He had to know it was coming.

Kevin Durant (Kyle Terada/USA Today Sports)

Kevin Durant (Kyle Terada/USA Today Sports)

He had to know it was coming.

Once Kevin Durant emerged for the shootaround at TD Garden prior to Friday night’s tilt between his Warriors and the Celtics, the questions started flying. Why the star forward has already addressed how the Celtics courted him this offseason, this would be the first time he would be coming face-to-face with the team he designated as an almost, but not quite.

“Do we really want to open this back up?” Durant said at one point during his gathering with the media. adding, “I have much respect for everybody on their team. I know AB, I know Isaiah. Marcus Smart, Jae Crowder and those guys came and we had a nice talk. They were very impressive. The city of Boston is one of the best cities in the league. I really respect how they approach the game and how they play the game.”

So, how close was he to picking the Celtics?

“I met with them, they were really good. I was really impressed by them,” the forward said. “It’s hard for me to say how close each team was. I’m not going to go into that. But they were very impressive.” And what about that presentation in the Hamptons, which included Celtics players, front office types, ownership and even Tom Brady? “It was pretty good,” he said. “I’m not going to go into depth everything they said, but it was pretty good.”

Durant comes into Friday night playing for a Warriors club that is second in the Western Conference, standing at 9-2. He is sixth in the NBA in scoring, averaging 27.7 points per game, just slightly ahead of teammate Steph Curry (27.2). The Celtics, meanwhile, are in sixth-place in the Eastern Conference at 6-5, and will head into the showdown with the Warriors without both Al Horford and Jae Crowder.

“I don’t know. I expect them to cheer on their team like they always do,” said Durant when asked about what type of reception he expected from the TD Garden crowd. Outside of that, I don’t know. I’m trying to lock in and focus on our team, our game. The fans are going to be the same, they’re going to enjoy the game. As the game goes along they’re going to boo, they’re going to cheer. It is what it is.”

Blog Author: 
Rob Bradford

Kevin Durant feels it’s time for the Celtics and their fans to just get over it. 

Kevin Durant

Kevin Durant

Kevin Durant feels it’s time for the Celtics and their fans to just get over it. 

There have been few courtships in the history of the NBA like the pursuit of Kevin Durant this past offseason. And while the Celtics locked down a solid player in the frontcourt in Al Horford, questions still remained. 

Why didn’t Durant choose Boston? Why wasn’t Tom Brady enough in the Hamptons? What went wrong? Why can’t Boston draw top free agents?

The Celtics put everything they had into Durant, who instead elected to join the force that is the Golden State Warriors. What ensued in Boston was frustration, and in Jae Crowder’s case, a few off the cuff remarks.

This Friday will mark the first time Durant faces off against the C’s as a member of the Warriors. For Durant, it was just business.

“Nah, it don’t bother me,” Durant said of Crowder’s comments to ESPN.com’s Chris Haynes. “All these guys that you ask the same questions, you know what you’re going to get from them. So you’re [asking] the same questions. Why am I going to be mad about a guy who has an opinion? I respect all these players. If they don’t respect what I did, I can’t control that.”‘

“I got nothing but love and respect for Jae Crowder and how he approaches the game and how he plays, but we disagree on me coming here,” Durant said. “That’s just how it is. It’s all good. We’re going to compete no matter what. That’s one thing — you can say a lot of stuff in the media or wherever you are, but we’re going to compete when we’re in between the lines. That doesn’t change anything.”

Durant acknowledged the logic of the frustration of the players and fans, but brings up a valid point — he never actually played in Boston, and he never said he was going to play in Boston.

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.

“What can they be mad about?” he said. “I never played there. I never said I was going there. But they’re going to support their team. It’s one of the best fan bases in the league — top-five, easily. So no matter who goes in there, they’re going to boo them. But I have no attachment to Boston at all.”

For the Celtics, they’re past the decision, happy with where they’re at now, with maybe one exception.

“Nah, I’ve been past that. Maybe for Jae, Jae still might be mad but I’m past it,” Isaiah Thomas quipped when asked about any leftover animosity towards Durant. 

He also lightheartedly added that he’s “not getting [his] hopes up” to see Durant in green this time next year if he decides to opt-out of his contract, thus utilizing his player option for year two of his contract.

The Celtics have every intent of treating Friday like any other game, but with the history between the two teams of late and the Warriors 9-2 start, even Thomas couldn’t hide that it’s going to be an intense game.

“It’s a good one,” Thomas said. “This is what you live for, this is what you want, to play against the so-called best team in the NBA. And we’ll be ready though, we’ve always been good about these games, we’ve just got to do our job, worry about what we do and protect our home court.”

Blog Author: 
Logan Mullen

Nov 16, 2016; Boston, MA, USA;  Boston Celtics guard Isaiah Thomas (4) drives to the basket past Dallas Mavericks forward Dwight Powell (7) during the second half at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

Isaiah Thomas took matters into his own hands Wednesday night. (Bob DeChiara/USA Today Sports)

Crisis averted. 

Entering the fourth quarter, Isaiah Thomas was having a rough night, finagling just eight points to that point, going 3-for-13 from the field and 1-for-3 from the foul line.

What was worse, however, was the inability for multiple players to step up. Avery Bradley did, making his presence known with an 18 point, 13 rebound double-double. But otherwise, there was not much for the Celtics to hang their hat on. 

“I was afraid that we were going to have to really gut this one out,” coach Brad Stevens said. “We definitely stagnated quite a bit.”

Thomas ultimately went off in the final frame, dropping 22 points while going 4-for-5 from the field and 12-for-13 from the foul line

Kelly Olynyk was the only other player in double figures, netting 10 points. Otherwise, offensive production was subpar. Marcus Smart was 1-for-6 from the field, off the bench Gerald Green was 1-for-4 with, while most other while most everyone else off the bench was 2-for-3 or 2-for-4.

It has all been part of the process of learning to play without Al Horford and Jae Crowder, two player who conceivably will help pick up the slack when Thomas isn’t playing well once they return healthy. But as the team figures out how to step up in the meantime, Thomas indicated he’s going to keep rising to the pressure.

“I guess I just like that quarter. Sometimes guys get a little tired and the pressure gets a little tougher for them, I guess I just like the pressure,” Thomas said.

And while the numbers may indicate it was something of a one-man show, Thomas will be the first to say it wasn’t. He found vast success off the screen, and his teammates were integral in clearing the lane for the 5-foot-9 guard. This was especially true once Mavs big man Andrew Bogut fouled out.

To get the confidence and form back, however, it started with his first few fourth-quarter free throws.

“The first three quarters I wasn’t playing too well, and for whatever reason I wasn’t myself,” Thomas said. “I had seen the ball go in with a few free throws in the fourth quarter, and then I just felt better about myself. My teammates set up screens, my coach put me in position and I just took advantage of it.”

Since coming to the Celtics, late surges have been Thomas’ calling card, bailing the C’s out of multiple jams. For players like Smart who have seen it happen in front of him during Thomas’ tenure in green, it has never gotten less impressive — even when Smart is trying to do his job on the court.

“You can’t sit back and watch, you’ve got to be ready. Because of his size sometimes he does get in there and he gets clobbered by those bigs and needs a way out to refresh himself,” Smart said. “You can’t just sit back and watch, but you do find yourself going ‘wow’ it’s amazing the things that he can do.”

Off to a 6-5 start, the Celtics have been in a bit of a rut to start the season. With ugly losses to teams like the Nuggets, Wizards and Pelicans, there has been a bit of soul-searching going on as the C’s look to find their identity.

It got to the point in a practice after the Wizards game on Nov. 9 where the Celtics were candid with themselves about the way they were playing, holding a players meeting to try and sort things out.

“It was just something, no coaches, just us,” Smart said. “We just had to look ourselves in the mirror and come to the conclusion that were the ones out there playing, we’ve got to get it together.”

Added Bradley, “We need to hold each other accountable, we weren’t playing to our ability. We’ve got some guys who are, two or three guys playing hard on the defensive end, but the other three weren’t and we needed everyone plying hard consistently as a team.”

The Celtics will get a true test on Friday, squaring off against a 9-2 Warriors team that the Celtics have always shown good fight against. And whatever Thomas is called upon to do Friday and beyond, he’s ready to answer.

“I work too hard not to take advantage of the opportunity that I’m given, so I’m ready for whatever Brad and this team and this organization throws at me, and I’ve always wanted to be in this position,” Thomas said. 

Blog Author: 
Logan Mullen

Isaiah Thomas saved his very best for last Wednesday.

The Celtics superstar guard scored 22 of his game-high 30 points in the fourth quarter to lead the Celtics to 90-83 win over a pesky Mavericks team at TD Garden. 

Nov 16, 2016; Boston, MA, USA;  Dallas Mavericks guard Wesley Matthews (23) looks to pass the ball defended by Boston Celtics guard Avery Bradley (0) during the first half at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

Avery Bradley goes up for the block on Dallas guard Wesley Matthews (23) Wednesday at TD Garden. (Bob DeChiara/USA Today Sports)

After dropping their most recent decision to a team off to an underwhelming start, the Celtics didn’t have much room to falter against a Mavericks team entering the game 2-7. The C’s bent but didn’t totally break, sidling past the Mavs 90-83.

Avery Bradley put up a double-double, dropping 18 points while setting a career-high in rebounds as he grabbed 13 boards. 

Isaiah Thomas got off to a slow start, but catching fire when it mattered in the fourth quarter. He entered the final frame with eight points, he dropped 22 points in the quarter. Up until then, his quiet production was nearly palpable given the lack of a support system with the exception of Bradley.

Early on, it didn’t take the Celtics long to find their stride, jumping to an 11-3 run to start the game. Oftentimes it felt as though the Celtics were running away with the game, but the Mavs stayed within an arms reach most of the night. For the most part, they stayed within 8-12 points, but they made a surge in the fourth quarter to take a lead with 6:43 left, keeping things close for the remainder of the game. They traded chances with the Celtics, but were never able to create enough of a lead to totally fend the C’s off.

The low-scoring final tally, while far from a positive on the offensive end, was at least a modest hope for a team struggling to keep opposing point totals low. Harrison Barnes and Wesley Matthews dropped 28 and 22 points, respectively for the Mavs, but the Celtics otherwise kept point production low and contained. As a result, there was a noticeable lack of offense when either one was on the bench.

The timing of the win couldn’t have been better for the Celtics. After a poor effort on Monday, and a tilt against the Warriors on deck Friday, Wednesday served as a fine enough confidence booster as well as tune up for a Warriors team off to a hot start.

The win also marked the end of a long winless streak for the Celtics against the Mavs. The C’s dropped the last six decisions against Dallas, with their previous win coming on Dec. 12, 2012.

For a complete box score, click here.

Stud of the night: Fourth Quarter Isaiah Thomas

Thomas was slow the first three periods, and the Celtics were starting to struggle because of it. Thomas then proceeded to erupt for 22 fourth quarter points, keeping the Celtics in it when they lost the lead. Conversely, he was the most integral part of the Celtics creating space between themselves and the Mavs in the final stages of the game.

Dud of the night: Andrew Bogut

Facing a Celtics team that has had its fair share of trouble on the glass through their first ten games, Bogut’s low post presence could have created some problems. Instead, he found himself in foul trouble and struggling to grab a rebounds, eventually fouling out with 5:17 to go. He ultimately snatched seven boards as he frequently swapped on and off the bench, never truly establishing rhythm.

When the game was won: Isaiah Thomas’ 3-pointer with 5:58 remaining

It was starting to look like the Celtics were on the verge of dropping another decision to a struggling team, down 70-66 with 6:15 left in the game. Thomas then stepped up and hit a 25-footer to bring the Celtics within one. From then on, the Celtics continued to create and execute chances, while finding ways to shut down the Mavs on the defensive end.

Blog Author: 
Logan Mullen

On this week’s Celtics podcast, Trags and Ben discuss the latest trade rumors for Klay Thompson, the C’s defensive woes, and why Kelly Olynyk needs to wake up.

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: 

The Celtics will continue to be without Jae Crowder and Al Horford, at least for Wednesday’s tilt against the Mavericks, as they continue to learn to play without the pair of mainstays in the lineup.

Marcus Smart

Marcus Smart

The Celtics will continue to be without Jae Crowder and Al Horford, at least for Wednesday’s tilt against the Mavericks, as they continue to learn to play without the pair of mainstays in the lineup.

Crowder is out with a left ankle sprain, while Horford continues to make his way through the NBA Concussion Protocol. And though returns could be on the horizon given the nature of the injuries, coach Brad Stevens noted he has “no clue” as to an exact timetable for either. The day-to-day nature of of the pair makes coaching decisions challenging for Stevens, but as time has gone on, he’s found a way to ease the process.

“I just kind of go through and scout, and if they’re available I’ll figure that out when the time comes. But until then I’m going unavailable in my own mind, I think that’s the best way to do it, the best way to organize you’re thoughts,” Stevens said. “If Al is able to play down the road, later in the week, we’ll throw Al right in there and I’ll adjust quickly. I think the best way is to plan without those guys, especially if they haven’t played in a while.”

Regardless of results, as of late, the Celtics have still been showing improvement with Crowder and Horford’s absence. And as exciting as those returns may be once they happen, it’s not a sure sign that the C’s will automatically experience an upswing in wins.

“I think it will still be an adjustment when we do [get everyone back] just because those guys haven’t played in a while,” Stevens said. “Until then we still have to focus on playing well, I thought we’ve made good strides the last three games. It was disappointing coming up short against New Orleans, but defensively we’ve made good strides, and we’ve had some younger players do some things they haven’t done before, so that’s a positive step moving forward.”

In the meantime, it has allowed younger players such as Marcus Smart to step up. 

“I think [Smart’s] played pretty well. And he’s always been god competiively, he’s making shots, doing a lot of tough things. He’s playing undersized almost every night that he’s on the floor, by four inches a night usually. So he’s really doing a good job.”

One thing Smart has done so far is hit shots. Not known for being a knockdown shooter by any stretch, he’s shooting 41.7 percent from the field and 35 percent from 3-point territory. Smart noted periodically throughout the offseason and into the season that he has put in quite a bit of work in improving his shot. And while that work has helped, Stevens added that his shot selection has also improved as well, allowing him to shoot higher-percentage shots.

He’ll start Wednesday night, as will Amir Johnson, Kelly Olynyk, Avery Bradley and Isaiah Thomas.

Blog Author: 
Logan Mullen