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Jonas Jerebko calls out Kevin Love for flopping in Game 3 05.22.17 at 12:28 pm ET
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Trailing 2-0 in the best-of-seven series following an embarrassing loss in Game 2, the Celtics needed something from someone. Guts, toughness, moxie — anything.

While they got a clutch shot from Avery Bradley to seal a comeback for the ages, they also received a different spark from the least expected source.

Jonas Jerebko.

Jerebko drilled a huge bucket to give the Celtics the lead with 30 seconds left, but he also got into it with both Kevin Love and Deron Williams during the game.

Late in the third quarter, he and Love tangled in the post with Love falling to the ground. He told him to “stand up, don’t flop.”

Jerebko echoed his in-game sentiments about Love to reporters after the game.

“I thought he flopped,” he said. “I don’t like people flopping. I don’t flop. So I just had to tell him. He kind of laughed. He knew he flopped. He knew he did it. He’s a great player, you know, but, stand up, don’t flop. That’s my motto at least.”

Jerebko also set some hard screens on Williams during the game and appeared to bring a bit of toughness to the Celtics who looked outmatched, and at times shell-shocked in Games 1 and 2.

“We needed something to get going, so it felt good,” he told TNT’s “Inside The NBA crew in a postgame interview with Charles Barkley.

He later added: “I think we gave them a little bit too much respect in those first two games. We’re out there to compete and I don’t think we competed that hard those two first games. I just wanted to come out there and play aggressive, and play with some attitude, and obviously it felt good to knock down some shots, too.”

Read More: Jonas Jerebko, Kevin Love,
Avery Bradley hits 3 to shock Cavaliers at buzzer in Game 3, Marcus Smart huge 05.21.17 at 11:07 pm ET
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May 21, 2017; Cleveland, OH, USA; Boston Celtics guard Marcus Smart (36) shoots over the defense of  Cleveland Cavaliers center Tristan Thompson (13) during the first half in game three of the Eastern conference finals of the NBA Playoffs at Quicken Loans Arena. Mandatory Credit: Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

Marcus Smart shoots over the defense of Cavaliers center Tristan Thompson during the first half in Game 3 of the Eastern conference finals of the NBA Playoffs at Quicken Loans Arena. (Ken Blaze/USA Today Sports)

The Celtics pulled off a miracle Sunday night. 

Avery Bradley’s 3-point shot spun on the back on the rim and fell through with 0.1 seconds left to lift the Celtics to a shocking 111-108 win over the Cavaliers in the Eastern Conference finals.

The win narrows Cleveland’s lead to 2-1 in the best-of-7 series and snaps Cleveland’s 13-game record-tying playoff win streak.  

Playing without Isaiah Thomas, out for the rest of the playoffs with a right hip injury (and reportedly a right hip labrum tear that could require surgery), the Celtics overcame a 21-point second-half deficit. 

Marcus Smart finished with 27 points on 7-of-10 3-point shooting. Game 4 will be Tuesday night in Cleveland before the series moves back to Boston for Game 5 Thursday.

“When it’s a big moment, you know that kid is going to rise to the occasion. He always has,” Brad Stevens said of Smart. 

Just 48 hours after suffering the most embarrassing loss in their playoff history, the Celtics staged arguably the most unlikely playoff win ever. 

“I really felt like in first half we played way better than the score.” Stevens said of his team’s 66-50 deficit. “I was hoping law of averages would kick in at some point. Some of those shots were just incredible. Started slow in third quarter. Our guys were better towards end of third, goes back and forth and we were lucky to win.”

The Celtics were down 77-56 before starting their epic comeback. LeBron James finished just 4-of-13 and 11 points in 45 minutes. The Cavaliers were just 2-for-17 in the second half. 

Using a scorching first-half display from Kevin Love and another powerful effort from Tristan Thompson, the Cavaliers seemed on their way to setting a new NBA playoff standard with their 14th consecutive postseason win while pulling within one game of the NBA finals for a third straight season and putting LeBron James in the finals for a seventh straight season. 

The Celtics went with a starting lineup of Marcus Smart, Avery Bradley, Jae Crowder, Al Horford and Amir Johnson. Midway through the first quarter, Johnson had to go to the locker room with team doctor Brian McKeon after injuring his shoulder. Johnson would return to action in the second quarter.

The Cavaliers came out on fire from deep, hitting nine threes in the first quarter, a NBA playoff high this season for a quarter. Kevin Love was a one-man wrecking crew, draining five of his seven 3-point attempts, falling one shy of the NBA playoff mark for a single quarter set by Boston’s Antoine Walker in 2002 in the Game 3 against Philadelphia. 

Overall, the Cavaliers hit 9-of-13 from deep to take a 35-24 lead after the first quarter. The Cavaliers were 11-0f-17 from the field in the first quarter and the nine threes were the most in the playoffs since Boston drilled nine against Philadelphia in the decisive Game 5 33-point blowout on May 3, 2002. 

Down 44-29, the Celtics used a 7-0 run to cut the lead down to eight. 

(For a full box score, click here.)

Love continued to kill the Celtics in the second, hitting two more threes and then with a minute to go, he took a handoff from J.R. Smith under the Cavs basket and executed a perfect length-of-the-court chest pass that dropped into the hands of LeBron James for a layup. 

On the next possession, J.R. Smith hit an off-balance 3-pointer to give the Cavaliers their biggest lead at 66-48. There was simply not much the Celtics could do but shrug. The Cavaliers made exactly 60 percent of their shots (21-of-35) in the opening half. Love finished the first half making 7-of-10 from 3-point range and 22 points. James had just eight points and the Cavaliers still led, 66-50, at the half. 

It was the most-competitive half of the series to this point in the series. The Cavaliers led by 22 points in at the half of Game 1 and 41 points in Game 2. 

The Cavaliers quickly built their lead up to 20 points in the first two minutes of the third quarter before getting a bit sloppy. LeBron James had a layup at the rim and gave it up for a bounce pass in the paint for Tristan Thompson. It resulted in a turnover. 

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Read More: Boston Celtics, Cleveland Cavaliers, Isaiah Thomas, Kevin Love
LeBron James, Kevin Love throttle the Celtics in Game 1; Tristan Thompson provides muscle 05.17.17 at 11:01 pm ET
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May 17, 2017; Boston, MA, USA;  Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James (23) drives against Boston Celtics guard Jaylen Brown (7) during the first quarter in game one of the Eastern conference finals of the NBA Playoffs at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports

LeBron James drives against Boston Celtics guard Jaylen Brown during the first quarter in game one of the Eastern conference finals of the NBA Playoffs at TD Garden. (Greg M. Cooper-USA Today Sports)

LeBron James and the Cavaliers were not about add to the Celtics’ fairytale week.

In a display becoming of a defending champion, the Cavaliers, coming off a nine-day hiatus, came to Boston and put a stranglehold on the team that was just 48 hours removed from an electrifying and draining seven-game victory over the Washington Wizards and a day from winning the NBA Draft lottery for the first time in franchise history.

James scored 23 of his 38 points in the first half while Kevin Love added 32 points as the Cavaliers routed the Celtics, 117-104, in Game 1 of the Eastern finals Wednesday night at TD Garden. Jae Crowder and Avery Bradley finished with 21 apiece to lead the Celtics, who will try somehow to regroup for Game 2 Friday night at the Garden before the series shifts to Cleveland for Games 3 and 4 Sunday and Tuesday. 

“With LeBron playing at this level, other guys just have to be solid and contribute,” Cavaliers coach Ty Lue said. 

“He’s better than when I got in the league, a lot better,” Brad Stevens said. “He’s a good player, a great player. I didn’t think he could get any better.”

The Celtics tried many defensive options on James and Love, with little success all night. 

“It’s easier said than done but we have to figure out our best avenue quickly,” Stevens said of the challenge of defending James and Love when they’re on the court together. “Doubling is really scary against these guys but it may be necessary.”

The win was Cleveland’s 12th straight in the postseason, dating back to their comeback against the Warriors in the 2016 Finals. They are a perfect 9-0 in the playoffs while the Warriors are one better at 10-0 this postseason. 

The game started out as the Celtics worst nightmare. 

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Read More: 2017 Eastern Conference finals, 2017 NBA Playoffs, Boston Celtics, Cleveland Cavaliers
Celtics pregame: Avery Bradley, Jaylen Brown out through break, Brad Stevens makes Al Horford All-Star argument 02.15.17 at 7:50 pm ET
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Avery Bradley really wants to get back to playing.

But the Celtics want him 100 percent when the games really matter in April and May.

To that end, Bradley understands the Celtics being ultra-cautious with his sore right Achilles, which is just about fully healed.

That injury forced him to miss his 15th straight game Wednesday and will keep him out as well on Thursday night in Chicago. Bradley has played just once since Jan. 6.

“It’s frustrating,” Bradley said before Wednesday’s game against Philadelphia. “I guess it’s just part of the game and part of being smart. I want to play and play through it but the team advised me that this is not the time to take that risk right now and something potentially happen to my Achilles or a different injury.”

Bradley and the team are not just protecting against the existing injury but trying to make sure he doesn’t compensate unconsciously and injure something else.

“It was just a decision to make together and we felt like it’s the best one,” Bradley continued. “It’s feeling really good.”

But Bradley admitted he hasn’t worked on the court much lately and getting back in basketball shape will be key.

“I really haven’t done much,” he said. “I’ve been doing more conditioning and strengthening, upper body and lower body, just making sure I’m strong enough for when I do return. Now, we’re getting the basketball stuff in, so I’m hoping over the All-Star [break], I can play some basketball and be ready for the first game.”

Brad Stevens sounded much more cautious when asked about Bradley and Jaylen Brown (hip).

“Both guys are out for the next two games with the hope of doing some practice when we return,” Stevens said.

After Thursday’s game in Chicago, the Celtics are off for eight days, resuming their schedule in Toronto on Feb. 24 against the Serge Ibaka-revitalized Raptors.

All-Star push: Brad Stevens suddenly has an open roster spot on his Eastern Conference squad Sunday in New Orleans. Kevin Love is out at least six weeks with impending knee surgery. Stevens has no say in Love’s replacement but he has a natural suggestion should anyone ask.

Al Horford may not be putting up huge numbers (14.8 PPG, 6.7 RPG, 5.0 APG) but they are first, second and second respectively on a team that is just two games out of first place in the East. Expectations have been as big as Horford’s four-year, $113 million contract. But according to his coach, he’s been a big part of why the Celtics have risen to the top in the East.

“I always base my decision on who is really impacting winning, and I think that’s why Al would be a good choice,” Stevens said before Wednesday’s game. “I’m hopeful Al gets that call. It’s not our call. But there’s a lot of good players in this league. It doesn’t take anything away from anybody else. We certainly hope Al gets that call.”

If Stevens was being somewhat (understandably) understated in his praise of Horford, Sixers coach Brett Brown was not. He also said the Celtics have risen to the top but went even further in his praise of the man once coached by Brett Brown’s good friend Mike Budenholzer in Atlanta. Brown and Budenholzer coached together under Gregg Popovich in San Antonio. 

“You can’t even put a price tag on that. He was coached by a close friend of mine in Atlanta for a while,” Brown said of Horford’s days in Atlanta. “If you just go to the person, there’s a veteran class and there’s an elite mind, basketball mind, and then you can start talking about his actual game. So, what he does to a locker room, what he does from experience perspective and you take the unusual skill package in that he can bring you out and stretch the court.

“Even when you study the last time that we played here, Joel [Embiid] gets sucked in on a drive and they kick it to Al in the corner for a three, that’s an unusual match-up for a 7-foot-2 center. I think that Brad does a really good job, creative job on using Olynyk and Horford, especially, with how they can stretch the floor, and Amir [Johnson], letting Amir shoot corner threes. Kind of all over the place, off-the-court locker room stuff, I think it’s just a sensational acquisition and piece that they have made to legitimately look at them now as one of the elite teams in the East. It’s a wonderful building block, for sure.” 

The Celtics are 7-5 without Horford in the lineup this season.

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Read More: Al Horford, Avery Bradley, Boston Celtics, Kevin Love
Full Court Press: What Game 7 could mean to future of Celtics, Warriors try not to join 2007 Patriots 06.18.16 at 9:42 pm ET
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Jun 16, 2016; Cleveland, OH, USA; Cleveland Cavaliers forward Kevin Love (0) reacts after being called for a foul in the second quarter in game six of the NBA Finals at Quicken Loans Arena. Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

Cavaliers forward Kevin Love could be rejoicing after Game 7. Will it be his final game for Cleveland? (Bob Donnan/USA Today Sports)

Danny Ainge, son Austin and head coach Brad Stevens don’t have a horse in the race but they will be watching Game 7 of the NBA finals Sunday night with more than just a passing interest.

A pair of scoring forwards could be on the move after the game, and both have been rumored on the radar of the Celtics.  

Cleveland’s Kevin Love could be playing his final game in Cleveland if they decide to unload him this offseason. He has four years and approximately $93 million left on his $113 million deal, which includes a $25 million kiss in the final season (2019-20), when he will be 31. 

Golden State’s Harrison Barnes, 24, could be a much cheaper option. He is due a qualifying offer of about $5.2 million and is in the same contractual boat as Jared Sullinger. Both are set to become restricted free agents after next season but both could be cut loose after this season. Barnes has already rejected a four-year, $64 million deal, turning down the Warriors last September. 

Both players are represented by agent Jeff Schwartz, the same rep for projected No. 2 pick Brandon Ingram. Danny Ainge reportedly met recently with Schwartz and, while it certainly would not be uncommon for Ainge to talk with agents before next Thursday’s draft, it would be tampering for him to publicly discuss players currently under contract with other teams. 

A quick glance at Love’s stats in the NBA finals and it’s easy to understand why Celtics fans are so very skeptical of bringing his $93 million anchor to Boston. He’s averaged just seven points and 21 minutes in five games (DNP Gm 3). He’s again been beset by injuries (concussion) but when he has played, he’s looked out of place. It’s up to the Celtics to determine if that mostly because he’s being misused and kept on the perimeter or if he’s not looking for his shot. He is shooting just 36.8 percent from the floor in the finals and 38 percent in the postseason. On the bright side, he is averaging 14.9 points and 8.5 rebounds in 19 playoff games heading into Game 7 in Oakland. 

By comparison, Barnes is coming off his worst game of the postseason, missing all eight shots in Thursday’s Game 6 loss in Cleveland. He was held scoreless in 16 minutes. In Games 1, 3 and 4, he was in double figures and a key part of Golden State wins in two of them. But he went 2-for-14 in Game 5 last Monday and 0-for-8 on Thursday, making him 2-for-22 in potential title-clinching games so far. He is averaging nine points and 4.8 rebounds in 31 minutes during the playoffs. He is someone to keep an eye on in Game 7 if the Warriors need some offense. The “Death Lineup” has been exactly that to Barnes’ hopes of promoting his value to potential suitors this summer. 

We haven’t even mentioned the fact that LeBron James is a free agent this summer as well. There always exists the possibility that James could leave Cleveland, especially if the Cavs come back and finish off the first 3-1 comeback in NBA finals history. Not likely, but then again, it is LeBron and worth mentioning, even if in passing. 

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Read More: 2016 NBA draft, 2016 NBA Finals, Boston Celtics, Harrison Barnes
Kevin Love wasn’t looking for a high-five from LeBron James, and here’s video proof 06.14.16 at 11:45 am ET
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I don’t know why I care about this, since I eviscerated Kevin Love this morning as a bad fit for the Celtics after another no-show performance in Game 5 of the Finals on Monday night, but there’s a widely shared Vine making the rounds that isn’t accurate.

You’ve probably seen it, but if not, here it is:

Looks pretty damning, right? Poor Kevin Love just wants LeBron to love him, and King James yells at him instead.

But what really happened was more pedestrian. One play earlier, Love looked slow on his defensive rotations, allowing an Andre Iguodala follow-up dunk, and LeBron let him know it, as you can see with the quick gesture.

So now watch the “denied five” in its entirety. Love isn’t looking for love. He’s pleading his case, like, “I had my hands up. What do you want from me?”

Of course, if you want to note that LeBron was being totally dismissive of Love and treating him like a JV teammate called up to the varsity for a day because someone was sick, that’s fair game.

But to say he refused a high five and that made Love sad is simply not true.

Read More: Cavaliers, Kevin Love, Kevin Love high five, LeBron James
Celtics Choice: Dragan Bender vs. Kevin Love 06.07.16 at 4:24 pm ET
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In the days leading up to June 23’s NBA draft, we examine what the Celtics could do with the No. 3 overall pick and how they should approach this pivotal offseason. In that spirit, we present “Celtics choice.”

Today: Using the third pick on Croatian big man Dragan Bender or trading it as part of a package to land Cavaliers forward Kevin Love.

The case for Bender

In a word, potential. Seven-foot-1 athletes with 3-point shooting range and the quickness to defend inside and out don’t come along very often, and the immediate success of Kristaps Porzingis in New York will undoubtedly have an NBA team hoping lightning can strike twice with Bender, who spent the season playing limited minutes in a reserve role for Maccabi Tel Aviv in Israel’s top professional league. That kind of experience against veteran competition should only help Bender transition to the NBA, but even the most optimistic assessment doesn’t have him making an impact for at least a couple of years. NBA scouts love his lateral quickness, 9-foot-3 reach, and feel for the game. He’s considered a gifted passer with the kind of shooting stroke that suggests he’ll have NBA range in due time.

The case against Bender

In a word, potential. While Bender could end up being Porzingis or (best-case scenario) Dirk Nowitzki, he could also go the route of Darko Milicic. No one knows for certain how he’ll handle NBA competition, if he’ll add enough strength to compete on the boards, if he’ll take his game to another level. There’s also his lack of playing time in Israel this year, which has produced modest stats (5.5 points, 3 rebounds per game). Still only 18 years old, Bender is a mystery even to teams that have scouted him extensively overseas. He will require time to develop when he arrives, and a team like the Celtics, with an ownership and fan base that expects to win now, might not have the stomach to endure the inevitable growing pains. There’s a chance he gets completely swallowed up by the strength of NBA players at the point of attack, leaving him as a Brad Lohaus-type, which definitely isn’t worthy of the third pick.

The case for Love

In a word, experience. There are no mysteries about Cleveland’s third wheel. He’s a proven All-Star in the NBA with the ability to lead an offense as an elite scorer — he twice averaged over 26 a game in Minnesota — and he can score in any number of ways. A traditional post presence early in his career, Love has since added legit NBA 3-point range to emerge as one of the best stretch-4s in the game, even if he hates that term. He made just 2-of-19 3-pointers as a rookie in 2008-09, but saw those numbers increase to 190-for-505 during his final season in Minnesota before joining the Cavaliers last season. Add tremendous rebounding ability (11.5 per game lifetime), excellent vision to pass out of double teams, and the title of the game’s best outlet passer, and Love is a legit superstar.

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Read More: Celtics, Celtics choice, Dragan Bender, Kevin Love
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