Isaiah Thomas

Isaiah Thomas

With 10:14 remaining in a playoff game the Celtics trailed by 29 points, Celtics guard Isaiah Thomas landed awkwardly on his left ankle, suffering a mild ankle sprain.

“With this team, I’ve seen just enough crazy stuff to think that we might be able to get back in it and give them a chance from 12 [minutes] to nine or eight, just to see if it could happen,” Celtics coach Brad Stevens after the Game 5 loss. “He had a sub at the table when it happened, so I know that’s quite a task and quite a mountain to overcome, but we’ve all seen this team do some pretty crazy things when they’re down.”

Except, it was clear the Celtics were gassed from the second quarter on — Thomas in particular. The All-Star point guard was scoreless at the half and finished with a season-low seven points on 12 shots, not returning after the injury. We can debate whether Thomas should’ve been in the game, but what’s done is done entering Game 6.

Asked if Thomas would be ready for Game 6, Stevens added, “I’m not qualified to answer that question,” but with the season on the line in Boston on Thursday night, it’s hard to imagine Thomas won’t give it a go, even on a bum ankle. He told reporters he merely tweaked his ankle and would be playing Thursday, come hell or high water.

The question is how effective he’ll be. The C’s got a taste of what their offense may look like sans Thomas at full strength in Game 5, and the reviews came back with zero stars.

Blog Author: 
Ben Rohrbach

A promising night turned into a disaster for the Celtics. 

Kent Bazemore keyed a 26-6 run in the first half to turn a 10-point Celtic lead into a 10-point Atlanta advantage. Then the Hawks caught fire in the third quarter, using an 18-1 run to blow Game 5 wide open en route to a 110-83 rout of the Celtics at Philips Arena Tuesday and a 3-2 series lead. 

Celtics guard Evan Turner (11) is defended by Atlanta Hawks forward Kent Bazemore (24) in the second quarter in game five of the first round of the NBA Playoffs at Philips Arena. Mandatory Credit: Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

Celtics guard Evan Turner (11) is defended by Atlanta Hawks forward Kent Bazemore (24) in the second quarter in Game 5 Tuesday. (Brett Davis/USA Today Sports)

A promising night turned into a disaster for the Celtics. 

Kent Bazemore keyed a 26-6 run in the first half to turn a 10-point Celtic lead into a 10-point Atlanta advantage. Then the Hawks caught fire in the third quarter, using an 18-1 run to blow Game 5 wide open en route to a 110-83 rout of the Celtics at Philips Arena Tuesday and a 3-2 series lead. 

Isaiah Thomas had one of the worst nights in a Celtics uniform, going scoreless in the first half and finishing with just seven points on 3-of-12 shooting before leaving with what the team called a “mild” left ankle sprain with 10 minutes left in the game. 

With Paul Millsap in check at 10 points, Mike Scott came off the bench to lead Atlanta with 17. Bazemore and Jeff Teague had 16 for the Hawks, who went 14-of-36 from 3-point range. 

The Celtics started off nearly as cold in Game 5 as they did their last game in Atlanta. But unlike Game 2, they didn’t fall behind 21 in the first six minutes. They did open the game 2-for-10 but Marcus Smart continued his 3-point rhythm from Game 4, knocking down a pair of threes in the opening quarter. The two teams combined to miss 18 of their first 22 shots.

The Celtics used a three from Jae Crowder with 31.1 seconds left in the first quarter to reclaim the lead. Terry Rozier hit a circus bank shot on a drive to the basket to give Boston a 20-15 lead after one quarter. 

Al Horford (0-for-8) and Paul Millsap (0-for-4) combined to miss their first 12 shots of the game before a layup by Millsap with six minutes left in the second quarter. The Celtics built a 29-19 lead on the ice cold shooting of the Hawks.

Then the game turned suddenly and dramatically on a 26-6 Hawks run, sparked by Bazemore, who drilled three 3-pointers in the surge. Mike Scott gave Atlanta a 32-30 lead on a turnaround with 3:40 left in the second quarter. The Celtics quickly regained the lead but the Hawks answered with 16 of the next 18 points for a 45-35 lead. The Hawks were not threatened the rest of the way and led 47-39 at the half. 

Bazemore was 5-of-10 from the field and 4-of-7 from deep in the first half and single-handedly turned the momentum of the game for the Hawks. Atlanta was kept in the game by Boston relying too heavily on the three. They missed 14 of their 18 tries from beyond the arc. 

Isaiah Thomas, as he was at Golden State on April 1, was scoreless in the first half, missing all four shots in 18 minutes. He missed a floater to start the second half. But his second floater of the half fell just over a minute later for his first basket. It started a 7-0 Boston run to cut the Atlanta lead to five, 53-48. The Celtics kept it within range at 66-57. Then the bottom fell out. 

The Hawks exploded on an 18-1 run to open an 84-58 lead as the Celtics looked tired and discouraged on defense. The Hawks made five of their first 10 3-point attempts in the third to blow game open. The Celtics went on a field goal drought of over five minutes before a Crowder three with 48 seconds to go in the third. 

Adding to Boston’s epically bad night was the sight of Thomas limping and heading directly to the locker room with just over 10 minutes left in the game. He landed awkwardly on his left foot on a drive to the lane, landing on his left foot and then turning the ankle. 

The Celtics will try to regroup and extend the series to a seventh game when they play Game 6 Thursday back in Boston. The game is set for an 8 p.m. start at TD Garden. 

For a compete box score, click here. To go beyond the box, read on. 

STUD OF THE NIGHT: Jared Sullinger 

If there’s something they can carry into Game 6 Thursday, it’s the way Sullinger ran the floor and played hard on both ends, making it tough on Al Horford and Paul Millsap. He had 10 points and three rebounds on the night. 

DUD OF THE NIGHT: Isaiah Thomas

Hasn’t happened much this season but their leading scorer couldn’t carry the load in Game 5. Even before his ankle injury, Thomas struggled badly to get his shot and when he did, it was with no success. 

 

VIDEO OF THE NIGHT

Blog Author: 
Mike Petraglia
Live Blog Celtics-Hawks Game 5 LIVE
 

Blog Author: 
WEEI

Celtics fans believe they have the best coach in the NBA prowling their sidelines. The Coach of the Year voters strongly disagree.

Fresh off a season that saw him take the Celtics to the fifth seed in the Eastern Conference, as well as a seven-win improvement over last year, C’s coach Brad Stevens finished a surprising sixth in the NBA Coach of the Year voting on Tuesday.

Brad Stevens

Brad Stevens

Celtics fans believe they have the best coach in the NBA prowling their sidelines. The Coach of the Year voters strongly disagree.

Fresh off a season that saw him take the Celtics to the fifth seed in the Eastern Conference, as well as a seven-win improvement over last year, C’s coach Brad Stevens finished a surprising sixth in the NBA Coach of the Year voting on Tuesday.

Golden State’s Steve Kerr won the award despite missing the first 43 games of the season with a back injury (Luke Walton, the fill-in who went 39-4 in his absence, earned five points). Kerr’s win was no surprise, given Golden State’s rec0rd-breaking 73-win season.

Kerr earned 64 first-place votes and 381 points, outdistancing second-place finisher Terry Stotts of the Blazers, who overcame the loss of free agent big man LaMarcus Aldridge to lead Portland to 44 wins and the fifth seed in the Western Conference.

Stevens earned five first-place votes and 74 points, finishing behind San Antonio’s Gregg Popovich (166), Charlotte’s Steve Clifford (98), and Toronto’s Dwane Casey (83) as well in the balloting of 130 broadcasters and journalists.

Blog Author: 
WEEI
Live Blog Mike Petraglia LIVE chat Celtics-Hawks Game 5 preview
 

WEEI’s Celtics writer and columnist Mike Petraglia will field your questions and comments and help break down everything Celtics-Hawks related for Game 5 Tuesday night in Atlanta. Join him on the WEEI Green Street live chat at noon. 

Blog Author: 
WEEI
The boys recap Marcus Smart and Paul Millsap's incredible battle in the Celtics' Game 4 win over the Atlanta Hawks with ESPN's Chris Forsberg. Jared Weiss and Sam Packard discussed Jared Sullinger's struggles and the reemergence of Machine Bun Kelly. They discuss inside media stuff like when to applaud for honorees and Chris' devotion to southern unsweetened tea. Of course they answered your #WEEICeltics Tweet Bag questions too.

[0:03:46] ... expect it in a way you don't expect and going up against Paul Millsap for the last fourteen minutes of the game holding him to one for five shooting while it's guarding him. It's it's incredible ...
[0:05:20] ... Smart tries to strip them gets flush contact with the ball. But Paul Millsap was in the right from the Bill Belichick leader and he knows he can't fumble that situation girls -- to knock him ...
[0:06:21] ... that was a little bit tired so I know he got a great performance. What were very quick to anoint him the markets market and I know I called it dead on our way and I ...
[0:12:45] ... The thing for the Celtics is that their offense. Existed outside of Isiah Thomas scored forty points. And a lot of people contributed and Jae Crowder actually made of the first couple shots and his team. ...






Celtics mascot Lucky runs with a banner during the second half in game four of the first round of the NBA Playoffs against the Atlanta Hawks at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

Celtics mascot Lucky runs with a banner during the second half in Game 4 of the first round of the NBA Playoffs against the Hawks at TD Garden. (Bob DeChiara/USA Today Sports)

If only the Celtics could bottle up the electric, deafening atmosphere from TD Garden and bring all the Celtics fans with them for Game 5, leaning on them like they did in the 104-95 overtime win Sunday.

“I think it’s less about where it is and more about how you play,” the always calm and cool Brad Stevens said Monday. “At the same time, I certainly haven’t been in many playoff environments like the last two games. It was incredible.”

There will no doubt be noise inside Philips Arena for the pivotal swing game in the series but it won’t be nearly as intense as what the Hawks experienced in Games 3 and 4. 

As a matter of fact, when the series opened in Atlanta on April 16, there were hundreds of empty seats with neon yellow shirts on them. The Hawks attempted to hide the fact that Atlanta, a notoriously passive sports town, wasn’t fully behind their NBA team in the first round of the playoffs. 

The Hawks managed to hold serve at home with wins in the first two games. 

When the series shifted to Boston last Friday, the decibel level went through the roof. The Celtics responded with a 37-20 quarter right out of the chute. They held on for a 111-103 win. The crowd rewarded that with an even crazier atmosphere in Game 4, when Patriots owner Robert Kraft, coach Bill Belichick and players Rob Gronkowski and LeGarrette Blount showed up.

The Hawks may not have noticed the Patriotic impact but they sure heard it. When Isaiah Thomas drained a three from the right baseline in in front of Belichick in the final minute of overtime, the Garden was literally shaking. 

“Oh yeah, they have a great crowd and they really fed off of it,” Kyle Korver said. “When your crowd’s screaming behind you, the basket seems bigger and there’s a lot more adrenaline, and they played really well here. Give them credit.” 

Philips Arena isn’t considered one of the more intimidating environments in the NBA. Will that change in Game 5? 

“I think that it’s a good situation, we going back home and our fans will be into it, our energy level will be great,” Paul Millsap said after scoring 45 points in Atlanta’s Game 4 loss. “So, it sucks we didn’t get a game on this road trip, but we still got three games to get 2 and we feel confident about it, especially going back home.”

“I think that obviously there’s great challenges playing wherever you’re playing but you know, when you’re playing on the road, you’ve got to do a great job of just staying in the moment and focusing on the task at hand,” Stevens said Monday. “But I think you’ve got to do that at home, too. You can easily get distracted or too comfortable when you’re at home. We had our moments where we had some real slippage in the last two games, mostly due to how Atlanta was really beating us up and the way they were playing.”

Stevens is more concerned about the Celtics not falling behind 24-3, like they did in the first six minutes of Game 2. He also wants to make sure his team doesn’t get manhandled by the bigger Hawks like they did at times in Games 3 and 4 when the Hawks were making runs. 

“They were doing a great job spreading us and moving us and isolating us and getting the matchups they wanted and everything else, and that had a lot more to do with it,” Stevens said. 

Of course, if the Celtics can take care of business in Game 5, they will have the chance to give Celtics fans a chance to watch a clincher on Thursday in Game 6 back at the Garden. 

Blog Author: 
Mike Petraglia

Apr 24, 2016; Boston, MA, USA; Atlanta Hawks forward Paul Millsap (4) shoots the ball over Boston Celtics guard Marcus Smart (36) during the second half in game four of the first round of the NBA Playoffs at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

Hawks forward Paul Millsap (4) shoots the ball over Marcus Smart (36) during the second half in game four of the first round of the NBA Playoffs at TD Garden. (Bob DeChiara/USA TODAY Sports)

Who will step up for Atlanta in Game 5?

That has to be the question Brad Stevens is asking himself and his staff as they prepare for a critical swing game in the first-round series. After going 1-for-10 and missing all seven from long range in Game 1, Kyle Korver hit on 5-of-7 from deep and 6-of-9 overall in Atlanta’s 89-72 win in Game 2. 

Paul Millsap went 1-for-12 in Game 2 and 3-for-9 in Game 3 before coming to life for 45 points on 19-of-31 shooting on Sunday. Korver was back down to 3-for-11 on Sunday while a dinged up Al Horford was 2-for-8 and Jeff Teague was 4-for-18 so there’s plenty to choose from. 

“Well, one of the things about great players in this league is, when they have a tough game the game before they usually come out with a great hunger and we saw that from Korver in Game 2. You saw that from Millsap in Game 4,” Stevens said Monday. “I think that that’s just kinda the way that this league goes. And even during the game, that was a really hard call with Millsap because, the one thing that you don’t want to do is get those other guys going.”

And that is the biggest factor Stevens has to weigh when considering how to use Marcus Smart, Evan Turner, Jae Crowder and Amir Johnson in Game 5. 

“If you put too much emphasis on doubling the post or rotating or whatever the case may be, now [Kent] Bazemore gets a wide-open three in the corner or a layup on a cut, or Teague hits an open three, Korver gets an open three,” Stevens added. “Those are bad things as well. It’s a tough call in the heat of the moment, you just kind of go with what you’re feeling at that moment, go with what you’re seeing. Then go with any numbers that might back up your decision.”

Kelly Olynyk might play more in Game 5, or he might not. The Celtics 7-footer played just three minutes in the first half of Sunday’s game and missed the only shot he took, a misfire that was way right of its mark. Olynyk was available for the first time since Game 1 when he re-aggravated his reportedly separated right shoulder. 

“Time will tell. I think that we’ll see. I think the bottom line is — we aren’t in a position where if a guy has rust, that you’re going to be able to play much, obviously,” Stevens said.” But if he feels really good and is playing really well then his minutes will certainly expand in that moment. I just felt like, the way that we had played the game before and the fact that he hadn’t played in a week, it was probably better to go with the other guys. We’ll see how he looks tomorrow in shootaround, we’ll see how he goes through it. But we trust him. He’s had a lot of great moments this year and he does give us the spacing that we need against these guys.”

What will be the biggest key Tuesday? 

“I wouldn’t recommend 24-3 again. Just generally, I think that would be a bad thing. Bottom line is that you have to do that in every game. And I guess in every game you could make it a major emphasis, whatever the case may be. But this is the playoffs. You play 80-plus games – if intensity or hard play is an issue then you’re in trouble and you don’t really need to go over anything else.

“And we’ve talked about that. We’ve talked about it. But we don’t talk about it every minute of every day because it has to be a non-negotiable. That has to happen in order for us to execute because there’s no game plan that’s going to make up for that. And so again, I didn’t think we played necessarily with a lack of effort in Game 2. I thought we didn’t play well in the first five minutes and then we were fighting and swimming uphill, and that was bad. They certainly played at a different pace than we did in Game 2 at the start. That can’t happen again.”

Blog Author: 
Mike Petraglia