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Celtics conduct FaceTime call with injured star Isaiah Thomas after miraculous comeback against Cavaliers 05.22.17 at 6:08 pm ET
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Isaiah Thomas

Isaiah Thomas

CLEVELAND — Isaiah Thomas may be gone, but he’s not forgotten.

In the moments after the Celtics completed a remarkable comeback victory over the Cavaliers in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Finals on Sunday night, forward Kelly Olynyk decided to get Thomas on a FaceTime connection to celebrate.

Thomas is out for the playoffs with a hip injury and did not accompany the team to Cleveland, but he was with them in spirit, and then with them via video connection in the victorious locker room, as his teammates relayed after Monday’s practice.

“He was just happy. He was happy. He was excited,” said Avery Bradley, whose buzzer-beating 3-pointer gave the C’s the 111-108 win. “He sent everybody a text, and then Kelly just called him, or he might have been calling Kelly right after the game, so it was nice to see a smile on his face. I just wish he was here.”

The heart and soul of the Celtics, Thomas endured the death of his sister, the loss of a tooth followed by extensive dental surgery, and then finally the hip condition that had bothered him since March before shutting it down.

The Celtics found a way without him.

“It’s very different,” Thomas said. “But all we can do is play hard for him. Like I said, he was excited with the way that we played. We’re a family, and other guys got opportunities to step up for us, and Marcus [Smart] had a big game for us and it could be somebody else next game.”

Smart was happy to play his part, and even happier to share it with Thomas, even if only on a screen.

“He’s ecstatic,” Smart said. “I told him I channeled my inner IT, and he kind of laughed a little bit. It felt good. It felt good to see him smile. He’s been down with everything he’s been going through, and then for him not to be here, I know that hurts him even more. So to see him happy and smiling, it was a good feeling for us.”

Read More: Cavaliers, Celtics, Eastern Conference finals, Game 3 comeback
Sensitive superstar? LeBron James blasts reporter after game: ‘You only ask questions when we lose’ at 9:31 am ET
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LeBron James does not like being questioned after losses by the likes of you, Kenny.

That’s not some obscure South Park reference. It’s what happened after the Celtics dealt the Cavaliers their first loss of the postseason on Sunday night with an epic comeback, and a Cleveland radio reporter decided to ask The King a slightly negative question.

Kenny Roda of WHBC in Canton, Ohio asked James two questions — what happened to the defense in the third and fourth quarters, and then one about James struggling.

“You couldn’t get into a rhythm tonight based on their defense or just not feeling it, or what?” he asked.

James did not take kindly to the followup.

“I was just pretty poor. What do you want me to say?” he said. “It seems you like you only ask questions when we lose, huh? It’s this weird thing with you, Kenny. You always come around when we lose. That’s fine. Yeah, OK.”

Roda took to Twitter to defense himself, noting that he has attended every home game this postseason. “Ask questions win or lose,” he Tweeted.

That’s not the way James sees it. After leaving the podium, he continued to complain loudly about Roda in a hallway outside the interview room.

Read More: Cavaliers, Celtics, Kenny Roda, LeBron James
Marcus Smart delivers game of his life in place of Isaiah Thomas to lift Celtics past Cavaliers in Game 3 at 2:12 am ET
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Celtics guard Marcus Smart (36) celebrates after the Celtics beat the Cavaliers on Sunday. (Ken Blaze/USA Today Sports)

Celtics guard Marcus Smart (36) celebrates after the Celtics beat the Cavaliers on Sunday. (Ken Blaze/USA Today Sports)

CLEVELAND — Now that’s the Marcus Smart we could get used to.

Starting in place of injured point guard Isaiah Thomas, who will miss the rest of the postseason with a hip injury, Smart delivered the best game of his career, scoring 27 points, making seven 3-pointers, and setting up Avery Bradley for the buzzer-beating game-winner in Boston’s 111-108 victory.

“We can talk about his shooting all year long, but you know when it’s in a big moment, that kid is going to rise to the occasion,” said Celtics coach Brad Stevens. “He just always has. That’s one of the reasons why if he goes through a funk at some time in March, shoot yourself out of it, and we believe in you, and let it fly. Because in this moment when we needed him the most, he made huge shots. He was terrific tonight.”

Smart played all but 38 seconds in the second half, scoring 21 points. Most of his 3-pointers weren’t of the wide-open variety, either. He dazzled with pull-ups off the dribble, as well as a slick between-the-legs, behind-the-back step-back over J.R. Smith to tie the game at 95 with a little over five minutes left.

“Marcus just kind of led us,” Stevens said. “One of the things about Marcus is he’s going to play regardless of the score. Like you mentioned to me, he’s going to compete, and sometimes he’ll try to hit home runs because that’s — and then we talk about those after the game and we always say, and it’s true, those are his greatest strengths. He is a true competitor. He’s a tough guy.”

The Celtics needed it, because without Thomas, they lacked their heart and soul.

“He was aggressive from the beginning of the game,” Bradley said. “That’s what we needed him to be. A lot of people counted us out with Isaiah not being here, and he is a big part of this team. But Smart took this opportunity to come out and be aggressive on both ends of the floor and make plays.”

Smart said he didn’t try to change his mindset in place of Thomas, except to take any extra pressure off himself.

“Coming in, I just kept telling myself, you have nothing to lose, just go out there and play,” Smart said. “You’ve been working hard throughout this whole year on your game. Just let it flow and let it show. These guys and the coaching staff did a really good job of just encouraging me, especially when my shot hasn’t been falling. Free throws, missing those. They’ve just really been on me, staying on me to stay positive and keep going.”

Read More: Cavaliers, Celtics, Eastern Conference finals, Marcus Smart
Wizards react to F-bomb chants against Kelly Oubre: ‘That’s Boston, man’ 05.11.17 at 10:51 am ET
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Kelly Olynyk (41) is fouled by the Wizards' Kelly Oubre Jr. (12) on Wednesday. (David Butler II/USA Today Sports)

Kelly Olynyk (41) is fouled by the Wizards’ Kelly Oubre Jr. (12) on Wednesday. (David Butler II/USA Today Sports)

Wizards forward Kelly Oubre already knew he’d be hearing it from TD Garden fans before facing the Celtics in Game 5 on Wednesday in Boston. That’s what happens when you’re suspended for steamrolling Celtics counterpart Kelly Olynyk during a chippy Game 3.

A bit more surprising was the choice of words.

With fans chanting, “[Bleep] you, Oubre!” late in Boston’s 123-101 win, even the Wizards were a bit taken aback by the level of vitriol.

“It’s Boston, man,” forward Markieff Morris told reporters, including Kevin Duffy of MassLive. “You’ve got to be prepared for anything. That’s how I look at it.”

Shooting guard Bradley Beal turned to a phrase favored by courtside visitor Bill Belichick.

“It is what it is, man,” he said. “It is what it is. They’re trying to make it bigger than what it needs to be. We’re playing basketball here. They’re going to protect Olynyk here. We’re going to protect Oubre on our team. When he comes to D.C., Friday’s going to be the same thing. We booed him. It’s just part of the game. We don’t pay attention to that.”

Oubre finished with 13 points and three rebounds in 19 active minutes.

“They’re going to do what they’re going to do,” said Wizards point guard John Wall, per Duffy. “I think Kelly did a great job of handling it. He didn’t let it bother him. He kept playing basketball. We told him what to expect from the crowd. We didn’t think those types of words, but all we’ve got to do is play basketball. We’re his brothers. We stick behind him.”

Read More: Celtics fans chant, Kelly Olynyk, Kelly Oubre Jr., NBA playoffs
Brad Stevens announces that Amir Johnson will start Game 5 for Celtics vs. Wizards in NBA playoffs 05.10.17 at 1:53 pm ET
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Amir Johnson

Amir Johnson

Brad Stevens is sticking with Amir Johnson for Game 5 against the Wizards.

Appearing on sister station 98.5 The Sports Hub on Wednesday, Stevens said that he’ll maintain the same starting five he used in Sunday’s Game 4, which the Wizards won on the strength of a 26-0 run in the third quarter to tie the series at 2-2.

That means leaving the much-maligned Johnson in the lineup, alongside guards Isaiah Thomas and Avery Bradley, forward Jae Crowder, and big man Al Horford.

Johnson is averaging 3 points and 1.7 rebounds a game during the postseason. He has been overwhelmed by bigger, quicker players against both the Bulls and Wizards.

Starting doesn’t guarantee him big minutes, however. He has averaged just 9.7 minutes a game in the postseason, and Stevens will pull the plug quickly if he’s not playing well.

Is Stevens making the right call? On Tuesday, I made the case for Jaylen Brown to start over Johnson in an attempt to bring more athleticism to the floor.

 

 

Read More: Amir Johnson, Boston Celtics, NBA playoffs, Washington Wizards
Brad Stevens believes Celtics need to simply play harder, Amir Johnson will start in Game 4 05.07.17 at 5:53 pm ET
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maxresdefaultThe Wizards played with a lot of effort in Game 3, they played harder than the Celtics and it was the best Brad Stevens had seen from Washington throughout their best-of-7 series.

When asked why the Wizards were able to get out to such a large lead in Thursday’s 116-89 loss at the Verizon Center Stevens pointed to Washington’s hustle as the biggest reason while reminding the media that the C’s are facing a very good team.

“They’re just a really good, talented group, whether it’s the first quarter, last quarter, whatever — it’s a group that has a lot of options,” Stevens said. “They’ve tried to post us with a variety of guys. And then Gortat, you know, Gortat’s a guy with his ability to play in seams as a passer but also roll to the rim or seal you up the lane and make lobs to the rim– makes a lot of good plays for them. Very versatile, deep offensive lineup and then you know, I thought defensively the other night they were great.” 

Isaiah Thomas, who finished with 13 points in Game 3, credited the Wizards’ defense in their double and triple teaming coverage as a catalyst to his poor scoring night. However, when Stevens was asked about how will the Celtics adjust in making sure Thomas gets better looks in Game 4, he said it was the effort by Washington that made the biggest difference. And if the Celtics want to head to Boston for Game 5 with a 3-1 lead, they’re going to need to match that hustle.

“The thing that I saw that they did the other day — obviously they put a lot of attention on Isaiah as every team that we play does but the thing I saw is they did it really hard,” Stevens explained. “They were playing exceptionally hard and that’s the deal. It’s not how many guys, it’s how hard those guys are playing and that’s a credit to them. But Isaiah’s played against doubles and triples and all that other stuff all year and we just all have to be better. And that’s everybody on the roster, on the bench, on the coaching staff, we all have to do a better job of helping each other in those moments. Again, credit Washington. They played really well and they played really hard, much harder than we did.”

The tension between these two teams boiled over in what was a technical-foul filled Game 3. There were eight technical fouls, and three ejections total. Wizards head coach Scott Brooks and Stevens were each handed a technical foul.

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Read More: Boston Celtics, Brad Stevens, NBA, NBA playoffs
Terry Rozier isn’t worried about Brandon Jennings at 11:50 am ET
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20170507_114249Celtics guard Terry Rozier said he isn’t going to get into another altercation with veteran guard Brandon Jennings in Game 4. He’s learned his lesson.

Rozier and Jennings were both ejected in the fourth quarter of Game 3 on Thursday after the two couldn’t stop jawing at each other and were eventually handed a pair of technical fouls.

It was a tiff that Rozier says got the best of him at the tail-end of a lopsided game.

“I just think that the way the game was going, we were down by a lot the whole game, things weren’t going [well], so I got caught up in that at the end of the game,” Rozier explained. “If it was a close game, I wouldn’t have went down that road with him. But he pulled a vet move and it worked. He got under my skin or whatever you want to call it. But I’m not going to feed into that. I’m worried about Game 4.”

It certainly was a veteran move by Jennings. Rozier says it’s Jennings’ job to get under his skin and added that aside from that, Jennings isn’t a factor.

“He’s an instigator, just not to let him get under my skin and things like that,” Rozier said. “And I’m not worried about him at all. He’s not a factor. I don’t go home, I don’t lay down, I don’t think about him before I go to sleep. I don’t think about him outside the basketball court. He’s not a factor, so I’m not worried about him. I’m just worried about Game 4 and worried about what we can do to win the game.” 

Celtics All-star point guard Isaiah Thomas chimed in on the Rozier-Jennings spat, saying that while Jennings was the instigator between the two, Rozier isn’t the one he should be picking on. 

“A lot of people don’t wanna mess with Terry. He’s really with that,” Thomas said. “That’s what Jennings is doing, I guess he got the best of him last game but Jennings’ been doing that all year. I mean, Jennings’ a good friend of mine as well but he’s been that guy to just [get] real physical when he comes in the game and tries to change the outcome of the game and that’s his job. I guess he did a really good job at it last game.”

Read More: Boston Celtics, brandon jennings, Isaiah Thomas, NBA
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