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Escape act against Sixers shows Celtics still have big problems down low 01.06.17 at 10:07 pm ET
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The Celtics are lucky their best big man was also their most clutch 3-point shooter Friday night. 

On a night when Joel Embiid owned the paint with 23 points and eight rebounds, Al Horford countered with 19 points and 12 rebounds, including four threes in the final 12 minutes to allow Boston to escape, 110-106, at TD Garden. 

Horford connected on the decisive three with 17.2 seconds left to put the Celtics up 107-106. Boston won for ninth time in 11 games to improve to 22-14 on the season. 

The Celtics can also count themselves fortunate that Ben Simmons – who traveled with Philly for the first time Friday – was not in uniform and playing. If he were, the Celtics would not have had enough answers. 

Sixers coach Brett Brown raved and raved and raved pregame about Isaiah Thomas. Then Avery Bradley came out and dropped 14 points in the opening quarter against Philly to remind him and everyone else just how good the Celtics (at least on offense) can be when it’s not just Thomas doing the scoring.

On the night that the Celtics handed out pamphlets pushing Bradley as their second worthy All-Star candidate, the guard made the team’s media relations department look smart. Bradley finished just six points shy of his career-high with 26 points while Thomas added 24. The two combined for 50 points to offset the Sixers’ dominance inside.

The Sixers abused the Celtics in the first half in the paint, outscoring the Celtics, 30-6, and taking a commanding 62-51 lead. Philly ended the game outscoring Boston 46-18 in the paint.

Philadelphia showed the glimpses of the team they might become if Ben Simmons comes back healthy and joins the likes of Joel Embiid, Nerlens Noel and Ersan Ilyasova. There was the monstrous block of Al Horford from behind by Noel midway through the first half. There was the 17 points in 14 minutes from Embiid. And Ersan Ilyasova poured in 11 points on 3-of-5 shooting from deep. 

In the first half, the 9-24 visitors were clearly the more athletic and energetic team.  

(For a complete recap of the Celtics’ win, click here.)

The fact that the young Sixers came out strong and with energy in the opening 24 minutes should not concern Celtics fans. 

The face that they dominated the Celtics physically in their own building should. Al Horford did have 10 rebounds and was 1-for-7 from the field. But the rest of Boston’s inside game was MIA. 

Ironically, it was Thomas who was struggling badly to start the game, matching a season-high with five turnovers in the first 17 minutes of the game. 

The Sixers haven’t won a game in Boston since the end of the 2013-14 season, Stevens’ first in Boston and a season that ended 25-57. That year, the Sixers took three of four from the Celtics. Including Friday, the Celtics have now won 10 straight from the Sixers.

With 11:34 left in the fourth, the Celtics finally drew back even when Marcus Smart got into the paint and threw one up and in. On the next possession, the Celtics took their first lead since 27-25 early in the second quarter. 

With 7:33 remaining, the Sixers reclaimed the lead, 90-89, on a Noel alley-oop dunk after the Celtics went up by five, 89-84. But the Celtics came back with a three from Horford to take the lead. Horford did it again five minutes later to snap a 97-97 tie. Horford’s fourth trey of the fourth put the Celtics up, 107-106, with 17.2 seconds left. 

Read More: Al Horford, Avery Bradley, Boston Celtics, Joel Embiid
Brett Brown gives Joel Embiid his shot at Isaiah Thomas: ‘[Embiid] is a big personality type of player’ at 9:04 pm ET
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A lot of players have tried – in vain – to stop Isaiah Thomas this year. The Celtics point guard who 

Philly’s Joel Embiid, before Friday’s game, was the latest to express his desire to get in on the action.

“I think it’s a reflection of how he sees himself,” Sixers coach Brett Brown said in his pre-game media session. “I think it’s a reflection of an attitude that I appreciate. There is an inner confidence. There is a self-belief. There is a fearlessness to say things kind of out of the box. He’s a big personality type player.

“Guarding him at times you may have to switch, because they have the ability to pick-and-pop Horford or Olynyk and those guys can shoots threes and that’s part of the challenge of guarding Isaiah in pick-and-rolls where when you give him attention they now have the ability to pick-and-pop guys that can shoot threes at a high percentage. So in that circumstance, Joel might find himself on Isaiah Thomas.”

As it turned out, Embiid didn’t have to chase Thomas, at least in the first half. The Celtics guard took it to him in the first half, with mixed results. 

Thomas matched his season high with five turnovers in the first 17 minutes as Embiid flashed out on him a couple of times. The Celtics crowd, fresh from cheering for Gordon Hayward, starting chanting “Trust the Process” in an ode to his physical skills as well as an effort to get in his head. 

But what the Sixers – and every other team that’s played Thomas – is aware of is his explosiveness in the clutch, namely the fourth quarter. Thomas scored 29 of his 52 points in the final 12 minutes against the Heat on Dec. 30. 

“He almost singlehandedly beat us in that one-point loss in Philadelphia,” Brown said of Thomas’ 13 fourth-quarter points in Boston’s 107-106 win on Dec. 3. “He’s just so elusive. He’s got the ability to create off the dribble. That might sound like it’s common to say that, but it’s rare and it’s hard to guard somebody who can create their own shot and at times doesn’t need a pick and roll.”

Thomas finished that game with 37 points and the Celtics escaped with a win. 

“So, we’ve got to choose the defenders we feel have a chance to guard somebody that elusive, that dynamic,” Brown said. “I had a chance to see his 50-whatever point game against Miami and that massive fourth period and he’s an All-Star for a reason so we have to really – as a team – just [mark] off a few guys we think can just stalk him and make his life as difficult as we can.”

Read More: Boston Celtics, Isaiah Thomas, Joel Embiid, NBA
NBA draft roundup: Celtics, 76ers, Lakers rumored landing spots for Joel Embiid; Kings likely keeping No. 8 pick 06.26.14 at 2:57 pm ET
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Foot and back injuries have caused Kansas center Joel Embiid — once expected to be the first overall selection in Thursday’€™s NBA draft — to slide down the boards.

Embiid’€™s fall has opened up the possibility of the Celtics getting the opportunity to draft the promising big man, something that Yahoo! Sports’ Adrian Wojnarowski tweeted could be a possibility.

Embiid, a 7-foot center from Cameroon, averaged 11.2 points, 8.1 rebounds and 2.6 blocks in his only season with the Jayhawks, despite only playing organized basketball since 2011.

— It appears that the rumored deal between the Celtics and Kings, which would include point guard Rajon Rondo and Sacramento’€™s eighth overall pick as the two main components, may not come to fruition.

Yahoo! Sports’ Marc J. Spears tweeted that the Kings seem to be content to keep their pick.

The Kings have been at the forefront of trade rumors recently, including a deal to acquire Pistons forward Josh Smith, adding him to a frontcourt that already includes DeMarcus Cousins and Rudy Gay.

— With the draft fast approaching, it seems that the 76ers are going all in in an effort to acquire the first overall pick from the Cavaliers and draft Kansas forward Andrew Wiggins.

Tom Cooney of the Philadelphia Daily News tweeted that the 76ers are doing everything they can to pry the top pick from Cleveland.

Philadelphia certainly has many trading chips at its disposal, including the third and 10th overall picks and a host of promising players such as Michael Carter-Williams and Nerlens Noel.

— The Celtics aren’t the only Atlantic Division team reportedly looking to make a few draft-day deals. The Raptors are trying to acquire the Grizzlies‘€™ 22nd overall pick, according to ESPN.

The framework of the deal would be Toronto sending veteran swingman John Salmons and the 37th overall pick to Memphis in exchange for Tayshaun Prince and the 22nd pick.

The move benefits the Rapotors because it would put them in position to select Syracuse guard (and Ontario native) Tyler Ennis.

By making the trade, the Grizzlies would be able to take Prince’€™s $7.7 million salary cap hit off their books for next season.

Read More: Celtics, Joel Embiid, Kings, NBA Draft
NBA draft roundup: Magic reportedly trying to move into top 3 at 11:54 am ET
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Joel Embiid‘€™s foot and back injuries have created a domino effect leading up to the draft – especially with the holder of the fourth overall pick, the Magic.

The Kansas center’€™s medical issues have caused him to slide on most mock drafts, pushing players such as Jabari Parker, Andrew Wiggins and Dante Exum higher up in the draft order, and potentially out of Orlando’€™s reach.

As a result, the Magic could use both their fourth and 12th overall picks in an effort to trade into a top-three position in the draft.

“Everything’s really fluid at the moment,” said first-year Magic general manager Rob Hennigan. “I think there’s a possibility we could select at [No.] 4 and [No.] 12, and I think there’s a possibility that one or both of those picks could be in play. So our job … is to prioritize what we feel is the best opportunity for us, and then go ahead and try to capitalize on that.”

While the Magic have tradeable pieces in  Jameer Nelson and Nikola Vucevic, Hennigan would not give any hints on what his team plans to do Thursday night.

“I think the big thing for us is to just stay the course — continue to add to the team, continue to improve the team, and do it in a fashion that allows us to show improvement, [and] allows us to play in more meaningful games next season,” Hennigan said. “But at the same time we don’t want to skip steps. We don’t want to compromise our vision to build a competitive team for a long time.

“If there’s an opportunity out there that will allow us to speed that up – great. If not, I think onus is on us to continue to chip away and stay disciplined.”

Meanwhile, the Magic reportedly made a move, acquiring Evan Fournier and the No. 56 pick from the Nuggets for Arron Afflalo.

The 21-year-old Fournier, a 2012 first-round pick from France, is heading into his third NBA campaign. The 6-foot-6 shooting guard averaged 8.3 points and 2.7 rebounds last season.

The 28-year-old Afflalo, who would have been Orlando’s top returning scorer (18.2 ppg), returns to the team he played for from 2009-12 before being sent to the Magic as part of the Dwight Howard multi-team trade. The 6-foot-5 shooting guard from UCLA has an option to become a free agent after the 2014-15 season.

— Three years after helping the Mavericks clinch their first championship, Tyson Chandler is heading back to Dallas.

The Knicks center, along with point guard Raymond Felton, was traded to the Mavs in exchange for guards Jose Calderon, Shane Larkin and Wayne Ellington and center Samuel Dalembert.

The Knicks also receive both of Dallas’€™ picks in Thursday’€™s draft — the 34th and 51st selections (both in the second round). New York previously did not have a pick in what should be a deep draft on Thursday.

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Read More: Andrew Wiggins, Jabari Parker, Joel Embiid, NBA Draft
Weekly NBA Draft Watch: Mock draft v4.0 06.25.14 at 1:45 pm ET
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This year’€™s draft is starting to feel like it could be one of the most entertaining in years. Seriously, how could there be any more drama?

The old projected top pick, Joel Embiid, is injured and sliding down draft boards. We have no clue if Andrew Wiggins or Jabari Parker will be the No. 1 pick by the Cavaliers. We don’€™t even know that Cleveland will keep the first pick — teams like the Magic, Jazz and Celtics are rumored to have interest.

The Celtics also are rumored to be one of three finalists to acquire the No. 8 pick from the Kings. Then the Lakers seem pretty serious about trying to package Steve Nash and the No. 7 pick in an attempt to get young talent. Or, dare I say, the Lakers could be trying to clear cap space to make a play on Carmelo Anthony and LeBron James.

A mock draft seems almost pointless since we are expecting so many trades. Let’€™s not forget that Kevin Love‘€™s name will be one we hear in rumors a few times Thursday. Expect to see one of the wildest drafts in recent memory, but if there is less movement than expected, here’€™s how it could shake down.

1. Cavaliers, Jabari Parker (Duke, freshman) — Embiid has been projected as the top pick for a while, even with his back issues. His broken foot is a whole different monster, though. Those two red flags will cause him to slip, and Parker is the best player in the draft right now. Wiggins will get a look here, especially if the Cavs are looking for a player to fit alongside LeBron (in their dream scenario). Owner Dan Gilbert wants to be very involved in the pick, and he reportedly likes Wiggins. That’€™s a risky strategy for Cleveland, so just take the sure thing in Parker — the Cavs really can’€™t afford to blow this one.

2. Bucks, Andrew Wiggins (Kansas, freshman) — The Bucks now hold the easiest pick in the draft. Sit back and see what the team with the top pick does, then take the other top prospect. If Parker goes No. 1, then Wiggins goes to Milwaukee to play with a decent young core. The Bucks may prefer one to the other, but they have to be pleased either way it plays out.

3. 76ers, Dante Exum (Australia) — Philly ends up the biggest loser as a result of the Embiid injury. The Sixers would have been the team that ended up with the third top prospect that was passed over, but now they have a difficult choice to make. Embiid probably still is too risky this high in the draft, so Exum is the best overall talent available. Exum would either come in to be a backcourt-mate to Michael Carter-Williams or to take MCW’€™s job if the 76ers look to trade the Rookie of the Year.

4. Magic, Marcus Smart (Oklahoma State, sophomore) — With Exum off the board, and Orlando seeking a point guard, Smart makes sense with this pick. Of course, any of the big men on the board will be tempting to the Magic, but they have been most interested in Smart and Exum all year.

5. Jazz, Noah Vonleh (Indiana, freshman) — The Jazz already have a lot of young talent in their frontcourt. But if all the guards are taken early, and Utah does not trade up, Vonleh may be the most appealing piece. Vonleh is more capable of stepping away from the basket than the remaining bigs; that could be the determining factor.

6. Celtics, Joel Embiid (Kansas, freshman) — One of the big questions of the draft becomes how far Embiid will slip. Danny Ainge will face a tough decision if he slips to No. 6, and in the end he won’€™t be able to pass up Embiid’€™s potential. If Ainge is unable to add an All-Star caliber player through a trade, Embiid is a fantastic fit for the future to play alongside Jared Sullinger in a rebuild scenario.

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Read More: Andrew Wiggins, Dante Exum, Jabari Parker, Joel Embiid
NBA Draft’s Potential Celtics: Team’s biggest needs 06.23.14 at 10:28 am ET
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With Celtics fans focused on the fantasy of acquiring players like Kevin Love and Carmelo Anthony, it’€™s easy to forget the plentiful attractive options in the 2014 NBA draft. With two first-round selections and the versatility to move or add more picks, fans should still be excited about the chance of building through the draft.

That’€™s one reason I published my 2014 NBA Draft Guide as a means of putting all of my research into one convenient 115-page package for fans and readers to download. This article includes a more in-depth look at what’€™s included for each club in the “€œteam needs”€ section of the book, but watch the video above to find out what else is included in the guide, which can be downloaded by clicking here.

The Celtics roster needs a lot of work this summer, but the three biggest draft needs are a rim protector, a sharpshooter and a go-to scorer. Below are five options for each need that could be addressed with either the No. 6 or 17 pick. Click on each player’s name to discover a more complete draft profile.

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Read More: 2014 NBA Draft's Potential Celtics, Aaron Gordon, Boston Celtics, Dante Exum
Austin Ainge admits his dad would’ve taken Kevin Durant over Greg Oden in 2007 06.21.14 at 2:54 pm ET
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Now we know.

In 2007, when the Celtics finished 24-58, they had a theoretical chance to finish first in the NBA draft lottery and choose between either Kevin Durant or Greg Oden.

On Saturday, as the Celtics continued to work out players for the 2014 NBA draft, Celtics director of player of personnel Austin Ainge announced what his father Danny would’ve done.

“€œI personally was not working here. But I was in college and I was in the draft room, and they would have taken Durant. I did have some inside information there,” Ainge said.

Of course, that became moot when the Celtics wound up with only the fifth pick of the draft class. Everything turned OK when Danny Ainge convinced Minnesota’s GM and good friend Kevin McHale to trade him Kevin Garnett for Al Jefferson before drafting Jeff Green at No. 5 and then swung a deal that netted Ray Allen. Oden was eventually chosen No. 1 overall by Portland while Durant was taken by the then-Seattle SuperSonics. Oden has been plagued by various injuries, including two bad knees and microfracture surgery. Oden played this season for the Heat.

Durant is the reigning NBA MVP, four-time scoring champ and led his team to the NBA finals in 2012.

Why is this relevant now?

The Celtics might get a chance to take another injury-riddled big man at No. 6 this year after it was revealed this week that Joel Embiid, another highly-touted center, has a stress fracture in his right foot. Throw in concerns about his back and those are serious medical red flags.

“€œProbably best not to share all of that, but I think we all want to know exactly what it is,”€ Ainge said. “€œEven when you have a lot of information, sometimes it’€™s still just a best guess. I’€™m not sure what the conclusions will be by the doctors. I’€™m sure, as with Avery Bradley and Jared Sullinger when we drafted them, the medical staffs all had different opinions for every team. It’€™s hard to predict.”

The Celtics have had a track record of taking players with an injury background, taking Avery Bradley and Jared Sullinger in previous drafts.

“It’€™s case by case. There have been many, many guys we passed on,’€ Ainge said. ‘€œOur medical staff told us to pass on Greg Oden, our medical staff told us to pass on Brandon Roy. Brandon ended up having some very good years, and that may or may not have been the right decision. It ended up costing them a lot of money in the end but he did give them a few great years ‘€“ four or five, I think, maybe six. So there’€™s two we’€™ve taken the chance on. There have been many others that we’€™ve not decided to (take a) chance on.”

Before picking Bradley, the Celtics were able to examine him and determine the extent of his ankle injury.

‘€œWith Jared, we weren’€™t (able to look at him),’€ Ainge said. ‘€œWe were just emailed and sent things. So it’€™s different. You just do the best you can.’€

Ainge acknowledged that taking Embiid would be a risk, given what is known so far.

“€œFoot and back, those are not good body parts to injure,” Ainge said. “We try to focus on the long-term health more than the short-term when you’re dealing with draft picks,” he added. “Free agency, it might be a little different. But when you’re drafting kids that are 19, 20, 21, it’s usually best to think: ‘Two years, five years down the road, will it be a concern?’ Those are the ones we usually try to avoid.”

The four that did work out on Saturday morning in Waltham were Louisville‘s Chane Behanan, UConn’s Niels Giffey, Glenn Robinson III of Michigan and St. John’s JaKarr Sampson.

Read More: Boston Celtics, Greg Oden, Joel Embiid, Kevin Durant
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