|5 things we learned as Russell Westbrook, Thunder snap Celtics’ streak||03.18.15 at 10:48 pm ET|
The Thunder scored 40 third-quarter points, and the Celtics never recovered, snapping a five-game win streak with a 122-118 loss in Oklahoma City.
The C’s fell to 30-37 on the season, losing a game on the Heat (31-36), who beat the Blazers on Wednesday night. Elsewhere, the Pacers (30-37) fell to the Bulls, the Bucks (34-34) lost to the Spurs, and the Cavaliers beat the Nets (27-39). The Celtics lead the idle Hornets by a half-game and remain tied with Indiana for eighth place, trailing Miami by a game for seventh and Milwaukee by 3.5 games for sixth.
Marcus Smart collected 25 points — including a franchise rookie record seven 3-pointers — to go along with nine rebounds, five assists, two steals and two blocks, leading six Celtics in double figures. Kelly Olynyk (20 points), Brandon Bass (20 points), Avery Bradley (13 points), Tyler Zeller (12 points) and Jae Crowder (11 points) rounded out the double-digit scorers, and Evan Turner chipped in with five steals, six rebounds, eight points and a team-high 10 assists.
Meanwhile, Russell Westbrook led the Thunder with 36 points, 10 assists, five rebounds and five steals, while Enes Kanter added 22 points and 10 rebounds. With the victory, Oklahoma City (38-30) opened up a half-game lead over the Pelicans for eighth place in the Western Conference sans Kevin Durant and Serge Ibaka.
For a complete box score, click here.
|Irish Coffee: Celtics, playoffs and tiebreakers, oh my||03.17.15 at 12:44 pm ET|
The bad news: Contrary to popular opinion, the Celtics are not currently in the playoff picture, since as of today they would lose the tiebreaker to both the Pacers and Heat based on their sub-.500 record against Eastern Conference opponents.
The good news: If the Celtics (30-36) have one more win than Charlotte (29-36), Indiana (30-36) and Miami (30-36) when all is said and done, they’ll capture the same seventh seed they earned when last they made the playoffs in 2013.
Heck, based on their performance since the NBA trade deadline (10-5, including five straight victories), there’s even an outside possibility the red-hot Celtics could catch the reeling sixth-seeded Bucks (34-32), whose four wins in 13 games since trading Brandon Knight have come against the Nuggets, 76ers, Wizards and Magic.
Obviously, that’s jumping ahead a bit, so let’s step back and take a look at the remaining schedules of the four Eastern Conference teams now tied with 36 losses.
Wednesday: at Thunder (37-30)
Friday: at Spurs (41-24)
Sunday: vs. Pistons (23-43)
Monday: at Nets (27-38)
March 25: vs. Heat (30-36)
March 27: at Knicks (13-53)
March 29: vs. Clippers (42-25)
March 30: at Hornets (29-36)
April 1: vs. Pacers (30-36)
April 3: vs. Bucks (34-32)
April 4: at Raptors (40-27)
April 8: at Pistons (23-43)
April 10: at Cavaliers (43-26)
April 12: vs. Cavaliers (43-26)
April 14: vs. Raptors (40-27)
April 15: at Bucks (34-32)
BY THE NUMBERS: .498 opponents’ winning percentage; 9 games vs. teams above .500; 9 road games; 7 games vs. teams below .500; 7 home games; 4 back-to-backs.
With winning comes confidence. With confidence late in the season comes expectation. And these Celtics are talking and acting like a team that expects to make a run to the Eastern Conference playoffs with 16 games left in their season.
Avery Bradley is one of only three players left from the last Celtics team to make the playoffs just two seasons ago. He, Brandon Bass and Shav Randolph were all on the 2013 team that lost in six games to the Knicks.
When the Celtics were 20-33 this season and headed for another seemingly dead end to the season, could he picture his teammates making an improbable run to the postseason?
“For sure, I saw that we were improving every single game and I knew we would have a chance if we set our mind to it and started [believing] in our [potential] and that’s what we were doing. We never thought we didn’t have a chance to make the playoffs. Now we’re right there.”
Indeed, after Monday’s 108-89 blowout of the hapless Sixers, the Celtics are definitely in the mix. While technically ninth and on the outside looking in due to their 18-21 record in the East, they are tied with the Pacers and Heat for seventh in the East with a 30-36 record.
Monday, the Celtics came in focused, even in shootaround, determined not to let a game against the 15-51 Sixers stand in their way of their first five-game win streak under Brad Stevens. They outscored Philly 38-18 in the first quarter and it wasn’t a game after that.
“It’s hard, especially when you come in at halftime up by 20 and your coach might say, ‘let’s go out there and continue to play hard,’ you get a little nervous,” Bradley said. “You start thinking once you get back out there on the floor and that’s one thing we didn’t do. Even though they were scoring we continued to execute our plays on both ends of the floor and it helped us continue to have a 20 point lead.”
When the Celtics, who shot 67 percent in the first quarter, looked inside, there was Tyler Zeller leading the way. He found his comfort zone and poured in a career-high 26 points.
“I don’t know, I mean the shots fell down,” Zeller said. “Jump shot felt really good and then they kept leaving me open so I just kept shooting it. Once again my teammates do a great job of getting me the ball on time and it makes it a lot easier.”
Road games against teams like Oklahoma City and San Antonio can be intimidating for young teams in transition. But that’s not the way these Celtics are looking at Wednesday and Friday. It’s a chance to show how much fun they’re having chasing an improbable playoff spot.
“It’s a lot of fun,” Zeller said. “The whole year we’ve been changing, I think Danny’s done a great job putting together the team that we’ve got. We’ve been playing with different players every night and finally have a team where we’ve settled in, playing with the same players every night and it’s fun to go to battle that way. We do a great job of playing hard and playing together.”
With Monday’s 108-89 dispatch of the lowly 76ers, the Celtics had posted their first five-game win streak since the Doc Rivers era. They are 30-36, heading into a two-trip across the heartland, beginning with a game against the red-hot Oklahoma City Thunder on Wednesday and ending with a game against the defending champion Spurs in San Antonio Friday night.
They are tied with Miami and Indiana for seventh in the East but technically would not make the cut right now because of their 18-21 record against the East. Indiana would be seventh by virtue of its 22-18 mark while Miami is eighth with a conference record of 20-20.
With all the newfound excitement abound, Stevens was asked if he’s hearing the team talking about the playoff race
“I don’t know. I haven’t heard them talk about it once,” Stevens insisted. “I’m dead serious. I mean, we’ve talked about it, we’ve seen the standings, like you see it but I don’t hear it. I have not hear them say whoever Miami’s playing today, or who’s Charlotte playing today? They haven’t talked about it around me; maybe they are, I don’t know.
“But I just want to play good basketball and I think our guys just want to play good basketball, and I think as a result you have a lot more fun when you spray the ball around the way we’re spraying it around and when you’re competing together and pulling for one another and five guys playing together on a string defensively. And we’re still not as good as we need to be, even with ‘ I think our team that’s out there right now without Isaiah can play better. And you know, we’re going to need to play better in the next two games to have a chance to win.”
|Irish Coffee: Bill Walton’s St. Patrick’s Day revisited||at 9:09 am ET|
The NBA’s Sixth Man of the Year as a member of the 1985-86 Celtics that finished 67-15 during the regular season — and 41-1 at home in the Boston Garden — on their way to winning 15-of-18 playoff games and the franchise’s 16th NBA title, Bill Walton can wish you a St. Patrick’s Day far better than I can.
So, without further ado, I give you Walton uncensored, about five or six Guinesses deep most likely (from his 2011 appearance on the Big Show four years ago):
“Go Green. Go Guinness. I’m popping one right now. Ten million pints poured every day around this great globe of ours — the globe, the most perfect orb, just like the basketball. The basketball by itself does nothing, but when you make it an extension of your mind the way that [Rajon] Rondo does, the way that Danny Ainge did and DJ [Dennis Johnson] and Larry [Bird] and Kevin [McHale] and Chief [Robert Parish] and Jerry [Sichting] and Rick [Carlisle] and Scotty [Wedman] and all the guys did — but when you’re able to make an extension of your mind, of what it is you’re doing in life, whether it’s drinking a Guinness responsibly, whether you’re bouncing that magic basketball for the Celtic Green, you can make a difference, and that’s what we’re calling everybody to do on St. Patrick’s Day, the start of the college tournament, the most perfect harmonic convergence ever. Be bold, stand tall, quit your job and chase your dreams. …
“I only drink Guinness, the holy water falling from the sky, delivering spiritual guidance. We’re blessed. We’re so blessed. We’re on record pace, and we’re having the time of our life. …
“When this morning started, and it started more than 24 hours ago, the call to action was to take the day off. Who wants to lead a watered down life? C’mon. Let’s get up and be bold. Forget just taking the day off, just quit your job. Make your dream your job, and that’s what I was able to do. My parents ask me to this very day, ‘So, Billy, did you ever get a job?’ I’m closer than ever to being able to say yes. It’s so special. The remarkable thing about Guinness in our world is that in the mother country, Ireland, St. Patrick’s Day is a national holiday. In Canada, St. Patrick’s Day is a national holiday. Somewhere, we got lost along the path, along the golden road to unlimited devotion. …
|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.
|Report: George Mason eyes Celtics assistant Jay Larranaga for vacant coaching position||at 10:24 am ET|
A Celtics coach is the focus of a college program’s search to fill its vacant position, and it’s not who you might have expected.
George Mason University is eyeing C’s assistant Jay Larranaga as a potential replacement for recently fired Patriots coach Paul Hewitt, according to Yahoo’s Adrian Wojnarowski. Jay’s father Jim Larranaga led George Mason to the 2006 Final Four during his 13 seasons at the helm of the Virginia-based school before accepting his current position as head coach of the University of Miami in 2011.
One of two holdovers from Doc Rivers‘ coaching staff (Jamie Young is the other), Larranaga deserves partial credit as Brad Stevens‘ top assistant for the C’s playoff push in the absence of Rajon Rondo, Jeff Green, Jared Sullinger and most recently Isaiah Thomas. Prior to joining the Celtics‘ staff in 2012, Larranaga enjoyed success as the head coach of the NBA D-League’s Erie BayHawks and an assistant under Mike Fratello on the Ukraine National Team.
Larranaga was a candidate for the C’s head coaching position before Stevens’ hiring in 2013 and twice interviewed for the open 76ers job before Philadelphia hired Brett Brown that same summer.
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