The Celtics looked poised to run away with Saturday night’s game early. It didn’t happen, as the Bucks clawed back in the second half.

Then in overtime the C’s scored the first six points and appeared ready to break the Bucks. Again, no such luck.

Kelly Olynyk puts home a reverse dunk during Saturday's victory over the Bucks. (Benny Sieu/USA Today Sports)

Kelly Olynyk puts home a reverse dunk during Saturday’s victory over the Bucks. (Benny Sieu/USA Today Sports)

The Celtics looked poised to run away with Saturday night’s game early. It didn’t happen, as the Bucks clawed back in the second half.

Then in overtime the C’s scored the first six points and appeared ready to break the Bucks. Again, no such luck.

This one was going to take some heart and some defense, and the Celtics managed to come up with both, taking a 112-108 victory in Milwaukee that moved Boston into a tie for the Atlantic Division lead with the Raptors at 29-18.

Playing without starters Al Horford (groin) and Avery Bradley (Achilles) — and playing in Wisconsin one night after routing the Magic in Boston — the Celtics found a way to pull out the win after squandering a 16-point lead.

“Coming here without Al and without Avery — they’re on the second night of a back-to-back, too, that’s just the way the scheduled worked itself out,” C’s coach Brad Stevens said in his postgame press conference. “As we said when we got beat a couple of times when teams were coming off back-to-back and we had rest, some of that stuff’s unpredictable. You just play as hard as you can and as well as you can. Hopefully things work out for you. I thought we played pretty darn well, to be honest. Defensively in the overtime I thought we were excellent.”

One night after scoring 39 in the opening quarter against the Magic, the Celtics tallied 42 in the opening 12 minutes against the Bucks. They shot 63 percent, capping the period with a 3-pointer at the buzzer by Gerald Green. The lead was 15 after one and peaked at 16 in the second quarter.

For a team that struggled in the first quarter earlier this season, it’s quite a turnaround for the C’s.

“How we started the game really dictated the whole game for sure,” Jae Crowder told CSNNE’s Abby Chin after scoring 20 points. “We put those guys on their heels. We showed how to execute down the stretch because we started off the game so well. It got us the win tonight.”

Milwaukee battled back and had its chances to come away with a win down the stretch, but Isaiah Thomas and friends made sure that would not happen. Thomas finished with 37 points and eight assists to lead the offense. Meanwhile, Amir Johnson came up with a couple of huge plays in overtime — one an offensive rebound, and the other at the defensive end, when he slid over and helped prevent Giannis Antetokounmpo from tying the game.

The Celtics started the overtime on a 6-0 run on baskets from Marcus Smart, Johnson and Kelly Olynyk (who took an elbow to the head on his dunk but did not get the benefit of a call).

“We wanted to hit first,” Crowder said. “We wanted to be the aggressor in the overtime. We wanted to make the first run. And that’s what happened. And once we did that we had control of the overtime game, so it was in our favor.”

Tony Snell came back with a pair of 3-pointers in a 33-second span to the tie with game with just over a minute remaining, but that would be the hosts’ final points.

After the teams traded misses, Thomas missed a layup but Johnson hauled in the rebound to keep the possession alive. Four seconds later, Crowder was fouled and he hit a pair of free throws for the lead. At the other end, the Bucks went to Antetokounmpo, their young star, and he went to work on Olynyk before Johnson moved over to block his path and force a tough shot in the lane. Crowder got the rebound, was fouled and hit two from the line for the final tally.

“Everybody had to make plays for us to win, on offense and defense,” Stevens said. “I thought the lift that Amir Johnson gave us in overtime was excellent.”

Said Olynyk: “We were going to do whatever it took to get the ‘W’ tonight.”

Blog Author: 
Jerry Spar

Jaylen Brown (Jerry Lai/USA Today Sports)

Jaylen Brown put together a strong performance against the Magic at TD Garden (Jerry Lai/USA Today Sports)

Very little people had high expectations for the league’s No. 3 pick Jaylen Brown this season.

In fact, the Celtics were criticized for their selection by most critics when the So. Cal product’s name was announced in last summer’s NBA Draft. 

But if there’s one thing that we can take away from the Celtics’ 128-98 lopsided win over the Magic, it was that Brown has the potential to blossom into a viable scoring option for the Celtics, sooner rather than later. 

For the second straight night, Brown started in the backcourt in place of the injured Avery Bradley (right Achilles) and finished with a season-high 20 points to go with his eight rebounds. Sure, this was against the Magic (18-29) — third-worst team in the Eastern Conference — but the rookie still gave you a glimpse of how valuable he could be in less than three months from now when Brad Stevens will be competing to win his first NBA playoff series. 

Whether it was because he started in place of Avery Bradley for the second consecutive night or the fact that he was left out off the roster of the BBVA Compass Rising Star Challenge at All-Star Weekend, Brown played with a chip on his shoulder. He played with a sense of urgency. After scoring nine of his 13 first-half points in the game’s opening seven minutes, Brown was dialed in. 

The third overall pick was active on defense, crashing the glass for boards and was assertive on offense. Doing what he does best when the ball is in his hands, Brown took his defender to the hoop. Sometimes he finished, sometimes he kicked it out, other times he earned trips to the free-throw line but what was promising was his knack for wanting to make plays. 

Did not being invited to the game that showcases the best NBA rookies and second-year players play a factor in Brown’s focus?

“You could say that,” Brown said. “It’s all fuel to the fire but it’s not the end of the world, just have to get better, continue to get better and come out and show why I’m one of the best rookies.”

Brown shot 46.2 percent on 6-of-13 shots, including 2-of-5 from behind the arc and 6-of-8 from the charity stripe.

When asked about his rookie’s best game of the season, Stevens pointed to Brown’s worth ethic and mental focus. 

“He works really hard at it. We talk all the time,” Brad Stevens said. “We’ve made mention that playing minutes is certainly a part of the development experience but there’s a lot more that goes into that. He spends a lot of time studying, he had a great workout yesterday on an off day when he came in and put a lot of time in on both ends of the floor. I thought he did a lot of good things. The hard part in this league is being able to do it every night and doing it over and over and over again. But he’s certainly a guy that’s continuing to put in the work and certainly is capable of becoming a guy that is very consistent.”

Brown, who declined an invited to participate in All-Star Weekend’s Slam Dunk Contest so that he could “focus on being ready to help his team,” shows you where his head is at as a rookie who’s serious in trying to become a vital piece for the Celtics. 

“He’s serious. I didn’t even know about the dunk thing,” Stevens explained. “That invitation doesn’t come through me or anybody that I talk to. But I understand it’s an honor to be invited to things like that but I also understand the desire to be able to get off your feet, work on your game or rest. I think that’s part of the all-star break. I think ultimately, he is a guy that will put in the time to become good. Hopefully, he can continue that.”

Blog Author: 
Josue Pavon
 

My vets would never go to the media. They would come to the team. My vets didn’t pick and choose when they wanted to bring it. They brought it every time they stepped in the gym whether it was practice or a game. They didn’t take days off. My vets didn’t care about their numbers. My vets played for the team. When we lost, they wouldn’t blame us. They took responsibility and got in the gym. They showed the young guys what it meant to work. Even in Boston when we had the best record in the league, if we lost a game, you could hear a pin drop on the bus. They showed us the seriousness of the game. My vets didn’t have an influence on the coaching staff. They couldn’t change the plan because it didn’t work for them. I played under one of the greatest coaches, and he held everyone accountable. It takes 1-15 to win. When you isolate everyone, you can’t win consistently. I may be a lot of things, but I’m not a bad teammate. My goal is to pass what I learned along. The young guys work. They show up. They don’t deserve blame. If anything is questionable, it’s the leadership.

A photo posted by Rajon Rondo (@rajonrondo) on

Do you miss Rajon Rondo? I’m not gonna lie — I miss Rajon Rondo.

It sure sounds like he misses Boston.

A brilliant meteor with the Celtics, he has since worn out his welcome in Dallas and now Chicago, where he was suspended for a game in December for conduct detrimental to the team.

On Thursday, he took aim at teammates Dwyane Wade and Jimmy Butler, who had blasted the Bulls a night earlier following a fourth-quarter collapse against Atlanta. Wade and Butler criticized teammates for not caring, and those words did not sit well with Rondo, who took to his Instagram account and obliterated them for not setting the example that he learned in Boston from Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett. (Rondo, it should be noted, scored 3 points in 9 minutes against the Hawks).

Beside a picture of himself in Celtics green with that duo, Rondo unloaded on Wade and Butler:

“My vets would never go to the media,” he wrote. “They would come to the team. My vets didn’t pick and choose when they wanted to bring it. They brought it every time they stepped in the gym whether it was practice or a game. They didn’t take days off. My vets didn’t care about their numbers. My vets played for the team. When we lost, they wouldn’t blame us. They took responsibility and got in the gym. They showed the young guys what it meant to work. Even in Boston when we had the best record in the league, if we lost a game, you could hear a pin drop on the bus. They showed us the seriousness of the game. My vets didn’t have an influence on the coaching staff. They couldn’t change the plan because it didn’t work for them. I played under one of the greatest coaches, and he held everyone accountable. It takes 1-15 to win. When you isolate everyone, you can’t win consistently. I may be a lot of things, but I’m not a bad teammate. My goal is to pass what I learned along. The young guys work. They show up. They don’t deserve blame. If anything is questionable, it’s the leadership.”

There’s only one word for that, and it’s, “Wow.” Not sure if Rondo is shooting his way out of town again, but given his acrimonious history with Wade when they were part of the Celtics-Heat rivalry, it looks like old grudges die hard.

Blog Author: 
John Tomase

Jan 25, 2017; Boston, MA, USA; Houston Rockets guard James Harden (13) and Boston Celtics forward Jae Crowder (99) battle for the ball during the first half at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

Celtics defense forced 17 turnovers in their 120-109 win at TD Garden (Bob DeChiara/USA Today)

In their most impressive win of the season, the Celtics outscored one of the best offenses in the league while containing Houston’s leading scorer in a 120-109 victory over the Rockets.

The Celtics snapped a three-game losing on Wednesday night at TD Garden. Isaiah Thomas scored a game-high 38 points, Al Horford finished with a double-double (23 points, 10 rebounds) and so did Jae Crowder (23 points, 10 rebounds) but what stood out the most about the Celtics’ much needed win was their defense.

Harden, who entered last night’s game as the league’s second leading scorer, went cold in the third quarter (1-of-5) after Crowder — the team’s defensive anchor — cranked up his intensity and rattled the MVP candidate. Although Harden finished with a team-high 30 points, it took him 18 attempts to get there as he finished the night shooting 33.3 percent from the floor and committed seven of the team’s 17 turnovers.

More than half of Harden points came from the free-throw line — where he drained 16-of-19 attempts.

Throughout the Celtics’ three-game losing streak, the defense in the back court had been a turnstile for opposing guards like Bradley Beal, John Wall, C.J. McCollum, Damian Lillard and Derrick Rose. All five guards finished with at least 28 points or more against the C’s while shooting over 50 percent from the floor. With Avery Bradley still out of the lineup, the stars were aligned for Harden to have a monster shooting night but that certainly wasn’t the case.

Celtics rookie Jaylen Brown, who got the start over Marcus Smart in the backcourt, kept up with Harden in the first quarter before Smart and Crowder took turns pestering the veteran and forcing him to commit turnovers throughout the second half. For the first time in a while, the Celtics were a cohesive unit on the defensive end of the floor. It started with Crowder but was sustained with help from guys like Smart, Horford — who finished with a game-high plus-21 rating — and Jonas Jerebko in the front court. 

Jerebko, along with Brown, was another addition in the starting lineup against the Rockets in place of Amir Johnson and didn’t disappoint, especially on the defensive end of the floor. He finished with 7 rebounds and made the most of 23 minutes of playing time by clogging the lanes and providing plenty of help-defense in the post.

Jerebko stepped up when his name was called and even has a battle scar to prove it, one right above his lip — where he needed four stitches to close his wound after receiving a blow to the face from Harden while trying to prevent the Rockets guard from making a layup. Harden was hit with a Flagrant-1 foul and that’s when the Celtics’ offense went on a game-clinching 15-4 run, giving them an 11-point lead with under two minutes to go. 

Much like we saw last season, the Celtics’ defensive stops triggered their offense — which erupted for 120 points — and led to 64 points in the paint. The C’s also out-rebounded their opponent, 48-30. 

Before Wednesday’s game the Celtics’ defense had been a disappointment, to say the least. For a team that finished fourth in defensive efficiency last year, the Celtics now find themselves in the bottom half of that same statistical category and have allowed an average of 119.7 points in their last three games.

Nonetheless, the Celtics (27-18) find themselves only half a game behind the Raptors — who they’ll face at TD Garden next Wednesday — in the east and 3.5 games behind the Cavaliers. The Raptors are in the midst of a five-game losing streak, while the Cavaliers dropped their third straight straight on Wednesday night against the Kings.

If the C’s want to cash in on a golden opportunity of catching up to the division-leading Raptors for second place in the Eastern Conference before their matchup against Toronto next Wednesday, they’ll need to continue to play with the same level of focus we saw against the Rockets and start making it a habit.

Blog Author: 
Josue Pavon

Carmelo Anthony would look good in Celtics green. (Mark L. Baer/USA Today Sports)The Celtics need rebounding and defense.



Good morning, here is your Wednesday Morning Mashup. For the latest news, start at our WEEI.com home page or click here for the top stories and scores from our news wire.

It took until the fourth quarter for a Celtics player to finally put up a fight during Tuesday’s embarrassing loss to the Wizards.

The problem is, Marcus Smart was fighting with his own coaches.

Bradley Beal led the Wizards to a big win over Marcus Smart and the Celtics on Tuesday night. (Brad Mills/USA Today Sports)

Bradley Beal (left) led the Wizards to a big win over Marcus Smart and the Celtics on Tuesday night. (Brad Mills/USA Today Sports)

It took until the fourth quarter for a Celtics player to finally put up a fight during Tuesday’s embarrassing loss to the Wizards.

The problem is, Marcus Smart was fighting with his own coaches.

The emotional guard jawed with no fewer than four Celtics assistants during a late-game timeout before apparently being dismissed from the team huddle by head coach Brad Stevens. He then was escorted to the locker room by teammate Amir Johnson.

Smart missed the closing seconds of his team’s 123-108 humiliation to a Washington team that approached this game like it was the playoffs (game recap here). The Wizards dressed in all black before the game and then buried the Celtics in an avalanche of jumpers and dunks. Washington shot 57.8 percent from the field and had its way with a Celtics defense that has struggled all season.

But first, the Smart incident.

“He just wanted to go back in,” Stevens said in his postgame press conference, although it clearly was much more than that, as Smart was chewed out by one assistant after another before departing. “He had played 12 minutes or whatever, and so he wasn’t going to back in. He wanted to go back in. … He wanted to go back in badly.”

Smart also downplayed the incident to reporters.

“Coaches and players, they’re real passionate about the game, hate losing, having different opinions and things about certain things on the bench,” he said, adding: “Of course I wanted to go back in. Just like everybody else, to play it out. Give it everything they have, leave it on the court. We had different opinions on that.”

Added Smart: “As a competitor, a lot of frustration. You hate losing regardless. I think everybody on this team hates losing. Everybody on this team knows I hate losing, and how much I hate losing. So it was a lot of frustration.”

Smart was powerless to slow down the Washington backcourt of Bradley Beal and John Wall. Beal led the onslaught with 31 points on 12-of-18 shooting, Wall had 27 points, seven rebounds, seven assists and three steals as the Wizards won for the ninth time in 11 games — and four the 14th straight time at home.

The Wizards scored 33 points in each of the first two quarters. And while the Celtics hung around until the closing minutes, they never proved capable of slowing down Washington’s attack for any length of time.

“[Beal and Wall] were really good, but we just don’t have enough impact on the ball,” Stevens said. “That’s the bottom line. We just don’t impact the ball enough. I think that that’s something that has been a strength of ours at times in the past. But for whatever reason we’re not doing that enough.”

Added Stevens: “Obviously we’re missing a guy [injured guard Avery Bradley] that does it really well. But I think that we’ve got guys that should be able to do it better. And there’s varying degrees of how they’re doing it, guy to guy.”

Smart might not have been on the same page with his coach in the fourth-quarter huddle, but he agreed with Stevens’ analysis of the defensive woes.

“We need to get in guys. We need to make guys feel us,” Smart said. “We’re playing off guys and they’re feeling real comfortable. He’s right. He’s definitely right about that. That’s one thing about where I say last year guys didn’t want to play us because we were impacting the ball, we were into guys and we were making it really hard on guys. … Everyone, from me down to our bigs to our guards, everybody. We’ve got to get up into guys and really make them uncomfortable.”

Said teammate Jae Crowder: “They got whatever they wanted on the offensive end. Defensively we didn’t even do not even half of our game plan, what we wanted to do. … We’re not playing together. Every guy’s on an island. We don’t help one another. We don’t talk enough to be an elite defensive unit. We’re got to get back to those things.”

Smart lent some credence to the theory that the Celtics’ improved offense has taken a toll at the other end.

“We feel like because we are scoring a little more we feel like we’re just going to score the ball and we’re going to outscore teams, and our defense has slipped from it,” he said. “We know, we understand that we have to change it before April comes.”

Blog Author: 
Jerry Spar