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Can the Celtics reel in Marcus Smart? Jae Crowder and Brad Stevens are working on it 11.29.16 at 8:15 pm ET
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WALTHAM — Jae Crowder could see and hear Miami coach Erik Spoestra trying an old trick Monday night to get under the skin of Marcus Smart. 

Crowder and everybody else familiar with Smart knows the third-year guard came out of Oklahoma State with a reputation for letting his intensity turn into anger and frustration, eventually leading to technical fouls or worse. 

“It’s funny because I was telling him [Monday] during the game, Spoelstra was saying, ‘He’s a hothead. He’s a hothead.’ So obviously that was part of the game plane to try to get under his skin a little bit,” Crowder said with a brotherly smile after practice Tuesday.

“A lot of teams know he wears his emotions on his sleeves so they’re going to do stuff like that. And you just have to be more cautious of it and know that it’s just a game they’re trying to play with him. I’m sure as the season goes on he’ll be more aware of it. And hopefully he gets better.”

Tired of getting hacked by Goran Dragic, Smart indeed took a technical foul when he complained about a double-foul with 2:26 left in the game. There’s clearly a fine line for Smart to walk and always has been since he came into the NBA in 2014. 

“I was begging for Spoelstra to get a technical foul because he was saying a lot of stuff. He was everywhere last night, but that’s one of the things he did say. When they went to intentional foul Marcus it was obvious that what they were trying to do was more than just foul. They were trying to get under his skin and play a little physical, and knowing he wanted to retaliate for the most part. So it’s just part of the scouting report on I guess Marcus that he wears his emotions on his sleeve.”

Crowder got his wish when Spoelstra was finally T’d up with 2:11 left as the Celtics pulled away for the 112-104 win. 

“It’s a very fine [line]. He as a person, as an individual, has to control it,” Crowder said. “We as teammates can keep being on him about it, but it’s about him and being able to control it. A lot of players and coaches in this league know he’s an emotional type of guy, so they’re going to try to do everything they can to get under his skin and in his head. But he has to want to put his pride aside and put his emotions aside for the team’s sake. And take care of business.”

Can Crowder see a maturity in Smart?

“Of course. He has not gone backwards in that regard,” Crowder said. “But he’s playing more minutes now than he was when he was a rookie. He’s playing a bigger role now, so we need him to be more locked in on that standpoint. You can’t just give away points at the free throw line on technicals and flagrants and stuff like that. So, we’ll keep pounding it in his head, and he keeps [telling] us he wants to change, so he’ll get better, hopefully.” 

Brad Stevens is also keeping a close eye on Smart’s on-court intensity. 

“I think toughness is such a critical component of a team and everybody brings their own levels of skill to the table and everything else but you have to have a competitiveness and an ability to figure out a way to win that possession,” Stevens said. “He’s able to do that on a lot of possessions.”

There’s an obvious irony to what happened Monday as it’s usually Smart and his intense defense that agitates and gets opposing players out of their game. 

“Well, he plays physical. For the most part, a lot of guys don’t like to play physical,” Crowder said. “They want an easy-flowing game and Marcus don’t play like that. That alone just gets under guys’ skin, just him playing physical and him being a presence on the basketball court with his body and his stature. A lot of players don’t like it. [Hassan] Whiteside is one of those guys who doesn’t like to play that physical. He likes to play physical as long as guys don’t play physical back with him. So, he didn’t like the foul Marcus laid on him late in the first quarter.”

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Read More: Boston Celtics, Brad Stevens, Erik Spoelstra, Jae Crowder
Brad Stevens on playoff picture: ‘Biggest thing is getting back to playing with aggression’ 04.13.16 at 7:32 pm ET
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Celtics head coach Brad Stevens is trying to fire his team up for the playoffs. (Bob DeChiara/USA Today Sports)

Celtics coach Brad Stevens is trying to fire up his team for the playoffs. (Bob DeChiara/USA Today Sports)

For all the fret and worry over playoff scenarios, there’s one variable Brad Stevens is counting on: Togetherness. 

It’s what the Celtics coach felt was missing the most on Monday night in the 114-100 loss to Charlotte at TD Garden. And it’s exactly what needs to be on display not only in the season finale against Miami but heading into the playoffs. 

“I think no matter what, obviously we could win and not finish with home-court advantage,” Stevens said before Wednesday’s game with Miami. “We could win and finish with home-court advantage. I think the biggest thing is getting back to playing with the aggression and the spirit that we’ve played with in the past that has got us to this point. We didn’t play with that on Monday, so that’s really been my focus. All of these scenarios and that stuff, I can’t keep up with it.”

Stevens was still able to joke about Monday’s loss. 

“When I was 17, I went and visited one of those people that tell you what you’re going to do with your life and they said you’re going to be an actuary or a basketball coach and I chose coaching,” Stevens said. “It’s probably a good thing because those numbers were spinning in my head when I look at them for five minutes.”

An actuary is defined on a Google search as “a business professional who analyzes the financial consequences of risk.” They use mathematics, statistics, and financial theory to study uncertain future events, especially those of concern to insurance and pension programs.

“I guess on Monday night I was thinking, man, there are probably a lot of people thinking he’d be better off being an actuary. I guess time will tell.”

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Read More: 2016 NBA playoffs, Boston Celtics, Brad Stevens, Miami Heat
Poll: What is best 1st-round matchup for Celtics? at 1:28 pm ET
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Thanks to the number-crunching of Ben Rohrbach, we now know all the first-round possibilities for the Celtics in the playoffs that begin this weekend. The question is: What matchup might favor the Celtics and which matchup might give the Celtics the best path through the East? Is it too early to start thinking about avoiding either Toronto or Cleveland in the second round? That’s a question for later. But for now, who do you want to see the Celtics face in the opening round?

What is the best first-round matchup for the Celtics?

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Read More: 2016 NBA playoffs, Atlanta Hawks, Boston Celtics, Charlotte Hornets
Mike Petraglia, Sam Packard on what Monday’s no-show vs. Hornets means for playoffs 04.11.16 at 11:32 pm ET
By   |  Comments Off on Mike Petraglia, Sam Packard on what Monday’s no-show vs. Hornets means for playoffs’s Mike Petraglia and Sam Packard break down what happened in the Celtics’ abysmal 114-100 loss to the Hornets on Monday night at TD Garden. The Celtics were outscored 39-13 in the second quarter, incluing 33-3 in one stretch that had them down 28 points. They never recovered, and as a result they fall to 47-34 and into a fifth-place tie with the Hornets in the East. The Celtics are a game behind the third-place Hawks and a half-game behind the Heat. The Celtics finish up the season with a game against Miami on Wednesday night at TD Garden and will clinch fourth place and home-court advantage in the first round with a win.

Read More: Boston Celtics, Charlotte Hornets, Miami Heat, Mike Petraglia
With playoff implications on the line, Brad Stevens laments, ‘We laid an 8-minute egg’ at 11:25 pm ET
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As Brad Stevens stepped to the podium Monday night after a stinker of a loss, 114-100 to the Hornets, he hid a wry smile and knew what was coming next.

What was the problem in a game that saw you outscored 39-13 in the second quarter, never to be heard from again?

“We laid an eight-minute egg at the end of the second quarter, and just couldn’t overcome,” Stevens said. “We were up 38-32 and then I think they went on a 31-3 run, offense was bad, defense was bad, everything was poor, but that’s what it boiled down to. I mean, it was an eight minute — we laid an eight-minute egg. That’s the way I look at it. That’s enough against those guys when they’re shooting it like that, to really hurt you.”

The Celtics made just 3-of-22 shots from the field in the second quarter while the Hornets hit on 11-of-19, including 3-of-8 from beyond the arc. The Celtics missed all four of theirs from long distance. The Celtics had six turnovers while the Hornets had just three. Jeremy Lin, the former Harvard star, had quite a night on Asian-American night at TD Garden, scoring a game-high 25 points on 7-of-14 shooting from the field.

“I don’t know what we shot — what did we shoot? — obviously not very good, but it really wasn’t even the shooting,” Stevens said. “They’ve got to be able to believe in their work, and we’re not harping on each and every shot that they take and everything else. And so you just have to step up and shoot it confidently. And believe that the next one’s going in.

“There are times, certainly, where you don’t feel as good as other times, but at that moment, make plays for other people. But I think the biggest thing was we tried to dribble through traffic in that eight-minute stretch, and it was like we were just dribbling into five guys, 10 arms. And everybody was in the paint because we weren’t making shots. And so, you know, we just kept fumbling the ball and turning it over, and those run-outs hurt and then they got going shooting the ball and Lin was excellent for them in that stretch as well.”

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Read More: 2016 NBA playoffs, Boston Celtics, Brad Stevens, Charlotte Hornets
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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Read More: Boston Celtics, Brad Stevens, Evan Turner, Jared Sullinger
Brad Stevens has a lot of respect for ‘great job’ Erik Spoelstra has done in Miami at 3:18 pm ET
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Miami Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra (right)  is a role model for Brad Stevens.  (Steve Mitchell/USA Today Sports)

Miami Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra (right) is a role model for Brad Stevens. (Steve Mitchell/USA Today Sports)

When Brad Stevens talks about Miami Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra, you can sense a great deal of respect and admiration. You can also sense that he wouldn’t mind having his track record some day. When Spoelstra took over for Pat Riley in 2008, he was just 37, the same age Stevens was when he took over the Celtics in 2013. 

In his eighth season in Miami, Spoelstra has been to the NBA Finals four times, winning twice with LeBron James. After going just 37-45 last season, and missing the playoffs for the first time, Spoelstra has bounced back strong this year. His team is 32-25 and what’s more impressive is that he’s doing it short-handed.

“I don’t know him all that well,” Stevens said. “I’ve obviously met him in a couple of the coaches’ meetings and seen him at the summer leagues and those types of things real briefly but I haven’t spent a lot of time with him. I’m really impressed by him and have been since I got a chance to first watch his teams play. I didn’t know him when he was a video guy or an assistant in his earlier years either.”

While both were wunderkinds when hired for their first NBA head coaching gigs, Spoelstra and Stevens are from very different backgrounds. 

Spoelstra was hired by then-Heat GM Dave Wohl and personnel director Roya Vaziri in 1995 as a video coordinator at the age of 25. He worked his way up, eventually impressing Riley with his work ethic as a video coordinator and eventually a scouting director in 2001. He’s been a Heat lifer. As for Stevens, everyone knows the story how he wowed the basketball world by taking Butler to the NCAA finals in 2010 and ’11, in the process becoming the youngest coach ever (34 years old) to reach the Final Four twice. Stevens didn’t shoot out of the gate and make the playoffs in his first season like Spoelstra but he is commanding the respect of stars young and old around the league. Even Rajon Rondo was impressed with Stevens the first time they met. 

But what impresses someone like Stevens is how even-tempered someone like Spoelstra can be, even when things seem to be falling apart around him. 

Last week, the Heat’s leading scorer, Chris Bosh, was sidelined with a blood clot in his calf. That was just the latest in a long line of injuries to significant players. Beno Udrih had surgery Friday on his foot and is out three months. Tyler Johnson is out with a shoulder injury. Udonis Haslem had an allergic reaction this week but made the trip to Boston for his short-handed teammates.

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Read More: Boston Celtics, Brad Stevens, Erik Spoelstra, Miami Heat
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