Live Blog Celtics-Hawks Game 4
 

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WEEI

Celtics head coach Brad Stevens was a man in control Friday night. (David Butler II/USA Today Sports)

Celtics head coach Brad Stevens was a man in control Friday night. (David Butler II/USA Today Sports)

The Celtics came out with great emotion and energy in Game 3, and it paid off in a 37-20 lead after one quarter. Then that energy wore off a bit and Brad Stevens was concerned his team might run out of gas on lap one of the mile course.

Stevens also knows the Celtics are fortunate, perhaps, to not have lost Isaiah Thomas to a suspension after Thomas’ left palm struck Dennis Schroder in the face late in the first quarter. 

Energy and discipline. It’s a combination the Celtics must master in Game 4, along with executing their offense with Isaiah Thomas likely playing his same off-guard role as Game 3. 

“I think we have to play better, from an execution standpoint,” Stevens said. ” bviously our energy was really good, played really hard. We gotta bottle that up and do that again, that’s going to be imperative. And we’re going to have to match their speed and continue to find the right shot and hopefully knock them down.

I think that that’s been the critical part of the whole series and, in the game that we did, we gave ourselves a great chance to win. I think that, again, it goes back to what you can control and finding those great shots is most important from my standpoint, then playing with that same energy that we played with on Friday night.”

Kelly Olynyk will be back after a two-game absence with a right shoulder injury. But look for the Celtics and Stevens to stay small when possible, meaning Jared Sullinger, Olynyk and Tyler Zeller might find it tough to get on the court. 

“I think kind of like what we did the other night, there’s a chance obviously with Kelly back that we would play two bigs together – and when I say bigs, I’m not really considering Jonas and Jae in that regard that have played the four mostly for us in this series,” Stevens added. “But it probably won’t be a ton. So it just limits the minutes that you can play all those different guys, whether it’s Amir, Jared, Kelly, Tyler and such.

“Obviously we certainly have confidence in playing those guys together. We’ve done that at different times throughout the year, but we’ll see how this game turns itself out. And judging by the first three games, obviously being with more switching groups and playing more small has been better so far. SO we’ll see. It’s a tough position for all those guys to be in just because of the way the series is going, but we’re going to need them all at one time or another to have success in this thing. So each of them’s in a different boat, and we’ll see.”

 Stevens did admit he spoke to the team about not getting into any shenanigans that might lead to technicals or worse. 

“Yeah. I think we talk about, all the time about not wanting to cross that line. And at the same time it’s going to be physical and competitive because you watch every playoff series, that’s what they are,” Stevens said. “You’re playing a team for the fifth time in two weeks. They’re used to us, we’re used to them. It’s prideful people on both sides of the floor, really good players. There’s gonna be some of that. But obviously you don’t want it to cross the line. That’s something that certainly we’ve addressed. And we’re not going to spend a ton of time on it, and I’m sure they aren’t either. We’ve got to focus on what we can do to play well.”

Blog Author: 
Mike Petraglia

Kelly Olynyk will be available in Game 4 after a two-game absence due to a re-aggravated right shoulder injury. 

Hawks forward Paul Millsap (4) drives to the basket against Boston Celtics center Kelly Olynyk (41) and forward Amir Johnson (90) during the second half in game one of the first round of the NBA Playoffs at Philips Arena. (John David Mercer-USA Today Sports)

Hawks forward Paul Millsap (4) drives to the basket against Boston Celtics center Kelly Olynyk (41) and forward Amir Johnson (90) during the second half in game one of the first round of the NBA Playoffs at Philips Arena. (John David Mercer-USA Today Sports)

Kelly Olynyk will be available in Game 4 after a two-game absence due to a re-aggravated right shoulder injury. 

“I just found out that he was going to go when we walked through at 2:45,” Brad Stevens said in his pre-game press conference at 4:15. “We’ll play it by ear, see how the game is going and everything else. And see what direction we decide to go, but certainly it’s great that he’s available and certainly a chance that he plays for us.

“Obviously, that’ll be, ultimately, it’s going to be up to me because he hasn’t done anything in a few days and we walked through. Certainly I think that he could play minutes for us in the first half, could play some, but I’m not necessarily — he’s not necessarily going to be in it for sure. So we’ll wait and see. But he is available.”

As for Olynyk’s return impacting the rotation off the bench, Stevens said that will depend on how effective he and his shoulder are when he gets on the court. The big factor is Stevens’ choice in this series, especially Game 3, to play small with three and four guards on the floor at times. 

“We’ll see. Obviously, we’ve had to play small quite a bit in this series to be effective,” Stevens said. “I think that we’ll continue to  do that from the start with Jonas at the 4 and we’ll go from there.”

As for Avery Bradley, Stevens said the guard’s right hamstring continues to heal. But as far as a possible return in this series, even if it goes six or seven games, Stevens said that’s still not realistic at this point. 

“I have no updates other than the fact that I’ve been told it’s been pretty consistent improvement,” Stevens said Sunday. “But I think our timeline remains the same. It would be extremely unlikely that he would play in this series.”

The Celtics will start the same starting five as they did in Game 3, meaning Evan Turner, Isaiah Thomas, Jae Crowder, Jonas Jerebko and Amir Johnson. 

 

Blog Author: 
Mike Petraglia
Celts beat writer Steve Bulpett is on his way to the Garden and gives Arcand a call to give his thoughts on what he expects tonight from the Green team in what is sure to be a raucous atmosphere.

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WALTHAM  –  What makes Brad Stevens a good head coach is that he knows a good thing when he sees it and he doesn’t try to outsmart himself. 

Kelly Olynyk

Kelly Olynyk

WALTHAM  –  What makes Brad Stevens a good head coach is that he knows a good thing when he sees it and he doesn’t try to outsmart himself. 

So when the group of Isaiah Thomas, Evan Turner Jae Crowder, Jonas Jerebko and Amir Johnson helped the Celtics race out to a 37-20 lead after one quarter, Stevens indicated Saturday after practice that he’s likely to start that group again on Sunday in Game 4. 

“I think the one thing you don’t want to do is outthink yourself,” Stevens said. “I thought we played well with that group and we’ll see ultimately what tomorrow brings, but it would be hard not to start that group tomorrow.”

Before Friday’s game, Stevens joked that the group had played just 33 possessions together the whole season but was a plus-20. 

The other big change Friday was moving Thomas to the shooting guard from his point guard position, allowing him to fly around off screens and drive the lane more and kick the ball to open shooters. 

“We’ll talk about it. But our focus needs to be on what we need to do better because again I think you can overanalyze what somebody else might do without really knowing,” Stevens said. “I think you have to read and adjust on the fly, and you have to have counters to each of your actions and those type of things. But hey they’re a really good defensive team. They’re a really good team overall, offensive team. That run in the fourth quarter by both teams where we were just making shots, I mean, that was high-level basketball. So we’re going to have to play really well to have a chance to win.

“There’s all kinds of things we need to do better on both ends of the ball. Defensively we made some errors that we need to correct. They did some actions that were really good. We need to do a better job on Korver obviously not letting him get going. And then those guards put so much pressure on you with their ability to drive downhill. Teague and Schroder are just, they’re as fast as any guard in the league.

“And so we’ve got to do better in all those areas. And then obviously on offense we can’t have our moments where we sputter. You’re not always going to have 37-point quarters, but when we have a 19-point lead it can’t be a 12-0 run. It can’t be a 14-0 run. It’s gotta be 14-8. You’ve got to be able to answer occasionally.”

One guy who’ll likely be watching the whole game in civilian clothes again is Kelly Olynyk. His shoulder has been slow to respond since he re-injured it in Game 1. 

“Everything I’ve been told, I’ll stick with my questionable at best line because I haven’t been told that he’s likely to play yet,” Stevens said. 

Blog Author: 
Mike Petraglia

WALTHAM  –  Jae Crowder had seen enough of his shots not falling through the basket after going 1-for-11 from the field Friday night. Crowder has made exactly two shots in his last 20 attempts covering Games 2 and 3. He is is just 7-for-36 overall in the series, including 3-for-17 from 3-point range. 

Celtics forward Jae Crowder (99) works for the ball against Atlanta Hawks guard Jeff Teague (0) in Game 3. (David Butler II/USA Today Sports)

Celtics forward Jae Crowder (99) works for the ball against Atlanta Hawks guard Jeff Teague (0) in Game 3. (David Butler II/USA Today Sports)

WALTHAM  –  Jae Crowder had seen enough of his shots not falling through the basket after going 1-for-11 from the field Friday night. Crowder has made exactly two shots in his last 20 attempts covering Games 2 and 3. He is is just 7-for-36 overall in the series, including 3-for-17 from 3-point range. 

So, instead of going home to rest and savor his defense on Al Horford and Paul Millsap in a 111-103 Game 3 win, he went back to the Celtics training facility to shoot. 

“I wanted to see the ball go through the basket, that’s all,” Crowder said Saturday. “I was here 45 minutes, me and my friend, I needed a rebounder. I’ve done it a few times.”

Then he had a question for the reporters on hand. 

“How’d you find out last night and not the previous nights?” 

Told that teammate Isaiah Thomas was the one dropping dimes, Crowder seemed at ease. 

“Oh, Ok, I got here like 1, 1:30 [Saturday morning],” Crowder said. “The win was great. I was very happy with that, but I wanted to prepare myself for Game 4. It’s a big game for us, and I wanted to really step into my shots and be a force in my offensive game. I’m doing great on defense and guys are still applauding me on that, but I just want to lift our team up a little more in the offensive end. I just wanted to see the ball go through the hoop.”

“It’s a big reason why we’re here, that these guys have that kind of mindset and that kind of work ethic,” coach Brad Stevens said. “I think the general collective chip on our shoulder is pretty good. But I think individually each of these guys has a reason to have a chip on their shoulder. And Jae’s a worker, and always has been.”

Thomas said it’s just a matter of time before the shots start falling, and there’s no time like Game 4. 

“We haven’t [seen him struggle like this]. But he’s so positive. We’re so positive with him,” Thomas said. “We’re confident in his ability to score the basketball and to help us like he has all year. Once he gets going, it’s going to be scary. He was in here last night [after the game] getting shots up. He’s hard on himself but at the same time, he’s taking the right shots. The basketball gods will help him out soon.”

Maybe the basketball gods will help with Crowder’s bad right ankle, and ankle Crowder says is still at only 70 percent. 

“I don’t plan on changing it. I’m shooting the same way. I’m trying to play with the ankle and learn to adapt to it as much as possible, but that’s what helps me to come back in the gym and stay late,” Crowder said. “That will help me to adjust, but I’m not thinking about it. I’m going to let it fly. I’ve put a lot of work into it. I’m not worried. I’m shooting, working out, doing my same thing.

“You have to give up something, and Isaiah was getting into the paint a lot. They wanted to stop him from getting to the basket as much as possible, so a lot of spacing, with me spacing and Jonas spacing, they were living with it. So I have to step into it and make shots. I’m going to keep shooting – that’s what I’ve done all year. A slump is going to happen, it’s happening right now, but I’ll be fine.”

Stevens said Saturday he’s more than happy to let Crowder keep taking open shots.

“Yeah, I believe in the law of averages and Jae’s a good shooter,” Stevens said. “Jae’s been a good shooter all year. I have not lost one iota of sleep over that either. Keep shooting it. He’s open, he’s gonna be aggressive and we want him to be aggressive. He’s a big reason why we’re here.”

Blog Author: 
Mike Petraglia

Celtics guard Marcus Smart (36) blocks the shot of Hawks center Al Horford (15). (David Butler II/USA Today Sports)

Celtics guard Marcus Smart (36) blocks the shot of Hawks center Al Horford (15). (David Butler II/USA Today Sports)

WALTHAM – With so much on the line, now is not the time for false bravado or acting like a tough guy. Or flopping like one. 

The Celtics were reminded of this Saturday morning before they got together for film session and a light walkthrough at their practice facility in Waltham. 

The intensity level picked up Friday night during Game 3. When Jae Crowder was drilled by Jeff Teague in the first quarter and the officials deemed it to be a “common foul,” Crowder said the officials opened the door for chippy play to escalate. 

“I told them that hard foul on me by Teague set the tone, I feel like,” Crowder said Saturday. “If you’re going to call that a Flagrant 1, then we know how far we can go. That’s when they tried to change it and called Flagrant 1s and things like that. I told the ref, you set the tone, I hope you realize that, and that’s when it got chippy. It’s just part of it, and the refs have to realize that. That’s for the players. We realize that sets the tone.”

The tone produced three ‘Flagrant 1’ fouls in Game 3, all in the second half. The Hawks committed two, Paul Millsap and Dennis Schroder while Jared Sullinger was called for one in the third. That doesn’t include the double-technical that preceded the Thomas arm to the face of Schroder with 1:27 left in the first quarter. 

“Both teams are trying to win the game,” Thomas said. “You’ve just got to be smart about whatever you do but knowing that it’s playoff basketball and things are going to happen and it is going to get a little chippy. You’ve got to hold your composure and do what it takes to win. I’m just out there fighting and trying to get my team wins.”

“We’ve reminded, we talk about that stuff and everything else,” Brad Stevens said after practice Saturday. “But I think, at the end of the day, there’s such a fine line between hard real good competition and crossing that line and you just gotta do your best to compete at that physical level necessary to have success. And, obviously, hey, they deemed that he had crossed the line by giving him a flagrant-1 and it is what is and now we move forward. We’ve got to focus our attention on the Hawks.

“When you’re playing a team for the fourth time and they’re all competitive guys on both sides of the ball, they’re all good players, they’re all tough guys. I trust that nothing like that would ever go over the line. But it’s hard for me to predict that but it’s not something that we talk about, it’s not something that they talk about. Obviously, it’s a competitive game and sometimes when there’s a competitive game with a scoreboard and a crowd and everything else, emotions get involved. But you hope that nothing like that ever happens that obviously isn’t good for the game.”

What also isn’t good for the game is flying into the air under the basket trying to draw a foul late in the fourth quarter, only to throw yourself out of the play as the other team heads off on the break. That was the case Friday as Marcus Smart flopped and was fined $5,000 for the move. 

“Danny talked to him a little bit today,” Stevens said of Smart’s talk with Ainge. “I’ll have that conversation at some point with him. But obviously I think the fine is the message. There’s not much more that I’ll be able to say that will be impactful.”

“I was just trying to make winning plays for my team,” Smart said when asked. “We had a great game last night, that’s really what my focus is on. I believe every player that plays is just trying to do everything he can to help his team.

“Just make the plays. You just go out there. You know you’re going out there and playing hard and giving it your all and you just try to do anything you can in your power that you can do to help your team. It’s just a decision that the league made. That’s nothing I can control. I’ve just got to go out there and keep playing my game and playing hard.”

Blog Author: 
Mike Petraglia