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Celtics rest Jared Sullinger at practice, don’t want him to ‘overdo it,’ expected to play Friday 03.10.16 at 3:16 pm ET
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Jared Sullinger back in action Wednesday against Grizzlies guard Mario Chalmers (6). (David Butler II/USA Today Sports)

Jared Sullinger back in action Wednesday against Grizzlies guard Mario Chalmers (6). (David Butler II/USA Today Sports)

WALTHAM – The Celtics are playing it safe with Jared Sullinger.

One day after returning to game action from a skin infection that forced him to miss Monday and Tuesday practices, Sullinger (with a wrap around his stomach) was again on the sidelines Thursday. Brad Stevens said that while Sullinger was able to play Wednesday (12 points, 5 rebounds in 21 minutes) against Memphis, the team felt it best that he take it easy on Thursday. 

“We just held him out of practice because he spent a couple days getting IVs and dehydrated and everything else, just didn’t want to overdo it,” the Celtics coach said. “So, he’s expected to play [Friday].”

The Celtics could certainly use his bulk in the post Friday as Dwight Howard, James Harden and the Rockets come calling to TD Garden. 

“I think obviously he’s a good player,” Stevens said of Sullinger. “He’s able to score. He’s able to stretch the floor and shoot the ball. He’s able to score in the paint. But I think obviously the way he’s aided us defensively, his communication is excellent and then his rebounding is elite. Everybody’s got their strengths they bring to the table to help their team win. I think when we’re at our very best he certainly is having a huge impact on the glass.”

Sullinger has also been a force with his passing game, as evidenced by his two key fourth-quarter outlet passes against the Knicks last Friday that keyed the comeback win. 

“He can really pass,” Stevens said. “He’s a smart basketball player. He’s really a smart guy but he plays the game with a good savvy. He understand where people should be. He understands what the right next play is. He’s had a good year. He’s had a good year.”

“He’s always had that. He’s a strong guy so he can get it from one end of the court to the other. I know that. That’s why I take off running,” added Jae Crowder, who was on the receiving end of those passes last Friday.

“He’s more comfortable,”  “He’s probably the most comfortable I’ve ever saw him. He’s playing at a great rate for us. He’s been rebounding the ball as well as he’s been doing all year. He’s shooting the ball. His outside shot has been coming around. Once we have him hit his shots, it spread our offense out even more and gives lanes to me and Isaiah to drive in the paint. It helps us on offense.”

Sullinger has missed just one game this season, starting 56 of the 64 games he’s played.

“I think all our guys want to play all 82 but it’s not feasible all the time,” Stevens said. 

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Jared Sullinger released from hospital after skin infection, could play Wednesday 03.08.16 at 2:20 pm ET
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Jared Sullinger

Jared Sullinger

WALTHAM – Jared Sullinger has been released from the hospital after a skin infection caused him to become sick and miss two days of practice this week.

Celtics coach Brad Stevens made the announcement when he was asked about the big man’s absence on Monday and Tuesday at practice.

“Jared has a skin infection and was actually hospitalized [Monday] but has been released and hopefully, will be available [Wednesday],” Stevens said. “We don’t know that yet. We’ll reassess that [Wednesday]. He did not practice either day.”

Stevens said he had no idea when or how the infection happened. Sullinger had 17 points and 13 rebounds in the team’s last game, a 120-103 loss in Cleveland Saturday night. Sullinger has had double-doubles in six of the last 10 games. 

“I don’t know exactly,” Stevens said. “I didn’t get into the details of that.” 

If Sullinger isn’t available, it will break a string of 20 games that the Celtics have had the same starting lineup of Isaiah Thomas, Avery Bradley, Sullinger, Amir Johnson and Jae Crowder.

Sullinger has started 26 straight and 55 of Boston’s 63 games this season.

The Celtics play the Grizzlies Wednesday at TD Garden at 7 p.m.

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Celtics approaching rarified (home) air of 2008 World Champs 03.01.16 at 3:28 pm ET
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Celtics guard Evan Turner (11) celebrates against the Utah Jazz during the second half at TD Garden. (Mark L. Baer/USA Today Sports)

Celtics guard Evan Turner (11) celebrates against the Utah Jazz during the second half at TD Garden. (Mark L. Baer/USA Today Sports)

WALTHAM — The Celtics are on some kind of roll at TD Garden. 

The team that started out under .500 (9-10) in their first 19 home games this season has suddenly found the magic touch. 

They have won 11 in a row on Causeway Street and if they finish this homestand with wins over the Blazers Wednesday and the Knicks on Friday, they will pass the mark of the 2007-08 Celtics. The group of Rajon Rondo, Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen, Kendrick Perkins and Tony Allen won 12 straight in a row at home to start the season that ended in a title run.

“I don’t know if we can put ourselves in that conservation, man,” Jared Sullinger laughed when the comparison was mentioned Tuesday after practice. “You had Rondo, you had KG, you had Paul, you had Ray, Perk, Tony. You really can’t put yourself in that conversation. But it will say a lot about this team and all the maturing we did over the season. I thought we did a tremendous job of executing of late. 

“You can’t really compare the two. It’s two completely different teams,” Avery Bradley added. “We’re just trying to take care of home and take it one game at a time and make sure we’re continuing to get better and take care of the little things.”

What Bradley did acknowledge, and something he learned from former coach Doc Rivers, was the home court matters come playoff time in April and May. 

“That matters in the playoffs,” Bradley said. “We got a taste of it last year but home court advantage definitely matters. I learned that from Doc. That’s something we wanted to get every single year so that does matter.”

“For sure, for sure. Doc said that when I was here playing for him that one year,” Sullinger added. “Home court really does matter just because you’re in your normal routine. You’re at home. You’re not on the road. You don’t have to worry about little things. Home court advantage matters, and as long as you’re normal with your routine, everything will be fine.” 

“[Confidence] is pretty high. It’s pretty high. I think the biggest thing is we have a streak going now, eleven straight at home. We have two more home games until we hit the road. We’re just trying to close it out. Talking earlier before we started our homestand, we wanted to go 5-0, go 5-0 and protect home court and try to get many wins as possible.

“And what’s funny, I was talking to Jae [Crowder] earlier, we really haven’t been shooting the ball well in these past couple of games and we’re still able to pull out the win. That just shows how much we’re maturing as a basketball team, understanding that offense doesn’t dictate our defense. We’re doing a great job.” 

Then there’s the perspective of coach Brad Stevens, who entered last year’s playoffs as the No. 7 seed but without the benefit of home court. The Celtics were swept in four games by Cleveland so home court was moot. 

“I’ve never lived it,” Stevens said Tuesday. “I think you have to win on the road and at home in the playoffs. And you have to be able to well in either. You never know how those series play themselves out. Our focus isn’t on 21 games from now, it’s right now. Our next two games are at home so we’ll try to play as well as we can in those next two games.”

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Brad Stevens: ‘We were pretty locked in defensively most of the [game]’ 02.27.16 at 6:43 pm ET
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Brad Stevens knows sometimes the best wins are the ugly ones. 

When he team started out making just seven of 24 shots and falling behind 12 points to the Heat, Saturday’s game felt like it could be an ugly loss. But the Celtics didn’t panic and began to chip away, thanks in large part to Miami’s equally inept ability to take care of the ball. Thirteen Miami turnovers in the first half kept the Celtics in it, as Boston trailed just 49-46. 

Trailing 52-46, the Celtics went on an 11-0 run and led 72-70 after three. They hit the glass in the fourth quarter and rolled to a 101-89 win over the Heat, taking a two-game lead on Miami for third in the Eastern Conference. The Celtics won the game despite making just 39-of-96 shots (40.6 percent), including 7-for-25 from the starting backcourt of Avery Bradley and Isaiah Thomas

“Hard game to win, hard team to play against, especially when you start out shooting the ball the way we did. But we were pretty locked in defensively most of the [game],” Stevens said after his team’s 35th win of the season. Thomas missed all eight shots he took in the first half and finished just 4-for-17. Bradley wasn’t much better early but did finished 3-for-8. 

“You look at it and two of our leading scorers, Isaiah and Avery, combined for four [points] and our starters were 5-for-26 in the first half,” Stevens said. “So, you’re down three and you feel like you’re lucky as heck to be down three. But again, that’s kind of what this team has been doing. To their credit, it’s easy to let a game, when you’re not playing well, affect you. To their credit, they just kind of stuck with it and stayed the course. All of them made huge plays in the second half, particularly Isaiah making those plays driving to the basket. Jae Crowder made some big plays and I thought Sully was great on the glass. In the last five minutes of the game, I felt like he got every rebound there was.

“I felt like everybody played really hard through that stretch. I felt like Jonas and Tyler held down the fort with a couple of vertical plays in the paint. Jared, it seemed, got every rebound late. I just thought he was really active, finished plays on offense. Multiple times today he caught it at the rim, he recognized that Whiteside was there and he made a play for somebody else. That play at the end of the half, he kicked it out, extra pass to Avery. That was a heck of a play and a huge play for us. He’s got a good awareness and he’s a smart guy and he’s a heck of a rebounder.”

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Jared Sullinger on his contract year, Celtics: ‘It’s first team I played for in NBA and hopefully, the last’ 02.26.16 at 4:03 pm ET
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Jared Sullinger

Jared Sullinger

WALTHAM — Jared Sullinger is enjoying the low profile and dim light during his somewhat complicated contract year. And he’s using that low profile to help build his case to stay in Boston for the long haul. 

The 23-year-old power forward, represented by the powerful David Falk, is in his fourth NBA season, making $2.2 million. Sullinger is eligible for restricted free agency this summer, with a qualifying offer of $3.27 million.

Sullinger, who said he had an epiphany and a family intervention with John Lucas about his weight and eating issues in the offseason, has committed himself to the Brad Stevens system. He’s been part of a starting lineup that’s remained the same for the last 15 games and is averaging 10.1 points and a career-best 8.6 rebounds this season. 

Does Sullinger, still only 23, see himself staying in Boston for a long-term deal?

“Most definitely. Most definitely. My oldest brother always told me that the worst thing to happen to me sometimes is change and that I don’t handle change well. I strongly disagree,” Sullinger said, referring to the fact that he thinks he’s handled change well in the past. 

But then he admitted, “Sometimes, you just don’t want to change the scenery. When you play for the greatest franchise in the NBA and you see all those banners and all the fans come at you, you don’t want to leave that place because you know it’s a special place in your heart. It’s the first team I played for in the NBA and hopefully it’ll be the last.”

Does he think about that at practice with all the banners hanging up?

“What comes to mind in practice and shootarounds and games is how can we get better? How can we make this team better?” Sullinger said. 

Sullinger has enjoyed the low profile this year, with the emergence of Isaiah Thomas, Jae Crowder and Avery Bradley taking center stage. 

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Jared Sullinger: ‘We played our butts off. We were five guys connected’ 02.21.16 at 8:27 pm ET
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Jared Sullinger

Jared Sullinger

With the Denver Nuggets looking to load up defensively and take away Isaiah Thomas, it was time for others in the Celtics offensive scheme to step up.

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.”

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Studs and Duds: Jared Sullinger, Celtics crush Wizards 11.27.15 at 10:57 pm ET
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Behind great defense and efficient offense, the Celtics routed the visiting Wizards, 111-78, Friday night at TD Garden.

The Celtics got off to a quick start, thanks to Jared Sullinger (18 points, 15 rebounds), who had his fourth double-double of the season by halftime. The C’s closed out the first half with a 54-36 lead, and then kept the pedal to the metal in the second half, outscoring the Wizards 57-42 to seal the blowout win. The Celtics forced a total of 22 turnovers, and Washington never led.

The C’s finished the night with 28 assists and 11 steals — two statistical categories that gave them a big advantage over the Wizards. They shot 43.3 percent from the floor, while limiting themselves to 15 turnovers.

“I think pulling that Sixers game out was huge,” Celtics coach Brad Stevens said. “Playing that way over the last six minutes, not having played well for a couple of games in a row plus most of that game, and finding a way was probably good for us emotionally heading into tonight. And then I felt we had a pretty good shoot-around and then felt like we played on both ends probably as consistently for 48 minutes as we’ve played all year.”

Isaiah Thomas‘ 21 points led six Celtics in double figures. Avery Bradley scored 12 of his 16 points in the opening 12 minutes and finished with a plus-22 rating on the night. Jae Crowder added 15 points. David Lee and Kelly Olynyk each scored a dozen points off the bench. Former Boston College standout Jared Dudley led the Wizards with 19 points off the bench. Bradley Beal chipped in 16 points, and John Wall finished the night with just 10.

For a complete box score, click here. To go beyond the box, read on.

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