I’ve said this too many times to count: Marcus Smart will never make an NBA All-Star team.

I’ve said this too many times to count: Marcus Smart will never make an NBA All-Star team.

This used to rile people up, and fill up the phone lines, with Celtics’ diehards hanging their hopes on Smart for the next foundation piece. After all, he was taken at No. 6 overall in the 2014 draft, and has shown enough to make it seem like a sustained run of excellence might be in there.

And then there was that tweet from Bill Simmons …

Ugh.

Smart is never going to come close to being Westbrook, and he also isn’t going to make an All-Star team. But, you know what? That’s OK. And that’s something anybody who watched the Celtics’ Christmas Day, 119-114 win over the Knicks at Madison Square Garden should agree with.

(Click here for a complete recap of the Celtics’ win.)

Smart did his usual thing in playing 28 minutes, managing a plus-18 while totaling 15 points and seven assists. This time, however, he added in the game’s pivotal shot, breaking a 112-112 tie with 48 seconds left with a 3-pointer as the shot clock was winding down.

ESPN announcer Doug Collins immediately offered a great comparison when trying to describe Smart’s vibe: there’s a little Dennis Johnson in there, making you forget all the bad when the good counts the most.

The knocks on Smart haven’t really subsided, starting with his critics’ issues involving the guard’s shooting. This was a player who, last season, had the lowest 3-point percentage (25 percent) of any NBA player in history taking as many treys as he did. It hasn’t gotten much better this time around, with Smart shooting three’s at 27 percent with a field goal percentage right at his career average (35.7 percent).

Still, if you’ve watched the Celtics’ last few games it is easy to uncover the key plays Smart has made when the game has been on the line, and we’re not just talking jumpers. Rebounds. Taking offensive fouls. Steals.

Sunday only reaffirmed what the Celtics’ coaching staff, and chief decision-maker Danny Ainge, think of Smart. They love him. They think he will be part a key part of a winning team, which is exactly what the Celtics are right now, residing only behind the Cavaliers and Raptors in the Eastern Conference.

But the question is will be if Smart can be that complementary piece on a team that will be talented enough to overtake those Eastern Conference big wigs? Will the Celtics have to trade him to get that much-needed foundation piece? Or will the Celts end up being not quite good enough because they prioritize keeping Smart?

For now, the Celtics will see how good they can be with a top five of Isaiah Thomas, Al Horford, Avery Bradley, Jae Crowder and Smart, all of whom (along with Kelly Olynyk) finished in double-figures.

Threes like the one Smart hit against the Knicks are just a bonus. This is a player you should like. Just don’t expect too much.

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Blog Author: 
Rob Bradford

Russell Westbrook. Kevin Durant. You can’t go wrong. Let’s get that out of the way.

But while so many lusted after the idea of Durant being wooed by Tom Brady and the Celtics in the Hamptons last summer, the eyes should have been on another prize, his Oklahoma City teammate.

This was a fact that Westbrook helped crystalize Friday night at TD Garden.

Russell Westbrook torched the Celtics for 45 points Friday night (Bob DeChiara/USA Today Sports)

Russell Westbrook torched the Celtics for 45 points Friday night (Bob DeChiara/USA Today Sports)

Russell Westbrook. Kevin Durant. You can’t go wrong. Let’s get that out of the way.

But while so many lusted after the idea of Durant being wooed by Tom Brady and the Celtics in the Hamptons last summer, the eyes should have been on another prize, his Oklahoma City teammate.

This was a fact that Westbrook helped crystalize Friday night at TD Garden.

The Thunder made sure they didn’t get in the predicament the organization found themselves with Durant, locking up Westbrook to a three-year, $85 million extension that wouldn’t allow him to become a free agent until after the 2018-19 season. For Celtics’ fans it elicited another offseason sad trombone. Within a month, Durant and Westbrook had dashed the C’s dreams of reeling in one of the two to serve as the foundation for the team which would ultimately overtake LeBron James and the rest of the NBA.

But even with the prospect of getting one of the stars in green dashed, the debate regarding which one should have been prioritized lingered. The consensus was Durant would be the better acquisition. The consensus might be changing their mind.

Westbrook virtually singled-handedly beat the Celtics, 117-112, in their most recent meeting, notching his 14th triple-double of the season with 45 points, 11 assists and 11 rebounds. And all of that after not making his first basket until four minutes into the second quarter.

(To read a complete recap of the Celtics’ loss to the Thunder, click here.)

The guard now has 133 points in his last four games, and finds himself leading the NBA in scoring at 31.8 points per game. Westbrook also averages the second-most assists per contest (10.8), currently serving as the active leader in career triple-doubles (51), totaling six more than LeBron.

Right now, he is simply the one guy you would take over everyone else with the game on the line, which the Celtics found out the hard way.

It’s not like Durant is having a bad season. He is averaging 25.9 points per game, playing a major role in Golden State’s 27-4 start. But all things considered — including what would be the perfect fit for these Celtics — Westbrook should have always headlined the C’s wish-list.

“We’ve got really good defenders on him and he made great plays,” Celtics coach Brad Stevens said of Westbrook. “I don’t know what to say other than ‘Hats off to him’ for plays he made.”

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Blog Author: 
Rob Bradford

The Pacers wore their “Hoosiers” Hickory High throwback uniforms for Thursday’s game, but there was no Hollywood ending for the home team as Isaiah Thomas continued his fantastic play in leading the Celtics to a 109-102 win.

Paul George is defended by Avery Bradley during Thursday's game in Indianapolis. (Brian Spurlock/USA Today Sports)

Paul George is defended by Avery Bradley during Thursday’s game in Indianapolis. (Brian Spurlock/USA Today Sports)

The Pacers wore their “Hoosiers” Hickory High throwback uniforms for Thursday’s game, but there was no Hollywood ending for the home team as Isaiah Thomas continued his fantastic play in leading the Celtics to a 109-102 win.

The Celtics dug out of an early nine-point hole with a 29-9 second quarter, built a 17-point lead in the third quarter, then held on behind Thomas’ clutch shooting to post their fourth straight win — completing a 3-0 road trip in the process.

Thomas scored 14 of his 28 points in the fourth quarter. He also dished out nine assists, helping Boston to have a balanced attack. The C’s had six players in double figures, including Avery Bradley (15 points), Jae Crowder (15), Marcus Smart (12), Amir Johnson (11) and Kelly Olynyk (11). Al Horford had eight points and 11 rebounds.

Jeff Teague led the Pacers with 31 points — shooting 9-of-15 from the field and 11-of-11 from the line — and eight assists. C.J. Miles and Paul George each scored 19, while Thaddeus Young had 15 points and 11 rebounds.

Stud of the night: Isaiah Thomas

The guard continues to be something special, hitting big basket after big basket down the stretch of this one.

When the game was won: On Thomas’ 3-pointer with 2:19 remaining

With 2:19 left, after Horford grabbed an offensive rebound, the Celtics moved the ball around and eventually found Thomas open at the 3-point line. His trey gave the C’s an eight-point lead. The Pacers made a late run to close within three but never had the ball with a chance to tie or take the lead.

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: 
Jerry Spar

The Celtics’ first truly impressive win of the season was a long time coming, but they made it a memorable one.

The C’s battled back from a 17-point deficit against a strong (and hot) Grizzlies team in Memphis and pulled out a 112-109 win in overtime behind a career-high 44 points from Isaiah Thomas.

Isaiah Thomas (4), Al Horford and Jaw Crowder battle Memphis center Marc Gasol for a loose ball during Tuesday's game. (Nelson Chenault/USA Today Sports)

Isaiah Thomas (from left), Al Horford and Jae Crowder battle Grizzlies center Marc Gasol for a loose ball during Tuesday’s game in Memphis. (Nelson Chenault/USA Today Sports)

The Celtics’ first truly impressive win of the season was a long time coming, but they made it a memorable one.

The C’s battled back from a 17-point deficit against a strong (and hot) Grizzlies team in Memphis and pulled out a 112-109 win in overtime behind a career-high 44 points from Isaiah Thomas.

Thomas hit 10-of-16 field goals (7-of-10 from behind the arc) and 17-of-17 free throws. He only had eight points in the first half but exploded for 29 in the second half and seven more in the extra session.

“I’m a killer,” he told CSNNE’s Kyle Draper right after the win. “I’m a killer. My team needed me to score. My team needed me to made plays. They got me open. Coach put me in position to be successful and I just took it from there.”

The win was the first for the C’s over a team with a winning percentage of at least .600 this season.

“It’s big, but it’s not just about that,” Thomas said. “It’s just about how we got the win. They were punking us in the first half and a little bit during the third quarter, and we just put our head down and said, ‘This is ours.’ And we took what we thought was ours. This might turn this season around for real.”

Al Horford also had a big game, recording 17 points and 14 rebounds, and he had a big basket late in overtime.

Thomas put the Celtics in front by a point, 107-106, when he hit two free throws with 1:08 remaining.

After Grizzlies guard Troy Daniels missed a 3-pointer, Horford posted up Martin and put the ball in off the glass for a three-point cushion with 30 seconds left.

Mike Conley, who hit some big shots late in the fourth quarter, then drove on Avery Bradley (who had five fouls) but lost his balance and came up empty. Amir Johnson grabbed the rebound, was fouled and hit the second of two from the line for a four-point lead with 14.4 seconds left.

With 7.8 seconds remaining Conley was fouled while shooting a runner with his toe on the edge of the 3-point line. He made 1-of-2 free throws.

A second later, Thomas hit two more free throws for a five-point lead. JaMychal Green finished the scoring with an uncontested layup with two seconds left.

The Celtics trailed by 14 points at the half, 45-31. The C’s then doubled their total in the third quarter, finally putting together a big run — a 14-1 spurt late in the period that got them within four points at 64-60. However, Vince Carter hit a late 3-pointer as Memphis pushed the lead back to nine by the end of the period.

The Celtics fought back, though, and had a chance to win at the end of regulation when they inbounded with nine-tenths of a second left. Kelly Olynyk, inbounding from in front of the scorer’s table past halfcourt, lobbed it into Horford under the basket and he had a chance when Tony Allen (who switched) fell down, but Horford caught the ball at his stomach while jumping up and his attempt to lay it in hit the rim. He tipped in the follow but it was after the buzzer.

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: 
Jerry Spar
WEEI.com's Mike Petraglia and Ben Kichen of the 'Dale and Holley Show' talk about Isaiah Thomas' flagrant foul against the Heat, and also discuss why it's time for the Celtics to address their biggest need.

[0:00:39] ... get right to it. They as news of the week it involved Isiah Thomas and justice Winslow on Sunday night with a about just about three minutes ago. Isiah Thomas threw right elbow is Winslow was closing out on defense out on the three point line and gave Winslow a very nasty gash. He was thrown out of the game a flagrant two foul called on Isiah Thomas. For the elbow when he had the ball up above his head. And Isiah Thomas couldn't believe it happened right in front of the celtics' bench Brad Stevens could not believe it. And the news on Tuesday. Just moments before we started taping this will hold them let's be honest doesn't go full disclosure and a bit but you're you're interrupting my eagle ray hello I'm sorry go ahead. The NBA has downgraded it from a a flagrant two to a flagrant one and that affects. Isiah Thomas going forward they did that for bookkeeping purposes so he doesn't get penalized going forward for this. But it certainly can't go back and change timing go back in time and and you know. Fortunately the Celtics were able to hold on and win that game they lost that game because he was out and it was a close ball game and Marcus Morris had to fill in for Isiah Thomas at the end. Boy with the Celtics have been yes yes they would have gone screwed I mean it's still kind of ...
[0:03:31] ... was he. That there was clearly no malice on the part of Isiah Thomas to injure. Justice Winslow agreed agreed I generally even Winslow admitted this after the game and he wasn't trying to hurt me ...
[0:07:22] ... why this game in Miami was so important and why losing like Isiah Thomas. Could've really been a much more controversial. Happening. Had. The Celtics won the game absolutely absolutely. There's so many other things we ...
[0:08:30] ... what they meaning the physical guy who can. Around on the inside. Amir Johnson and by as the physical force. Underneath the you know and here is your back up for isn't. He had or rebounds ...






Dec 18, 2016; Miami, FL, USA; Boston Celtics guard Isaiah Thomas (center) talks with NBA referee Tony Brothers during the second half against the Miami Heat at American Airlines Arena. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

Isaiah Thomas pleads his case to official Tony Brothers as he receives an automatic ejection for an elbow to the face of Justise Winslow. (Steve Mitchell/USA Today Sports)

The NBA agrees with Isaiah Thomas. His elbow of Justise Winslow late in the game Sunday night did not warrant the Flagrant-2 penalty he received that came with an automatic ejection from the game.

The league announced on Tuesday that they have officially downgraded his foul of Winslow to a Flagrant-1.

With three minutes remaining and the Celtics leading 97-85, Winslow went to close out defensively on Thomas beyond the 3-point arc on the right wing. As he was getting in his face, Thomas swung his arms with the ball above his head. His right elbow made contact with the right side of Winslow’s face, causing a gash and a blood to flow down his cheek.

The officials reviewed the play, and in combination with nasty-looking injury, decided that a flagrant-2 was in order. 

After the game, Winslow agreed with Thomas that there was no intent to injure on the play. 

But still, Thomas was ejected and the Heat closed to within four points, 97-93, before the Celtics pulled away in the closing minute for a 105-95 win.

“They did as they should,” Thomas told reporters of Tuesday’s news at a shootaround before the game in Memphis. “I didn’t do anything intentional. I did a regular basketball move.”

Additionally, Thomas will not be fined for the play from Sunday after Tuesday’s action by the league.

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