|5 things we learned as Isaiah Thomas, Celtics motor past Pistons||04.08.15 at 9:46 pm ET|
Playing their final game against a lottery-bound team, the Celtics badly needed a win to remain in the Eastern Conference playoff hunt, and Isaiah Thomas — now recovered from the back injury that sidelined him for two weeks last month — carried them to a 113-103 victory against the host Detroit Pistons.
Thomas scored a season-high 34 points to go along with six assists, leading the C’s to their fourth win in five games. Combined with a loss by the Nets (36-42), the Celtics (36-42) assumed the seventh seed in the East with the head-to-head tiebreaker against Brooklyn.
The Indiana Pacers (35-43) and idle Miami Heat (35-43) remain a game back of the Celtics, who face a home-and-home series this weekend against the Cleveland Cavaliers, who clinched the second seed on Wednesday night and would currently host the C’s in a first-round playoff matchup.
Against Detroit, Jae Crowder (17 points), Tyler Zeller (16 points), Kelly Olynyk (12 points) and Avery Bradley (11 points) all reached double figures, as 10 different Celtics reached double figures. For a complete box score, click here.
From the outset, the Pistons’ frontcourt tandem of Greg Monroe (19 points, 10 rebounds) and Andre Drummond (22 points, 14 rebounds) proved a problem for the undersized Celtics. In the opening 5:34, Monroe and Drummond each scored six points on four shots apiece — all in the paint — forcing Celtics coach Brad Stevens to call his first timeout. Detroit bruised its way to an early 14-8 advantage and made the C’s to rethink their lineup early. Monroe, of course, becomes an unrestricted free agent when the Celtics have money to spend this summer, although his inability to stretch the floor with a jump shot may not fit Stevens’ pace-and-space system.
Rather than match size with size, Stevens instead replaced Brandon Bass and Tyler Zeller with Jae Crowder and Kelly Olynyk, asking Monroe and Drummond to defend out to the 3-point line. As a result, the Celtics closed the first quarter on a 22-2 run and led 30-16 after one. Naturally, Sixth Man of the Year candidate Isaiah Thomas helped key the run, scoring or assisting on 13 of those 22 points. By game’s end, the Celtics benched outscored their counterparts, 73-31.
|Marcus Smart beats Raptors at buzzer in OT, putting Celtics in 8th place||04.04.15 at 10:40 pm ET|
The roller coaster rookie season of Marcus Smart continued Saturday night and provided the biggest high point of his young career.
The rookie out of Oklahoma State converted a layup as time expired in overtime to give the Celtics a critical 117-116 win over the Atlantic Division-leading Raptors in Toronto.
[Click here for the full box.]
The win improves the Celtics to 35-42 and put them a half-game ahead of Miami for eighth place in the East and just a half-game behind the Nets for seventh. The Heat which plays Indiana on Sunday night in the return of Pacers star Paul George, lost 99-98 at Detroit. The Nets were obliterated on the road, 131-99, in Atlanta Saturday night.
With only 2.6 seconds left and Boston trailing by one in overtime, Smart took a pass from a driving Isaiah Thomas and got behind the collapsing Toronto defense to score the winner.
The Celtics appeared headed for a heart-breaking loss when Lou Williams hit a three with four seconds left, putting Toronto up, 116-115. The Celtics were able to overcome an amazing performance by DeMar DeRozan who scored 18 of his 38 points in the fourth quarter and overtime. Williams finished with 27.
|5 things we learned as Bucks trample Celtics||04.03.15 at 9:56 pm ET|
Allowing 36 points in the third quarter, the Celtics essentially removed themselves from the running for the Eastern Conference’s sixth seed, dropping a 110-101 decision to the Bucks at home on Friday night.
The final two playoff spots in the East remain in play, but this latest loss did the Celtics (34-42) no favors, as they remain behind the Brooklyn Nets and Miami Heat in the race for seventh and eighth.
Jared Sullinger briefly returned against the Bucks (38-38), Isaiah Thomas scored a team-high 23 points to go along with six assists, Avery Bradley added 17 points and Jonas Jerebko (17 points, 5 assists) submitted arguably his most impressive performance in a Celtics uniform, but it wasn’t enough.
Local product Michael Carter-Williams helped Milwaukee’s cause with eight points, seven assists, five rebounds and five blocks. For a complete box score, click here.
The Celtics handed the 10th annual Red Auerbach Award — given to the player who best embodies what it means to wear the green — to a beaming Avery Bradley prior to tipoff. And the fifth-year guard took the role rather seriously, scoring the team’s first nine points to establish an early 9-6 advantage. Playing all 12 minutes of the first quarter, Bradley was omnipresent defensively, wreaking enough havoc to help hold the Bucks to 40 percent shooting in the frame and take a 25-21 lead after one.
BUCKING THE TREND
The Celtics led by only two at halftime, but appeared in control of the flow of the game, and when Tyler Zeller immediately gave them a 54-50 edge after the break, it seemed like we were in for more of the same — a game C’s team holding off a series of surges from the visitors. Then, the Bucks rattled off a 28-8 run that transformed a four-point advantage into a 78-62 deficit late in the third quarter. Ersan Ilyasova and Zaza Pachulia combined for 20 of Milwaukee’s points in a run that changed the game.
Things got so bad in the third quarter that Celtics coach Brad Stevens turned to Jared Sullinger, who was surprisingly activated hours before the game after missing the previous 24 contests with a stress fracture in his foot. Sullinger said prior to the game he had lost 20 pounds during his absence in an attempt to answer C’s president Danny Ainge’s public criticism of his conditioning. In three minutes of work, Sullinger missed both of his field goal attempts, committed two fouls and finished a minus-7. How much he is able to help the Celtics in the final six games of their playoff push remains a question.
Despite digging themselves a 15-point hole, the Celtics refused to go down without a fight, as has been their custom all season. Somehow Gigi Datome always seems to find himself at the heart of the C’s fourth-quarter comebacks, and while he didn’t score as the C’s slashed the deficit to four early in the fourth quarter, his insertion into the lineup immediately coincided with the 17-8 run. It must be the hair. Or his ability to spread the floor, crash the boards and play competent defense. But the Celtics never inched closer than four, and anybody who complained about the officiating might have a point.
MARKING KHRIS MIDDLETON
Bucks wing Khris Middleton will be an interesting free-agent case study. He’s exactly the type of player the Celtics covet — a potentially undervalued asset capable of playing three positions. Stevens loves Swiss Army types whose versatility allows him to toy with matchups in any number of ways. So, while teams fight over fellow restricted free agents Kawhi Leonard, Draymond Green and Jimmy Butler — all expected to remain with their current teams — is there a chance Ainge could pry Middleton from Milwaukee?
The Celtics would have to overpay, but they might be willing to do so in order to land a guy they believe fits their system. In addition to averaging 13.1 points, 4.4 rebounds, 2.2 assists and 1.5 steals while shooting better than 40 percent from 3-point range and 85 percent from the free-throw line in 30 minutes a night, Middleton ranks among the league’s elite in defensive real plus-minus, defensive win shares and defensive rating. He finished with 13 points, seven rebounds and three assists in the Bucks victory.
|Celtics’ Avery Bradley receives Red Auerbach Award||at 7:57 pm ET|
Prior to Friday’s game against the Bucks, the Celtics named Avery Bradley as the 10th recipient of the annual Red Auerbach Award, given to the player or coach who best represents what it means to be a Celtic on and off the court.
A regular participant in the Shamrock Foundation’s charitable efforts, Bradley promptly scored the C’s first nine points against Milwaukee, surpassing 1,000 points in a season for the first time in his five-year career. Appearing in 72 of Boston’s 76 games, he has averaged 14.0 points, 3.1 rebounds and 1.7 assists this season.
“Avery Bradley received this award because he embodies what it means to truly be a Boston Celtic,” Celtics co-owner Stephen Pagliuca said in a statement. “He continues to prove that not only can you be a great basketball player, but you can also be an amazing role model in the Boston community off the court. We are proud to have someone like Avery as a part of our organization, as he exemplifies exactly what it means to be a part of the Celtics franchise.”
The Celtics rewarded Bradley with a four-year, $32 million contract this past summer. He joins select company as the 10th recipient of the Red Auerbach Award since 2006: Paul Pierce (2006, 2013); Al Jefferson (2007); Kevin Garnett (2008, 2012); Ray Allen (2009); Rajon Rondo (2010); Doc Rivers (2011); Brandon Bass (2014); and Avery Bradley (2015).
|Jared Sullinger surprisingly returns to Celtics||at 1:13 pm ET|
In an unexpected turn of events, Celtics forward Jared Sullinger — once thought to be out for the remainder of the regular season with a broken bone in his foot — is available to play in Friday night’s home game against the Bucks.
On Feb. 22 the Celtics announced Sullinger “will be out for the remainder of the 2014-15 regular season” with a left metatarsal stress fracture, and C’s president of basketball operations Danny Ainge followed with some harsh words about the third-year forward’s lack of conditioning. So, when word came Friday that the injury “has healed completely,” it took everybody by surprise.
“We are excited that Jared’s recovery progressed quicker than initially expected,” Ainge said. “Jared was extremely diligent in his rehab, repeatedly expressing his eagerness to help our team reach the postseason. He will be available in a limited role this weekend as he works his way back to 100 percent game shape.”
Sullinger has averaged 14.4 points and a team-high 8.1 rebounds in 28.7 minutes over 51 games this season.
|Brian Scalabrine on MFB: ‘I don’t think [Brad Stevens will] ever want to go back to the college life’||04.02.15 at 12:39 pm ET|
CSNNE Celtics/NBA color analyst Brian Scalabrine joined Middays with MFB on Thursday to talk about all things Celtics related, including Brad Stevens and the college coaching rumors. To hear the interview, go to the MFB audio on demand page.
With the Texas basketball coaching job opening this week, rumors surfaced Stevens could be a candidate. Speaking before Wednesday’s game, Stevens shot those rumors down saying he would be staying in Boston. Scalabrine doesn’t think he will ever go back to coach in the college game.
“That is an interesting question. I can only give you my opinion of what he would do,” Stevens said. “For whatever reason if he can’t get next year’s team or something like that to buy in like this year’s team, just lay it all on the line. When we watch after the trades, this team has been great. They play hard. They play together. If somehow in there you see just a lack of effort from the NBA players, which I don’t think because Danny [Ainge] will get guys that play hard, then I could see something like that.
“Brad wants to succeed at this level and I think he’s a great coach at this level. He knows how to motivate guys. I don’t think he’ll ever want to go back to the college life. The college life is hard just because of recruiting. Right now in the NBA all you have to do is coach — I’ll present you a team and you go out there and make these guys great.”
Scalabrine talked about the team’s playoff push, and even went as far to say they could give the Hawks a potentially good series in the first round of the playoffs.
“Play hard for 48 minutes. Move the ball. Do what Coach Stevens wants them to do, they’ll be in,” Stevens said. “Going forward, I actually love the Atlanta matchup. Atlanta has been resting guys. I know they are good, but they don’t defend the rim very well. They don’t defend the three. Celtics could get hot, steal a couple games and push the series to six or seven games.”
Rookie Marcus Smart has received some criticism of late, but Scalabrine is one of Smart’s biggest fans, especially on the defensive end of the court.
“Completely disagree. I think Marcus is the type of guy that will continue to get better on the offensive end,” Scalabrine said. “Can anybody complain about his defense right now? The guy can guard three positions, any three. If Paul George played last night, Marcus Smart could guard Paul George and George Hill in the same game. Love his defensive versatility. Offensively has shown signs of being a good pick-and-roll player. That doesn’t mean scoring, it means good decisions out of the pick-and-roll and I think his shot will continue to get better. His shot is inconsistent right now, but he’s had games where he’s hit five three’s in a game.”
The small forward/point guard has three career triple doubles, all coming since Feb. 26. The player the Celtics thought could bring a dynamic force to the offense has arrived just in time for the Celtics’ playoff push.
In a team-leading 35 minutes Wednesday, Turner had 13 points, 11 rebounds and 12 assists in a 100-87 win over the Pacers. What’s becoming very clear is that Turner feels very comfortable with the ball in his hand and the team trusts running their offense through the fifth year player out of Ohio State.
“I think I’m getting used to, obviously the system, the personnel’s pretty good, we’re making shots and I think when we execute we’re really tough to beat,” Turner said. “It’s not me having the rock in my hand that’s just a team thing, a unit thing.”
Instead of running the entire offense through either Marcus Smart or Isaiah Thomas, Brad Stevens has decided to let Evan Turner run the offense to get a better feel of things. Though not taking credit for the move, Stevens can see the difference in Turner’s game, and his production.
‘It’s not anything to do with me,” Stevens said. “I think the one thing is he plays in a line-up where he has the ball a lot, and he’s probably never had the ball that much before, as far as playing the point. You know, Marcus can play the point when they’re in together as starters, but even today, Isaiah was in with both Evan and/or Marcus and we put Isaiah off the ball a little bit because that stretches your defense. Read the rest of this entry »
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