|Avery Bradley rejects Gordon Hayward’s game-winning attempt||03.01.16 at 1:05 am ET|
On a night when the Celtics blocked more shots than they had in seven years, it was only appropriate that one of the smallest players on the court came up with one of the most important rejections in a 100-95 win over the Jazz at TD Garden.
With the Celtics clinging to a 96-95 lead, the bigger Gordon Hayward trying to back the 6-foot-2 Avery Bradley down into the post for a turnaround. But Bradley came off the seal and played it perfectly. He timed his jump perfectly and blocked Hayward with 20.9 seconds left and the Celtics closed out the game with the final four points.
“It was good,” coach Brad Stevens said of the Bradley block. “He had been guarding [Rodney] Hood most of the game and had done a great job on Hood and you knew they were going to one of those two guys and it just felt like he would be our best bet on Gordon late because Gordon had tried to drive it a few times there recently, at the end. And he made a really good play. He guessed right on his turnaround and blocked the shot, came up with the loose ball, and then Amir [Johnson] came up with the loose ball, and I thought that was really a well-played game by both teams, for the most part.
“And it was a heck of a game; it was a heck of an execution game late. They were making plays, we were making plays, and we were just fortunate enough to get those two loose balls off of the block and then off the free throw to kind of seal it.”
Bradley took advantage of his familiarity with Hayward to time his jump.
“I was just trying to play great defense,” Bradley said. “I know Gordon, I knew they were going to go to him and I just wanted to make it hard on him and not foul him, and that’s what I did and I was able to get the block, read the play. I tried to force him in to it, tried to force him into the middle so I could be right hand to right hand and I was able to get the block.”
“He timed it really well,” Hayward said. “It was a good play.” Read the rest of this entry »
|Jordan Mickey gets the (text) message, plays key role in win over Jazz||02.29.16 at 11:03 pm ET|
Brad Stevens had a special message for Jordan Mickey Monday morning. And in keeping with the times, there was no better way to communicate to his first-year center than through a text.
“I texted him actually [Monday morning] that, ‘you need to be ready to go at anytime because there could be any time that those have to contribute and help us win a game,'” Stevens said.
“I got the text early this morning and I read it about 10 times before I even got here,” Mickey said. “I was just trying to prepare myself to be ready for the opportunity and you never know when you are going to be able to get in, or when you are going to get that opportunity. It happened to be kind of early in the night and I was excited about it.”
Safe to say, Mickey was ready. The 33rd overall pick out of LSU played one of the more important roles of his rookie season, coming on with 9:09 left in the second quarter and the Celtics down 11, 36-25, to the Jazz, who were imposing their will through their big front court. Mickey was a big reason the Celtics were able to stabilize the game, cut the deficit to three at the half. The regulars did their part in the second half in the 100-95 win over the Jazz at TD Garden.
He played just seven minutes, all in the second quarter, but in those seven minutes, he scored three points, grabbed three rebounds and blocked two shots while getting his hands on a third shot that went in the basket.
“I just thought we need a boost,” Stevens said. “And I thought that every time we’ve put him in, he’s blocked a shot and come up with some loose balls. I think he’s just got to get … He was in Maine for a long time and then he had the ankle (injury). He’s probably not as up to speed as he needs to be on some things that we’ll get him up to speed on as he continues to be with us more and more. Hey, we’re not overly deep at the big spot without Kelly [Olynyk].”
Will Mickey’s performance be a sign of things to come or just a one-shot deal in his rookie season? That depends on how long Olynyk is out with his bum right shoulder and how much faith was earned from his performance Monday night.
“It’s always nerve-racking to go out there a little bit and you are a rookie. You haven’t played that much, but also exciting to be out there and show what you can do, just being able to compete.”
Brad Stevens doesn’t like coaching against his former players.
In the first quarter he was reminded why. Gordon Hayward, most famous for nearly beating Duke in the NCAA championship game with a half-court buzzer-beater in 2010, had eight points and fellow Butler alum Shelvin Mack had six points as the Jazz took a 29-23 lead.
The two were recently re-united thanks a trade that sent Mack from Atlanta to the Jazz. Mack was placed immediately in Utah’s starting lineup. His first game with the Jazz was against old coach Brad Stevens and the Celtics.
What does he think of coaching against his former players twice in two weeks?
“It stinks,” Stevens said only partially tongue-in-cheek. “I love being out there. I love competing against them. If I was coaching the blue team in practice and they were on the white team a few years ago, I would try to do the very best I could to not let them have a good day. Shelvin has started off great for Utah, as we thought he would. As we’ve seen many times, it’s about opportunity and fit as much as anything else in this league.
“And Gordon has established himself as one of the better young players in the league, and that’s been a great growth process for me to watch because when he committed to Butler, he was a tennis player that played basketball and was growing into his body, and wasn’t near what he is now. Just to watch him the last eight or nine years has been pretty incredible.”
The Hayward story is well-documented but Stevens provided a refresher course before Monday’s game.
“He wasn’t heavily recruited until after he committed to us,” Stevens said. “It was that type of deal. He was great. He really wanted to be there. He really worked. He was always working. He was always in the gym. He was probably one of our bigger gym rats that we had over that time. He’s also a really relational guy, he really enjoys team, he really enjoys people.
“They pounded us last week. They’ve had some great moments, and those two guys are going to continue to have great moments as part of that organization. I just think you should grow, you should get better, you should improve. If you’re stagnating or if you think you’ve got it figured out, you’re going to get caught. I feel bad that those guys had to be coached by a guy that young and that dumb.”
Mack thinks the self-deprecating Stevens might just be a little hard on himself, considering the fact he became the youngest head coach in history to guide his team to back-to-back NCAA championship games.
“I wouldn’t say that,” Mack said when told of the ‘dumb’ reference. “He was very smart, very mature. I’d say he handled the situation great at Butler.
“He’s a player’s coach. He can adapt to his players. I think the NBA is all about, or mostly about, the players. If you adapt to a player and make it easy, I think you have a chance to be a great coach. He’s able to do that, connect with his players, on and off the court. Off the court might be easier than on the court.”
|Studs and Duds: Celtics fall in Utah||02.20.16 at 1:07 am ET|
It was a disappointing and defenseless start to the post All-Star break run for the Celtics.
Utah, which lost in Washington the night before, shot 54.4 percent from the floor and the Celtics were reduced to 3-point shooting in the fourth-quarter of a 111-93 loss Friday night in Salt Lake City.
The Celtics, who were playing their first game in nine days, suffered their worst loss since a 19-point defeat in Orlando on Nov. 29.
“We were a step slow to everything.” Isaiah Thomas said. “We couldn’t get stops and we played right into their hands.”
The Celtics couldn’t make it all the way back from a 17-point third-quarter hole and fell in their first game back from the All-Star break.
Down 79-62, the Celtics went on a 14-4 run, cutting it to 83-76 on a Jared Sullinger hook shot with 10:41 left in the fourth quarter.
But the Jazz responded with a 15-5 run, capped by a Rudy Gobert dunk with 5:41 left that essentially put the game away. The Celtics, who had won five of six and 10 of 12 before the break, fell to 32-24.
They remain a game ahead of the 31-25 Hawks, who lost Friday night at home to Miami. The Jazz, tied for the eighth and final spot in the Western Conference playoff race, improved to 27-27 on the season.
The Celtics led just once in the game, by one point in the first half but trailed just 54-49 at the half. They made it a four-point game, 64-60, early in the third before Utah went on a 15-2 run.
“We weren’t very good on either end tonight,” Stevens said. “I don’t think we played the right way for 45 minutes. The halftime score was a joke. It shouldn’t have been five. It should’ve been 15. It’s going to be a long night.
“We weren’t very good all night. We were very lucky to be down five at halftime.”
For a complete box score, click here. To go beyond the box, read on.
STUD OF THE NIGHT: Isaiah Thomas. The Celtics’ All-Star representative put up a team high 25 points, but on 7-of-19 shooting from the field.
DUD OF THE NIGHT: Amir Johnson. Continuing his slump from before the break, the big man scored just two points and picked up one rebound in 17 minutes.
|Trades worth the Celtics’ while: Part 7||02.13.15 at 12:33 pm ET|
A major theme of the rebuilding Celtics has been that no player is safe from being traded for the betterment of the team — something Danny Ainge has shown the willingness to do throughout his career (and now once again by trading Rajon Rondo). Here are some trades that make sense for the mess that is the Boston Celtics. Again, these specific trades are not rumors, simply ideas. This is Part 7.
With Rondo and Jeff Green shipped out, trade ideas are running thin as the Feb 19 deadline approaches.
No doubt Ainge would love to shed an expiring contract or two in the form of Brandon Bass, Tayshaun Prince or Marcus Thornton. However, contenders have yet to come calling for the services of Boston’s veteran pieces. But maybe Ainge can use one of those contracts — along with one of his accumulated draft picks — to add a young talent that’s potentially now available.
CELTICS GET: Enes Kanter
Bass is in this deal simply to make the money match, but it achieves Ainge’s goal of moving an expiring veteran. The important part of the deal, however, is Kanter’s contract. He too is expiring at season’s end and there is no chance the Celtics would risk sending a first-rounder to Utah without assurance that Kanter has interest in remaining in Boston. For the sake of making the trade idea work, let’s say Kanter approves of being a Celtic past 2015.
Tyler Zeller (9.6 points, 5.5 rebounds) has had a solid season, but he is certainly not the starting center of the future. Kanter, who recently told reporters that he hopes to be traded, has the potential to be a valuable piece long-term. The former No. 3 overall pick is averaging 13.8 points and 7.8 rebounds while playing 27.1 minutes per game so far this season — those numbers would be an immediate upgrade at the center spot.
Kanter is still just 22-years old, though. Ainge’s hope in making the deal would be that his new young big would make a smooth transition to Boston and continue to grow his numbers in upcoming seasons. There’s a risk involved for the Celtics in giving up a first-round pick, but the risk could prove worth the reward if Kanter develops into Boston’s future center. After all, Ainge didn’t accumulate all these picks to use each of them. At some point some of them have to be moved for talent that can provide an instant impact.
Follow Julian Edlow on Twitter @julianedlow
|5 things we learned as Celtics keep winning out West||01.26.15 at 11:42 pm ET|
Against all odds, the Celtics own a winning record on their West Coast road trip.
For the third time in five games against Western Conference opponents over the past week, the C’s came out on top, holding off the Jazz 99-90. The Celtics improved to 16-27 on the season, moving within two games of the final Eastern Conference playoff spot. Even more promising, they wrap up the road trip on Wednesday against the Timberwolves, owners of the league’s worst record.
Tayshaun Prince of all people led the scoring effort with 19 points on 10 shots off the bench. Fellow reserve Tyler Zeller added 14 points and seven boards while Jared Sullinger (9 rebounds) and Avery Bradley each contributed a dozen points. Gordon Hayward led the Jazz (16-29) with 26 points against his former coach at Butler.
“He’s just like me,” Stevens told reporters of Prince. “He knows what’s going on. He’s lived it all. They’ve got you down by 20 in a quarter, and it doesn’t look like his pulse has moved. You go up by 20 in a quarter, and it doesn’t look like his pulse has moved. He’s just playing. He’s playing the right way. He made us better today. He’s made us better with his presence already, and that’s been fun. It’s been fun for our young guys to have another older guy to kind of lean on and learn from.”
For a complete box score, click here.
SECOND TO NONE
Fielding a lineup of Marcus Smart, Marcus Thornton, Gerald Wallace, Prince and Zeller to start the second quarter, the Celtics ignited a 30-7 run over the course of 7:32, transforming a 21-21 game into a 23-point lead. Proving he’s still a capable contributor, Prince highlighted the effort, scoring 10 of his 12 first-half points and adding three assists during the run. After trading buckets with the Jazz early, the Celtics never trailed again.
As is so often suggested, basketball is a game of runs. The run giveth, and the run taketh away. And boy did the run taketh away in the third quarter. The Celtics went nearly six minutes without scoring a field goal in the frame. Meanwhile, the Jazz starters rattled off an 18-0 run that slashed a 22-deficit down to four.
Since Jan. 25, 2013, the Celtics haven’t finished perfect from the free throw line when attempting more than 15 freebies in a game. After making their first 16 free throws to start the game, Prince’s miss in the final minute kept the streak alive. Still, those free throws made much of the difference, as the C’s finished 21-of-23 from the line (91.3 percent) while the Jazz missed eight of their 19 tries (57.9 percent).
As Celtics coach Brad Stevens continues to search for the right rotation, the Boston bench proved more effective than the starters in Utah. Led by Prince and Zeller, the C’s bench scored 53 points on 20-of-35 shooting (57.1 percent). With Bradley (4-12 FG) and Evan Turner (2-7 FG) struggling to find their shooting stroke, the starters scored 46 points on 15-of-39 shooting (38.5 percent), suggesting the depth of Stevens’ rotation is proving effective in the February doldrums of the NBA season ‘ particularly during their fourth game in five nights.
“You can’t come out the way we came out in the third quarter,” Stevens added postgame, “and I thought we were pretty locked in and engaged, but we looked like we were running in the mud a little bit with that group, so I went to the bench quicker, and I thought the bench really did it’s job both times pushing the lead out.”
Credit Stevens for motivating an ever-changing Celtics roster in the wake of the Rajon Rondo trade. After losing 24 straight to Western Conference foes on the road, the C’s have shown considerable fight during their six-game West Coast trip, winning three of their first five contests and giving the Warriors more than they bargained for. Despite the turmoil, this Celtics team is developing. So, cue a Tayshaun Prince trade, I guess?
|Celtics, Jazz tie for NBA’s fourth-worst record||04.16.14 at 11:22 pm ET|
As a result, the teams split their lottery odds, each receiving a 10.4 percent chance at the No. 1 pick and a 33.5 percent chance at a top-three selection. A coin flip will determine their positioning should neither team end up in the top three on May 20, and the worst-case scenario for the Celtics is the eighth pick in the June 26 draft.
Meanwhile, the Wizards’ victory over the C’s pulled them even with the Nets at 44-38. Since the Celtics also own Brooklyn’s pick, another coin flip later this week will determine if they receive the 17th or 18th pick.
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