|Celtics looking for ‘locked in and engaged’ effort to handle Dwight Howard, James Harden, Rockets||03.11.16 at 4:36 pm ET|
The Celtics have had their fair share of success this season handling big men with big efforts from the likes of Jared Sullinger and Jae Crowder.
Last week, in the span of 24 hours, Crowder was asked to handle Carmelo Anthony and LeBron James. The Celtics rallied to beat the Knicks on Friday and had James bottled up for the first half in Cleveland before James and the Cavaliers wore down the Celtics in the second half.
The Celtics didn’t have their best defensive effort against DeAndre Jordan and the Clippers but they found a way in overtime.
Against the Kevin Durant-less Thunder in November, they allowed Russell Westbrook 27 points but Serge Ibaka scored just 16 and the Celtics beat the Thunder, 100-85, in Oklahoma City. And against the very team they face tonight at the Garden, they held Dwight Howard to four shots, five points and 12 rebounds in 30 minutes. James Harden was just 4-of-10 in 30 minutes for a total of 16 points. The two combined to make just 6-of-14 shots as Boston prevailed in Houston, 111-95, on Nov. 16.
“Like I’ve been saying all year, all five guys on the court have to be so locked in and engaged on taking away what they like to do and just making it tough for them,” Crowder said. “We have a great game plan going into tomorrow night. We’ll throw a lot of different coverages at those guys on the pick-and-rolls and stuff like that. It takes all five guys. It’s just not one player against their scorers or one player against Dwight. It just takes all five guys to get him off the glass and do everything. I think once we have that, we have control of the game.”
Howard is still regarded as one of the best pick-and-roll players in the league.
“I don’t know if he’s the best,” Crowder added. “I know he’s a heckuva player. I know you’re aware that he’s down there. He’s a good presence and he’s a vocal part of their team. Try to take it away.”
The Rockets come in at 32-32 and in the eighth and final playoff spot in the West. The Rockets were not able to trade Howard at the trade deadline. Since holding onto Howard, the Rockets are 5-4, including two straight wins. Howard, to his credit, has responded. In those nine games, Howard is averaging 17.1 points and 12.4 rebounds, including 9-for-12 from the field in each of Houston’s last two games.
“Howard’s playing at a really good level,” Brad Stevens said. “I think he’s like 18 and 13 over his past seven games or so. Harden’s numbers are off the charts again for the year. And they’re more healthy than I remember them being when we played them last.
“Obviously, you’ve got [Patrick] Beverley back in the lineup. He’s a winning player. He makes a lot of great plays for them. And then [Donatas] Motiejunas is playing more now since he’s been back and starting. And obviously he had his career high last year here. So a lot of good talented players in addition to [Trevor] Ariza and [Corey] Brewer who are kind of their glue on the wings. Those guys are tough to play against. It’s a highly-talented team. I mean, they were in the Western semis for a reason last year and we’re going to have to play really well.”
“We always had the same goal,” Crowder added. “We came into the season with the same goals and this just gets a step closer to where we want to be, and that’s win a playoff series and build from last year. We got to the playoffs last year. We didn’t win any games so we want to win a series now and build from that and build from that. Right now, we’re headed in the right direction. We just have to keep winning, keep taking care of us each and every day, which is at practice. Come game time, we’ll be prepared and ready.”
|Brad Stevens on Cleveland: ‘They’re the cream of the crop in the East for sure’||03.05.16 at 2:44 am ET|
Brad Stevens is more than aware that his team will have its hands full Saturday night in Cleveland.
After Avery Bradley hit a game-winning 3-pointer at the buzzer on Feb. 5, the Celtics walked away with a 104-103 victory. It was one of the signs that this Celtics team might just be legit.
But this is a Cavaliers team that not only wants revenge but is trying to fend off No. 2 seed Toronto in the East, a Raptors team that’s just a 1.5 games back in the conference standings. The Celtics have a 5-game winning streak heading to Cleveland while the Cavaliers enter play with a 43-17 record.
“[Saturday is] a new game; it’s its own separate entity,” Stevens said. “What happens – what happened the last time we were there and what happened in the last five games doesn’t factor in to how we play once the ball is tipped. And so the deal is we have to start better than we did last time when we played them; we were down 15 at the end of the first quarter, and hopefully don’t put ourselves in that position again.
“Obviously you’d like to have the same result but it’s very difficult; they’re the cream of the crop in the East for sure.”
After the Celtics held on Friday for a 105-104 win over the Knicks, giving them a 38-25 record, the biggest question in the locker room was how far could this Celtics team go in the spring?
“I think if we keep working hard, I think we got a chance in every game,” Tyler Zeller said. “Whether we execute at the end of the game will determine how far we can go, but I think as hard as we play and how well we are playing together we can go as far as we can as long as we execute.”
Jae Crowder echoed the “sky is the limit” belief of Evan Turner, a belief Crowder said he’s had since preseason.
“I think sky’s the limit, I said that in preseason,” Crowder said. “We are just taking it game by game right now, we’re not looking too far ahead. We’re just working on trying to get better with the little amount of games we have left before we enter postseason.”
Can the Celtics, still six games back in the loss column with only 19 games left, still think about catching the Raptors?
“Of course I think so,” Crowder said. “It’s just a matter of us locking in and not overlooking any opponent and taking care of our business day by day.”
“Anything can happen, anything especially with this team,” Isaiah Thomas added. “We’re going to try to, we’re going to play every game like its our last and try to get the highest seed possible.”
How far does Thomas think this team can go?
“I don’t know, I don’t know. We just really focused on the right now and focused on continuing to get better and let the cards fall where they may,” Thomas said. “We’re not a great team so that’s going to happen, but we got to limit those spots where played like we did tonight; where we weren’t talking, we weren’t engaged on both ends of the floor and it almost cost us the game. Luckily, we got back into it and snuck in a win, but if we want to be the best team we possibly can we got to limit those.”
|Isaiah Thomas on seeing Malcolm Butler court-side Thursday night: ‘He couldn’t intercept that one’||02.26.16 at 3:03 pm ET|
WALTHAM — Cameras didn’t catch him looking over to Malcolm Butler for approval but Isaiah Thomas did know Butler and Dion Lewis were court-side watching as Thomas dished one of the more famous assists of the season in a 112-107 win over the Bucks Thursday night.
“Yeah, I definitely [saw] them. [Butler] couldn’t intercept that one,” Thomas laughed, referring to the pass with 50.6 seconds left that wound up in the hands of Jae Crowder. Crowder drilled a wide open three that put the Celtics up, 109-102 after the Bucks cut it to four.
“That’s what made it as good a pass as it was is that Jae hit a real clutch shot for us and got us the win,” Thomas said. “The the pass would’ve been good if he didn’t make it but it makes it that much better.
“Right before I picked the ball up, I was thinking of shooting a floater and I saw him. It was my bailout pass. I saw him in the corner. But then when I was guiding myself to jump, I couldn’t see him anymore. I was like, ‘That’s my only pass and hopefully, he’s still in that corner.’ And he was there and he got there at the right time to shoot the shot.
“The internet was broke last night Everybody has been hitting me about the pass. Guess it was a pretty nice pass.”
|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.
|Marcus Smart addresses on-court argument with Jae Crowder: ‘Me and Jae are good’||01.11.16 at 10:32 am ET|
In the Celtics‘ 101-98 loss against Memphis on Sunday, there was a play that drew the attention of most of the Celtics team.
With the Celtics down 93-92 and a 17-second difference between the shot clock and game clock, the plan appeared to be to play the possession out and get a stop, but Marcus Smart pressed up on Greg Chalmers fouled him, which seemed to upset many of his teammates, including Jae Crowder who ran at him stomping his feet.
Look how frustrated the Celtics were with Smart’s blunder: https://t.co/0uRBNeIvHd
‘ Jay King (@ByJayKing) January 11, 2016
After the game, Smart accepted responsibility for the bad play and said there’s no hard feelings between he and Crowder.
“He was just telling me we didn’t need to foul there,” Smart said to reporters. “It was heat of the moment, two players, competitors going at it, both mad at each other. I’m mad at myself. He’s mad at me because I made a play. But me and Jae are good. That’s supposed to happen. I made a bad play.”
The Celtics have now lost three straight and five of their last six.
|One year later, Brad Stevens has no regrets when comes to Rajon Rondo trade||12.18.15 at 9:03 pm ET|
Jae Crowder has left his mark on the Celtics and their coach.
Having been one of three players traded to the Celtics in the Dec. 18, 2014 deal with the Mavericks ‘ joining Brandan Wright and Jameer Nelson (neither of whom are still on the team) — Crowder had nothing to lose and everything to prove.
“I knew people had told me they thought he could be a pretty good player,” said Stevens before his team’s game against Atlanta at TD Garden Friday night. “I knew he was tough when he played at Marquette. And I knew nothing else. So, I’m really happy he was included in that trade.”
Crowder came in as a blank slate, but has defined himself as one of the Celtics’ most important players since arriving in the Rondo deal.
Coming into Friday night, the Celtics had gone 43-40 in games Crowder has appeared. In those games, Crowder is averaging 10.4 points per game, playing in 25 or more minutes 55 times. Only Avery Bradley and Evan Turner has seen more time on the court for the C’s over that span.
Stevens admits, “I didn’t know that he could do all that he could do.”
This year, Crowder has averaged 36 percent from beyond the 3-point line, while totaling 12.5 points and 1.96 steals per game (9th best in the NBA).
Meanwhile, Rondo’s teams — Dallas and Sacramento — have gone a combined 35-35 when the point guard has played, with his individual results (both on and off the court) getting mixed reviews.
It has all helped put the former Celtics star ever further in the rear-view mirror for Stevens and his team.
“We started to see, like, hey, there’s a guy [in Crowder] that can do a little bit more than stand in the corner and shoot,” the coach said.
|4 keys for Celtics to beat Warriors||12.11.15 at 3:06 pm ET|
Don’t let the Celtics fool you, this isn’t just another game.
The Celtics (13-9) have a chance to beat the undefeated Warriors (23-0) Friday night at TD Garden, and of course it’s not going to be easy. Reigning MVP Steph Curry is making a case for this year’s honor and leading the league’s best offense. Avery Bradley is going to do his best to pester Curry — make him uncomfortable, keep a hand in his face — but if the Celtics do knock off the Warriors it’s not going to depend on that.
The Warriors are a great team with a lot of weapons. If the Celtics are to pull off the upset, here are four things that would go a long way toward helping that happen.
1. Isaiah Thomas comes through with his season-best effort
No other Celtic has been more consistent than Isaiah Thomas. He’s averaging a team-high 21 points and leads the team in assists (6.3). The Celtics need a big night from their best scorer. If Thomas scores 30 or more points against the Warriors, it’s going to free up guys like Bradley and Jae Crowder. He’s only scored 30 points once this season (against the 76ers) but if there’s one Celtic you have to bet is going to score 30, it’s Thomas. Lately he’s been the second-half hero for the C’s. That has to end Friday night. Thomas needs to get it going early.
2. The C’s control the boards
Jared Sullinger has been a force on the glass lately, grabbing 36 rebounds in his last two games. But he is going to have his hands full guarding Draymond Green. Sullinger needs to out-rebound Green and keep him outside of the paint. The Celtics also are going to need all the second-chance points they can get. The C’s managed 17 second-chance points on 13 offensive rebounds against the Bulls, and they should be able to do the same against Green, Andrew Bogut and the Warriors.
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