There was no more room for moral victories.

There was no more room for moral victories.

As was the case against the Golden State Warriors two weeks ago, the Celtics played inspired basketball against the Western Conference elite, only to lose their hold on the lead in the final minutes versus the Memphis Grizzlies.

Only this time the C’s made shot after shot in the waning moments to pull out a thrilling 95-92 victory they desperately needed to stay alive in the Eastern Conference playoff race. In the final 1:40, Jae Crowder made a game-tying 3-pointer; Marcus Smart converted an alley-oop-and-one to grab a one-point lead; Tyler Zeller pulled down a defensive rebound between Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph before converting a pair of free throws for a three-point advantage; and Avery Bradley sank a step-back jumper over the league’s 2013 Defensive Player of the Year to seal the deal. It was a remarkable combination of effort and execution.

The win keeps the Celtics (27-36) within striking distance of the Miami Heat (29-35) for the East’s eighth playoff seed with three games against the Orlando Magic, Indiana Pacers and Philadelphia 76ers in four nights starting Friday. On Wednesday, Bradley led five Celtics in double figures with 17 points. Jae Crowder netted 16 points and Kelly Olynyk dropped 15 while Brandon Bass and Tyler Zeller added 12 apiece.

For a complete box score, click here.

FIRST-QUARTER FEISTINESS

The Celtics have climbed their way out of the bottom of the league’s defensive ratings to the middle of the pack in recent months, allowing 103.2 points per 100 possessions for the season, but they’ve ranked among the NBA’s best in the fourth quarter in 2014-15 — holding opponents to 98.4 points per those same 100 possessions in the opening 12 minutes.

That held true against the Grizzlies, as the C’s limited a loaded Memphis frontcourt of Jeff Green, Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol to a combined two first-quarter points on 0-for-4 shooting from the field. Outside of Mike Conley, who made four of his five shots in the game’s first 9:43, the Grizzlies shot 26.7 percent in the frame. As a result, the Celtics established a 23-18 advantage and played with the lead for much of the night.

BRANDON BASS IS A BEAST

Once the Celtics shipped Rajon Rondo to Dallas, Bass and his $6.9 million expiring contract joined the list of C’s most likely to join him on a plane out of Boston. Yet, the 29-year-old continued about his business, banging the boards, dropping midrange jump shots and two-handed dunking his way into an increased role in the absences of Jared Sullinger and Kelly Olynyk. Since the All-Star break, Bass has averaged 13.5 points, 7.8 rebounds and 1.8 assists in 31 minutes a night, posing the question: Is Bass a keeper?

JEFF GREEN WITH ENVY?

He may have been wearing a different uniform, but Jeff Green looked awful familiar in blue and gold, submitting the same sort of lackadaisical performance the Garden crowd had grown accustomed to over his three seasons in Boston. After receiving a warm ovation during the starting lineup announcements, Green treated the Celtics faithful to a 1-for-5 offensive performance in the opening half of his first game against his former team. Meanwhile, the likes of Evan Turner, Jae Crowder and Jonas Jerebko out-hustled him on the other end. For the record, the Celtics started 12-23 with Green this season and entered Wednesday’s game 14-13 without him.

AVERY BRADLEY: WORTH IT?

Much was made of Bradley’s four-year, $32 million extension over the summer, but after a slow start the (still only) 24-year-old has emerged as a leader of the C’s inspired effort in recent weeks. The longest-tenured member of the Celtics, he has averaged 16.8 points, 3.9 rebounds, 2.6 assists and 2.0 steals since the arrival of fellow Tacoma, Wash., native Isaiah Thomas. With willing defenders Marcus Smart and Jae Crowder joining him in the backcourt and on the wing, he’s also returned to the sort of on-ball dominance for which he made his bones.

FOURTH-QUARTER FINISH

The absence of Thomas, who rested his sore lower back and elbow, seemed bound to catch up with the Celtics when the game got tight and baskets were harder to come by. His ability to knock down 3-pointers and get to the free-throw line has been the key to closing out games. So, without him, the C’s resorted to a closer-by-committee approach. Six different Celtics scored in the fourth quarter, including Phil Pressey, who collected five points and two assists in place of the injured Thomas. Somehow, the C’s pulled out a win against the second-best team in the Western Conference without their best player.

Blog Author: 
Ben Rohrbach

This time the Celtics showed they could take a punch.

This time the Celtics showed they could take a punch.

Isaiah Thomas scored a team-high 25 points off the bench, including 12 in the final quarter, while Brandon Bass added 14 as the Celtics closed out strong in a 100-90 road win over the Miami Heat in a critical matchup for the final two playoff spots in the Eastern Conference.

The Celtics improved to 26-36 while the Heat fell to 28-35. With Charlotte (28-34) getting blown out at home by Washington, 95-69, the Celtics now trail Charlotte and Indiana by just two games for the final two spots in the East. Miami, led by Dwyane Wade‘s 34 points, is now just a half-game ahead of Boston for ninth place.

A day after one of their key players lost his composure in a brutal loss to the lowly Orlando Magic, the Celtics enjoyed the flip side Monday night.

Heat big man Hassan Whiteside threw a elbow to the back of Kelly Olynyk late in the third quarter and was ejected, like Marcus Smart was the night before in Orlando.

The ejection was the part of a key 15-1 run by the Celtics at the end of the quarter that gave the Celtics a 73-64 lead heading into the final quarter.

Evan Turner and Henry Walker exchanged shoves with 26 seconds left in the game and both were ejected. The shoves were very mild but the officials took no chances as the game was in hand. The Celtics take two of three on the road trip and now play host to Memphis Wednesday night at TD Garden.

For a complete box score, click here.

ANOTHER GOOD START :

The Celtics raced out to a 24-19 lead after 12 minutes thanks to good defense. As was the case the night before in Orlando, the Celtics showed the ability to defend in the paint, holding the Heat to 9-of-21 shooting from the floor.

HELLO GIGI:

Gigi Datome, the player, along with Jonas Jerebko, acquired from Detroit for Tayshaun Prince at the trade deadline matched a career-high with 13 points off the Celtics bench. As the Celtics were playing back-to-back games in Florida, the bench was huge Monday night, outscoring Miami’s reserves, 59-24.

INJURY SCARE FOR ISAIAH THOMAS:

The scoring guard fell hard to the floor on a layup with 3:44 left in the game. He converted the layup and the free throw to convert the conventional three-point play and a 93-84 lead. Thomas was holding his lower back but stayed in the game as he limped up the court on defense.

JONAS GOING STRONG:

Jonas Jerebko scored nine points and grabbed six rebounds off the bench but that doesn’t tell the whole story. The forward came in and was able to give Brandon Bass and Tyler Zeller lengthy rest on the bench while providing a serviceable scoring option beyond Isaiah Thomas on the floor. Jerebko and Datome saw the majority of the time in the fourth quarter as the Celtics were closing it out.

BRANDON BASS POWERS THROUGH

No one played more Monday night for the Celtics than Brandon Bass. He played 33 minutes, scoring 14 points and grabbed nine rebounds.

Blog Author: 
Mike Petraglia

Playoff teams beat the Orlando Magic. The Celtics do not look like a playoff team.

Playoff teams beat the Orlando Magic. The Celtics do not look like a playoff team.

Favored to win, the Boston Celtics (25-36) squandered a 20-point first half lead and lost 103-98 to the Orlando Magic (21-43) Sunday night in Orlando. Victor Oladipo, who scored 70 points in his previous two games, led the Magic, scoring 15 of his 22 points in the second half. Rookie Elfrid Payton approached a triple-double, finishing the game with 19 points, 10 rebounds, and 7 assists. With Nic Vucevic on the bench with a left ankle injury, journeyman center Dwight Dedmond had a double-double, grabbing 16 rebounds while scoring 11 points.

Isaiah Thomas scored 21 points, shooting 8 of 10 from the line while also dishing out eight assists. Marcus Smart added 16, shooting 6 of 16 from the field, while Brandon Bass had a double-double, notching 19 points and 17 rebounds.

For a complete box score, click here.

DEFENSE SHINES EARLY

The Celtics played outstanding defense in the first quarter, giving up only 17 points on 6 of 21 (29%) shooting. Marcus Smart and Jae Crowder led the way, harassing Magic ball-handlers on the exterior, switching on the majority of picks, and forcing 7 turnovers. The C’€™s also did a great job of getting out in transition, turning their great defense into easy scoring opportunities.

SMALL-BALL GIVES CELTICS TROUBLE

After the Celtics scored the first six points of the second quarter to extend their lead to 20, interim head coach James Borrego put Tobias Harris in at the four. The smaller line-up opened up the floor for Elfird Peyton and Victor Oladipo, who led the Magic on a 24-7 run. The Celtics only forced 3 turnovers in the quarter and were unable to create the kind of easy opportunities they found in the first. Without a second big man, the Celtics were unable to capitalize against the shorter lineup and the half-court offense instead settled for outside jumpers.

MARCUS SMART: THE GOOD, THE BAD, AND THE UGLY.

Smart had a very nice start to the game, making scoring nine points in the first quarter. He came out very aggressive on defense, grabbing three steals. In the second and third quarters, the Eastern Conference Rookie of the Month showed that his game has room to grow. Smart’€™s aggression worked against him, as he forced a number of ill-advised passes in transition. On defense, he went for a number of steals which led to some wide open looks for the Magic.  Smart was ejected in the final minute of the game after he was called for a flagrant-two for elbowing Elfird Payton in the head while driving to the basket.

DATOME TAKES JAMES YOUNG’€™S MINUTES

Rookie James Young only played five minutes in the second quarter. He missed both his shots, and didn’€™t really make an impact. In the second half, Luigi Datome played small forward on the second unit. Datome did a bit of everything for the C’€™s, hitting open threes, throwing down a dunk, and playing great help defense. Datome finished with 10 points as well as this great block on Victor Oladipo.

BASS ON THE GLASS

Brandon Bass pulled down a career high17 rebounds, including a career high 10 on the offensive end. The King of the two-handed standing dunk added a number of impressive high-flying put-backs. Bass has played extremely well recently, averaging 13.5 points over his last ten games.

With the loss the Celtics fell 2.5 games behind the Pacers and Heat  for the eighth seed in the Eastern Conference. The C’s will play a game with huge playoff implications on Monday night against the Heat in Miami.

Blog Author: 
Sam Packard

The Celtics (25-35) defeated the Pelicans (33-29) 104-98 on Friday night.  After a close three quarters, the C’€™s pulled away in the final frame.

The Boston Celtics (25-35) defeated the New Orleans Pelicans (33-29) 104-98 Friday night.  After a close three quarters, the C’€™s pulled away in the final frame. Isaiah Thomas led the C’€™s with 27 points, while Brandon Bass and Evan Tuner added 17 and 16 points respectively.

For the second time this season the Celtics successfully contained The Brow. Although Anthony Davis had a double-double (29 points 14 rebounds), he had a limited impact in the second half. Eric Gordon (20 points), Omer Asik (10), Luke Babbit (12), and Tyreke Evans (11) also finished in double-figures.

For a complete box score click here.

ISAIAH THOMAS CONTINUES TO SHINE
Thomas had his most efficient game as a Celtic, shooting 8-13 from the field. Thomas was particularly proficient from beyond the arc; hitting 4 of his 6 three point attempts. Thomas scored 14 of his points in the fourth quarter, making three key three pointers to open the frame, which put the Celtics ahead for good. With Avery Bradley expected to miss the next two games, it will be interesting to see if Thomas cracks the starting lineup.

BAE CROWDER: SOLID STARTER
With Bradley sidelined due to a left elbow strain, Crowder joined the starting lineup. In 37 minutes, Crowder scored 11 points and grabbed 9 rebounds. Although he did not light up the box score in his latest opportunity to start, Crowder continues to play excellent defense, grabbing four steals on Friday.

WE LOVE ANTHONY DAVIS
Although he didn’€™t have his best performance, The Brow is still a joy to watch. Although he struggled to get to line, Davis still dropped 29 points and continually showed why he will soon be the best player in the game. Once he is able to consistently hit an outside jumper, he will be an unstoppable force in the NBA. Despite his somewhat underwhelming performance, WEEI still appreciates his enormous talent

KELLY OLYNYK WORKING HIS WAY BACK
After seeing limited action against the Jazz on Wednesday, tonight Olynyk played 22 minutes, scoring 8 points. Kelly struggled with his shot, going 1 for 9 from the field and, but did a nice job of getting to the line, hitting 6 of 8 from the charity stripe. Expect Olynyk to see more minutes as the Celtics continue their three-game road trip.

CELTICS PLAY TEAM DEFENSE
The Celtics held Anthony Davis to only 29 points; many of them scored during garbage time in the fourth quarter. The C’€™s did an excellent job in transition as well as on the defensive glass, grabbing 30 defensive rebounds. The Celtics also notched 8 steals, while forcing 18 turnovers.

Blog Author: 
WEEI

The Celtics backcourt just became a little less crowded.

The Celtics backcourt just became a little less crowded.

The team announced on Twitter, prior to their trip to New Orleans Thursday, that Avery Bradley did not make the trip and would be out against the Pelicans Friday night when they open a three-game road trip.

Bradley will miss the contest with a sprained left elbow, suffered Wednesday night during the first quarter of their win over the Jazz. After briefly exiting to the locker room, he returned, donned a black arm sleeve and finished with 13 points, seven rebounds and three assists. He played 36 minutes but still appeared to favor the left arm, as he did when he initially left late in the first quarter.

The Celtics announced Thursday afternoon on Twitter that Bradley did not travel to New Orleans with his team. The tweet included no word on whether he could potentially meet up with his teammates before the end of their three-game road trip.

Isaiah Thomas and Marcus Smart combined to help the Celtics set a new franchise record for fewest turnovers (3) in a game and figure to make up the slack until Bradley returns. Thomas, as he did on Wednesday, has been coming off the bench to provide a scoring spark. It’s not clear if he will continue in that role or replace Bradley in the starting lineup. Smart started the 16th game of his rookie season on Wednesday.

Blog Author: 
Mike Petraglia