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Avery Bradley will heal fully, ‘possibly’ available in Round 2, Brad Stevens considering lineup change 04.21.16 at 2:12 pm ET
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Avery Bradley drives to the basket against Hawks forward Paul Millsap (4) in Game 1. (John David Mercer/USA Today Sports)

Avery Bradley drives to the basket against Hawks forward Paul Millsap (4) in Game 1. (John David Mercer/USA Today Sports)

WALTHAM  –  The tale of these Celtics could be told by the end of Game 3. And Brad Stevens knows it. 

Without Kelly Olynyk (right shoulder) and Avery Bradley (right hamstring), the Celtics held a media session Thursday at their practice facility, then held a team meeting and then a relatively light practice. Before heading off to their bunker before practice, the Celtics coach broke down what’s at stake in the hours leading up to Friday night’s virtual do-or-die game. 

 

“From a physical standpoint I think we need to have a solid day but we’re not going to be out here very long,” Stevens said. “It’s going to be more about what changes we need to make, what we need to do to be a little bit more successful, how we need to play, those types of things. But hey, it’s we’re deep into the season. We’ve got to do what we do better, like I said [Wednesday], and go from there.

“Kelly will be, like I said [Wednesday], questionable probably at best for the game. And then Avery obviously won’t be playing, so the guys that are out here are the guys that we’ll prepare with.”

Bradley did have his MRI and Stevens indicated that surgery will not be needed, just time to heal. 

“Nothing that we didn’t think. So I think big picture, long term, he’s going to be able to heal fully,” Stevens said. “It will all be good and everything else. It just takes time with hamstrings. And so like I said earlier he’s definitely out this weekend, and then I would say he’s very unlikely to play in this series again. The hamstring’s one of those things where you can walk down the hallway and look like a million bucks, but when you start playing 32 minutes and have to change speeds and change directions and those type of things, that’s a different story.”

As for the likelihood Bradley would be available for the next round?

“That would be something that we haven’t discussed a whole lot just because they’ve talked about toward the end of this series he should be to the point where he’s able to do a little bit more from a practice standpoint and those type of things,” Stevens said. “So, I would say that it’s still unlikely early in that situation, but possibly in the days that go on after that.”

Stevens indicated another lineup change is in store for Game 3. Stevens had his regular group of Isaiah Thomas, Avery Bradley, Jared Sullinger, Jae Crowder and Amir Johnson for Game 1. Then Marcus Smart replaced Bradley in Game 2. Evan Turner replaced Sullinger to start the second half Tuesday night. That could be sign of things to come but Stevens said he hadn’t made up his mind yet.  

“In Game 1 it wasn’t as much execution as shot-making,” Stevens said. “And then in Game 2, I thought Game 2 was a much different game overall. So from my standpoint, we look at Game 1, we look at Game 2, we look at the things we can do well, and we need to do them as well as we can for those 48 minutes that are coming up. But I think at the end of the day, we’ve defended how we’ve wanted to more often than not.

“And offensively we’ve got to be better. Especially, again, you can’t dig yourself that big of a hole early because then that puts pressure on you to make the next one and the next one and the next one. We’re going to have to have guys that are not only in the right spots and executing the right ways, but also then finishing plays. And these guys have responded to that all year. So we’ve had our down moments. We’ve had our down quarters in games. And we’re looking forward to tomorrow night.”

Read More: 2016 NBA playoffs, Atlanta Hawks, Avery Bradley, Boston Celtics
Isaiah Thomas says Hawks not ‘a scary defensive team,’ C’s just need to ‘knock down shots’ 04.20.16 at 6:16 pm ET
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Isaiah Thomas (4) attempts a shot against Atlanta Hawks guard Kyle Korver (26) in the second quarter of Game 2 Tuesday. (Jason Getz/USA Today Sports)

Isaiah Thomas (4) attempts a shot against Atlanta Hawks guard Kyle Korver (26) in the second quarter of Game 2 Tuesday. (Jason Getz/USA Today Sports)

For Isaiah Thomas, the heartbeat of the Celtics dormant offense, the solution is simple. 

“If we start to knock down our shots, it’s going to make it easier for us to execute on the offensive end,” Thomas said in a conference call Wednesday. “But first two games we haven’t been able to shoot the ball. All the Hawks are doing is packing the paint, and we continue to attack the paint. Then all five guys are there anytime someone attacks it.”

When the Celtics shoot 3-for-23 like they did in the first quarter Tuesday, including 0-for-6 from deep, the Hawks can just do what they do, and that’s pack the paint.

“Especially when I’m in attack mode, trying to get into the paint. If guys continue to be confident, and knock down their shots, they’re going to open up lanes for guys to drive it. There won’t be any opportunity for them to block shots.”

And blocking shots is an Atlanta specialty. They rejected a franchise-playoff record 15 on Tuesday in Game 2, including several on Thomas when he tried in vain to create by driving to the basket. Al Horford had five and Paul Millsap added four. 

“They are quick to the ball. You see an opening, and once you get to the hole there’s two or three guys around you,” Thomas said. “Give them credit on that. But I haven’t thought of Atlanta as a scary defensive team where you have to second guess yourself on getting your shot blocked, like with a guy like DeAndre Jordan or Hassan Whiteside – (players) like that. They’re good at it, and we just have to either finish it off to a big or a drive and kick. Either a pump fake or make the adjustment.”

Brad Stevens suggested changes are coming for Game 3. What might they be?

“I don’t know. I think he will make some kind of change, knowing Brad and watching tons of film,” Thomas said. “But we’ll see. Hopefully he can do a few things that will make this team start games better, and give us a better chance to win.”

Thomas is 12-for-36 in the first two games, including 5-for-16 from deep. He admitted that sometimes he and others might be forcing things when the shots don’t fall.

“That can be the case, but that wasn’t true in the last game,” Thomas said. “Offensively, we couldn’t make shots, and we dug ourselves a big hole in the first quarter. For whatever reason we keep doing that. If we can sustain a better start, that gives us a way better chance to start the game. We give ourselves no chance by getting down by 20 points early in the game.

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Read More: 2016 NBA playoffs, Atlanta Hawks, Boston Celtics, Isaiah Thomas
Evan Turner finishes 5th in NBA ‘Sixth Man’ voting 04.19.16 at 5:29 pm ET
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Evan Turner

Evan Turner

Evan Turner might have a hole in his tongue when he takes the court Tuesday night in Atlanta for Game 2.

The hard-working versatile player, who spent most of the season becoming an indispensable part of Brad Stevens’ bench, took the news Tuesday very calmly that he finished fifth in NBA “Sixth Man” award.

“I don’t really have a real reaction in general,” Turner told reporters when informed of his place behind winner Jamal Crawford of the Los Angeles Clippers. “Jamal Crawford won once again. I think that’s great for the organization. I think nobody’s ever done what he did.”

Then he offered up some insight. 

“I thought Enes Kanter was gonna win,” Turner said, referring to the Oklahoma City Thunder center. “[Monday] night when I was watching games I didn’t realize he had so many double-doubles. But I didn’t really expect to win in general, so fifth or first it doesn’t really obviously matter. But it’s cool to be getting that recognition and be acknowledged for that. That’s definitely cool. But right now the focus is just on playoffs.”

Crawford captured the award for a record third time, as announced Tuesday by the NBA. Turner received three first-place votes, seven second-place votes and 10 third-place votes to finish behind Crawford, Andre Iguodala (Golden State), Kanter and Will Barton (Denver). A panel of 130 sportswriters and broadcasters participated in the balloting.

While Turner didn’t light any fires, his coach Brad Stevens was a bit more opinionated. 

“It’s kind of like what I said about Avery [Bradley],” Stevens said, referring to the NBA defensive player of the year award. “I can’t imagine anybody being more valuable off the bench than Evan. So, I didn’t realize that he was voted fifth-most, but we wouldn’t prefer to have anybody else at that spot. He’s been extremely valuable. He guards three positions a night, sometimes four positions. Obviously we have him with the ball all the time. He’s just had a great year and really impacted us in the last two years.”

Read More: 2016 NBA playoffs, Boston Celtics, Evan Turner, NBA
Isaiah Thomas: ‘We feel like we can definitely make noise’ 04.15.16 at 3:07 pm ET
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WALTHAM – Armed with an attitude and the confidence of a full All-Star season to back it up, Isaiah Thomas feels these Celtics are ready to make some noise against Atlanta in the playoffs starting Saturday night. 

“I learned a lot,” Thomas said following Friday’s final practice at the team’s facility in Waltham. “You’ve got to adjust to whatever the team’s doing. And be able to still contribute, even if they’re trying to take away your aggressiveness or your scoring ability or whatever the case may be. The best players figure it out. I know they’ll probably try to, not just contain me, but to try to slow me down. But you just gotta stay at it and continue to keep  your foot on the pedal.” 

Last year against Cleveland in the four-game sweep in the opening round, Thomas made just 18-of-54 shots from the field, averaging 17.5 points. He scored 20 points in three of the four games but was held to just five points in the Game 2 loss.

But Thomas believes it’s not just him but the entire team that is feeling better about themselves after a 48-34 season and the No. 5 seed in the East.

I think we got just a lot more confidence. We feel like we can definitely make noise,” Thomas added. “We think that the Eastern Conference is open for any team. We just gotta get a win and gain confidence off that win. I think we’re just a lot more confident and we feel like we’ve been here before, which we have.

“Just more confident. I think we just got a different feel about ourselves. Last year we kinda snuck into the playoffs, this year, I mean, teams knows about us a little bit. I think we’re the best team in the Eastern Conference. We want to make some noise. Like I said, we want to get that first win off our belt, then we want to win a playoff series and go from there. We’re not overlooking Atlanta. We know that they’re a great team. We gotta be locked in and just live in the moment. This is a big moment for us.”

Thomas and the Celtics will have fresh memories of the Hawks when they take the court Saturday night for Game 1. They fell apart in the fourth quarter after leading 87-75 and lost, 118-107. 

“We need to slow down a little bit. Slow down and just execute,” Thomas said. “They sped us up a little bit more than we wanted to. And they also pushed our catches where they were denying us. We just gotta get to our spots. We gotta do what we do and do that at a high level. I think that would be the big thing.”

That goes for his own game. 

“It’s something that I just tried to learn throughout the offseason as well, by watching a lot of film, and really learning how to impact the game without just scoring; learning how to use double-teams to my advantage to get the ball out quicker; having [help] on the backside any things like that,” Thomas said. “Just stay in attack mode, don’t let whatever they do try to slow me down.”

Thomas was again asked about his left wrist after practice Friday and whether it might be an issue in the series.

“No, I don’t want [any tests],” Thomas said. “I’ll be fine, I’ll be all right.”

Read More: 2016 NBA playoffs, Atlanta Hawks, Boston Celtics, Isaiah Thomas
Evan Turner cleared for ‘light non-contact’ Thursday, ‘chance’ of playing Friday 04.06.16 at 7:48 pm ET
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Evan Turner

Evan Turner

Evan Turner continues to make progress from the injury to his left eye suffered in Sunday’s win over the Lakers in Los Angeles.

Celtics coach Brad Stevens announced before Wednesday’s game with the Pelicans at TD Garden that the guard has been cleared to do some work in practice on Thursday, holding out hope that he might be available against the Bucks on Friday.

“Evan just saw the doctor again today,” Stevens said. “He’s set to do light non-contact shooting [Thursday] with a chance that he’d play on Friday.”

Stevens did not want to put a specific percentage on Turner’s availability for Friday or whether he might need protective goggles when he returns.

“To be determined. I don’t know the answer to that,” Stevens said. “I think it’s one of those situations where they’ll reassess on Friday and figure that out.”

Turner, in one of his trademark stylish camouflage sweaters, was in good spirits with the team on the bench during Wednesday’s game against the Pelicans, cheering and offering support. He was wearing his normal eye glasses, as he was on Monday when he posted a picture on Instagram.

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Read More: Avery Bradley, Boston Celtics, Evan Turner, Isaiah Thomas
Evan Turner suffers left eye injury in win over Lakers 04.04.16 at 12:50 am ET
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Evan Turner

Evan Turner

When Kobe Bryant’s three with 19.9 seconds rimmed in and out, the battle under the boards turned into an ugly affair for Evan Turner and the Celtics. 

Turner got entangled with Lakers big man Julius Randle, who appeared to accidentally poke Turner in the left eye with his right hand.

Turner immediately grabbed the left side of his face and made his way off the court and to the locker room.

“He’s got bleeding in his eye,” coach Brad Stevens told reporters afterward. “They’re looking at it. An internist is looking at him. We don’t know the extent of the injury. But clearly he got some eye poke [action]. Hopefully, not too much trauma.” 

According to multiple reports, Turner emerged from the showers with his left eye shut and redness around the eye. 

If Turner is out for any period of time, it could be costly to the Celtics. After Jae Crowder, Turner is arguably the most versatile player on the team. Turner filled in for Avery Bradley Sunday night in the starting lineup. Bradley was not with the team due to personal reasons. Before Sunday, Turner started the last seven games that Crowder missed with his high sprain of his right ankle. 


Read More: Boston Celtics, Evan Turner, Julius Randle, Los Angeles Lakers
Is Brad Stevens now the front-runner in NBA coach of the year race? 04.02.16 at 2:31 am ET
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Brad Stevens is directing the Celtics toward a playoff run with a signature win in his back pocket. (John Geliebter/USA Today Sports)

Brad Stevens is directing the Celtics toward a playoff run with a signature win in his back pocket. (John Geliebter/USA Today Sports)

It might be time to call Brad Stevens the front-runner in the race for NBA coach of the year. 

After all, his team, missing its most versatile defender on the court, was able to pull off something no other team in the NBA had been able to do since Jan. 27, 2015. 

In beating the Golden State Warriors Friday night, 109-106, without Jae Crowder, the Celtics ended Golden State’s regular season home win streak at 54 games and gave Stevens the signature win to date of his three-year tenure in Boston. The Celtics became the first team since San Antonio on Nov. 11, 2014 to beat the Warriors in regulation in a regular season game in Oakland. 

The Celtics, who improved to 44-32, withstood charge after charge down the stretch from the record-hungry Warriors, who fell to 68-8 on the season. They withstood Steph Curry going off for 21 of his 29 points in the third quarter. Stevens got Thomas involved in the offense early in the third quarter, as Thomas scored his first 18 points of the game in the period. Stevens diagramed play after play, including the game-clincher, an side inbounds from Marcus Smart to Thomas for a layup with 8.3 seconds left in the game. 

“It was a heck of a game,” Stevens told reporters after the game. “When Curry got going in the third quarter, the biggest moments of the game were us scoring consecutively when he scored because when he got going, that’s usually when they run away with a 10-0 run or a 12-0 run. We had to play. Guys had to play really well. We didn’t have a guy play poorly. That’s what it takes to beat a team like this. They’re outstanding.”

Perhaps most impressive was the fact that Stevens had his team ready just 24 hours after a 116-109 grueling loss in Portland. 

“I think the biggest meaning is the idea that we can bounce back from a night like [Thursday] night where we expended a considerable amount of energy and came up short, flew here, got in late and came to compete again,” Stevens said. “I thought that probably the other biggest moment of the game was when we were struggling to score in the second quarter, they weren’t scoring a ton and kind of kept us in the game. We were fortunate to win but at the same time, we made a lot of plays to win the game.”

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Read More: Boston Celtics, Brad Stevens, Golden State Warriors, NBA
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