|Brad Stevens on his Eastern Conference coach of month honor: ‘It means the team did well’||03.02.16 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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|Blazers blow by defenseless C’s||11.15.13 at 9:49 pm ET|
Before Friday’s game, Celtics coach Brad Stevens said any success on the upcoming road trip would rely on his team’s ability to play defense against some of the elite teams of the Western Conference.
If Friday night is any indication, they could be in for a long trip.
Nicolas Batum connected on 4-of-9 from 3-point range and finished with 18 points while LaMarcus Aldridge added a team-high 27 points and 12 rebounds to pace the Blazers to a 109-96 win over the Celtics Friday night at TD Garden.
The Celtics held Portland to just 8-of-22 shooting in the first quarter but still trailed, 23-21, heading into the second quarter.
But the second quarter was a different story as the Blazers started extending the Celtics defense and took 10 3-pointers, making four. The Celtics stayed close, shooting 64.3 percent, making 9-of-14 from the field. Vitor Faverani had all nine of his points in the quarter as the Celtics trailed 57-51 at the half.
Another huge factor in the game was the early foul trouble of Kelly Olynyk. The rookie was whistled for his third personal foul with 4:39 left in the second quarter and picked up his fourth just 29 seconds into the third quarter.
“Unfortunately, Kelly got the Sully treatment tonight,” joked Sullinger after the game, referring to the foul trouble Sullinger had in his rookie season last year.
The rough defense continued in the second half as the Blazers outscored the Celtics, 33-27, in the third quarter, led by 11 from Aldridge. Portland scored the last six points of the quarter to take a 90-78 lead into the final quarter.
The Celtics made it a seven-point game early in the fourth on back-to-back threes from Jared Sullinger and Courtney Lee but could get no closer. Sullinger led Boston with 26 points and eight rebounds in 36 minutes off the Boston bench.
Jeff Green (14) and Jordan Crawford (11) were the only other Celtics in double figures.
After winning four straight to even their record at 4-4, the 4-6 Celtics have lost their last two – both at home – and now head out on the road for a three-game road trip that begins Saturday night in Minnesota against the Timberwolves. They play Tuesday in Houston before wrapping up the swing on Wednesday in San Antonio against the Spurs.
The Blazers improved to 7-2 on the season.
|Paul Pierce: ‘When we set the tone defensively, that’s the Celtics I know’||12.01.12 at 5:19 pm ET|
It’s great defense that will lead the way out of the dark and uncertain times the team is experiencing right now.
When the team plays defense like it did Friday night, holding Portland to 23 percent shooting in the first half, easy offense will follow, and so will rhythm. That was particularly important with Rajon Rondo not available this weekend.
‘It made things easier on our offense to come out and play the way we did and cause turnovers,” Pierce said of the Celtics D, which forced 22 turnovers on Friday. “Then we were able to get out in transition. Guys ran’¦got easy opportunities. When we come out and set the tone defensively like we did tonight, that’s the kind of team that we are and that’s the Celtics I know.’
Before Friday’s game, Doc Rivers said the combination of Courtney Lee and Jason Terry would have to pick up the ball-handling slack in the backcourt. But as it turned out, the offense wound up running through the bigs starting with Pierce – a style the Celtics have employed in the past when they haven’t had Rondo available.
‘It’s a combination of guys, so Doc wanted us to be aggressive,” Pierce said. “He wanted us to move the ball and make the extra passes and I thought we did a good job of that most of the night. We could’ve toned down our turnovers, but I think we will be better tomorrow. It’s tough, we’re used to playing with Rondo and he makes a lot of our plays. We’ll get better and better.’
‘Courtney he really ran the floor well. Defensively he did a good job on his man, He’s out there getting 4 or 5 assists tonight, he just shows you flashes of what he’s capable of. Jeff [Green] is running the break, getting easy opportunities for himself. He’s one of the fastest guys out there’¦when he’s able to use that length.’
As for the motivation of Rivers calling the Celtics “soft” after Wednesday’s loss, Pierce just shrugged his shoulders and generally discounted it.
“You know, I’m always a true believer that you just just be motivated to go out and play, regardless,” Pierce said. “As an NBA competitor, you shouldn’t need anybody else to go out and motivate you. Maybe some guys took it as motivation. I’m motivated for the opportunity to come out here night in and night out. Whatever is going to get guys going, hopefully they can build on on that, if that what it was, and continue to do it throughout the season.”
Jeff Green might have scored 19 points and Jason Terry might have had 17 in 31 minutes but it was Courtney Lee who was the key player in Boston’s 96-78 win over the Trail Blazers Friday night at TD Garden, as the Celtics played the first of two straight games without the suspended Rajon Rondo.
Lee said the team responded well to Doc Rivers calling them soft after a loss to the Brooklyn Nets Wednesday night at home.
“He can continue to call us soft,” Lee said afterward. “If we’re going to respond like this and play, I guess we need to be told that for us to wake up.”
What really hit home with Lee was when Rivers rolled the film of Wednesday’s game, showing the team how many easy baskets they were giving up.
“We got called soft the other day and we didn’t like that,” Lee said. “When you watch the tape, you see those guys [Nets] coming down, running their offense, setting hard screens, getting layups and dunks and wide open shots. We took that personally.”
No shock that the turnaround began on the defensive end, where the Celtics held the Blazers to 23 percent shooting in the first half.
‘Yeah, definitely after that loss last game, we wanted to come out and just focus on the defensive end make sure we got stops,” Lee said. “Make sure we didn’t give up any easy buckets and so I think we started off and threw the first punch.’
Rivers gave Lee credit for stepping up and showing his play-making ability in the absence of Rondo.
‘Courtney was great,” Rivers said. “You could see Courtney is getting better and better at what we’re asking him to do. He’s bought in completely, which you can see that. His shots will fall. I feel like him, with Avery (Avery Bradley) last year, where I kept telling you guys ‘Avery can shoot’ and you guys were looking at me like I was a Martian. And then he started making them. And Courtney is proving he can. He’s getting wide open ones, and eventually they’ll fall.’
“I mean that’s what you gotta do,” Lee said of his ball-handling skills. “Rondo is a great playmaker, the guy’s gonna rack up a lot of assists, so we just have to play within the offense, move the ball around, and you see the assists were spread out throughout the whole team. Without him we had to move the ball a lot more.
‘I mean it shows good character for our team. We got beat bad on our own court then we went to practice, had a real tough practice. Doc was on us the whole time so we wanted to come in and protect home court, because we cant keep letting teams come in and beat us on our home court. We wanted to bounce back and we did that today.’
|Fast Break: No Rajon Rondo, no problem; Celtics smoke Blazers||11.30.12 at 10:04 pm ET|
As Celtics point guard Rajon Rondo sat the first of his two-game suspension, five of his teammates reached double figures, led by Jeff Green‘s 19 points, and just about every member of the Blazers not named LaMarcus Aldridge (23 points, 8 rebounds) didn’t bother to show up in a 96-78 blowout at the Garden.
Jason Terry (17 points), Paul Pierce (12 points, 8 rebounds, 5 assists, 5 turnovers), Kevin Garnett (10 points, 5 rebounds, 4 assists) and Courtney Lee all joined Green in double digits. Here’s what else transpired.
WHAT WENT RIGHT
Portlandia: The Celtics put away the Blazers early. They started 10-of-15 from the field, and by first quarter’s end the C’s owned a 25-18 advantage on 57.1 percent shooting as all five starters scored between 4-6 points. By halftime, three Celtics had already reached double figures, they shot 56.8 percent as a group and took a 56-33 lead into the break. In the meantime, Portland shot 5-of-16 (31.3 FG%) in the opening quarter and somehow managed worse in the second (2-14, 14.3 FG%).
GreenLee: As Twitter follower @EricJsaint noted, Green and Lee each probably played their best game of the season (with the possible exception of Green’s 17-point night against the Thunder). On a sprained right knee, Green shot 6-of-13 (2-4 3P) to go along with four steals, three rebounds, two assists and a block in 23 minutes off the bench. Meanwhile, starting in Rondo’s absence, Lee amassed 10 points (4-10 FG), seven rebounds, five assists and three steals.
Rest home: Given the fact they led by as many as 25 points in the first half, elder Celtics statesman Garnett and Pierce played just 23 and 27 minutes, respectively. An unexpected bonus with Rondo out of the lineup, for sure, considering the C’s head to Milwaukee for the second night of a back-to-back against the Bucks on Saturday night.
WHAT WENT WRONG
Depth perception: Prior to the game, Celtics coach Doc Rivers claimed he would only break the Chris Wilcox glass in case of emergency. Well, when backup center Jason Collins picked up his third personal foul in a span of 5:36, Rivers turned to Wilcox — with a minute left in the first quarter.
Lone star: The Celtics appeared content letting LaMarcus Aldridge try to beat them, as long as he had to do it all by himself. At halftime, the 2012 NBA All-Star had 17 points on 5-of-11 shooting. His teammates? 16 on 2-of-19.
Running afoul: Portland attempted 27 free throws in the first 24 minutes (37 in all). Blazers bigs Aldridge and J.J. Hickson combined for 17 by the break while the C’s had just 12. Just a guess: Tommy Heinsohn wasn’t pleased.
|Kevin Garnett and Celtics respond to Doc Rivers and his bitter ‘beer face’||03.10.12 at 10:49 am ET|
Everyone associated with the Celtics – from players and coaches to support staff – was embarrassed by Wednesday’s 32-point loss to the Sixers Wednesday night.
“That didn’t sit well with anybody,” Kevin Garnett said after Friday’s 104-86 redemption at the hands of the Blazers. “Tough schedule. Philly, they kicked our ass, plain and simple. This was about getting on the right track, taking care of home, and more importantly, creating that momentum going on this long road trip.”
That’s why no one was particularly surprised to see Doc Rivers with a special edge Friday morning during the team’s shootaround.
“Doc comes in, and you can tell how he’s looking, like he’s had no sleep and his hair standing on top of his head and he has the beer face,” Garnett said. “What happened in Philly wasn’t us but it happens and we accept it.
“[Friday] was a defensive mindset all the way through. A team we’re going to see only once, it was important for us to start the game with a force. Paul kept saying in the huddle, before we went out [to start the game] that it was important that we get this game to start the road trip. I’ve always said for the momentum, you’ve got to get games like this. This is kind of like playing on the road because we are going to be away from home for a while so this game was very important.”
As for this eight-game haul, a haul that began early Saturday morning with a cross-country flight, and will include a walk-through when the team lands in LA, Garnett said it’s important not to be overwhelmed.
“One game at a time,” he began. “When you look at it, it’s actually kind of quite scary, just because of the lack of rest, the back-to-backs, the travel. But when you take it a game at a time… it’s still what it is, actually.
“I was going to dress that up like it was something else. Nah, it’s all messed up, it’s all messed up. It is. I want to use another word but I won’t. It’s difficult but we’re going to take it a game at a time. This is the longest I can remember.”
Certainly the longest in his head coach’s career as Rivers said he can never remember a trip like the one the Celtics are about to embark on.
‘In my career, I’ve been in the league for 26 years,” Rivers said, when asked if it’s the longest one in several years. “It’s a long road trip but I do think there’s rest in it. The first two games are tough because of the long flight, you play and then you play the next day. But then after that, there’s days off in between. I think the other one is the last, the Denver game before we go back East, that’s a hard game. Whenever you play Denver on a back-to-back, that’s a hard game because there’s no oxygen.’
The Celtics hope they aren’t grasping for too much air by the time they return home on March 25 to battle the Wizards.
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