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Studs and duds: Careless Celtics can’t overcome Kyle Lowry, Raptors, drop fourth straight 03.18.16 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.

Read the rest of this entry »

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,
Studs and Duds: Celtics can’t contain hot-shooting Raptors 10.30.15 at 11:05 pm ET
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The Raptors shot better than 50 percent in the second half, outscoring a Celtics offense that couldn’t find its rhythm, and the result was Boston’s first loss of the season, 113-103 at TD Garden. Isaiah Thomas led the way for the second straight game, totaling with 25 points and seven assists. Avery Bradley scored 13 points, while Amir Johnson and Kelly Olynyk each added 11 off the bench. The Celtics and Raptors played to a 54-54 tie at the half, but Toronto totaled 30 third-quarter points and outscored the C’s by nine in the frame. In the end, the Celtics couldn’t contain a trio of Toronto 20-piont scorers — 2013 All-Star DeMar DeRozan (23 points), newcomer DeMarre Carroll (21 points, 5 rebounds) and reserve Terrence Ross (21 points). For a complete box score, click here. To go beyond the box, read on. Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Boston Celtics, Isaiah Thomas, Toronto Raptors,
Lou Williams wins Sixth Man over Isaiah Thomas 04.20.15 at 12:57 pm ET
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Raptors guard Lou Williams beat Celtics guard Isaiah Thomas for the NBA’s Sixth Man of the Year honor by a significant margin, the league announced on Monday morning.

Williams received 78 of the 130 possible first-place votes from a panel of sportswriters. His 34 second-place votes and 10 third-place votes gave him a total of 502 points. Meanwhile, Thomas received 33 first-place votes, 46 second-place votes and 21 third-place votes for a total of 324 points — the second-highest total in the voting.

Williams appeared on 122 of 130 ballots, as Jamal Crawford (131 points), Andre Iguodala (100), Tristan Thompson (33), Nikola Mirotic (24), Marreese Speights (20), Corey Brewer (12), Manu Ginobili (12), Taj Gibson (8), Aaron Brooks (1), Chris Kaman (1), Anthony Morrow (1) and Dennis Schroder (1) all received votes. How 30 writers left Thomas off the ballot entirely is a mystery.

We’ve already covered in great deal why Thomas deserved the award over Williams, so we won’t get too far into the weeds here, except to say Thomas averaged more points, assists and rebounds while shooting better from everywhere on the floor and submitting a superior player efficiency rating.

Read More: Boston Celtics, Isaiah Thomas, Lou Williams, NBA
Marcus Smart beats Raptors at buzzer in OT, putting Celtics in 8th place 04.04.15 at 10:40 pm ET
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The roller coaster rookie season of Marcus Smart continued Saturday night and provided the biggest high point of his young career.

The rookie out of Oklahoma State converted a layup as time expired in overtime to give the Celtics a critical 117-116 win over the Atlantic Division-leading Raptors in Toronto.

[Click here for the full box.]

The win improves the Celtics to 35-42 and put them a half-game ahead of Miami for eighth place in the East and just a half-game behind the Nets for seventh. The Heat which plays Indiana on Sunday night in the return of Pacers star Paul George, lost 99-98 at Detroit. The Nets were obliterated on the road, 131-99, in Atlanta Saturday night.

With only 2.6 seconds left and Boston trailing by one in overtime, Smart took a pass from a driving Isaiah Thomas and got behind the collapsing Toronto defense to score the winner.

Thomas scored 25 points, Tyler Zeller had 20 and Evan Turner added 18 points and 10 assists for the Celtics, who are off until Wednesday when they play in Detroit.

The Celtics appeared headed for a heart-breaking loss when Lou Williams hit a three with four seconds left, putting Toronto up, 116-115. The Celtics were able to overcome an amazing performance by DeMar DeRozan who scored 18 of his 38 points in the fourth quarter and overtime. Williams finished with 27.

Read More: Boston Celtics, Marcus Smart, Toronto Raptors,
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