Hawks forward Taurean Prince (12) dunks against the Celtics Thursday. (Jason Getz/USA Today Sports)

Hawks forward Taurean Prince (12) dunks against the Celtics Thursday. (Jason Getz/USA Today Sports)

The Celtics don’t seem to like sitting atop the Eastern Conference.

One night after getting blown out by the Cavaliers in a showdown for the No. 1 seed, the Celtics journeyed to Atlanta and played like a team that’s forgotten what got it here.

The C’s looked tight from the start, fell behind by double digits early, and never recovered in a 123-116 loss.

Marcus Smart led the Celtics with 18 points, including 5-of-8 on 3-pointers, seven assists and six steals. But the C’s had no answer for the Atlanta backcourt of Tim Hardaway Jr. (23 points) and Dennis Schroder (18). Big man Paul Millsap led the way with 26 points and 12 rebounds.

The Celtics launched 43 3-pointers, but made only 15 (34.9 percent). They tried to make a game of it in the final three minutes, trimming a 13-point deficit to five, with the ball, but they got no closer.

Isaiah Thomas led the Celtics with 35 and Jae Crowder added 24, but the Celtics were outrebounded 52-38.

The loss isn’t all bad. It kept the Hawks in fifth place in the Eastern Conference, which means the second-seeded Celtics could avoid them in the second round. That wouldn’t be a bad thing for Boston (50-29), which fell to 1-2 vs. the Hawks this year after being eliminated in the first round of the playoffs by them last year in six games.

As things stand now, if the seedings hold and the Celtics beat the Bulls in the first round, they’d get the winner of Milwaukee and Toronto in the conference semifinals.

Blog Author: 
John Tomase

Hawks forward Taurean Prince (12) dunks against the Celtics Thursday. (Jason Getz/USA Today Sports)

Hawks forward Taurean Prince (12) dunks against the Celtics Thursday. (Jason Getz/USA Today Sports)

The Celtics don’t seem to like sitting atop the Eastern Conference.

One night after getting blown out by the Cavaliers in a showdown for the No. 1 seed, the Celtics journeyed to Atlanta and played like a team that’s forgotten what got it here.

The C’s looked tight from the start, fell behind by double digits early, and never recovered in a 123-116 loss.

Marcus Smart led the Celtics with 18 points, including 5-of-8 on 3-pointers, seven assists and six steals. But the C’s had no answer for the Atlanta backcourt of Tim Hardaway Jr. (23 points) and Dennis Schroder (18). Big man Paul Millsap led the way with 26 points and 12 rebounds.

The Celtics launched 43 3-pointers, but made only 15 (34.9 percent). They tried to make a game of it in the final three minutes, trimming a 13-point deficit to five, with the ball, but they got no closer.

Isaiah Thomas led the Celtics with 35 and Jae Crowder added 24, but the Celtics were outrebounded 52-38.

The loss isn’t all bad. It kept the Hawks in fifth place in the Eastern Conference, which means the second-seeded Celtics could avoid them in the second round. That wouldn’t be a bad thing for Boston (50-29), which fell to 1-2 vs. the Hawks this year after being eliminated in the first round of the playoffs by them last year in six games.

As things stand now, if the seedings hold and the Celtics beat the Bulls in the first round, they’d get the winner of Milwaukee and Toronto in the conference semifinals.

Blog Author: 
John Tomase

The Celtics arrived at the Garden on Wednesday believing they could claim sole possession of first place in the Eastern Conference. They left licking their wounds after being routed by the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Cavaliers forward LeBron James (23) works the ball against Boston Celtics forward Jae Crowder (99) on Wednesday. (David Butler II/USA Today Sports)

Cavaliers forward LeBron James (23) works the ball against Boston Celtics forward Jae Crowder (99) on Wednesday. (David Butler II/USA Today Sports)

The Celtics arrived at the Garden on Wednesday believing they could claim sole possession of first place in the Eastern Conference. They left licking their wounds after being routed by the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Behind 36 points from LeBron James and a suffocating defensive effort — not to mention a domination of the boards — the Cavaliers cruised to a 114-91 victory that gave them first place in the East with four games left to play.

The Celtics led 20-19 after one, but Cleveland (51-27) took control with a 38-point second quarter to open a 57-42 halftime lead and the C’s never seriously threatened.

Isaiah Thomas led the Celtics (50-28) with 26 points on 9-of-19 shooting, but he got absolutely no help from his supporting cast. The C’s shot just 7-for-33 on 3-pointers (.212) and put only three other players in double figures, led by Jae Crowder’s 13.

The Celtics were outrebounded 51-38 and allowed Kevin Love to grab 16 boards alongside his 15 points.

For more on the game, including how badly it exposed the Celtics as playoff pretenders, check out this column.

Blog Author: 
John Tomase

LeBron James (right) and the Cavaliers dominated Jae Crowder and the Celtics.</p>
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For most, Wednesday’s showdown between the Celtics and Cavaliers is considered Boston’s most important game of the season. 

But for Celtics coach Brad Stevens, this battle for the top seed in the Eastern Conference is just another game. 

LeBron James is always a challenge.  (Ken Blaze/USA Today Sports)

LeBron James is always a challenge. (Ken Blaze/USA Today Sports)

For most, Wednesday’s showdown between the Celtics and Cavaliers is considered Boston’s most important game of the season. 

But for Celtics coach Brad Stevens, this battle for the top seed in the Eastern Conference is just another game. 

With Avery Bradley and Jae Crowder both expected to start, Stevens’ starting five will be at full strength against the champion Cavaliers, who will be playing without big man Tristan Thompson (sprained thumb). But according to Stevens, preparation for taking on the champs is no different than any other opponent. Both squads are 50-27.

“We don’t talk big game/small game, we talk about the next game and trying to do the best that we can against our opponent,” Stevens said. “I know that sounds really boring but that’s the way I look at it — the way I go about it. These have all grown up playing big games their whole lives.”

After some speculation of whether coach Ty Lue would rest his guys, the Cavaliers are expected to start all of their big three members in LeBron James, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love. However, Stevens says Cleveland’s second unit — which has been plagued by injuries since the All-Star break — is often overlooked.

“Those guys are great players,” Stevens said. “No one talks about it, but when we beat them, they didn’t have [J.R.] Smith. They’re going to continue to round in form as those guys are back playing together and now their getting fully healthier with [Kyle] Korver back and everyone else. It’s a really tough team to play against.”

Having Crowder back definitely helps.

“I just think Jae’s really important in general because he allows us what we just talked about with Cleveland,” Stevens explained. “Cleveland is — obviously Golden State, maybe a couple of others — the best at being able to play a bunch of different ways and Jae allows us to play different ways because of his ability to play both the 3 and swing to the 4.”

When asked about the possibility of resting his guys before the start of the postseason, Stevens said he’s given it very little thought, but will continue to check in with his medical staff and make sure his team is at full strength come playoff time.

Blog Author: 
Josue Pavon

The Celtics and Cavaliers, who are tied for first place in the Eastern Conference, will match up with each other at T.D. Garden Wednesday. It’s a big game as far as regular season contests are concerned, but don’t tell that to LeBron James.

In an interview following the Cavaliers’ win over the Magic Tuesday, James downplayed the importance of the affair.

LeBron James doesn't appear excited about facing the Celtics Wednesday. (Ken Blaze/USA Today Sports)

LeBron James doesn’t appear excited about facing the Celtics Wednesday. (Ken Blaze/USA Today Sports)

The Celtics and Cavaliers, who are tied for first place in the Eastern Conference, will match up with each other at T.D. Garden Wednesday. It’s a big game as far as regular season contests are concerned, but don’t tell that to LeBron James.

In an interview following the Cavaliers’ win over the Magic Tuesday, James downplayed the importance of the affair.

“I don’t know, I’ve played in a lot of big games man,” he said. “I don’t … I’m the last person to ask about a big game in the regular season. I’m sorry.” 

It’s understandable if James holds a jaded view about the importance of regular season basketball. The Cavaliers narrowly edged out the Raptors for the No. 1 seed last season, but wound up bulldozing their way through the Eastern Conference playoffs. Cleveland came back from a 3-1 deficit to oust the Warriors in the NBA Finals, largely thanks to an otherworldly effort from James. He averaged 36.3 points, 11.7 rebounds and 9.7 assists per game over the final three games to secure his third title. 

After a fast start this season, the Cavaliers have slumped since the All-Star Break. They’re 9-10 since March 1 and had the worst defense in the league last month as well. James lost his temper earlier this week when he started screaming at forward Tristan Thompson following a defensive lapse in the waning moments of Cleveland’s double overtime win Sunday over the Pacers. 

Though the Cavaliers have taken to resting their stars down the stretch, James played 37 minutes Tuesday against the lowly Magic. So maybe Cleveland wants to finish strongly heading into the playoffs, even if James won’t admit it. 

“Taking nothing from [the Celtics], they’ve been playing some great ball, but like I said, I’m not one to get caught up in regular season big games,” he said. “I’m sorry. I’ve been to six straight [NBA] Finals, man. I’m the last person to ask about a regular season game, dude. Sorry.”

Blog Author: 
Alex Reimer

Isaiah Thomas (right) and the Celtics will have their hands full with LeBron James and the Cavs on Wednesday.</p>
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