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Celtics get tough with Wizards to strengthen grip on second seed in Eastern Conference 03.20.17 at 10:25 pm ET
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Mar 20, 2017; Boston, MA, USA; Washington Wizards guard John Wall (2) passes the ball past Boston Celtics guard Avery Bradley (0) during the first half at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

Celtics forced 18 Wizards turnovers (Bob DeChiara/USA Today)

For a team that entered Monday night’s game as the fifth-worst rebounding team in the league, the Celtics rarely ever out-rebound their opponent. But when it came to facing the Wizards at home with playoff implications on the line, the C’s looked like a team that just simply wanted it more.

The Celtics not only out-rebounded their opponent, 54-39 but were very physical with the Wizards on defense and made it tough for them to find their offensive rhythm while the C’s cruised to 110-102 victory. For the first time in two years, the Celtics pulled down 20 offensive rebounds. The last time the C’s grabbed 20 or more boards in a winning effort was against the Bulls in the 2009 playoffs. 

With the win, the Celtics (45-26) now hold a 2.5 game advantage over the Wizards for the No. 2 seed in the Eastern Conference. 

Sure, the return of Isaiah Thomas (25 points, 2 steals) certainly helped but it wasn’t just the Celtics leading scorer who made a huge impact for the Celtics. Avery Bradley had such an incredible first quarter that Brad Stevens kept him in for its entirety. He scored 11 points, grabbed four rebounds and dished out three assists in the first 12 minutes and finished with 20 points, 9 rebounds and four assists. 

Bradley Beal’s 19 points led the Wizards, John Wall finished with 16 and 8 assists but did most of his damage from the free-throw line — where he netted 8-of-9. 

For a complete recap of Monday’s win, click here.

Up front, Al Horford set the tone by creating stops while also making an effort in boxing guys out in the paint and guys like Amir Johnson and Kelly Olynyk followed suit. Led by Horford’s 16 points, 9 rebounds, the three big men finished with a combined 23 rebounds and four blocks.

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Brad Stevens says Isaiah Thomas is ‘good to go’ for return against Wizards at 6:34 pm ET
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Isaiah Thomas dribbles as Washington Wizards guard Bradley Beal (3) looks on. (Brad Mills/USA Today Sports)

Isaiah Thomas dribbles as Washington Wizards guard Bradley Beal (3) looks on. (Brad Mills/USA Today Sports)

After missing the last two games with a bruised right knee, Isaiah Thomas has been cleared to return against the Wizards. 

The Celtics All-Star point guard injured the knee in last Wednesday’s win over the Timberwolves and missed Friday’s win in Brooklyn and Sunday’s loss in Philadelphia. 

“Yep,” was Brad Stevens one-word answer in the affirmative when asked if the guard would be back in the lineup against a Washington team that is 1.5 games behind the Celtics in the race for the No. 2 spot in the East. 

Stevens said Thomas received plenty of treatment for the bruised knee over the weekend, making the most of time away playing. 

“Feeling a lot better,” Stevens said. “I think all the treatment over the weekend, which he had a ton of, was all positive. He’s good to go.”

Thomas sounded a bit more cautious, admitting that he wasn’t at full strength yet, “but I’m good enough.” 

Then he added, “I can’t sit this one out. I know what’s at stake. I know it’s a big game for us.” 

Stevens added that he doesn’t anticipate a minutes restriction for Thomas, who leads the team in playing time at 34.1 minutes a game. 

“I don’t think so,” Stevens said. “I haven’t heard that from the training staff. Usually, the minutes restriction is as much to do [with] extended periods of time as anything else.”

Stevens was asked if he could tell Thomas was ready based on the team’s walkthrough Monday.

“Well, our walkthrough happened at about 4:45 [p.m.] and it was a WALK through so I think he looked great,” Stevens said. “But I have no idea how that translates to playing in a stance or running up and down the floor but I’ve been told he’s fine.”

On the importance of holding off Washington for the second seed in the East. 

“I think it’s about playing good basketball,” Stevens said. “That stuff sorts itself out. Obviously, you want to be as good of a seed as you can. There’s no question about that. Again, I’d like to have some healthy games here to play good basketball and see if we can’t figure ourselves out as we head into the next month, plus.” 

Monday’s game is the opener of a season-long six-game home stand. Entering Monday, the Wizards and Pacers (Wednesday) were the only team with a winning record of the six teams. Much has been made of the newly-created rivalry in the media between the Celtics and Wizards, featuring Isaiah Thomas and John Wall. A battle for playoff position only fuels it. 

“My focus is on playing good basketball,” Stevens said. “When I think of rivalries, I think of years upon years upon years in the making. Certainly, we have a great deal of respect for how good these guys are. And that’s that. But we’ve got to focus on trying to do our best to play as well as we can against them, which means a lot of the focus has to be on what we’re trying to accomplish, and they’re going to be doing the same on their end. 

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Read More: Boston Celtics, Brad Stevens, Bradley Beal, Isaiah Thomas
John Wall brushes off postgame incident with Jae Crowder as ‘just some altercation’ 01.12.17 at 12:48 am ET
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Jan 11, 2017; Boston, MA, USA;  Boston Celtics forward Jae Crowder (99) is guarded by Washington Wizards forward / center Jason Smith (14) during the third quarter at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports

Celtics forward Jae Crowder (99) is guarded by Wizards forward Jason Smith (14) during the third quarter at TD Garden. (Greg M. Cooper/USA Today Sports)

On a night that Floyd Mayweather was courtside, it was only appropriate that Wednesday’s Celtics-Wizards game ended with a fight. 

As the players were filing off the court in the wake of Boston’s 117-108 win, the banged up John Wall crossed paths with Jae Crowder. The Celtics forward started talking to Wall, who took exception. Crowder pointed his finger in Wall’s face and the two teams started pushing and shoving, a melee that spilled into the tunnel leading to the locker rooms behind the Wizards bench. 

“Just some altercation,” Wall said when asked about it. “We knew there was going to be some trash talking.  We knew it was going to be a physical game. That’s all it was. Just a little trash talking and a physical game.

“My right pinky is messed up and my left wrist is swollen.  I’ll probably get an X-Ray and see what’s wrong with it.  I knew it was hurting.  I knew it was painful before the game.  It was a big game for us.  I just tried to come out and play through it and the results came out how it was.”

Brad Stevens said he didn’t see it but heard about it and reminded his players what was expected in terms of behavior.  

“I heard what was going on in the tunnel. All I did was walk out. There were only two guys that were walking in from the court from our team, and I just said, ‘Get in the locker room.’ And then I talked to the team about what we represent and that’s it,” Stevens said. “I don’t know what happened.  I have no idea – I haven’t asked yet. I’ll find out after I get back to the locker room.”

Crowder admitted it was a challenge to keep his cool in a game with such high intensity. 

“It was a good fight,” Crowder said. “It was a good fight. Both teams coming off a back-to-back. So the effort was truly there, and it was two teams playing hard.”

Crowder said he and the Celtics were very aware the referees were allowing a physical game. 

“We talked about that at halftime,” Crowder added. “The refs weren’t calling it tight, so we were able to get up into guys and play a little physical. And that’s what happened.”

 

 

Read More: Boston Celtics, Jae Crowder, John Wall, NBA
Wednesday’s win over Wizards shows Isaiah Thomas is MVP-worthy, Floyd Mayweather eats it up 01.11.17 at 10:20 pm ET
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Jan 29, 2016; Boston, MA, USA; American boxer Floyd Mayweather Jr. laughs with Boston Celtics guard Isaiah Thomas (R) after defeating the Orlando Magic at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: Mark L. Baer-USA TODAY Sports

Boxer Floyd Mayweather Jr. had plenty to laugh about Wednesday with good friend Isaiah Thomas. (Mark L. Baer/USA Today Sports)

Brad Stevens said before Wednesday’s encounter with the Wizards that he doesn’t pay much attention to stats. 

That’s a good thing because with no Avery Bradley, Jaylen Brown and Amir Johnson, the stats certainly weren’t in Boston’s favor as they squared off against the hottest backcourt in the East. 

“No excuses from my standpoint,” Stevens said. “You’ve got games to play, let’s play.”

Isaiah Thomas certainly did – lighting it up again in the fourth quarter – scoring 20 of his game-high 38 points in the final period to lead the Celtics past the Wizards, 117-108, at TD Garden. 

And on a night second-year forward Jordan Mickey was making his first NBA start and Floyd Mayweather was sitting courtside, they needed the knockout shot from their MVP-caliber point guard in the end.

How clutch has Thomas been? He is now averaging 9.8 points per game in the fourth quarter alone, tops in the NBA. His 38 points Wednesday raises his game average to 28.2 points. He is tied with DeMar DeRozan for fourth in the NBA, behind Russell Westbrook (31.2), Anthony Davis (29.1) and James Harden (28.5). 

“He’s been playing as impressive as I’ve seen someone play,” Al Horford said after the win that raised Boston’s record to 24-15 on the season. 

Speaking of Horford, the first half Wednesday was not one for Horford’s highlight reel. In over 16 minutes, he was 3-for-6 from the field for six points, didn’t get to the free throw line, committed two turnovers and was a minus-8. He did grab five rebounds and blocked two shots but looked out of sorts at times, playing the 5-spot with Mickey filling in for Johnson. 

For a full recap and box score of Wednesday’s win over the Wizards, click here

Horford’s numbers this year have been very good (15.3 PPG, 6.8 rebounds, 4.9 assists). That cannot be disputed. But to Stevens point before the game, sometimes the stats don’t tell the story. And remember, some of this is also on the coaches, like earlier in the season when Stevens took responsibility for Horford not getting his shots

Wednesday was not about the what but the when. The Celtics, without starters Bradley and Johnson and reserves Brown, James Young and Tyler Zeller, needed Horford to step up his game and take over in the paint. They needed an attitude. 

On a night when the Celtics were playing a fast-riser in the East at home a night after a gut-punching loss in Toronto, they needed their big man to play big. Jason Smith outplayed Horford Wednesday night. Who you ask? You know, the ninth-year reserve out of Colorado State. With nine minutes left, Smith had 13 points and five rebounds in 14 minutes while Horford had 9 points and six rebounds in 25. 

But by that time, the Celtics were close enough to let Isaiah Thomas do what he always does and that is dominate the fourth quarter. He scored 13 of Boston’s first 19 points in the final quarter and electrified the crowd, which included dapping with Mayweather courtside after one of his five threes on the night. 

There were issues Wednesday, namely the Celtics committing 10 turnovers in the first half, offsetting the team’s 9-for-19 sharpshooting from 3-point range. 

John Wall, fresh from his December Eastern Conference player of the month honor, entered the game averaging 23.2 points and 10.3 assists per game. Bradley Beal came to town averaging 22.1 points. Together, their 45.3 points per game were eight points higher than Isaiah Thomas (27.9) and Marcus Smart (10.2). 

Of course, the Celtics were without the 18 points-per-game from Bradley, who was missing his third straight game with a sore right Achilles. 

“Welcome to the NBA. It’s fun,” Stevens said, referring to playing the Wall-Beal combo a night after Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan. The Celtics hung in there Tuesday against the Raptors before falling apart at the end. Stevens was asked how he thinks the Celtics match up with the elite backcourts when Bradley is healthy.


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Read More: Al Horford, Boston Celtics, Washington Wizards,
Celtics choice: Bradley Beal vs. Gordon Hayward 05.23.16 at 9:25 am ET
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As the days pass leading up to June’s NBA draft, we want to encourage the debate regarding what the Celtics should do with the No. 3 overall pick. In that spirit, we present “Celtics choice.”

Today: Using the No. 3 pick to trade for Wizards guard Bradley Beal (assuming he re-signs in Washington or somewhere else) or Jazz guard Gordon Hayward.

The case for Beal

At 6-foot-5, Beal has the ideal length to be a shooting guard, the role he’s most prominently served in Washington next to John Wall. He averaged a team-leading and career-best 17.4 points per game over 55 games this past season. He led the Wizards in their 10 playoff games from 2015 when he averaged 23.4 points. He is a career 40 percent shooter from 3-point range, another huge plus in the Stevens system. He is still very, very young, only turning 23 in June.

The case against Beal

Not worth the trouble and way too complicated. To acquire Beal, the Celtics could either go out and spend for him as a restricted free agent, opening the door for the Wizards to match or use Bird rights on him. Beal’s spent his first four years trying to prove he is a part of Washington’s future. Beal is set to become a restricted free agent on July 1 because he and the team didn’t come to terms on a contract extension before a Nov. 2 deadline. “I want to be here. I don’t know,” Beal said, according to the Washington Post. “I don’t even know what I’m getting into right now. It’s like choosing colleges again. But I’m happy where I am. Hopefully, we can agree with each other this summer and we can get it done. But if not, it’s a business at the end of the day.”

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Read More: 2016 NBA draft, Boston Celtics, Bradley Beal, Gordon Hayward
Studs and Duds: Jared Sullinger, Celtics crush Wizards 11.27.15 at 10:57 pm ET
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Behind great defense and efficient offense, the Celtics routed the visiting Wizards, 111-78, Friday night at TD Garden.

The Celtics got off to a quick start, thanks to Jared Sullinger (18 points, 15 rebounds), who had his fourth double-double of the season by halftime. The C’s closed out the first half with a 54-36 lead, and then kept the pedal to the metal in the second half, outscoring the Wizards 57-42 to seal the blowout win. The Celtics forced a total of 22 turnovers, and Washington never led.

The C’s finished the night with 28 assists and 11 steals — two statistical categories that gave them a big advantage over the Wizards. They shot 43.3 percent from the floor, while limiting themselves to 15 turnovers.

“I think pulling that Sixers game out was huge,” Celtics coach Brad Stevens said. “Playing that way over the last six minutes, not having played well for a couple of games in a row plus most of that game, and finding a way was probably good for us emotionally heading into tonight. And then I felt we had a pretty good shoot-around and then felt like we played on both ends probably as consistently for 48 minutes as we’ve played all year.”

Isaiah Thomas‘ 21 points led six Celtics in double figures. Avery Bradley scored 12 of his 16 points in the opening 12 minutes and finished with a plus-22 rating on the night. Jae Crowder added 15 points. David Lee and Kelly Olynyk each scored a dozen points off the bench. Former Boston College standout Jared Dudley led the Wizards with 19 points off the bench. Bradley Beal chipped in 16 points, and John Wall finished the night with just 10.

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

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Read More: Boston Celtics, Jared Sullinger, NBA, Washington Wizards
Report: JaVale McGee deal to Celtics falls apart 03.05.15 at 2:27 pm ET
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JaVale McGee (34) won't be coming to the Celtics anytime soon after talks with the free agent broke down. (Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)

JaVale McGee (34) won’t be coming to the Celtics anytime soon after talks with the free agent broke down. (Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)

Put all those “Shaqtin A Fool” parties on hold for now.

According to Steve Bulpett of the Boston Herald, big man JaVale McGee will not be coming to Boston after all. Bulpett reported Thursday afternoon that his representative and the Celtics could not come to an agreement on a contract.

As a result, McGee remains a free agent center available for any team to scoop him up.

Earlier Thursday, Jeff Goodman of ESPN reported the Celtics and McGee were all but set on a deal that would land him in Boston as the Celtics try to make a stretch run for a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. Danny Ainge confirmed that report on the team’s flagship station before Bulpett’s report Thursday that the deal fell through.

Goodman later reported that the deal broke down when McGee, and his representative Arn Tellem, wanted a player option for next season while Ainge insisted on a team option, likely based on what the Celtics saw from him the rest of this season.

The 7-foot, 270-pound center started this season, his seventh in the NBA, with the Nuggets. On trade deadline day, Feb. 19, he was sent packing, along with the rights to Chukwudiebere Maduabum and a 2015 first-round pick to Philadelphia, where he was waived on March 1 after appearing in just six games.

McGee, still just 27, has shown glimpses over his career of being a dominating offensive big man. In the 2012 playoffs, which was his first playoff appearance in his career, McGee scored 21 points in Game 5 of a first-round series against the Lakers. McGee’s numbers were up and down throughout the series, including Game 7, when he scored just six points on 1-for-7 shooting in 32 minutes. But on July 18, 2012, McGee re-signed with the Nuggets on a four-year, $44 million contract, which included a $12 million salary for 2015-16.

It’s likely the McGee wanted a guaranteed option for next season after the Sixers waived him and the Celtics would not approach the $12 million McGee was originally scheduled to make.

McGee’s 2013’€“14 season was ended on Feb. 20, 2014 when he underwent surgery to repair a stress fracture in his left tibia, initially injured at the start of the 2013-14 season.

Read More: Boston Celtics, JaVale McGee, NBA, Philadelphia 76ers
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