|Evan Turner gets pushed in back, doesn’t want to take it anymore||03.24.16 at 9:37 am ET|
Evan Turner is, for the most part, a pretty chill, laid-back guy on the Celtics. He can laugh, make a joke and have fun.
But on Wednesday, the Celtics swingman, who finished with 17 points in Boston’s 91-79 win over the Raptors, had a bad flashback to what can happen when you put yourself in a vulnerable position going up for a shot near the basket.
As the first quarter was winding down, he drove the lane and the Toronto defense collapsed on him in the form of big men Jason Thompson and Bismack Biyombo. He felt a push in the back near the basket and had a really bad flashback to his days at Ohio State.
In a game on Dec. 5, 2009, Turner went up for a dunk against Eastern Michigan and got nudged in the back as he was going up. He dunked the ball but lost his balance and fell on his upper back. He broke two vertebrae and sat out eight weeks.
What made Wednesday infuriating to Turner was that he told the referee crew, led by veteran Monty McCutcheon, and felt it fell on deaf ears.
“One, I got pushed in the back two or three times, and when I said it, I said it calmly. I’m the kind of guy I just kind of laughed about it. I made a move when I was going up [to the basket] when I was in college and I got pushed. I kind of got pushed the same way so when that occurred I was more worried about it. It was a crazy play.”
WEEI.com’s Mike Petraglia and Sam Packard break down the third straight win for the Celtics, a 91-79 win over the Atlantic Division-leading Raptors on Wednesday night at TD Garden. Isaiah Thomas hit a pair of key 3-pointers in the fourth quarter and pointed to movie icon and Celtics fan Mark Wahlberg after the second. Thomas finished with 23 points in the win, which improves Boston to 42-30 and clinches the C’s first winning season under coach Brad Stevens. The Raptors were playing without Kyle Lowry (elbow) and Patrick Patterson (ankle).
|Brad Stevens on 1st winning season: ‘You don’t sign up to come to the Boston Celtics to win 42 games’||03.23.16 at 11:39 pm ET|
For the man who has made a career out of playing it low key, Brad Stevens was in rare form Wednesday.
After his team beat the shorthanded Raptors, 91-79, to lock up his first winning season in Boston and the first winning campaign of his NBA coaching career, Stevens brought some perspective to the table.
“The one thing that I will say is, I’ve felt like — especially in the last year, 14 months, whatever it is — that we really — I feel like there’s real progress,” Stevens said. “And it’s been pretty consistent progress. We’re certainly going to have our bad games and we’re certainly going to have games that are unique throughout an 82-game season, but there’s been good progress, there’s been good growth. And that’s my biggest focus.”
But then he repeated what he told Celtics TV reporter Abby Chin after the game.
“It’s like I told Abby, you don’t sign up to come to the Boston Celtics to win 42 games. So we’ve got a long way to go.”
The Celtics have won three straight after a season-long four-game skid. They’re 42-30 and right in the mix for the No. 3 seed in the Eastern Conference and they beat a Raptors team that had their number in the first three games.
“You’re focused on the next opponent, you’re trying to play your best against the next opponent, but certainly a team that’s beaten you three times, there’s a part of you that — a necessarily competitive side of you — that wants to play better. And our guys have some of that.”
The irony of the question was only apparent just before tipoff Wednesday night.
Longtime Celtics beat writer Bill Doyle asked Brad Stevens what made the Raptors backcourt of Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan so effective. DeRozan came in averaging 23.9 points per game while Lowry average stood at 21.9.
“Really strong, physical, excellent athletes,” Stevens said. “Obviously, Lowry and DeRozan ability to hit really tough shots and get to the line at an elite rate. All those things combined is why they’re so difficult to defend. It’s easier said than done because they usually have a physical advantage on their position from a size standpoint and a strength standpoint. And then they don’t give up anything in athleticism and speed. So, it’s a really good duo but they’ve got other good players, too. It’s a heck of a team.”
Just before the start of the game, Lowry was scratched from the starting lineup as a precaution with a sore right elbow. He was dressed and available but expected to sit the game out.
One player the Celtics wish would sit out, at least in the first quarter, is Luis Scola. The 36-year-old veteran from Argentina hit a pair of threes in the first six minutes. In the last two games against Boston, Scola has 30 points in the first quarter alone, including 17 last Friday in Toronto’s win.
“He’s been really good in the first quarter of both of those games. I do think it’s one of those things where you have to go back and say, ‘OK, were we defending the right way? Why did he get his points? Are there things we can do different without overreacting and without saying, OK, those other two guys are critically important, too.’ Making sure you’re good on the glass is critically important and everything else.
“Scola is a good player. He’s been a good player for a long time. I think people and fans of international basketball knew it long before he came into the NBA. He’s given us fits the last two games, specifically in the first quarter.”
Even though Lowry sat out, the Raptors still have plenty to play for. They entered Wednesday’s game just 1.5 games behind Cleveland for the top spot in the East. The Celtics, at 41-30, are still in the mix for the No. 3 seed in the East, coming into play just .003 behind Miami. Problem is, the Celtics have lots of competition for that spot as they are tied with Charlotte and Atlanta. All three have 41-30 records.
“It’s hard to be naive to it but I don’t spend a whole lot of time thinking about it. I’ve got a general feel for where all the teams are. I don’t know the exact records. I don’t the exact tie-breakers and all that other stuff,” Stevens said.
“We’ve said all year the East is deep and the East has been good and you’re going to have to play well through 82 games to get into the playoffs. Here we are.”
Jae Crowder continues to take some small steps on his way back from the high sprain of his right ankle that forced him to miss his sixth straight game Wednesday night against the Raptors.
“He shot [Tuesday] with [assistant coach] Jamie Young for a while,” Brad Stevens said before Wednesday’s game against Toronto. “He shot pregame today but from what I’ve been told, I don’t think there’s any movement shooting. I think it’s just spot shooting so no real update. He’s going to go on our trip. I don’t want to put a timeline on him but I don’t anticipate him playing early in the trip.”
Stevens was asked if he thinks Crowder’s uncertainly might leave the Celtics a bit shorthanded on the five-game trip out West.
“I don’t think so right now. Obviously, if we have more issues, we’ll address as we move forward.”
The Celtics sent Coty Clarke and James Young on the trip out to Texas for games Wednesday and Friday. They are expected to join the Celtics when they begin their trip in Phoenix Saturday night.
“I expect them to, yeah. I haven’t talked to Danny [Ainge] yet. They play on their trip and then they’re going to hop over and join us after that,” Stevens said.
One of the keys to the Celtics keeping pace without Crowder is the continued play of Kelly Olynyk. On Monday, Olynyk scored 22 points off the bench against the Magic. But his defense also made an impact on Stevens.
“I think he’s a position player. He’s a guy that can keep people in front of him,” Stevens said. “He actually switches better than people think. He’s got pretty good feet on the perimeter and he’s good in our pick-and-roll system. Kelly’s greatest strength on the defensive end is adding to the team defense.
“He’ s a guy that’s been here three years and a guy with that kind of size and understands the game and feels good about the game. The game has slowed down for him in some ways and that can have a good impact.”
As anyone knows who watches the Celtics, shot-blocking is not Olynyk’s expertise. He has just 31 blocks in 58 games this season.
“It’s not fair to compare him to a 7-foot shot blocker because he’s not a shot blocker,” Stevens said. “He’s a guy that has to use position, has to use his base, his feet and move and keep guys in front of him, and make the right play. He took the charge in Philly the other night with great positioning. The other day against Orlando, he had some great positioning plays. So, I think it’s a lot less about height. It’s a lot more about being in his stance and playing low and playing lower longer than the guy he’s playing against.”
|Isaiah Thomas: ‘We’re getting there’ as Celtics eye big test against Raptors, West Coast trip||03.22.16 at 12:35 pm ET|
Funny what a few made shots will do to a team’s confidence.
Isaiah Thomas, who has for the most part been immune to his team’s recent shooting struggles, scored 28 points Monday night in a 107-96 win over the Magic.
But while he was 9-for-18 from the field it was the shooting of his teammates that gave Thomas some reason for optimism.
Starters Evan Turner (7-for-11), Amir Johnson (5-for-6) and Avery Bradley (9-for-15) and backup Kelly Olynyk (7-for-12) had their shots fall for a second straight night. In Philadelphia, the Celtics made 10-of-24 from 3-point range as the thaw from the ice cold week began to take hold.
“Guys finally hitting shots,” a relieved Thomas said. “I mean that losing streak, we really weren’t shooting the ball as well. We weren’t defending but on top of that, we weren’t hitting shots. Everybody is starting to shoot with confidence and step into their shots and make plays and I think that’s making it easier for everybody else.”
The one guy still not hitting shots is Marcus Smart. Monday, he was 1-for-11 from the field and missed all five from 3-point range.
“[Sunday] he made some and had a pretty productive offensive day,” Stevens said of Smart’s 6-of-12 shooting on a 15-point night against Philadelphia. “[Monday] wasn’t his night. You have to continue to shoot the good ones. You have to continue to shoot the right ones. When you shoot the right ones it allows you to rebound because you’re in position. He had a couple today where he had nice drives off of movement. He drove the slots, drove openings and drove close-outs. He’s going to have to make the right play and continue to believe. We believe in him.”
One player the Celtics definitely believe in right now is Amir Johnson. The Celtics forward had his sixth double-double (11 points, 11 rebounds) of the season Monday. They’re going to need him Wednesday as the Celtics look to salvage a win at home against Toronto before heading out West for five games.
|Mike Petraglia, Sam Packard on Isaiah Thomas, Kelly Olynyk, what’s ahead for Celtics||03.21.16 at 11:50 pm ET|
WEEI.com’s Mike Petraglia and Sam Packard break down the big performances of Isaiah Thomas (28 points) and Kelly Olynyk (22 points off the bench) in the Celtics’ 107-96 win over the Magic on Monday night at TD Garden. The win lifts the Celtics to 41-30 on the season, and keeps them in the hunt for a top-four spot in the Eastern Conference playoff race. Next up, the division-leading Raptors, a team the Celtics haven’t beaten this season in three tries, on Wednesday night at TD Garden.
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