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Brad Stevens avoids talking playoffs: ‘Nothing is more important than the next game in our world’ 04.02.15 at 10:06 am ET
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Maybe it’s superstition or maybe it’s just part of sending a message. But Brad Stevens didn’t mention the word playoffs once in his post-game press conference Wednesday after a 100-87 win over the Pacers that keeps his Celtics right in the hunt for the final two postseason spots in the East.

The way Stevens talked made it feel like he wants his team focused only on the here-and-now, knowing that any slip up in focus on the game at hand will likely cost them any chance of advancing to the playoffs for the first time in his two-year NBA coaching career.

“All 82 count the same,” Stevens said. “That’s kind of the way I’ve always looked at it. Every game carries equal weight and equal importance. Obviously because of the hole we dug, we’ve been fighting uphill all year. It adds more importance at the time but nothing is more important than the next game in our world, and we have to keep it that way.”

As Stevens was talking, the Nets were hanging on for a 100-98 win over the Knicks that kept them a half game ahead of the Celtics for the eighth and final playoff spot. The game-by-game approach should come in handy as the Celtics have LeBron James and the Cavaliers and the division-leading Raptors twice apiece in the final two weeks.

“At the same time, as we enter these last couple of weeks, it’s so very important to stay in the moment and take advantage of every day and focus again on the things we can control,” said Stevens. “If we get to the point where you play beyond that, maybe I’ll feel differently. Maybe this feels a little bit more like late February than the NCAA tournament.”

The Celtics have shown in their last two games the ability to do something that was sorely lacking for much of the season: the ability to close out. On Monday, the Celtics found a way to pull away from the Hornets in the final minutes and hang on for a valuable road win. On Wednesday, the Celtics led 77-71 with 8:23 left in the fourth. They went on a 17-7 run in the next four minutes to put the game away.

“The effort was really good,” Stevens said. “We talked about it before the Charlotte game; we have to play with a defensive DNA. And the last two games we have. But you know it’€™s one of those things like, you don’€™t now all of a sudden it’€™s not part of who we are; we have to make it part of who we are every day and that’€™s got to continue to be the emphasis. And I think that’€™s a good emphasis to have, because you’€™re focused only on what you can control and nothing else.”

That focus needs to continue at home on Friday against another desperate Eastern team with playoff aspirations, the Milwaukee Bucks, at TD Garden. They’ll be no talk of playoffs then, either.

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Kelly Olynyk proves he’s as tough as any hockey player at 9:34 am ET
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Too bad Kevin Garnett never played with Kelly Olynyk.

Garnett, one of the most fierce competitors in recent Celtics lore, would’ve been proud to watch how Olynyk handled himself Wednesday night. The second-year swing man out of Gonzaga insisted on playing with his left eye shut thanks to a pregame accidental elbow from teammate Shav Randolph.

Good thing since Olynyk made seven of his 10 shots, including 3-of-4 from 3-point range, scoring 19 off the bench in a 100-87 win over the Pacers that keeps Boston right in the mix of race for the final two playoff spots in the East.

“It didn’€™t affect me a lot except I couldn’t see that well from that eye,” Olynyk said. “I felt good, we played well as a team, moved the ball, got open looks from the start and just got rolling.”

“I gave him no hope of playing,” marveled Tyler Zeller, who matched Olynyk’s team-high 19 points. “He looked like he just got out of a boxing fight. I was impressed with his ability to go out and play and be able to produce like he did. He couldn’t have been able to see out of that eye so he did a great job of playing through it.”

What was particularly amazing was how his teammates, realizing he had the hot hand with just one eye, kept feeding him the ball. His three-ball with 3:53 left in the fourth quarter was the perfect capper on the night, extending the Celtics‘ lead out to 16, 94-78.

“[Tuesday] night I went in the gym and got a lot of shots up, just kind of repped it out and just felt really good,” Olynyk said. “I was feeling good, before the game I was feeling good even after I got hit, I came back out and tried it out so I knew I was going to have a good one.”

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Read More: Boston Bruins, Boston Celtics, Brad Stevens, Dougie Hamilton
Texas, like everybody, is chatting about Brad Stevens 03.31.15 at 12:40 pm ET
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The University of Texas, which recently fired head men’s basketball coach Rick Barnes, has reportedly joined the growing list of Brad Stevens suitors. Of course, the University of Texas has also joined the growing list of institutions Danny Ainge will laugh at before hanging up the phone.

Brad Stevens is under contract through 2019 at a bargain average annual rate of $3.7 million. Unlike collegiate sports — where contracts aren’t worth the paper they’re written on — the Celtics would have to agree to let their coach out of the deal, and let’s be clear: That ain’t happening.

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Irish Coffee: The case for Brad Stevens as NBA Coach of the Year 03.25.15 at 3:28 pm ET
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For starters, I’€™m not saying Celtics coach Brad Stevens will or even should win the NBA’€™s Coach of the Year honor. Mike Budenholzer and Steve Kerr are the heavy favorites, and rightfully so, considering their Hawks and Warriors respectively perch atop the East and West.

Rather, this is the argument one could make for Stevens should anyone choose to do so.

There has been much discussion about the difficulty in evaluating a perceived increase in coaching influence around the league, but there are certain truths about a coach’€™s role we hold self-evident ‘€” their ability to effect wins and losses, design effective offenses and defenses, and manage ebbs and flows of rosters often altered by trades and injuries.

With those in mind, let’€™s examine eight statistical measures as they relate to all 30 teams: 1) win percentage, 2) point differential, 3) offensive rating, 4) defensive rating, 5) net rating, 6) pace of play, 7) roster turnover and 8) total games missed by its members. The first five are objectively obvious, and the final three allow for subjective interpretation.

For example, no team slowed its pace more than the Lakers since last season, if only because of new coach Byron Scott’€™s grinding approach, no team turned over its roster more than the Cavaliers, as a result of King James and his court, and no team missed fewer man games during the 2013-14 regular season than the Thunder ‘€” a stark contrast to this year’€™s edition.

So, let’€™s first look at how significantly each team changed from 2013-14 to 2014-15.

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Brad Stevens has no regrets about putting game in hands of Evan Turner 03.23.15 at 11:06 am ET
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Brad Stevens is obviously a historian of buzzer-beaters.

His Butler Bulldogs almost pulled out the most dramatic last-second shot in NCAA tournament history when Gordon Hayward’s bank shot from half-court went off the front rim and out in the 2010 NCAA tournament final.

More recently, he’s seen Evan Turner do the trick for and against his team many times. There was the game-winner against his Celtics for the Sixers last season at TD Garden in a 95-94 Philly win. Later that season, Turner did it again against the Nets. That late-game magic may have been one of the reasons Danny Ainge wanted to bring Turner to Boston this season.

It’s worked pretty well. Three times this season, he’s beaten the buzzer at the end of regulation. Twice it won games, and once it sent the game into overtime. Against two of the top teams in the NBA, it provided the winning margin, as the Celtics beat the Trail Blazers and Hawks this season.

So naturally, with Sunday’s game against the Pistons tied, 88-88, at the end of regulation, Stevens looked to ET for another otherworldly end to a game.

“We just wanted to do a little misdirection for Evan to drive and let him create space,” Stevens said. “I thought if he gets that shot off, that’€™s his shot. I felt good about it to be honest, it didn’€™t end well because it got knocked out of his hand or maybe it even slipped out of his hand; I haven’€™t seen the replay. I thought he had separation and I thought he was going to get a good look and when the clock was winding down I felt pretty good about our chances.”

As it turned out, fate was not on Boston’s side Sunday night. Turner couldn’t get a clean shot off because he could never get a grip.

“Part of the ball just slipped out of my hand and I knew Reggie [Jackson] was going to try and contest it. I tried to put a little arc on my shot. When I came up with it, it just slipped. He drew up a good play. Kelly did what he was supposed to do down there. I felt confident but the ball slipped. I felt confident going to the right baseline and doing a pull-up. I’ve done that shot a million times but unfortunately the ball slipped and we couldn’t [regroup].”

Read More: Boston Celtics, Brad Stevens, Butler Bulldogs, Detroit Pistons
Isaiah Thomas on MFB: Back feeling better, but ‘I have to do what is best for myself and try and get as healthy as possible’ 03.17.15 at 12:38 pm ET
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Celtics point guard Isaiah Thomas joined Middays with MFB on Tuesday to discuss his back injury and also what his short time in Boston has been like. To hear the interview, go to the MFB audio on demand page.

Thomas has been out since March 9 when he landed on his back in a game against the Heat. It was learned Monday night he likely won’t make the next road trip, which includes stops in Oklahoma City and San Antonio. Thomas admits it’s been hard to miss time, especially against good teams, but knows his health is the most important thing.

“It is, but at the same time I have to do what is best for myself,” said Thomas. “I have to do what is best for myself and try and get as healthy as possible. All the best players they want to go against the best players, so I am upset I have to miss this, but it is for the sake of my health and I have to get healthy.”

“A little better,” he added of how he feels. “It’s progressing slowly, but it’s getting there. For the most part I can’t really do any activity right now, but I am just trying to get back and get healthy enough that we can have a good stretch at the end of this year.”

In six games in March, Thomas is averaging 20.8 points per game.

Thomas was traded to the Celtics from the Suns at the NBA trade deadline. He said he’s enjoying his time in Boston, and hopes to stay long-term. He adds if the team starts winning it could become a free agent destination once again.

“I hope it’s long term,” he said. “I am having a great time. I am having fun. I am playing. We’re winning. We have a chance to make the playoffs, so I have nothing to complain about other than the weather, but that will be OK. I think it’s somewhere when you start winning and see you’ve seen years ago when the team was winning people wanted to be here. I think at the end of the day when you win that is where people want to play.”

Following are more highlights from the conversation. For more Celtics news, visit

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Brad Stevens insists he hasn’t ‘once’ heard his team talking about playoffs at 10:15 am ET
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Brad Stevens knows the potential of his team. He’s just not talking much about it. And, according to the Celtics coach, neither are his players.

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.”

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