|Brad Stevens says changes will be made for Game 3: ‘We’ve got to be a lot better out of the gate’||04.19.16 at 10:40 pm ET|
It was pretty obvious from the start, the Celtics were not at the level of the Hawks on Tuesday night. The Celtics dropped an 89-72 decision that puts them in an 0-2 hole as the series shifts to Boston on Friday.
Now it’s up to coach Brad Stevens to figure out what to do about it.
Stevens started Marcus Smart in place of the injured Avery Bradley in Game 2, along with Isaiah Thomas, Jared Sullinger, Amir Johnson and Jae Crowder. That group went 4-1 this season as a starting lineup, including a 106-93 win over Atlanta on Nov. 13 at TD Garden.
That was the regular season. Tuesday night in Game 2, the C’s came out slow and never recovered.
“I think that tonight had a different feel than even the other night,” Stevens told reporters after. “I thought the other night, it was one of those nights we didn’t shoot it great but we had done some really good things. We had settled ourselves, defensively. Then, when we started making some shots, we felt pretty good about our chances.
“Here, it never felt like we were at their level. Hey, we’re going to have figure that out. We’re going to have to get to their level and play a lot better on Friday night.”
With Thomas, Crowder and Smart combining to go 6-for-34 from the field, Stevens turned to Evan Turner, who was one of four Celtics in double figures with 12 points. He did not start the game but did start the second half.
“I’ll go back and look it, watch it without sound, watch it without emotion and figure out what looked right, what didn’t look right and see if we can’t bottle more of that up,” Stevens said. “Listen, we start down 24-7 and we look like we’re moving at a speed far less than them. It’s going to be a tough night. It doesn’t matter where we’re playing or when we’re playing. We’ve got to be a lot better out of the gate.”
|Brad Stevens on Game 2 humiliation: ‘They way outplayed us in every category in that first quarter’||at 10:16 pm ET|
If Tuesday night showed anything to the Celtics, it’s that it only takes about six minutes to get blown out of a playoff game and never have a chance to recover.
It just so happened those six minutes came at the very start of an 89-72 loss in Game 2 to the Hawks. How bad were the opening six minutes?
The Celtics were outscored 24-3. They allowed Kyle Korver to triple their point total with three 3-pointers. They were down double digits for the final 45 minutes of the game. They made just 3-of-23 shots from the field and missed all six 3-point attempts. They committed five turnovers. They wound up with seven points for the quarter, the fewest ever by an NBA team in the first quarter of any playoff game and the fewest in any quarter by any Celtics team in the illustrious history of the franchise.
“They way outplayed us in every category in that first quarter,” Stevens said matter-of-factly after. “That wasn’t just about shots by any means. I thought that was one team playing and one team not, to be quite candid. We’ll look at it, make the necessary changes and we’ll move forward.
“As I told the team, we can’t get off to starts like that. The only part of the defensive effort that I was upset by was losing Korver a few times and then the transition defense. But other than that, we really guard. We just put too much pressure on ourselves to make shots later because every one of them mattered so much just to have a chance to get back in the game. You can’t start like that. Again, we’ll look at it, figure out what the right changes are to make and make them.”
Stevens, who rarely shows emotion, was screaming at R.J. Hunter for losing Korver on a back screen when Hunter came in for Smart, who left briefly with a hip bruise. Korver drilled one of his three first-quarter treys as Atlanta got rolling.
This did not come as a surprise to Stevens, who knew Korver, after going 1-for-10 in Game 1 (0-for-7 from deep) would be on a mission Tuesday.
“Korver is like one of the main things we talk about every time we walk in this building, every time we walk into the hotel, every time we land in Atlanta, we know that we have to be in his airspace or else we’re toast,” Stevens said. “And you knew coming off a 1-for-10 game, he was going to have the hunger to make shots and take shots early on so we talked about that.
“But it was just a matter of we lost him a few times and our transition D was bad, especially in that first quarter. We had some moments throughout the game where our transition D was bad, but that first quarter, they moving at one speed we weren’t at.”
|Avery Bradley hears ‘a pop’ in his right hamstring, focused on getting back for Game 2||04.16.16 at 11:19 pm ET|
There will be no sympathy for the Celtics or Avery Bradley at this time of year. And the Celtics and Bradley know it.
When Bradley went up to try and block a layup from Jeff Teague with 6:42 left in the fourth quarter, something didn’t feel right. As a matter of fact, after the 102-101 Game 1 loss to the Hawks at Philips Arena on Saturday night, Bradley said it felt “weird.”
“I was trying to go up and block Teague and when I came down, I felt weird,” Bradley told reporters after. “I took a few steps and I just couldn’t walk. My main focus is just try to get treatment so I can get back as soon as possible.”
When he couldn’t put any weight on his right leg and had to be helped to the locker room, the prognosis for Game 2 did not look good. But that doesn’t mean Bradley is giving up hope, especially during the playoffs.
“I don’t really want to talk about it that much,” Bradley said. “I just want to try to get treatment and take it day by day, and hopefully, I can be back for the next game. I’ll get treatment. If I could get treatment all night. My main focus is just trying to get back for next game.”
Bradley says he will get an MRI on Sunday and then make a determination from that. He tried to maintain a positive outlook after the game.
“I’ll be fine, once I get some treatment,” Bradley said. “I know Ed and those guys, they’ll do a great job of trying to get me back as soon as possible. I’m not worried at all. I have faith. I know my teammates and people are praying for me, hoping I can get back as soon as possible.”
|Brad Stevens wants his Celtics to ‘play with a clear mind and be fresh’ for Hawks series||04.15.16 at 3:49 pm ET|
WALTHAM — Brad Stevens saw enough from his players over the last three games to know what was different about them from the team that was closing in on a No. 3 seed in the East.
In the final three games, two losses and a miracle comeback against the Heat in the second half, Stevens saw his team play out of sorts and out of rhythm.
He fully realizes that the defense that Atlanta and Charlotte were playing had something to do with that, as did the 65 percent shooting of the Heat in the first half.
But in going over film of the Hawks, he wants his team to be focused not just on making life tough on Paul Millsap and Jeff Teague but controlling what his team can control.
“How hard you cut, how well you pass, how well you execute, all those little things,” Stevens said after Friday’s practice before leaving for Atlanta and Game 1 Saturday night. “Now, when you do those things really well that shot has a tendency to go in. That’s just how it works, right? But I think the bottom line is it requires a great deal of multiple efforts the whole game.
“You watch film, do what you need to go to get ready for a game obviously,” Stevens said. “We watched a little bit of film yesterday, too, but you’re going to have to do what you need to do to play well, and it’s a simple, fast-paced game first and foremost, and so I’m big in make the appropriate adjustments but play with a clear mind and be fresh.”
|Avery Bradley on facing Hawks: ‘I think it’s good for us’||04.14.16 at 12:27 am ET|
The guesswork is over.
The No. 5 seed Celtics will be playing the No. 4 Hawks in the first round of the playoffs.
“I think it’s good for us, for our sake we get to play them again especially how, our performance the last time,” Avery Bradley said. “We played them there in Atlanta, gives us a chance to go back and play the way we did [Wednesday].”
Well, at least in the second half Wednesday.
The Celtics were a no-show for 24 minutes on Wednesday night before outscoring the Heat 25-5 in the third quarter and getting themselves back in the game with intense defense.
The Hawks team they will be facing beat them three of four times in the regular season, including this past Saturday, when the Celtics couldn’t hold a late 87-75 lead. In that game, they were outscored 43-20 down the stretch and lost by 11, 118-107.
“Well, obviously Atlanta’s really good,” Brad Stevens said. “Atlanta’s beaten us three out of four times and they’ve got some tough matchups. They’re a good basketball team. A really good basketball team. And so we’ll have our hands full. We’re looking forward to competing against them, we’re looking forward to preparing for them.
“And so, as far as [Wednesday], we just had to decide that we were going to play differently, and we were going to get back to being ourselves a little bit. That didn’t mean that we were going to make every shot, turn them over, or they were going to miss open shots, but it meant that we were going to, you know, compete at a different level than we were.”
|Brad Stevens on playoff picture: ‘Biggest thing is getting back to playing with aggression’||04.13.16 at 7:32 pm ET|
For all the fret and worry over playoff scenarios, there’s one variable Brad Stevens is counting on: Togetherness.
It’s what the Celtics coach felt was missing the most on Monday night in the 114-100 loss to Charlotte at TD Garden. And it’s exactly what needs to be on display not only in the season finale against Miami but heading into the playoffs.
“I think no matter what, obviously we could win and not finish with home-court advantage,” Stevens said before Wednesday’s game with Miami. “We could win and finish with home-court advantage. I think the biggest thing is getting back to playing with the aggression and the spirit that we’ve played with in the past that has got us to this point. We didn’t play with that on Monday, so that’s really been my focus. All of these scenarios and that stuff, I can’t keep up with it.”
Stevens was still able to joke about Monday’s loss.
“When I was 17, I went and visited one of those people that tell you what you’re going to do with your life and they said you’re going to be an actuary or a basketball coach and I chose coaching,” Stevens said. “It’s probably a good thing because those numbers were spinning in my head when I look at them for five minutes.”
An actuary is defined on a Google search as “a business professional who analyzes the financial consequences of risk.” They use mathematics, statistics, and financial theory to study uncertain future events, especially those of concern to insurance and pension programs.
“I guess on Monday night I was thinking, man, there are probably a lot of people thinking he’d be better off being an actuary. I guess time will tell.”
|How important is home court for Celtics? Maybe not as important as you think||04.12.16 at 8:59 pm ET|
WALTHAM — This has been an odd year for the Celtics on their home court.
They started off 9-10 on the parquet. They suffered humiliating losses to the likes of the Lakers and Brooklyn back-to-back to open the new calendar year.
Then they went on a 14-game win streak, the longest in the 20-year history of TD Garden. They fell back to earth with a thud when they lost at home to schizophrenic Rockets, which preceded a blowout loss to Kevin Durant and the Thunder, a game they trailed by 30 at one point. The rebounded with four straight at home before losing a stinker Monday night to Charlotte, inexplicably getting outscored 39-13 in the third quarter.
All of this leads to one simple question: Will home court, if they earn it Wednesday night against the Heat, really be a factor for the Celtics when the playoffs start this weekend?
“So I’m not going to concern myself with things I can’t control, again,” coach Brad Stevens said in a classic, pleasant-sounding misdirection of a reply. “Hey, I think no matter what, in the playoffs, you can’t be a dud on the road and expect to win a playoff series. And you can’t be good but inconsistent at home and expect to win a playoff series. You just have to play well in the games that you have.
“Again, these guys, our team, as bitter a taste as we may feel from last night, has put ourselves in a great position all year with their play. These guys have really done a lot of good things. And we’ll look forward to playing whoever we play, wherever we play, when that time comes.”
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