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Poll: What is best 1st-round matchup for Celtics? 04.13.16 at 1:28 pm ET
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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?

What is the best first-round matchup for the Celtics?

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Read More: 2016 NBA playoffs, Atlanta Hawks, Boston Celtics, Charlotte Hornets
Mike Petraglia, Sam Packard on Celtics beating Bucks to close in on No. 3 seed 04.08.16 at 11:32 pm ET
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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.

Read More: Atlanta Hawks, Boston Celtics, Mike Petraglia, Milwaukee Bucks
Brad Stevens on Gordon Hayward, Shelvin Mack: ‘I love competing against them’ 02.29.16 at 8:36 pm ET
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Utah Jazz forward Gordon Hayward (20) has been a thorn in side of Brad Stevens. (Russ Isabella/USA Today Sports)

Utah Jazz forward Gordon Hayward (20) has been a thorn in side of Brad Stevens. (Russ Isabella/USA Today Sports)

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.” 

Read More: Atlanta Hawks, Boston Celtics, Brad Stevens, Butler Bulldogs
Celtics keep quiet at the deadline 02.18.16 at 3:45 pm ET
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Danny Ainge

Danny Ainge

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.

Read More: 2016 NBA trade deadline, Atlanta Hawks, Boston Celtics, Houston Rockets
Report: Celtics lead Al Horford sweepstakes if Hawks make him available at deadline 02.17.16 at 4:48 pm ET
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Guard Jeff Teague (0) and center Al Horford (15)  are reportedly on the trading block. (Steve Dykes/USA TODAY Sports)

Guard Jeff Teague (0) and center Al Horford (15) reportedly are on the trading block. (Steve Dykes/USA Today Sports)

Are the Celtics about to get their big man at the trade deadline?

According to A. Sherrod Blakely of CSNNE.com, Danny Ainge is the front-runner to land Atlanta center Al Horford if the Hawks make him available before Thursday at 3 p.m. ET.

The nine-year veteran is averaging 15.3 points and 6.9 rebounds while starting all of Atlanta’s 55 games this season. The 31-24 Hawks are just one game behind the third-place Celtics in the Eastern Conference.

This all begs the question why Atlanta would want to deal one the league’s best big men right now? The Hawks are staring down the barrel of the free agency gun with Horford set to hit the open market this summer.

Horford is in the final year of a five-year, $60 million contract and is earning $12 million this season. Blakely reports that the Hawks have not made a decision on whether they will trade Horford but a league source told CSNNE.com that “the Celtics have emerged as one of the favorites to land him.”

But the big caveat is whether the Hawks even decide to part ways with the veteran forward at all. Atlanta would likely demand one of Boston’s three first-round picks.

If Ainge feels the true value is in the lottery pick, and could package the other first-rounders and some other enticements, then the deal might happen.

What would it mean for the short-term? Horford, a four-time All-Star, would easily step in and become Boston’s best post player, as Jared Sullinger, Amir Johnson and Jae Crowder has formed the starting front court the last 11 games and 16 of the last 17 games.

Read More: 2016 NBA trade deadline, Al Horford, Atlanta Hawks, Boston Celtics
Report: Hawks looking for ‘borderline ridiculous’ return for Al Horford, Jeff Teague 02.12.16 at 10:46 am ET
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Guard Jeff Teague (0) and center Al Horford (15)  are reportedly on the trading block. (Steve Dykes/USA TODAY Sports)

Hawks guard Jeff Teague and center Al Horford (right) reportedly are on the trading block. (Steve Dykes/USA Today Sports)

The hottest ticket in NBA trade deadline sweepstakes appears to belong to the Atlanta Hawks. And they are treating it like a Super Bowl ticket at the 50-yard line.

According to CSNNE Celtics sideline reporter Chris Mannix, the Hawks are asking a king’s ransom for big man Al Horford and guard Jeff Teague a week before Thursday’s trading deadline.

Many NBA trade rumors have linked the Celtics to the 29-year-old Horford for two basic reasons. First, there’s an obvious need for the Celtics in the post to strengthen their potential playoff run in the East. The Celtics are in third place with a 32-23 record at the All-Star break and could make a run at the No. 1 or 2 seed. Second, the Celtics are one of the few teams with the capital on hand to execute the deal the Hawks are looking for, as Boston holds three first-round picks in the upcoming draft, including Brooklyn’s lottery pick.

But that doesn’t mean Boston would be willing to deal, according to Mannix.

“From everything I’ve been told in the last two or three days, Atlanta’s requests for both Al Horford and Jeff Teague have been borderline ridiculous,” Mannix said Thursday on CSNNE. “The kind of things teams like Boston, or Milwaukee, or Denver simply won’t deal for the players they want.

“Things like this tend to cool off, though. As we get close to the deadline — when we get to the 17th, when we get to the 18th [the trade deadline] — that’s when the real horse trading begins. That’s when [Celtics president of basketball operations] Danny Ainge will know if Atlanta is really serious about trading Al Horford.”

Horford has started all 55 games this season and is averaging 15.3 points per game and 6.9 rebounds. The biggest deterrent to making a deal would be the fact that Horford will become a free agent at the end of the season. Teague, at 27, is in the prime of his career. He’s in the third year of a four-year, $32 million contract.

There have been multiple reports that the Hawks are considering trading the two pieces to try to get to the top of the draft and to position themselves for the new salary cap that takes effect next season, with a cap coming in at around $89 million, a jump of $19 million. In two years, the cap mushrooms to $108 million.

Read More: 2016 NBA trade deadline, Al Horford, Atlanta Hawks, Boston Celtics
Studs and Duds: No defense for Marcus Smart-less Celtics 11.24.15 at 10:55 pm ET
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Marcus Smart

Marcus Smart

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.

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Read More: Atlanta Hawks, Avery Bradley, Boston Celtics, Marcus Smart
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