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WALTHAM  –  What makes Brad Stevens a good head coach is that he knows a good thing when he sees it and he doesn’t try to outsmart himself. 

Kelly Olynyk

Kelly Olynyk

WALTHAM  –  What makes Brad Stevens a good head coach is that he knows a good thing when he sees it and he doesn’t try to outsmart himself. 

So when the group of Isaiah Thomas, Evan Turner Jae Crowder, Jonas Jerebko and Amir Johnson helped the Celtics race out to a 37-20 lead after one quarter, Stevens indicated Saturday after practice that he’s likely to start that group again on Sunday in Game 4. 

“I think the one thing you don’t want to do is outthink yourself,” Stevens said. “I thought we played well with that group and we’ll see ultimately what tomorrow brings, but it would be hard not to start that group tomorrow.”

Before Friday’s game, Stevens joked that the group had played just 33 possessions together the whole season but was a plus-20. 

The other big change Friday was moving Thomas to the shooting guard from his point guard position, allowing him to fly around off screens and drive the lane more and kick the ball to open shooters. 

“We’ll talk about it. But our focus needs to be on what we need to do better because again I think you can overanalyze what somebody else might do without really knowing,” Stevens said. “I think you have to read and adjust on the fly, and you have to have counters to each of your actions and those type of things. But hey they’re a really good defensive team. They’re a really good team overall, offensive team. That run in the fourth quarter by both teams where we were just making shots, I mean, that was high-level basketball. So we’re going to have to play really well to have a chance to win.

“There’s all kinds of things we need to do better on both ends of the ball. Defensively we made some errors that we need to correct. They did some actions that were really good. We need to do a better job on Korver obviously not letting him get going. And then those guards put so much pressure on you with their ability to drive downhill. Teague and Schroder are just, they’re as fast as any guard in the league.

“And so we’ve got to do better in all those areas. And then obviously on offense we can’t have our moments where we sputter. You’re not always going to have 37-point quarters, but when we have a 19-point lead it can’t be a 12-0 run. It can’t be a 14-0 run. It’s gotta be 14-8. You’ve got to be able to answer occasionally.”

One guy who’ll likely be watching the whole game in civilian clothes again is Kelly Olynyk. His shoulder has been slow to respond since he re-injured it in Game 1. 

“Everything I’ve been told, I’ll stick with my questionable at best line because I haven’t been told that he’s likely to play yet,” Stevens said. 

Blog Author: 
Mike Petraglia

WALTHAM  –  Jae Crowder had seen enough of his shots not falling through the basket after going 1-for-11 from the field Friday night. Crowder has made exactly two shots in his last 20 attempts covering Games 2 and 3. He is is just 7-for-36 overall in the series, including 3-for-17 from 3-point range. 

Celtics forward Jae Crowder (99) works for the ball against Atlanta Hawks guard Jeff Teague (0) in Game 3. (David Butler II/USA Today Sports)

Celtics forward Jae Crowder (99) works for the ball against Atlanta Hawks guard Jeff Teague (0) in Game 3. (David Butler II/USA Today Sports)

WALTHAM  –  Jae Crowder had seen enough of his shots not falling through the basket after going 1-for-11 from the field Friday night. Crowder has made exactly two shots in his last 20 attempts covering Games 2 and 3. He is is just 7-for-36 overall in the series, including 3-for-17 from 3-point range. 

So, instead of going home to rest and savor his defense on Al Horford and Paul Millsap in a 111-103 Game 3 win, he went back to the Celtics training facility to shoot. 

“I wanted to see the ball go through the basket, that’s all,” Crowder said Saturday. “I was here 45 minutes, me and my friend, I needed a rebounder. I’ve done it a few times.”

Then he had a question for the reporters on hand. 

“How’d you find out last night and not the previous nights?” 

Told that teammate Isaiah Thomas was the one dropping dimes, Crowder seemed at ease. 

“Oh, Ok, I got here like 1, 1:30 [Saturday morning],” Crowder said. “The win was great. I was very happy with that, but I wanted to prepare myself for Game 4. It’s a big game for us, and I wanted to really step into my shots and be a force in my offensive game. I’m doing great on defense and guys are still applauding me on that, but I just want to lift our team up a little more in the offensive end. I just wanted to see the ball go through the hoop.”

“It’s a big reason why we’re here, that these guys have that kind of mindset and that kind of work ethic,” coach Brad Stevens said. “I think the general collective chip on our shoulder is pretty good. But I think individually each of these guys has a reason to have a chip on their shoulder. And Jae’s a worker, and always has been.”

Thomas said it’s just a matter of time before the shots start falling, and there’s no time like Game 4. 

“We haven’t [seen him struggle like this]. But he’s so positive. We’re so positive with him,” Thomas said. “We’re confident in his ability to score the basketball and to help us like he has all year. Once he gets going, it’s going to be scary. He was in here last night [after the game] getting shots up. He’s hard on himself but at the same time, he’s taking the right shots. The basketball gods will help him out soon.”

Maybe the basketball gods will help with Crowder’s bad right ankle, and ankle Crowder says is still at only 70 percent. 

“I don’t plan on changing it. I’m shooting the same way. I’m trying to play with the ankle and learn to adapt to it as much as possible, but that’s what helps me to come back in the gym and stay late,” Crowder said. “That will help me to adjust, but I’m not thinking about it. I’m going to let it fly. I’ve put a lot of work into it. I’m not worried. I’m shooting, working out, doing my same thing.

“You have to give up something, and Isaiah was getting into the paint a lot. They wanted to stop him from getting to the basket as much as possible, so a lot of spacing, with me spacing and Jonas spacing, they were living with it. So I have to step into it and make shots. I’m going to keep shooting – that’s what I’ve done all year. A slump is going to happen, it’s happening right now, but I’ll be fine.”

Stevens said Saturday he’s more than happy to let Crowder keep taking open shots.

“Yeah, I believe in the law of averages and Jae’s a good shooter,” Stevens said. “Jae’s been a good shooter all year. I have not lost one iota of sleep over that either. Keep shooting it. He’s open, he’s gonna be aggressive and we want him to be aggressive. He’s a big reason why we’re here.”

Blog Author: 
Mike Petraglia

Celtics guard Marcus Smart (36) blocks the shot of Hawks center Al Horford (15). (David Butler II/USA Today Sports)

Celtics guard Marcus Smart (36) blocks the shot of Hawks center Al Horford (15). (David Butler II/USA Today Sports)

WALTHAM – With so much on the line, now is not the time for false bravado or acting like a tough guy. Or flopping like one. 

The Celtics were reminded of this Saturday morning before they got together for film session and a light walkthrough at their practice facility in Waltham. 

The intensity level picked up Friday night during Game 3. When Jae Crowder was drilled by Jeff Teague in the first quarter and the officials deemed it to be a “common foul,” Crowder said the officials opened the door for chippy play to escalate. 

“I told them that hard foul on me by Teague set the tone, I feel like,” Crowder said Saturday. “If you’re going to call that a Flagrant 1, then we know how far we can go. That’s when they tried to change it and called Flagrant 1s and things like that. I told the ref, you set the tone, I hope you realize that, and that’s when it got chippy. It’s just part of it, and the refs have to realize that. That’s for the players. We realize that sets the tone.”

The tone produced three ‘Flagrant 1’ fouls in Game 3, all in the second half. The Hawks committed two, Paul Millsap and Dennis Schroder while Jared Sullinger was called for one in the third. That doesn’t include the double-technical that preceded the Thomas arm to the face of Schroder with 1:27 left in the first quarter. 

“Both teams are trying to win the game,” Thomas said. “You’ve just got to be smart about whatever you do but knowing that it’s playoff basketball and things are going to happen and it is going to get a little chippy. You’ve got to hold your composure and do what it takes to win. I’m just out there fighting and trying to get my team wins.”

“We’ve reminded, we talk about that stuff and everything else,” Brad Stevens said after practice Saturday. “But I think, at the end of the day, there’s such a fine line between hard real good competition and crossing that line and you just gotta do your best to compete at that physical level necessary to have success. And, obviously, hey, they deemed that he had crossed the line by giving him a flagrant-1 and it is what is and now we move forward. We’ve got to focus our attention on the Hawks.

“When you’re playing a team for the fourth time and they’re all competitive guys on both sides of the ball, they’re all good players, they’re all tough guys. I trust that nothing like that would ever go over the line. But it’s hard for me to predict that but it’s not something that we talk about, it’s not something that they talk about. Obviously, it’s a competitive game and sometimes when there’s a competitive game with a scoreboard and a crowd and everything else, emotions get involved. But you hope that nothing like that ever happens that obviously isn’t good for the game.”

What also isn’t good for the game is flying into the air under the basket trying to draw a foul late in the fourth quarter, only to throw yourself out of the play as the other team heads off on the break. That was the case Friday as Marcus Smart flopped and was fined $5,000 for the move. 

“Danny talked to him a little bit today,” Stevens said of Smart’s talk with Ainge. “I’ll have that conversation at some point with him. But obviously I think the fine is the message. There’s not much more that I’ll be able to say that will be impactful.”

“I was just trying to make winning plays for my team,” Smart said when asked. “We had a great game last night, that’s really what my focus is on. I believe every player that plays is just trying to do everything he can to help his team.

“Just make the plays. You just go out there. You know you’re going out there and playing hard and giving it your all and you just try to do anything you can in your power that you can do to help your team. It’s just a decision that the league made. That’s nothing I can control. I’ve just got to go out there and keep playing my game and playing hard.”

Blog Author: 
Mike Petraglia

WALTHAM – Despite the dire prediction from former NBA discipline chief Stu Jackson, Isaiah Thomas never had a worry about being suspended for Game 4 Sunday night at TD Garden. 

Celtics guard Isaiah Thomas was a man on a mission Friday night. (David Butler II/USA Today Sports)

Celtics guard Isaiah Thomas was a man on a mission Friday night. (David Butler II/USA Today Sports)

WALTHAM – Despite the dire prediction from former NBA discipline chief Stu Jackson, Isaiah Thomas never had a worry about being suspended for Game 4 Sunday night at TD Garden. 

On Saturday, he didn’t speak with the league about his left arm to the face to Hawks guard Dennis Schroder. Instead, he only received word from Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge that he was being assessed an additional ‘Flagrant 1’ foul for the first-half incident following a double-technical. 

Thomas’ reaction?

“It was the right call. I’m really focused on Game 4 but I’m glad I wasn’t suspended. It was definitely…[accidental],” Thomas said. “Both teams are trying to win the game. You’ve just got to be smart about whatever you do but knowing that it’s playoff basketball and things are going to happen and it is going to get a little chippy. You’ve got to hold your composure and do what it takes to win. I’m just out there fighting and trying to get my team wins.”

Dennis Schroder has become public enemy No. 1 in this series and the chief instigator with Thomas and Terry Rozier. 

“I guess so. I guess that’s his job. Like I said, I’m focused on what we’ve got here and whatever we can do to win Game 4. I guess that’s his job to get under people,” Thomas said. “How much [Hawks] were complaining about it [after the game]. I’m focused on Game 4, man. They made the call of what it was, a ‘Flagrant 1’, whatever it was. I’m glad I’m able to play.”

Was he concerned that the league might hand down a suspension based on the TV replays and the vines that went viral during the game?

“Nah, because I knew what I did. Yeah, the replay, in a slower version it’s going to look like I looked at him and tried to hit him. If I try to hit somebody, I would’ve hit him. I know cameras are watching. I didn’t do it on purpose. But I’m just glad I wasn’t suspended and I can help my team in Game 4.”

Helping his team win Game 4 is not only on the mind of Thomas but his coach, too. Thomas was used as a shooting guard for much of the game, with Evan Turner running the point. It opened up new looks that led to a career-high 42 points in the 111-103 win. 

“They’ll make some. I don’t know what, exactly,” Thomas said of likely Hawks adjustments. “But they’ll probably try to have a couple more guys at me. Coach is doing a great job at adjusting to whatever they’re doing. Me playing off the ball, I think it’s harder to trap me and have two or three guys on me at all times. I’m just going to go out there and figure out what they’re doing and play my game.”

In mid-January, the Celtics lost four straight and Stevens, looking to change things up, did the same thing, moving Thomas to the shooting guard. 

“Coach did it when we went on that little four or five-game losing streak and Coach wanted to change things up a little bit,” Thomas said Saturday. “I think it just gives us more options, especially with Jonas being in that starting lineup, and spacing the floor a lot, and me being off the ball, where a guy like Evan who can make plays for everybody on the team and also make plays for himself, it just helps us. It makes us more dynamic.

“Coach had talked to me about doing that, and talked to me about how he watched film of me back in college and me being off the ball more. I’m comfortable with that. I’m comfortable with whatever Coach needs me to do and that’s just me being myself and being aggressive.”

Blog Author: 
Mike Petraglia

The Celtics and Isaiah Thomas have dodged a major bullet on the eve of Game 4.

The Boston Herald’s Mark Murphy was the first to report the NBA has decided not to suspend the star guard for swinging his elbow and landing with a hand to the face of Dennis Schroder in the first half of Friday’s 111-103 Celtics’ win over the Hawks.

Celtics guard Isaiah Thomas (4) reacts after his basket against the Atlanta Hawks in game three of the first round of the NBA Playoffs at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

Celtics guard Isaiah Thomas (4) reacts after his basket against the Atlanta Hawks in game three of the first round of the NBA Playoffs at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

The Celtics and Isaiah Thomas have dodged a major bullet on the eve of Game 4.

The Boston Herald’s Mark Murphy was the first to report the NBA has decided not to suspend the star guard for his left elbow to the face of Dennis Schroder in the first half of Friday’s 111-103 Celtics’ win over the Hawks.

As Schroder was coming up court, a vine and replays clearly show Thomas throwing the elbow. But Thomas insisted after the game it was accidental.

The league apparently agreed, or at least determined there was no where close enough evidence to keep the guard, coming off a 42-point career effort, out of Game 4 Sunday night. Instead, the league announced they had assigned Thomas with a Flagrant 1 foul on the play. 

The news also means that former NBA discipline chief Stu Jackson was wrong in his prediction after the game on NBA TV that Thomas was clearly facing a suspension based on the video evidence. 

There was a bit of negative discipline news regarding another Celtics guard. Marcus Smart was fined $5,000 by the NBA for violating the league’s anti-flopping rules during Game 3.

The incident occurred with 4:32 remaining in the fourth quarter of the Celtics 111-103 victory over the Hawks last night at TD Garden.

To view the play click on the following link:

http://www.nba.com/video/channels/originals/2016/04/23/bbops-marcus-smart-flop-042216.nba/

Blog Author: 
Mike Petraglia

Celtics guard Isaiah Thomas (4) reacts after his basket against the Atlanta Hawks in game three of the first round of the NBA Playoffs at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

Celtics guard Isaiah Thomas (4) reacts after his basket against the Atlanta Hawks in game three of the first round of the NBA Playoffs at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

The Celtics and Isaiah Thomas have dodged a major bullet on the eve of Game 4.

The Boston Herald’s Mark Murphy was the first to report the NBA has decided not to suspend the star guard for his left elbow to the face of Dennis Schroder in the first half of Friday’s 111-103 Celtics’ win over the Hawks.

As Schroder was coming up court, a vine and replays clearly show Thomas throwing the elbow. But Thomas insisted after the game it was accidental.

The league apparently agreed, or at least determined there was no where close enough evidence to keep the guard, coming off a 42-point career effort, out of Game 4 Sunday night. Instead, the league announced they had assigned Thomas with a Flagrant 1 foul on the play. 

The news also means that former NBA discipline chief Stu Jackson was wrong in his prediction after the game on NBA TV that Thomas was clearly facing a suspension based on the video evidence. 

There was a bit of negative discipline news regarding another Celtics guard. Marcus Smart was fined $5,000 by the NBA for violating the league’s anti-flopping rules during Game 3.

The incident occurred with 4:32 remaining in the fourth quarter of the Celtics 111-103 victory over the Hawks last night at TD Garden.

To view the play click on the following link:

http://www.nba.com/video/channels/originals/2016/04/23/bbops-marcus-smart-flop-042216.nba/

Blog Author: 
Mike Petraglia