|Celtics open playoffs Saturday night in Atlanta, home games April 22, 24||04.14.16 at 12:07 pm ET|
Saturday night is all right for the Celtics.
The NBA announced its full first-round playoff schedule early Thursday morning, and the league has the No. 5 Celtics and the No. 4 Hawks opening their Eastern Conference series in Atlanta on Saturday night at 7 p.m. on ESPN.
Game 2 will be Tuesday at 7 p.m. before the series shifts to Boston for Games 3 and 4 next Friday (April 22) at 8 p.m. and Sunday (April 24) at 6 p.m.
Game 5 would be Tuesday, April 26, in Atlanta. Game 6 is set for Thursday, April 28, in Boston. If the series goes the limit, Game 7 would be Saturday, April 30, in Atlanta.
The Celtics and Hawks have met 11 times in the postseason, with Boston winning 10 of the 11 series. The only time the Hawks came out on top was in the 1958 NBA Finals, when the franchise was in St. Louis.
The most recent meeting was in 2012, when Boston prevailed in six games.
The two teams have had their epic moments, most notably in 1988, when Larry Bird outdueled Dominique Wilkins in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference semifinals and in Game 7 in 2008, when the Celtics avoided a monumental upset as the No. 1 seed, on their way to a 17th NBA title.
As for the defending NBA champion and record 73-game winners, the Warriors, they open the playoffs on Saturday afternoon in Oakland against the Rockets. The first of four games Saturday features the No. 7 seed Pacers traveling to Toronto to take on the No. 2 Raptors.
WEEI.com’s Mike Petraglia and Sam Packard discuss how the Celtics were able to execute the greatest comeback in the NBA this season on the season’s final night. The Celtics trailed by 26 points to the Heat at one point in the first half before turning on the defensive jets in the second half, limiting the Heat to five points in the third quarter on 2-of-20 shooting. The defense continued in the fourth quarter, as the Heat managed just 21 points. The Celtics outscored Miami 60-26 in the second half to post a 98-88 win and finish with a 48-34 record. They finished in a four-way tie with the Heat, Hawks and Hornets and by virtue of that tie, they finish as the No. 5 seed and will open the playoffs in Atlanta this weekend. Games 3 and 4 will be back in Boston.
|Avery Bradley on facing Hawks: ‘I think it’s good for us’||at 12:27 am ET|
The guesswork is over.
The No. 5 seed Celtics will be playing the No. 4 Hawks in the first round of the playoffs.
“I think it’s good for us, for our sake we get to play them again especially how, our performance the last time,” Avery Bradley said. “We played them there in Atlanta, gives us a chance to go back and play the way we did [Wednesday].”
Well, at least in the second half Wednesday.
The Celtics were a no-show for 24 minutes on Wednesday night before outscoring the Heat 25-5 in the third quarter and getting themselves back in the game with intense defense.
The Hawks team they will be facing beat them three of four times in the regular season, including this past Saturday, when the Celtics couldn’t hold a late 87-75 lead. In that game, they were outscored 43-20 down the stretch and lost by 11, 118-107.
“Well, obviously Atlanta’s really good,” Brad Stevens said. “Atlanta’s beaten us three out of four times and they’ve got some tough matchups. They’re a good basketball team. A really good basketball team. And so we’ll have our hands full. We’re looking forward to competing against them, we’re looking forward to preparing for them.
“And so, as far as [Wednesday], we just had to decide that we were going to play differently, and we were going to get back to being ourselves a little bit. That didn’t mean that we were going to make every shot, turn them over, or they were going to miss open shots, but it meant that we were going to, you know, compete at a different level than we were.”
|Poll: What is best 1st-round matchup for Celtics?||04.13.16 at 1:28 pm ET|
Thanks to the number-crunching of Ben Rohrbach, we now know all the first-round possibilities for the Celtics in the playoffs that begin this weekend. The question is: What matchup might favor the Celtics and which matchup might give the Celtics the best path through the East? Is it too early to start thinking about avoiding either Toronto or Cleveland in the second round? That’s a question for later. But for now, who do you want to see the Celtics face in the opening round?
|Mike Petraglia, Sam Packard on Celtics beating Bucks to close in on No. 3 seed||04.08.16 at 11:32 pm ET|
WEEI.com’s Mike Petraglia and Sam Packard explain how the Celtics were eventually able to get their engines going and blow out the short-handed Bucks, 124-109, Friday night at TD Garden. As a result, the Celtics won their fourth straight and improved to 47-32 on the season, tying the Hawks for third in the East heading into their Saturday night showdown in Atlanta.
|Brad Stevens on Gordon Hayward, Shelvin Mack: ‘I love competing against them’||02.29.16 at 8:36 pm ET|
Brad Stevens doesn’t like coaching against his former players.
In the first quarter he was reminded why. Gordon Hayward, most famous for nearly beating Duke in the NCAA championship game with a half-court buzzer-beater in 2010, had eight points and fellow Butler alum Shelvin Mack had six points as the Jazz took a 29-23 lead.
The two were recently re-united thanks a trade that sent Mack from Atlanta to the Jazz. Mack was placed immediately in Utah’s starting lineup. His first game with the Jazz was against old coach Brad Stevens and the Celtics.
What does he think of coaching against his former players twice in two weeks?
“It stinks,” Stevens said only partially tongue-in-cheek. “I love being out there. I love competing against them. If I was coaching the blue team in practice and they were on the white team a few years ago, I would try to do the very best I could to not let them have a good day. Shelvin has started off great for Utah, as we thought he would. As we’ve seen many times, it’s about opportunity and fit as much as anything else in this league.
“And Gordon has established himself as one of the better young players in the league, and that’s been a great growth process for me to watch because when he committed to Butler, he was a tennis player that played basketball and was growing into his body, and wasn’t near what he is now. Just to watch him the last eight or nine years has been pretty incredible.”
The Hayward story is well-documented but Stevens provided a refresher course before Monday’s game.
“He wasn’t heavily recruited until after he committed to us,” Stevens said. “It was that type of deal. He was great. He really wanted to be there. He really worked. He was always working. He was always in the gym. He was probably one of our bigger gym rats that we had over that time. He’s also a really relational guy, he really enjoys team, he really enjoys people.
“They pounded us last week. They’ve had some great moments, and those two guys are going to continue to have great moments as part of that organization. I just think you should grow, you should get better, you should improve. If you’re stagnating or if you think you’ve got it figured out, you’re going to get caught. I feel bad that those guys had to be coached by a guy that young and that dumb.”
Mack thinks the self-deprecating Stevens might just be a little hard on himself, considering the fact he became the youngest head coach in history to guide his team to back-to-back NCAA championship games.
“I wouldn’t say that,” Mack said when told of the ‘dumb’ reference. “He was very smart, very mature. I’d say he handled the situation great at Butler.
“He’s a player’s coach. He can adapt to his players. I think the NBA is all about, or mostly about, the players. If you adapt to a player and make it easy, I think you have a chance to be a great coach. He’s able to do that, connect with his players, on and off the court. Off the court might be easier than on the court.”
|Celtics keep quiet at the deadline||02.18.16 at 3:45 pm ET|
There were no earth-shaking moves to be made.
Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge worked the phones over the last week but ultimately the reports that he didn’t want to pay “premium prices” for premium talent proved accurate.
Instead of adding a rental like Dwight Howard or Al Horford or an expensive piece like Kevin Love, Ainge decided to stay put and hold onto his three first-round picks, including Brooklyn’s likely lottery pick this June.
As it turned out, Howard, Horford and Love all stayed with their respective teams in Houston, Atlanta and Cleveland.
There were several lower-tier deals, including former Celtics forward Jeff Green being sent to the Clippers, where he will be reunited with his old coach Doc Rivers. The Clippers send Lance Stephenson and a first-round pick to Memphis in return.
The Hawks did make a couple of deals. They acquired veteran shooting guard Kirk Hinrich from the Bulls for a second-round pick. Atlanta also traded guard Shelvin Mack to Utah for a second-round pick. Mack played for Celtics coach Brad Stevens at Butler.
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