On a night when Isaiah Thomas tied John Havlicek for the most consecutive games of at least 20 points in Celtics history, Sixers coach Brett Brown gave the Celtics point guard praise worthy of his history-making night. 

“They really can score,” Brown began when asked about the Celtics offense. “They really, really can score. The last two times we’ve played them, with 30 seconds left, it was 100-100, and it was 102-100 the other game. We’re there at the end. The good news is I feel like we’re playing good basketball right now. The bad news is they are playing as good as basketball as I’ve seen them play in a while because I feel they are firing on all cylinders with just firepower.”

CSN Philly’s Jessica Camerato tried to ask an ‘apart from Isaiah Thomas’ question, probing Brown’s thoughts on the rest of the Celtics roster, like the red-hot Marcus Smart and Kelly Olynyk. But Brown couldn’t help himself. 

“Isaiah Thomas, what he is doing to the NBA and the volume and the volume of points he scores and what he does in fourth periods and what he does in back-to-back games,” Brown said. “You look at what he’s doing to the league right now, he’s an All-Star for a reason.” 

That reason is 29.8 points per game, second only to the 30.8 of Russell Westbrook. He is averaging 10 points a game in the fourth quarter. The Celtics lead the NBA in fourth-quarter scoring at 29 points per game. The Celtics have been closing out close games and Thomas is the numero uno reason. Throw on top of all of that 40 straight games of at least 20 points, and you have a historic performance for a legacy franchise. 

“I know you asked, ‘Apart from Isaiah,’ but you can’t help but talk about him and the firepower they have collectively when you talk about how you try to give yourself a chance to win,” Brown said. “You have to find ways to defend them, and they’re really hard to do that.” 

Then Brown took it to the next level. 

“I mean he’s so unassuming physically. You look at him and it’s not like you’re looking at LeBron or somebody that’s tall and all cut up,” Brown said of the 5-foot-7 guard. “He’s very sort of unassuming when you look at him on a court. And then all of sudden, you start studying him. His ability to control speeds.

“He can go from 80 (MPH) to a 100 back down to 40 back to 90. He really can get you off balance and create separation and that because he can shoot, now lets him dance and get to the rim, take a hit and finish. There’s a toughness in him that you may not think if you just saw him warming or just looked at him. So, his growth in our league and what he’s for this program, you really step back and have tremendous respect for what he’s doing.” 

This, naturally, is nothing new to Brad Stevens. He has been coaching Thomas his entire two years in Boston, since the Feb. 19, 2015 deal that sent him to the Celtics from Phoenix. 

“He’s just gotten better at what he does well, right? He’s a guy that can find his own shot and get his own shot and he’s become even better at making those and being creative with his finishes,” Stevens said in the latest praise heaped on the diminutive guard’s shoulders before Wednesday’s game. “He’s been really accurate with his jump shot from three, whether it’s off the catch or off the bounce. And he’s doing a great job of reading whatever defense you throw at him. I think last time we played Philly he did a great job of reading when they jumped him and played the blitz. Other teams have switched. Some teams have been back, some teams have played him different ways. He’s just getting better and that comes with experience. He’s got the ball a lot in the fourth quarter, specifically. 

“He just does a good job of reading what the defense gives him. I thought the other night, Dallas blitzed him and he made multiple plays that were the right pass to initiate offense to get us where we needed to go. He’s just going to have to read the defense and play the right way.” 

 

Blog Author: 
Mike Petraglia

Avery Bradley really wants to get back to playing.

But the Celtics want him 100 percent when the games really matter in April and May.

To that end, Bradley understands the Celtics being ultra-cautious with his sore right Achilles, which is just about fully healed.

Avery Bradley really wants to get back to playing.

But the Celtics want him 100 percent when the games really matter in April and May.

To that end, Bradley understands the Celtics being ultra-cautious with his sore right Achilles, which is just about fully healed.

That injury forced him to miss his 15th straight game Wednesday and will keep him out as well on Thursday night in Chicago. Bradley has played just once since Jan. 6.

“It’s frustrating,” Bradley said before Wednesday’s game against Philadelphia. “I guess it’s just part of the game and part of being smart. I want to play and play through it but the team advised me that this is not the time to take that risk right now and something potentially happen to my Achilles or a different injury.”

Bradley and the team are not just protecting against the existing injury but trying to make sure he doesn’t compensate unconsciously and injure something else.

“It was just a decision to make together and we felt like it’s the best one,” Bradley continued. “It’s feeling really good.”

But Bradley admitted he hasn’t worked on the court much lately and getting back in basketball shape will be key.

“I really haven’t done much,” he said. “I’ve been doing more conditioning and strengthening, upper body and lower body, just making sure I’m strong enough for when I do return. Now, we’re getting the basketball stuff in, so I’m hoping over the All-Star [break], I can play some basketball and be ready for the first game.”

Brad Stevens sounded much more cautious when asked about Bradley and Jaylen Brown (hip).

“Both guys are out for the next two games with the hope of doing some practice when we return,” Stevens said.

After Thursday’s game in Chicago, the Celtics are off for eight days, resuming their schedule in Toronto on Feb. 24 against the Serge Ibaka-revitalized Raptors.

All-Star push: Brad Stevens suddenly has an open roster spot on his Eastern Conference squad Sunday in New Orleans. Kevin Love is out at least six weeks with impending knee surgery. Stevens has no say in Love’s replacement but he has a natural suggestion should anyone ask.

Al Horford may not be putting up huge numbers (14.8 PPG, 6.7 RPG, 5.0 APG) but they are first, second and second respectively on a team that is just two games out of first place in the East. Expectations have been as big as Horford’s four-year, $113 million contract. But according to his coach, he’s been a big part of why the Celtics have risen to the top in the East.

“I always base my decision on who is really impacting winning, and I think that’s why Al would be a good choice,” Stevens said before Wednesday’s game. “I’m hopeful Al gets that call. It’s not our call. But there’s a lot of good players in this league. It doesn’t take anything away from anybody else. We certainly hope Al gets that call.”

The Celtics are 7-5 without Horford in the lineup this season.

JBL_CMYK_NoHarmanNoRBallWEEI is how you listen to Celtics coverage. JBL cutting-edge wireless headphones and speakers are how you feel like you’re there. As the official Sound of the Celtics, Isaiah Thomas and the NBA, JBL is Made for the Biggest Stage.

Blog Author: 
Mike Petraglia

The first salvo has been fired as the NBA storms towards its trade deadline.

According to multiple reports, the Raptors have secured the services of forward Serge Ibaka thanks to a trade with Orlando.

The first salvo has been fired as the NBA storms towards its trade deadline.

According to multiple reports, the Raptors have secured the services of forward Serge Ibaka thanks to a trade with Orlando.

The 27-year-old Ibaka had been one of the rumored targets of Danny Ainge and the Celtics, averaging 15.1 points and 6.8 rebounds per game for the Magic.

The Raptors have slipped to the No. 5 spot in the Eastern Conference, four games in back of the second-seed Celtics. The C’s currently reside two games in back of conference leader Cleveland, while sitting 2 1/2 games in front of Washington, and four ahead of Atlanta.

Ross was averaging 10.4 points, 2.6 rebounds and 22.4 minutes per game for the Raptors.

One of the factors in moving on from Ibaka for Orlando was the reality that the former first-round pick could walk at the end of the season as a free agent.

Ibaka has not played well in his two meetings against the Celtics this season, netting four and eight points. The Celtics play the Raptors one more time in the regular season, traveling to Toronto on Feb. 24.

Blog Author: 
Rob Bradford

The first salvo has been fired as the NBA storms towards its trade deadline.

According to multiple reports, the Raptors have secured the services of forward Serge Ibaka thanks to a trade with Orlando.

The 27-year-old Ibaka had been one of the rumored targets of Danny Ainge and the Celtics, averaging 15.1 points and 6.8 rebounds per game for the Magic.

The Raptors have slipped to the No. 5 spot in the Eastern Conference, four games in back of the second-seed Celtics. The C’s currently reside two games in back of conference leader Cleveland, while sitting 2 1/2 games in front of Washington, and four ahead of Atlanta.

Ross was averaging 10.4 points, 2.6 rebounds and 22.4 minutes per game for the Raptors.

One of the factors in moving on from Ibaka for Orlando was the reality that the former first-round pick could walk at the end of the season as a free agent.

Ibaka has not played well in his two meetings against the Celtics this season, netting four and eight points. The Celtics play the Raptors one more time in the regular season, traveling to Toronto on Feb. 24.

Blog Author: 
Rob Bradford

The Celtics once again had their finishing kick in high gear Monday in Dallas. 

Feb 13, 2017; Dallas, TX, USA; Boston Celtics guard Isaiah Thomas (4) tries to control the ball as Dallas Mavericks guard Yogi Ferrell (11) defends during the first quarter at American Airlines Center. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

Isaiah Thomas battles for control of the ball as Dallas Mavericks guard Yogi Ferrell (11) defends during the first quarter at American Airlines Center. (Kevin Jairaj/USA Today Sports)

The Celtics once again had their finishing kick in high gear Monday in Dallas. 

Perhaps the most important quality the Celtics have shown over the course of this promising season is their ability to close out teams in the fourth. They did it again Monday as they scored 28 points in the final 12 minutes in a 111-98 win over the Mavericks at American Airlines Center. No team in the NBA scores more in the final 12 minutes than Boston’s 29-point average. 

Something else they’ll need come playoff time is balance. They showed that Monday, also. Isaiah Thomas led six players in double figures with 29 points. They improved to 17-11 on the road, the best such record in the East. 

The Celtics finished off their 4-game West Coast swing with three straight victories after a loss in Sacramento. They come back home with a great deal of momentum, taking on the fast-improving 76ers Wednesday night at TD Garden. 

For a full recap and box score of Monday’s win over the Mavericks, click here.

The Celtics improve to 36-19 and draw to within two games of first-place Cleveland (37-16) in the East. 

Thomas had 29 points, his 39th straight game with at least 20 points. The Celtics got a dose of their own medicine as 5-foot-7 rookie Yogi Ferrell scored 20 points and put a scare into the Celtics in parts of the game. 

Early in the game, 5-foot-7 Isaiah Thomas was guarding 7-footer Dirk Nowitzki. Nowitzki hit a couple of jumpers over him.

The Celtics then switched to Marcus Smart. The man who has “Dallas” tattooed on his forearm put on a show in his hometown early. 

The two teams were red hot to start the game from the perimeter. Thomas hit his first three shots from beyond the arc while Smart also hit an early three, making the Celtics 4-for-4 from deep. But the Mavericks connected on six of their first seven shots as they kept pace.

The Celtics finished the first quarter hitting 7-of-11 from 3-point range while Dallas was 4-for-6 from deep.

The game was a continuation of the coming out party for rookie Yogi Ferrell. He is the Mavericks’ answer to Isaiah Thomas. For a good part of the first half, he played like it. He hit his first five shots and scored 11 points in just nine minutes of action.

Deron Williams was ejected when he drove to the basket with just under 40 seconds left in the first half and was called for an offensive foul, drawn by Smart. Williams picked up two quick technicals and was tossed.  

Then with just 0.6 seconds remaining, Ferrell was whistled for a questionable foul on Isaiah Thomas, who was firing up a deep three. Thomas hit all three shots and finished off an 8-0 run to put the Celtics up, 61-50, at the half. Thomas led the Celtics at the break with 18 points while Smart added 17. Gerald Green had 10. 

With Deron Williams gone, the Mavericks had to rely more on Ferrell. That meant trouble for the Celtics as Ferrell did to them what they’ve been doing all season to other teams with Isaiah Thomas. Ferrell hit a pair of shots in the opening three minutes as the Mavericks pulled within five points. 

Dallas spent most of the third quarter making charge after charge at the Celtics, thanks in part to 8-of-11 shooting. The Mavericks cut the deficit to just one, 83-82, heading into the fourth quarter. 

After Ferrell missed a three to take the lead, Marcus Smart threw a perfect full-court pass to Isaiah Thomas, who converted the miss into the first points of the fourth for either team on a layup with 10 minutes left, giving Boston an 85-82 lead. 

With 4:31 left, Thomas drilled a three to cap a 6-0 run to put the Celtics up, 100-89. The other three points came on a fortunate trey from Kelly Olynyk on the right baseline. Thomas drove and then looked for Jae Crowder in the post. The ball was deflected to a wide-open Olynyk, who drained the three. 

Then after a three-point play by Dirk Nowitzki, James Young came down and hit a jumper. After a defensive stop, Crowder nailed another three, putting the Celtics up, 105-92, with just 3:38 left. 

Avery Bradley missed his 14th straight game (and 18th in 19) with a strained Achilles while Jaylen Brown missed the game right hip flexor injury. Neither player is expected to return until after next Sunday’s All-Star Game in New Orleans, missing Wednesday’s game against Philadelphia and Thursday’s game in Chicago. 

JBL_CMYK_NoHarmanNoRBallWEEI is how you listen to Celtics coverage. JBL cutting-edge wireless headphones and speakers are how you feel like you’re there. As the official Sound of the Celtics, Isaiah Thomas and the NBA, JBL is Made for the Biggest Stage.

Blog Author: 
Mike Petraglia

In case you haven’t been paying attention, the Celtics — even without trading what could very well be the No. 1 pick in the draft — have entered the NBA’s elite.

Isaiah Thomas is leading the Celtics to new heights. (Russell Isabella/USA Today Sports)

Isaiah Thomas is leading the Celtics to new heights. (Russell Isabella/USA Today Sports)

In case you haven’t been paying attention, the Celtics — even without trading what could very well be the No. 1 pick in the draft — have entered the NBA’s elite.

The C’s are just 2 1/2 games out of the top spot in the Eastern Conference, and have now won nine of their last 10 games. During that run Brad Stevens’ club managed wins over the East’s No. 4 team (Toronto), and the third-, fourth-, and fifth-best teams (Houston, Utah, Clippers) in the Western Conference.

The latest reminder came Saturday night, when the Celtics picked apart one of the best defensive teams in the NBA, the Jazz, on the way to a 112-104 win over Utah. (For a complete recap, click here.)

This time around the non-Isaiah Thomas scoring came from reserves Kelly Olynyk (19 points) and Gerald Green (16 points), with Al Horford doing his thing with 16 of his own. But what the win over the Jazz did was once again remind us what a good coach Stevens is.

The Celtics had already come away with a win over the Jazz at the Garden, so a very good Utah team had every opportunity to adjust when hosting the C’s this time around. But Stevens managed an offensive game-plan that exposed the Jazz’ usual lock-down defense.

For the night, the Celtics finished shoot 59 percent fro the field, keyed by Olynyk and Green going a combined 15-for-19. Sure, there is still the prevailing notion that the Celtics are a player away. (Watching Kevin Durant return to Oklahoma City Saturday should have gave C’s fans a quick jolt of what-might-have-been.) But, the way this team has found a way to make the most of what they have should at least make the Cavaliers nervous.

The Celtics should be favored in the remaining six games they have in February, leaving two contests that should be circled: March 1 at Cleveland and the March 8 road game against the Warriors. By the time those games roll around, Danny Ainge could very well have secured that one piece everybody is looking for.

It coast would seem to be clear if Celtics fans wanted to adjust expectations a bit.

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Blog Author: 
Rob Bradford