It’s not something you see on a consistent level but when the Celtics front court put together the kind of production we saw against the Heat — on both ends of the floor — Boston is very difficult to beat. 

Jae Crowder

Jae Crowder

It’s not something you see on a consistent level but when the Celtics front court put together the kind of production we saw against the Heat — on both ends of the floor — Boston is very difficult to beat. 

Anchored by Jae Crowder, the Celtics front line was sensational against the Heat and made all the difference in the second half, where the C’s grabbed their first double-digit lead and eventually their 48th win of the season. After beating the Heat 112-108, the Celtics now hold the most wins in the Eastern Conference and are tied with the Cavaliers for the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference.

Crowder got it going early, knocking in mid-range jump shots and easy layups in transition. He also forced turnovers on the other end (two steals, two blocks) and his intensity was contagious. Crowder finished with 25 points on 8-of-13 attempts, including 3-of-5 from deep to go with his 6 rebounds.

With 3:53 left in the game, Crowder drained a 3-pointer to recapture the Celtics lead (102-101) and ignited the loudest roar of the night at TD Garden. From there, Thomas took care of the rest — scoring all six of the following eight points for the Celtics (108-105) and before the Heat attempted to make a final push Boston’s defense made a crucial stop that led to a loose ball foul on Goran Dragic.

Marcus Smart split the pair but on the rebound of the second attempt, Heat center Hassan Whiteside appeared to have grabbed the ball early before letting it bounce off the rim. After officials’ review, Whiteside was whistled for goaltending and the Celtics were awarded two points and a two-possession game.  

Isaiah Thomas scored a game-high 30 points but Crowder’s play, along with the rest of the starting front line, certainly stood out the most on Sunday. It complimented Thomas’ scoring and exemplified how tough the Celtics are when Crowder, Horford and Johnson are on point. 

While the Heat were trying to put the defensive clamps on him and Thomas, Amir Johnson was making himself available in the paint — where he was a perfect 5-for-5 and even cranked up one of his set shooting 3’s at the top of the key. He also made his presence felt against Miami’s big men, making defensive stops in the paint and swiped two steals. 

Meanwhile, Al Horford did the dirty work and it didn’t go unnoticed. The Celtics big man was altering shots, dishing out pretty assists and cleaning up the glass. He finished with 10 rebounds and 8 assists to go with his 7 points.

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

Celtics played catch-up throughout most of the first half before finding their offensive rhythm. After the Heat scored the most of their points in the paint and built a 15-point lead, the Celtics the took a page out of Miami’s playbook by making moves towards the basket and finishing strong. Bradley got it going after checking back in midway through the second quarter and Horford kept it going — making plays with his back towards the basket and finding his teammates down low. 

Thomas made 6-of-7 from the free-throw line and Smart picked up his defensive intensity — forcing a pair of Heat turnovers minutes before the half. By the end of the first half, the C’s only trailed by five (58-53). 

After the break, the Celtics wasted no time in erasing their deficit as they went on a 10-4 run in the opening four minutes and grabbed a 63-62 lead. But the Heat weren’t done, putting together a 13-3 run and regained the lead (95-94). However, the Celtics stuck around, played tough defense and converted shots down the stretch. 

The Celtics have now won four straight throughout their six-game home stand and eight of their last 10. C’s will host the Bucks on Wednesday before closing out their home stand on Friday against the Magic on Friday.

Blog Author: 
Josue Pavon

Not even 70 points from Suns guard Devin Booker could bring his team close to grabbing a lead — Phoenix never had a chance at winning the game — but the incredible individual performance by Phoenix’s young star is one the Celtics franchise has never seen before.

20170324_224503

(Josue Pavon/Weei.com)

Not even 70 points from Suns guard Devin Booker could bring his team close to grabbing a lead — Phoenix never had a chance at winning the game — but the incredible individual performance by Phoenix’s young star is one the Celtics franchise has never seen before.

From tip-off until the final buzzer, the Celtics dominated the lowly Suns while giving them little to no hope of closing their deficit and turned in what should have been their most lopsided victory of the season.

Boston still managed to hold onto a double-digit win — 130-120 — and improved to 47-26 on the season, still one game behind the Cavaliers for first place in the conference but Boston’s poor defense at the end of the fourth quarter propelled Booker to reach historic heights. 

Booker’s career-high 70 points marks the highest scoring performance in Suns franchise history and is the most any player has every scored against the Celtics.

However, poor defense down the stretch led the Celtics to commit silly fouls as each player took turns in trying to slow down Booker but instead were biting on his up-fakes and sending him the free-throw line. One play that stood out happened when the Celtics led by 13 points (128-115) with 42 seconds left. Isaiah Thomas jumped all over Booker when he fell for yet another pump fake and sent him to the line so that he could inch closer to 70.

Although Booker was phenomenal, hitting 21-of-40 from the floor, 24-of-26 from the charity stripe, he couldn’t have reached this milestone without help from the Celtics. He topped off the C’s with 28 fourth-quarter points, 18 in the final four minutes, including 8-of-9 from the free-throw line.

In the game’s opening seven minutes, the Celtics leaped out a 20-point lead (25-5) and spent most of the first half protecting it. Gerald Green caught fire from deep — knocking down 4-of-4 from behind the arc, including a four-point play as the Celtics took a 66-43 advantage into halftime. 

Thomas led five Celtics in double figures with 34 points, 7 assists, Al Horford finished with a double-double (15 points, 10 rebounds), Gerald Green led the bench with 15 points while Jae Crowder and Kelly Olynyk each poured in 13.

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

Alex Len and Leandro Barbosa each chipped in 11 points. They were the only other Suns players to score in double figures. 

Celtics coach Brad Stevens expressed his frustration after the game. 

“Obviously he got it going,” Stevens said. “And he’s a really good player. And I thought that no matter who we tried on him, what we tried on him, he was in one of those zones in a rhythm. He was in that rhythm early in the game, and we didn’t do a very good job of breaking that rhythm.”

Through three quarters, the Celtics maintained their 23-point lead and nearly surrendered their double-digit lead in the fourth quarter when Phoenix pulled to within 11. However, the Celtics went on a 5-0 run to extend their lead to 16 with 8:29 left before Booker undoubtedly made the game interesting but never close.

The Suns entered Friday night’s game losers of eight of their last nine game and are now on a seven-game losing streak.  The Celtics will continue their six-game home stand on Sunday when they host the Heat at TD Garden. 

Blog Author: 
Josue Pavon

Isaiah Thomas has earned superstar status. (Winslow Townson/USA Today Sports)

Isaiah Thomas wasn’t the only one doing his part. Wednesday’s win over the Pacers was a group effort (Winslow Townson/USA Today Sports)

Don’t look now but the Celtics are now in stride to top the Cavaliers for the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference. 

With 10 games left in the regular season, the C’s are trailing the champs by two games and are showing no signs of slowing down. In Wednesday night’s 109-100 win over the Pacers, all nine Celtics players played a role in taking care of home court for the second straight night. 

Isaiah Thomas (25 points, 5 assists), Avery Bradley (18 points, 8 rebounds) and Al Horford (15 points, 8 rebounds, 8 assists) all turn in typical stat lines but guys like Jae Crowder (15 points, game-high plus-16), Kelly Olynyk (11 points, 8 rebounds, plus-12) and Tyler Zeller (6 points, plus-8) came up big in the second half and helped push the Celtics to a whopping 39-point third quarter that pushed Boston’s lead to 17 — their biggest one of the night.

Paul George (37 points) and Jeff Teague combined for 42 points to lead the Pacers but the Celtics’ intensity in the second disallowed their opponent to regain their first-quarter lead. 

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

The Celtics offense tightened things up in the second half, taking care of the basketball and flawlessly moved the ball around for easy layups and open shots. It seemed like every player did their part in either rebounding, finding an open guy or making a defensive stop. 

The team’s second unit made their presence felt in the first half. The Pacers’ back court duo of Monta Ellis and Aaron Brooks found their outside touch but so did Marcus Smart — who drained two back-to-back 3-pointers in the second quarter — and Jaylen Brown took advantage of his size over 6-foot-3 Ellis. 

After the starters checked in, Crowder and Thomas knocked in a pair of 3’s to top off a 10-2 run and gave the C’s a seven-point lead (44-37) in the winding minutes of the first half. George’s 14 first-half points certainly kept the Pacers within striking distance. but the Celtics still managed to pull away in the third quarter — where they grabbed their first double-digit lead of the night (65-54) with 6:38 left. 

Zeller played “the enforcer” role for the Celtics — setting tough screens, defending down low and finishing strong in the paint. Crowder found his offensive stride by making backdoor cuts and Olynyk was aggressive whether it meant pulling down boards, putting the ball on the floor or dishing out assists. The C’s tacked on 39 third-quarter points but unlike the first 24 minutes, George’s 14 points (28 points through three quarters) only closed Indiana’s deficit to 14 as Boston took an 88-74 lead into the final frame. 

Through three quarters, the Celtics shot 55.4 percent from the floor, including 10-of-21 from deep. 

The Celtics will have to wait two weeks before they can face the Cavaliers in their fourth and final meeting but will look to take advantage of some more home cooking as they continue their six-game home stand on Friday against the Suns. 

Blog Author: 
Josue Pavon

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