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Even on verge of No. 1 seed, Brad Stevens concedes ‘Cleveland is the team to beat… they deserve that’ 04.12.17 at 7:00 pm ET
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Apr 10, 2017; Boston, MA, USA; Boston Celtics guard Isaiah Thomas (4) brings the ball up court during the first quarter against the Brooklyn Nets at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports

Isaiah Thomas leads the Celtics into the playoff charge. (Greg M. Cooper/USA Today Sports)

The standings heading into the playoffs may have the Celtics at the top of the ladder in the Eastern Conference. 

But in his mind, Brad Stevens is keeping the defending champions on a pedestal for a purpose going into the playoffs. 

The Cavaliers lost three straight games after knocking off the Celtics last Wednesday at TD Garden. That opened the door for the Celtics to wrap up the No. 1 seed in the East with a win over the rest-depleted Bucks Wednesday night. 

But Stevens knows full well that if he can keep that carrot in front of his team, they will have plenty of motivation to prove themselves worthy of the respect the Cavaliers have already earned. 

Asked before Wednesday’s regular season finale how he feels about the Cavaliers still regarded as the team to beat, he grinned quickly before confirming what many experts already feel. 

“No, they deserve that. Cleveland is the team to beat. There’s no question about that. They deserve that,” Stevens said. “They’ve been to back-to-back finals. So, until somebody knocks them off, as a defending champion, I think that’s a fair way to view things.” 

Clearly, the Cavaliers aren’t concerned about finishing second to the Celtics in the East. They are resting LeBron James at home against the Toronto Raptors in their regular season finale, a game that will be played simultaneous with Boston’s game against Milwaukee. 

Stevens also indicated before the game that it’s safe to say that – heading into the postseason – he will likely go with a rotation of nine regular players. But there’s a chance that the likes of Terry Rozier, Gerald Green or even Jordan Mickey could see time if the situation presents itself. 

“Yeah, I’d say that’s exactly what we’d be looking at,” Stevens said. “But again, everybody’s got to be ready to go because things change, injuries happen.  As we saw last year, match-ups you didn’t anticipate become match-ups that become important and you need to throw somebody else at so everybody’s got to be ready.”  

The first four off Stevens’ bench would be Marcus Smart, Jaylen Brown, Kelly Olynyk and Jonas Jerebko. 

Stevens confirmed that everyone would be “available” for the regular season finale. 

“We’re trying to win a game,” Stevens said of trying to capture win No. 53, a win that would clinch the No. 1 seed. 

Read More: Boston Celtics, Cleveland Cavaliers, Eastern Conference, Milwaukee Bucks
Isaiah Thomas, Al Horford, Celtics fend off Nets, hold sole possession of No. 1 seed 04.11.17 at 3:00 am ET
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Apr 10, 2017; Boston, MA, USA; Boston Celtics guard Isaiah Thomas (4) reacts during the third quarter against the Brooklyn Nets at TD Garden.  The Celtics won 114-105. Mandatory Credit: Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports

A win against the Bucks on Wednesday will give the Celtics a 53-29 record on the season and the No. 1 seed. (Greg M. Cooper/USA Today)

The Celtics are one win away from entering the postseason as the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference. 

After Boston cruised to a 114-105 win over the Nets, the Heat did their part in fighting for the final playoff spot by beating the Cavaliers in overtime — giving the Celtics a one-game lead for first place in the east. All the C’s have to do now is beat the Bucks in Wednesday’s regular season finale at TD Garden in order to clinch the top spot. 

With the win, the Heat — who are now tied with the Bulls for eighth — kept their playoff hopes alive. Now, the Cavaliers not only need to beat the Raptors on Wednesday but also need the Celtics to lose in order to regain the No. 1 seed. 

Isaiah Thomas’ 27 points led six Celtics in double figures, Al Horford finished with 19 points, 8 rebounds, Avery Bradley poured in 18 points and Marcus Smart led the bench with 13 points. 

Celtics ended the first quarter with a 15-point lead (28-13) and held a double-digit lead throughout most of the first half. Celtics kicked off the third quarter with an 11-0 run to give them a 27-point lead — their largest one of the night. 

The Nets responded with a 12-0 run before the start of the final frame and eventually pulled to within 11 points. Jeremy Lin led with a double-double (26 points, 12 rebounds) and Brook Lopez added 25 points. 

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Read More: Boston Celtics, Brooklyn Nets, Cleveland Cavaliers,
LeBron James dismisses matchup against Celtics: ‘I’ve been to six straight NBA Finals’ 04.05.17 at 10:09 am ET
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LeBron James doesn't appear excited about facing the Celtics Wednesday. (Ken Blaze/USA Today Sports)

LeBron James doesn’t appear excited about facing the Celtics Wednesday. (Ken Blaze/USA Today Sports)

The Celtics and Cavaliers, who are tied for first place in the Eastern Conference, will match up with each other at T.D. Garden Wednesday. It’s a big game as far as regular season contests are concerned, but don’t tell that to LeBron James.

In an interview following the Cavaliers’ win over the Magic Tuesday, James downplayed the importance of the affair.

“I don’t know, I’ve played in a lot of big games man,” he said. “I don’t … I’m the last person to ask about a big game in the regular season. I’m sorry.” 

It’s understandable if James holds a jaded view about the importance of regular season basketball. The Cavaliers narrowly edged out the Raptors for the No. 1 seed last season, but wound up bulldozing their way through the Eastern Conference playoffs. Cleveland came back from a 3-1 deficit to oust the Warriors in the NBA Finals, largely thanks to an otherworldly effort from James. He averaged 36.3 points, 11.7 rebounds and 9.7 assists per game over the final three games to secure his third title. 

After a fast start this season, the Cavaliers have slumped since the All-Star Break. They’re 9-10 since March 1 and had the worst defense in the league last month as well. James lost his temper earlier this week when he started screaming at forward Tristan Thompson following a defensive lapse in the waning moments of Cleveland’s double overtime win Sunday over the Pacers. 

Though the Cavaliers have taken to resting their stars down the stretch, James played 37 minutes Tuesday against the lowly Magic. So maybe Cleveland wants to finish strongly heading into the playoffs, even if James won’t admit it. 

“Taking nothing from [the Celtics], they’ve been playing some great ball, but like I said, I’m not one to get caught up in regular season big games,” he said. “I’m sorry. I’ve been to six straight [NBA] Finals, man. I’m the last person to ask about a regular season game, dude. Sorry.”

Read More: Boston Celtics, Cleveland Cavaliers, LeBron James,
Celtics prove why they’re one of the best teams in 4th quarter in win over Cavaliers 03.01.17 at 11:42 pm ET
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Mar 1, 2017; Boston, MA, USA; Cleveland Cavaliers guard Kyrie Irving (2) looks to make a pass while guarded by Boston Celtics shooting forward Jaylen Brown (7) during the fourth quarter at TD Garden.  The Boston Celtics won 103-99.  Mandatory Credit: Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports

Brad Stevens reinserted Avery Bradley towards the end of the 4th quarter to help slow down Kyrie Irving (Greg M. Cooper/USA Today)

Early Wednesday afternoon, Brad Stevens issued a plan of attack and that evening his team executed it and turned it into one of their most impressive wins of the season.

Wednesday night’s 103-99 win over the Cavaliers was a testament to how tough the Celtics can be in the fourth quarter.

Even with their best scorer not hitting shots (1-of-4), the Celtics rallied behind defensive stops by Marcus Smart and Avery Bradley instead of relying on Isaiah Thomas to keep them in the game.

Facing a two-point deficit, Smart drew back-to-back offensive fouls against the Cavaliers before Jae Crowder (17 points) drained a 3-pointer under two minutes to go. Then, it was Bradley’s turn as he rattled Kyrie Irving (28 points) and drained a 3-pointer on the other end to keep his team ahead. 

Out of a Cavaliers timeout, Cleveland set up sharp shooter Kyle Korver for an open 3-pointer before Thomas drained his only field goal of the fourth quarter. Irving responded with a reverse layup to tie the game (99-99) before Thomas drew a shooting foul and drained a pair of free-throws to put the C’s ahead, 101-99.

LeBron James (28 points, 13 rebounds, 10 assists) passed up an opportunity to tie the game by passing the ball to Deron Williams, who missed the potential game-winning 3-pointer. 

For a full box score and summary of Wednesday’s game vs. Cleveland, click here.

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Read More: Avery Bradley, Boston Celtics, Cleveland Cavaliers, Isaiah Thomas
Mike Petraglia, Ben Kichen talk Celtics size and competing with the Cavs 11.30.16 at 6:44 pm ET
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WEEI.com’s Mike Petraglia and Ben Kichen of the ‘Dale and Holley Show’ talk about what the Celtics will need to do in order to be considered one of the top teams in the Eastern Conference along with the Cavs.

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: Ben Kichen, Boston Celtics, Cleveland Cavaliers, Mike Petraglia
Celtics reportedly considering dealing Avery Bradley, Jae Crowder if it means Klay Thompson in return 11.14.16 at 1:49 pm ET
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April 1, 2016; Oakland, CA, USA; Boston Celtics guard Isaiah Thomas (4) passes the basketball against Golden State Warriors guard Klay Thompson (11) during the second quarter at Oracle Arena. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Could Klay Thompson (11) and Isaiah Thomas wind up teammates in Boston? (Kyle Terada/USA Today Sports)

The Celtics and Warriors might be looking to celebrate their meeting this Friday night at TD Garden in style. 

According to Celtics CSNNE broadcaster Brian Scalabrine, the Celtics might be willing to give up their most experienced defensive shutdown player if it means bringing in one of the best shooting guards in the NBA. 

On SiriusXM NBA Radio, Scalabrine said he had heard Thompson might be available and that the specific rumor he heard involved the Celtics. According to Scalabrine, the Celtics would send out Avery Bradley, Jae Crowder and the right for Golden State to swap first-round picks with Boston’s pick from Brooklyn.

In return, Boston would land Thompson, with the Warriors then using the Brooklyn pick to acquire a shot-blocking center. He added on CSNNE Facebook Live that Philadelphia’s Nerlens Noel would be a player the Warriors would acquire with the pick. 

That might seem like a lot for Boston to give up but if Ainge feels Thompson makes the Celtics a serious threat to Cleveland, he would at least consider it. 

“Maybe they’re on what I’m on, and [they feel] it’s impossible to win championships without rim protection against LeBron and Kyrie [Irving],” Scalabrine said. “So who’s your most valuable asset or most unneeded asset at this point?”

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Read More: Avery Bradley, Boston Celtics, Cleveland Cavaliers, Jae Crowder
Draymond Green assessed Flagrant 1 from Game 4, suspended for Game 5 Monday 06.12.16 at 2:24 pm ET
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Jun 10, 2016; Cleveland, OH, USA; Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James (23) exchanges words with Golden State Warriors forward Draymond Green (23) during the fourth quarter in game four of the NBA Finals at Quicken Loans Arena. The Warriors won 108-97. Mandatory Credit: David Richard-USA TODAY Sports

LeBron James exchanges words with Warriors forward Draymond Green (23) during the fourth quarter of Game 4 Friday night. (David Richard/USA Today Sports)

This time, Draymond Green went too far. 

The Golden State bad-boy forward was assessed a Flagrant Foul 1 on Sunday for his entanglement and swipe to the groin of LeBron James with under three minutes left in Game 4 Friday night in Cleveland. The announcement was made Sunday by Kiki VanDeWeghe, Executive Vice President, Basketball Operations.

“The incident occurred when Green made unnecessary contact with a retaliatory swipe of his hand to the groin of Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James with 2:48 remaining in the fourth quarter of the Warriors’ 108-97 win in Game 4 of The Finals at Quicken Loans Arena,” the league said in its press release. 

“In accordance with NBA rules, Green will serve a one-game suspension without pay for accruing his fourth Flagrant Foul point of the 2016 postseason.  He will serve his suspension Monday, June 13 during Game 5 of The Finals at Oracle Arena.”

The video clearly shows Green setting a high screen on James. When Green fell to the ground, James appeared to deliberately straddle Green’s head in an effort to draw the confrontation. By the decision handed out from the NBA Sunday, it worked. 

The Warriors, who took a 3 games to 1 lead with a win Friday night in Cleveland, have a chance to clinch their second straight NBA title Monday night. But now they will have to do so without their best rebounder and best low-post defender. 

Green, after run-ins with the likes of Oklahoma City’s Steven Adams in Game 3 of the Western finals, has built up negative points with the league during the Warriors’ playoff run, and it culminated with discipline on Sunday. 

 Under league rules, any player who accumulates four flagrant foul points over the course of the playoffs will be automatically suspended for one game, and every additional flagrant foul will result in either a one-game suspension (for a Flagrant Foul 1) or a two-game suspension (for a Flagrant Foul 2). 

 “The cumulative points system is designed to deter flagrant fouls in our game” said VanDeWeghe in the league statement.  “While Draymond Green’s actions in Game 4 do not merit a suspension as a standalone act, the number of flagrant points he has earned triggers a suspension for Game 5.”

James was also assessed a technical foul upon league office review for his role in the altercation, which included a physical taunt.

To view the play, click on the following link:

http://www.nba.com/video/channels/originals/2016/06/12/bbops-draymond-green-groin-contact-061016-pr-v2.nba/

Meanwhile, the league also docked Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue $25,000 for criticism of the officials after Friday’s game. Lue went off when asked how LeBron James is being officiated during the series. 

“He never gets calls. I mean, he attacks. Outside of Russell Westbrook, he’s one of the guys that attacks the paint every single play. And he doesn’t get a fair whistle all the time because of his strength and because of his power and guys bounce off of him,” Lue said. “But those are still fouls and we weren’t able to get them. But we’ve got to play through officiating.”

Read More: 2016 NBA Finals, Cleveland Cavaliers, Draymond Green, Golden State Warriors
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