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Full Court Press: Brad Stevens comes to grips with mediocrity, effects of new CBA on Celtics 12.17.16 at 12:34 pm ET
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Dec 3, 2016; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Boston Celtics head coach Brad Stevens during the second quarter against the Philadelphia 76ers at Wells Fargo Center. Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

Brad Stevens is patiently waiting for his team to rise from mediocrity. (Eric Hartline/USA Today Sports)

Everyone knows injuries have impacted the Celtics to start this season of promise. 

But what Brad Stevens is trying to get across to his team is that the losses due to man-games missed has not been the biggest issue. The Celtics have simply been a mediocre team just under a third of the way through the year. 

And Stevens can’t blame it all on injuries. 

What does he think of the record so far?

“It’s 13-12,” Stevens said before Friday’s win over Charlotte that improved it to 14-12. The Celtics entered Friday’s action actually a half-game behind the 14-12 Knicks. 

Satisfied?

“It is what it is. I thought this was going to… I thought we had a lot of tough, tough challenges, especially at the start of the season, ahead of us,” Stevens said. “There were a couple of things, obviously, that you can’t predict going into a new year, with regard to availability. But I said at the beginning of the year, we’re as close to second or third as we are 10th. Still are.”

Al Horford missed nine games with a concussion and one due to a paternity leave. Jae Crowder missed eight games with an ankle sprain. Thomas returned Friday after a four-game absence due to a sore groin. Marcus Smart missed three games with a bum ankle. 

“I don’t think we should use that as an excuse,” Stevens said. “I think at the end of the day, that’s part of the game. Certainly, we’ve missed some guys [who have] missed some games. My hope is that we can get a little bit of a steady play here and see how we look healthy.” 

 Avery Bradley took it a step further before Friday’s game.
 
“We know we need to get back to playing the right way,” Bradley said. “And pulling off some wins in a row is important for us. I would call it a must-win after losing three close ones. We always want to take care of home, and like you said it’s a team that’s in the East that we’re going to see again. These games really count for us. It really matters when it comes down to the end of the year as far as seeding in the playoffs.”

The Celtics and Hornets are very similar in their approach this season. They are two teams looking to take that next step after making a late-season run last season. The Celtics and Hornets finished tied with the Hawks and Heat with 48 wins.

“Yeah, there’s no question. It’s been that way for the last couple of years and I think it boils down to… we always talk about you’ve got to maintain an even keel and you’ve got to control what you can control, and that is playing as consistent as possible every single night. I thought we played some really good basketball against Toronto last week, some really good basketball against Oklahoma City, not as good against San Antonio. But I think we have to do what we are doing, better, to beat those teams.”

Charlotte is 14-12 and that’s good enough, despite a three-game skid, to be leading the Southeast Division. 

“I was talking to Brad before,” Hornets coach Steve Clifford said. “I hesitate to even look at standings at this stage of the game, because the schedule is such a big part of it. Some teams played a lot more games on the road, other teams have been out West already and we haven’t. I think until you play 40-45 games… obviously you don’t want to lose contact with everybody, but you just have to worry about your team and building a team game that’s balanced.”

New CBA and the Celtics: On Wednesday, the NBA announced that the league and the Players Association reached a tentative agreement on a new Collective Bargaining Agreement, pending ratification by players and team owners. 

In the statement, the league announced that “in order to give both sides enough time to review the terms of the agreement and vote to ratify, the parties have agreed to extend the mutual deadline to opt out of the existing CBA from Dec. 15, 2016, to Jan. 13, 2017.”  

Multiple reports indicate that the deal is for at least six years and the Washington Post’s Tim Bontemps has a thorough explanation of some of the leaked details of the new pact, including what exactly is the new “designated player exception” (DPE).  

What does that mean for the Celtics? 

The new rule has the potential to impact free agents, like Blake Griffin, as well as potential trade targets like Paul George or the always-coveted but highly flammable DeMarcus Cousins. The Kings could still decide they would rather move on from the Boogie man, but now have the option to offer Cousins a longer, more lucrative extension this summer. In other words, the league is trying to provide incentives to teams like Sacramento and Indiana to hold onto their own free agents instead of just dumping them. Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge will have to more closely weigh short-term goals versus long-term planning and how the Nets’ likely lottery pick is going to figure into all of this. Then there’s Kevin Durant. If Ainge thinks he can lure Durant to Boston and if Durant opts out in Golden State after one year, that could significantly change how Ainge views the marketplace and more importantly, Boston’s place in it. 

JBL_CMYK_NoHarmanNoRBallWEEI is how you listen to Celtics coverage. JBL cutting-edge wireless headphones and speakers are how you feel like you’re there. As the official Sound of the Celtics, Isaiah Thomas and the NBA, JBL is Made for the Biggest Stage.

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Read More: Avery Bradley, Boston Celtics, Brad Stevens, Charlotte Hornets
Fast Break: Isaiah Thomas returns, leads C’s past Hornets 12.16.16 at 10:57 pm ET
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Dec 16, 2016; Boston, MA, USA; Boston Celtics guard Isaiah Thomas (4) drives the ball defended by Charlotte Hornets center Cody Zeller (40) in the second half at TD Garden. The Celtics defeated Charlotte 96-88. Mandatory Credit: David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

Isaiah Thomas battles through Cody Zeller on his way to the basket in the second half Friday night at TD Garden. (David Butler II/USA Today Sports)

He’s back.

In Isaiah Thomas’ return, the Celtics snapped a 3-game losing streak and defeated the Charlotte Hornets 96-88. The 5-foot-9 point guard led all scorers with 26 points on 9-of-20 shooting and 6-of-7 free throws. 

The starters got it done, as four of five scored in double figures. Al Horford had a complete game, amassing 18 points, 8 rebounds, 5 assists and a game-high 5 blocks, while Jae Crowder poured in 12 points, including going 2-of-5 from 3-point range, 5 rebounds and 3 assists. Jonas Jerebko, who has quietly become the team’s best scorer off the bench, scored 9 points on 4-of-8 shooting and was a game-high plus-15.

And while the Hornets were missing Kemba Walker, who is arguably their best player, due to personal reasons, the Celtics did exactly what they had to do: beat a team that was already down coming in.

The game was a tale of two halves. The Celtics looked uninspired in the first period, falling behind by 12 in the middle of the second quarter and going into the half down 50-41.

I don’t know what was said at the half, but I wish I did. Falling behind by 12 once again, the C’s embarked on a 16-2 run in the latter half of the third quarter. The game remained close, until the Celtics went on another run late in the fourth quarter, outscoring the Hornets 15-0 and essentially sealing the win.

“I thought we really defended a lot of the night, but certainly in the second half,” Brad Stevens said. “And then the ball finally started going down. I thought that this was predictably going to be an extremely tough game, because of the fact that we’re playing a really good team who is, like us, coming off a long road swing and then we’re both, you know, hungry to get a win..  And so you knew it was going to be exceptionally hard. And I give our guys a lot of credit; between all the travel and coming back and popping right back up and playing, now getting right back on a plane tomorrow – I’m really happy with that effort today.  That was great effort.”

As for Horford’s monster night of 18 points, eight rebounds, five blocks and 2 steals?

“He was good.  We need him to be really good,” Stevens added. “They went small at the end of the first half, and we struggled a little bit with that, and then we tried to play small and skilled most of the second half, with the exception of a little few minutes with Kelly (Olynyk) and Amir (Johnson). But, you know, we needed everybody to play well there, in the second half.”

 Stevens played Thomas at the start of the fourth quarter, calling on his fresh legs. 

“I just felt like I’ve seen too many games where you make a come-back and then the other team takes control and goes out to a lead,” Stevens said. “And we’ve actually seen that in our games at Charlotte, where we’ve lost the lead and then got it back and pulled away, and I just thought those first four minutes in the second quarter were really important.  And he was – he hadn’t been doing anything all week. 

“In all sincerity, like, he’s been working really hard to get back.  You know, but the rest of those guys have been all over the place, and now we needed – I told him the other day on the phone, “When, on Friday, we’re going to need to really give us a spark.”

The runs accentuated Thomas’ importance, as his aggressiveness on both ends of the floor opened lanes, caused turnovers and led to wide-open threes.

More times than not, the Celtics win ugly, and they did it again Friday.

 

For a complete box score, click here.

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Mike Petraglia recaps Isaiah Thomas’ return (26 points), Al Horford’s presence (5 blocks) in win over Hornets at 10:51 pm ET
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Isaiah Thomas made his return after a four-game absence due to a groin injury Friday night. And the Celtics needed his 26 points and Al Horford’s 18 points and five blocks to help beat the Charlotte Hornets to end a three-game losing streak. Mike Petraglia has your recap inside TD Garden.

JBL_CMYK_NoHarmanNoRBallWEEI is how you listen to Celtics coverage. JBL cutting-edge wireless headphones and speakers are how you feel like you’re there. As the official Sound of the Celtics, Isaiah Thomas and the NBA, JBL is Made for the Biggest Stage.

Read More: Al Horford, Boston Celtics, Charlotte Hornets, Isaiah Thomas
Isaiah Thomas ‘slightly sprains’ left wrist as Celtics beat Hornets in 2nd preseason game 10.06.16 at 9:50 pm ET
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Oct 6, 2016; Greensboro, NC, USA; Charlotte Hornets forward Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (14) shoots the ball against the Boston Celtics during the first half at Greensboro Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

Hornets forward Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (14) shoots the ball against Jae Crowder and Al Horford Thursday at Greensboro Coliseum. (Jeremy Brevard-USA Today Sports)

After beating the Hornets Thursday night in a preseason contest, the Celtics will now hold their breath on their star point guard.

Isaiah Thomas injured his left wrist early in the third quarter when he fought his way through a Roy Hibbert screen and came out of the game.

He did not return with what the team termed a “slightly sprained” left wrist. It is the same wrist that he had arthroscopic surgery on in Aug. 2014. Jaylen Brown subbed in for Thomas with 7:07 left in the third quarter.

As for the game, the Celtics (1-1) scored 40 points in the third quarter and rolled to a 107-92 win in a preseason game Thursday night at the Greensboro Coliseum.

Before coming out, Thomas led the Celtics with 15 points on 5-of-10 shooting in 20 minutes. Al Horford scored nine of his 13 points in the third quarter. He also grabbed eight rebounds in his 19 minutes of playing time. 

For a full box score, click here

For a second straight game, head coach Brad Stevens started a lineup of Thomas, Avery Bradley, Horford, Jae Crowder and Amir Johnson. 

The Celtics raced out to a 22-14 lead in the first quarter, thanks to more sharp-shooting from Avery Bradley. The guard was 3-for-5 from the field, including 1-of-2 from beyond the arc.

But the Celtics bench struggled again, missing their last six shots as the Hornets scored the last nine points to take a 23-22 lead after one. The Celtics, who started off red-hot Tuesday night, made just 8-of-22 from the field in the opening quarter. 

The learning curve continued for Jaylen Brown. He committed a mental error when he lost track of the shot clock at the end of the first quarter and passed the ball on the perimeter as the clock expired. He also failed to finish on a pair of drives to the basket. 

Stevens used the second quarter of the second preseason game to mix and match with the starters, going with a lineup of Bradley, Thomas, Terry Rozier, Amir Johnson and Jonas Jerebko. The Celtics trailed 51-44 at the half, throwing up 17 threes (making seven). Overall, the Celtics shot just 17-of-44 (38.6 percent) in the opening 24 minutes. Thomas was 3-for-5 from beyond the arc and had 11 in the first half to lead the Celtics. 

Unlike Tuesday, the Celtics starters opened the second half and it paid immediate dividends. The Celtics scored the first nine points of the third quarter for a 53-52 lead. One of the big highlights was two-handed monster slam from Horford on an inbounds pass from Crowder. Horford was fouled and hit the free throw for a three-point play. The Celtics were in complete control the rest of the quarter, outscoring the Hornets, 40-19, in the period.

The Celtics built their lead to as many as 21 in the fourth quarter, cruising to their first win of the preseason. 

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Read More: Al Horford, Boston Celtics, Charlotte Hornets,
Poll: What is best 1st-round matchup for Celtics? 04.13.16 at 1:28 pm ET
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Thanks to the number-crunching of Ben Rohrbach, we now know all the first-round possibilities for the Celtics in the playoffs that begin this weekend. The question is: What matchup might favor the Celtics and which matchup might give the Celtics the best path through the East? Is it too early to start thinking about avoiding either Toronto or Cleveland in the second round? That’s a question for later. But for now, who do you want to see the Celtics face in the opening round?

What is the best first-round matchup for the Celtics?

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Read More: 2016 NBA playoffs, Atlanta Hawks, Boston Celtics, Charlotte Hornets
Will Celtics really be ready for playoffs? 04.12.16 at 11:55 am ET
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After consecutive losses to playoff teams on Saturday and Monday, there is a little doubt creeping into the minds of Celtics fans. 

Are the Celtics the team that beat Golden State and Cleveland on the road and posted a 47-32 record in their first 79 games? Or are they the team that has been exposed in the second half in Atlanta and the entirety of their humiliating loss to the Hornets on Monday night at home?

Avery Bradley said after Saturday’s game in Atlanta that the Celtics looked at times to be a team fighting itself and playing tight. After Monday’s 114-100 loss to Charlotte at TD Garden, Bradley laid it out on the line for a team that was outscored 39-13 in the second quarter and blown out of its own building. 

“All the credit to them. We just have to prepare and try to fix all the mistakes we had,” Bradley said. “I know the coach said it. I’m pretty sure everybody else is going to say it. We just have to try to fix all the small things that we did [wrong] because in the playoffs, if we make these same mistakes, we might lose by 40.” 

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Read More: 2016 NBA playoffs, Avery Bradley, Boston Celtics, Brad Stevens
Mike Petraglia, Sam Packard on what Monday’s no-show vs. Hornets means for playoffs 04.11.16 at 11:32 pm ET
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WEEI.com’s Mike Petraglia and Sam Packard break down what happened in the Celtics’ abysmal 114-100 loss to the Hornets on Monday night at TD Garden. The Celtics were outscored 39-13 in the second quarter, incluing 33-3 in one stretch that had them down 28 points. They never recovered, and as a result they fall to 47-34 and into a fifth-place tie with the Hornets in the East. The Celtics are a game behind the third-place Hawks and a half-game behind the Heat. The Celtics finish up the season with a game against Miami on Wednesday night at TD Garden and will clinch fourth place and home-court advantage in the first round with a win.

Read More: Boston Celtics, Charlotte Hornets, Miami Heat, Mike Petraglia
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