|5 things we learned as Celtics roll over 76ers||03.16.15 at 9:55 pm ET|
The hottest team in the NBA? Well, that might just be the Boston Celtics.
The C’s destroyed the lowly 76ers 108-89 on Monday night, wining their fifth straight game and moving into a tie with the Pacers and Heat for the seventh seed in the Eastern Conference. Yes, the Celtics (30-36) would now be in the playoffs if they were to start tomorrow.
Tyler Zeller scored a career-high 26 points on 11-of-15 shooting in an incredibly efficient 28 minutes. Avery Bradley also netted 20 points for the Celtics, who received double-digit scoring from all five starters as well as Jae Crowder and Gigi Datome off the bench. Massachusetts product Nerlens Noel was the leading scorer for Philadelphia with 18 points.
For a full box score, click here.
A FIRST FOR BRAD STEVENS
Stevens now has his first five-game winning streak as a head coach in the NBA — an impressive run, even if the latest victory came against Philly. Maybe even more impressive? The C’s have now won 14 of their last 20 games. No matter how you spin it, this stretch has proved Stevens can flat out coach. He just may sneak a team that has undergone several identity changes this season into the playoffs, so imagine the possibilities when Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge provides Stevens with the roster that many expect in the future.
|5 things we learned as Celtics execute upset of Grizzlies||03.11.15 at 10:10 pm ET|
There was no more room for moral victories.
As was the case against the Golden State Warriors two weeks ago, the Celtics played inspired basketball against the Western Conference elite, only to lose their hold on the lead in the final minutes versus the Memphis Grizzlies.
Only this time the C’s made shot after shot in the waning moments to pull out a thrilling 95-92 victory they desperately needed to stay alive in the Eastern Conference playoff race. In the final 1:40, Jae Crowder made a game-tying 3-pointer, Marcus Smart converted an alley-oop-and-one to grab a one-point lead, Tyler Zeller pulled down a defensive rebound between Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph before converting a pair of free throws for a three-point advantage, and Avery Bradley sank a step-back jumper over the league’s 2013 Defensive Player of the Year to seal the deal. It was a remarkable combination of effort and execution.
The win keeps the Celtics (27-36) within striking distance of the Miami Heat (29-35) for the East’s eighth playoff seed with three games against the Orlando Magic, Indiana Pacers and Philadelphia 76ers in four nights starting Friday. On Wednesday, Bradley led five Celtics in double figures with 17 points. Jae Crowder netted 16 points and Kelly Olynyk dropped 15 while Brandon Bass and Tyler Zeller added 12 apiece.
For a complete box score, click here.
|Celtics rule out Avery Bradley for New Orleans with left elbow sprain||03.05.15 at 4:37 pm ET|
The Celtics backcourt just became a little less crowded.
The team announced on Twitter, prior to their trip to New Orleans Thursday, that Avery Bradley did not make the trip and would be out against the Pelicans Friday night when they open a three-game road trip.
Bradley will miss the contest with a sprained left elbow, suffered Wednesday night during the first quarter of their win over the Jazz. After briefly exiting to the locker room, he returned, donned a black arm sleeve and finished with 13 points, seven rebounds and three assists. He played 36 minutes but still appeared to favor the left arm, as he did when he initially left late in the first quarter.
The Celtics announced Thursday afternoon on Twitter that Bradley did not travel to New Orleans with his team. The tweet included no word on whether he could potentially meet up with his teammates before the end of their three-game road trip.
Isaiah Thomas and Marcus Smart combined to help the Celtics set a new franchise record for fewest turnovers (3) in a game and figure to make up the slack until Bradley returns. Thomas, as he did on Wednesday, has been coming off the bench to provide a scoring spark. It’s not clear if he will continue in that role or replace Bradley in the starting lineup. Smart started the 16th game of his rookie season on Wednesday.
Avery Bradley Injury Update: He will not travel with team to New Orleans today for tomorrow night’s game. He’s out with a left elbow sprain.
|5 things we learned as Celtics top Jazz on Tyler Zeller’s buzzer beater||03.04.15 at 10:12 pm ET|
Gordon Hayward hit a jumper over Tyler Zeller with just 1.7 seconds remaining to give Utah an 84-83 edge, but it was Tyler Zeller who would get the last laugh. Brad Stevens drew up a play to perfection and Marcus Smart hit Zeller under the hoop for what turned into the game-winner at the buzzer. The shot was reviewed, but the Garden erupted once at the refs announced the basket was good, and the C’s came away with a 85-84 win.
Isaiah Thomas and Jae Crowder were the game’s two high scorers with 21 and 18 points respectively — both coming off the Boston bench. Avery Bradley was the Celtics‘ only starter to reach double figures with 13. Trey Burke and Derrick Favors led the way for Utah with 16 points apiece. The Celtics are now 24-35 after the win, while the Jazz drop to 24-36 on the season.
For a full box score, click here.
Here are five things we learned in the win:
UGLY FIRST HALF
Yes, both teams did play in different cities the night before, but a score of 34-33 at halftime is not a common sight in the NBA. Typically a cold start will get better for both teams, but after the Jazz took a 19-18 lead into the second quarter, the teams combined for only 30 more points in the half — leaving the Celtics with a one-point edge at the break. Despite turning the ball over just once, the C’s managed their 34 points on 32.6 percent shooting (including 16.7 percent from downtown). The Jazz weren’t much better, shooting a mere 37.1 percent, but attempted 11 less shots than Boston (46-35).
|Playoffs are real possibility for red-hot Celtics||02.28.15 at 5:55 pm ET|
Don’t look now, but the Celtics are making a playoff push — and a strong one at that, having won seven of their last 10 games.
At the beginning of the season, if you had to pick the three best players on the Celtics, your answer probably would have been Rajon Rondo, Jeff Green and Jared Sullinger. As we now know, Rondo and Green were sent packing, and Sullinger is out for the season with a stress fracture in his foot.
Enter the likes of Isaiah Thomas, Jae Crowder and Jonas Jerebko — players who were on three separate rosters at the start of the season (none of which were the Celtics). Those players have been dominating games off the bench in Boston’s last two wins. We know the NBA has been trending toward “small ball” lineups, but this unit often takes things to a whole new level.
Thomas is undersized for his matchup every night at just 5-foot-9, but he plays far above his height in the sense that he is constantly comfortable battling in the paint. Crowder (typically a small forward) and Jerebko (a power forward) moved up to power forward and center, respectively, in the new “small ball” lineup. The other two positions are often filled by 6-foot-2 Avery Bradley and 6-foot-4 Marcus Smart. Like I said, a whole new level.
“Well, with a two-game sample size I would say it’s been good, but I don’t know that we can determine if it’s good long-term or not,” Brad Stevens said of his new lineup that he seemingly stumbled upon. “I think that the biggest thing for me has always been if you can find somebody with enough speed and skill that can guard above their size. Then you can create some havoc on the other side of the court, and that’s what Jae has done. Jae’s ability to guard the post has given us some options as we’ve been smaller here, and Jonas too. But we had to double Al [Jefferson] still and we had to do some of that stuff, but Jae did a great job on Al Jefferson. He did as good as anybody can.”
So what’s been the difference in the C’s recent success?
“Isaiah Thomas,” Bradley said without hesitation when asked what sparked the change in the team. “Not only him, Jae Crowder, I can go down the list. Everyone’s just buying in to what Brad’s trying to do, and that’s team basketball.”
“That’s pretty nice,” Thomas replied to Bradley’s compliment. “It’s not me, though, it’s just this team. We’re playing hard, coach is putting us in a position to be successful and that’s the big key. We’re believing in each other.”
Come April, team basketball could be something that carries the C’s to the playoffs — something Bradley admitted has been a goal he’s thought about since the beginning of the season. Thomas concurred, admitting that Friday’s atmosphere felt much like a playoff game to him. Turns out Thomas might not have to wait as long as we thought to get his first taste of the postseason for real.
Follow Julian Edlow on Twitter @julianedlow.
|5 things we learned in dramatic Celtics victory over Suns||02.23.15 at 11:47 pm ET|
In a blowout turned thriller, it was Thomas who had the most frustration to vent after being traded by the Suns and then being ejected from his first game as a Celtic. He led the C’s (21-33) over the Suns (29-28), 115-110, Monday night in Phoenix.
Thomas had a late 4-point play, followed by an acrobatic finish at the rim that essentially sealed a Boston win after Phoenix had cut the deficit to just a single point in the fourth.
Avery Bradley had a game-high 23 points for the Celtics, while Thomas had his second 21-point game off the bench in as many games as a member of the Celtics. Eric Bledsoe and Brandon Knight led the way for the Suns, scoring 21 and 20 points respectively.
For a complete box score, click here.
In a pick-and-roll league like the NBA, having a player like Thomas is crucial. The Celtics now have an offensive threat — a player that draws double teams because he can come off of a pick and make a quick decision to pass, shoot or drive to the rim. At 5-foot-9 he’s small in stature, but his value to the Celtics going forward is enormous. Not to overreact to someone who figures to be just a piece of Boston’s future success, but if Thomas’ skill set is so obvious in just a couple of games with a depleted squad, just wait until he’s not the focal point of the opposing defense. You can see why Danny Ainge has been chasing Thomas these past couple years. He was an absolute game-changer down the stretch of the only game we’ve had the pleasure of watching him finish in green. Aside from his 21 points and seven assists, Thomas led his team by a wide margin in plus/minus, finishing as a plus-21 in his 27 minutes of play.
CREDIT AVERY BRADLEY
In WEEI.com’s recent Celtics roundtable I wrote that Bradley was the one guy that needed to improve his play. Maybe he’s been reading Green Street during his down time on the road trip? Bradley has been fantastic of late. He came out and set the tone early with 14 first quarter points, and then had a huge steal and 3-pointer late to help seal the victory. And he did it all while hounding the athletic backcourt of Bledsoe and Knight — finishing with six steals to go with his 23 points (8-for-14 from the field).
|Celtics fall to Kings in back-and-forth affair||02.21.15 at 12:36 am ET|
Playing shorthanded without Jared Sullinger and Kelly Olynyk, the Celtics gave a strong effort, but ultimately fell to the Kings, 109-101 on the road Friday night in the C’s first game following the All-Star break (click here for the complete box score).
The Celtics were in the game the entire way, even leading 16-2 to start the game, but then ended up by trailing by five at the half. The Kings couldn’t pull away in the second half, but a lot of that had to do with the Kings turning the ball over 24 times, which kept the Celtics in it all game long.
Avery Bradley led the C’s with 28 points. Also having a solid game despite the loss was Tyler Zeller, who finished with 22 points filling in for the Celtics’ lack of size.
DeMarcus Cousins led the way for the Kings with a game-high 31 points.
The Celtics will continue their West Coast swing by taking on the Lakers Sunday night.
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