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Brad Stevens avoids talking playoffs: ‘Nothing is more important than the next game in our world’ 04.02.15 at 10:06 am ET
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Maybe it’s superstition or maybe it’s just part of sending a message. But Brad Stevens didn’t mention the word playoffs once in his post-game press conference Wednesday after a 100-87 win over the Pacers that keeps his Celtics right in the hunt for the final two postseason spots in the East.

The way Stevens talked made it feel like he wants his team focused only on the here-and-now, knowing that any slip up in focus on the game at hand will likely cost them any chance of advancing to the playoffs for the first time in his two-year NBA coaching career.

“All 82 count the same,” Stevens said. “That’s kind of the way I’ve always looked at it. Every game carries equal weight and equal importance. Obviously because of the hole we dug, we’ve been fighting uphill all year. It adds more importance at the time but nothing is more important than the next game in our world, and we have to keep it that way.”

As Stevens was talking, the Nets were hanging on for a 100-98 win over the Knicks that kept them a half game ahead of the Celtics for the eighth and final playoff spot. The game-by-game approach should come in handy as the Celtics have LeBron James and the Cavaliers and the division-leading Raptors twice apiece in the final two weeks.

“At the same time, as we enter these last couple of weeks, it’s so very important to stay in the moment and take advantage of every day and focus again on the things we can control,” said Stevens. “If we get to the point where you play beyond that, maybe I’ll feel differently. Maybe this feels a little bit more like late February than the NCAA tournament.”

The Celtics have shown in their last two games the ability to do something that was sorely lacking for much of the season: the ability to close out. On Monday, the Celtics found a way to pull away from the Hornets in the final minutes and hang on for a valuable road win. On Wednesday, the Celtics led 77-71 with 8:23 left in the fourth. They went on a 17-7 run in the next four minutes to put the game away.

“The effort was really good,” Stevens said. “We talked about it before the Charlotte game; we have to play with a defensive DNA. And the last two games we have. But you know it’€™s one of those things like, you don’€™t now all of a sudden it’€™s not part of who we are; we have to make it part of who we are every day and that’€™s got to continue to be the emphasis. And I think that’€™s a good emphasis to have, because you’€™re focused only on what you can control and nothing else.”

That focus needs to continue at home on Friday against another desperate Eastern team with playoff aspirations, the Milwaukee Bucks, at TD Garden. They’ll be no talk of playoffs then, either.

Read More: Boston Celtics, Brad Stevens, NBA,
Kelly Olynyk proves he’s as tough as any hockey player at 9:34 am ET
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Too bad Kevin Garnett never played with Kelly Olynyk.

Garnett, one of the most fierce competitors in recent Celtics lore, would’ve been proud to watch how Olynyk handled himself Wednesday night. The second-year swing man out of Gonzaga insisted on playing with his left eye shut thanks to a pregame accidental elbow from teammate Shav Randolph.

Good thing since Olynyk made seven of his 10 shots, including 3-of-4 from 3-point range, scoring 19 off the bench in a 100-87 win over the Pacers that keeps Boston right in the mix of race for the final two playoff spots in the East.

“It didn’€™t affect me a lot except I couldn’t see that well from that eye,” Olynyk said. “I felt good, we played well as a team, moved the ball, got open looks from the start and just got rolling.”

“I gave him no hope of playing,” marveled Tyler Zeller, who matched Olynyk’s team-high 19 points. “He looked like he just got out of a boxing fight. I was impressed with his ability to go out and play and be able to produce like he did. He couldn’t have been able to see out of that eye so he did a great job of playing through it.”

What was particularly amazing was how his teammates, realizing he had the hot hand with just one eye, kept feeding him the ball. His three-ball with 3:53 left in the fourth quarter was the perfect capper on the night, extending the Celtics‘ lead out to 16, 94-78.

“[Tuesday] night I went in the gym and got a lot of shots up, just kind of repped it out and just felt really good,” Olynyk said. “I was feeling good, before the game I was feeling good even after I got hit, I came back out and tried it out so I knew I was going to have a good one.”

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Read More: Boston Bruins, Boston Celtics, Brad Stevens, Dougie Hamilton
Texas, like everybody, is chatting about Brad Stevens 03.31.15 at 12:40 pm ET
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The University of Texas, which recently fired head men’s basketball coach Rick Barnes, has reportedly joined the growing list of Brad Stevens suitors. Of course, the University of Texas has also joined the growing list of institutions Danny Ainge will laugh at before hanging up the phone.

Brad Stevens is under contract through 2019 at a bargain average annual rate of $3.7 million. Unlike collegiate sports — where contracts aren’t worth the paper they’re written on — the Celtics would have to agree to let their coach out of the deal, and let’s be clear: That ain’t happening.

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Read More: Boston Celtics, Brad Stevens, NBA,
Staring down the barrel of the Celtics season 03.30.15 at 5:01 pm ET
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The importance of the next three Celtics games cannot be overstated. Isaiah  Thomas called Monday night’s visit to the Charlotte Hornets “a must win,” and really all nine of their remaining contests could command the same label. But, really, the next three could make or break their playoff chances.

After traveling to Charlotte, the C’s then respectively host the Indiana Pacers and Milwaukee Bucks on Wednesday and Friday, marking a trio of head-to-head battles against teams jockeying for the Eastern Conference’s final three playoff spots. Here is the schedule for those five teams over the next five days.

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Read More: Boston Celtics, NBA,
Irish Coffee: Should Celtics consider starting Isaiah Thomas? at 1:32 pm ET
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The starting lineup of Marcus Smart, Avery Bradley, Evan Turner, Brandon Bass and Tyler Zeller ‘€” a five-man unit Celtics coach Brad Stevens has employed in 18 of his team’€™s 22 games after the All-Star break ‘€” has been outscored by 10.9 points per 100 possessions since the season resumed on Feb. 20, according to NBA.com/stats. That group has totaled 195 minutes together in that span ‘€” nearly 20 percent of the C’€™s total playing time ‘€” digging an average deficit of 2.6 points per game.

‘€œWe have to punch first; we have to hit first,’€ Isaiah Thomas said after the C’€™s dug themselves a 14-point hole in the first quarter of Sunday’€™s loss to the Clippers. ‘€œI don’t know what it is. We’re waiting to get hit, and then it’s tough for us to get back in it. We have to change that as soon as possible.’€

Meanwhile, every lineup featuring Thomas that has played more than 10 minutes together on the Celtics has outscored the opponent per 100 possessions, including a group of Thomas, Bradley, Turner, Bass and Zeller that has outscored opponents by a point per minute over one quarter’€™s worth of floor time together spread out over four separate games. So, it stands to reason the Celtics could benefit from swapping Smart for Thomas to start the first and second half.

Asked if he was implying his insertion into the starting lineup might help deliver that early punch, Thomas smiled. ‘€œI didn’€™t say that,’€ he responded before wisely leaving roster decisions to Stevens.

‘€œIf coach puts me in the starting lineup, I’ll be happy,’€ added Thomas, a legitimate NBA Sixth Man of the Year candidate. ‘€œIf he doesn’t, it is what it is, but I definitely can help. That’€™s my game ‘€” bring energy and make plays. So, if he calls my name and I’€™m in the starting lineup, I’m going to continue to play the game of basketball the way I know how and just do what it takes to win.’€

Of course, moving Thomas might simply be robbing Peter to pay Paul, as few regular lineups sans the diminutive point guard have enjoyed much success. Stevens must consider whether Thomas’€™ presence would benefit the starting lineup more than his absence would detract from the bench.

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Read More: Boston Celtics, Isaiah Thomas, NBA,
5 things we learned as Clippers snap Celtics out of playoff picture 03.29.15 at 8:42 pm ET
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If the playoffs started today, the Celtics would be on the outside looking in.

They lost their hold on the eighth seed in the East thanks to a 119-106 beatdown from old friend Doc Rivers and the Los Angeles Clippers. Despite another furious fourth-quarter comeback that nearly cut a 35-point deficit to single digits, the Celtics never led.

Meanwhile, Brooklyn’s victory earlier in the day gave the Nets (32-40) a half-game lead over the Celtics (32-41) for the eighth and final playoff spot. The seventh-place Miami Heat (34-49) also won and moved two games ahead of the C’s, who face fellow Eastern Conference playoff contenders Charlotte and Indiana in the next three days.

Isaiah Thomas (19 points) led six C’s in double figures against the Clips. Tyler Zeller (16 points), Kelly Olynyk (14 points), Brandon Bass (13 points), Gigi Datome (12 points) and Jonas Jerebko (10 points) were the others. Chris Paul (21 points, 10 assists) and DeAndre Jordan (15 points, 14 rebounds) both had double-doubles for L.A., and Blake Griffin (21 points, 9 rebounds) came close.

For a complete box score, click here.

WORST FIRST

The Celtics submitted arguably the worst defensive quarter of the Brad Stevens era in the opening 12 minutes. The Clippers scored 34 points on 60 percent shooting — including 3-of-5 from 3-point range — and established a 14-point lead after one. It marked only the second time under Stevens the C’s had allowed 34 points in a quarter. The last time, according to Basketball Reference, came Dec. 3, 2013, when the Celtics outscored the Milwaukee Bucks 39-37 in the fourth quarter of a 108-100 victory. For an encore, the Celtics gave up another 34 points on 50 percent shooting in the second quarter and entered the break trailing 68-47.

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Read More: Boston Celtics, Doc Rivers, Los Angeles Clippers, NBA
Jae Crowder apologizes for Celtics’ ‘lackadaisical’ effort 03.26.15 at 12:12 am ET
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Things were so ugly in the Celtics‘ 93-86 loss to the Heat on Wednesday, Jae Crowder publicly apologized to Boston fans for the effort put forth by himself and his teammates.

Of course, Jae Crowder led all C’s with 16 points, barreled his way to 11 free throw attempts and grabbed seven rebounds in what seemed like a typically hardnosed 27 minutes from the forward. Along with Phil Pressey, Marcus Smart, Jonas Jerebko and Gigi Datome, Crowder was part of the last-ditch lineup Celtics coach Brad Stevens discovered in the fourth quarter. That group slashed a 22-point deficit down to six before running out of time, but Crowder wasn’t satisfied.

“We don’€™t show up for three quarters. I don’€™t understand it,” he said as the C’s fell to 31-40 — still in eighth place, but just a half-game out of 11th. “You can’€™t come out lackadaisical”

“That’€™s something we have to fix as a team, as a group,” added Smart, who scored four of his six points and swiped three of his four steals in a remarkable fourth-quarter defensive effort that came too late. “If we don’€™t fix that and figure that out quick, we’€™re gonna have some problems.”

Read More: Boston Celtics, Jae Crowder, NBA,
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