|Marcus Smart on his ill-fated 3-pointer: ‘I didn’t want to end the game without a shot’||02.24.16 at 6:48 pm ET|
WALTHAM — Marcus Smart wasn’t going to apologize Wednesday for his last-second miss Monday night in Minnesota.
With 5.3 seconds left in regulation, the Celtics were down just 124-122 and had clawed all the way back to within two points, after trailing by 14 just three minutes earlier.
Smart, who was wide open in the backcourt, took an inbounds pass just before mid-court and dribbled up the right side. He was by himself until the timeline when Ricky Rubio cheated over and defended him. What Smart didn’t see because of Rubio was Isaiah Thomas all alone on the left wing.
Instead of passing to the better shooter, Smart took a 30-foot 3-pointer that fell short off the front rim and the Celtics lost. Should he have taken it closer to the basket? Should he have dished to the open Thomas? On Wednesday, following practice, Smart gave his explanation.
“When I caught it, I caught it so deep, with the amount of time I had, I was getting it up the court and I was looking for somebody. But Rubio played in the middle. I really didn’t see [anybody] open. He really didn’t commit to me until the last [moment] as I was going up for the shot. And by that time, there wasn’t enough time to make another pass, in my eyes that I felt, to another teammate.”
It was perhaps a lucky stroke for Minnesota that Boston inbounded to Smart instead of finding Thomas to drive the length of the court.
“I at least wanted to get a shot up. I didn’t want end the game without a shot. So, I thought I took the best shot that was available,” Smart added.
Thomas, at 34.8 percent, is a better choice for a long-range shot than Smart, who is converting 28 percent of his chances from long distance this season. But as Smart himself explained Wednesday, sometimes time is not on your side.
WALTHAM — The Celtics returned from their three-game Western swing banged up, but Brad Stevens is holding out hope that both Isaiah Thomas and Marcus Smart will be ready to go when they take the court Thursday night against the Bucks.
Thomas was icing his left wrist during practice Wednesday and did not participate, while Smart had his right hand wrapped, protecting the thumb that was dinged up during the trip.
“It was sore enough that we sat out today but we expect him to play tomorrow,” Stevens said of Thomas after Wednesday’s rather intense 90-minute practice.
“We would not play him if it were a long-term concern. No way.”
Thomas fell on the wrist following a layup early in the game Sunday night in Denver and began shaking his left hand. Immediately thereafter, he drilled a 3-pointer from the right wing.
“I fell on my wrist a few times so it kind of flared up on me. Just trying to rest it and get some treatment,” Thomas said. “They wanted me to sit out and rest it. It got swollen on me the other night. Just being cautious of it because I’ve had two procedures on it. Just trying to get the swelling out.”
Thomas said he has no further tests planned on the wrist.
Another member of the wounded included Amir Johnson, who practiced Wednesday despite getting several stitches in the middle of his forehead from a collision Monday night in Minnesota. Funny thing is, Johnson doesn’t even remember when it happened.
“I have no idea when it happened or how,” Johnson recalled after practice. “I just remember blood dripping down from the cut.”
|Jared Sullinger: ‘We played our butts off. We were five guys connected’||02.21.16 at 8:27 pm ET|
One of those who did exactly that in a 121-101 win over Denver Sunday night at the Pepsi Center was Jared Sullinger. The power forward came through with 16 points and 11 rebounds and was rolling off screens and hitting threes in the first half as the Celtics built a 26-point lead.
“I’m just blessed to have the ball bounce off the right way, I guess,” Sullinger told reporters afterward. What impressed Sullinger Sunday was how Thomas handled the early attention from Denver.
“I think he understands how his [points] will come when me, Amir [Johnson], Avery [Bradley], Jae [Crowder], when we make [adjustments], his is going to come because they’re going to have to adjust. He’s doing a great job of understanding when to go and when not to go. We just feed off of that.
“Just the way they were guarding and that’s just what the system spit out at the time. Our system is awesome because it just determines who’s going to score that night.”
And that system eventually gave Thomas his chances, finishing with 22 points and 12 assists. Overall, Sullinger said what meant the most to the Celtics was playing with a sense of urgency that wasn’t there in a loss in Utah Friday night.
“For sure. We played our butts off,” Sullinger said. “We were five guys connected. We got the rust off. We got the rust off and we’re looking to move forward.”
“Everybody needs a wake-up call. Even the best teams sometimes have wake-up calls. We understood what we have done the last couple of games and we stepped it up on defense.”
There were rocky moments in the Mile High city but, in the end, the Celtics got the win they desperately needed out West.
Facing a young and rebuilding Nuggets team, Isaiah Thomas (22 points, 12 assists) and Jared Sullinger (16 points, 11 rebounds) each posted double-doubles leading the Celtics to a 121-101 win at Pepsi Arena in Denver. Avery Bradley added 20 points for the Celtics, who finish up their three-game Western road swing with a game Monday night in Minneapolis against the Timberwolves.
The Celtics (33-24) took complete command of the game with a 26-5 spurt in the first quarter, as all seven starters scored. The Celtics‘ bench, which scored just 28 points Friday night in the loss in Utah, matched that total in the first half, led by Evan Turner‘s 13. Turner nearly finished with a double-double, scoring 17 points and grabbing nine rebounds.
With the Celtics’ lead up to a game-high 26, 51-25, Denver went on a 10-0 run. That was the beginning of Denver’s deliberate crawl back into the game. Twice the Celtics answered runs with key 3-pointers, once by Turner and another by Marcus Smart.
The Nuggets (22-34) got the lead down to five, 67-62, and had a chance to trim it even more but Isaiah Thomas blocked a shot and then two possessions later converted a three-point play to build the lead up 10, 72-62. Thomas again took over with four minutes left in the third. He hit a reverse lay up and then converted a pull-up runner with 3:31, putting the Celtics up, 83-69.
The Nuggets appeared ready to make another run late in the third. But two missed threes were followed up by a Jae Crowder three-point play to make it 91-75. Will “The Thrill” Barton nailed a three with 0.4 seconds left to make it 91-78 Boston heading into the fourth.
The hustle was there all night for the Celtics, embodied by the trio of Marcus Smart, Evan Turner and Avery Bradley. Smart dove for a loose ball in the Denver offensive end. He tipped it ahead to Turner. Turner raced it down from half-court, saving the ball from rolling out of bounds. He flipped ball back with his right hand to a waiting Avery Bradley and he went running 10 rows deep into the stands. Bradley’s uncontested basket with 10 minutes left put the Celtics up, 97-82.
The Nuggets never got closer than 10 in the final seven minutes. The Celtics used a 16-6 run to build the lead back to 20, 117-97, before emptying the bench.
For a complete box score, click here. To go beyond the box, read on.
STUD OF THE NIGHT: Evan Turner. He single-handedly energized the bench and the team, as indicated above. He finished with 17 points and five assists, featuring a brilliant individual play around Nikola Jokic in the second quarter. Runner-up: Isaiah Thomas. It’s getting repetitive but the lefty scoring guard is carrying the Celtics right now. And he was the answer in big moments when the Celtics seemed in danger of blowing a 26-point first half lead.
DUD OF THE NIGHT: Kenneth Faried. Zero points in 13 minutes for the Nuggets starting power forward.
|Studs and Duds: Isaiah Thomas, Celtics defense shine in win over Pistons||02.03.16 at 10:25 pm ET|
Like Will Ferrell in “Old School,” the Celtics are officially streaking. The C’s won for the seventh time in eight games on Wednesday night, leading from wire-to-wire in a 102-95 victory over the Pistons.
Isaiah Thomas (17 points) led five Celtics in double figures as the Celtics opened a 24-point lead before holding on down the stretch. Guard Marcus Smart sealed it with a corner 3-pointer in the final 90 seconds with the lead down to seven.
The Celtics won with interior defense and efficient offense. They did a stellar job of defending the pick and roll between Pistons All-Star Andre Drummond and Boston College alumnus Reggie Jackson. And they picked the Pistons apart inside, scoring on drives and backdoor cuts, finishing with 54 points in the paint and 18 points on fast breaks.
With the win, the Celtics have won six straight at home and remain tied with the Hawks for third place in the Eastern Conference.
|Studs and Duds: Tyler Zeller, Evan Turner led Celtics past Knicks||02.02.16 at 10:16 pm ET|
Shooting is overrated.
On a night when the Celtics couldn’t make a 3-pointer to save their lives — missing their first 13 — it didn’t matter in a 97-89 victory over the Knicks on Tuesday at Madison Square Garden.
With the win, the Celtics (28-22) pulled a half-game ahead of the Heat and are tied with the Hawks for the third-best record in the Eastern Conference.
In a sloppy and physical first half, the Celtics kept the game close, despite only shooting 38 percent from the field and missing all 13 of their 3-point attempts.
With their outside shots not falling, the Celtics pulled ahead in the third quarter by moving the ball and attacking the basket. After only managing six assists in the first half, the Celtics assisted on nine of their 11 third quarter field goals.
In the fourth, the Celtics bench, led by Turner, Zeller, and Kelly Olynyk, dominated the Knicks, abusing their terrible pick-and-roll defense. The trio combined for 25 of the team’s 27 points in the final frame.
They needed it, too, because they were abysmal from long range, making only 3 of 19 3-pointers (15.8 percent). They helped their cause by limiting the Knicks to 30 percent shooting from distance (6-for-20).
The C’s return home to play the Pistons to complete the back-to-back on Wednesday night.
|Studs and Duds: Celtics fall to Magic, snap 5-game win streak||01.31.16 at 8:55 pm ET|
The Celtics saw their five-game winning streak snapped in a 119-114 loss to the Magic on Sunday in Orlando.
The hosts prevailed on the strength of a 72-point second half, overcoming a 14-point deficit in the third quarter to lead by as many as 11 in the fourth.
The Celtics cut the deficit to 3 with 14 seconds left to play on a four-point play by Marcus Smart, but the comeback fell short.
Evan Fournier (24) and rookie Mario Herzonja (17) led the Magic, combining for 41 points off the bench. Four other Magic scored in double figures.
For a complete box score, click here.
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