Finishing the regular season with a six-game winning streak left a lot of Celtics fans hoping they would at least be able to steal a game from the Cavaliers in the first round.

Instead, those fans will have to settle for having made life difficult for four games on LeBron James and company.

That, however, is not enough to satisfy players or coaches, as they admitted after Sunday’s 101-93 season-ending loss in Game 4 at TD Garden.

“We feel like we deserve more,” Isaiah Thomas said. “We’€™re proud, but we’€™re not satisfied. We see that this team has a lot of potential, we work hard, we like playing with each other, we play extremely hard and those are the keys to success. Its frustrating to see the season end like it did, but we got to try to build from this and come back next year ready for war.”

“It’s not about individuals, we are going home, so we could care less how we played at the end of the game,” Jared Sullinger said in referencing the several second half charges the Celtics put on only to come up short. “The fact of the matter is, we didn’€™t get any wins, and it was a good way to, I guess, end the season but at the same time our main focus and objective was to get a win tonight and we failed.”

Now, the mission for the players who return to Boston next season is to use the experience and build for next season, as Brad Stevens suggested after the game.

“I thought the Cavs did a lot of great things,” Stevens said. “I thought their individual talents stretched our defense. And I thought that our guys responded a lot of times well, but not quite well enough to get three eight-point losses in a row, right? So, yeah, I mean, tons. You’€™re always trying to grow and get better, but that’€™s going to be the same as if we’€™re fortunate enough to cut down the nets some day. I wouldn’€™t think that would change how you would approach the next day anyways.

“I think the best way to phrase it is I like our progress but I like to win. So I’€™m disappointed right now. But it’€™s now at anybody or at myself or at any ‘€“ it’€™s just, you’€™re disappointed to lose. We have to get better; we have to get better in every which way, and that’€™s the challenge ahead. Because winning’€™s a lot more fun.”

Nearly every Celtics player echoed that sentiment after Game 4.

“We do take a lot of positives out of it,” Thomas said. “We know we can compete with anybody in the NBA. People counted us out and we just kept fighting, we kept believing in ourselves, we kept coming work every day with our hard hat on and working hard and doing the things that we can control. If we can do that in the summer, next training camp, next season, then we got a bright future with this group of guys.”

“It’€™s a very respectable group,” added center Tyler Zeller. “They tell you what they think which is nice, but they do a great job of encouraging you, putting you in the right places and just trying to give you the best opportunity where you are.”

Can this four-game series be a valuable resource down the road?

“I think it will be very important,” Zeller said. “It gives you an idea of what to prepare for. All those little things that you’€™ve got to take care of, you’€™ve got to be able to get rid of them. Regular season you can get away with them but playoffs you can’€™t, so it gives you kind of that initiative to always pay attention to them and always be very aware of them.”

“A lot of knowledge, the experience is huge,” Evan Turner added. “I think once again, after you grow together, we get more games and experiences under our belts and hopefully if we’€™re all together this time next year we’€™ll be in a different position, different seed and hopefully further and deeper in the playoffs.”

Blog Author: 
Mike Petraglia

For all the harsh words between the players Sunday after Cleveland ended Boston’s season with a 101-93 win in Game 4, LeBron James had nothing but respect for the job coach Brad Stevens did in getting his team to play hard to the final buzzer.

After losing by 13 in the first game, the Celtics lost three straight, all by eight points. In each game, the Celtics made a late run to keep things interesting before succumbing to the better team.

“I highly respect their coaching staff and especially their head coach,” James said. “[They’re] a very well-coached team. He put those guys out there every night and put them in position to win the game and I think Brad Stevens is a very good young coach in our league.”

For a team that finished 40-42, the Celtics gave the Cavaliers about as much of a fight as could’ve been expected.

Then James spoke to what it means to have finally beaten the Celtics in the playoffs with Cleveland, after losses in 2008 and 2010.

“This franchise is one of the most winning franchises in NBA history, [along] with the Lakers,” James said. “So, everyone knows the history between the Lakers and the Celtics and what they’€™ve done for this league. So for me, to have a chapter in my career, multiple chapters, of playing against the Celtics, I think it’€™s great for the story that [the media can] tell.”

This is the second time James has sent the Celtics packing, beating them in seven games in the Eastern finals in 2012. That year, the Heat went on to beat the Oklahoma City Thunder, giving LeBron his first NBA title. James is now eight wins away from his fifth straight trip to the NBA finals, a goal that is clearly again on his radar.

“Our long term goal is obviously to win the championship but right now we have short term goals and that’€™s to prepare ourselves for the next round and get ready for the challenge that presents itself,” James said. “It was a great first test for our team. We’€™re a young team, we have some vets but we’€™re a young team together. The Celtics gave us the test that we needed. Some things that we haven’€™t seen in the regular season, and it will prepare us for the second round, which will be much tougher, we know that.”

Blog Author: 
Mike Petraglia

Isaiah Thomas and the Celtics weren't good enough against the Cavs and must get better. (Jim Rogash/Getty Images)It certainly felt like the playoffs at the Garden on Sunday. Jae Crowder got knocked out by a J.R.



Can Danny Ainge build on the Brad Stevens' momentum? (Getty Images)



Kendrick Perkins (right) stares down Jae Crowder in the second quarter Sunday. (Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

Good luck, Cleveland.

Hope your cheap shot artists doubling as basketball players help you end a championship drought in your dreary town that's lasted since 1964.



MIKE PETRAGLIA

BIO | ARCHIVE


Sunday afternoon was a wild one at the TD Garden.

In the end, the mighty Cavaliers swept the youthful Celtics out of the playoffs. But there were plenty of other story lines throughout the game. They just weren’t very positive ones.

It started in the first quarter when Kelly Olynyk and Kevin Love got tangled going ofter a loose ball. Olynyk dislocated Love’s shoulder in the process and Love was obviously out for the rest of the game — and likely the foreseeable future.

Then, in the second quarter, old friend Kendrick Perkins set a hard pick that knocked Jae Crowder to the floor. This was followed by a near brawl in which Perkins slapped Crowder across the face.

Just as it seemed things were starting to calm down early in the second half, J.R. Smith made a DIRTY play on Crowder that sent him to the ground. Smith was ejected for a flagrant-2 foul, while Crowder left the game with a sprained knee and will have more tests done soon.

After the game, most people viewed Olynyk and Love’s tie-up as just that … a typical basketball play. Even Love’s coach, David Blatt, said that he “doesn’t feel it’s in the character of Olynyk” to intentionally hurt his player.

A demanding Love felt differently following the game: “I thought it was a bush-league play. I have no doubt in my mind he did it on purpose,” he told reporters. “That’s just not a basketball play. The league will take a look at it and it better be swift and just.”

LeBron James agreed that “it didn’t look like a basketball play,” which he’s entitled to. But the Cavs might want to pick their battles a little bit better when it comes to the intent behind fouls.

J.R. Smith choosing to argue that his punch to Crowder’s face wasn’t intentional isn’t the best look for a team whimpering about a couple of players getting tangled going after a ball.

“I tried to swing my arm loose thinking it was the best way to try to get my arm up in position to rebound and we made contact,” Smith explained. “There was nothing malicious about it. I didn’t try to do anything to hurt him or anybody else. That’s not the way I play the game, and unfortunately I got a flagrant-2.”

It wasn’t a good day for anybody. The Celtics had their season end, and the Cavs are going to begin the second-round likely without both Smith and Love. This was a lose-lose in some senses. The league will sit down and review how they feel about the fouls on both teams, but if the Cavs think they’re in the right here, they’re probably in for a surprise.

Blog Author: 
Julian Edlow

As Celtics forward Jae Crowder battled for a rebound with Cavaliers guard J.R.

Jae Crowder

Jae Crowder

As Celtics forward Jae Crowder battled for a rebound with Cavaliers guard J.R. Smith early in the third quarter, the latter swung his arm into the former’s face, sending Crowder to the ground as his leg buckled beneath him.

Crowder did not return to the game, and neither did Smith, who earned a flagrant 2 foul, an ejection and possibly a suspension for his actions.

The initial diagnosis from doctors who examined Crowder is a left knee sprain, but the soon-to-be restricted free agent will undergo an MRI either on Sunday night or Monday morning to confirm there is no structural damage.

“I haven’t seen it, but we don’t know exactly what the deal is yet,” Celtics coach Brad Stevens said of Smith’s foul. “He had a lower leg potential injury as he fell, but he’s going to go get an MRI and everything else. I guess he got elbowed to the head, and that’s how he fell. I shouldn’t be saying that, because I couldn’t see the play from my vantage point, but that’s what I was told. It’s what I know.”

Following a successful run with the organization since coming to Boston in return for Rajon Rondo this past December, Crowder’s re-signing is expected to be among the C’s highest priorities this summer.

Blog Author: 
Ben Rohrbach

Jae Crowder said the Celtics wouldn’t go down without a fight, and he was right.

Jae Crowder

Jae Crowder

Jae Crowder said the Celtics wouldn’t go down without a fight, and he was right.

Crowder was involved in two of the half-dozen ugly dust-ups with the Cavaliers, ultimately leaving the game with an apparent knee injury in the ugliest of the bunch, but in the end it didn’t matter how much muscle his team flexed. Cleveland had LeBron James and Kyrie Irving, and in the end they were the difference-makers.

As they did all series, the Celtics spent the second half trying to erase a Cavs lead that had ballooned to double digits, and as was the case in their first three attempts, they fell short, losing the game 101-93 and the series 4-0.

James finished with 27 points, 10 rebounds and eight assists, while Irving added 24 points and 11 assists. Jared Sullinger led the Celtics with 21 points and 11 rebounds. Isaiah Thomas added 21 points, nine assists and five rebounds before fouling out. Avery Bradley (16 points) and Marcus Smart (11 points) also reached double figures.

For a complete box score, click here.

ROUGH START

Marcus Smart’s absence from shootaround wasn’t the only late wakeup call for the Celtics. Brad Stevens spent the better part of the past week trying to solve his team’s defensive rebounding woes, and within 95 seconds of Game 4 the Cavaliers are had their second offensive board — leading to five of Cleveland’s first seven points. As a result, Stevens called his quickest timeout as an NBA coach. The intervention on the bench did little to stop the bleeding, as the Cavs reached double-digits in second-chance points and built a 21-point lead by halftime.

GETTING OUT OF HAND

With 5:22 remaining in the first quarter and the Celtics already trailing by nine, Kelly Olynyk locked arms with Kevin Love and separated the Cavaliers forward’s shoulder. It was an intentional grab with unintentional consequences, removing Love for the remainder of Game 4 and perhaps longer. Even for those rooting passionately against Cleveland in this series, it wasn’t a sight anybody wanted to see. While the Celtics were unable to capitalize, Love’s injury could have untold consequences on the Eastern Conference playoff race.

Meanwhile, in what appeared to be a response to Olynyk’s loose ball foul, old friend Kendrick Perkins leveled Jae Crowder on a moving pick before taking a swipe at the Celtics forward’s face. How Perkins wasn’t thrown out — and how Crowder earned a technical foul as well — is a mystery. The game was out of hand, and the officials did little to police the anarchy. It came back to bite the Celtics early in the third quarter, when J.R. Smith sent Crowder to the locker room with a blow to the head that made his knee buckle. Finally, Smith paid for his flagrant foul with an ejection.

ISAIAH THOMAS, MERE MORTAL

After a brilliant playoff debut in Game 1 and a 22-point encore in Game 2, the C’s sixth man has struggled since the series moved to Boston. Thomas scored five points on nine shots and finished a team-worst minus-3 in Thursday’s loss to Cleveland, and things started worse on Sunday. He missed his first 10 shots before finally sinking a 3-point attempt midway through the third quarter, when the C’s already trailed by 19. Crafty as he is, though, Thomas got to the free throw line, where he made all 10 of his attempts, and finished with a decent stat line on a tough night.

TRIPLE NON-THREAT

That Thomas 3-pointer also marked the C’s first make from distance as a team. The Celtics entered Sunday’s game shooting just 30 percent on 63 attempts from beyond the arc in the series, and they missed their first 11 tries from 3-point range in Game 4. In the first three games of the series — including a pair of single-digit losses — the Cavaliers outscored the C’s by an average of five points at the 3-point line. Even as the Celtics limited Cleveland’s damage from distance on Sunday, holding the Cavs below 25 percent from 3, they still couldn’t gain a shooting edge. A tough night at the free throw line didn’t help matters. In addition to rim protection, 3-point shooting should be among Danny Ainge’s biggest priorities.

NO QUIT

Even as the Cavaliers built a lead as large as 21 in a series they already led 3-0, the Celtics never gave into the temptation of packing their bags early. On multiple occasions at the end of the third and throughout the fourth quarter, the C’s cut Cleveland’s lead to single digits. Thomas spent the first few moments of a timeout urging the crowd to stay on its feet and lift his reeling team. The Celtics somehow coming away with a jump ball between Phil Pressey and LeBron James was indicative of their resiliency, and an after-timeout play designed for a Gigi Datome 3-point try with the Celtics trailing by six in the final minute exemplified their ingenuity. They never quite got over the hump, as was the case in every game of the series, but the fight they showed is a testament to Stevens and his charges, who exceeded all expectations even before the playoffs began.

Blog Author: 
Ben Rohrbach