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Thanks to Gerald Green, Isaiah Thomas, Celtics tie series, finally showing true colors vs. Bulls 04.23.17 at 9:10 pm ET
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Apr 23, 2017; Chicago, IL, USA; Boston Celtics forward Gerald Green (30) grabs a rebound against the Chicago Bulls during the first half in game four of the first round of the 2017 NBA Playoffs at United Center. Mandatory Credit: Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports

Gerald Green grabs a rebound against the Chicago Bulls during the first half in game four of the first round of the 2017 NBA Playoffs at United Center. (Mike DiNovo/USA Today Sports)

As has been the case all season, when it mattered most Sunday, Isaiah Thomas was savior for the Celtics. 

With the United Center crowd roaring after the hometown Bulls came all the way back from a 20-point hole to take their only lead, the Celtics’ NBA MVP candidate took over the game in a way only he can. 

Thomas, still mourning the death of his 22-year-old sister Chyna, scored a game-high 33 points with seven assists to lead the Celtics to a 104-95 win over the Bulls in Game 4 Sunday night in Chicago to pull Boston in a 2-2 tie as the series heads back to TD Garden for Game 5 Wednesday night. Game 6 will be next Friday back in Chicago. 

“It’s unfathomable the way he’s performed on the court,” Brad Stevens said of Thomas after the Game 4 win. 

“Isaiah Thomas is a hell of a player. An unbelievable player. A warrior with everything he’s going through,” Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg added. 

In his first public comments since his sister’s death, Thomas took to the podium after the game, asking that reporters not ask him about his sister’s death. 

“Not one man can guard me,” he said when asked about his best game of the series so far. 

“Mentally and emotionally I’m not here, so I just feed off what the guys give me. Being here is what makes me, I guess, sane and makes me feel normal through this tough time. They’ve been everything. This organization is the best organization there is.”

The visiting team has won all four games in the series while the Celtics have taken full advantage of the Bulls without Rajon Rondo (fractured right thumb). 

Gerald Green showed exactly why Brad Stevens put him in the starting lineup. 

For the second straight game, the Celtics came out on fire. While not quite as blazing hot from beyond the arc, the Celtics still drained four triples in the opening 12 minutes as they raced out to a 30-18 lead. And for the second straight game, the Bulls looked utterly lost without Rajon Rondo, who appealed his $25,000 fine for attempting to trip Jae Crowder in the first half of Game 3 Friday night. 

The key to the first quarter was the energy Green was able to provide, getting his second straight start. He was flying all over the court, driving to the basket while hitting a 3-of-5 shots. Green finished the first half with 16 points, already a playoff career high. He finished the game with 18 points and seven rebounds. 

“He’s a guy that you have to account for. He opens up space for other people,” Stevens said of Green.

Isaiah Thomas led the Celtics with 10 first-quarter points as visitors claimed a 30-18 lead after 1. The quarter ended on a horrific missed goaltending call when Terry Rozier went up for a layup in the closing seconds. Bobby Portis blocked the ball after it had hit the glass. Brad Stevens spend the closing moments of the quarter screaming as he approached the midcourt line. The Celtics coach managed to avoid a technical foul. 

(For a full statistical recap and box, click here).

The Celtics opened the second quarter with mainly reserves and managed to build a pair of 20-point leads. With the Celtics up 41-21 following Green’s third 3-pointer, there appeared to be a bit of a turning point. Marcus Smart came down with a defensive rebound only to be stripped from behind by Isaiah Canaan, who converted a lay-up. Jimmy Butler trailed on the play and a frustrated Marcus Smart turned and lightly shoved Butler in the chest. 

A double-technical was called and the Bulls seemed a bit more energized. The Celtics built the lead to 20 again at 45-25 before going on a 15-6 spurt. Like Game 3, the Bulls closed the first half with some momentum but Jae Crowder’s three with 55 seconds left put the lead back to 55-42. 

Another key to the Celtics building a 20-point advantage was the play of the Kelly Olynyk. With Isaiah Thomas, Avery Bradley and Al Horford on the bench, it was Olynyk who provided tight defense on Dwyane Wade and drilled a wide open three on the other end as the Celtics maintained a comfortable lead. 

Avery Bradley picked up his third foul with just under six minutes left in the second quarter when it appeared Butler enhanced a swim move by Bradley in the Bulls front court.

Looking for a spark and clearly dissatisfied with Jerian Grant and Michael Carter-Williams in their attempt to fill in for the injured Rajon Rondo, Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg turned to Canaan to start the third quarter with Wade, Butler, Robin Lopez and Nikola Mirotic. 

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Read More: 2017 NBA Playoffs, Boston Celtics, Chicago Bulls, Gerald Green
Big blowout win in Game 3 shows there’s life in Celtics after all 04.21.17 at 9:22 pm ET
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Apr 21, 2017; Chicago, IL, USA; Boston Celtics guard Isaiah Thomas (4) shoots over defender Chicago Bulls forward Nikola Mirotic (44) during the first quarter in game three of the first round of the 2017 NBA Playoffs at United Center. Mandatory Credit: Caylor Arnold-USA TODAY Sports

Isaiah Thomas shoots over defender Chicago Bulls forward Nikola Mirotic (44) during the first quarter in game three of the first round of the 2017 NBA Playoffs at United Center. (Caylor Arnold/USA Today Sports)

There is life in the Celtics after all. 

Thanks to a red-hot Jae Crowder early, an energized Isaiah Thomas in the third quarter and brilliant 3-point shooting, the Celtics managed to turn the tables and rout the Bulls, 104-87, Friday night in a must-have Game 3 at Chicago’s United Center.

The Bulls still lead the best-of-7 series 2-1, with Game 4 set for Sunday night in Chicago before the series shifts back to Boston for Game 5 Wednesday in Boston. 

The Celtics connected on an amazing 17-of-37 shots from 3-point range (.459) as eight different Celtics hit at least one shot from long range. Al Horford led the way with 18 points and eight rebounds while Crowder and Thomas each had 16. 

Avery Bradley chipped in 15 points and great defense for most of the night on Jimmy Butler, who missed nine of his first 10 shots. 

“Avery had a great game tonight,” Brad Stevens said after his first-ever road playoff win in six tries. “I couldn’t take him out of the game. He played the first 18 mins of the second half.”

The Celtics absolutely needed to take advantage of the fractured right thumb that will likely sideline Rajon Rondo for the rest of the series. And early on, they did. With Rondo out wearing a split on his right arm and a unique short-sleeve burgundy suit with white sneakers on the bench, the Celtics clearly looked more energized to start the game – and definitely more confident. 

“I thought our poise was 10-times better tonight,” Stevens said. 

The Celtics did the bulk of their damage from 3-point range. They converted five of their first seven tries from deep and finished the first 12 minutes making 7-of-11 from deep. 

Horford was a monster on both sides of the floor. He had two steals, a block and converted both shots from beyond the arc. 

Gerald Green, in the lineup at the ‘4’ position for Amir Johnson, moved Horford to the center position and provided some early spark with drives to the paint. 

The Celtics jumped out to a 14-4 lead with an 11-0 run. Then, after the Bulls responded with six straight, the Celtics went on a 13-0 run sparked by a pair of 3-pointers from the red-hot Jae Crowder. The Celtics led 33-15 after one. 

The lead ballooned to 37-17 in the opening minute of the second quarter as Jimmy Butler was on the bench. But the Bulls’ bench got hot and responded with an 11-0 run that energized the late-arriving Bulls crowd at the United Center. 

(For the full box score and details, click here). 

In desperate need of better play from Avery Bradley, the Celtics got it in the first half. The guard connected on his first four shots, including three threes, scoring 11 points as the Celtics stabilized things midway through the second with a 42-32 lead. 

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Read More: 2017 NBA Playoffs, Al Horford, Avery Bradley, Boston Celtics
Win in Dallas shows again Celtics know how to seal the deal late 02.13.17 at 10:57 pm ET
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Feb 13, 2017; Dallas, TX, USA; Boston Celtics guard Isaiah Thomas (4) tries to control the ball as Dallas Mavericks guard Yogi Ferrell (11) defends during the first quarter at American Airlines Center. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

Isaiah Thomas battles for control of the ball as Dallas Mavericks guard Yogi Ferrell (11) defends during the first quarter at American Airlines Center. (Kevin Jairaj/USA Today Sports)

The Celtics once again had their finishing kick in high gear Monday in Dallas. 

Perhaps the most important quality the Celtics have shown over the course of this promising season is their ability to close out teams in the fourth. They did it again Monday as they scored 28 points in the final 12 minutes in a 111-98 win over the Mavericks at American Airlines Center. No team in the NBA scores more in the final 12 minutes than Boston’s 29-point average. 

Something else they’ll need come playoff time is balance. They showed that Monday, also. Isaiah Thomas led six players in double figures with 29 points. They improved to 17-11 on the road, the best such record in the East. 

The Celtics finished off their 4-game West Coast swing with three straight victories after a loss in Sacramento. They come back home with a great deal of momentum, taking on the fast-improving 76ers Wednesday night at TD Garden.

“It’s hard to win a game,” coach Brad Stevens told reporters afterward. “We got outplayed the first night. But then the last three games we played pretty well.”

“We would’ve loved to go 4-0, but we bounced back,” Marcus Smart added. “That’s what good teams do, and we’re becoming a really great team.”

For a full recap and box score of Monday’s win over the Mavericks, click here.

The Celtics won their tenth game in 11 outings to improve to 36-19 and draw to within two games of first-place Cleveland (37-16) in the East. 

“We’re playing aggressively on offense,” Thomas said. “We have a good pace on offense and on defense we’re heading in the direction we want to be.”

Thomas had 29 points, his 39th straight game with at least 20 points. The Celtics got a dose of their own medicine as 5-foot-7 rookie Yogi Ferrell scored 20 points and put a scare into the Celtics in parts of the game. 

Early in the game, 5-foot-7 Isaiah Thomas was guarding 7-footer Dirk Nowitzki. Nowitzki hit a couple of jumpers over him.

The Celtics then switched to Marcus Smart. The man who has “Dallas” tattooed on his forearm put on a show in his hometown early. 

The two teams were red hot to start the game from the perimeter. Thomas hit his first three shots from beyond the arc while Smart also hit an early three, making the Celtics 4-for-4 from deep. But the Mavericks connected on six of their first seven shots as they kept pace.

The Celtics finished the first quarter hitting 7-of-11 from 3-point range while Dallas was 4-for-6 from deep.

The game was a continuation of the coming out party for rookie Yogi Ferrell. He is the Mavericks’ answer to Isaiah Thomas. For a good part of the first half, he played like it. He hit his first five shots and scored 11 points in just nine minutes of action.

Deron Williams was ejected when he drove to the basket with just under 40 seconds left in the first half and was called for an offensive foul, drawn by Smart. Williams picked up two quick technicals and was tossed.  

Then with just 0.6 seconds remaining, Ferrell was whistled for a questionable foul on Isaiah Thomas, who was firing up a deep three. Thomas hit all three shots and finished off an 8-0 run to put the Celtics up, 61-50, at the half. Thomas led the Celtics at the break with 18 points while Smart added 17. Gerald Green had 10. 

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Read More: Boston Celtics, Dallas Mavericks, Gerald Green, Isaiah Thomas
Celtics make themselves a tough opponent as they find versatility in individual abilities 12.27.16 at 11:08 pm ET
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Marcus Smart applauds the Celtics' effort during Tuesday's victory over the Grizzlies. (Bob DeChiara/USA Today Sports)

Marcus Smart applauds the Celtics’ effort during Tuesday’s victory over the Grizzlies. (Bob DeChiara/USA Today Sports)

The Celtics’ 113-103 win over the Grizzlies Tuesday night was, by all accounts, much better than the nail-biter they found themselves in exactly a week prior.

Trailing by as many as 17 at one point, the C’s were saved only by a 44-point performance by Isaiah Thomas in the two-point overtime win in Memphis last Tuesday. This time around, the Celtics never trailed after 4:07 in the first quarter. They controlled field goal and 3-point percentages as well as rebounds.

What the win truly served as, however, was a clinic in variety.

There was little doubt that after dismantling the otherwise stout Grizzlies defense, Memphis was going to put heavy emphasis on stopping Thomas. To a degree, they did that, holding him to 21 points. But the Celtics way of answering was unleashing a wealth of other scorers onto them to balance the offense.

“They were paying a lot of attention to [Thomas] off screens, they were blitzing some, they were sending guys from the weak side into the paint. And I thought he did a pretty good job of making the right play,” coach Brad Stevens said following the win.

The Celtics had five others on top of Thomas in double figures. Al Horford (11), Marcus Smart (13), Jae Crowder (17), Gerald Green (19) and Avery Bradley (23) all helped balance out the production.

Marcus Smart was subtly a major part of relieving some of the pressure off of Thomas. Oftentimes lately (with Tuesday as no exception), the 22-year-old has been tasked with running the point, allowing Thomas to get time on the bench without the need to but Terry Rozier in, who otherwise would be a defensive downgrade.

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Read More: Avery Bradley, Gerald Green, Isaiah Thomas, Marcus Smart
Celtics find hidden gem deep on bench in win over Grizzlies: Gerald Green at 9:57 pm ET
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Gerald Green drives past two Grizzlies defenders during Tuesday's game. (Bob DeChiara/USA Today Sports)

Gerald Green drives past two Grizzlies defenders during Tuesday’s game. (Bob DeChiara/USA Today Sports)

There was an odd stretch of time from the start of the second period to the seven-minute mark of the frame in the Celtics’ 113-103 win over the Grizzlies Tuesday night.

Eighteen seconds in, Gerald Green took a feed from Kelly Olynyk and knocked down a 17-foot jumper. Innocuous enough.

Shortly over a minute later, the 30-year-old took a step back 24-footer to extend the Celtics’ lead to nine. After Vince Carter — a man nine years his senior — drained a 3-pointer, Green responded with another 2-point jumper. At that point, it was becoming evident that Green was starting to feel some kind of way.

He found the net from distance one more time, dropping a 26-footer to put the Celtics up by 11 and sending the TD Garden into hysterics. He was subbed out for Jae Crowder 1:35 later, finishing the eight minutes of work with a then-team-leading 10 points. 

He reentered the game in the third period, providing another spark in the fourth with an offensive board on the Celtics’ baseline, finishing with a contested layup off the glass. It put the Celtics up by six and coerced the Grizzlies into a timeout. He finished the night with 19 points in as many minutes with five rebounds. When he departed the game with 3:44 in the game and a five-point lead, the Garden crowd gave him a standing ovation.

Only Avery Bradley (23) and Isaiah Thomas (21) had more points for the Celtics than Green.

(For a complete recap of the Celtics’ win, click here)

With possibly Tyler Zeller as his only competition for player with most fluctuation in his minutes, Green’s return to the Celtics has been nothing short of enigmatic. He’s averaged 9.9 minutes per game this season, has been active for 28 games and seen the floor in just 15 of them.

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Celtics cut Ben Bentil, hint that Gerald Green has made the roster 10.21.16 at 6:01 pm ET
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Ben Bentil

Ben Bentil

In the effort to trim the roster down to the maximum 15 players by next Wednesday’s opener against the Nets, the Celtics have said goodbye to another draft pick. 

The team announced Friday that Ben Bentil, the second round pick out of Providence this June (51st overall), has been released while veteran swingman Gerald Green will make the final roster to begin the season. Bentil does receive a $250,000 guarantee after signing his rookie deal after the draft. ESPN’s Chris Forsberg was the first to report the news. 

Bentil appeared in three preseason games for the Celtics, averaging 5.0 points, and 4.3 rebounds in 12.9 minutes per game.

Friday’s move means the Celtics roster stands at 16, one above the roster limit to start the season. Ainge indicated that former first-round picks James Young and R.J. Hunter are likely to battle it out for that last spot, unless he can swing a deal with a team, exchanging a player or two for a future draft pick. That would free up a roster spot and allowed the Celtics to finalize their opening night roster. 

Ainge indicated that he and the organization would likely take the weekend to consider all possibilities before making a move on Monday. Green said Friday he had not been formally told he had made the team and said he was still trying to prove himself after missing time at the start of camp with a hip flexor injury.

Friday’s move means the Celtics have just two of eight picks left on their roster from June’s draft: No. 3 overall pick Jaylen Brown and No. 45 selection Demetrius Jackson out of Notre Dame. 

On Thursday, the Celtics began their roster trimming by releasing camp invites Marcus Georges-Hunt, Damion Lee and Jalen Jones. All three players are expected to land with the team’s D-League affiliate in Maine, a possible destination for Bentil as well. 

Read More: Ben Bentil, Boston Celtics, Gerald Green, Providence College
Celtics’ 10-man rotation set to create some odd men out 10.15.16 at 12:15 pm ET
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Celtics guard Terry Rozier looks to take a step forward this year and crack Brad Stevens' 10-man rotation. (Winslow Townson/USA Today Sports)

Celtics guard Terry Rozier looks to take a step forward this year and crack head coach Brad Stevens’ 10-man rotation. (Winslow Townson/USA Today Sports)

Prior to Thursday night’s game, Celtics head coach Brad Stevens made an announcement that wasn’t so much surprising, rather thought-provoking. 

“Ten (players) is what we usually play at the start of the season,” Stevens said. “It could be eight to ten, nine to ten.”

“Anytime you can get to a solid eight or nine in a rotation, that’s beneficial.”

That is conceivably going to leave a valuable asset out of the rotation. With his starting lineup of Al Horford, Amir Johnson, Jae Crowder, Avery Bradley and Isaiah Thomas all but in ink, there would be two to four players vying for minutes.

Marcus Smart will also be a lock as the first man off the bench — as Stevens has often referred to him as a “sixth starter.” Once healthy, Kelly Olynyk will likely be in the same situation.

There is some fluidity after that, however.

Stevens did note that his rotation can, and likely will, change on a game-to-game basis.

“We have to have everybody ready to go,” said Stevens who added, “and some days it’ll be a solid eight plus 2 (players) but that plus 2 may change game to game depending on who we’re playing, how they played against them, how they played in practice, how they played the game before.”

With the summer league and preseason that Terry Rozier has had, reasonable minds can believe he would be in the rotation. However, ball handling and distribution are two things you could essentially get out of Smart, plus he would provide better defense. In an event where the Celtics are going to need to attempt to matchup in height with opposing teams, Rozier could see himself squeezed out of the rotation. 

Then there’s Jaylen Brown. The rookie is a fascinating case because if he’s not going to be in the rotation, then he would be better suited playing in the D-League, which is not exactly the best PR move for a team’s No. 3 pick in the draft. That aside, however, he’s proven that his game has translated well to the NBA and the Celtics could definitely use his athleticism.

Jonas Jerebko is a perplexing case as well. Seemingly every time he appears to be falling out of Stevens’ good graces, he pops a 12-point performance off the bench, as he did Thursday (and lest we forget the 2016 postseason, as well). His problem, however, is that he’ll be more or less absent for stretches, and when his shot from 15-to 18-feet is off, he can render himself useless on the offensive end.

Bottom line, Stevens knows what he’s getting with Jerebko. He doesn’t have to worry about developing him, he’s a slightly above-average defender, who has a shot that can be lethal when it’s on. It’s hard to imagine him being phased out of the rotation — especially early on in the season — but it’s a legitimate possibility if he hits a cold streak.

Another veteran in a precarious position is Gerald Green. Green didn’t even see the floor until about five and a half minutes remained in the third quarter Thursday. There are too many enticing options at Stevens’ disposal to allow Green to get meaningful minutes. Conversely, he posesses one of the biggest tools the Celtics as a whole lack: a shot. However, he’s yet to exhibit any reliability as a shooter in his two preseason appearances, going a combined 0-for-4 from deep. He’s otherwise 9-from-20 from the field. He is the type of player destined to be the first man out, especially when his shot is cold.

Tyler Zeller hasn’t exactly had a camp to remember thus far. And with his history of fluctuating minutes, it already looks as if he’s destined for the same scenario as 2015-16, where he could be playing three minutes one night, but 18 the other. 

One player that is making more of a case for himself is Jordan Mickey. A big leader in the late surge that pushed the Celtics bench past the Nets on Thursday, Mickey has started to look much more acclimated to the NBA than last year, even after tearing up the D-League. He may be an afterthought to start the season, but the amount of meaningful minutes he may get could certainly increase.

It should all come down to matchups. Stevens isn’t afraid to play small, and there is enough diversity in skill amongst bench players to where he has a quality arsenal to work with. As camp continues and more players begin to establish — or hurt — their value, the rotation should begin to take more of a shape, with some understandable flexibility taking place as well.

Read More: Gerald Green, Jaylen Brown, Jonas Jerebko, Jordan Mickey
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