|How hard will Brad Stevens push for home court? ‘That’s so far down the road for me’||04.08.16 at 6:55 pm ET|
There’s no question that home court advantage plays a role in the NBA playoffs.
The real issue is how hard does Brad Stevens step on the gas in the final week to get a potential Game 7 on the TD Garden parquet?
The 46-32 Celtics enter Friday night a half-game behind the Hawks (47-32) for third in the East, with a chance to pull into a tie heading into Saturday night’s showdown in Atlanta. Boston is tied with Miami for fourth. Both are a game ahead of Charlotte. A showdown with the Hornets at the Garden looms Monday night before the Celtics wrap up the regular season against the Heat Wednesday night in Boston.
So much to consider but first the games need to be played – and won.
“I think the biggest thing is we want to try to be playing our best,” Stevens said pregame Friday. “We want to play well, we’re focused on that. Regardless of the guys that are in the game, we need to be playing at a good rate, defensively and offensively, as we head into next week. Obviously, health is incredibly important as you get into the playoffs but there’s a lot of things that go into being successful and we want to be playing well.”
Will Stevens consider rest players?
“If they need it,” Stevens answered. “See how it goes, see who you’re playing and all that other stuff. I don’t think you can make any decisions until you know who you are playing and what kind of matchup problems they present.
“It would be nice to be done in four. That’s so far down the road for me, I’m not even thinking about it. So, we could play really well in any of the next four games and get beat. But we have to just focus on playing on the way that we can play. We’re playing good teams. We’re playing very talented teams.
|Jackie MacMullan on OM&F: ‘The thing about the Celtics is they control their own destiny’||at 4:47 pm ET|
ESPN’s Jackie MacMullan joined the Ordway, Merloni & Fauria show on Friday and discussed the Celtics’ chances in the upcoming playoffs.
First off, she was extremely impressed with last week’s win over the Warriors.
“I thought it was incredibly meaningful, and I’ll tell you why,” he said. “They didn’t show up against the Clippers on that road trip. They have a really crummy practice in advance of that Portland game. And from what I understand, [coach Brad] Stevens called them all together and said, ‘You guys aren’t nearly as good as you make think you are. This is a good Portland team and we could lose to them tonight.’ And they went out and played pretty well in that game, but they lose anyway.
“Now, if they don’t come out of that road trip 3-2, we’re all going to say, ‘That was a disappointing road trip,’ right? So you know they’re going to beat the Lakers, or at least you hope they can. But that game, they’re the perfect team to play Golden State, because of the way they hawk the ball, the way they hawk those guards and pressure the ball defensively. They gave Stephen Curry trouble, there’s no question about it. To me, that win was more about the psyche of the team now going forward.”
|Brad Stevens gets teaching moments for his team in win, Avery Bradley, Celtics ‘appreciate’ Amir Johnson||04.07.16 at 8:58 am ET|
The way the injuries had been piling up in the last four weeks, Brad Stevens was just happy he could make light about the elbow Marcus Smart took to the face in the final 90 seconds of Boston’s 104-97 win over the Pelicans on Wednesday night that result in four stitches above the right eye.
“He had four stitches just above his eye,” Stevens said. “Everything is in place and everything is fine. He will not have to wear goggles on Friday. I know that’s the most important part of the question.”
Stevens was referring to the constant questions he’s faced over the last several days about Evan Turner’s left eye and whether he might play on Friday and whether or not he’ll have to wear goggles to protect his left eye. As it turns out, Stevens said there is “a chance” Turner will be available against the Bucks.
Since mid-February, the Celtics have lost Kelly Olynyk, Jae Crowder, Jonas Jerebko and Evan Turner for stretches of time with various injuries. But after Wednesday’s ugly win, in which the Celtics blew a pair of double-digit leads in the second half to the Pelicans and had to pull away in the final 90 seconds, Stevens was just focused on his team playing hard and closing out games.
|Brad Stevens doesn’t watch Villanova title-winner, and who can blame him?||04.05.16 at 3:14 pm ET|
WALTHAM — As epic as Villanova’s title-winning shot was from Kris Jenkins, there was one man who didn’t mind missing out on the second half.
Celtics coach Brad Stevens watched the first half of the Villanova-North Carolina game Monday night before turning in after a very long 24 hours. After a red-eye flight back from Los Angeles, getting into Boston at 7 a.m. and getting medical (Evan Turner) and paternal (Avery Bradley, Jonas Jerebko) updates on his players, Stevens felt comfortable turning in.
The college basketball game of the century ended when Jenkins sank a 25-footer at the buzzer, giving Villanova a 77-74 win and its first national title since 1985.
“I watched the first half and then saw the highlights this morning,” Stevens said.
Then he was reminded of the painfully obvious. As Butler’s coach, he was on the sideline in Indianapolis at Lucas Oil Stadium in April 2010 when Gordon Hayward’s shot at the buzzer against Duke nearly accomplished what Jenkins did Monday night in Houston. Still, he was asked what he thought when he saw the highlight of Jenkins’ shot that came just moments after Marcus Paige’s bicycle-kicking 3-pointer with 4.7 seconds to go that tied the game at 74.
“I think I’m probably the wrong person to ask. I think it’s obviously cool to see those kids perform on that stage and get those opportunities and I’m happy for all of them that they got that,” Stevens said. “To make shots in that moment and to ultimately win it, and the way that both teams handled it I thought was really impressive.”
|Isaiah Thomas on Kobe Bryant: ‘He looked like the old Kobe’||04.04.16 at 2:13 am ET|
Isaiah Thomas was paying very close attention to Kobe Bryant on Sunday night at Staples Center.
The Celtics point guard was watching how the 37-year-old handled his business for a 16-win team that was headed nowhere against a young team trying to clinch a playoff spot.
What he saw was an intense competitor who wanted the ball so desperately down the stretch that he screamed at teammate D’Angelo Russell when Bryant was open for a three. As it turned out, Julius Randle got the ball from Russell and converted a three-point play.
When he did get the ball, Bryant reminded everyone what he could still do, starting with his first shot of the night over Jae Crowder in the first quarter. Bryant had 11 points in the opening 12 minutes.
Bryant had 18 points in the first half as the Lakers stayed close, 57-48, at the half.
Bryant would finish with a game-high 34 points on 11-of-28 shots from the field. The Celtics won the game, 107-100, and a spot in the playoffs.
“He looked like the old Kobe,” Thomas said. “From the jump, from the first play, he just had a different energy about him. You knew it was probably going to be a long night if he felt good.”
Brad Stevens was fond of reminding everyone for the last two months that his team was closer to being out of the playoffs than it was to the top of the Eastern Conference.
Well, he doesn’t have to worry about missing the playoffs anymore.
And the biggest reason for the Celtics making their second straight playoff appearance this year under Stevens is Isaiah Thomas. The point guard scored 21 of his 26 points in the first half Sunday night in a 107-100 playoff clinching win over Kobe Bryant and the Lakers at Staples Center.
“It means a lot,” Thomas told reporters afterward. “It means a stepping stone. It was definitely goal of ours to make it to the playoffs but we definitely want more. It’s a positive. We’re happy.”
Last year, the Celtics made the playoffs with a 40-42 record and even finished seventh in the East. But they were swept out in four games by the Cavaliers. Now, the Celtics (45-32) are shooting for much more than just making the playoffs. With Sunday’s win, they are tied with the Hawks for third in the East and could wind up with home court advantage if they perform in the final five games, four of which will be on their home court.
“That’s what you want. You want to, obviously, give yourself a chance,” Stevens said. “So, the only way you get a chance is to make the playoffs. It’s been a very focused group. I haven’t heard the guys talk about it a ton. Obviously, when asked about it, they may comment on it. But they’ve been pretty focused on just the task at hand. We still want to be playing our best going into it.
“We’ve got a lot of work to do and hopefully, get some rest here and get ready for Wednesday night.”
|Is Brad Stevens now the front-runner in NBA coach of the year race?||04.02.16 at 2:31 am ET|
It might be time to call Brad Stevens the front-runner in the race for NBA coach of the year.
After all, his team, missing its most versatile defender on the court, was able to pull off something no other team in the NBA had been able to do since Jan. 27, 2015.
In beating the Golden State Warriors Friday night, 109-106, without Jae Crowder, the Celtics ended Golden State’s regular season home win streak at 54 games and gave Stevens the signature win to date of his three-year tenure in Boston. The Celtics became the first team since San Antonio on Nov. 11, 2014 to beat the Warriors in regulation in a regular season game in Oakland.
The Celtics, who improved to 44-32, withstood charge after charge down the stretch from the record-hungry Warriors, who fell to 68-8 on the season. They withstood Steph Curry going off for 21 of his 29 points in the third quarter. Stevens got Thomas involved in the offense early in the third quarter, as Thomas scored his first 18 points of the game in the period. Stevens diagramed play after play, including the game-clincher, an side inbounds from Marcus Smart to Thomas for a layup with 8.3 seconds left in the game.
“It was a heck of a game,” Stevens told reporters after the game. “When Curry got going in the third quarter, the biggest moments of the game were us scoring consecutively when he scored because when he got going, that’s usually when they run away with a 10-0 run or a 12-0 run. We had to play. Guys had to play really well. We didn’t have a guy play poorly. That’s what it takes to beat a team like this. They’re outstanding.”
Perhaps most impressive was the fact that Stevens had his team ready just 24 hours after a 116-109 grueling loss in Portland.
“I think the biggest meaning is the idea that we can bounce back from a night like [Thursday] night where we expended a considerable amount of energy and came up short, flew here, got in late and came to compete again,” Stevens said. “I thought that probably the other biggest moment of the game was when we were struggling to score in the second quarter, they weren’t scoring a ton and kind of kept us in the game. We were fortunate to win but at the same time, we made a lot of plays to win the game.”
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