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Is Brad Stevens now the front-runner in NBA coach of the year race? 04.02.16 at 2:31 am ET
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Brad Stevens is directing the Celtics toward a playoff run with a signature win in his back pocket. (John Geliebter/USA Today Sports)

Brad Stevens is directing the Celtics toward a playoff run with a signature win in his back pocket. (John Geliebter/USA Today Sports)

It might be time to call Brad Stevens the front-runner in the race for NBA coach of the year. 

After all, his team, missing its most versatile defender on the court, was able to pull off something no other team in the NBA had been able to do since Jan. 27, 2015. 

In beating the Golden State Warriors Friday night, 109-106, without Jae Crowder, the Celtics ended Golden State’s regular season home win streak at 54 games and gave Stevens the signature win to date of his three-year tenure in Boston. The Celtics became the first team since San Antonio on Nov. 11, 2014 to beat the Warriors in regulation in a regular season game in Oakland. 

The Celtics, who improved to 44-32, withstood charge after charge down the stretch from the record-hungry Warriors, who fell to 68-8 on the season. They withstood Steph Curry going off for 21 of his 29 points in the third quarter. Stevens got Thomas involved in the offense early in the third quarter, as Thomas scored his first 18 points of the game in the period. Stevens diagramed play after play, including the game-clincher, an side inbounds from Marcus Smart to Thomas for a layup with 8.3 seconds left in the game. 

“It was a heck of a game,” Stevens told reporters after the game. “When Curry got going in the third quarter, the biggest moments of the game were us scoring consecutively when he scored because when he got going, that’s usually when they run away with a 10-0 run or a 12-0 run. We had to play. Guys had to play really well. We didn’t have a guy play poorly. That’s what it takes to beat a team like this. They’re outstanding.”

Perhaps most impressive was the fact that Stevens had his team ready just 24 hours after a 116-109 grueling loss in Portland. 

“I think the biggest meaning is the idea that we can bounce back from a night like [Thursday] night where we expended a considerable amount of energy and came up short, flew here, got in late and came to compete again,” Stevens said. “I thought that probably the other biggest moment of the game was when we were struggling to score in the second quarter, they weren’t scoring a ton and kind of kept us in the game. We were fortunate to win but at the same time, we made a lot of plays to win the game.”

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Read More: Boston Celtics, Brad Stevens, Golden State Warriors, NBA
Studs and Duds: Celtics shock Warriors, end longest home winning streak in pro sports history at 1:06 am ET
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Jared Sullinger shoots the basketball against Warriors guard Klay Thompson during the second quarter at Oracle Arena. (Kyle Terada/USA Today Sports)

Jared Sullinger shoots the basketball against Warriors guard Klay Thompson during the second quarter at Oracle Arena. (Kyle Terada/USA Today Sports)

The Celtics pulled off the unthinkable Friday night in epic fashion.

Playing without Jae Crowder, Boston got 22 points from Isaiah Thomas, 21 points from Evan Turner and 20 points and 12 rebounds from Jared Sullinger to lead the Celtics to a 109-106 win over the Golden State Warriors at Oracle Arena, ending the longest home winning streak in major pro sports history.

Steph Curry got a clean look in the final seconds at a potential game-tying three. The shot rimmed out and the Celtics had their best win of the season and the signature win of the three-year Brad Stevens era.

The Warriors, who committed 22 turnovers, had won 54 straight regular season games at home and hadn’t lost on their home court since Jan. 27, 2015, when they fell in overtime to the Bulls. The Warriors last lost on their home court in Game 2 of the NBA finals last June to the Cavaliers. The win also avenges Boston’s heartbreaking double-overtime loss to the Warriors on Dec. 11 at TD Garden. 

It was just Golden State’s eighth loss of the season, dropping them to 68-8 on the season. They must win five of their final six games to break the record of the 1996 Chicago Bulls. 

The win improves the Celtics to 44-32 on the season and pull to within a half-game of the Hawks (45-32), who lost in overtime to the Cavaliers Friday night. 

The Warriors came out gunslinging. Their first three field goals were 3-pointers, racing out to leads of 6-0 and 9-4. But that gunslinging mentality also led to six turnovers in the first six minutes, five of which were committed by Steph Curry. 

Thanks to great defense from Avery Bradley, Isaiah Thomas and Marcus Smart, the Celtics were able to hold the combination of Curry and Klay Thompson scoreless until Curry’s 3 with 4.3 seconds left in the first quarter, a trey that gave the Warriors a 23-21 lead after the opening 12 minutes. The Warriors finished the first quarter with eight turnovers. 

The Celtics were killing themselves at the free throw line, missing six of their first 11 attempts. The Warriors took a 35-28 lead but the Celtics scored the next eight points to take a one-point lead, capped by an Evan Turner three with 3:01 left in the first half. Curry’s second three ended the Celtics’ run. The Warriors continued their remarkably sloppy play with the ball in the second quarter, committing five more turnovers and 13 for the first half. Avery Bradley’s three with 2.3 seconds left in the first half gave Boston a 45-43 lead heading to the locker room. 

Curry had just two field goals (both threes) and six points in the first half, while committing seven turnovers. 

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Read More: Boston Celtics, Evan Turner, Golden State Warriors, Isaiah Turner
Jae Crowder (rest) to sit out against Warriors 04.01.16 at 8:07 pm ET
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Jae Crowder

Jae Crowder

As expected, Jae Crowder will not play tonight in Oakland as the Celtics try to stun the Warriors. 

The forward returned Thursday in Portland from an eight-game absence due to a high ankle sprain. In his first game back, he collected a double-double with 13 points and 10 rebounds. He will sit out against the 68-7 Warriors to rest his ankle and let the healing continue. 

Crowder had indicated Thursday morning in Portland that he likely would not be able to play in back-to-back games and that his preference would be to play the lower-tempo Blazers rather than the high-octane Warriors. 

In the first meeting with the Warriors on Dec. 11 at TD Garden, Crowder had 15 points and five rebounds in a team high 47 minutes, 47 seconds of action. The Celtics lost that game, 124-119, in double-overtime.

Read More: Boston Celtics, Golden State Warriors, Jae Crowder,
Avery Bradley, Celtics look forward to challenge of 68-7 Warriors: ‘That’s what I play basketball for’ at 2:08 am ET
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Warriors guard Stephen Curry shoots over Celtics guard Avery Bradley during the first half at TD Garden. (Winslow Townson/USA Today Sports)

Warriors guard Stephen Curry shoots over Celtics guard Avery Bradley during the first half of their game at TD Garden in December. (Winslow Townson/USA Today Sports)

Even though they suffered an emotionally draining loss in Portland, the Celtics say they’re ready for the biggest challenge of the season Friday night in Oakland.

The 43-32 Celtics will be going up against the 68-7 Warriors, who are in the midst of an NBA-record 54-game home winning streak, including a perfect 36-0 this season.

“It’s fun. That’s what I play basketball for every single night — to go up against the best players,” Avery Bradley said after Thursday’s 116-109 loss in Portland.

The last time the Celtics and Warriors met, Golden State was on another amazing streak. Heading into their Dec. 11 meeting at TD Garden, the Warriors had won 23 straight to open the season. They extended the streak to 24 but barely, outlasting the Celtics, 124-119, in double overtime. Steph Curry scored 38 points while Draymond Green added 24 as the Warriors improved to 24-0.

That streak ended the next night in Milwaukee but the Celtics made their case that they were legit this season. 

Now, Isaiah Thomas takes one look at the Eastern Conference standings and sees more urgency. Thursday’s loss dropped Boston to sixth place, a game behind the Heat and the Hornets in the loss column.

“We’ve got to win,” Thomas said.

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Read More: Avery Bradley, Boston Celtics, Golden State Warriors, Isaiah Thomas
Brad Stevens on Stephen Curry’s amazing 3-point skills: ‘It’s why the game is great’ 02.29.16 at 7:30 pm ET
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Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry (30) reacts after hitting the game winning shot against the Oklahoma City Thunder in overtime Saturday night.  (Mark D. Smith/USA Today Sports)

Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry (30) reacts after hitting the game winning shot against the Oklahoma City Thunder in overtime Saturday night. (Mark D. Smith/USA Today Sports)

When he wasn’t jumping off trampolines and dunking or rebounding shots for his 10-year-old son Brady this weekend, Brad Stevens was joining his son and his friends in watching the amazing feats of Stephen Curry Saturday night.

In a performance for the ages, the amazing shooting guard for the Golden State Warriors made 12-of-15 from 3-point range Saturday night in an overtime win at Oklahoma City. The coup de grace was Curry’s pull-up 32-foot three that was the winning dagger in the 121-118 Warriors’ victory.

“My son had two friends sleeping over and we were all watching the game,” Stevens said. “It was great. It was great as a fan to watch and see. I’ve gotten a chance to grow up and see some of the greats play and see some of the greats make plays. It was fun to watch a group of 10-year-olds react to all those shots and react to all those things going in. It’s why the game is great.”

Stevens has always been a fan at heart of the game. When he played at Zionsville High in Indiana, he wore No. 31 in tribute of his favorite player, another 3-point wizard by the name of Reggie Miller.

Curry’s game-winner Saturday reminded everyone watching that his range is literally anywhere across the timeline, something that is rare. Has Stevens ever coached against something like that?

“Twice a year, twice a year since I’ve been here,” Stevens said of Curry, who he will see again in Oakland on April 1. “Very, very few guys. I think the amount of difficulty he hits shots with is incredible.”

While Curry is by far the leading MVP candidate in the league this season, there are others that are having remarkable statistical seasons, including Anthony Davis and Russell Westbrook, both of whom enter Monday’s action averaging double-doubles so far. Westbrook is averaging 24.4 points and 10.2 assists while Davis is at 24.1 points and 10.2 rebounds.

“It’s interesting. There are a few guys, though, that are having incredible years and doing incredible things and not talked about quite as much,” Stevens said. “I think the whole idea of range and extending range and widening the court for everybody else with your range, it’s in vogue and he’s taken it to a new level.”

Read More: Boston Celtics, Brad Stevens, Golden State Warriors, NBA
Report: Celtics trying to trade David Lee – and his contract – before trade deadline 02.15.16 at 1:48 pm ET
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The Celtics are reportedly trying to move David Lee (42) before the trade deadline. (Justin Ford/USA TODAY Sports)

The Celtics are reportedly trying to move David Lee (42) before the trade deadline. (Justin Ford/USA TODAY Sports)

While Celtics players continue to get their rest over the All-Star break, their general manager enters his busiest week of the season. President of basketball operations Danny Ainge is not just listening to offers for his three first-round picks this June while building his roster for a deep playoff run, he’s trying to move players.

The biggest challenge this week for Ainge might be what to do with center David Lee. His skills might still be valuable to a team that needs depth in the middle.

And while that would certainly seem to be a perfect fit for the team he’s currently on, the Celtics, like every team that has had him, would like to be free of the contract.

Specifically, Lee’s cap hit is $15,493,680, is easily the highest on the Celtics and the sixth-highest such figure among power forwards in the NBA, behind the likes of Chris Bosh ($22.1 million), LeMarcus Aldridge ($19.6 million), Kevin Love ($19.6 million), Blake Griffin ($18.9 million) and Paul Millsap ($18.6 million).

Lee has started just four of 30 games this season, averaging just 7.1 points and 4.3 rebounds while shooting a career-low 45.3 percent from the field. He hasn’t played since Jan. 10 at Memphis and has been a DNP for the last 18 games. 

Now 32, Lee is in the final year of a six-year, $79.5 million deal he signed with the Knicks in 2010, using the Bird exception. The Boston Herald reports that Ainge is unlikely to move Lee before Thursday’s NBA trade deadline.

David Lee was tough for Golden State to move all of last year,” the Herald reported, citing a league source. “And it finally came down to him being moved for Gerald Wallace. David Lee has no value. It’€™s his contract. David Lee‘€™s value comes in if they get one of these big name players.”

The Celtics acquired Lee and his expiring contract last summer from the world champion Golden State Warriors, sending Gerald Wallace and Chris Babb to Golden State. If Ainge can’t move Lee, the forward could accept a buyout from the Celtics by Mar. 1, allowing him to sign with another team in time for the playoffs.

Read More: 2016 NBA trade deadline, Boston Celtics, David Lee, Golden State Warriors
5 things we learned as Celtics nearly stun Warriors 03.01.15 at 8:24 pm ET
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The Celtics are holding their own against the NBA’s elite.

Less than three weeks after beating the Eastern Conference-leading Hawks, the Celtics gave the West-leading Warriors all they could handle, establishing a 26-point first-half lead in front of a raucous home crowd before Golden State chipped away and crumbled their hosts, 106-101.

Once again, Isaiah Thomas ignited the C’s scoring effort with 20 points — missing a 3-pointer that would have tied the game in the final seconds — to go along with five assists in 29 minutes off the bench. Tyler Zeller’s 17 points led all five Celtics starters in double figures, followed by Brandon Bass (15 points, 12 rebounds), Avery Bradley (12 points), Marcus Smart (10 points) and Evan Turner (10 points). Jae Crowder added 17 rebounds and nine points off the bench.

Still, it wasn’t enough to overcome a Warriors team that owns the league’s best record (46-11) and features MVP favorite Stephen Curry, who netted 37 points to lead all scorers. Meanwhile, the Celtics drop to 23-34 and remain on the outside looking in on the East’s eighth and final playoff seed.

For a complete box score, click here.

THE RUN THAT WAS ALWAYS GOING TO COME

Since taking a 5-4 lead 1:55 into the game, the Celtics held the Warriors at bay longer than anyone expected, but it was only a matter of time since the league’s top-scoring team got back in the game. Over the course of 12 minutes from the end of the third quarter to late in the fourth — as Shaun Livingston gave them a spark off the bench, Green heated up and Curry remained on fire — Golden State outscored the Celtics 32-15 to grab their first lead since the opening minutes.

DEFENDING THEIR LIVES

If the Celtics have any hope of making the playoffs, it’ll be their improvement on the defensive end that will make the difference between a first-round series and a lottery pick. Six games after holding the Hawks to 42.3 percent shooting, the C’s held the Warriors to 42.1 percent — not an easy task two of the game’s most prolific shooters. Curry and Klay Thompson (20 points) were always going to get their points, but the C’s built their lead by holding Golden State’s frontcourt — Draymond Green, Harrison Barnes, Andrew Bogut, David Lee and Andre Iguodala — to combined 4-of-20 shooting in the opening 24 minutes. That’s especially impressive considering the Celtics are sans Jared Sullinger and Kelly Olynyk.

ISAIAH THOMAS IS AN ELITE SCORER

Quite simply, Thomas has been a dominant offensive force during his Celtics tenure, anchoring a unit that scored 117.9 points per 100 possessions during his first four games in Boston. Even more impressive, he owns a usage rate of 35.4 percent, meaning more than a third of the C’s possessions are running through Thomas when he’s on the floor. His 58.2 true shooting percentage during that four-game stretch would rank among the NBA’s best guard over a full season. Sunday night was no different, as his 15 points before the break led a 65-point first-half for the Celtics. He cooled off in the second half, finishing just 8-of-21 from the field and missing eight of his 11 3-point attempts, but his presence remains a revelation.

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Read More: Boston Celtics, Golden State Warriors, Isaiah Thomas, Stephen Curry
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