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Were Celtics that good or Bulls that bad? Mike Petraglia, Josue Pavon discuss Sunday’s romp 03.12.17 at 7:19 pm ET
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Was Sunday more about the Celtics looting great or Dwyane Wade, Rajon Rondo and the Bulls looking awful? Mike Petraglia and Josue Pavon discuss inside TD Garden.

Read More: Boston Celtics, Chicago Bulls, Josue Pavon, Mike Petraglia
Blowout win against Bulls proves why the Celtics’ defense makes all the difference at 5:46 pm ET
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Mar 12, 2017; Boston, MA, USA; Boston Celtics guard Isaiah Thomas (4) smiles from the bench during the second half of the Boston Celtics 100-80 win over the Chicago Bulls at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

Isaiah Thomas smiles from the bench during the second half of the Boston Celtics 100-80 win over the Chicago Bulls at TD Garden. (Winslow Townson/USA TODAY Sports)

The Bulls needed the second quarter to reach double figures in points, the third quarter to score at least 30 and a miracle to close their deficit. 

The Celtics not only held Chicago to nine first-quarter points in Sunday’s 100-80 blowout victory, they also played with the kind of defensive intensity that should put them in great position to grab the second seed in the Eastern Conference, and hold onto it.

The Celtics’ defense set the tone early as the Bulls finished the first quarter 3-of-22 from the floor. Avery Bradley and Jae Crowder were very physical with Chicago’s best scorers — Jimmy Butler and Dwyane Wade — and kept them in check throughout the afternoon. Wade (8 points) and Butler (5 points) combined for just 13 points on 6-of-22 shots.

The Bulls never led once.

Isaiah Thomas finished with a game-high 22 points, Bradley added 17 points, 6 rebounds and three steals and Al Horford chipped in 12 points, 7 rebounds and 6 assists. Six Celtics players scored in double figures. 

For a complete recap of Sunday’s win, click here. 

Boston’s commitment on the defensive end disallowed the Bulls to find their offensive rhythm and much like we’ve seen throughout the regular season — the Celtics’ defensive stops catapulted their offense. But it wasn’t just a few guys creating stops, it was a group effort. 

Al Horford and Amir Johnson each finished with two blocks and a number of stops, while the Celtics bench — led by Marcus Smart and Jaylen Brown — combined for 5 steals. The Celtics finished the night with 14 steals and coerced the Bulls to commit 17 turnovers.

With 15 games remaining in the regular season, the Celtics (42-25) are in a tie with the Wizards for second place but due to their relatively light schedule, have a great opportunity to head into the playoffs with the second best record in the east. This week, the C’s will take on the Timberwolves, Nets and 76ers — three of 11 below .500 teams that are left on their remaining schedule. 

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Read More: Boston Celtics, Chicago Bulls,
Isaiah Thomas admits he must keep emotions in check following outburst aimed at Brad Stevens 03.08.17 at 3:47 pm ET
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Isaiah Thomas is second in the NBA in scoring this season. (Gary A. Vasquez/USA Today Sports)

Isaiah Thomas is second in the NBA in scoring this season. (Gary A. Vasquez/USA Today Sports)

Everything seems to be cool between Isaiah Thomas and Brad Stevens –– for now.

In a meeting with reporters Wednesday, Thomas said he didn’t mean to disparage Stevens following the Celtics’ loss to the Clippers Monday. The All-Star point guard also admitted he must do a better job of keeping his emotions in check. 

“I didn’t mean to throw anybody under the bus. That’s not me,” Thomas said, via ESPN’s Chris Forsberg. “I just said how I felt at that time. My job is just to move on and do my job and don’t make it a distraction, because it’s not.” 

The Celtics were in control of the Clippers throughout the first half Monday, but unraveled after halftime. At one point, Los Angeles went on a 41-14 run, which carried into the fourth quarter. With Al Horford (elbow strain) and Jonas Jerebko (flu) out of the lineup, the Celtics were forced to go with a smaller rotation. At the end of the third period, their lineup featured James Young at one of the forward spots and Jordan Mickey at center. Thomas expressed frustration at the configuration, saying it’s too late in the season to be experimenting

While Thomas didn’t back off his words Wednesday, he said he regrets creating a stir. 

“I gotta do a better job of calming down after tough games, tough loses,” he said. “I’m always going to be me. And that’s the only way I know how. Like I said to Brad, I’m not here to throw anybody under the bus, because I wouldn’t want anybody to do that to me. That’s just how I felt at that time. Yes, I have to do a better job of it and I know that. I’m here to be Isaiah Thomas and lead and win games. And I know if we win that wouldn’t have even been a problem.” 

Stevens, for his part, appeared to take Thomas’ outburst in stride. 

“At the end of the day, I didn’t put much thought into it until it became a deal that everybody was talking about,” he said. “And at that point in time, I heard from Isaiah pretty quickly. So again, I don’t put a lot of stock. I understand the emotions and how high they run at the end of games, win or lose.”

After two consecutive loses, including a brutal last-second defeat to the Suns after Thomas missed a free throw and fumbled an inbound pass in the game’s final moments, the Celtics will look to get back on track against the Warriors Wednesday. That, of course, is easier said than done. Golden State is sitting atop the Western Conference with a 52-11 record. 

Read More: Boston Celtics, Brad Stevens, Isaiah Thomas,
Isaiah Thomas is a big fan of the Lakers’ Magic Johnson hiring 03.03.17 at 3:28 pm ET
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Isaiah Thomas says he thinks Magic Johnson will bring respectability back to the Lakers. (Tom Szczerbowski/USA Today Sports)

Isaiah Thomas says he thinks Magic Johnson will bring respectability back to the Lakers. (Tom Szczerbowski/USA Today Sports)

The Lakers’ decision to hire Magic Johnson as their director of basketball operations was met with mixed reviews, largely because of his lack of NBA front office experience. But count Isaiah Thomas among those who think Johnson will excel in the role. 

In a scrum with reporters in Los Angeles Friday, Thomas said he thinks Johnson will bring mystique back to the Lakers franchise. The Celtics will take on the Lakers Friday night. 

“Some superstar is going to come here. It’s good,” Thomas said, via ESPN’s Chris Forsberg. “Magic Johnson is arguably the best Laker ever, so to have him ahead of all that and making decisions, it’s a step in the right direction. Everybody respects him. I mean, the Lakers are not going to be, I guess, what they are now forever. He’ll bring some people here.”

The 19-42 Lakers are currently 15th in the Western Conference, limping their way towards a fourth consecutive losing season. In a radical shakeup last month, team president Jeanie Buss fired general manager Mitch Kupchak and stripped her brother, Jim, of all his basketball power. In addition to Johnson, the club brought aboard former agent Rob Pelinka to serve as its GM. 

Johnson returns to the Lakers with a mixed post-career resume. Since officially retiring from the NBA in 1996, he’s taken taken part in a number of successful business ventures. His entertainment company, Magic Johnson Enterprises, has a net worth of $700 million. Johnson is also a part of the Dodgers’ ownership group. 

But his endeavors in basketball have been less fruitful. Johnson coached the Lakers at the end of the 1993-94 season, finishing with a 5-11 record. Apparently, though, Thomas is willing to discard that –– perhaps because of his lifelong affinity for the franchise.

“I was brainwashed to be a Laker fan when I was younger, so I always wanted to be a Laker. But I love being a Celtic,” he said.

Thomas will be a free agent after the 2017-18 season. 

Read More: Boston Celtics, Isaiah Thomas, Los Angeles Lakers, Magic Johnson
Celtics prove why they’re one of the best teams in 4th quarter in win over Cavaliers 03.01.17 at 11:42 pm ET
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Mar 1, 2017; Boston, MA, USA; Cleveland Cavaliers guard Kyrie Irving (2) looks to make a pass while guarded by Boston Celtics shooting forward Jaylen Brown (7) during the fourth quarter at TD Garden.  The Boston Celtics won 103-99.  Mandatory Credit: Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports

Brad Stevens reinserted Avery Bradley towards the end of the 4th quarter to help slow down Kyrie Irving (Greg M. Cooper/USA Today)

Early Wednesday afternoon, Brad Stevens issued a plan of attack and that evening his team executed it and turned it into one of their most impressive wins of the season.

Wednesday night’s 103-99 win over the Cavaliers was a testament to how tough the Celtics can be in the fourth quarter.

Even with their best scorer not hitting shots (1-of-4), the Celtics rallied behind defensive stops by Marcus Smart and Avery Bradley instead of relying on Isaiah Thomas to keep them in the game.

Facing a two-point deficit, Smart drew back-to-back offensive fouls against the Cavaliers before Jae Crowder (17 points) drained a 3-pointer under two minutes to go. Then, it was Bradley’s turn as he rattled Kyrie Irving (28 points) and drained a 3-pointer on the other end to keep his team ahead. 

Out of a Cavaliers timeout, Cleveland set up sharp shooter Kyle Korver for an open 3-pointer before Thomas drained his only field goal of the fourth quarter. Irving responded with a reverse layup to tie the game (99-99) before Thomas drew a shooting foul and drained a pair of free-throws to put the C’s ahead, 101-99.

LeBron James (28 points, 13 rebounds, 10 assists) passed up an opportunity to tie the game by passing the ball to Deron Williams, who missed the potential game-winning 3-pointer. 

For a full box score and summary of Wednesday’s game vs. Cleveland, click here.

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Read More: Avery Bradley, Boston Celtics, Cleveland Cavaliers, Isaiah Thomas
Isaiah Thomas 20 point streak comes to an end: ‘Tonight was just an off night for me’ 02.28.17 at 12:18 am ET
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Feb 27, 2017; Boston, MA, USA; Boston Celtics guard Isaiah Thomas (4) drives to the basket past Atlanta Hawks forward Taurean Prince (12) during the first half at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

Isaiah Thomas (4) drives to the basket past Atlanta Hawks forward Taurean Prince (12) during the first half at TD Garden. (Bob DeChiara/USA Today Sports)

An ugly defeat to the Atlanta Hawks 114-98 wasn’t the only Celtics’ loss on Monday night.

Isaiah Thomas saw his 43 game streak of 20 or more points come to an end against the Hawks in a 19-point performance on a dreadful shooting night for the C’s. Boston shot just 39.1 percent on the night from the field.

Thomas, who had just two points in the fourth quarter, went 4-for-21 from the field. And the only reason he came within a point of extending his streak to 44 games was his 10-for-10 effort from the free throw line. He also went just 1-for-6 from beyond the 3-point arc. He still led the team in scoring.

“Tonight was just an off night for me,” said Thomas. “You have those, and we played Toronto and they showed two or three guys, I can’t run through the whole team.”

It was an all around frustrating night for the Celtics.

“We’re not gonna hit every shot every game,” said Jaylen Brown, who shot 6-for-10 to add 15 points. “But I do expect us to play a little bit better than what we did.”

Avery Bradley made his return to the lineup, playing 15 minutes in the first half. He didn’t see any floor time when the Celtics were outscored 63-51.

“I just feel like we didn’t play hard enough,” Bradley said. “In the second half they played harder than us. They punked us.”

The shooting was the obvious problem on Monday night, but it wasn’t the only focus for the Celtics to improve on.

“If there’s one thing I’d like us to get back to it’s taking care of the ball at the level we were before the break,” said head coach Brad Stevens.

Thomas scored only two points in the fourth quarter, uncharacteristic of his recent late game dramatics. This comes after struggling as well late in the loss to the Toronto Raptors on Friday night.

“The whole world knows what time it is in the fourth quarter and they’re game-planning to stop me,” Thomas said.

Thomas also saw his rivalry with Hawks’ guard Dennis Schroder mellow on the court as Al Horford and Dwight Howard mixed things up in the third quarter, and Howard was eventually ejected.

Thomas wasn’t interested in talking about his rival guard after the game.

“You keep bringing him up,” he said. “I’m done talking about that guy. There’s nothing. He’ll probably say something over there, I don’t know.”

Stevens had more concerns than just Thomas in the loss.

“I’m not worried about Isaiah,” said Stevens. “I’m worried about how we’re playing”

Along with shooting issues, the Celtics rebounding woes continued to be prominent as Thomas was the team’s leading rebounder through three quarters while Horford struggled against his former team. Horford finished with six rebounds while Thomas led the team with seven.

With the 20-point run coming to an end on the same night Thomas was honored pre-game with the Eastern Conference player of the month award, the point guard isn’t upset about the streak being snapped.

“I’ll break it again,” Thomas said.

Read More: Boston Celtics, Isaiah Thomas,
Monday’s loss to the Hawks reveals the true need for Andrew Bogut, and why Isaiah Thomas can’t do everything 02.27.17 at 9:54 pm ET
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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. 

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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Read More: Atlanta Hawks, Boston Celtics, Dennis Schroder, Dwight Howard
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