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Front court steps up big in win over Heat, Celtics now tied with Cavs for No. 1 03.26.17 at 8:59 pm ET
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Mar 26, 2017; Boston, MA, USA; Boston Celtics forward Jae Crowder (99) grabs a rebound on Miami Heat guard Rodney McGruder (17) grabs a rebound during the second half of the Boston Celtics 112-108 win over the Miami Heat at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

Jae Crowder scored a season-high 25 points in Celtics win over the Heat (Winslow Townson/USA Today)

It’s not something you see on a consistent level but when the Celtics front court put together the kind of production we saw against the Heat — on both ends of the floor — Boston is very difficult to beat. 

Anchored by Jae Crowder, the Celtics front line was sensational against the Heat and made all the difference in the second half, where the C’s grabbed their first double-digit lead and eventually their 48th win of the season. After beating the Heat 112-108, the Celtics now hold the most wins in the Eastern Conference and are tied with the Cavaliers for the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference.

Crowder got it going early, knocking in mid-range jump shots and easy layups in transition. He also forced turnovers on the other end (two steals, two blocks) and his intensity was contagious. Crowder finished with 25 points on 8-of-13 attempts, including 3-of-5 from deep to go with his 6 rebounds.

With 3:53 left in the game, Crowder drained a 3-pointer to recapture the Celtics lead (102-101) and ignited the loudest roar of the night at TD Garden. From there, Thomas took care of the rest — scoring six of the following eight points for the Celtics (108-105) and before the Heat attempted to make a final push Boston’s defense made a crucial stop that led to a loose ball foul on Goran Dragic.

Marcus Smart split the pair but on the rebound of the second attempt, Heat center Hassan Whiteside appeared to have grabbed the ball early before letting it bounce off the rim. After officials’ review, Whiteside was whistled for goaltending and the Celtics were awarded two points and a two-possession game.  

Thomas scored a game-high 30 points but Crowder’s play, along with the rest of the starting front line, certainly stood out the most on Sunday. It complimented Thomas’ scoring and exemplified how tough the Celtics are when Crowder, Horford and Johnson are on point. 

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Celtics fall apart down stretch without Isaiah Thomas, lose to 76ers as showdown with Wizards looms 03.19.17 at 3:57 pm ET
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Celtics forward Jaylen Brown soars for two against the Sixers on Sunday. (John Geliebter/USA Today Sports)

Celtics forward Jaylen Brown soars for two against the Sixers on Sunday. (John Geliebter/USA Today Sports)

Want to see what an NBA margin-for-error looks like? Pit the Celtics, without Isaiah Thomas, against the up-and-coming 76ers and then start the fourth quarter.

On Sunday, the Celtics once again found themselves running ragged without their All-Star point guard around to remind everyone what time it was with the game on the line, and the result was a disappointing 105-99 defeat.

In the process, they made the race for the No. 2 seed in the Eastern Conference unnecessarily tight, with a showdown in Boston looming against the third-seeded Wizards on Monday night. It’s unclear if Thomas, who is nursing a bone bruise in his right knee, will be able to play.

Without him, the Celtics must determine a way to slow John Wall (25.6 points, 11.1 assists in his last 8 games) and Co., or they’ll be teetering on the precipice of falling to third in the conference.

After Washington threw away Saturday’s game against Charlotte, the Celtics looked to be in a good position to grow their 1 1/2-game lead. But Rookie of the Year favorite Dario Saric scored 20 points to lead the Sixers, who outscored the Celtics 14-8 over the final 3:41 to break a 91-91 tie.

Now, if Washington wins on Monday, it will close the gap to just one game in the loss column in the playoff race, which highlights what a missed opportunity Sunday represented. With Al Horford scoring a season-high 27 points and Terry Rozier (14 points, 10 rebounds) providing a nice lift off the bench, the Celtics appeared to be in the driver’s seat, but they imploded down the stretch on offense without Thomas to bail them out.

They blew leads of 13 in the third quarter and five in the fourth. In one stretch, Marcus Smart attempted a spin move in the lane, but left the basketball behind; Amir Johnson boxed around an entry pass; Jae Crowder clanged a 3. The Celtics lost what felt like 80 percent of the loose balls during this stretch, and the Sixers sealed it when Nik Stauskus made a 3-pointer from the right wing with 38.8 seconds remaining.

There will be no rest for the weary as the Celtics return home to face the Wizards in a game that could decide who finishes second in the East. Washington leads the season series, 2-1, so the Celtics will need this one to have any chance in any potential tie-breakers. As thing stand now, the second seed in the conference will get Miami in the first round (the Heat had won 23 of 28 entering Sunday), while the third seed will face Paul George and the Pacers.

Read More: 76ers, Celtics, NBA playoff standings, Wizards
Bill Belichick visits LeBron James in Cavaliers locker room after Celtics victory 03.02.17 at 12:44 am ET
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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.

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.

Read More: Bill Belichick, Cavaliers, Celtics, LeBron James
Boston says farewell to Paul Pierce, the purest scorer in Celtics history 02.04.17 at 11:30 pm ET
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May 3, 2013; Boston, MA, USA;  Boston Celtics small forward Paul Pierce (34) during the second quarter in game six of the first round of the 2013 NBA Playoffs against the New York Knicks at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports

Paul Pierce will play his final game in a building he called home while creating countless memories for 15 years (Greg M. Cooper/USA Today)

History won’t only take place in Houston’s NRG Stadium on Sunday.

Nearly 2,000 miles away from Super Bowl LI, the purest scorer in Celtics history will play his last game in Boston. 

Paul Pierce, who plans to retire after this season, will give Celtics fans one final performance on his beloved parquet when the Clippers visit TD Garden in a pre-Super Bowl matinee at 2 p.m.

Although it’s been nearly four years since Pierce donned a Celtics uniform, his contributions to the city and organization feel fresh. Fifteen years and one unforgettable title ensure him of immortality.

Celtics legends Larry Bird and John Havlicek often headline discussions of the franchise’s best pure scorer, but was there a more dynamic offensive force than Pierce? He could score at a high rate in every way imaginable.

Pierce could take his defender to the rim, score from the mid-range, hit 3’s, and make shots with victory on the line, as his dozen-plus game-winners prove. The 10-time All-Star was an offensive assassin. And his career numbers back it up. 

Not only does he lead the Celtics in most 3-pointers and free-throws made but in both statistical categories, he’s top-10 in NBA history. Only three NBA players have drained more 3-pointers than Pierce (2,137) and he’s eighth in free-throws made (6,916).

He enters Sunday’s game as the 16th leading scorer in league history with 26,361 career points, fittingly, right behind Celtics legend Havlicek (26,395), who is 15th on the list. 

Pierce is not only the best pure scorer in Celtics history, he’s also one of the most gifted offensive talents in league history. Despite being overshadowed by great scorers throughout his prime, starting with Allen Iverson and Kobe Bryant in the early 2000s and ending with LeBron James today, Pierce eventually earned his place in their company.  Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Celtics, Clippers, Paul Pierce, The Truth
Isaiah Thomas (44 points) leads comeback win over Raptors, with help from supporting cast 02.02.17 at 12:22 am ET
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Feb 1, 2017; Boston, MA, USA; Boston Celtics guard Terry Rozier (12) and forward Jae Crowder (99) celebrate after Toronto Raptors forward Patrick Patterson (54) was called for a foul during the second half at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

Terry Rozier earned some late-fourth quarter minutes in comeback win against Raptors (Winslow Townson/USA Today)

The unsung heroes set the stage. And then Isaiah Thomas, as he seems to do on a nightly basis, danced on it.

Trailing by 18 points in a showdown with the Raptors for the second seed in the Eastern Conference, the Celtics closed the game on a monster 52-29 run behind 44 points from their All-Star point guard to complete a 109-104 victory.

Thomas put together another incredible fourth quarter, scoring 19 of his 44 points, but the Celtics reserves set the stage for his heroics. Led by Marcus Smart (10 points, 5 assists, 5 rebounds), the bench helped chip away at a double-digit deficit and carried their momentum into the fourth quarter. 

Throughout the third quarter, Smart applied pressure on Raptors guard Kyle Lowry and finished strong on the offensive end by making cuts to the basket for easy layups. He was also finding his teammates for easy assists but was most effective in disrupting the flow of Toronto’s offense. 

Terry Rozier, who finished with 5 points and 7 rebounds, nailed a 3-pointer at the end of the third quarter to pull the Celtics to within eight. He also pulled down two offensive rebounds in the second half to keep possessions alive and slowed down the Raptors’ reserve guards on the defensive end. Tyler Zeller, who finished with five rebounds and four points, made a reverse dunk and tossed an alley-oop to rookie Jaylen Brown to trim the deficit down to five (91-86).

From there, Thomas went on a 7-0 run — giving the Celtics their first lead with 4:39 left. 

However, Lowry, who led the Raptors with 32 points, helped his team regain the lead by draining five straight points for Toronto. With 48 ticks left, Thomas knocked in a 3-pointer to give the C’s a two-point lead before Patrick Patterson missed a 3-pointer and the Raptors were forced to intentionally foul the Celtics in the final seconds.

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Read More: Celtics, Isaiah Thomas, Marcus Smart, Raptors
Rajon Rondo, still making friends in Chicago, unloads on Bulls veterans, pines for Boston days in Instagram post 01.26.17 at 6:44 pm ET
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My vets would never go to the media. They would come to the team. My vets didn’t pick and choose when they wanted to bring it. They brought it every time they stepped in the gym whether it was practice or a game. They didn’t take days off. My vets didn’t care about their numbers. My vets played for the team. When we lost, they wouldn’t blame us. They took responsibility and got in the gym. They showed the young guys what it meant to work. Even in Boston when we had the best record in the league, if we lost a game, you could hear a pin drop on the bus. They showed us the seriousness of the game. My vets didn’t have an influence on the coaching staff. They couldn’t change the plan because it didn’t work for them. I played under one of the greatest coaches, and he held everyone accountable. It takes 1-15 to win. When you isolate everyone, you can’t win consistently. I may be a lot of things, but I’m not a bad teammate. My goal is to pass what I learned along. The young guys work. They show up. They don’t deserve blame. If anything is questionable, it’s the leadership.

A photo posted by Rajon Rondo (@rajonrondo) on

Do you miss Rajon Rondo? I’m not gonna lie — I miss Rajon Rondo.

It sure sounds like he misses Boston.

A brilliant meteor with the Celtics, he has since worn out his welcome in Dallas and now Chicago, where he was suspended for a game in December for conduct detrimental to the team.

On Thursday, he took aim at teammates Dwyane Wade and Jimmy Butler, who had blasted the Bulls a night earlier following a fourth-quarter collapse against Atlanta. Wade and Butler criticized teammates for not caring, and those words did not sit well with Rondo, who took to his Instagram account and obliterated them for not setting the example that he learned in Boston from Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett. (Rondo, it should be noted, scored 3 points in 9 minutes against the Hawks).

Beside a picture of himself in Celtics green with that duo, Rondo unloaded on Wade and Butler:

“My vets would never go to the media,” he wrote. “They would come to the team. My vets didn’t pick and choose when they wanted to bring it. They brought it every time they stepped in the gym whether it was practice or a game. They didn’t take days off. My vets didn’t care about their numbers. My vets played for the team. When we lost, they wouldn’t blame us. They took responsibility and got in the gym. They showed the young guys what it meant to work. Even in Boston when we had the best record in the league, if we lost a game, you could hear a pin drop on the bus. They showed us the seriousness of the game. My vets didn’t have an influence on the coaching staff. They couldn’t change the plan because it didn’t work for them. I played under one of the greatest coaches, and he held everyone accountable. It takes 1-15 to win. When you isolate everyone, you can’t win consistently. I may be a lot of things, but I’m not a bad teammate. My goal is to pass what I learned along. The young guys work. They show up. They don’t deserve blame. If anything is questionable, it’s the leadership.”

There’s only one word for that, and it’s, “Wow.” Not sure if Rondo is shooting his way out of town again, but given his acrimonious history with Wade when they were part of the Celtics-Heat rivalry, it looks like old grudges die hard.

Read More: Bulls, Celtics, Dwyane Wade, Jimmy Butler
Isaiah Thomas loses tiebreaker, so Celtics guard won’t start All-Star Game 01.19.17 at 9:57 pm ET
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Isaiah Thomas has earned superstar status. (Winslow Townson/USA Today Sports)

Isaiah Thomas has earned superstar status. (Winslow Townson/USA Today Sports)

Isaiah Thomas feeds off doubters, which means he won’t be going hungry this All-Star season.

Starters were announced for the NBA All-Star Game on Thursday, and Thomas wasn’t among them. The Celtics guard, who currently ranks fourth in the NBA in scoring, lost a tiebreaker to Raptors guard DeMar DeRozan and will likely be a reserve when full rosters are announced.

In the voting of fans, players, and media, Cavaliers guard Kyrie Irving was the runaway winner. Thomas actually won the media vote, but DeRozan prevailed among fans and players, leaving the two deadlocked. Because the fan vote counts for 50 percent of the total, it was the first tiebreaker, and DeRozan outpaced Thomas there by just over 40,000 votes, 796,122-755,102 to claim the starting nod.

Regardless, it’s been a monster first half for the diminutive star, who’s averaging 28.7 points per game, including a league-best 10.1 in the fourth quarter.

Thomas wasn’t the only star snubbed. In the Western Conference, MVP candidate Russell Westbrook will be a reserve, despite averaging a triple-double thus far (30.6 points, 10.6 rebounds, 10.4 assists). The starting guard slots in the West went to Golden State’s Steph Curry and Houston’s James Harden.

The other Eastern Conference starters are Cleveland’s LeBron James, Chicago’s Jimmy Butler, and Milwaukee’s Giannis Antetokounmpo. In the West, Curry and Harden will be joined by San Antonio’s Kawhi Leonard, Golden State’s Kevin Durant and New Orleans’ Anthony Davis.

Read More: All-Star rosters, Celtics, DeMar DeRozan, Greek Freak
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