Bradley’s biggest impact could come in an area the Celtics need help – rebounding. His 6.9 average per game leads the team, 0.3 more than Al Horford. He is one of the more athletic No. 2 guards in the league and uses it to effectively rebound. He and Marcus Smart are two of the more physical guards in the East and it’s no coincidence that the Celtics struggled with offensive rebounding in his absence.
That, of course, was offset by the fact that the other guard, Isaiah Thomas is in the midst of an MVP-caliber season offensively. In Bradley’s 18-game absence, the Celtics went 12-6. They are 15-7 in the last 22 games without him in the lineup.
With Bradley starting and Stevens indicating that he doesn’t plan to alter his minutes early in the games this week, it means that rookie Jaylen Brown returns to the bench. This move deepens the bench significantly with the likes of Kelly Olynyk and Marcus Smart, who returned to his customary sixth-man role beginning with the Raptors game after the All-Star break.
New: According to a league source, Andrew Bogut has strong interest in joining the Celtics: https://t.co/oN9SsTZlO7
By John Tomase | Comments Off on Report: Dwight Howard agrees with Hawks for 3 years, $70 million without meeting Celtics
This will probably come as a relief to plenty of Celtics fans, but Yahoo is reporting that Dwight Howard has agreed to a three-year, $70 million contract with his hometown Hawks.
Howard had been expected to meet with the Celtics in the coming days, but he canceled all of his remaining visits after striking a deal with the Hawks.
Howard, 30, was the No. 1 overall pick in the 2004 draft out of Southwest Atlanta Christian Academy by the Magic. He has averaged 17.8 points and 12.7 rebounds for his career, and has also played with the Lakers and Rockets.
He reached the Finals in 2009 by knocking out the defending champion Celtics in the second round after the C’s had taken a 3-2 series lead. He averaged 16.4 points and 17.1 rebounds in that series before losing in the Finals to the Lakers.
Howard had been linked to the Celtics this offseason, but his back-to-the-basket game didn’t necessarily fit Brad Stevens’ system. The C’s are expected to make a hard push for Hawks big man Al Horford, who becomes expendable with Howard now in the fold.
By Mike Petraglia | Comments Off on Report: Celtics, Hawks setting up meeting with Dwight Howard
The Celtics reportedly have their sights set on Dwight Howard during free agency. (Mark L. Baer/USA Today Sports)
Dwight Howard is next up on the Celtics’ wish list.
Sources tell ESPN that the 30-year-old big man will sit down face-to-face with the Celtics, along with the Atlanta Hawks, as free agency begins this Friday.
ESPN reports that Howard is expected to meet with as many as five teams in free agency. Unlike the situation with Kevin Durant, where a return to Oklahoma City is a distinct possibility, Howard is not expect to return to Houston after turning down his $23.2 million option for next season
According to ESPN, sources say the Heat have not yet booked a meeting with Howard in free agency, but could emerge later in the process.
ESPN reported Tuesday that the Hawks are trying to make up their mind on whether to go after Kevin Durant or consider an Al Horford-Dwight Howard front court through free agency.
As was the case with Horford, Howard was considered to be a target of the Celtics at the February trade deadline before the team backed off.
By Mike Petraglia | Comments Off on Report: Celtics will target Al Horford in free agency
Al Horford is shooting for a big payday in free agency. (Mark L. Baer/USA Today Sports)
Kevin Durant is not the only focus of the Celtics as free agency approaches.
According to ESPN’s Marc Stein, the Celtics will be among the teams approaching Al Horford when free agency begins on Friday.
The Celtics will be in for some serious competition, Stein reports.
“The Hawks, of course, face a stiff challenge in trying to retain Horford, who sources say is expected to draw free-agent interest from a number of teams, including the Lakers, Rockets, Orlando Magic, Detroit Pistons, Washington Wizards, Boston Celtics and Brooklyn Nets,” Stein writes.
As is the case with Durant, Horford has nine years of experience. That is significant because he can command up to 30 percent of his team’s cap this year. That figure goes up to 35 percent after next season.
This has led to wide speculation that both Durant and Horford would draw “1+1 contract” this summer, allowing both to cash in again next year. A “1+1” is a one-year contract with a player option for the following season.
Horford’s long-term role with the Hawks is unclear with the trade of Jeff Teague to the Pacers. Should he seek a max deal this year, he can re-sign with the Hawks at five years $152 million or move and sign for four years, $112 million. If he signs a one-year deal, it would be at an estimated cost of $26.4 million.
Horford, a 6-foot-10 stretch center who can run the floor and knock down a mid-range shot, has long been rumored to be a target of Danny Ainge, including at the trade deadline this past February.
Horford averaged just 12.5 points but hauled in 8.5 rebounds a game against the Celtics in Atlanta’s six-game first-round win. Horford improved slightly against the Cavaliers in the second round, going for 14.8 points a game.
By Mike Petraglia | Comments Off on Evan Turner makes it clear he wants to return to Boston, but ‘a lot of variables that are going to occur … I can’t control’
Was Thursday Evan Turner’s swan song in Boston?
“I really don’t know,” Turner said after scoring just eight points on 4-of-17 shooting in 37 minutes in a 104-92 loss to the Hawks in Game 6. “I would love to come back, but at the same time, a lot of things, a lot of variables that are going to occur and things like that that I can’t control. Whenever July hits we’ll talk about it.”
Turner, the No. 2 overall pick of the 76ers in 2010, made $3.425 million this season, finishing out a two-year, $6.7 million deal. He could be in line for a big payday, somewhere in the neighborhood of an $8 million-$10 million annual salary.
What will Turner be looking for?
“Just fit, obviously. I want to get a decent amount of money, you know what I’m saying? But at the same time the fit is going to be huge and the opportunity to play on a winning team,” Turner said. “I have played on [expletive] teams a couple times and it’s not fun. But obviously the fit, the opportunity to play, and the opportunity to progress and win.”
By Mike Petraglia | Comments Off on Mike Petraglia, Sam Packard explain how Hawks eliminated Celtics in Game 6
WEEI.com’s Mike Petraglia and Sam Packard break down how the ice-cold shooting of the Celtics combined with Atlanta’s defense on Isaiah Thomas powered the Hawks to a 104-92 win over Boston in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference quarterfinals Thursday at TD Garden, ending Boston’s season in the first round for the second straight season.