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Monday’s loss to the Hawks reveals the true need for Andrew Bogut, and why Isaiah Thomas can’t do everything 02.27.17 at 9:54 pm ET
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The Celtics might be able to skate past the dregs of the Eastern Conference, as they barely did Sunday night in Detroit.

But if Monday proved anything, come springtime, the Celtics are going to have to play bigger and tougher in the paint if they have any aspirations of extending play into May. 

Dennis Schroder outplayed Isaiah Thomas and the Atlanta Hawks blasted the Celtics after Dwight Howard’s ejection in a 114-98 rout of Boston Monday night at TD Garden. Thomas had just two points in the fourth quarter and finished with 19, ending his franchise streak of games with at least 20 points at 43 games. 

The Celtics, who hosted a beardless Julian Edelman next to their bench, were abused in the paint in the first half, getting outscored 28-14 and out-rebounded 32-21. Brad Stevens has said all season that he’s fully aware that his team will not be winning any rebounding battles. 

But there comes a time and a place where getting overpowered eventually wears you down. That was the case Monday. When Isaiah Thomas is your leading rebounder through three quarters, Marcus Smart is your best low post option and the other team has Dwight Howard, that’s an issue. 

If there’s any truth to the report from the Globe’s Adam Himmelsbach that Andrew Bogut, officially bought out Monday by Philadelphia, is interested in coming to Boston, the Celtics should do everything in their power to make sure he doesn’t leave Tuesday’s meeting without signing on the dotted line. 

Monday’s game was much more than just a team playing on the second night of a back-to-back. It was about a bigger, stronger team taking it to them physically. Al Horford is a lot of things. A true big man he is not. Down 17 with six minutes left in the game, Stevens rested Horford, presumably to save him for the defending world champs Wednesday night at TD Garden. 

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

The Celtics raced out to a 15-7 lead as Avery Bradley returned, showing the same sharp-shooting form he showed before his Achilles injury of early January that forced him to miss 22 of his previous 23 games. Bradley hit the first shot he took, a wide-open 25-footer for three from the left wing. As a matter of fact, the Celtics connected on their first three attempts from beyond the arc as they built the early cushion. 

But Atlanta responded with an 11-0 run midway through the first quarter, turning a seven-point Celtics lead into a four-point hole. 

Dennis Schroder and Isaiah Thomas seemed to put their running – sometimes acrimonious – rivalry to the side. It was Schroder who accused Thomas of disparaging comments during a January game directed at Schroder’s mother. Thomas vehemently denied this charge. The two had a very animated but civil exchange in which both appeared to smile and joust with one another. 

Then, following a Thomas drive to the basket midway through the second quarter, it was Schroder who helped Thomas back to his feet. 

Things were more intense in the second half. After Dwight Howard grabbed a driving Isaiah Thomas from behind on a move to the basket, Howard escaped a flagrant foul after review. Then, less than a minute later, as Howard was fighting for a rebound under the Celtics basket, Al Horford fouled Howard hard. Howard responded with a shove to the chest of Horford and was given a technical foul. 

The Celtics then caught a huge break when Howard picked up up second technical of the game for hanging on the rim and flipping his head back on a dunk with 4:03 left in the third quarter. The dunk made it 74-65 Hawks. 

Horford continues to do most of his offensive work on the perimeter. This paid dividends in the third quarter when he found a back-cutting Jaylen Brown for a crowd-energizing, alley oop dunk. 

Without Howard, things only got worse for the Celtics as they trailed 84-71 after three. Boston fell behind by 17, 90-73, with just over nine minutes left. 

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Read More: Atlanta Hawks, Boston Celtics, Dennis Schroder, Dwight Howard
Isaiah Thomas will not be suspended for slap to head of Dennis Schroder, Marcus Smart fined for flop 04.23.16 at 2:46 pm ET
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Celtics guard Isaiah Thomas (4) reacts after his basket against the Atlanta Hawks in game three of the first round of the NBA Playoffs at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

Celtics guard Isaiah Thomas (4) reacts after his basket against the Atlanta Hawks in game three of the first round of the NBA Playoffs at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

The Celtics and Isaiah Thomas have dodged a major bullet on the eve of Game 4.

The Boston Herald’s Mark Murphy was the first to report the NBA has decided not to suspend the star guard for swinging his elbow and landing with a hand to the face of Dennis Schroder in the first half of Friday’s 111-103 Celtics’ win over the Hawks.

As Schroder was coming up court, a vine and replays clearly show Thomas throwing the hand. But Thomas insisted after the game it was accidental.

The league apparently agreed, or at least determined there was no where close enough evidence to keep the guard, coming off a 42-point career effort, out of Game 4 Sunday night. Instead, the league announced they had assigned Thomas with a Flagrant 1 foul on the play. 

The news also means that former NBA discipline chief Stu Jackson was wrong in his prediction after the game on NBA TV that Thomas was clearly facing a suspension based on the video evidence. 

There was a bit of negative discipline news regarding another Celtics guard. Marcus Smart was fined $5,000 by the NBA for violating the league’s anti-flopping rules during Game 3.

The incident occurred with 4:32 remaining in the fourth quarter of the Celtics 111-103 victory over the Hawks last night at TD Garden.

To view the play click on the following link:

http://www.nba.com/video/channels/originals/2016/04/23/bbops-marcus-smart-flop-042216.nba/

Read More: 2016 NBA playoffs, Atlanta Hawks, Boston Celtics, Dennis Schroder
Mike Petraglia, Sam Packard talk Isaiah Thomas’ historic 42-point effort in Game 3 win at 12:45 am ET
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WEEI.com’s Mike Petraglia and Sam Packard break down how Isaiah Thomas rescued Celtics in Game 3 with a career-high 42 points, leading the Celtics to a 111-103 win over the Atlanta Hawks Friday night at TD Garden. The 42 points were the most by any Celtic in a playoff game since Rajon Rondo scored 44 against the Heat in the 2012 Eastern Conference finals on May 30, 2012.

Read More: 2016 NBA playoffs, Atlanta Hawks, Boston Celtics, Dennis Schroder
Isaiah Thomas insists his hand to the face of Dennis Schroder was accidental: ‘It’s playoff basketball’ at 12:35 am ET
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Did he mean it or not?

That’s the singular question that now has to be answered by the NBA after cameras and vines caught Isaiah Thomas – in the midst of his career-best 42-point night – swinging an elbow at Atlanta Hawks guard Dennis Schroder. 

In the second quarter of Friday’s 111-103 win over the Hawks in Game 3, and with tempers steadily on the rise throughout the first half, Thomas appeared to raise his left arm and swat Schroder in the head. 

After answering questions about his career-best performance when the Celtics desperately needed it, Thomas’ press conference ended with a simple question: Are you concerned about discipline from the NBA from the blow? 

“No, I’m not,” Thomas said. “I didn’t mean to hit him in the head. He got mad. He was talking. It’s playoff basketball. I’m not going to back down from anybody – and he knows that.”

The Hawks obviously had a different view of things. 

“I have seen it back in the locker room,” Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer said. “My thoughts are the league will review it; the league does a good job on all things like this and they have high standards and all teams are aware of their emphasis during the playoffs. As far as an explanation, there wasn’t an explanation. There was a double technical and there was no review of the incident in the back court at the free throw line.”

Kyle Korver said Budenholzer took time before the playoffs to read to the team what might happen if you lose your cool in the playoffs and throw a punch.

“I heard that it happened,” Korver said. “I know Bud read us a really long memo before the playoffs started saying what would happen in you threw a punch. I haven’t seen the replay, I know Dennis said he got hit, but I’m sure we’ll hear and see a lot about it in the next couple days.”

Read More: 2016 NBA playoffs, Atlanta Hawks, Boston Celtics, Dennis Schroder
Brad Stevens says Kelly Olynyk ‘questionable’ for Game 3, Avery Bradley hints at return 04.20.16 at 3:55 pm ET
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Kelly Olynyk

Kelly Olynyk

Kelly Olynyk and his right shoulder remain a big question mark heading into Game 3 Friday night against Atlanta. 

Celtics coach Brad Stevens said during a conference call Wednesday that after meeting with head trainer Ed Lacerte, it’s questionable at this point whether the 7-footer would be able to dress up and play Friday. 

“I’d say it’d be questionable based on my conversations with Ed Lacerte today,” Stevens said. 

Olynyk re-injured the shoulder in Game 1 last Saturday and didn’t dress for Game 2 Tuesday night. Olynyk missed 12 games when he initially injured the shoulder on Feb. 10 against the Clippers at TD Garden. 

As for the injured backcourt duo of Avery Bradley and Marcus Smart, Stevens said Bradley had an MRI on Wednesday but hadn’t heard the results yet. Stevens repeated in his Wednesday conference call that Bradley would be out of games “this weekend” and “very likely” for the rest of the series. 

Bradley did tell Celtics TV broadcaster Mike Gorman that there’s a chance he could return by the end of the series. Gorman, appearing on the Celtics radio flagship station, repeated a conversation he had with Bradley on Tuesday. 

“I asked if he would play again,” Gorman said, “and he said he was hoping he could play next week. He said, ‘If we can extend this series, I’m hoping I can play again.'”

“He underwent his MRI. I have not gotten the answer about how that went,” Stevens said during the conference call. “I don’t know if they’ve looked at it yet, or not. Obviously, with Kelly kind of being questionable for Game 3 and Marcus [having] bruised ribs, as far as getting immediate results, that’s who I’ve talked to Eddie about. Avery is going to be out this weekend, and like I said, is very unlikely for the rest of the series.”

As for Marcus Smart, he took a knee from Kent Bazemore above the right hip and at the bottom of his rib cage in the first 30 seconds of Tuesday night’s game when Bazemore drove baseline.

The prognosis is good for Smart, so good that Stevens expects Smart to be able to participate in practice on Thursday in Waltham.  Stevens didn’t even mention Jae Crowder, who is still battling a sore right ankle from his high ankle sprain in March, or Isaiah Thomas and his dinged left wrist. 

“I feel bad for those guys because this is the time of the year where everybody wants to be healthy, everybody wants to play, everybody wants to get their crack at it,” Stevens added. “So, I feel bad for those guys. As far as for me, we’re going to do the very best with the guys that are available. We have a lot of good players in this room that have a done a lot of good things throughout the year. We’re going to need to play everybody that’s available to be playing at their best this weekend to give ourselves a chance in this.”

The Hawks didn’t escape the injury bug Tuesday as Dennis Schroder badly twisted his left ankle on a drive to the basket late in the fourth quarter. He had to be helped to the Hawks locker room. He was replaced by Kirk Hinrich, who would likely take his place on the Hawks bench if Schroder is severely limited or can’t go in Game 3. 

Read More: 2016 NBA playoffs, Atlanta Hawks, Avery Bradley, Boston Celtics
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