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Celtics outclassed again, show no toughness in latest brutal collapse to Wizards 05.07.17 at 8:57 pm ET
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May 7, 2017; Washington, DC, USA; Boston Celtics guard Isaiah Thomas (4) shoots as Washington Wizards forward Otto Porter Jr. (22) and center Marcin Gortat (13) defend during the first quarter in game four of the second round of the 2017 NBA Playoffs at Verizon Center. Mandatory Credit: Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

Isaiah Thomas shoots as Washington Wizards forward Otto Porter Jr. (22) and center Marcin Gortat (13) defend during the first quarter in game four of the second round of the 2017 NBA Playoffs at Verizon Center. (Brad Mills/USA Today Sports)

Well, give the Celtics this much: They waited a full half before they allowed the Wizards to crush them. 

Playoff caliber teams can get embarrassed every once in a while but what’s happening to the Celtics is inexcusable in any context. 

Three days after allowing a 22-0 spurt that allowed Washington to blow them out of the building, the Celtics outdid themselves, permitting the Wizards to score 26 straight points in an epic playoff meltdown.  

The Celtics lost Game 4 to the Wizards, 121-102, Sunday night at the Verizon Center. The Celtics lost a game because they quit in an embarrassing third quarter display. The Celtics lost a game in which they were outscored 58-20 after building a mirage of hope with a 40-28 second-quarter lead. 

The series is tied at 2-2 and the Celtics are lucky to be that close after allowing a 16-0 spurt to open the series in Game 1 and a 39-17 explosion by the Wizards in the first quarter of Game 2. Game 5 is set for Wednesday night in Boston. Game 6 will be Friday night back in Washington. 

All of this as Gerald Green was heard proclaiming, “We are going to beat their ass in Game 4,” after the Game 3 embarrassment last Thursday. Not quite the way it turned out. 

The Wizards again outclassed and embarrassed the Celtics on the glass and in the paint. The Wizards got into the paint with almost no resistance and despite starting Amir Johnson, there was zero presence on the glass. The Wizards outrebounded the Celtics, 45-31 and outscored Boston, 56-38, in the paint.  

“You guys are good. I didn’t think you’d be this good but let’s keep this up,” Wizards coach Scott Brooks told his team after they outscored Boston 42-20 in the third quarter. The Celtics self-destructed with nine turnovers in the third quarter, leading to 21 Wizards points, one more than the Celtics scored the entire period. 

“If you turn the ball over against these guys, you prefer to drop-kick it into the stands so you can at least set up your D,” Brad Stevens said after the game. 

The Wizards broke out to another fast start with an 8-0 run to start the game. But the Celtics took Washington’s punch this time and didn’t wait until the end of the first quarter to respond. 

(Click here for the full box score)

Isaiah Thomas connected on his first three 3-pointers while Al Horford had four assists and a block in the first eight minutes. Jae Crowder provided the toughness on the glass with four rebounds. 

Amir Johnson got his second start of the series and quickly picked up two fouls in the first five minutes. He also surrendered a pair of offensive rebounds to Marcin Gortat and was getting overwhelmed in the paint. 

After Washington got off another big start, the Celtics started coming back quickly. An 8-0 run put the Celtics ahead 20-15. 

Kelly Olynyk, fresh from his controversial appearance in Game 3, made his debut with two minutes left in the opening quarter. He was loudly booed every time he touched the ball, including a missed three with a minute left in the first quarter. 

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Read More: 2017 NBA Playoffs, Boston Celtics, Isaiah Thomas, NBA
Brad Stevens believes Celtics need to simply play harder, Amir Johnson will start in Game 4 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
Could Isaiah Thomas and Celtics copy Steph Curry, Warriors and win an NBA championship? It’s looking more and more possible 04.30.17 at 10:56 pm ET
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Apr 30, 2017; Boston, MA, USA; Boston Celtics guard Isaiah Thomas (4) shoots over Washington Wizards forward Jason Smith (14) during the second half of the Boston Celtics 123-111 win over the Washington Wizards in game one of the second round of the 2017 NBA Playoffs at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

Isaiah Thomas shoots over Washington Wizards forward Jason Smith (14) during the second half of the Boston Celtics 123-111 win over the Washington Wizards in game one of the second round of the 2017 NBA Playoffs at TD Garden. (Winslow Townson/USA Today Sports)

The Celtics have gone where no other team has gone in NBA playoff history. 

Not even the Golden State Warriors of the last two NBA finals appearances have mastered the art of the 3-pointer the way these Celtics have. 

Good thing, too, because most teams down 16-0 and 20-3 the way these Celtics were Sunday in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference semis against Washington would have zero chance of coming back. 

And most players who got in on a red-eye nine hours before Game 1 after attending his sister’s funeral would have absolutely no ability to play let alone scoring a game-high 33 points in leading his team back to a 123-111 win. 

“I got in at 4 a.m. I tried to get as much sleep as I could on the flight and then when I got home this morning,” Isaiah Thomas said of his cross-country flight from Seattle. “It’s tough, but it’s the playoffs so there are no excuses. I decided to play and I just tried to give it all for my team and we came out with the win.”

But these Celtics are all about making history as Avery Bradley reminded us after Game 5 against the Bulls. 

The Celtics in the first round set a new NBA playoff series record with 76 three pointers. They started slowly in the first two games against the Bulls but then started to warm up from beyond the arc. In Games 4 and 5, they were 19-of-77 combined. On Friday, they were 16-of-39. Then it really all clicked Sunday. They converted 19-of-39 from beyond the arc. 

Are the Celtics finally finding their level from beyond the arc?

“Hope not. Hope we still have some level to find,” Brad Stevens said. “But we dug ourselves a pretty big hole shooting it in the first round; we did not shoot it great, except for two games. But hey, we’re going to have to shoot the ball in to be a good team. I mean, I think that the ability to space the floor, to open up lanes for drives for Isaiah and others, and then Al (Horford)’s rolls I think is really important. So you’re not going to make nineteen every night, but we took a lot of good ones and we got good ones for each other.”

There’s only team with this kind of attack to win an NBA championship. The 2015 Golden State Warriors with Steph Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green connected on 240 three-pointers through 21 playoff games on their way to the title. Through seven playoff games, the Celtics have 95. Multiply that by three and the Celtics would shatter the Warriors figure with 285 threes.

Celtics fans watching with pure ecstasy Sunday their team dismantle the Wizards after the 0-16 start now know precisely what those Golden State Warriors fans felt like the last two seasons. So many experts said there was no way any team could keep this up in the playoffs. There’s no way in the NBA playoffs any team could take 39 threes and make nearly half of them. 

In the 29 minutes following the 16-0 hole to start the game, Boston scored an astounding 91 points. Think about that. 91 points in a playoff game over two and a half quarters. 

“They were a little more aggressive than we were,” Bradley Beal said. “Our defense slipped a little, we lacked some IQ and focus. We gave up a lot of threes, I think 19. We gotta do a better job at guarding the three and being on the same page defensively.”

 “Yeah, I mean, I thought we were in trouble, obviously, the way that that game started,” Stevens added. “But it’s a long game and you know you’re only a run away from being right back in it. You know, I just think that you just stay the course. We were sloppy right out of the gate for the first five minutes. We can’t expect to play that way and be good for the rest of the series. But played well the rest of the time.”

In some ways this Celtics team might be even tougher than the Golden State team that won it all two years against Cleveland.

Just what happened to Isaiah Thomas alone on the eve of the playoffs has taken an emotional toll on him and his teammates. Then to be so outplayed on their home court by an inferior Bulls team and drop the first two games of the playoffs.

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Read More: 2017 NBA Playoffs, Boston Celtics, Golden Warriors, Isaiah Thomas
Avery Bradley, Al Horford and how the Celtics made the Bulls crumble in Game 5 04.27.17 at 2:15 am ET
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What was most impressive about Boston’s 108-97 win over the Bulls in Game 5? Was it Avery Bradley coming out on fire and playing a great defensive game? Al Horford dominating in the 4th or the Celtics generating 23 points off 16 Chicago turnovers? WEEI’s Mike Petraglia and Josue Pavon discuss from TD Garden.

Read More: 2017 NBA Playoffs, Al Horford, Avery Bradley, Boston Celtics
Al Horford says Gerald Green is biggest reason Celtics won in Chicago. Will it continue? 04.26.17 at 8:24 pm ET
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Al Horford

Al Horford

After facing a 2-0 hole in the best-of-7 series, Celtics coach Brad Stevens knew a change had to be made to the starting lineup. 

Stevens’ decision to start Gerald Green over Amir Johnson was a surprising one, to say the least, but certainly made a difference in Chicago — where the Celtics won two straight against the Bulls to tie the series, 2-2. It was a move that Al Horford says is the biggest reason why the C’s topped the Bulls twice on their own floor.

“For us, the lineup change is what helped us [the most], I think,” Horford said. “Being able to add Gerald to the starting lineup, I felt like that gave us better spacing.”

Green certainly made his presence felt in Chicago, especially in Game 4 when he scored 16 of his 18 points in the first half and finished with 7 rebounds in the crucial momentum-changing win. Now as the series swings back to Boston for Game 5, Horford is confident the Celtics can top the Bulls at home for what would be their first home victory of the series. 

“We’re gonna do what we do, that’s just playoff basketball after you play a certain amount of games,” Horford explained. “This is the ninth time we’ve played this team this year. I think it’s just a matter of keep seeing the same guys, keep running the same plays over and over and over. For us it’s just to make sure we go out and handle our business.”

Aside from Green’s Game 4 scoring outburst, Isaiah Thomas’ attitude, along with his 33-point performance of course, and his smile, certainly stood out on Sunday. It was the first time in the series we’ve seen that side of Thomas, since the untimely passing of his young sister, Chyna Thomas. 

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Read More: Al Horford, Boston Celtics, Chicago Bulls, NBA
Rajon Rondo out of arm cast, could return after Game 5 04.25.17 at 7:18 pm ET
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Apr 18, 2017; Boston, MA, USA; Chicago Bulls point guard Rajon Rondo (9) during the first quarter in game two of the first round of the 2017 NBA Playoffs against the Boston Celtics at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports

Chicago’s offense hasn’t looked the same without Rondo (M. Cooper/USA Today Sports)

Rajon Rondo has been ruled out for Game 5 in Boston on Wednesday, but Games 6 and 7 still remain open.

Rondo, who injured his right thumb in Game 2, had his hard cast removed this week and was taking jump shots on Tuesday before team practice. He was initially expected to miss seven to 10 days — ruling him out for the rest of the series — but after the Bulls dropped two straight in Chicago and are now on the verge of falling behind, 3-2, in their best-of-7 series against the Celtics, the Bulls could turn to Rondo for help.

However, Bulls head coach Fred Hoiberg is calling a potential comeback against the Celtics unlikely, but stated if there’s one person who can pull it off it’s Rondo.

“This is honestly the first time he’s touched a basketball with that right hand,” Hoiberg said. “We’ll see. We’ll see how it goes. He’s going to continue to condition and do everything that he can. He was in the weight room yesterday getting a good session in there. It was his first time back in the weight room. He’s just getting this whole process started.

“Just watching him wince a little bit when the ball was coming to him makes me think it’s a longshot. But if there’s anybody who can do it and will try to fight through it, it’s Rondo because of the competitor he is.” (Chicago Tribune)

If the Bulls were to fall behind 3-2, it’d be hard to envision Rondo sitting on the bench in street clothes given the Bulls haven’t won a game in this series without him. One thing’s for sure is Rondo will not play in Game 5 but the rest of the series is still up in the air.

Rondo averaged 11.5 points, 10 assists and 8.5 rebounds in Games 1 and 2 before he was forced to sit out the rest of the series.

Read More: Boston Celtics, Chicago Bulls, Fred Hoiberg, NBA
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