|To keep or not to keep: What to do with Celtics||04.29.15 at 11:14 pm ET|
Celtics coach Brad Stevens and team president Danny Ainge aren’t going anywhere. That much we know. Everyone else on the roster is up for debate. Certainly, nobody is untradeable, so let’s attempt to project how these C’s players fit into Ainge’s puzzle this coming summer with a game of ‘to keep or not to keep.’
BRANDON BASS (unrestricted free agent)
Through all the upheaval, Bass was the rock of the 2014-15 Boston Celtics. Built like a Chevy truck, the 6-foot-8, 240-pound big man appeared in all 82 games for the second straight season. (He’s missed just eight games since arriving in Boston four years ago.) Splitting his time between starting and reserve roles, Bass produced the best per-minute numbers of his career this past summer while averaging the fewest minutes of his Celtics tenure (23.5). He remains one of the league’s elite midrange shooters and double-handed dunked his way to a decent percentage around the rim, but concerns about him linger.
He’s neither an exceptional rebounder nor rim protector defensively — an issue that killed the Celtics against the Cavaliers — and does not fit Stevens’ floor-stretching mold offensively. There wasn’t much of a trade market for an undersized power forward who brings few of the skills required for such players in today’s NBA at $6.9 million, and his disappearance in the playoffs may have sealed his fate at any rate.
Verdict: Not to keep.
AVERY BRADLEY (signed through 2017-18 for $8.3 million per season)
Playing the most minutes of his career, Bradley took a slight step back from a stellar offensive season in 2013-14, when he shot 40 percent from 3-point range. Still one of the league’s best marksmen from midrange, his 3-point percentage dipped to 35 percent this year. Not a playmaker by any stretch, Bradley was asked to shoulder a less-than-ideal offensive load in the absence of capable scorers, and his efficiency would benefit from improved offensive talent easing the defensive pressure around him.
As for his own defense, Bradley returned to bulldog form, hounding Cleveland’s Kyrie Irving throughout the first round. Irving averaged 25.1 points per 100 possessions on 38 percent shooting opposite Bradley in the series and 41.2 points per 100 possessions on 58 percent shooting with him on the bench. That brand of on-ball defense, particularly when paired with Marcus Smart’s similar skill set, is invaluable.
|Jae Crowder knocked out of game with sprained left knee after J.R. Smith fist to jaw||04.26.15 at 2:51 pm ET|
A brutally physical game for Jae Crowder ended just 96 seconds into the second half Sunday in Game 4 against the Cavaliers.
J.R. Smith swung his elbow underneath the Celtics basket, and his fist connected with Jae Crowder, knocking out Crowder temporarily. But the bigger damage came as he fell to the floor. Crowder’s lower left leg bent underneath him as he fell, suffering a game-ending sprain.
Crowder was on the floor for several minutes before being helped up and assisted to the Celtics locker room, where the team ruled him out for the rest of the game.
Unlike Kendrick Perkins, who drilled Crowder with a forearm to the jaw in the second quarter on a screen, Smith was ejected with a “Flagrant 2″ foul.
|How Brad Stevens is making life very hard on Dave Blatt and his Cavaliers||04.24.15 at 9:16 am ET|
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 »
|Brad Stevens thinks Celtics ‘didn’t play with any poise’ and Evan Turner thinks that’s ‘a little strong’||at 1:51 am ET|
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.
“It’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 »
|Irish Coffee: Should Jae Crowder start against LeBron James?||04.20.15 at 12:36 pm ET|
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.
|5 things we learned as Jae Crowder, Celtics bury Raptors late||04.14.15 at 10:18 pm ET|
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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