|Celtics clinch top seed in Eastern Conference with victory over Bucks in regular-season finale||04.12.17 at 11:58 pm ET|
Say hello to the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference.
It took a while on Wednesday, but once the Celtics got rolling, the Milwaukee Bucks B team had no chance.
With the top seed in the conference improbably on the line and the Bucks resting most of their starters, the Celtics closed the game with a 25-6 run to win a 112-94 blowout and clinch home-court advantage until the NBA Finals.
High-flying reserve Gerald Green led the Celtics with 18 points, including a pair of thunderous dunks, and Jae Crowder and Amir Johnson scored 16 apiece.
The Celtics began the night needing either a win or a Cleveland loss to clinch the regular-season conference championship. While the Cavs lost against Toronto, the Celtics (53-29) chose not to back into anything, winning the game and the top seed going away.
“I think there’s a pride in being consistent, and I told the guys that,” said head coach Brad Stevens. “I thought that they’d been really consistent throughout the whole year with the way that they’ve gone about their preparation and competed on a night-to-night basis. It’s not always easy throughout an 82-game schedule to be at your very best, but these guys are very consistent in their prep and the way they compete. So that’s a real positive but now – we’ll talk about what was accomplished later. We’ll focus on whenever we play this weekend, to get ready.”
The Celtics trailed by 11 after one and by as many as 13 in the second quarter before Isaiah Thomas (13 points, 8 assists) scored 10 points in a two-minute stretch to end the first half with the Celtics up 57-56.
The C’s then pulled away with their game-ending blitz, spearheaded by the defense of Marcus Smart and Green’s hot hand.
“I always expected to be the number one team coming out of the East,” said guard Avery Bradley, who injured a finger in the second half but returned to action. “I always expect for us to be better than what people think we’re going to be. The type of guys we have, the coaches, I know the amount of work we put in, the work our coaching staff puts in. I always have high expectations for this team.”
The C’s and Bulls split their four matchups during the regular season. The series marks a reunion with former Celtics guard Rajon Rondo.
“It’s going to be cool, it’s going to be a fun atmosphere for both teams,” Bradley said. “It’s weird playing against him on the other side, but playoff time is when he really brings it. It should be a fun series.”
|Celtics owner Wyc Grousbeck on OM&F: ‘I don’t think we’re as good as Cleveland,’ stays away from LaVar Ball||at 11:55 am ET|
Celtics owner Wyc Grousbeck joined OM&F on Wednesday (audio above), hours before his club had a chance to lock down the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference vs. the Bucks, and was very frank about its chances of beating the Cavaliers in the playoffs.
“I don’t think we’re as good as Cleveland,” Grousbeck said. “If we got a chance to play them in the postseason, I’d love to see it, but I’m not sure how it would turn out.”
Grousbeck wasn’t just basing that thought on last week’s disappointing performance against the Cavs in a blowout loss with the top seed on the line, though that game didn’t help.
“I actually hope the guys don’t forget that,” he said. “I hope the guys don’t forget how badly we were beaten last week and they can use it as fire going forward.”
He disputed the notion that the Celtics saw the Cavs clicking on all cylinders.
“That was Cleveland clicking on one cylinder, if you ask me,” he said. “I don’t want to disrespect them, but I saw LeBron [James] take that game over single-handedly. He had a lot of help, etc. . . . I’m not disrespecting Kyrie [Irving] or Kevin Love or anyone else on the team, but LeBron took that over for a period of about six possessions there on the offensive and defensive end of the court. He dominated us. I have to give him a ton of credit. It showed us that we’ve got a ways to go.”
Grousbeck touched on a number of other subjects as well, though one he stayed away from was if the potential of dealing with headache stage dad LaVar Ball would dissuade him from drafting UCLA point guard Lonzo Ball.
“That’s a question best left for you guys to comment on,” he said. “I understand the question, but I can’t answer it.”
Grousbeck also discussed:
— Building through the draft vs. trade.
“There’s also a third option, which is to add a young player and still make cap room for a max free agent,” he said. “That’s the way we worked it last year, and that’s the way we may be able to work it this summer. But we’ve got max cap room if we want it.”
— On if Isaiah Thomas is a franchise player.
“He’s playing at that level,” he said. “When you look at where he ranks among all-time Celtics statistics and players, he’s actually on those leaderboards right now, which is pretty incredible. We wouldn’t be anywhere near where we are without Isaiah right now. He was thought of maybe as a sixth man coming in. . . . He’s opened everybody’s eyes.”
— On plans to honor the 2008 champions next season and reports that Ray Allen wasn’t invited to a player’s only gathering organized by Rajon Rondo.
“Ray’s always going to be a champion here and we wouldn’t have won it without him,” he said.
— On complaints about teams resting star players.
“We talked about it specifically at our owner’s meeting in New York last week,” he said. “The general approach I took is the problem was there were some marquee games, marquee matchups, and our television partners and our fans were all disappointed that all of a sudden these guys were all sitting out en masse. It was made very clear that we don’t want that to happen again.
“The first way we’re fixing it is in partnership with the players next year, we’re adding a week to the season next year and shortening the preseason so there’ll be fewer back-to-backs. The players that were rested in the games we’re talking about were in back-to-back matchups. It’s hard to play guys back-to-back when you’re getting close to playoff time.”
|LeBron James (36), Cavaliers pummel Celtics to claim first place in Eastern Conference||04.05.17 at 11:18 pm ET|
The Celtics arrived at the Garden on Wednesday believing they could claim sole possession of first place in the Eastern Conference. They left licking their wounds after being routed by the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Behind 36 points from LeBron James and a suffocating defensive effort — not to mention a domination of the boards — the Cavaliers cruised to a 114-91 victory that gave them first place in the East with four games left to play.
The Celtics led 20-19 after one, but Cleveland (51-27) took control with a 38-point second quarter to open a 57-42 halftime lead and the C’s never seriously threatened.
Isaiah Thomas led the Celtics (50-28) with 26 points on 9-of-19 shooting, but he got absolutely no help from his supporting cast. The C’s shot just 7-for-33 on 3-pointers (.212) and put only three other players in double figures, led by Jae Crowder’s 13.
The Celtics were outrebounded 51-38 and allowed Kevin Love to grab 16 boards alongside his 15 points.
For more on the game, including how badly it exposed the Celtics as playoff pretenders, check out this column.
|Jae Crowder, Avery Bradley return to lineup for Celtics against Cavaliers, who will be without big man Tristan Thompson||at 8:01 pm ET|
For most, Wednesday’s showdown between the Celtics and Cavaliers is considered Boston’s most important game of the season.
But for Celtics coach Brad Stevens, this battle for the top seed in the Eastern Conference is just another game.
With Avery Bradley and Jae Crowder both expected to start, Stevens’ starting five will be at full strength against the champion Cavaliers, who will be playing without big man Tristan Thompson (sprained thumb). But according to Stevens, preparation for taking on the champs is no different than any other opponent. Both squads are 50-27.
“We don’t talk big game/small game, we talk about the next game and trying to do the best that we can against our opponent,” Stevens said. “I know that sounds really boring but that’s the way I look at it — the way I go about it. These have all grown up playing big games their whole lives.”
After some speculation of whether coach Ty Lue would rest his guys, the Cavaliers are expected to start all of their big three members in LeBron James, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love. However, Stevens says Cleveland’s second unit — which has been plagued by injuries since the All-Star break — is often overlooked.
“Those guys are great players,” Stevens said. “No one talks about it, but when we beat them, they didn’t have [J.R.] Smith. They’re going to continue to round in form as those guys are back playing together and now their getting fully healthier with [Kyle] Korver back and everyone else. It’s a really tough team to play against.”
Having Crowder back definitely helps.
“I just think Jae’s really important in general because he allows us what we just talked about with Cleveland,” Stevens explained. “Cleveland is — obviously Golden State, maybe a couple of others — the best at being able to play a bunch of different ways and Jae allows us to play different ways because of his ability to play both the 3 and swing to the 4.”
When asked about the possibility of resting his guys before the start of the postseason, Stevens said he’s given it very little thought, but will continue to check in with his medical staff and make sure his team is at full strength come playoff time.
|Bill Belichick visits LeBron James in Cavaliers locker room after Celtics victory||03.02.17 at 12:44 am ET|
The Hoodie introduced himself to the King.
Patriots head coach Bill Belichick watched the Celtics beat the defending-champion Cavaliers in a wildly entertaining game at TD Garden on Wednesday from seats right under the basket near the Celtics bench. During a stoppage in play, Celtics star Isaiah Thomas sauntered over to shake his hand.
During the game, Belichick got an up-close-and-personal look at LeBron James, who landed in his lap during one sequence after sailing out of bounds. After the game, Belichick went one better, visiting the Cavaliers locker room, according to multiple reporters, and making an impression on King James.
— LeBron James (@KingJames) March 2, 2017
It’s enough to make you wonder how Belichick would use James if he could ever get him in pads. Perhaps an even more athletic version of Gronk?
It’s doubtful James gets starstruck around too many professional sports figures, but it looks like Belichick qualifies.
|Report: Celtics remain in contention for free agent center Andrew Bogut||02.28.17 at 12:07 am ET|
Don’t send Andrew Bogut to Cleveland just yet.
According to the Boston Globe, the free agent center has narrowed his list of preferred destinations to five or six teams, and the Celtics are one of them.
Bogut was waived by the 76ers on Monday after being acquired from the Mavericks at Thursday’s trade deadline. He’s averaging just 3 points and 8.3 rebounds in 26 games this year, and has been slowed by knee and hamstring injuries.
He’s also a proven rebounder and interior presence, and the Celtics desperately need some size and toughness. They were once again badly outrebounded (55-40) in Monday’s blowout loss to the Hawks.
Celtics hoops boss Danny Ainge told the Globe that he’s not ruling out a dive into the buyout market, but he’s not feeling any pressure, either.
“I like our team right now,” he told the paper, “and unless something really jumps out to us where I feel like we can get significantly better, I’d just assume keep our team intact.”
Bogut is expected to sign on Wednesday after clearing waivers, and a Globe source disputed reports that he’s signed, sealed and delivered to the Cavs, insisting that not only do the Celtics remain in play, but that Bogut hopes to speak to some Boston players to get a feel for the situation on Tuesday.
|Kevin Love wasn’t looking for a high-five from LeBron James, and here’s video proof||06.14.16 at 11:45 am ET|
I don’t know why I care about this, since I eviscerated Kevin Love this morning as a bad fit for the Celtics after another no-show performance in Game 5 of the Finals on Monday night, but there’s a widely shared Vine making the rounds that isn’t accurate.
You’ve probably seen it, but if not, here it is:
Looks pretty damning, right? Poor Kevin Love just wants LeBron to love him, and King James yells at him instead.
But what really happened was more pedestrian. One play earlier, Love looked slow on his defensive rotations, allowing an Andre Iguodala follow-up dunk, and LeBron let him know it, as you can see with the quick gesture.
LeBron was mad at this play moments earlier. Love wasn’t looking for 5. He was pleading his case.
— John Tomase (@jtomase) June 14, 2016
So now watch the “denied five” in its entirety. Love isn’t looking for love. He’s pleading his case, like, “I had my hands up. What do you want from me?”
I don’t know why I care about this, but Kevin love didn’t want 5. LeBron was mad he didn’t box out prior play. https://t.co/QQu3dYUDiN
— John Tomase (@jtomase) June 14, 2016
Of course, if you want to note that LeBron was being totally dismissive of Love and treating him like a JV teammate called up to the varsity for a day because someone was sick, that’s fair game.
But to say he refused a high five and that made Love sad is simply not true.
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