Exceeding expectations are one thing, but this was ridiculous.
Down by two points with :00.6 left, Jeff Green gathered in an inbound pass from Gerald Wallace and proceeded to sink a three-pointer from the corner as the buzzer sounded. The result was a 111-110 victory for the Celtics over the world champion Heat in Miami
“Gerald made a great pass. Kelly [Olynyk] made a great screen. It went in,” Green told Comcast immediately after the win.
It looked as all things were lost in the final few moments.
Avery Bradley cut the Heat lead to two with :38.4 left after knocking down a jumper. Then, after a Chris Bosh miss, the C’s got their opportunity to tie or go ahead, regaining possession with 19 seconds remaining. But Kelly Olynyk’s jumper with seven seconds to go went in and out.
Wallace converted a lay-up with just more than a second left, allowing the Celtics’ to foul Dwyane Wade. The Heat guard went on to miss both free throws, committing a violation on the second shot (not hitting the rim), setting the scene for the C’s dramatics.
It was the Celtics’ third win in a row.
Green finished with 25 points on 8-for-16 shooting from the floor, while Bradley chipped in with 17.
LeBron James scored 20 or more points for the 32nd straight game against the Celtics, finishing with 25. As a team, the Heat shot 57 percent from the floor.
The 35 second-quarter points by the C’s were the most scored by Brad Stevens’ team in a quarter this season. It also marked the fifth straight time both teams have put up at least 100 points when facing off in Miami.
The Celtics claimed their ninth straight win over the Magic, this time beating Orlando, 91-89, Friday night.
Leading the way against the Magic — who had won four in a row — was another strong performance from Brandon Bass, who finished with 16 points and seven rebounds.
The Celtics, who improve to 2-4, also go double-digit outputs from Avery Bradley (14 points), Jordan Crawford (13), Courtney Lee (13), Jared Sullinger (11) and Jeff Green (10).
The Magic closed the gap to two points with 1:38 left in the game after a four-point play from Aaron Afflalo. Celtics rookie Kelly Olynyk came back to knock down a jumper with 1:13 left to make it a two-possession game heading into the final minute.
Afflalo, however, struck again converting a three-point play with 26 seconds left, cutting the Celtics’ lead to one. Bass built the Celtics’ lead back up to three by knocking down two free throws with :10.5 remaining.
Afflalo struck one more time, converting a jumper just on the three-point line with :04.6 on the clock, bringing Orlando within a point.
The C’s, who came with the third-most turnovers in the NBA, limited their miscues to 11, while Orlando turned the ball over 20 times.
The Kris Humphries Minutes Watch is one of the more interesting subplots of this Celtics season.
By sticking him on the end of the bench early this season, the C’s benefit twofold, accelerating the development of rookies Kelly Olynyk and Vitor Faverani while improving the team’s lottery chances.
On the flip side, the Celtics might also benefit from increasing Humphries’ playing time. He’s a 10-year NBA veteran who’s averaged a double-double per 36 minutes over his career, so there’s little doubt he gives Brad Stevens a better chance to stay afloat until Rajon Rondo returns than Faverani. Meanwhile, showcasing him might actually increase his expiring contract’s trade value in the coming months.
In other words, the Kris Humphries Minutes Watch might just be the best tanking barometer we have. And, unlike at least one of his Celtics teammates, Humphries doesn’t seem all that bothered by either situation.
“I don’t look at it like that,” he told the Boston Herald’s Steve Bulpett. “I look at it like I’ve got to prepare myself to help my team whatever way I can. I can’t read into all that stuff. If you’re a professional, you’ve got to do your job. That’s preparing yourself to play, whether you’re playing or not playing. We’re all trying to do that.”
The fact his name was on the tip of just about everybody’s tongue when the Knicks lost Tyson Chandler for 4-6 weeks is a good sign for his trade market. Considering each team’s financial situation, such a deal seems far from likely, since the Celtics would almost certainly have to absorb the $23.3 million left on Andrea Bargnani‘s contract through 2015 in return. Still, any number of contending teams might need frontcourt help by February.
It’s a good thing Humphries has enough Patron, wine and craft beer to get him through the season (see video).
Any time Bill Walton discusses Larry Bird, it deserves to be mentioned.
“It’s impossble to identify one moment,” Walton told an Indiana newspaper. “Larry Bird is like John Wooden, Bob Dylan, Jerry Garcia, Neil Young — the greatest of the greats in that it’s the totality of their lives and the quality of their spirit and soul that makes them so unique, so incredible and so worthy of a statue. …
“John Wooden would always tell us that it’s not how big you are, it’s how big you play. In that regard, Larry Bird is a true giant. What makes him so special is his brain, his heart, his compassionate soul, even though he is a tough guy in terms of getting the job done. But Larry Bird is as fine of a human being as I’ve ever known and he was the best player I ever played with. He was the smartest player I ever played with. Playing basketball with Larry Bird was like playing music with Garcia, Dylan and Mozart. It was like having a discussion about science technology with Isaac Newton, Galileo, Albert Einstein and Steve Jobs. It was just awe-inspiring to be in his presence.”
I get the feeling Bill Walton likes this Larry Bird fellow. In that same Greensburg Daily News story, Danny Ainge said he attended the legendary 1979 NCAA championship game between Michigan State and Indiana State in Salt Lake City and decided to abandon baseball only to play with Bird or Magic Johnson.
Injured Celtics point guard Rajon Rondo made a huge impact on the Garden floor last night. He just did so prior to the game. Rondo and C’s co-owner Stephen Pagliuca surprised high school students Aylin Garcia Soto and Melvin Harrison with a couple $5,000 scholarships in coordination with Sun Life Financial, which also awarded a pair of $50,000 grants to Boston-based non-profit organizations Bottom Line and Brookview House.
As the Celtics watched film of Gordon Hayward prior to hosting the Jazz, Brad Stevens couldn’t contain his praise for the best player he ever coached at the collegiate level.
“You could kind of see,” said Celtics guard Phil Pressey as a knowing smile came to his face. “He talked about every single player, but as soon as he brought up Hayward, he kind of gave a couple more details about him.”
And Stevens’ first NBA win was no different from so many at Butler: Hayward was the best player on the floor.
“He’s a lot better than when I coached him, and man was he good when I coached him,” said Stevens after watching the Jazz guard drop 28 points, nine rebounds and five assists on his Celtics. “I thought he was the best player in college at the time, and man has he improved. I’m proud of him.
“I can’t tell you what that feels like, because I was there when he was a puppy … and nobody was recruiting him. And it was like, ‘You think we should offer that guy a scholarship? Nobody’s looking at him. Nobody’s even in the building.’ It was probably a good decision, in retrospect. He’s awfully good.”
Let’s just say the feeling is mutual.
“He knows the X’s and O’s, and he knows the game of basketball, and although it is a little bit different form of basketball, it’s still just the same game we’ve been playing since we were young,” said Hayward. “He’s got a really good feel for the game. I’m sure with his offensive and defensive schemes, he’ll get guys to do the right thing.”
Hayward could see Stevens’ influence in the Celtics success on Wednesday night.
“I thought they did a good job of moving the basketball,” he said. “That’s one thing that he always did when I was in college. We moved the basketball from side to side, and usually when you do that, you get a good shot. They ran out on us there in that game a little bit, and we dug ourselves too deep a hole.”
The Celtics’ hire of Stevens shocked Hayward. “He’s just been a part of Butler for so long, and I just didn’t think he would leave, but I was super excited for him. It’s a great opportunity for him to coach at the next level.”
The two Butler products have traded text messages during the season, and they talk often when they’re back home in Indianapolis during the summer, so perhaps their mutual admiration will bring them together again. Hayward becomes a restricted free agent this summer, when he’ll be seeking a deal worth somewhere in the range of $50 million over four years, according to Yahoo’s Adrian Wojnarowski. The Celtics have more than $20 million coming off the books this coming offseason and could potentially be players for Hayward’s services.
After starting his NBA coaching career 0-4, Brad Stevens stepped up on the podium Wednesday night after a 97-87 win and asked Celtics longtime public relations director Jeff Twiss if he should make an opening statement. Without missing a beat, Stevens showed his dry sense of humor and his ability to understate the obvious.
Brad Stevens speaks after his first career NBA coaching win. (Mike Petraglia/WEEI.com)
After starting his NBA coaching career 0-4, Brad Stevens stepped up on the podium Wednesday night after a 97-87 win and asked Celtics long-time public relations director Jeff Twiss if he should make an opening statement. Without missing a beat, Stevens showed his dry sense of humor and his ability to understate the obvious.
“Winning’s more fun than losing,” Stevens said. “But at the same time, I think we played two pretty-good games back-to-back, so that’s the most positive thing moving forward. And hopefully we feel better about ourselves as we move forward.”
Celtics owner Wyc Grousbeck marked the occasion of Stevens’ first NBA win by getting the basketball at the end of the game and presenting it to Stevens in front of the team.
“Wyc was nice enough to grab the ball for me, so that was really nice,” Stevens said. “You know, I’m going to celebrate for a whole 12 minutes and then I’m going to start watching Orlando and trying to figure them out. Obviously they’ve had a great start to their season, and they’ve got good young talent. And we’ve got a couple more road games – I feel like we’ve already toured half the NBA this week – so just a couple of more road games this week.”
The Celtics started in a 16-3 hole but all of that seemed to change when Stevens went to his bench and brought in the likes of Jared Sullinger, Phil Pressey, Gerald Wallace and rookie Kelly Olynyk.
“I told Gerald this today: I thought the Sully/Kelly – with their ability to pass and stretch the floor, would open up some driving lanes for him,” Stevens said. “And some plays for him. Those three guys complement each other pretty well. So, I kind of made up my mind [Tuesday] night that we were going to go with Gerald off the bench, and then went from there. And then I thought Phil gave us a spark. To me, the best teams I’ve been a part of have had sparks off the bench. The energy level has actually gone up, or at least in a really good night, stayed the same. And I think that that’s what happened.”
The bench spark Stevens was looking for resulted in an ambush of the Jazz to the tune of 27-8 and the Celtics had a 50-34 halftime lead. They would build the lead to 25 and this time, unlike Friday against Milwaukee at home, the Celtics managed to hold on, allowing the Jazz to cut the lead to six with less than seven minutes left.
“They had a 13-point lead to start the game. This game, in the NBA, just fluctuates,” Stevens said. “It goes back and forth; that happens a lot. My biggest thing was, ‘Get back on ‘D’ and play the next play.’ I thought both times it started – Milwaukee and tonight – with baskets at the rim fairly uncontested by them. So whatever’s going on on one end, or you miss a shot, or whatever the case may be, we’ve got to get the rim protected in those moments.
“And sometimes, when you’re up, you tend not to do those little things. And I did think we extended a little bit, and it probably hurt us. You know, we got a little antsy in trying to extend it. When I say extend it, extend the floor. I thought we were picking (Gordon) Hawyard up too high. I thought we were picking (Alec) Burks up too high. When those guys get going offensively, they’re hard to guard.”
Asked if anyone in the Celtics organization ever explained the history of the Sixth Man in Boston — a Red Auerbach creation that brought NBA Hall of Famers Frank Ramsey, John Havlicek, Kevin McHale and Bill Walton off the bench — Gerald Wallace had no idea what all that fuss was about.
“I’m like the seventh man, though,” said Wallace, who came off the bench for the first time to contribute nine points and nine rebounds in 23 minutes. “Sully [Jared Sullinger] was the first one off the bench. I’m the seventh man.”
Celtics coach Brad Stevens told Wallace he’d be joining Sullinger and Kelly Olynyk in the second unit frontcourt, and while he thought the timing could have been better, the 31-year-old couldn’t argue with the results.
“I wouldn’t say not happy,” said Wallace after his team’s first win of the season, a 97-87 victory against the winless Jazz. “I’d say kind of confused. It’s the first time since I was actually traded to Portland and came off the bench two or three games for them. I’m trying to figure it out. It’s a new experience for me. We’re still trying to figure it out as a team. It’s something different, but it worked, so maybe it’s something we can go with.”
Wallace came off the bench just once for the Nets last season — suffering bruised ribs in the process — and started every game of his previous four seasons save for an eight-game stretch after being traded to the Blazers in 2010-11. As a result, he experienced some back tightness that slowed his production in the second half.
“I only know how to play one way, and that’s 110 percent,” he said. “When I got out onto the court tonight, I was able to do that. I’ve got to prepare more coming off the bench. My back tightened up getting in there. It’s a lot different coming off the bench, but other than that it was a fun experience.”
Upon entering the game midway through the first quarter, Wallace’s effort on both ends of the floor helped turn an early eight-point deficit into a three-point lead two minutes into the second quarter.
“You can’t be mad after tonight’s result,” he said. “We got our first win, so it’s something that worked out. The whole shocking part about it was that it’s new to me. This is my 13th season. Other than being on the bench my first three years in Sacramento, I’ve always been a starter. I’ve busted my butt to be a starter, to try to be productive in that starting unit. This is the first year I have to come off the bench, so it’s a new process. It’s always awfully confusing when something new is thrown at you in the start, but who knows? This might be the best thing for my career.”
Wallace started and averaged 35.0 minutes over his first four games, and that might be too much.
“My main thing is trying to figure out where I fit in and my role and my situation, but I think I pretty much know that now,” he said. “I’ll move forward, continue to play and do my role. Coming off the bench, especially for me this late in my career, is pretty good. I don’t think I can average 30, 35, 40 minutes anymore. I think those days are gone, but coming in, playing a hard 25 minutes is good for me. I’m able to help my teammates out, and I played pretty good with the second unit. and it helps our team a whole lot bringing energy off the bench.”
They don’t call him Crash for nothing, although, until Wallace made them aware, Sullinger and Brandon Bass didn’t know the nickname Charlotte fans once selected over The Force in a contest. As Wallace said: “You can’t change the way I play. I’m going to play that way if I’m at home playing against my kids. Crashing a whole lot.”
After experiencing victory for the first time in a Celtics uniform, Wallace’s postgame comments were a whole lot different from last week’s, when he called his “selfish” teammates a bunch of stat-padders.
“I think the ball moved pretty good,” he said. “I think the biggest problem tonight was getting off to that sluggish start. We got down 16-3, and it wasn’t because of selfishness. I think we were just sluggish. We came out with our feets in the concrete. They came out running. Our second unit was able to get us back going. We moved the ball, the defense turned up. I think they scored nine or 10 points in the second quarter, so obviously our defense stepped up and got us back in the game, got us a lead and we were able to keep going from there.”
After the success of this experiment, Wallace may be a permanent fixture on that second unit.
“It’s a totally different mindset coming off the bench than starting,” he said. “I was telling the guys, usually as starters you take that first minute to two-and-a-half minutes in the game to kind of warm up, loose, get going and everything. Coming off the bench, as soon as you step on the court, the game is already at 100 miles per hour. You’re dropping right into the fire right then and going. It’s totally different. You have to prepare different for that.”
It should be easier for Wallace to prepare now that he knows his role on this Celtics team: Seventh Man.
“Whatever the team needs me to do,” he said. “If they need me to score 30, I’m not going to say I’m going to score 30, but I’m going to try my best to score 30. If they need me to try to lock down the other team’s best player, then that’s what I do. I’m here for the team, and whatever the team needs me to do to win, then that’s what I’ll do.”
It’s a whole new Gerald Wallace. Well, as long as they’re winning anyway.