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Mike Petraglia, Sam Packard on Isaiah Thomas, Kelly Olynyk, what’s ahead for Celtics 03.21.16 at 11:50 pm ET
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WEEI.com’s Mike Petraglia and Sam Packard break down the big performances of Isaiah Thomas (28 points) and Kelly Olynyk (22 points off the bench) in the Celtics’ 107-96 win over the Magic on Monday night at TD Garden. The win lifts the Celtics to 41-30 on the season, and keeps them in the hunt for a top-four spot in the Eastern Conference playoff race. Next up, the division-leading Raptors, a team the Celtics haven’t beaten this season in three tries, on Wednesday night at TD Garden.

Read More: Boston Celtics, Mike Petraglia, Orlando Magic, Sam Packard
Brad Stevens: ‘For the most part, we looked hesitant’ 03.18.16 at 11:23 pm ET
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Brad Stevens reacts during game against Toronto Raptors in the first quarter at Air Canada Centre. (Peter Llewellyn/USA Today Sports)

Brad Stevens reacts during game against Toronto Raptors in the first quarter at Air Canada Centre. (Peter Llewellyn/USA Today Sports)

The last thing a coach wants to see is hesitation from his team. 

That’s exactly what Brad Stevens has seen from his team in their last four games, all losses, including Friday’s 105-91 defeat at the hands of the Atlantic Division-leading Raptors. 

The Raptors, despite playing their fourth game in five nights, came out on fire, thanks to 17 first-quarter points from Luis Scola, and took a 30-14 lead after one. 

“Yeah, Scola had 13 against us last game in the first quarter and 17 tonight. He’s a Celtic-killer,” Stevens said. “I thought that actually we did a pretty good job. Obviously, there were a couple of shots. [DeMar] DeRozan’s not a high-volume 3-point shooter. Scola’s not a high-volume shooter but certainly he’s capable of shooting it and has shot it very well this year.”

“Sometimes those go down and you regroup and you kind of hang around while they’re making those shots, and sometimes they don’t. I think Scola’s bigger ways he hurt us were just with his cutting, his post scoring, his rebounding, his plays around the rim. I just think that’s where he’s hurt us both games.”

Still, a pair of 19-point deficits before halftime seemed inexcusable, given what was at stake for the Celtics and stretch the Raptors were in. The Celtics played their best quarter in the last week in the third quarter, scoring 31 points and drawing to within five, 79-74. 

“Ball was really moving,” Stevens said. “We were getting good looks. Defensively, we were aggressive. We were communicating. You could tell there was a connectivity with the way they were playing. I thought we started really poorly,” Stevens said. “I did think though, a couple of those shots were not high-percentage shots that they made. But at the end of the day, you gotta kind of score and keep up with that as that’s happening and not dig yourself that big of a hole. The best we’ve played in two weeks is the third quarter.

“We can build off that. I think it was more of a factor of being hesitant than it was about not coming out and playing or competing or any of that stuff. I think that, for the most part, we looked hesitant. We looked unsure of ourselves and that type of stuff.

“I just told them I’m glad we played the way we did in the third because we’re a good basketball team when we play really hard together and believe in each other. We’ve just got to do that. It’s a tough stretch we’re in. We knew it was a tough stretch. It continues on Sunday on the road at Philly. We’ll have to play a lot better to have a chance to win.”

The Celtics were again without Jae Crowder and Jonas Jerebko but Stevens knows he couldn’t use that as an excuse for lack of execution. 

“Everybody misses players, right? I think those players are really good players,” Stevens said. “If they were here tonight, they would’ve played but they weren’t. We need other guys to step up.

“I guess we got back in it in the third quarter and then we had a cluster of errors there that led to transition points and kind of got us back out of it. We played the best in the third quarter that we’ve played in two weeks, so that’s good. But we’ve got to sustain it longer period than one quarter. “

Read More: Boston Celtics, Brad Stevens, Toronto Raptors,
Isaiah Thomas: ‘Things have got to change around here’ at 11:01 pm ET
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Celtics guard Isaiah Thomas (4) scores as Toronto Raptors center Bismack Biyombo (8) attempt a block in the third quarter at Air Canada Centre. (Peter Llewellyn/USA Today Sports)

Celtics guard Isaiah Thomas (4) scores as Toronto Raptors center Bismack Biyombo (8) attempt a block in the third quarter at Air Canada Centre. (Peter Llewellyn/USA Today Sports)

After Wednesday’s blowout loss to the Thunder, Isaiah Thomas was embarrassed. 

He assumed that, after calling out his teammates for getting “punked” and looking “soft as tissue” in the 130-109 loss, the Celtics would come out Friday night in Toronto looking hungry against the Raptors, a team that played an overtime game in Indiana the night before and was playing its fourth game in five nights. 

Instead the Celtics were the ones who came out flat, falling down 30-14 after the first 12 minutes and looking shell-shocked and unprepared for Luis Scola.

When it was all said and done, Thomas witnessed his teammates commit 16 turnovers and self-destruct in a 105-91 defeat. Now, he wants something to change. 

“We keep losing so we’ve got to change something up,” Thomas told reporters after. “Coach [Stevens] said our third quarter, we played Celtic basketball. We got ourselves back in the game. We showed signs of playing like we know how but against a good team like the Raptors, you can’t play just one good quarter.”

The Celtics did indeed cut a 19-point deficit down to five twice, including at the end of the third on a three from rookie RJ Hunter. But six turnovers in the first five minutes of the fourth and Kyle Lowry (15 points in the fourth) ended any hope of a comeback win. 

“I feel like they’re soft turnovers. We’re just being real soft with the ball, not being in control of the possession. That’s the definition of how we’re playing. We’re not playing to the best of our abilities. We’re not playing like we know how. We’re playing like we’re second-guessing all our [decisions], whether it’s offensively or defensively.”

The Celtics are on their first four-game losing streak of the season. They’re 39-30 and suddenly in sixth place in the East. They have winnable games against Philadelphia and Orlando Sunday and Monday but then a game against the Raptors Wednesday at the Garden before heading out West. 

“I tried to tell the guys after the game, this is not on the coaches,” Thomas said. “This is not on anybody else. We’re the players. We go out there and play and we’ve got to figure it out. We had this little slump in January and we ended up figuring it out, too. 

“But there’s [13] games left, we don’t have that much more room for error, so things have got to change around here.”

Read More: Boston Celtics, Isaiah Thomas, Toronto Raptors,
Studs and duds: Careless Celtics can’t overcome Kyle Lowry, Raptors, drop fourth straight at 9:53 pm ET
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Toronto Raptors guard Kyle Lowry (7) dribbles past Celtics guard Marcus Smart (36) in the second quarter at Air Canada Centre. (Peter Llewellyn/USA Today Sports)

Toronto Raptors guard Kyle Lowry (7) dribbles past Celtics guard Marcus Smart (36) in the second quarter at Air Canada Centre. (Peter Llewellyn/USA Today Sports)

The Celtics had the heart but not the head Friday night.

Kyle Lowry went 5-of-8 from 3-point range and scored 32 points to lead the Raptors to a 105-91 win over the Celtics Friday night at the Air Canada Centre. The Celtics (39-30) faced a pair of 19-point first-half deficits and cut it down to five points twice in the third quarter before self-destructing in the fourth quarter. 

Boston committed six turnovers in the opening five minutes of the fourth quarter and Lowry scored 15 of his 32 points in the fourth quarter to send the Celtics to their fourth straight loss, their longest skid of the season and their longest since losing four straight, Dec. 21-27, 2014. 

The Celtics were again led by Isaiah Thomas, who scored 20 points. The only other Boston player in double figures was Evan Turner (12 points), who replaced Marcus Smart in the lineup. 

Playing without Jae Crowder (missing his third straight game with a high ankle sprain) and Jonas Jerebko (missing his second straight with an Achilles injury), the Celtics had no answers for Luis Scola in the first quarter. The Raptors, playing their fourth game in five nights, took advantage of the front-court deficiency as Scola made 6-of-8 from the field and scored a remarkable 17 points in the first 12 minutes. 

The Celtics didn’t help themselves with seven turnovers in the opening quarter that led to 11 Toronto points. The Raptors led 30-14 after one. 

The Celtics appeared close to getting blown off the court by the Raptors in the second quarter, falling behind by as many as 19 points twice, 40-21 and 53-34. Stevens desperately searched his bench for any kind of answer, putting in R.J. Hunter, Terry Rozier and Jordan Mickey at one point. The Celtics took the best shot from Toronto and hung tough, making a bit of a run late in the second quarter, cutting the deficit down to 14, 55-41 at the half. 

The Celtics made a big run at the Raptors late in the third quarter, cutting the lead all the way down to five, 74-69, before Terrence Ross hit a corner three. That was followed by a runner from DeMar DeRozan.

Hunter hit a corner three with 0.4 left in the third that capped a 31-point quarter for the Celtics and again brought the C’s within five, 79-74, heading into the fourth. But the Celtics couldn’t take care of the ball when it mattered most, committing six turnovers in the first five minutes of the fourth, two of which led directly to 3-pointers from Lowry. 

The Raptors opened the fourth with six straight points and eventually raced out to a 93-76 lead. The Celtics fell to 0-44 when trailing by at least 19 points at any point in the three-year Brad Stevens era. 

The Celtics play in Philadelphia Sunday night at 6 p.m. before returning home for a game against the Magic at the Garden Monday night. 

For a complete box score, click here. To go beyond the box, read on.

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Read More: Boston Celtics, Kyle Lowry, Toronto Raptors,
Brad Stevens on Cleveland: ‘They’re the cream of the crop in the East for sure’ 03.05.16 at 2:44 am ET
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Celtics guard Avery Bradley (front) scores the winning basket against New York Knicks forward Lance Thomas (back) during the second half at TD Garden. (Mark L. Baer/USA Today Sports)

Celtics guard Avery Bradley (front) scores the winning basket against New York Knicks forward Lance Thomas (back) during the second half at TD Garden. (Mark L. Baer/USA Today Sports)

Brad Stevens is more than aware that his team will have its hands full Saturday night in Cleveland. 

After Avery Bradley hit a game-winning 3-pointer at the buzzer on Feb. 5, the Celtics walked away with a 104-103 victory. It was one of the signs that this Celtics team might just be legit. 

But this is a Cavaliers team that not only wants revenge but is trying to fend off No. 2 seed Toronto in the East, a Raptors team that’s just a 1.5 games back in the conference standings. The Celtics have a 5-game winning streak heading to Cleveland while the Cavaliers enter play with a 43-17 record. 

“[Saturday is] a new game; it’s its own separate entity,” Stevens said. “What happens – what happened the last time we were there and what happened in the last five games doesn’t factor in to how we play once the ball is tipped. And so the deal is we have to start better than we did last time when we played them; we were down 15 at the end of the first quarter, and hopefully don’t put ourselves in that position again.

“Obviously you’d like to have the same result but it’s very difficult; they’re the cream of the crop in the East for sure.”

After the Celtics held on Friday for a 105-104 win over the Knicks, giving them a 38-25 record, the biggest question in the locker room was how far could this Celtics team go in the spring? 

 “I think if we keep working hard, I think we got a chance in every game,” Tyler Zeller said. “Whether we execute at the end of the game will determine how far we can go, but I think as hard as we play and how well we are playing together we can go as far as we can as long as we execute.”

 Jae Crowder echoed the “sky is the limit” belief of Evan Turner, a belief Crowder said he’s had since preseason. 

“I think sky’s the limit, I said that in preseason,” Crowder said. “We are just taking it game by game right now, we’re not looking too far ahead. We’re just working on trying to get better with the little amount of games we have left before we enter postseason.”

Can the Celtics, still six games back in the loss column with only 19 games left, still think about catching the Raptors?

“Of course I think so,” Crowder said. “It’s just a matter of us locking in and not overlooking any opponent and taking care of our business day by day.”

“Anything can happen, anything especially with this team,” Isaiah Thomas added. “We’re going to try to, we’re going to play every game like its our last and try to get the highest seed possible.”

 How far does Thomas think this team can go?

 “I don’t know, I don’t know. We just really focused on the right now and focused on continuing to get better and let the cards fall where they may,” Thomas said. “We’re not a great team so that’s going to happen, but we got to limit those spots where played like we did tonight; where we weren’t talking, we weren’t engaged on both ends of the floor and it almost cost us the game. Luckily, we got back into it and snuck in a win, but if we want to be the best team we possibly can we got to limit those.”

Read More: Boston Celtics, Brad Stevens, Isaiah Thomas, Jae Crowder
Brad Stevens on catching Toronto: ‘We don’t talk about it a ton’ 03.04.16 at 6:55 pm ET
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The Celtics enter Friday as one of the hotter teams in the NBA. They’ve won five of seven out of the All-Star break and stand 37-25.

The problem is that the team they’re chasing in both the Atlantic Division and the Eastern Conference is just as hot. The Raptors, like the Celtics, head into action Friday with a 12-game home winning streak and they’re 41-19 on the year. That’s six games ahead in the loss column with just 20 games remaining.

The Celtics do have two games left with the Raptors, one in Toronto on March 18 and one at the Garden five days later. Still it’s a long shot for Boston to think it could catch the Raptors and beat them out for the division and the No. 2 seed when the Raptors have their sights set on catching Cleveland for the top spot in the East. They come into Friday’s game just two games behind the Cavaliers.

Does Stevens and his staff think about the standings?

“Not a ton. Obviously, we’ve got an idea, a general idea,” Stevens said before Friday’s game with the 25-37 Knicks. “But I don’t know specifically the amount of games separated by all the teams. I think the biggest thing is, from standpoint, we have 20 games left and 41 days left in the regular season and we’ve just got to try to get a little bit better every day. That’s about the extent of it. We don’t talk about it a ton. The players might but we certainly don’t as a staff.”

Then Stevens repeated his mantra of the last five weeks.

“Hey, we’re four games away from ninth. I don’t know. I think the biggest thing to do is stay in the moment and try to play as well as we can against the Knicks,” Stevens said. “I have no idea about all that stuff. There’s a lot of factors that go into that, how other teams are playing and everything else. I’m not good enough to worry about the other 29 teams.”

To Stevens’ point, the Wizards are currently 30-30 and in ninth place, on the outside looking in at the Eastern Conference playoff picture. The Celtics are still just one game ahead of the Heat (35-26) in the loss column and three games clear of the fifth-seeded Hawks (33-28). 

Read More: Boston Celtics, Brad Stevens, Toronto Raptors,
Stud and Duds: DeRozan’s 34 points leads Raptors past Celtics 01.20.16 at 10:30 pm ET
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DeMar DeRozan

DeMar DeRozan

After the Raptors opened up a 13-point lead in the first half, Celtics coach Brad Stevens turned to his bench, but it wasn’t enough to counter DeMar DeRozan who scored 22 second-half points en route to a 115-109 Rapors victory.

The Celtics closed the first half on a 10-2 run and took a 62-56 lead into halftime. Led by Kelly Olynyk’s 18 points, the Celtics bench combined for 47 points. Yet, DeRozan erupted for 18 third-quarter points and set the tone offensively for the Raptors as they outscored the Celtics 40-28 before heading into the fourth quarter.

In the final frame, the Raptors led by four points when Isaiah Thomas committed a costly turnover on an inbound play out of a timeout with 41 seconds left. The Celtics were able to regain possession but Avery Bradley‘s missed 3-pointer with 14.8 seconds left, sealed the Raptors win. It was the fifth missed 3-pointer of the quarter and further prevented the Celtics from having a chance to regain the lead that they saw slip away after halftime.

The Raptors did an excellent job of getting to the hoop while knocking down good looks from the perimeter — they outscored the Celtics 54-38 in the paint and shot 55.4 percent on 46-of-83 shooting. Although the Celtics shot 50.6 percent from the floor, it wasn’t enough to impede DeRozan’s second-half scoring outburst. The Raptors never led by more than six points in the fourth quarter but were able to pull away in the final minutes.

Isaiah Thomas‘ (21 points, 10 assists) double-double led the Celtics and Avery Bradley finished the night with 19 points. DeMar DeRozan (34 points) shot 52 percent on 13-25 shooting to lead the Raptors and Jonas Valanciunas (19 points, 12 rebounds) notched a double-double.

For a complete box score, click here. To go beyond the box, read on.

STUD OF THE NIGHT: DeMar DeRozan

DeRozan gave the Celtics one of the best individual performances they’ve seen from an opponent this season and did it in a number of different ways. He drove the ball to the hoop, stroked it from the mid-range, got to the free-throw line (8-of-9) and lit up the C’s — scoring 30 points in three quarters. Who does that? Not a lot of players in the NBA do. DeMar was ridiculous. He finished the night with 34 points and six assists.

DUD OF THE NIGHT: Jared Sullinger.

Sullinger had an ugly outing up in Toronto. He couldn’t find his offense and was bullied  in the paint by Jonas Valanciuas and Luis Scola. Sullinger went scoreless on 1-for-7 shooting, committed two turnovers and was a team-low minus-19 on the night.

VINE OF THE NIGHT: #Stud

WHINE OF THE NIGHT: Three-point shooting

The Raptors entered the game as one of the league’s worst teams in defending 3-pointers and it showed. Celtics shot 46.2 percent from deep on 12-of-26 shooting but needed a few more down the stretch when they counted most. The Celtics utilized their 3-point shooting throughout the game to keep themselves within striking distance but couldn’t hit the big ones at the end of the fourth. As the saying goes: “You live and die by the 3,” well the C’s lived by it for 36 minutes as the 3-ball certainly kept them close up until the last quarter where they went 1-for-6 and ultimately suffered their second straight loss.

STAT OF THE NIGHT: 54 points in the paint

The Celtics have to do a better job at defending the post. In a game where Jared Sullinger only played 12 minutes, the Celtics had no other big men to count on for interior defense. Amir Johnson and Tyler Zeller struggled to keep up with Jonas Valanciunas (19) and Luis Scola (18 points) nor could they get stops against Toronto’s perimeter players as they were able to get to the hoop with little resistance. 

@ OF THE NIGHT:

Read More: Boston Celtics, DeMar DeRozan, Toronto Raptors,
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