Marcus Smart has been swallowed up by the Hawks this series. (Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)Marcus Smart may one day be a really good NBA player. Closing the door on that possibility would be stupid.

Chris Forsberg of ESPN Boston joins Sam Packard and Jared Weiss to breakdown the Celtics terrible game 2 loss to the Atlanta Hawks. The guys discuss the play of rookies Terry Rozier and RJ Hunter and the C’s shooting woes before previewing game 3. Chris then takes questions from the #WEEICeltics mailbag. Topics include: Brad Stevens’ favorite Prince Song, Hot Dog Colors, and the Swedish Stud Jonas Jerebko. Subscribe to the Pod on iTunes, Stitcher and on the CLNS Radio app.

[0:01:25] ... of the leading on line provider of audio video coverage of the Boston Celtics coach Steele and mistreated dot com you can listen to the show. On iTunes stitcher and the seal on this radio mobile ...
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Will Jared Sullinger be able to keep up with Atlanta's big men in Game 3? (John David Mercer/USA Today Sports)WALTHAM -- What happened to Jared Sullinger?



Boston's multitude of injuries has given Brad Stevens a headache. (Jeff Hanisch/USA TODAY Sports)

Boston’s multitude of injuries has given Brad Stevens a headache. (Jeff Hanisch/USA TODAY Sports)

WALTHAM – Brad Stevens didn’t need a history lesson Thursday before practice but he got one anyway. 

The Celtics coach was reminded that he has yet to score a playoff victory in six tries over the last two seasons. While this certainly doesn’t rise to the 0-7 postseason mark of the Bengals’ Marvin Lewis in the NFL, it is a frustrating collar he’d like to shed Friday night at TD Garden. 

That, and he’d actually like to see his team get back in the series with the Hawks, which some observers say could change with one win. 

“Obviously, it’s frustrating but also, I look at last year as we were obviously playing a heck of a team that was playing at a really high level,” Stevens said, referring to last season’s 4-0 first-round sweep at the hands of the Cavs. “And we did a lot of good things [vs. Cleveland]. We played really well on the defensive end in that series in the half court. I think we’ve done that again in the first two games [vs. Hawks].”

So where DO the Celtics need to improve?

“Where we need to play a little bit better is in transition and in getting better offense,” Stevens said.”And so, that’s reality of the situation. We’re playing another really good team. I think when you look at Atlanta, especially since the All Star break, they’re playing as well as anybody. We have to be better to get a chance. But I don’t see our guys being overwhelmed by the collective number. I think we’re a lot more focused on 0-2 than last year’s 0-4. That really is inconsequential right now.”

If Stevens decides to make a change, he could go with the lineup he started at the beginning of the second half Tuesday (Thomas, Smart, Turner, Crowder, Johnson) or he could really mix it up by throwing in a pure shooter like Jonas Jerebko to take the place of Sullinger and move Turner to the shooting guard spot and bring Marcus Smart (1-for-11 Game 2) off the bench. All of this is with the understanding that Kelly Olynyk, who didn’t practice again Thursday, is “questionable at best” for Game 3. 

“Well obviously, it would affect it from the standpoint of rotations because I do think Kelly’s strength is something we need,” Stevens said, referring to Olynyk’s 41 percent range from deep when healthy. “So, we’re going to have to find that from other sources, obviously.” 

Whatever Stevens does, he says he doesn’t have to worry about the mentality of his team.

“You know what? I don’t sense any woe-is-me attitude, and I’d be mad if I did because these are unbelievable opportunities,” Stevens said. “We’re talking about R.J. Hunter, Terry Rozier, Marcus Smart all being under 22 years old and playing out in the playoffs. This is a great, great opportunity that you work for all your life, and let alone, a lot of our other young guys. So hey, I don’t sense any of that because there should be excitement to play.

“The other thing is as competitors, as guys that want to do better, you don’t want to go out with that taste in your mouth, the way we did the other day. We’ll see what happens but we’re looking forward to competing.” 

Blog Author: 
Mike Petraglia

WALTHAM  –  The tale of these Celtics could be told by the end of Game 3. And Brad Stevens knows it. 

Avery Bradley drives to the basket against Hawks forward Paul Millsap (4) in Game 1. (John David Mercer/USA Today Sports)

Avery Bradley drives to the basket against Hawks forward Paul Millsap (4) in Game 1. (John David Mercer/USA Today Sports)

WALTHAM  –  The tale of these Celtics could be told by the end of Game 3. And Brad Stevens knows it. 

Without Kelly Olynyk (right shoulder) and Avery Bradley (right hamstring), the Celtics held a media session Thursday at their practice facility, then held a team meeting and then a relatively light practice. Before heading off to their bunker before practice, the Celtics coach broke down what’s at stake in the hours leading up to Friday night’s virtual do-or-die game. 


“From a physical standpoint I think we need to have a solid day but we’re not going to be out here very long,” Stevens said. “It’s going to be more about what changes we need to make, what we need to do to be a little bit more successful, how we need to play, those types of things. But hey, it’s we’re deep into the season. We’ve got to do what we do better, like I said [Wednesday], and go from there.

“Kelly will be, like I said [Wednesday], questionable probably at best for the game. And then Avery obviously won’t be playing, so the guys that are out here are the guys that we’ll prepare with.”

Bradley did have his MRI and Stevens indicated that surgery will not be needed, just time to heal. 

“Nothing that we didn’t think. So I think big picture, long term, he’s going to be able to heal fully,” Stevens said. “It will all be good and everything else. It just takes time with hamstrings. And so like I said earlier he’s definitely out this weekend, and then I would say he’s very unlikely to play in this series again. The hamstring’s one of those things where you can walk down the hallway and look like a million bucks, but when you start playing 32 minutes and have to change speeds and change directions and those type of things, that’s a different story.”

As for the likelihood Bradley would be available for the next round?

“That would be something that we haven’t discussed a whole lot just because they’ve talked about toward the end of this series he should be to the point where he’s able to do a little bit more from a practice standpoint and those type of things,” Stevens said. “So, I would say that it’s still unlikely early in that situation, but possibly in the days that go on after that.”

Stevens indicated another lineup change is in store for Game 3. Stevens had his regular group of Isaiah Thomas, Avery Bradley, Jared Sullinger, Jae Crowder and Amir Johnson for Game 1. Then Marcus Smart replaced Bradley in Game 2. Evan Turner replaced Sullinger to start the second half Tuesday night. That could be sign of things to come but Stevens said he hadn’t made up his mind yet.  

“In Game 1 it wasn’t as much execution as shot-making,” Stevens said. “And then in Game 2, I thought Game 2 was a much different game overall. So from my standpoint, we look at Game 1, we look at Game 2, we look at the things we can do well, and we need to do them as well as we can for those 48 minutes that are coming up. But I think at the end of the day, we’ve defended how we’ve wanted to more often than not.

“And offensively we’ve got to be better. Especially, again, you can’t dig yourself that big of a hole early because then that puts pressure on you to make the next one and the next one and the next one. We’re going to have to have guys that are not only in the right spots and executing the right ways, but also then finishing plays. And these guys have responded to that all year. So we’ve had our down moments. We’ve had our down quarters in games. And we’re looking forward to tomorrow night.”

Blog Author: 
Mike Petraglia

For Isaiah Thomas, the heartbeat of the Celtics dormant offense, the solution is simple. 

Isaiah Thomas (4) attempts a shot against Atlanta Hawks guard Kyle Korver (26) in the second quarter of Game 2 Tuesday. (Jason Getz/USA Today Sports)

Isaiah Thomas (4) attempts a shot against Atlanta Hawks guard Kyle Korver (26) in the second quarter of Game 2 Tuesday. (Jason Getz/USA Today Sports)

For Isaiah Thomas, the heartbeat of the Celtics dormant offense, the solution is simple. 

“If we start to knock down our shots, it’s going to make it easier for us to execute on the offensive end,” Thomas said in a conference call Wednesday. “But first two games we haven’t been able to shoot the ball. All the Hawks are doing is packing the paint, and we continue to attack the paint. Then all five guys are there anytime someone attacks it.”

When the Celtics shoot 3-for-23 like they did in the first quarter Tuesday, including 0-for-6 from deep, the Hawks can just do what they do, and that’s pack the paint.

“Especially when I’m in attack mode, trying to get into the paint. If guys continue to be confident, and knock down their shots, they’re going to open up lanes for guys to drive it. There won’t be any opportunity for them to block shots.”

And blocking shots is an Atlanta specialty. They rejected a franchise-playoff record 15 on Tuesday in Game 2, including several on Thomas when he tried in vain to create by driving to the basket. Al Horford had five and Paul Millsap added four. 

“They are quick to the ball. You see an opening, and once you get to the hole there’s two or three guys around you,” Thomas said. “Give them credit on that. But I haven’t thought of Atlanta as a scary defensive team where you have to second guess yourself on getting your shot blocked, like with a guy like DeAndre Jordan or Hassan Whiteside – (players) like that. They’re good at it, and we just have to either finish it off to a big or a drive and kick. Either a pump fake or make the adjustment.”

Brad Stevens suggested changes are coming for Game 3. What might they be?

“I don’t know. I think he will make some kind of change, knowing Brad and watching tons of film,” Thomas said. “But we’ll see. Hopefully he can do a few things that will make this team start games better, and give us a better chance to win.”

Thomas is 12-for-36 in the first two games, including 5-for-16 from deep. He admitted that sometimes he and others might be forcing things when the shots don’t fall.

“That can be the case, but that wasn’t true in the last game,” Thomas said. “Offensively, we couldn’t make shots, and we dug ourselves a big hole in the first quarter. For whatever reason we keep doing that. If we can sustain a better start, that gives us a way better chance to start the game. We give ourselves no chance by getting down by 20 points early in the game.

“Energy. We have to start the game off a lot better. If we do that, it will work out in our favor. During the playoffs it’s hard to make those comebacks, and getting out in transition when all the other team is doing is scoring. If we just lock in on starting the game a lot better, it will help us to get out in transition.”

And the left wrist?

“It’s all right,” Thomas said. “I continue to get treatment on it and work past it. It’s not 100, but it only hurts when I’m falling on it, and I try not to fall as much. It’ll be OK.”

Blog Author: 
Mike Petraglia

Celtics head coach Brad Stevens was busy trying to point out Kyle Korver Tuesday night. (John David Mercer-USA Today Sports)

Celtics head coach Brad Stevens was busy trying to point out Kyle Korver Tuesday night. (John David Mercer/USA Today Sports)

Brad Stevens wouldn’t go as far as saying the Celtics have the Hawks right where they want them. After all, no team wants to be down 0-2 in a best-of-7 series, facing a virtual must-win on their home court in Game 3. 

But Stevens said Wednesday during a conference that he’s fully confident that his team, which didn’t practice Wednesday, will be mentally ready to go when Game 3 begins Friday night. 

“You know, with this group, we’ll re-convene [Thursday] and we’ll talk about where we stand and what we need to do in moving forward,” Stevens said. “I think we just have to have a backs-against-the-wall mentality because this team has been good and been resilient all year in that regard.”

That’s great because the Celtics are fighting some wicked odds, and some nasty recent history. This is the 13th time they’ve been in an 0-2 hole in a best-of-7 series and the fourth straight series they’ve faced this deficit, dating back to the 2012 Eastern Conference finals against Miami.

They’ve managed to overcome the 0-2 deficit exactly once, beating the Lakers, 4 games to 3, in the 1969 NBA finals. They nearly pulled it off against the Heat in 2012 when they were down 0-2, only to win the next three before losing Games 6 and 7. But they’re not worried about ancient history, just correcting the mistakes against Atlanta that has them in their current predicament. 

“I think our focus needs to be continue to play the right way on both ends of the court,” Stevens said. “Obviously, we need to start better, we need to play better. We need to do a lot of things better. But I’ve never questioned this group’s resiliency or willingness to stand up when times are tough and those type of things because they’ve been pretty good about that all year.”

Why is this team so good when the chips are down?

“I couldn’t pinpoint it,” Isaiah Thomas said. “It’s just the background that all these guys come from.We’ve always had a never back down mentality. This group of teammates has always been counted out. They’ve always had that chip on their shoulders to prove everybody wrong. That’s just another stepping stone in everybody’s story. We do have to climb uphill, but at the same time we have to take advantage of our home court.”

Of course, the Celtics need to show resiliency because of the hole they dug in the first half of their first two games of this series. They trailed 51-34 at the half Saturday. And last night, they were in a 24-3 hole in the first six minutes before trailing at the half, 43-28. In their last four games, the Celtics have faced halftime deficits of 63-41, 62-38, 51-34 and 43-28. That’s an average of deficit of 55-35.  

Part of that is injury related. Part of it is 32 percent shooting from the field. And yet another part of it is putting players in roles they may not be completely comfortable with, like Marcus Smart trying to create offense as a starter for the injured Avery Bradley when Thomas is drawing so much defensive attention.

But what Stevens said Wednesday was that he saw enough positive things from the 89-72 Game 2 loss to take hope that – even with a multitude of injuries – things are about to change. 

“I think you go into every single game with that mindset, like what do you need to do to be successful against this team,” Stevens said. “We’ve had some really good moments in those games so we have to bottle those up more often than not. But we can’t play the way we’ve played and be successful. We have to play more consistently throughout the game than we’ve played. Tactically, I felt like there were a lot of things that went well. There are some things that certainly we need to tweak. We’ll go from there but we have to play 48 minutes better than we have to have a chance.”

The Celtics have lost their last seven playoff games, dating to a Game 5 win over the Knicks at Madison Square Garden in the 2013 Eastern Conference quarterfinals. They are 0-6 in playoff games with Brad Stevens. After getting swept in 2015, Stevens says he’s looking at this season, which ended with 48 wins, as a totally different animal.

“I look at them as two totally entities, obviously. Last year was unique because we had come together with six weeks left in the year in a lot of ways, and kind of transformed on the fly,” Stevens said. “Obviously, playing a different team. Played a good Cleveland team [last year] and this year, we’ve had less change and I think we’ve shown good, steady progress throughout the time. Once again, playing a really good Atlanta team. I think the biggest thing is that we’ve got to focus on the things that have made us good throughout the regular season and given us a chance.

“Certainly, there are a lot of things that we’ve got to do better and that Atlanta is trying to not let you do. Ultimately, we’re going to have to be better at executing what we want and do it more times than not to give ourselves a chance.”

Blog Author: 
Mike Petraglia

Kelly Olynyk and his right shoulder remain a big question mark heading into Game 3 Friday night against Atlanta. 

Celtics coach Brad Stevens said during a conference call Wednesday that after meeting with head trainer Ed Lacerte, it’s questionable at this point whether the 7-footer would be able to dress up and play Friday.