The unsung heroes set the stage. And then Isaiah Thomas, as he seems to do on a nightly basis, danced on it.

Trailing by 18 points in a showdown with the Raptors for the second seed in the Eastern Conference, the Celtics closed the game on a monster 52-29 run behind 44 points from their All-Star point guard to complete a 109-104 victory.

Feb 1, 2017; Boston, MA, USA; Boston Celtics guard Terry Rozier (12) and forward Jae Crowder (99) celebrate after Toronto Raptors forward Patrick Patterson (54) was called for a foul during the second half at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

Terry Rozier earned some late-fourth quarter minutes in comeback win against Raptors (Winslow Townson/USA Today)

The unsung heroes set the stage. And then Isaiah Thomas, as he seems to do on a nightly basis, danced on it.

Trailing by 18 points in a showdown with the Raptors for the second seed in the Eastern Conference, the Celtics closed the game on a monster 52-29 run behind 44 points from their All-Star point guard to complete a 109-104 victory.

Thomas put together another incredible fourth quarter, scoring 19 of his 44 points, but the Celtics reserves set the stage for his heroics. Led by Marcus Smart (10 points, 5 assists, 5 rebounds), the bench helped chip away at a double-digit deficit and carried their momentum into the fourth quarter. 

Throughout the third quarter, Smart applied pressure on Raptors guard Kyle Lowry and finished strong on the offensive end by making cuts to the basket for easy layups. He was also finding his teammates for easy assists but was most effective in disrupting the flow of Toronto’s offense. 

Terry Rozier, who finished with 5 points and 7 rebounds, nailed a 3-pointer at the end of the third quarter to pull the Celtics to within eight. He also pulled down two offensive rebounds in the second half to keep possessions alive and slowed down the Raptors’ reserve guards on the defensive end. Tyler Zeller, who finished with five rebounds and four points, made a reverse dunk and tossed an alley-oop to rookie Jaylen Brown to trim the deficit down to five (91-86).

From there, Thomas went on a 7-0 run — giving the Celtics their first lead with 4:39 left. 

However, Lowry, who led the Raptors with 32 points, helped his team regain the lead by draining five straight points for Toronto. With 48 ticks left, Thomas knocked in a 3-pointer to give the C’s a two-point lead before Patrick Patterson missed a 3-pointer and the Raptors were forced to intentionally foul the Celtics in the final seconds.

Throughout the first half, the Raptors looked unstoppable. Behind superior defense and efficient offense, Toronto had its way with the Celtics despite Thomas’ offensive surge. The Raptors were a tough matchup for the Celtics in a halfcourt set — where the Celtics struggled to defend the pick-and-roll. Whether it was an easy layup down low or an uncontested mid-range jumper, the Raptors made them pay. 

That was until the second half, when the C’s turned up their defensive intensity and made an effort on the glass — where they pulled down 12 offensive rebounds and finished with 11 second-chance points. Without a secondary go-to scorer, the Celtics are going to need guys like Smart, Rozier and Brown to make plays in the second half, especially against top-tier teams like the Raptors. Thomas had the support he needed just in time to catch fire in another dominating fourth quarter. 

With the win, the Celtics (30-18) remain in second place and will look to stretch their winning streak to six games when they take on the Lakers at home on Friday.

Blog Author: 
Josue Pavon

Jan 30, 2017; Boston, MA, USA; Boston Celtics guard Isaiah Thomas (4) is congratulated after making a three point basket during the second half of the Boston Celtics 113-109 win over the Detroit Pistons at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

Isaiah Thomas scored the last 11 points for the Celtics (Winslow Townson/USA TODAY)

Topping off one of the best scoring months in franchise history, Isaiah Thomas’ 24-point fourth quarter performance against the Pistons was an emphatic exclamation point to an amazing month of January. 

The two-time All-Star scored a game-high 41 points in a 113-109 Celtics win over the Pistons at TD Garden, leading his team to their fourth straight victory and ultimately guiding them to a one-game lead ahead of the Raptors (29-19) for second place in the Eastern Conference.

His 41 points on Monday pushed his average up to 32.9 points per game for the month of January — the fourth-highest scoring month in Celtics history behind Larry Bird (twice) and Paul Pierce. 

“That doesn’t even seem real,” Thomas said. “It doesn’t sound real. So many great players who did it before me, to have my name up there with those legends is unbelievable. I’m going to just keep going, keep trying to catch those guys, and keep winning.”

The Celtics (30-18) win also sets the stage for Wednesday night’s big showdown between the two best teams in the Atlantic Division. The Raptors have had the Celtics’ number throughout the season — beating them twice over the last two months. But if Thomas can continue this amazing streak of excellence that he’s on, it could be enough for the Celtics to pull out a win against DeMar DeRozan, Kyle Lowry and company. 

Along with averaging 32.9 points in January, Thomas also set a season-high average of 6.9 assists per game. Jae Crowder, one of many of Thomas’ beneficiaries in the starting lineup, is also finishing his best month of the season — averaging 16.3 points while shooting 50.3 percent from the floor, including 46.6 percent from behind the arc.

Guys like Marcus Smart (10.9), Kelly Olynyk (10.6) and Jaylen Brown (6.2) are all coming off a month where they’ve played some of the best basketball they’ve played all season, they’re all averaging season-highs in points, respectively, but no player has been more consistent than Thomas. The MVP candidate is continuing to put the C’s on his back and lead them to victories while quickly becoming one of the best scorers in the league (29.4), second behind Russell Westbrook (30.8). 

His amazing month of January has certainly translated into wins as the Celtics finished the month with a 10-4 record and timing couldn’t have been any better. After a three-game skid, the Celtics have strung together a handful of wins while their most-feared competitors in the conference have been playing some of the worst basketball they’ve played all season. 

The Raptors have lost six of their last seven games, while the Cavaliers have dropped four of their last six. All of a sudden, the Celtics find themselves only 2.5 games behind the NBA champs. 

Blog Author: 
Josue Pavon

It still appears to be a longshot, but according to the Boston Globe the Knicks are holding out hope that the Celtics agree to become a landing spot for Carmelo Anthony.

Carmelo Anthony

Carmelo Anthony

It still appears to be a longshot, but according to the Boston Globe the Knicks are holding out hope that the Celtics agree to become a landing spot for Carmelo Anthony.

The Globe is reporting that while Danny Ainge has told New York he isn’t interested in dealing for Anthony, the Knicks continue to push for a deal with the C’s, showing interest in some of the pieces on Boston’s roster. It was reportedly the impetus for a Knicks’ scout’s attendance at the recent Celts win over the Bucks in Milwaukee.

Anthony does have a no-trade clause in his deal, but has identified the Celtics as one of the teams he would accept a trade to.

The 33-year-old forward is currently averaging 22.6 points and 6.2 rebounds per game for the underachieving Knicks, which hold the eighth spot in the Eastern Conference standings with a 21-27 record.

To read why Anthony might be a good fit for the Celtics, click here for John Tomase’s column.

Blog Author: 
Rob Bradford

It’s not complicated: The Celtics need scoring and rebounding, and Nikola Vucevic can do both.

So hearing CSNNE.com reporting the Celts have expressed interest in acquiring Vucevic should make all the sense in the world.

Nikola Vucevic

Nikola Vucevic

It’s not complicated: The Celtics need scoring and rebounding, and Nikola Vucevic can do both.

So hearing CSNNE.com reporting the Celts have expressed interest in acquiring Vucevic should make all the sense in the world.

The report states the Celtics and Magic have talked about a deal involving the 26-year-old center, who has just two fewer double-doubles (19) as the entire C’s team. The 7-foot Vucevic is currently averaging 13.8 points and 9.8 rebounds a game for lowly Orlando.

Vucevic’s appeal also extends to the team-friendly four-year, $53 million rookie contract extension he inked. The deal pays him $11.75 million this season, $12.25 million next season and $12.75 in 2018-19.

Two seasons ago, he averaged 19.3 points and 10.9 rebounds per contest, while totaling 18.2 points and 8.9 boards a game in 2015-16. Vucevic was taken 16th overall in the 2011 NBA draft out the University of Southern California. After his rookie season, he was dealt to the Magic in a four-team trade involving Dwight Howard.

Blog Author: 
Rob Bradford

Nikola Vucevic

Nikola Vucevic

It’s not complicated: The Celtics need scoring and rebounding, and Nikola Vucevic can do both.

So hearing CSNNE.com reporting the Celts have expressed interest in acquiring Vucevic should make all the sense in the world.

The report states the Celtics and Magic have talked about a deal involving the 26-year-old center, who has just two fewer double-doubles (19) as the entire C’s team. The 7-foot Vucevic is currently averaging 13.8 points and 9.8 rebounds a game for lowly Orlando.

Vucevic’s appeal also extends to the team-friendly four-year, $53 million rookie contract extension he inked. The deal pays him $11.75 million this season, $12.25 million next season and $12.75 in 2018-19.

Two seasons ago, he averaged 19.3 points and 10.9 rebounds per contest, while totaling 18.2 points and 8.9 boards a game in 2015-16. Vucevic was taken 16th overall in the 2011 NBA draft out the University of Southern California. After his rookie season, he was dealt to the Magic in a four-team trade involving Dwight Howard.

Blog Author: 
Rob Bradford

The Celtics looked poised to run away with Saturday night’s game early. It didn’t happen, as the Bucks clawed back in the second half.

Then in overtime the C’s scored the first six points and appeared ready to break the Bucks. Again, no such luck.

Kelly Olynyk puts home a reverse dunk during Saturday's victory over the Bucks. (Benny Sieu/USA Today Sports)

Kelly Olynyk puts home a reverse dunk during Saturday’s victory over the Bucks. (Benny Sieu/USA Today Sports)

The Celtics looked poised to run away with Saturday night’s game early. It didn’t happen, as the Bucks clawed back in the second half.

Then in overtime the C’s scored the first six points and appeared ready to break the Bucks. Again, no such luck.

This one was going to take some heart and some defense, and the Celtics managed to come up with both, taking a 112-108 victory in Milwaukee that moved Boston into a tie for the Atlantic Division lead with the Raptors at 29-18.

Playing without starters Al Horford (groin) and Avery Bradley (Achilles) — and playing in Wisconsin one night after routing the Magic in Boston — the Celtics found a way to pull out the win after squandering a 16-point lead.

“Coming here without Al and without Avery — they’re on the second night of a back-to-back, too, that’s just the way the scheduled worked itself out,” C’s coach Brad Stevens said in his postgame press conference. “As we said when we got beat a couple of times when teams were coming off back-to-back and we had rest, some of that stuff’s unpredictable. You just play as hard as you can and as well as you can. Hopefully things work out for you. I thought we played pretty darn well, to be honest. Defensively in the overtime I thought we were excellent.”

One night after scoring 39 in the opening quarter against the Magic, the Celtics tallied 42 in the opening 12 minutes against the Bucks. They shot 63 percent, capping the period with a 3-pointer at the buzzer by Gerald Green. The lead was 15 after one and peaked at 16 in the second quarter.

For a team that struggled in the first quarter earlier this season, it’s quite a turnaround for the C’s.

“How we started the game really dictated the whole game for sure,” Jae Crowder told CSNNE’s Abby Chin after scoring 20 points. “We put those guys on their heels. We showed how to execute down the stretch because we started off the game so well. It got us the win tonight.”

Milwaukee battled back and had its chances to come away with a win down the stretch, but Isaiah Thomas and friends made sure that would not happen. Thomas finished with 37 points and eight assists to lead the offense. Meanwhile, Amir Johnson came up with a couple of huge plays in overtime — one an offensive rebound, and the other at the defensive end, when he slid over and helped prevent Giannis Antetokounmpo from tying the game.

The Celtics started the overtime on a 6-0 run on baskets from Marcus Smart, Johnson and Kelly Olynyk (who took an elbow to the head on his dunk but did not get the benefit of a call).

“We wanted to hit first,” Crowder said. “We wanted to be the aggressor in the overtime. We wanted to make the first run. And that’s what happened. And once we did that we had control of the overtime game, so it was in our favor.”

Tony Snell came back with a pair of 3-pointers in a 33-second span to the tie with game with just over a minute remaining, but that would be the hosts’ final points.

After the teams traded misses, Thomas missed a layup but Johnson hauled in the rebound to keep the possession alive. Four seconds later, Crowder was fouled and he hit a pair of free throws for the lead. At the other end, the Bucks went to Antetokounmpo, their young star, and he went to work on Olynyk before Johnson moved over to block his path and force a tough shot in the lane. Crowder got the rebound, was fouled and hit two from the line for the final tally.

“Everybody had to make plays for us to win, on offense and defense,” Stevens said. “I thought the lift that Amir Johnson gave us in overtime was excellent.”

Said Olynyk: “We were going to do whatever it took to get the ‘W’ tonight.”

Blog Author: 
Jerry Spar