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Avery Bradley, Celtics look forward to challenge of 68-7 Warriors: ‘That’s what I play basketball for’ 04.01.16 at 2:08 am ET
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Warriors guard Stephen Curry shoots over Celtics guard Avery Bradley during the first half at TD Garden. (Winslow Townson/USA Today Sports)

Warriors guard Stephen Curry shoots over Celtics guard Avery Bradley during the first half of their game at TD Garden in December. (Winslow Townson/USA Today Sports)

Even though they suffered an emotionally draining loss in Portland, the Celtics say they’re ready for the biggest challenge of the season Friday night in Oakland.

The 43-32 Celtics will be going up against the 68-7 Warriors, who are in the midst of an NBA-record 54-game home winning streak, including a perfect 36-0 this season.

“It’s fun. That’s what I play basketball for every single night — to go up against the best players,” Avery Bradley said after Thursday’s 116-109 loss in Portland.

The last time the Celtics and Warriors met, Golden State was on another amazing streak. Heading into their Dec. 11 meeting at TD Garden, the Warriors had won 23 straight to open the season. They extended the streak to 24 but barely, outlasting the Celtics, 124-119, in double overtime. Steph Curry scored 38 points while Draymond Green added 24 as the Warriors improved to 24-0.

That streak ended the next night in Milwaukee but the Celtics made their case that they were legit this season. 

Now, Isaiah Thomas takes one look at the Eastern Conference standings and sees more urgency. Thursday’s loss dropped Boston to sixth place, a game behind the Heat and the Hornets in the loss column.

“We’ve got to win,” Thomas said.

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Read More: Avery Bradley, Boston Celtics, Golden State Warriors, Isaiah Thomas
Studs and Duds: Blazers spoil return of Jae Crowder, Celtics fall to 6th in East at 12:52 am ET
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Celtics guard Isaiah Thomas shoots the ball in front of Portland Trail Blazers forward Al-Farouq Aminu during the first quarter at the Moda Center at the Rose Quarter. (Steve Dykes/USA Today Sports)

Celtics guard Isaiah Thomas shoots the ball in front of Trail Blazers forward Al-Farouq Aminu during the first quarter at the Moda Center at the Rose Quarter. (Steve Dykes/USA Today Sports)

Not exactly the way the Celtics wanted to head into Golden State.

Al-Farouq Aminu scored a career-high 28 points and single-handedly spoiled the return of Jae Crowder Thursday night as the Blazers outlasted the Celtics, 116-109, Thursday night at the Moda Center.

Crowder made a big impact with a double-double, scoring 13 points and hauling in 10 rebounds, in his first game back from a high ankle sprain. With 22 points, Isaiah Thomas set a new franchise record with his 14th straight game as the team’s leading scorer. It was also his 14th straight game with at least 20 points, two games shy of Paul Pierce’s streak in the 2005-06 season.

“It felt good. He showed signs of what he does,” Thomas said of Crowder afterward. “It probably will take a couple of games for him to get back to his full strength. Just glad to have him back in a routine. It just sucks we couldn’t get the win for him.” 

It was a costly loss for the Celtics (43-32) as they fell to sixth in the East, a half-game behind the Heat and Hornets.

Thanks to 50 percent shooting from the field in the first quarter, the Celtics raced out to a 12-4 lead. Portland didn’t score in the game’s first two minutes. 

The first quarter featured the first action from Crowder since suffering a high ankle sprain March 11 against the Rockets. In the opening 60 seconds, he showed no ill effects, grabbing a rebound on the first Blazers possession of the game. On the next possession, Crowder collected a steal and dished an assist on an Isaiah Thomas 3-pointer. 

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Read More: Boston Celtics, Isaiah Thomas, Jae Crowder, NBA
Jae Crowder ‘looking right’ for return vs. Trail Blazers, not likely for Friday vs. Warriors 03.31.16 at 2:22 pm ET
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Jae Crowder

Jae Crowder

The return of Jae Crowder is likely to be one-game only event tonight in Portland.

Barring any setback before the game, Celtics coach Brad Stevens said he’s hopeful Crowder to be available against the Trail Blazers at the Moda Center.

“I’m feeling pretty good. Minor soreness.” Crowder told reporters Thursday in Portland. Crowder said at the shootaround that he’s hopeful to play but hasn’t fully committed. That will come following one more test in a shootaround before the game at the Moda Center.

Asked if he’d be ready to go against Portland, Crowder replied, “It’s looking right,” adding that he would prefer the slower tempo and pace of the Blazers versus the up-tempo demands of the Warriors. 

Stevens added that Crowder would be limited to the game against the Trail Blazers if he’s physically not able to play in back-to-back games so early back from his right high ankle sprain. The Celtics are scheduled to play the 68-win Warriors on Friday night in Oakland.

Crowder practiced with the team at full speed Wednesday in Portland for the first time since injuring the ankle against the Rockets on March 11 at TD Garden. Stevens said he liked what he saw from Crowder in practice.

“He just looked like Jae,” Stevens told reporters Thursday.

He’s missed eight games and the team has posted a record of 4-4 in his absence.

Read More: Boston Celtics, Brad Stevens, Jae Crowder,
Celtics announce times, dates for playoff ticket sales at 1:52 pm ET
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Celtics guard Isaiah Thomas has the Celtics on a run to the playoffs. (Bob DeChiara/USA Today Sports)

Celtics guard Isaiah Thomas has the Celtics on a run to the playoffs. (Bob DeChiara/USA Today Sports)

Next week will be a busy time for Celtics fans planning to attend playoff games at TD Garden. 

The team announced Thursday that individual game playoff tickets for round one, home games one, two and three at the TD Garden will be available to Club Green email subscribers during an exclusive, one-day-only presale event on Tuesday, April 5 starting at 11:00 a.m.

To access the exclusive presale event, fans must register for Club Green presented by Mohegan Sun at Celtics.com/subscribe. All Club Green subscribers will receive a link to access tickets before the general public.

Two days later, on April 7, individual game tickets will go on sale to the general public at 11:00 a.m. To purchase seats fans can go to Celtics.com, call 800-4NBA-TIX or visit the TD Garden Box Office.

By the time the Celtics conclude their 5-game Western swing on Sunday night in Los Angeles against the Lakers, the team could have clinched their second straight playoff appearance in three seasons under Brad Stevens. The team enters Thursday’s game in Portland with a 43-31 record and needs just two wins to clinch a playoff berth. 

For fans who want to guarantee access to Celtics tickets for the duration of the 2016 Playoffs, season ticket memberships for the 2016-17 season are now available. Membership guarantees fans access to their seats for every game in their plan plus exclusive benefits and special event invitations only available through the team.

For larger groups, private suite rentals will be available on Wednesday, April 6. To learn more and to purchase a suite rental fans may call 866-4CELTIX (866-423-5849), email sales@celtics.com or visit Celtics.com.

 The Celtics’ round one opponent, and the dates and times of games, will be posted on Celtics.com when they are determined.

If any game is not played refunds will be done at the point of purchase. Fans who purchase online will receive an automatic refund from Ticketmaster for the face value of each ticket, facility charge and per ticket service charge. All per order charges, including order processing and delivery charges, will not be refunded.

Read More: 2016 NBA playoffs, Boston Celtics,
Jae Crowder says he will ‘push [right ankle] to the limit’ in effort to return Thursday 03.30.16 at 6:31 pm ET
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Celtics forward Jae Crowder drives to the hoop against Rockets guard James Harden before his injury March 11. (Mark L. Baer/USA Today Sports)

Celtics forward Jae Crowder drives to the hoop against Rockets guard James Harden before his injury March 11. (Mark L. Baer/USA Today Sports)

The Celtics may have their most versatile player back in uniform when they take on the Trail Blazers Thursday night at the Moda Center. 

Jae Crowder returned to full team practice on Wednesday at the University of Portland for the first time since suffering a high ankle sprain in the second half of their March 11 loss to the Rockets at TD Garden.
 
The team will see how he reacts Thursday and assess his availability Thursday morning. 
 
“Today I’m going to push it to the limit,” Crowder told reporters Wednesday before practice. 

“I’m hopeful that we can get back to playing the way that we were playing when we’d been all healthy earlier this year,” coach Brad Stevens told reporters before practice. 

Crowder started Boston’s first 66 games before missing the last eight with the right ankle injury. The team has played .500 ball (4-4) in those games. Crowder’s value came not just in his 15.4 points per game but consistently drawing the opposing team’s best scorer as well as providing a legitimate second scoring option behind Isaiah Thomas. In losses to teams like Oklahoma City, Toronto and the Clippers on Monday, his absence was dramatically felt.

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Read More: Boston Celtics, Brad Stevens, Jae Crowder, NBA
Brad Stevens defends (sort of) his team’s lack of defense: ‘We didn’t play with any composure’ 03.29.16 at 2:35 am ET
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Isaiah Thomas couldn't find a way to clear the Clippers Monday night.  (Richard Mackson-USA Today Sports)

Isaiah Thomas couldn’t find a way to clear the Clippers Monday night. (Richard Mackson-USA Today Sports)

All effort and no execution will make for a losing formula every time on the road in the NBA.

That was certainly the case Monday as the Celtics, fighting for playoff positioning at 43-31, allowed the Clippers to shoot a scorching 58.5 percent from the field in the first half while yielding a remarkable 7-of-11 from beyond the arc. Those two stats alone allowed Los Angeles to race out to a 67-50 halftime lead.

Everyone was hitting shots in a Clippers uniform Monday night, including four players off the bench who scored in double figured and led a season-best 67-point effort.

“I don’t how you would say it’s bench or starters, but it’s depth,” Stevens said, referring to the 16 points of Austin Rivers and 15 of Jamaal Crawford. “It’s the ability to bring Evan [Turner] off and be versatile at that spot and play him and Smart together with the skilled bigs is obviously we like to do. But we haven’t been able to do it. Hey, those guys in the last few games have been pretty good off the bench. I thought certainly, today wasn’t a bench or starters thing. It was a Clippers thing. Credit goes to them.

“They deserve a lot of credit for the way they made shots, the way they made plays,” Stevens told reporters after his team’s 114-90 loss that ended a four-game win streak. “I thought any time we got close, we didn’t play with any composure to get back over the hump. Part of that has to do with being competitive and trying to hit home runs all the time when you’re trying to mount a comeback.

“We’ve got to do a better job in those situations than we did tonight. Defensively, I actually felt like, especially on the perimeter, we were pretty locked in and pretty good, for the most part. I thought they obviously made some contested shots that you’re going to have to defend and make. We missed some opportunities to challenge them at the rim with some rotations. All told, their play is the reason they won the game.”

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Read More: Boston Celtics, Brad Stevens, Los Angeles Clippers,
Doc Rivers on Paul Pierce injury scare: ‘Of course, Laker fans, they were going to bring out a wheelchair’ at 1:43 am ET
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Celtics forward Jonas Jerebko defends against Clippers forward Paul Pierce in the first half during the NBA game at the Staples Center. (Richard Mackson/USA Today Sports)

Celtics forward Jonas Jerebko defends against Clippers forward Paul Pierce in the first half Monday. (Richard Mackson/USA Today Sports)

Doc Rivers could laugh about it after his team’s 114-90 win over the Celtics on Monday night, but the moment Paul Pierce went down in the second quarter clutching his right knee, joking was the last thing from his mind. 

With just over two minutes left in the first half, Pierce drove to his left and lifted a finger roll to the basket that fell through for two points. But Pierce fell very awkwardly. He stayed on the floor for several minutes while trainers took a close look. He got up and limped off, later being diagnosed with a sprained ankle and just a bruise on his kneecap. 

“It’s his ankle, which is the good news because when he went down, I thought it was his knee,” Rivers said. “Of course, the Laker fans, they were going to bring out a wheelchair at some point. They didn’t do that so that was good. He’s going to be out for a little bit. We don’t know how long. It’s one of those things.

“When he went down, I thought it was his knee because he grabbed his knee. He said he grabbed his knee because he got kneed and he hit [the floor]. The pain was there [in knee] but he twisted his ankle.” 

Of course, the incident Rivers was referring to was Game 1 of the 2008 NBA finals when Kobe Bryant drove to the basket and scored in the third quarter. Kendrick Perkins came down on Pierce’s right leg and Pierce fell on the baseline, clutching his right knee. He left in a wheelchair, only to return in Willis Reed-style later in Game 1.

Rivers was relieved to find out from his staff in the second half that the Clippers had dodged a bullet. And while he may be out for the final two weeks of the regular season, Rivers and the Clippers sounded hopeful Pierce would return by the playoffs. 

“For a second, when he grabbed his knee, I definitely thought, ‘Oh boy.’ Then I’m thinking, ‘Against the Celtics.’ I was thinking, ‘No.’ It didn’t happen, so that’s good,” Rivers said. 

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Read More: 2008 NBA Finals, Boston Celtics, Doc Rivers, Los Angeles Clippers
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