|Isaiah Thomas changes shoes at half, sparks ‘one of funnest games’ in his career||04.02.16 at 3:12 am ET|
When things weren”t going well Friday night in Oakland, Isaiah Thomas didn’t look at his hands. He looked at his feet.
After going 0-for-7 from the floor with five assists in the first half, Thomas decided to not take things into his own hands, he decided to change his shoes.
“I switched my shoes,” Thomas told ESPN’s J.A. Adande on the court after the Celtics stunned the NBA world with a 109-106 win over the 68-win Warriors at Oracle Arena. “Them other shoes didn’t have any buckets in them. I always know the All-Star Kobes will give me some type of buckets.”
Of course, the irony there is that Thomas and the Celtics finish the road trip Sunday night in Los Angeles against Kobe Bryant and the Lakers.
With a new pair of shoes on his feet, he went out and torched the Warriors for 18 points in the third quarter and finished with a team-leading 22 points, giving him 15 straight games with at least 20 points, one shy of Paul Pierce’s mark in 2005-06 and extending his franchise record to 15 games as the team’s leading scorer.
“This says a lot about this team,” Thomas told reporters after the game. “Hopefully, it gives us some confidence to end the season off the right way and play at a high level.”
The Celtics took the best shot from the Warriors down the stretch, leading by 10 points with six minutes left only to see the Warriors make a predictable run in the final two minutes.
“That was one of the funnest games I’ve been a part of just because every time they hit us with something, we hit them right back,” Thomas said. “Usually, teams don’t do that. That’s when they usually go on their run.
“For me, personally, I stayed aggressive, stayed the course. My teammates kept confidence in me and wanted me to be in attack mode. And then things started to open up. Different guys, every guy down the line, made a key play in this win.”
Perhaps most satisfying is how Thomas and the Celtics put Thursday’s 116-109 loss in Portland behind them.
“Man, it was tough [Thursday] night. We gave ourselves a chance to win,” Thomas said of the loss against Portland. “We felt like we should’ve won. We end up losing. And then knowing that we had to play the defending champs, it wasn’t getting any easier. It says a lot about this team and knowing that we can turn the page as quick as needed.”
|Avery Bradley, Celtics look forward to challenge of 68-7 Warriors: ‘That’s what I play basketball for’||04.01.16 at 2:08 am ET|
Even though they suffered an emotionally draining loss in Portland, the Celtics say they’re ready for the biggest challenge of the season Friday night in Oakland.
The 43-32 Celtics will be going up against the 68-7 Warriors, who are in the midst of an NBA-record 54-game home winning streak, including a perfect 36-0 this season.
“It’s fun. That’s what I play basketball for every single night — to go up against the best players,” Avery Bradley said after Thursday’s 116-109 loss in Portland.
The last time the Celtics and Warriors met, Golden State was on another amazing streak. Heading into their Dec. 11 meeting at TD Garden, the Warriors had won 23 straight to open the season. They extended the streak to 24 but barely, outlasting the Celtics, 124-119, in double overtime. Steph Curry scored 38 points while Draymond Green added 24 as the Warriors improved to 24-0.
That streak ended the next night in Milwaukee but the Celtics made their case that they were legit this season.
Now, Isaiah Thomas takes one look at the Eastern Conference standings and sees more urgency. Thursday’s loss dropped Boston to sixth place, a game behind the Heat and the Hornets in the loss column.
“We’ve got to win,” Thomas said.
Not exactly the way the Celtics wanted to head into Golden State.
Al-Farouq Aminu scored a career-high 28 points and single-handedly spoiled the return of Jae Crowder Thursday night as the Blazers outlasted the Celtics, 116-109, Thursday night at the Moda Center.
Crowder made a big impact with a double-double, scoring 13 points and hauling in 10 rebounds, in his first game back from a high ankle sprain. With 22 points, Isaiah Thomas set a new franchise record with his 14th straight game as the team’s leading scorer. It was also his 14th straight game with at least 20 points, two games shy of Paul Pierce’s streak in the 2005-06 season.
“It felt good. He showed signs of what he does,” Thomas said of Crowder afterward. “It probably will take a couple of games for him to get back to his full strength. Just glad to have him back in a routine. It just sucks we couldn’t get the win for him.”
It was a costly loss for the Celtics (43-32) as they fell to sixth in the East, a half-game behind the Heat and Hornets.
Thanks to 50 percent shooting from the field in the first quarter, the Celtics raced out to a 12-4 lead. Portland didn’t score in the game’s first two minutes.
The first quarter featured the first action from Crowder since suffering a high ankle sprain March 11 against the Rockets. In the opening 60 seconds, he showed no ill effects, grabbing a rebound on the first Blazers possession of the game. On the next possession, Crowder collected a steal and dished an assist on an Isaiah Thomas 3-pointer.
|Jae Crowder says he will ‘push [right ankle] to the limit’ in effort to return Thursday||03.30.16 at 6:31 pm ET|
The Celtics may have their most versatile player back in uniform when they take on the Trail Blazers Thursday night at the Moda Center.
“I’m hopeful that we can get back to playing the way that we were playing when we’d been all healthy earlier this year,” coach Brad Stevens told reporters before practice.
Crowder started Boston’s first 66 games before missing the last eight with the right ankle injury. The team has played .500 ball (4-4) in those games. Crowder’s value came not just in his 15.4 points per game but consistently drawing the opposing team’s best scorer as well as providing a legitimate second scoring option behind Isaiah Thomas. In losses to teams like Oklahoma City, Toronto and the Clippers on Monday, his absence was dramatically felt.
|Brad Stevens sees a lot of his team in surprising Blazers||03.02.16 at 6:48 pm ET|
When LaMarcus Aldridge left for the Spurs before this season after nine strong seasons in Portland, many thought the Trail Blazers might be going through a bit of a rebuilding phase.
And when they started this season 23-26, even with the great efforts of Damian Lillard, those predictions seemed to be pretty much spot on. The Blazers were a good young team with lots of growing to do. But a funny thing happened, they got good almost overnight.
They’ve won 10 of 12 heading into Wednesday’s game and players like Al-Farouq Aminu, Noah Vonleh and Mason Plumlee have picked up the slack for Aldridge and complemented the likes of C.J. McCollum and Lillard quite nicely. At 24.9 years, they have the fifth-youngest roster in the NBA. Only Boston, Utah, Philadelphia and Milwaukee are younger.
And now, like the Celtics did last year at this time, they are starting to step up their game in time to make a serious playoff push.
“It’s not that big of a surprise,” Celtics coach Brad Stevens said before Wednesday’s game. “They’ve already got a guy in Lillard that is very accomplished at a young age in this league and a guy in McCollum that didn’t average a ton [of points] but sure put a lot of fear into people when he played. It’s not a shock what he’s doing. And what they’ve surrounded them are guys that are really athletic and all have a chip on their shoulder. Kind of sounds like a familiar tale to some of the things we’re dealing with here.
“Our guys work really hard. They’re young, they’re hungry to prove, and for whatever reason, some of them have been other places where it didn’t work quite as well or fit quite as well. And you see the same thing in Portland and all those guys are playing at their best level and that’s what has to happen when teams are going to maximize themselves. Coach Stotts and his staff have done a great job.”
|Brad Stevens on his Eastern Conference coach of month honor: ‘It means the team did well’||at 6:31 pm ET|
Brad Stevens was his typical humble self before Wednesday’s game against Portland when asked what it was like to win the NBA’s Eastern Conference coach of the month honor for February.
Stevens led the Celtics to the best record in the Eastern Conference (9-3) in February, which included a 6-0 mark at TD Garden. The Celtics scored 100-plus points in 10 of 12 games and led the conference in scoring at 110.8 points. The Celtics recorded wins against the Cavaliers (on the road) and Heat (at home), and enters March third in the East at 36-25.
“It means the team did well,” Stevens said Wednesday. “That’s the ultimate, ‘How did your team do? What was your record this month?’ The guys on the court had a lot more to do with that. I’m glad we had a good month from a playing standpoint and hopefully we can build on it.”
Ironically, Stevens counterpart for the award in the West just happened to be across the hallway getting his team ready to try and continue a red-hot streak of their own. Terry Stotts brings his Blazers to town, winning 10 of 12, and standing 33-28 on the season.
Stevens was asked if Wednesday was some sort of showdown of top coaches?
“No,” Stevens replied swiftly. “I told one of their assistants when they walked out, laughing about that, if it’s between the coaches the Celtics are in trouble so hopefully, the players can pick me up.”
Stotts guided the Trail Blazers to a 9-2 record in February, which included wins over the Memphis Grizzlies, Golden State Warriors, Chicago Bulls and Indiana Pacers. Portland, behind Damian Lillard, ranked fourth in the NBA in scoring (110.6 points) and enjoyed the league’s second-best point differential (+8.0 points). Stotts’ Trail Blazers closed the month winning eight of their final nine games and enter March tied with the Dallas Mavericks’ for sixth place in the Western Conference.
Other nominees for Coach of the Month were Charlotte’s Steve Clifford, Golden State’s Steve Kerr, San Antonio’s Gregg Popovich and Toronto’s Dwane Casey.
|Isaiah Thomas ‘can’t wait’ to go up against good friend Damian Lillard||03.01.16 at 10:02 pm ET|
WALTHAM — For those who missed out on Steph Curry at the Garden on Dec. 11 there’s a chance to see another NBA star that’s being placed in his same class.
Damian Lillard and the red-hot Trail Blazers come calling Wednesday night at TD Garden. They are moving up the standings in the Western Conference and the man who was one of the most notable snubs in recent All-Star history is leading the way, averaging 25.4 points and seven assists a game. Lillard, in his fourth season out of Weber State, made news in January when he was somehow left off the Western Conference All-Star squad.
“He’s definitely an All-Star. He should’ve been one,” Celtics guard Isaiah Thomas said after practice Tuesday. “But stuff happens. He’s probably been disappointed in a few things, and not just in his NBA career. He wasn’t even recruited by a bigger school. Whatever the circumstances might be, he’s a helluva a player. He knows he’s an All-Star. The league knows they messed up in that. He’s been playing well and been showing people, proving people wrong.
“I met him a few summers ago. We text every now and then. When I got the nod on the All-Star [team], he texted me, ‘Congratulations, you deserve it.’ He’s a Pacific Northwest guy since he’s in Portland now. He’s just a good dude. We know mutual people and we always text every now and then.”
Thomas (University of Washington) and Lillard (Weber State) know each other well from their roots in western college basketball and then in their Western Conference battles when Thomas was in Phoenix.
“It’s fun. I can’t wait,” Thomas said. “It’s what you play for, to play against the best guys in the world, go against the best guards. I’m all about competing. I know he will be ready and I will be, too. He’s an unbelievable shooter, and he can shoot off the dribble. A lot of people can’t shoot off the dribble. He makes tough shots look easy. And he’s just a guy that works. I know Dames. He’s a guy that continues to work. He uses everything as motivation, kind of like myself. He’s definitely similar to Steph Curry in his shooting ability and how effortless he can shoot from so far [out from basket].”
The Blazers beat up the Knicks Tuesday night at Madison Square Garden, their third straight win to open a six-game Eastern swing. They have won 10 of 12 and are 33-28 on the season.
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