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Celtics halftime report: Isaiah Thomas amazes in horrible circumstances, but C’s can’t rebound, trail Bulls 04.16.17 at 7:52 pm ET
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Celtics guard Isaiah Thomas (4) gets a hug from guard Avery Bradley (0) after hitting a shot against the Chicago Bulls on Sunday. (Winslow Townson/USA Today Sports)

Celtics guard Isaiah Thomas (4) gets a hug from guard Avery Bradley (0) after hitting a shot against the Chicago Bulls on Sunday. (Winslow Townson/USA Today Sports)

Just a quick halftime update, with the Celtics trailing the Bulls 48-46 at halftime of Game 1 of their playoff series.

All eyes were on star guard Isaiah Thomas during warmups and introductions. Playing through grief after his younger sister, Chyna, was killed in a one-car crash on Saturday morning in Washington, Thomas came out on fire, scoring 13 points in the first quarter and 15 in the first half.

Unfortunately, his teammates haven’t picked up their end of the bargain, particularly on the boards, where they’ve been outrebounded 32-20 while allowing 16 offensive rebounds.

Al Horford nailed a 3-pointer at the first half buzzer to pull the Celtics within two.

The play of the second unit has been particularly galling, with Marcus Smart and Kelly Olynyk a combined 1-for-8.

Robin Lopez leads the eighth-seeded Bulls with 12 points and eight rebounds, including seven offensive.

The Celtics will need to clamp down on the second-chance opportunities or they’ll have surrendered homecourt advantage. Jae Crowder played only 10 minutes in the half because he has three fouls, and he should help provide some toughness on Bulls star Jimmy Butler in the second half.

But as with the start of the game, all eyes will be on Thomas, who is 5-for-10 from the floor, including 2-for-5 on 3-pointers.

Read More: Bulls, Celtics, Chyna, Isaiah Thomas
Celtics clinch top seed in Eastern Conference with victory over Bucks in regular-season finale 04.12.17 at 11:58 pm ET
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Celtics guard Isaiah Thomas celebrates in the final moments of the Celtics 112-94 win over the Bucks on Wednesday. (Winslow Townson/USA TODAY Sports)

Celtics guard Isaiah Thomas celebrates in the final moments of the Celtics 112-94 win over the Bucks on Wednesday. (Winslow Townson/USA TODAY Sports)

Say hello to the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference.

It took a while on Wednesday, but once the Celtics got rolling, the Milwaukee Bucks B team had no chance.

With the top seed in the conference improbably on the line and the Bucks resting most of their starters, the Celtics closed the game with a 25-6 run to win a 112-94 blowout and clinch home-court advantage until the NBA Finals.

High-flying reserve Gerald Green led the Celtics with 18 points, including a pair of thunderous dunks, and Jae Crowder and Amir Johnson scored 16 apiece.

The Celtics began the night needing either a win or a Cleveland loss to clinch the regular-season conference championship. While the Cavs lost against Toronto, the Celtics (53-29) chose not to back into anything, winning the game and the top seed going away.

“I think there’s a pride in being consistent, and I told the guys that,” said head coach Brad Stevens. “I thought that they’d been really consistent throughout the whole year with the way that they’ve gone about their preparation and competed on a night-to-night basis. It’s not always easy throughout an 82-game schedule to be at your very best, but these guys are very consistent in their prep and the way they compete. So that’s a real positive but now – we’ll talk about what was accomplished later. We’ll focus on whenever we play this weekend, to get ready.”

The Celtics trailed by 11 after one and by as many as 13 in the second quarter before Isaiah Thomas (13 points, 8 assists) scored 10 points in a two-minute stretch to end the first half with the Celtics up 57-56.

The C’s then pulled away with their game-ending blitz, spearheaded by the defense of Marcus Smart and Green’s hot hand.

“I always expected to be the number one team coming out of the East,” said guard Avery Bradley, who injured a finger in the second half but returned to action. “I always expect for us to be better than what people think we’re going to be. The type of guys we have, the coaches, I know the amount of work we put in, the work our coaching staff puts in. I always have high expectations for this team.”

The C’s and Bulls split their four matchups during the regular season. The series marks a reunion with former Celtics guard Rajon Rondo.

“It’s going to be cool, it’s going to be a fun atmosphere for both teams,” Bradley said. “It’s weird playing against him on the other side, but playoff time is when he really brings it. It should be a fun series.”

Read More: Cavaliers, Celtics, Eastern Conference standings, NBA playoffs
Celtics owner Wyc Grousbeck on OM&F: ‘I’d make the Al Horford deal again in one second today’ at 12:06 pm ET
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Al Horford

Al Horford

Celtics owner Wyc Grousbeck joined OM&F on Wednesday (see complete recap here) and was asked about the differing opinions over Al Horford’s impact this season.

Horford isn’t posting superstar numbers (14 points, 6.8 rebounds, 5 assists), but with the Celtics sitting on 52 wins with a chance to lock down the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference on Wednesday night against the Bucks, his contributions have been debated.

Put Grousbeck squarely in the camp of “no regrets” over signing the center to a four-year, $113 million contract last summer.

“I’m very happy with the signing and we have to be responsible for the contract,” Grousbeck said. “I’d love to see him step up and lead us all the way. Adding him last year put us better in the mix for another major free agent last year, obviously, puts us in the mix for a free agent this summer if we want to go that route, makes us a destination. I’d make the Al Horford deal again in one second today.”

So what do fans and media miss on nights when Horford doesn’t score a ton?

“I think when you go to the next level of analytics with Al, you see that Isaiah [Thomas] shoots noticeably better when he’s on the court,” Grousbeck said. “A lot of Isaiah’s points come from Al’s assists and Al’s screens. He’s one of the two leading big men in the league in assists at five a game, which is pretty high for a starting center. His screens are effective. He clears room for Isaiah to drive to the hoop, he sees him effectively along the perimeter. Isaiah and Al are linked. Isaiah shoots 55 percent when Al’s on the floor and 50 percent when he’s not. That’s a big difference when you take as many shots as Isaiah takes. That’s a meaningful difference in a game.”

Grousbeck suspects we’ll see a more assertive Horford in the postseason.

“I think playoffs will logically be his time,” he said. “When everything tightens up, you need that big man passing and setting screens and then bringing his offense. His balance is one of the reasons we are where we are.”

Read More: Al Horford, Celtics, Isaiah Thomas, NBA playoffs
Celtics owner Wyc Grousbeck on OM&F: ‘I don’t think we’re as good as Cleveland,’ stays away from LaVar Ball at 11:55 am ET
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Celtics owner Wyc Grousbeck joined OM&F on Wednesday (audio above), hours before his club had a chance to lock down the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference vs. the Bucks, and was very frank about its chances of beating the Cavaliers in the playoffs.

“I don’t think we’re as good as Cleveland,” Grousbeck said. “If we got a chance to play them in the postseason, I’d love to see it, but I’m not sure how it would turn out.”

Grousbeck wasn’t just basing that thought on last week’s disappointing performance against the Cavs in a blowout loss with the top seed on the line, though that game didn’t help.

“I actually hope the guys don’t forget that,” he said. “I hope the guys don’t forget how badly we were beaten last week and they can use it as fire going forward.”

He disputed the notion that the Celtics saw the Cavs clicking on all cylinders.

“That was Cleveland clicking on one cylinder, if you ask me,” he said. “I don’t want to disrespect them, but I saw LeBron [James] take that game over single-handedly. He had a lot of help, etc. . . . I’m not disrespecting Kyrie [Irving] or Kevin Love or anyone else on the team, but LeBron took that over for a period of about six possessions there on the offensive and defensive end of the court. He dominated us. I have to give him a ton of credit. It showed us that we’ve got a ways to go.”

Grousbeck touched on a number of other subjects as well, though one he stayed away from was if the potential of dealing with headache stage dad LaVar Ball would dissuade him from drafting UCLA point guard Lonzo Ball.

“That’s a question best left for you guys to comment on,” he said. “I understand the question, but I can’t answer it.”

Grousbeck also discussed:

— Building through the draft vs. trade.

“There’s also a third option, which is to add a young player and still make cap room for a max free agent,” he said. “That’s the way we worked it last year, and that’s the way we may be able to work it this summer. But we’ve got max cap room if we want it.”

— On if Isaiah Thomas is a franchise player.

“He’s playing at that level,” he said. “When you look at where he ranks among all-time Celtics statistics and players, he’s actually on those leaderboards right now, which is pretty incredible. We wouldn’t be anywhere near where we are without Isaiah right now. He was thought of maybe as a sixth man coming in. . . . He’s opened everybody’s eyes.”

— On plans to honor the 2008 champions next season and reports that Ray Allen wasn’t invited to a player’s only gathering organized by Rajon Rondo.

“Ray’s always going to be a champion here and we wouldn’t have won it without him,” he said.

— On complaints about teams resting star players.

“We talked about it specifically at our owner’s meeting in New York last week,” he said. “The general approach I took is the problem was there were some marquee games, marquee matchups, and our television partners and our fans were all disappointed that all of a sudden these guys were all sitting out en masse. It was made very clear that we don’t want that to happen again.

“The first way we’re fixing it is in partnership with the players next year, we’re adding a week to the season next year and shortening the preseason so there’ll be fewer back-to-backs. The players that were rested in the games we’re talking about were in back-to-back matchups. It’s hard to play guys back-to-back when you’re getting close to playoff time.”


Read More: Cavaliers, Celtics, Lavar Ball, Lonzo Ball
Jackie MacMullan on OM&F: ‘The thing about the Celtics is they control their own destiny’ 04.08.16 at 4:47 pm ET
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ESPN’s Jackie MacMullan joined the Ordway, Merloni & Fauria show on Friday and discussed the Celtics’ chances in the upcoming playoffs.

First off, she was extremely impressed with last week’s win over the Warriors.

“I thought it was incredibly meaningful, and I’ll tell you why,” he said. “They didn’t show up against the Clippers on that road trip. They have a really crummy practice in advance of that Portland game. And from what I understand, [coach Brad] Stevens called them all together and said, ‘You guys aren’t nearly as good as you make think you are. This is a good Portland team and we could lose to them tonight.’ And they went out and played pretty well in that game, but they lose anyway.

“Now, if they don’t come out of that road trip 3-2, we’re all going to say, ‘That was a disappointing road trip,’ right? So you know they’re going to beat the Lakers, or at least you hope they can. But that game, they’re the perfect team to play Golden State, because of the way they hawk the ball, the way they hawk those guards and pressure the ball defensively. They gave Stephen Curry trouble, there’s no question about it. To me, that win was more about the psyche of the team now going forward.”

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Read More: Brad Stevens, Celtics, Jackie MacMullan, NBA playoffs
Hot Celtics might not only make playoffs, but have chance to advance 03.24.15 at 6:17 pm ET
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If the NBA and NHL playoffs were to start today, then the Celtics would be off to Atlanta for a first-round series while the Bruins cleaned out their lockers. Not many people in Boston saw this being the case on March 24.

Of course, the 31-39 Celtics still have 12 games to play, and while they currently sit in the East’s eighth seed, they are by no means a lock to make the playoffs. According to John Hollinger’s playoff odds on the C’s hold a 48.6 percent chance of landing in the postseason. If you want to see what the remainder of the regular season entails for all the teams competing for the final spots in the East, Ben Rohrbach gave us a pretty good look last week.

But let’s have some fun here. If the Celtics do make the playoffs, what’s their ceiling? We can all likely agree that if the Celts draw LeBron JamesCavaliers in the first-round that they stand no chance. Maybe they steal a game, but LeBron would prove to be too much. Boston could probably give the Hawks a good run and make it a series, but likely still fall in five or six games despite making Atlanta sweat.

What’s changed in the East over the past month is the fact that the Bucks are no longer locked into the sixth seed as they seemingly were just a month ago. Going into the All-Star break, Milwaukee had withstood Jabari Parker’s ACL tear and compiled a 30-23 record — becoming the first team to double their previous season’s win total (15) by the All-Star break in the following season. Since then? Frankly trading away Brandon Knight completely crippled them. Despite still holding onto the sixth seed by the skin of their teeth, the Bucks are just 4-13 since the break. Their 34-36 record means they are just three games ahead of the Celtics and a game and a half ahead of the Heat (who sit in control of the seven spot).

In their final 12 games, the C’s face seven opponents with losing records and five with winning records. If they can win seven or eight of those games (including two huge must-wins over the Bucks and games against the Heat and Pacers), the sixth seed is in sight. To further help Boston’s cause, Isaiah Thomas is expected to return on Wednesday for the important matchup against Miami, and ideally the rest of the playoff push.

The C’s clearly wouldn’t own home court, but would a matchup against the third seeded Raptors, or potentially Derrick Rose-less Bulls be something these resilient Celtics couldn’t overcome? Personally, I’d like their chances.

The Raptors have lost 11 of their last 16 games, and look like they’ll be limping into the playoffs. They are also coming off a season in which they were upset on their home floor in game 7 of the first-round by Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett‘s Brooklyn squad. The Bulls may be a tougher opponent than Toronto, but with Rose’s future as uncertain as any player in the league, the feisty Celtics would surely have a shot at an upset here if Chicago were to climb into the third seed.

I don’t want to take the fun out of Brad Stevens‘ first playoff race by raising expectations. Like I said, we never expected this to be the case from the beginning.  So for now, enjoy these final 12 games. But if the C’s can get hot for this home stretch — with some help from Miami and Milwaukee — we could be watching a Celtics team that gets hot at just the right time go from making a little more noise than we thought this season to a whole lot more noise in the postseason.

Follow Julian Edlow on Twitter @julianedlow

Read More: Boston Celtics, NBA playoffs,
Last call: Celtics make furious comeback but season ends in Game 6 05.03.13 at 9:57 pm ET
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History will have to wait.

Despite one of the most furious comebacks in NBA playoff history, the Celtics‘ season came to an end Friday night with an 88-80 loss to the Knicks in Game 6 at a wild TD Garden. Boston used a 20-0 run over a four-minute span midway through the fourth quarter to cut a 26-point hole down to six, and eventually cut it to four before the Knicks held on for dear life.

Iman Shumpert and Pablo Prigioni hit seven of their first nine attempts from 3-point range and combined for 27 points as the Knicks ended Boston’s hopes of becoming the first team in NBA history to overcome a 3-0 series deficit.

The Knicks hit eight of their first 15 3-point attempts and turned 20 Boston turnovers into 17 points as New York clinched their first playoff series win since 2000.

The ice-cold Celtics lost in the first round for the first time since 2005, when they fell in seven games to the Pacers. In repeat of their offensive woes for most of the series, Boston scored just 27 points in the first half.

Paul Pierce shot just 4-of-18 from the field and finished with just 14 points. Kevin Garnett led Boston with 15 points and 10 rebounds while Jeff Green was the leading scorer with 21.

The Celtics pulled out all of the cards in their final home game of the season, including playing a video montage of the Red Sox comeback from 3-0 down in the 2004 ALCS against the Yankees before the tip.

In a repeat of Game 5 in New York on Wednesday night, the Celtics got off to a very cold start. New York raced out to a 21-5 lead in the first quarter as Pablo Prigioni hit three 3-pointers. Unlike Game 5, the Celtics couldn’t immediately work their way back into the game as they started out missing 11 of their first 14 shots and finished the first quarter trailing 24-10, while shooting just 4-for-16 from the field.

No one on the Celtics struggled more than their captain. Pierce finished the first half making just one of 10 shots while missing all five from 3-point range after going 4-for-8 from long distance in Game 5. The Knicks built their lead to 18 twice in the second quarter before the Celtics answered with a 10-0 run that included consecutive threes from Jeff Green and Jason Terry, getting the Garden crowd into the game for the first time.

Carmelo Anthony carried the Knicks offensively in the first half, scoring 14 points, including a key three-point play with just 4.5 seconds left before halftime that gave New York a 39-27 halftime lead. Anthony finished with 21 points.

Garnett hit a jumper to start the third quarter to cut the deficit to 10 but Prigioni fed Tyson Chandler for a slam dunk. That was followed by a Prigioni reverse layup and a Raymond Felton jumper and New York had a 45-29 lead. After Bass hit one of two free throws, Prigioni answered with his fifth 3-pointer with 8:56 and the Knicks matched their biggest lead, 50-32. Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Boston Celtics, Iman Shumpert, Jason Kidd, NBA
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