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Evan Turner on potential for Celtics in playoffs: ‘Sky is the limit’ 03.05.16 at 12:24 am ET
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There are certain plays that define every game. 

Friday night, with the Celtics making a run back from a 100-92 hole with under four minutes left, Evan Turner made one of those plays.

Turner raced after a ball he tipped and then raced for it before it went out of bounds while the Knicks were standing and watching. Turner flipped it to Jared Sullinger, who in one motion turned and fired to a wide open Jae Crowder racing down the court for a layup with 92 seconds left. The Celtics were suddenly down just one, 100-99 and the crowd exploded.

“At first, Lance Thomas threw it, I tipped it. I saw it bounce and nobody go for it,” Turner said. “I was just trying to hurry up and save it. I saw Sully kind of even with Lopez. I was hoping from our team grabbed when I threw it. I just heard cheers, and I heard even more cheers as I turned around and Crowder laid it up. [Sullinger is] great at being aware of what’s going on downcourt and putting a great pass into the running man.”

It was at that moment where victory for the Celtics seemed inevitable.  

“And on the very next play, we get a stop and he’s dribbling up the court and just makes a 15-foot pull-up,” Brad Stevens said. “He does a lot for us and he’s really played well. Obviously, we don’t win the game without him.” 

The Celtics did win, 105-104, thanks to Avery Bradley’s layup with 17.7 seconds left and Carmelo Anthony’s miss at the buzzer.

“We came back from worse deficits,” Turner said. “Tonight, we were just down eight with 3:44 left. We were down 15 a few times with five minutes left.”

But the bigger picture is about what this win means going into Cleveland, a place they won the last time they were there (Feb. 5), on an Avery Bradley jumper at the buzzer. 

“We’re just riding a wave,” Turner said. “Once again, this is a great team win, great comeback win and obviously we’re a confident group right now and we know [Saturday] we have to come out and compete. Today’s over with. We just have to come out and compete, play our type of game and play confident.”

How far can these Celtics go this spring?

“I think we can go as far as … Sky is the limit. At the end of the day, we always give ourselves to play the right game and win,” Turner added. ” I think when it comes down to a four-game series and all of us are healthy, I think we can give a lot of teams a lot of problems. And when it comes down to it, you have to weather a storm versus adversity, playing versus great players, playing versus tough calls and everything like that. I think we can go as far as we possibly can.”

That confidence should come in handy Saturday night in Cleveland against LeBron James and a Cavaliers team looking for revenge.

Read More: Boston Celtics, Cleveland Cavaliers, Evan Turner, NBA
Mike Petraglia, Josue Pavon break down thrilling win over Knicks, look ahead to Cavaliers 03.04.16 at 11:59 pm ET
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WEEI.com’s Mike Petraglia and Josue Pavon discuss how the Celtics were able to overcome a sluggish start and an inconsistent second half to beat the New York Knicks, 105-104, Friday night at TD Garden. Isaiah Thomas had 32 points and Evan Turner chipped in with 21 off the bench while Avery Bradley hit the game-winning layup with 17 seconds remaining, extending Boston’s home court winning streak to 13 games, matching the 2008-09 team that also won 13 in a row at home.

Read More: Boston Celtics, Cleveland Cavaliers, Evan Turner, Josue Pavon
Brad Stevens: ‘We’re still inconsistent on both ends of the floor’ at 9:05 pm ET
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Knicks center Robin Lopez (right) is fouled by Celtics center Jared Sullinger (7) during the first half at TD Garden. (Mark L. Baer/USA Today Sports)

Knicks center Robin Lopez (right) is fouled by Celtics center Jared Sullinger (7) during the first half at TD Garden. (Mark L. Baer/USA Today Sports)

Maybe Brad Stevens had a premonition. Or maybe he could just read the schedule over the next two days.

Before getting on a plane to take on the Cavaliers Saturday in Cleveland, the Celtics had a game to play against the Knicks. Whatever the reason, Stevens’ team came out flat in the first half against New York, a team that exactly the opposite record of the 37-25 Celtics. They allowed New York to shoot 52.3 percent in the first half while they shot just 42.2 percent. Carmelo Anthony and Kristaps Porzingis combined for 28 points on 12-of-23 shooting from the field.

The Celtics trailed by as many as 11 in the first half and 58-53 at the break. The second half didn’t start much better. Five straight points for the Knicks, including a wide-open three for Porzingis and the Knicks led, 63-53.

Before the game, Stevens was asked about the areas of growth this season. Stevens cautioned that his team still had some maturing to do.

“I don’t know. I think we’ve gotten better execution-wise, gotten better offensively,” Stevens said, before adding, “We’re still inconsistent on both ends of the floor to the point where we need to be when it’s all said and done. I think the biggest thing is we’ve maintained a general optimism. There’s a positive vibe through thick and thin. The guys support one another. The greatest growth is in the day-to-day process of doing those things to build the trust when you need it most.”

The Celtics won a game on Wednesday night against the Blazers by 23 and the box showed the Celtics shot just 40.2 percent, making just 43 of 107 shots.

“I looked at the stats the other day and I was surprised we shot as poorly as we did from the field because I felt like we had a lot of good possessions,” Stevens said. “I think we’re having good possessions but I think we’re also getting some conversion points make it look a little bit better than it is. If you get a steal and you convert on the other end. You can play 2-on-1 or 1-on-0, that’s a heckuva of an offensive possession. That makes the numbers a little bit better than they are.”

Down 65-55, the Celtics went on a 14-2 run to take a 71-67 lead and the Garden crowd came to life almost instantly.

“There’s no question [home crowd has] been great for us the entire time I’ve been here,” Stevens said. “Obviously, the fans have embraced this group. It is a fun group. The way they play I laugh sometimes because we do some pretty haphazard things. Even I’m entertained over there sometimes and have no idea what’s going to happen.”

Read More: Boston Celtics, Brad Stevens, New York Knicks,
Brad Stevens: ‘We’ve made a big priority to give our guys as much rest as possible’ at 7:37 pm ET
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Celtics center Tyler Zeller (44) and Portland Trail Blazers forward Maurice Harkless (4) reach for a loose ball during the second half at TD Garden. (Bob DeChiara/USA Today Sports)

Celtics center Tyler Zeller (44) and Portland Trail Blazers forward Maurice Harkless (4) reach for a loose ball during the second half at TD Garden. (Bob DeChiara/USA Today Sports)

Brad Stevens may just be three years removed from the college game but he has long known the value of resting his players later in the season. 

After Wednesday’s 23-point win over the red-hot Blazers, Stevens gave his team the day off on Thursday in advance of Friday’s home game against the Knicks. 

Some may have read that as a reward, similar to victory Mondays in the NFL. But Stevens said it was more about pacing his team and tapering his players for the stretch run ahead. 

“I think one of the things, I was never a huge practice guy late in the year,” Stevens said before Friday’s game against the Knicks. “I never practiced much more than an hour, an hour and 15 [minutes] once we got into late January, February, March. It’s about being as good as you can be with the time you have. Hey, we’ve made a big priority to give our guys as much rest as possible. We haven’t shot around in the morning. We did it once all year here at home and every other time we’ve come at 4 [p.m.] just so that you have an accumulation of rest. Is that right, wrong or indifferent? I don’t know. It’s something that we believe that again, fresh legs are important for these guys.”

There are always signs coaches look for when assigning more rest and freedom to the players. After the last several practices, many players have stayed and worked on shooting and other drills with the staff. 

“One of my former bosses used to say that the sign of a team that’s really invested is they’re staying and shooting afterwards, and I believe that,” Stevens said. “I think when you stay and shoot, when you put your work in, that’s a really good thing. When you have a lot of energy in that and you’re not just going through the motions, that’s a good sign.” 

There’s another good sign for Stevens’ Celtics as they head into the final 20 games. Thanks to a few injuries (Kelly Olynyk aside), the starting lineup and bench rotations have stayed pretty consistent, with Evan Turner, Marcus Smart, Jonas Jerebko and Tyler Zeller providing valuable minutes off the bench. 

“Yeah, there’s some good things with that. Hopefully, by now, these guys know we’re not going to be riding emotional rollercoasters,” Stevens said. “We’re just going to try to get better. We’re just going to try to move forward, regardless of outcome and regardless of result.

“We can talk about things that we’ve done from a corporate-knowledge standpoint, things that we’ve tried to do, different ways we’ve tried to guard Carmelo Anthony or [Kristaps] Porzingis or whatever the case may be. You can quickly refresh that and then tweak appropriately. At least you have that backing. It doesn’t guarantee you’re going to play well but it does make the time you have to spend together less. It makes the time on the court less. As you’re getting in preparation, the more time we can prepare with clear mind and fresh legs, the better to me.”

 

Read More: Boston Celtics, Brad Stevens, New York Knicks,
Report: Celtics trying to trade David Lee – and his contract – before trade deadline 02.15.16 at 1:48 pm ET
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The Celtics are reportedly trying to move David Lee (42) before the trade deadline. (Justin Ford/USA TODAY Sports)

The Celtics are reportedly trying to move David Lee (42) before the trade deadline. (Justin Ford/USA TODAY Sports)

While Celtics players continue to get their rest over the All-Star break, their general manager enters his busiest week of the season. President of basketball operations Danny Ainge is not just listening to offers for his three first-round picks this June while building his roster for a deep playoff run, he’s trying to move players.

The biggest challenge this week for Ainge might be what to do with center David Lee. His skills might still be valuable to a team that needs depth in the middle.

And while that would certainly seem to be a perfect fit for the team he’s currently on, the Celtics, like every team that has had him, would like to be free of the contract.

Specifically, Lee’s cap hit is $15,493,680, is easily the highest on the Celtics and the sixth-highest such figure among power forwards in the NBA, behind the likes of Chris Bosh ($22.1 million), LeMarcus Aldridge ($19.6 million), Kevin Love ($19.6 million), Blake Griffin ($18.9 million) and Paul Millsap ($18.6 million).

Lee has started just four of 30 games this season, averaging just 7.1 points and 4.3 rebounds while shooting a career-low 45.3 percent from the field. He hasn’t played since Jan. 10 at Memphis and has been a DNP for the last 18 games. 

Now 32, Lee is in the final year of a six-year, $79.5 million deal he signed with the Knicks in 2010, using the Bird exception. The Boston Herald reports that Ainge is unlikely to move Lee before Thursday’s NBA trade deadline.

David Lee was tough for Golden State to move all of last year,” the Herald reported, citing a league source. “And it finally came down to him being moved for Gerald Wallace. David Lee has no value. It’€™s his contract. David Lee‘€™s value comes in if they get one of these big name players.”

The Celtics acquired Lee and his expiring contract last summer from the world champion Golden State Warriors, sending Gerald Wallace and Chris Babb to Golden State. If Ainge can’t move Lee, the forward could accept a buyout from the Celtics by Mar. 1, allowing him to sign with another team in time for the playoffs.

Read More: 2016 NBA trade deadline, Boston Celtics, David Lee, Golden State Warriors
Stud and Duds: Undefeated Knicks top Celtics, 101-95 10.17.15 at 12:40 am ET
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James Young

James Young

The Knicks frontcourt set the tone early and prevented the Celtics from settling into their comfort zone offensively.

New York defended the paint well and forced a number of second-half turnovers, holding the C’s to just under 40 percent shooting from the floor and preventing them from getting into an offensive rhythm in a 101-95 loss. The Celtics managed a fourth-quarter comeback, but came up short when the Knicks knocked down back-to-back 3-pointers.

Derrick Williams led the charge for New York with 19 points and five rebounds, as the Knicks improved to 4-0 during the preseason. The Celtics fell to 3-1. In an encouraging sign, second-year Celtics wing James Young scored eight of his 10 points in the fourth quarter. Seeing him score is always a good sign, and this was easily his best game of the preseason.

Stud of the night: Isaiah Thomas.

In only his second start in a Celtics uniform, Thomas scored 13 points on 5-of-9 shooting, including a pair of 3-pointers, and dished five assists in 24 minutes. The C’s offense was at its best in transition against the Knicks, and Thomas was a big part of that, doing most of his damage on the run. In the second half, when it came to driving to the hoop and interior scoring, the Knicks’ defense made stops and prevented the Celtics from scoring in the paint.

Dud of the night: Kelly Olynyk.

After a solid outing against the Nets, Olynyk struggled against the Knicks. New York contested his jumpers and forced Olynyk to take off-balanced attempts. He finished 1-for-7 with an underwhelming line of two points and three rebounds in 11:49. Olynyk has played well early in the preseason, but couldn’t find an offensive groove against New York’s Robin Lopez, Kyle O’Quinn and Lance Thomas — much like teammates Amir Johnson, David Lee and Jared Sullinger.

Vine of the night

Celtics coach Brad Stevens was handed just the second technical of his NBA career after a no-call in the second half, when Knicks guard Cleanthony Early undercut Tyler Zeller on a fast-break dunk. Stevens didn’t think twice when he stepped onto the court to plead his case. I agree coach, that was a foul. Always great to see Stevens riled up.

Whine of the night

In his best game of the preseason, so far, Jared Sullinger still only scored five points against the Knicks, although he pulled down 10 rebounds. O’Quinn may have given Sullinger the ounce of motivation he needed to grab 10 boards, tossing the Celtics forward around the paint and even making layup attempts difficult. O’Quinn also earned a flagrant foul after sending Sullinger to the floor in the third quarter. It’s a positive sign to see Sullinger grab 10 boards, but 1-for-8 from the floor and 3-for-6 from the free throw line isn’t going to fly for a guy who was considered one of the Celtics’ biggest scoring threats entering his fourth NBA season.

Stat of the night 

The Celtics amassed 18 turnovers, while the Knicks only had seven. When the Knicks opened up a double-digit lead in the second half, the Celtics responded with a run in the third quarter. But after things got chippy between the two teams (see: O’Quinn’s flagrant foul), the Celtics made bad passes and committed a number of turnovers that led to an 88-80 fourth-quarter lead by the Knicks.

@ of the night 

Avery Bradley continues to knock down jumpers throughout the preseason, but he cooled off a bit in New York. Bradley finished 3-for-7 from the field, including one 3-pointer. It would have been nice to see him take more shots in the third quarter, but it was great to see him fill up the stat sheet. He also pulled down eight rebounds and had three assists.

Read More: Boston Celtics, Brad Stevens, Isiah Thomas, Jared Sullinger
5 things we learned as Jonas Jerebko leads Celtics in rout of Knicks 02.25.15 at 10:09 pm ET
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Jonas Jerebko

Jonas Jerebko

Gigi Datome is the new Gino Time.

The newly acquired Italian entered the game with 3:46 left in a 115-94 blowout victory against the Knicks, but it was his former Pistons teammate Jonas Jerebko who started the Celtics‘ dance party. The 27-year-old Swede scored 20 points for the first time in almost a year, draining four of the C’s 14 3-pointers on the night while adding five rebounds in 21 minutes off the bench.

Additionally, Evan Turner recorded the first triple-double of his career (10 points, 12 rebounds, 10 assists). Isaiah Thomas added 19 points and seven assists during his first Boston appearance in a Celtics uniform. Jae Crowder (18 points, 6 rebounds, 4 assists), Marcus Smart (16 points, 4 assists) and Avery Bradley (12 points) also reached double figures.

The Celtics improved to 22-33 with their second straight win, keeping pace with a crowded Eastern Conference field vying for the eighth seed. For a complete box score, click here.

ISAIAH THOMAS IS THE CELTICS‘ BEST PLAYER

We’re three games into the Isaiah Thomas era in Boston, and it’s already apparent he’s the best player on this Celtics roster. Two minutes into his Garden debut, he buried his first shot attempt as a member of the C’s in their home building. It was a 3-pointer that gave the Celtics a 21-19 lead. A minute later, he connected on his second attempt — a driving layup. And that’s Thomas. No Celtics guard attempts as many shots at the rim (3.2 per game), and no Celtics player attempts as many free throws (4.7 per game). Likewise, he leads the C’s in both 3-point attempts (4.6 per game) and 3-point percentage (39.2). He is no Paul Pierce, but Thomas is the C’s most dynamic scorer since their former captain.

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Read More: Boston Celtics, Gigi Datome, Jonas Jerebko, NBA
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