|Studs and Duds: No defense for Marcus Smart-less Celtics||11.24.15 at 10:55 pm ET|
We knew Marcus Smart was key to the Celtics‘ success. We just didn’t know he was this key.
The Celtics entered Tuesday night’s game ranked fourth in points allowed per 100 possessions (96.6) and should be demoted 10 spots just for their effort in a 121-97 loss to the Hawks. This comes two nights after the Celtics (7-7) allowed 111 points in a loss to the lowly Nets.
After an R.J. Hunter jumper cut Atlanta’s lead to six two minutes into the fourth quarter, the Hawks outscored the C’s by a 38-20 margin on 14-of-18 shooting (77.8 percent) down the stretch.
Avery Bradley led the Celtics with 25 points, but the Hawks (10-6) countered with seven players in double figures, led by Paul Millsap’s 25 points and nine rebounds. If the playoffs started today, the Celtics would be on the outside looking in. They are as close to the third-worst record in the Eastern Conference as they are to the eighth seed, and Smart won’t be back for at least a week.
For a complete box score, click here. To go beyond the box, read on.
|5 things we learned in Celtics’ amazing Hawks upset||02.11.15 at 10:05 pm ET|
Brandon Bass called it.
As the Celtics exited a timeout trailing the first-place Atlanta Hawks by one with 6.3 seconds remaining, the veteran forward turned to his teammates and said, “E.T.’s going to win it with a floater.” Sure enough, Evan Turner‘s runner swished through the net for an 89-88 win, capping an 18-point comeback against a team with just 10 previous losses.
“I think it says a lot for us as a team,” said Turner. “We were able to come back against the best team in the league, down . We shot like 30 percent, but once we try to put together a whole game — put together the defensive and offensive game — we’ll be all right. It’s a great win, and it’s always better to go in on a break on a win and not a loss.”
Indeed, the Celtics (20-31) pulled within one loss of the Charlotte Hornets (22-30) and Miami Heat (22-30) for the final two playoff spots in the Eastern Conference with a 7-5 record in their final 12 games before the All-Star break.
Having won three of their last four games, the Celtics looked to stay hot in their final game before entering the All-Star break. Unfortunately for Brad Stevens & Co., the first-place Hawks stood in their way.
Turner’s game-winner gave him 12 points, nine assists and seven rebounds in the victory against Atlanta. Jared Sullinger added 17 points and 15 rebounds. And Marcus Thornton contributed 14 points off the bench. Al Horford led the Hawks (43-11) with 22 points and 12 rebounds.
For a full box score, click here.
|Trades worth the Celtics’ while: Part 6||at 1:27 pm ET|
A major theme of the rebuilding Celtics has been that no player is safe from being traded for the betterment of the team ‘ something Danny Ainge has shown the willingness to do throughout his career (and now once again by trading Rajon Rondo). Here are some trades that make sense for the mess that is the Boston Celtics. Again, these specific trades are not rumors, simply ideas. This is part six.
After a flurry of trades, Danny Ainge’s phone has finally cooled off. At least for the last couple of weeks. But now the trade deadline is a mere eight days away, so expect things to begin to heat back up.
If you take a look around the league (which to me means skim through the ESPN trade machine for an hour), it makes sense that the Celtics haven’t been able to piece together any more moves that accomplish the goal of selling unneeded parts for future draft picks. Most teams that are considered buyers have either already made their moves to add help, or simply don’t have the contracts or assets that would match what Boston is trying to do.
However, there are still buyers out there.
The Hawks are back in Boston on Wednesday, and despite continuing to run away with the Eastern Conference, Atlanta still has many doubters. The Hawks just traded rookie Adreian Payne to the Timberwolves in order to add a 2017 first-round pick — a pick that figures to be used to add more firepower for this season. Furthermore, Atlanta has also been rumored as a potential landing spot for free-agent guard Ray Allen.
But with the Hawks still under the cap, here’s a move that could help them build their bench:
HAWKS GET: Brandon Bass
CELTICS GET: Elton Brand and a future second-round draft pick
*Brand would have to waive his trade clause
This deal makes perfect sense for both sides, but would probably need to wait until Atlanta knows if they will be making a bigger move first. Coming off a month where the Hawks entire starting lineup won Conference Player of the Month (which is absolutely remarkable), it’s now time to build their bench. The addition of Allen — or any other guard around the league that they can lure with their newly acquired first-rounder — would sure-up Atlanta’s backcourt, but they still need help off the bench in the form of a big. Bass is that guy.
Because the Hawks are under the cap, they are able to swap Brand’s $2 million expiring contract for Bass’ $6.9 million expiring deal without any problems. Boston would most likely buy Brand’s contract out, saving them money for the rest of the season, while Bass provides the perfect spark for the Hawks. In addition, Ainge tosses another second-rounder in his pile … you never know when all of them may come in handy.
|Hawks represent a “machine” Brad Stevens is familiar with: Could Boston model Atlanta’s success?||01.15.15 at 3:23 pm ET|
Back in 2007 the Celtics inspired the NBA when they put together what became known as the Big Three. Since then, the Heat accumulated their own successful trio, which LeBron James is now trying to replicate in Cleveland. Teams around the league are all scrambling to put together their own Big Three, but superstars are not easy to come by. Danny Ainge has found that out since trading away Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett.
Meanwhile, after collecting an impressive victory in Boston without two of their top players, the Hawks are far from scrambling in search of stars. Sitting at 31-8, they’ve lost just two games since Thanksgiving. The first-place team in the Eastern Conference? It’s not the Bulls, the Wizards and certainly not LeBron’s struggling Cavs. That would be the Atlanta Hawks.
One key is balance. All five of the Hawks’ starters average at least 11.9 points, but it’s not just about scoring. They can all rebound the ball, starting with the front court duo of Al Horford and Paul Millsap. They can all distribute the ball, but the head of the monster is the crazy-quick Jeff Teague. Kyle Korver is “the most challenging player in the league that averages less than 13 points to prepare for,” according to Stevens. That can be attributed not only to Korver’s lights-out shooting from downtown, but the fact that if he’s doubled he knows how to pass out of it and if his man leaves him it’s an automatic 3-pointer. Then there’s Demarre Carroll, a do-it-all type player with the ability to drop 22 points like he did on the C’s when other starters sat out, despite being the least heralded of the five.
Bottom line is that it’s a tough group of players, but even tougher when you see how fantastic they all gel together. On top of that, Atlanta has seven players coming off the bench that all average over four points, so depth isn’t an issue. Depth is also something the superstar-less Celtics seem to have, but with such a young team they have been unable to find the same type of cohesiveness that the Hawks have.
“I think you have to look and redefine who the superstars are with our own eyes everyday, right?” Stevens said following the game when asked about how Atlanta wins without superstars. “And so I would argue that they’ve got a couple guys on their way. And I don’t know what qualifies a superstar, but I know this: Nobody in the league can keep Jeff Teague in front of them. Nobody. And [Dennis] Schroder — I’m not saying he’s a superstar yet, he’s a young kid –but nobody can keep him in front of them. And then they space it with shooters, so now it’s a basketball team, right? And Millsap’s been and All-Star, Horford didn’t play tonight, he’s been an All-Star, Korver didn’t play tonight, he’s a really good player. So they’ve got a great group and it fits well, and you might have a budding superstar in that group, right?
“The other thing that I’d say about them that stands out, jumps off the page, jumps on the page when you’re coaching against them, jumps off the page when you’re watching film: Big-time savy,” the coach continued to gush. “The game comes really easy to them. It’s slow on defense. They can see things coming. They play well together. They know the biggest threats. They react to the biggest threats. And offense, they stay spaced to make the right basketball play time and again. And I agree with you that the superstar thing and factor is a big part of this, but there’s something to be said about a group that just — it’s like a machine. They’re a machine. They’ve really got a good thing going already.”
Another thing that makes the Hawks so good is their coaching. With Mike Budenholzer at the helm, the team has taken on a new identity since his arrival in 2013, and this may be a machine that Stevens recognizes. Budenholzer coached under Gregg Popovich from 1996-2013, winning four championships in the process. The Spurs have been an organization that Stevens has practically been obsessed with since he’s been on an NBA sideline, now the Hawks might be joining that same elite class.
It seems like the Spurs/Hawks’ style is the type of play that Stevens is most interested in coaching, it’s ultimate team basketball, which might be played best in a superstar-less system. In other words, the Celtics greatest success may come from Danny Ainge searching for the perfect fits in Boston while his youngsters develop, rather than waiting for the next KG trade to fall into his lap. Ainge has been actively working the trade market of late, so he certainly isn’t waiting around, but he may want to take a look at the Hawks blueprint if he wants to taste the champagne again soon.
Follow Julian Edlow on Twitter @julianedlow
|Brad Stevens envies the ‘beautiful basketball’ of the Atlanta Hawks after seeing it up close and personal||at 10:24 am ET|
He thought maybe his team would see how Atlanta (31-8) is playing the game right now for their coach Mike Budenholzer and be inspired. He thought wrong.
Not three minutes into the game, Stevens had to call a timeout to remind his young team, still working to learn each other’s game, that he wants them to run basic offense.
“I thought our offense was pretty poor all night, and I think they’re obviously a difficult-enough offense to guard,” Stevens said. “But when you give them run-out dunks, it doesn’t help anything, and we just turned the ball over too much. Put too much pressure on ourselves to be good in the half-court defensively, and then to come back.
“We had cut it to nine and we were playing with some pretty good energy, but then at the end of the day they made us pay on a few different plays. And they do such a great job of ‘ they don’t over-dribble, you know? They attack, they space, they pass ‘ it’s beautiful basketball. They really move the ball well. And I thought we never really got into anything from a movement standpoint. We got pushed out a little bit out of our space and we fumbled the ball all around as a result of that.”
The Celtics responded in the first quarter and managed a 24-24 tie after 12 minutes. But the roof started to cave in when the shots didn’t fall in the second and they could never really recover from a 57-45 halftime hole. Still, it was the start of the game that stuck in Stevens’ craw.
|5 things we learned as Hawks dominated Celtics||01.14.15 at 10:18 pm ET|
The red hot Hawks came into Boston on Wednesday and extended their winning streak to 10 games, and it wasn’t even close. Playing without Al Horford and Kyle Korver, Atlanta was unfazed and dominated the Celtics, 105-91 (click here for full box score).
Here’s five things we learned in a loss that drops the Celtics to 13-24 on the season:
THE HAWKS ARE REALLY GOOD
The Hawks have been silent assassins all season. Atlanta has lost two games since Thanksgiving and have been rolling over the competition in the process. Teams around the league have certainly taken notice, but so far it has yet to change what the Hawks have been doing.
Even without two of their best players, Horford and Korver, the Hawks brought their quiet confidence into Boston and played very well. With names like Mike Muscala, Mike Scott and Kent Bazemore playing roles in the rotation and their starters all preforming like equally-talented All-Stars, the Hawks are onto something. Which begs the question: Could the Celtics build a “superstar-less” contender like Atlanta has?
|Report: Danny Ainge shopping Jeff Green to Atlanta Hawks in possible trade||02.09.14 at 7:16 pm ET|
The New York Daily News reported Sunday that the Celtics vice president of basketball operations is shopping the forward around and the Atlanta Hawks reportedly have serious interest in acquiring him before the Feb. 20 deadline.
Green has $18.4 million left in guaranteed money after this season, including a player option for $9.2 million for 2015-16. He is leading the Celtics in scoring this season at 16.3 while playing in all 52 games through Sunday.
Sam Amick of USA Today reported Sunday that the Knicks might be willing to take on Green’s contract or that of Gerald Wallace in order to entice Ainge to trade Rondo to the Knicks in exchange for a package that could include Amar’e Stoudemire and several young players.
The Hawks are clearly looking to add pieces to a roster they think can make a move in the underwhelming Eastern Conference this season. They stood 25-24 entering Sunday’s action, in fourth place in the East, just a half-game ahead of Chicago Bulls.
— Mitch Lawrence (@Mitch_Lawrence) February 9, 2014
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