|Goran Dragic ‘surprised’ Isaiah Thomas landed in Boston||03.25.15 at 11:54 pm ET|
Goran Dragic requested a trade from the Suns, so when Phoenix general manager Ryan McDonough also dealt Isaiah Thomas minutes before the deadline, the news came as a bit of a shock.
“If I’m honest, I was a little bit surprised, especially because I asked for the trade,” said Dragic after his Heat beat the Celtics, 93-86. “But that’s how the NBA goes. It’s a business.”
Following Dragic’s Third Team All-NBA campaign in 2013-14, Phoenix acquired Isaiah Thomas on a four-year, $27 million contract in a sign-and-trade with the Kings — seemingly as insurance should restricted free agent Eric Bledsoe find a lucrative contract offer elsewhere.
Only the Suns then reached a five-year, $70 million deal to keep Bledsoe in Phoenix. In theory, the Suns entered this season capable of extending the two-point-guard attack that worked so well last season over a full 48 minutes, but reality eventually took over on the court.
“Unfortunately, we had three point guards at the same position and only one ball,” added Dragic, who scored a game-high 22 points Wednesday, “so it’s kind of hard to satisfy everybody.”
In the end, Dragic landed in Miami, where he’s excited about the Heat’s playoff potential, especially if they can ever get healthy, and Thomas found his way to Boston. While rumors spread that the two former teammates butted heads in Phoenix, both players squashed that notion.
Asked about the on-court dynamic between the two during their 46 games as a backcourt tandem, Thomas said, “It was nice. When we did play together, it worked. He’s a hell of a player.”
“I talked with Isaiah. He’s happy here. He was a great teammate. We had a good relationship,” added Dragic, who then offered a glowing scouting report on Thomas, who returned from injury on Wednesday. “He can score in bunches. He’s an offensive-minded player. If he’s hot, he can score 30 points easy. He has that quality to put his team on his shoulders, especially on offense.”
As for Thomas’ new backcourt mates, Dragic is also impressed and seems to think they complement him well. “[Marcus Smart] is aggressive like Avery Bradley. They’re really good defenders on the ball. … It’s always nice to have these kinds of players on your team, because you know they’re going to defend the whole game, and they’re going to cause a lot of problems for the offense.”
No Dwyane Wade, no Hassan Whiteside and no Chris Andersen should have been no problem for the Celtics, but the hometown team with newfound playoff aspirations submitted one of its worst performances of the season Wednesday night.
The Heat dominated the first three quarters en route to a 93-86 victory that would have looked a lot worse if not for a furious fourth quarter comeback by Boston. Wade, Whiteside and Andersen all were inactive due to injuries, but their absences had little impact on the outcome, as Goran Dragic’s 22 points led five Miami scorers in double figures.
The Celtics cut the deficit to six points in the final two minutes, but ultimately fell short of an improbable comeback. Jae Crowder (16 points, 7 rebounds) led the C’s in scoring. Avery Bradley (12 points), Phil Pressey (11 points, 6 assists, 5 rebounds) and Tyler Zeller (10 points, 8 rebounds) also reached double figures.
A win would have pulled the Celtics (31-40) into a seventh-place tie with the Heat (33-38), but instead they remain as the eighth seed — holding the tiebreaker against the Pacers (31-40) and leading the Nets (30-40) and Hornets (30-40) by a half-game each. For a complete box score, click here.
ISAIAH THOMAS RETURNS
Thomas missed eight games with a bruised back after taking a hard fall the last time the Celtics played the Heat. He was still wincing in the locker room before the game, but felt “good enough” to return to game action. His performance failed to reflect his confidence, as he struggled through his 20 minutes and finished 2-for-7 from the field. Late in the second quarter he took a charge and landed directly on his injured tailbone. He got up groaning and looked to be in serious pain. He returned in the second half but was no more effective. Thomas finished with four points, zero assists and three turnovers.
CELTICS DIG DEEP HOLE
The Celtics played a terrible first half, especially on the defensive end. The Heat capitalized on a wide array of open looks, shooting an outrageously high 60 percent from the field. In addition to a number of easy layups, Miami punished the Celtics from beyond the arc, converting 7-of-12 3-pointers. To compound their problems, the Celtics also turned the ball over 13 times and entered the locker room trailing 57-40.
|Irish Coffee: Celtics, playoffs and tiebreakers, oh my||03.17.15 at 12:44 pm ET|
The bad news: Contrary to popular opinion, the Celtics are not currently in the playoff picture, since as of today they would lose the tiebreaker to both the Pacers and Heat based on their sub-.500 record against Eastern Conference opponents.
The good news: If the Celtics (30-36) have one more win than Charlotte (29-36), Indiana (30-36) and Miami (30-36) when all is said and done, they’ll capture the same seventh seed they earned when last they made the playoffs in 2013.
Heck, based on their performance since the NBA trade deadline (10-5, including five straight victories), there’s even an outside possibility the red-hot Celtics could catch the reeling sixth-seeded Bucks (34-32), whose four wins in 13 games since trading Brandon Knight have come against the Nuggets, 76ers, Wizards and Magic.
Obviously, that’s jumping ahead a bit, so let’s step back and take a look at the remaining schedules of the four Eastern Conference teams now tied with 36 losses.
Wednesday: at Thunder (37-30)
Friday: at Spurs (41-24)
Sunday: vs. Pistons (23-43)
Monday: at Nets (27-38)
March 25: vs. Heat (30-36)
March 27: at Knicks (13-53)
March 29: vs. Clippers (42-25)
March 30: at Hornets (29-36)
April 1: vs. Pacers (30-36)
April 3: vs. Bucks (34-32)
April 4: at Raptors (40-27)
April 8: at Pistons (23-43)
April 10: at Cavaliers (43-26)
April 12: vs. Cavaliers (43-26)
April 14: vs. Raptors (40-27)
April 15: at Bucks (34-32)
BY THE NUMBERS: .498 opponents’ winning percentage; 9 games vs. teams above .500; 9 road games; 7 games vs. teams below .500; 7 home games; 4 back-to-backs.
|5 things we learned as Celtics show right kind of fight in win over Heat||03.09.15 at 10:14 pm ET|
This time the Celtics showed they could take a punch.
Isaiah Thomas scored a team-high 25 points off the bench, including 12 in the final quarter, while Brandon Bass added 14 as the Celtics closed out strong in a 100-90 road win over the Miami Heat in a critical matchup for the final two playoff spots in the Eastern Conference.
The Celtics improved to 26-36 while the Heat fell to 28-35. With Charlotte (28-34) getting blown out at home by Washington, 95-69, the Celtics now trail Charlotte and Indiana by just two games for the final two spots in the East. Miami, led by Dwyane Wade‘s 34 points, is now just a half-game ahead of Boston for ninth place.
Heat big man Hassan Whiteside threw a elbow to the back of Kelly Olynyk as Olynyk was trying to get in position for a defensive rebound late in the third quarter and was ejected, like Marcus Smart was the night before in Orlando.
The ejection was the part of a key 15-1 run by the Celtics at the end of the quarter that gave the Celtics a 73-64 lead heading into the final quarter.
Evan Turner and Henry Walker exchanged shoves with 26 seconds left in the game and both were ejected. The shoves were very mild but the officials took no chances as the game was in hand. The Celtics take two of three on the road trip and now play host to Memphis Wednesday night at TD Garden.
For a complete box score, click here.
ANOTHER GOOD START
The Celtics raced out to a 24-19 lead after 12 minutes thanks to good defense. As was the case the night before in Orlando, the Celtics showed the ability to defend in the paint, holding the Heat to 9-of-21 shooting from the floor.
|5 things we learned as Hassan Whiteside’s Heat stop Celtics||02.01.15 at 4:11 pm ET|
If someone asks you about Sunday’s Celtics game, make sure to emphasize its “great personality,” because by no means was it visually pleasing.
In a low-scoring affair that saw neither team playing particularly well, the Celtics ‘ wearing their bizarre and unbecoming gray “Parquet Pride” jerseys ‘ fell 83-75 to the Heat at the TD Garden. The C’s struggled early and couldn’t regain the lead despite coming back to tie the game.
Without stars Dwyane Wade and Luol Deng, Miami relied heavily on their big men. Hassan Whiteside led all scorers with 20 points and nine rebounds while Chris Bosh added 18 points and seven rebounds. Avery Bradley and Tyler Zeller each netted 17 points to lead the way for the Celtics. Zeller started in place of Jared Sullinger, who was benched to start the game for arriving late to a pregame walkthrough. Marcus Thornton (15 points) was the only other Celtics player in double figures.
For the complete box score, click here.
CELTICS SHOOT TERRIBLY IN THE FIRST HALF
Even if there was some sort of bucket emporium that exclusively sold buckets and the team had a variety of currency options available, the Celtics still would not have been allowed to purchase a bucket. The C’s finished 13 for 41 from the field for an unimpressive 32.7 percent. Chris “Birdman” Andersen made as many 3-pointers as the Celtics, who made just one of their 10 attempts. Their inability to acquire aforementioned buckets, I’d argue, directly contributed to their 13-point deficit at halftime.
12 GOOD MINUTES OF BASKETBALL
Evan Turner may have started the game at point guard, but after missing his first six shots he quickly found himself on the bench. With Marcus Smart playing in his place to open the second half, the Celtics cut the Heat’s 13-point lead down to two. With the hyper-athletic lineup of Smart, Bradley and Jae Crowder in the game, the C’s increased their intensity and ball pressure on the defensive end. The Heat scored only 17 points in the quarter, turning the ball over seven times.
|Fast Break: Rajon Rondo, Avery Bradley too cool for LeBron James-less Heat||03.19.14 at 9:51 pm ET|
Rajon Rondo scored just nine points, but he was the best player on the floor all night, taking over the fourth quarter in a 101-96 victory against the two-time defending NBA champion Heat. Of course, it didn’t hurt that LeBron James (back spasms) was relegated to the Miami bench, but still — this was Rondo’s night.
The Celtics point guard finished one point shy of a triple-double (15 assists, 10 rebounds), ending a five-game losing streak. Avery Bradley‘s 23 points, including a career-high six 3-pointers, led the scoring effort, and four other Celtics reached double figures: Brandon Bass (18 points), Jared Sullinger (14 points), Jeff Green (13 points) and Kelly Olynyk (10 points). And the Celtics needed all of it from each of them.
The Celtics improved to 23-46, moving one win ahead of the Lakers and Suns for the NBA’s seventh-worst record.
WHAT WENT RIGHT
Bradley’s back: After making just six of his 25 attempts from outside of 10 feet in his first three games back from an ankle injury, Bradley found the stroke that made him so successful early this season. The soon-to-be free agent knocked down three of his six first-half 3-point attempts and added a long jumper to enter the break with 11 points. In all, the C’s shot 50 percent (9-18) from distance over the first two quarters and stayed within 56-53 after two.
Charmed third: Working inside and out, Bradley and Brandon Bass shot a combined 8-of-8 from the field to score 21 of the C’s 27 third-quarter points. Rondo was on the feeding end of four of those buckets, finishing with six assists in the frame. As a result, the Celtics took an 80-78 lead heading into the fourth quarter.
Bench press: The C’s bench situation isn’t pretty. It’s comprised of four guys who weren’t on the team to start the season, two rookies and another player with 45 NBA games under his belt entering the year. Yet, they received valuable contributions from three of those seven players, as Sullinger, Olynyk and Jerryd Bayless (7 points, 5 assists) combined for 28 points, 10 rebounds and seven assists.
WHAT WENT WRONG
Worst first: The opening quarter couldn’t have gone much worse for the Celtics defense. While the NBA’s two-time defending MVP sat on the bench, the Heat still scored 34 points on 70 percent shooting to take a 12-point lead in the game’s initial 12 minutes. It wasn’t Dwyane Wade or Chris Bosh who victimized the C’s, but Udonis Haslem. The Miami veteran scored 12 points on 6-of-7 shooting in the first quarter.
No LeBron: The Heat announced James would miss his first game in a month shortly before tipoff. It remains to be seen whether he’ll return Friday in Miami, but regardless of how they feel about him, Boston fans missed a player worth the price of admission. Perhaps a motivated Celtics team took it as a sign of disrespect, too.
|Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett from enemy’s perspective||01.25.14 at 1:53 am ET|
As the Celtics prepare to welcome Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett back to Boston on Sunday, one member of the new-look franchise knows the two legends of the game all too well from the opposite side of the ball. Joel Anthony endured three straight playoff meetings against the Celtics from 2010-12 as a member of the Heat.
“More than anything, you just wanted to beat them,” said Anthony, who entered the league the same year Garnett came to Boston. “You really, really wanted to beat them. They made you want to be like that because of how they played and how they competed. It’s really the beauty of the game, the beauty of basketball — the whole competition aspect and what you love about the game – to be able to have those type of moments, those battles, those types of feelings and emotions. That’s what it’s all about — to be able to have those battles with that team was special.”
Particularly after a brutal loss to an undermanned Thunder team, Anthony’s reminiscence of those series — a five-game Celtics win before LeBron James‘ arrival during the magical 2010 run, the five-game Heat victory when Rondo dislocated his elbow in 2011 and the epic seven-game Eastern Conference finals in 2012 — will make any basketball fan long for one more matchup between those grit and balls C’s and King James ascending to his throne.
“You respected who they were, what type of team they were and how good of a team that they were,” Anthony said. “Those were the games that guys really got up for, because we knew we were going to be in a battle with those guys every single night and every single minute on the floor. That was just the biggest thing, knowing that they were such competitors — that team was such a tough team to play against every single night.”
As Pierce and Garnett’s arrival in Nets uniforms will attest on Sunday, those days of meaningful Celtics-Lakers and Celtics-Heat playoff meetings are long gone — a chapter in NBA history that will be remembered the same way Larry Bird‘s Celtics and Magic Johnson‘s Lakers ultimately made way for Michael Jordan‘s Bulls.
There were a lot of tough battles for LeBron when he was in Cleveland and with us in Miami, a lot of pain from losing to that team,” added Anthony. “They were an extremely good basketball team, and so to be able to win those games was big, because it was really a huge step for us to be able to get that monkey off our back in terms of surpassing a team that you struggled against and that you respected, but that you wanted to beat more than anything.”
Was it really mutual respect, or was there more to it than that? Because it sure seemed like there was more to it than that. “I think there was some dislike in there,” said Anthony. “Yeah, there was some dislike in there.”
Regardless, Anthony remembers Pierce and Garnett the way most everyone does.
“KG’s intensity and demeanor,” he said. “Defensively, especially, he changed how that team was. They kind of took on his identity. And, in terms of Paul, his ability to hit those big shots. They’d find a way to keep it close, and Paul would end up getting the ball in some kind of iso and find a way to always make big shots.”
Yup, that’s Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett in a nutshell. Even Rajon Rondo, who called their homecoming “just another game,” knows deep down Sunday will be special. There are too many memories for it not to be.
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