Mar 20, 2017; Boston, MA, USA; Boston Celtics guard Avery Bradley (0) controls the ball while Washington Wizards forward Otto Porter Jr. (22) defends during the second half at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

A healthy Avery Bradley has been getting back to form since his return from a sore Achilles. (Bob DeChiara/USA Today Sports)

If there’s one dividend from the early season injury bug that the Celtics are cashing in on now it’s rest.

Specifically, it’s the rest players like Avery Bradley, Kelly Olynyk, Al Horford and Jae Crowder were able to gain as the rest of the league was going through the grind. 

Every year, there’s intense debate as to what to do at the league level to discourage teams from resting their players at the end of the season as playoff-bound teams prep their star players for the postseason. This was brought to a head on March 11 in San Antonio when, on a nationally televised game, the Warriors sat Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green and Andre Iguodala. Kevin Durant was already sitting with his left knee injury. The Spurs rested Kawhi Leonard, Tony Parker and LaMarcus Aldridge. 

What’s Stevens’ take?

“I understand the discussion and certainly we’re all sensitive to the fact that somebody is going to watch a game in TD Garden for the first time tonight,” Stevens said before Wednesday’s game against Indiana. “That’s why I don’t know if this is fortunate or unfortunate, probably more unfortunate because you never want to have injuries, but we had a lot of injuries so we got rest because we had to get rest. 

“I do think in the last week of the season it is a little bit different. But I also understand as each team goes about it to try and best set themselves up for the postseason, the idea and opportunities to get rest. I’m hopeful, like everybody else, that the extra week in the season can appropriately handle some of those things but there are some really tough stretches in this and it is difficult. You just have to try to manage those as well as you can. 

“If some team chooses to rest their players then I understand it has to be a discussion but I understand why they do it.”

To mitigate some of the schedule grind to make it easier on players, the NBA shortened the preseason, adding a week to the schedule to spread out more games. Still, teams like the Celtics still faced a huge challenge.

“We knew going into the year, and I think this is probably what a lot of teams do, they look at the schedule,” Stevens said. “We knew December was going to be a monster and on Dec. 30 we were going to play six games in nine days and then we knew early February the West Coast trip coming back, All-Star break, Toronto, Detroit, back, West Coast trip again, you knew that was going to be really tough. You just kind of know that in advance and try to plan for it the best way you can. But again, some of our decisions were alleviated by the fact that we didn’t have guys available because of injuries. Again, I understand why teams do it but I understand the dilemma.”

Jae Crowder entered Wednesday’s game shooting 39.7 percent from beyond the arc. He has taken 605 shots, 340 from long range. That figures to 56 percent of his overall shots from long range. 

“If they’re all open, whatever, right? And even if they’re lightly challenged, he’s a really good 3-point shooter,” Stevens said. “You look across the league at guys that do what he does, that’s pretty typical. I think that’s something that’s a great testament to him, that he can continue to be as consistent as he’s being, shooting that percentage and shooting as high of a percentage with that volume.” 

Speaking of Crowder, the forward said the team’s increased rebounding proficiency is the result of better focus in the area. Stevens said it was something else. 

“Well, to be on the incline in rebounding for us was going to be really easy because we started in the basement,” Stevens said. “We had nowhere to go but up, so. I think it’s a matter of being in great position before the shot goes up, it’s a matter of making hard, initial contact on the block out, it’s a matter of guards pursuing. Sometimes, they’re going to bounce over you head and taller guys are going to get it but you try to take the luck out as much as you can.”

This, of course, is the greatest time of year for college basketball. Before Wednesday’s game, an Indiana reporter reminded the former Butler coach that his Indianapolis-based school came oh so close to dethroning the defending national champion Florida Gators in 2007 in the Sweet 16. The Bulldogs leg the Al Horford-Joakim Noah-led Gators in St. Louis before falling, 65-57. 

Before reporter could finish the question about the game 10 years ago Thursday, Stevens interjected. 

“Al Horford charged. That was a charge,” Stevens said of the controversial play in the second half. 

Have you told him that? 

“I sent

to him when we first signed him. We had a one-point lead with three minutes to go and we had a doctor and a dentist guarding Horford and Noah. That was not ideal. Horford took one of our undersized 4s – probably an undersized 3 who is now an assistant at Butler – took him from the 3-point line to the basket and got an ‘and-1’ and it was a charge. You can ask Al about it later.” 

Blog Author: 
WEEI

For a team that entered Monday night’s game as the fifth-worst rebounding team in the league, the Celtics rarely ever out-rebound their opponent. But when it came to facing the Wizards at home with playoff implications on the line, the C’s looked like a team that just simply wanted it more.

Al Horford

Al Horford

For a team that entered Monday night’s game as the fifth-worst rebounding team in the league, the Celtics rarely ever out-rebound their opponent. But when it came to facing the Wizards at home with playoff implications on the line, the C’s looked like a team that just simply wanted it more.

The Celtics not only out-rebounded their opponent, 54-39 but were very physical with the Wizards on defense and made it tough for them to find their offensive rhythm while the C’s cruised to 110-102 victory. The Celtics finished with a season-high 20 offensive rebounds, the last time the C’s grabbed 20 or more boards in a game was in the 2009 playoffs. 

With the win, the Celtics (45-26) now hold a 2.5 game advantage over the Wizards for the No. 2 seed in the Eastern Conference. 

Sure, the return of Isaiah Thomas (25 points, 2 steals) certainly helped but it wasn’t just the Celtics leading scorer who made a huge impact for the Celtics. Avery Bradley had such an incredible first quarter that Brad Stevens kept him in for its entirety. He scored 11 points, grabbed four rebounds and dished out three assists in the first 12 minutes and finished with 20 points, 9 rebounds and four assists. 

Bradley Beal’s 19 points led the Wizards, John Wall finished with 16 and 8 assists but did most of his damage from the free-throw line — where he netted 8-of-9. 

For a complete recap of Monday’s win, click here.

Up front, Al Horford set the tone by creating stops while also making an effort in boxing guys out in the paint and guys like Amir Johnson and Kelly Olynyk followed suit. Led by Horford’s 16 points, 9 rebounds, the three big men finished with a combined 23 rebounds and four blocks.

Washington’s only significant lead came midway through the first quarter when they pulled ahead by seven. From there, the Celtics rallied back and held onto their lead for the final three quarters.

Emotions ran high before halftime when there was a dust up between Brandon Jennings and Terry Rozier happened at the 8:07 mark of the second quarter. After Jennings intentionally stopped short in front of Rozier while the two were heading up the floor, Rozier eventually ran into him, extended his arms to create space and Jennings hit the deck.  

After reviewing the play, officials handed both guys a technical foul. 

However that didn’t slow down the Celtics, they outscored their opponent, 28-19, in the second quarter and took a 58-47 lead into intermission. One of the Celtics’ recent shortcomings against the 76ers that Brad Stevens alluded to before the game was their lack of consistency in the third quarter. 

The C’s kicked off the second half by going on a 16-7 run and eventually led by 19 points — their biggest lead of the night. And unlike Sunday, they kept their composure and didn’t allow the Wizards to pull no closer than 15 points. 

Although Washington managed to get their deficit down to six points, the Celtics came up with huge defensive stops and flirted with a double-digit advantage throughout most of the final frame. 

The Celtics will look to make it two in a row when they host the Pacers at TD Garden on Wednesday. 

Blog Author: 
Josue Pavon

Isaiah Thomas

Isaiah Thomas

Isaiah Thomas did everything he possibly could in order to be cleared to play on Monday. 

While the Celtics traveled on a mini two-game road trip, Thomas spent the weekend rehabbing his knee while also getting plenty of rest. 

“I was in here two times a day; in the morning and at night,” Thomas said. “I was in there just trying to get better, get as much treatment as I possibly can. Rest at the same time. Just trying to get it back as strong as I possibly can. 

Was it ever a question if you were going to play against the Wizards?

“It was a question for other people,” Thomas said with a smile. “I can’t sit this one. I know what’s at stake, I know it’s a big game for us. I did a lot of treatment to be able to play tonight, making sure I was in that training room and getting right.”

When asked, ‘how badly do you want to head into the playoffs as a one or two seed?’, Thomas replied:

“I want it as bad as you can get it.”

The Wizards enter Monday’s game 1.5 games behind the Celtics for the No. 2 seed in the east. Although Thomas believes it’s very important for the Celtics to take care of business at home, he also knows his team can’t get caught up in trying to change its game plan. 

“It’s a big game,” Thomas said. “We gotta just take care of business the way we know how, take care of home court and we can’t think of it as — just cause it’s against the Wizards we want to play a certain way — we just gotta play our brand of basketball and we’ll be alright.”

Blog Author: 
Josue Pavon

Isaiah Thomas dribbles as Washington Wizards guard Bradley Beal (3) looks on. (Brad Mills/USA Today Sports)

Isaiah Thomas dribbles as Washington Wizards guard Bradley Beal (3) looks on. (Brad Mills/USA Today Sports)

After missing the last two games with a bruised right knee, Isaiah Thomas has been cleared to return against the Wizards. 

The Celtics All-Star point guard injured the knee in last Wednesday’s win over the Timberwolves and missed Friday’s win in Brooklyn and Sunday’s loss in Philadelphia. 

“Yep,” was Brad Stevens one-word answer in the affirmative when asked if the guard would be back in the lineup against a Washington team that is 1.5 games behind the Celtics in the race for the No. 2 spot in the East. 

Stevens said Thomas received plenty of treatment for the bruised knee over the weekend, making the most of time away playing. 

“Feeling a lot better,” Stevens said. “I think all the treatment over the weekend, which he had a ton of, was all positive. He’s good to go.”

Stevens added that he doesn’t anticipate a minutes restriction for Thomas, who leads the team in playing time at 34.1 minutes a game. 

“I don’t think so,” Stevens said. “I haven’t heard that from the training staff. Usually, the minutes restriction is as much to do [with] extended periods of time as anything else.”

Stevens was asked if he could tell Thomas was ready based on the team’s walkthrough Monday.

“Well, our walkthrough happened at about 4:45 [p.m.] and it was a WALK through so I think he looked great,” Stevens said. “But I have no idea how that translates to playing in a stance or running up and down the floor but I’ve been told he’s fine.”

On the importance of holding off Washington for the second seed in the East. 

“I think it’s about playing good basketball,” Stevens said. “That stuff sorts itself out. Obviously, you want to be as good of a seed as you can. There’s no question about that. Again, I’d like to have some healthy games here to play good basketball and see if we can’t figure ourselves out as we head into the next month, plus.” 

Monday’s game is the opener of a season-long six-game home stand. Entering Monday, the Wizards and Pacers (Wednesday) were the only team with a winning record of the six teams. Much has been made of the newly-created rivalry in the media between the Celtics and Wizards, featuring Isaiah Thomas and John Wall. A battle for playoff position only fuels it. 

“My focus is on playing good basketball,” Stevens said. “When I think of rivalries, I think of years upon years upon years in the making. Certainly, we have a great deal of respect for how good these guys are. And that’s that. But we’ve got to focus on trying to do our best to play as well as we can against them, which means a lot of the focus has to be on what we’re trying to accomplish, and they’re going to be doing the same on their end. 

“Maybe the players would say different but I don’t feel any different. I prepare for all 82 [games] the exact same. I think the biggest thing is if we don’t play well, we’ll get beat. That’s proven itself true over and over. And if we do play well, we’ll have a chance to win.” 

Does Stevens say anything to remind the players to keep their cool after the smack talk between the two this season?

“I think they remember that probably, [so] no,” Stevens said. 

The Celtics fell Sunday in Philadelphia as they blew a 10-point third quarter lead in a 105-99 loss. 

“I remember the losses vividly and go through them all. But yeah, those are tough and you move on,” Stevens said. “You show your team what you need to show them and move on, and try to get a little bit better from it. We played really well in the middle of that game. But we played really careless in the middle of the third quarter and the early parts of the fourth. Then when it’s five minutes left, it’s anybody’s game. You’ve put yourself in a tough spot.”

Blog Author: 
Mike Petraglia

Rajon Rondo is organizing a reunion for the 2008 Celtics. But Ray Allen isn’t invited. 

Ray Allen played in two Finals with the Heat. (Soobum Im-USA Today Sports)

Ray Allen played in two Finals with the Heat. (Soobum Im-USA Today Sports)

Rajon Rondo is organizing a reunion for the 2008 Celtics. But Ray Allen isn’t invited. 

In an interview with The Undefeated, Rondo said he is planning a vacation with his former teammates to commemorate the championship run. But apparently, there was uniform opposition to Allen coming along. 

“I asked a couple of the guys. I got a no, a no head shake,” Rondo said. 

Allen, who the Celtics acquired in June 2007 for a first-round pick, was an integral part of the Big Three with Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett. But his relationship with the organization soured, leading the future Hall of Famer to ink a three-year contract with the rival Heat in July 2012. Allen won a championship in Miami the following year. 

Rondo said he felt betrayed when Allen went to the Heat. 

“The mindset we had. The guys on our team. You wouldn’t do anything like that,” he said. “It makes you question that series in the Finals … Who were you for? You didn’t bleed green. People think we had a messed-up relationship. It’s not the greatest. But it’s not just me. I called and reached out to a couple of other vets and asked them what they wanted to do with the situation. They told me to stick with what we got [without Allen].”

Pierce and Garnett have expressed similar sentiments about Allen in recent years. During a 2015 interview with ESPN’s Jackie MacMullan, Pierce said he was never close with the three-point shooter, citing Allen’s reclusive personality as a barrier to their relationship. In 2014, Garnett admitted he hadn’t spoken with Allen since they were teammates. 

Blog Author: 
Alex Reimer

Want to see what an NBA margin-for-error looks like? Pit the Celtics, without Isaiah Thomas, against the up-and-coming 76ers and then start the fourth quarter.

On Sunday, the Celtics once again found themselves running ragged without their All-Star point guard around to remind everyone what time it was with the game on the line, and the result was a disappointing 105-99 defeat.

Celtics forward Jaylen Brown soars for two against the Sixers on Sunday. (John Geliebter/USA Today Sports)

Celtics forward Jaylen Brown soars for two against the Sixers on Sunday. (John Geliebter/USA Today Sports)

Want to see what an NBA margin-for-error looks like? Pit the Celtics, without Isaiah Thomas, against the up-and-coming 76ers and then start the fourth quarter.

On Sunday, the Celtics once again found themselves running ragged without their All-Star point guard around to remind everyone what time it was with the game on the line, and the result was a disappointing 105-99 defeat.

In the process, they made the race for the No. 2 seed in the Eastern Conference unnecessarily tight, with a showdown in Boston looming against the third-seeded Wizards on Monday night. It’s unclear if Thomas, who is nursing a bone bruise in his right knee, will be able to play.

Without him, the Celtics must determine a way to slow John Wall (25.6 points, 11.1 assists in his last 8 games) and Co., or they’ll be teetering on the precipice of falling to third in the conference.

After Washington threw away Saturday’s game against Charlotte, the Celtics looked to be in a good position to grow their 1 1/2-game lead. But Rookie of the Year favorite Dario Saric scored 20 points to lead the Sixers, who outscored the Celtics 14-8 over the final 3:41 to break a 91-91 tie.

Now, if Washington wins on Monday, it will close the gap to just one game in the loss column in the playoff race, which highlights what a missed opportunity Sunday represented. With Al Horford scoring a season-high 27 points and Terry Rozier (14 points, 10 rebounds) providing a nice lift off the bench, the Celtics appeared to be in the driver’s seat, but they imploded down the stretch on offense without Thomas to bail them out.

They blew leads of 13 in the third quarter and five in the fourth. In one stretch, Marcus Smart attempted a spin move in the lane, but left the basketball behind; Amir Johnson boxed around an entry pass; Jae Crowder clanged a 3. The Celtics lost what felt like 80 percent of the loose balls during this stretch, and the Sixers sealed it when Nik Stauskus made a 3-pointer from the right wing with 38.8 seconds remaining.

There will be no rest for the weary as the Celtics return home to face the Wizards in a game that could decide who finishes second in the East. Washington leads the season series, 2-1, so the Celtics will need this one to have any chance in any potential tie-breakers. As thing stand now, the second seed in the conference will get Miami in the first round (the Heat had won 23 of 28 entering Sunday), while the third seed will face Paul George and the Pacers.

Blog Author: 
John Tomase

It was inevitable.

With the firing of Tom Creen, the rumors started swirling about Indiana native Brad Stevens jumping ship from the Celtics to go coach at his home state’s university.

According to Stevens, that’s not going to happen.