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How Brad Stevens is making life very hard on Dave Blatt and his Cavaliers 04.24.15 at 9:16 am ET
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Give the Celtics this much: They’re making the first-round series hard for the heavily-favored Cavaliers.

After Thursday’s 103-95 win over the Celtics in Game 3, putting Cleveland up 3 games to none, Cavs coach Dave Blatt acknowledged the battle he’s getting from Brad Stevens, and the leadership he needs from LeBron James.

“I all fairness, we do have players that have been in this situation, that have played these kind of games,” Blatt said. “LeBron’€™s leadership obviously a huge factor, because he’€™s the guy that not only guys follow but they feel him, they sense him and his control in these games has been outstanding both in terms of seizing the moment, but also talking guys through situations.

“Coach [Stevens] is right. I think we have showed maturity and poise in how we are playing. This was not an easy game and honestly none of the three games have been easy. Coach Stevens is doing a terrific job with his team and they are competing and playing us tough as it should be in the playoffs.

“Obviously, the job’s not done. We have to win another game. One of the reasons we’ve won these games is that we have respected our opponent, not look past even the game in front of us. Understanding that if we do, we could put ourselves in trouble. We’re going to respect our opponent and come out and compete and play the best game we can possibly play on Sunday.”

What’s been the difference so far for Blatt’s Cavaliers?

“I think our maturity and the fact obviously that we have finishers on our team, guys that know how to finish games,” Blatt said. “Both teams are playing really hard. Both teams are competing. Both teams are very capable. I just think as team we have more maturity but that doesn’t guarantee anything. We’ve got to come out and win another game before I summarize the differences. We’re still in the fight. Boston’s not going away. They haven’t up to this point and they won’t. We’ve got our work cut out for us.”

It was James who accompanied JR Smith to the Garden at 9 a.m. Thursday to get a jump start on the shootaround, trying to find the winning edge. Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Boston Celtics, Brad Stevens, Cleveland Cavaliers, Dave Blatt
Brad Stevens thinks Celtics ‘didn’t play with any poise’ and Evan Turner thinks that’s ‘a little strong’ at 1:51 am ET
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Brad Stevens expected more from his Celtics than another eight-point loss in Game 3 against the Cavaliers.

But his team, most of which is experiencing the playoffs for the first time, was not up to the task at big moments Thursday night.

As a result, the Celtics fell in an 0-3 hole with a 103-95 loss to LeBron James and the Cavaliers. The Celtics committed 15 turnovers. They also had key meltdowns at the end of each half that proved deadly. They allowed the Cavaliers to close the first half with a 12-0 run to take a 56-48 lead. And they allowed the Cavaliers off the hook when they drew to within three on an Evan Turner three with 2:45 left. The Cavs closed the game with a 10-3 run.

“The bottom line tonight was we didn’€™t play with any poise,” Stevens said. “I don’€™t know if it was the terrific environment in there, if we were just ‘€“ I don’€™t know if it was down 0-2, I don’€™t know what they deal was, but I thought they really played with poise and in control; we did not. And I thought that was the biggest difference in the game. Our effort was great, we played really hard, but we’€™ve got to play better. We’€™ve got to play better. And we’€™ve said it over and over. It’€™s an eight-point game at the end of the day, and there’€™s so many possessions that we threw away.”

But Turner, whom Stevens praised, for playing a great game, disagreed with Stevens’ assessment.

“He said our poise wasn’t good. I think that’s a little strong because we were on the bench encouraging each other. I think we bounced back, I don’€™t know in regards to poise but I think we were resilient. We had a lot of comebacks and we had a lot of runs and we had a lot of tough runs that led to success for them but you know, to be down three with a minute or two minutes left, it’€™s somewhat great, but obviously, I don’€™t think we did a great job to fully help us get over the hump.

“€œIt’€™s definitely frustrating. It’€™s definitely tough, especially being out there, we’€™re battling back and every time we’€™re coming close they get a big offensive rebound for a big three. Obviously that’€™s one of the reasons why it was tough today but to really harp on those key moments, we’€™ve done a lot more stuff in order to be behind and obviously that’€™s just the straw that breaks the camel’€™s back. Tristan Thompson’€™s really talented at what he does, he’€™s been doing it all season, but I think we have a lot of other things we need to do as well, but that’€™s definitely something that sends us overboard I would say.” Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Boston Celtics, Brad Stevens, Cleveland Cavaliers, Evan Turner
Irish Coffee: Should Jae Crowder start against LeBron James? 04.20.15 at 12:36 pm ET
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Jae Crowder

Jae Crowder

Game 1 went pretty much according to script for the Cleveland Cavaliers, whose big three combined for 69 points, 13 assists and five offensive rebounds in a 113-100 victory. And while the Celtics did a decent job of containing LeBron James, they enjoyed much greater success with Jae Crowder defending the four-time NBA MVP than starting wing Evan Turner.

So, should Celtics coach Brad Stevens consider starting Crowder over Turner in Game 2? Based on the evidence from their first showing in Cleveland, Stevens must at least play Crowder with greater regularity opposite James in the superstar’s 40-plus minutes.

LeBron played a total of 42 minutes in Cleveland’s Game 1 victory, and Crowder only shared the court with him for roughly half of that time period (20.2). Now, consider this number: The Celtics were 38.7 points per 100 possessions better with Crowder opposite LeBron than with their hard-nosed forward on the bench, according to NBA.com/stats.

In 20.2 minutes with Crowder on the floor, LeBron was a minus-7 against the C’s, finishing 3-for-8 from the field (0-for-4 from mid-range) to go along with four assists and four turnovers. In 21.8 minutes with Crowder on the bench, James was a plus-10, going 5-for-10 (5-for-5 in the paint) with three assists and one turnover. Granted, that’s a limited sample size, but the eye test bears out a similar discrepancy.

Let’s first examine each of LeBron’s eight shot attempts with Crowder on the floor.

Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Boston Celtics, Jae Crowder, LeBron James, NBA
5 things we learned as Jae Crowder, Celtics bury Raptors late 04.14.15 at 10:18 pm ET
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Don’t tell the Celtics a game is meaningless; they won’t listen.

When his idle team clinched a playoff spot with a Brooklyn Nets loss on Monday, Celtics coach Brad Stevens texted his players asking them to keep their collective feet on the proverbial gas pedal, and they responded with a hard-fought, 95-93 win over the division champion Toronto Raptors — capped by Jae Crowder’s improbable fadeaway jumper in the final 2.5 seconds.

Evan Turner led the Celtics with 14 points, nine assists, and seven rebounds, while Avery Bradley (14 points), Brandon Bass (13), Tyler Zeller (12), and Isaiah Thomas (11) all scored in double figures. Kyle Lowry and Lou Williams each scored 16 points for the Raptors.

For a complete box score, click here.

With a fifth straight win, the Celtics improved to 39-42 and clinched the seventh seed in the Eastern Conference. They will play their final regular season game on Wednesday in Milwaukee before starting their first-round playoff series against the Cleveland Cavaliers either Saturday or Sunday in Cleveland.

AVERY BRADLEY HURT AFTER 14-POINT SECOND QUARTER

Bradley missed his first four shots of the game and did not score a point in the first quarter. Then, with eight minutes left in the half, something clicked for the veteran guard, as he hit five of his next seven shots. Bradley ended up scoring 14 points in the quarter and was the primary reason the Celtics were only down seven entering the locker room. As a team, the Celtics only shot 38 percent from the field in the first half, including a dreadful 23 percent from beyond the arc. But Bradley left the game early in the third quarter with a left quad contusion and did not return. Stevens said afterwards he will rest Bradley on Wednesday in anticipation of his starting two-guard being healthy for the playoffs.

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Read More: 2015 NBA playoffs, Boston Celtics, Jae Crowder,
Jae Crowder apologizes for Celtics’ ‘lackadaisical’ effort 03.26.15 at 12:12 am ET
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Things were so ugly in the Celtics‘ 93-86 loss to the Heat on Wednesday, Jae Crowder publicly apologized to Boston fans for the effort put forth by himself and his teammates.

Of course, Jae Crowder led all C’s with 16 points, barreled his way to 11 free throw attempts and grabbed seven rebounds in what seemed like a typically hardnosed 27 minutes from the forward. Along with Phil Pressey, Marcus Smart, Jonas Jerebko and Gigi Datome, Crowder was part of the last-ditch lineup Celtics coach Brad Stevens discovered in the fourth quarter. That group slashed a 22-point deficit down to six before running out of time, but Crowder wasn’t satisfied.

“We don’€™t show up for three quarters. I don’€™t understand it,” he said as the C’s fell to 31-40 — still in eighth place, but just a half-game out of 11th. “You can’€™t come out lackadaisical”

“That’€™s something we have to fix as a team, as a group,” added Smart, who scored four of his six points and swiped three of his four steals in a remarkable fourth-quarter defensive effort that came too late. “If we don’€™t fix that and figure that out quick, we’€™re gonna have some problems.”

Read More: Boston Celtics, Jae Crowder, NBA,
5 things we learned as Celtics’ rally falls short in ugly loss to Heat 03.25.15 at 10:28 pm ET
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Jae Crowder

Jae Crowder

No Dwyane Wade, no Hassan Whiteside and no Chris Andersen should have been no problem for the Celtics, but the hometown team with newfound playoff aspirations submitted one of its worst performances of the season Wednesday night.

The Heat dominated the first three quarters en route to a 93-86 victory that would have looked a lot worse if not for a furious fourth quarter comeback by Boston. Wade, Whiteside and Andersen all were inactive due to injuries, but their absences had little impact on the outcome, as Goran Dragic’s 22 points led five Miami scorers in double figures.

The Celtics cut the deficit to six points in the final two minutes, but ultimately fell short of an improbable comeback. Jae Crowder (16 points, 7 rebounds) led the C’s in scoring. Avery Bradley (12 points), Phil Pressey (11 points, 6 assists, 5 rebounds) and Tyler Zeller (10 points, 8 rebounds) also reached double figures.

A win would have pulled the Celtics (31-40) into a seventh-place tie with the Heat (33-38), but instead they remain as the eighth seed — holding the tiebreaker against the Pacers (31-40) and leading the Nets (30-40) and Hornets (30-40) by a half-game each. For a complete box score, click here.

ISAIAH THOMAS RETURNS

Thomas missed eight games with a bruised back after taking a hard fall the last time the Celtics played the Heat. He was still wincing in the locker room before the game, but felt “œgood enough”€ to return to game action. His performance failed to reflect his confidence, as he struggled through his 20 minutes and finished 2-for-7 from the field. Late in the second quarter he took a charge and landed directly on his injured tailbone. He got up groaning and looked to be in serious pain. He returned in the second half but was no more effective. Thomas finished with four points, zero assists and three turnovers.

CELTICS DIG DEEP HOLE

The Celtics played a terrible first half, especially on the defensive end. The Heat capitalized on a wide array of open looks, shooting an outrageously high 60 percent from the field. In addition to a number of easy layups, Miami punished the Celtics from beyond the arc, converting 7-of-12 3-pointers. To compound their problems, the Celtics also turned the ball over 13 times and entered the locker room trailing 57-40.

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Read More: Avery Bradley, Boston Celtics, Jae Crowder, Miami Heat
Playoffs are real possibility for red-hot Celtics 02.28.15 at 5:55 pm ET
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Don’t look now, but the Celtics are making a playoff push — and a strong one at that, having won seven of their last 10 games.

At the beginning of the season, if you had to pick the three best players on the Celtics, your answer probably would have been Rajon Rondo, Jeff Green and Jared Sullinger. As we now know, Rondo and Green were sent packing, and Sullinger is out for the season with a stress fracture in his foot.

Enter the likes of Isaiah Thomas, Jae Crowder and Jonas Jerebko — players who were on three separate rosters at the start of the season (none of which were the Celtics). Those players have been dominating games off the bench in Boston’s last two wins. We know the NBA has been trending toward “small ball” lineups, but this unit often takes things to a whole new level.

Thomas is undersized for his matchup every night at just 5-foot-9, but he plays far above his height in the sense that he is constantly comfortable battling in the paint. Crowder (typically a small forward) and Jerebko (a power forward) moved up to power forward and center, respectively, in the new “small ball” lineup. The other two positions are often filled by 6-foot-2 Avery Bradley and 6-foot-4 Marcus Smart. Like I said, a whole new level.

“Well, with a two-game sample size I would say it’s been good, but I don’t know that we can determine if it’s good long-term or not,” Brad Stevens said of his new lineup that he seemingly stumbled upon. “I think that the biggest thing for me has always been if you can find somebody with enough speed and skill that can guard above their size. Then you can create some havoc on the other side of the court, and that’s what Jae has done. Jae’s ability to guard the post has given us some options as we’ve been smaller here, and Jonas too. But we had to double Al [Jefferson] still and we had to do some of that stuff, but Jae did a great job on Al Jefferson. He did as good as anybody can.”

So what’s been the difference in the C’s recent success?

Isaiah Thomas,” Bradley said without hesitation when asked what sparked the change in the team. “Not only him, Jae Crowder, I can go down the list. Everyone’s just buying in to what Brad’s trying to do, and that’s team basketball.”

“That’s pretty nice,” Thomas replied to Bradley’s compliment. “It’s not me, though, it’s just this team. We’re playing hard, coach is putting us in a position to be successful and that’s the big key. We’re believing in each other.”

Come April, team basketball could be something that carries the C’s to the playoffs — something Bradley admitted has been a goal he’s thought about since the beginning of the season. Thomas concurred, admitting that Friday’s atmosphere felt much like a playoff game to him. Turns out Thomas might not have to wait as long as we thought to get his first taste of the postseason for real.

Follow Julian Edlow on Twitter @julianedlow.

Read More: Avery Bradley, Boston Celtics, Brad Stevens, Isaiah Thomas
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