It was shaping up to be another example of the resilience of these gritty, gutty Celtics.

Without two of their top three scorers, Al Horford (right elbow strain) and Avery Bradley (right hamstring strain), the Celts were on their way to overcoming the absences and a 15-point, third-quarter deficit against the Suns Sunday night.

But then came the last 11.9 seconds.

After Isaiah Thomas put the Celtics up by two with just under 12 seconds left, the Suns’ Eric Bledsoe went right by Jae Crowder for a game-tying lay-up with four ticks remaining. Then, in a haste to get the ball up the court, Crowder’s inbound pass to Thomas was knocked away by Marquese Chriss, into the hands of rookie Tyler Ulis.

Ulis grabbled the loose ball, and, falling away, sank the game-winning 3-pointer as the clock expired, handing the Celtics their 109-106 loss. (For a complete recap, click here.)

Making the loss even more painful for the Celtics, who will have to play the Clippers in Los Angeles Monday night, was that it allowed Washington to gain a game in the Eastern Conference standings, now sitting two in back of the C’s.

Blog Author: 
Rob Bradford

Isaiah Thomas says he thinks Magic Johnson will bring respectability back to the Lakers. (Tom Szczerbowski/USA Today Sports)

Isaiah Thomas says he thinks Magic Johnson will bring respectability back to the Lakers. (Tom Szczerbowski/USA Today Sports)

The Lakers’ decision to hire Magic Johnson as their director of basketball operations was met with mixed reviews, largely because of his lack of NBA front office experience. But count Isaiah Thomas among those who think Johnson will excel in the role. 

In a scrum with reporters in Los Angeles Friday, Thomas said he thinks Johnson will bring mystique back to the Lakers franchise. The Celtics will take on the Lakers Friday night. 

“Some superstar is going to come here. It’s good,” Thomas said, via ESPN’s Chris Forsberg. “Magic Johnson is arguably the best Laker ever, so to have him ahead of all that and making decisions, it’s a step in the right direction. Everybody respects him. I mean, the Lakers are not going to be, I guess, what they are now forever. He’ll bring some people here.”

The 19-42 Lakers are currently 15th in the Western Conference, limping their way towards a fourth consecutive losing season. In a radical shakeup last month, team president Jeanie Buss fired general manager Mitch Kupchak and stripped her brother, Jim, of all his basketball power. In addition to Johnson, the club brought aboard former agent Rob Pelinka to serve as its GM. 

Johnson returns to the Lakers with a mixed post-career resume. Since officially retiring from the NBA in 1996, he’s taken taken part in a number of successful business ventures. His entertainment company, Magic Johnson Enterprises, has a net worth of $700 million. Johnson is also a part of the Dodgers’ ownership group. 

But his endeavors in basketball have been less fruitful. Johnson coached the Lakers at the end of the 1993-94 season, finishing with a 5-11 record. Apparently, though, Thomas is willing to discard that –– perhaps because of his lifelong affinity for the franchise.

“I was brainwashed to be a Laker fan when I was younger, so I always wanted to be a Laker. But I love being a Celtic,” he said.

Thomas will be a free agent after the 2017-18 season. 

Blog Author: 
Alex Reimer

The Hoodie introduced himself to the King.

Patriots head coach Bill Belichick watched the Celtics beat the defending-champion Cavaliers in a wildly entertaining game at TD Garden on Wednesday from seats right under the basket near the Celtics bench. During a stoppage in play, Celtics star Isaiah Thomas sauntered over to shake his hand.

The Hoodie introduced himself to the King.

Patriots head coach Bill Belichick watched the Celtics beat the defending-champion Cavaliers in a wildly entertaining game at TD Garden on Wednesday from seats right under the basket near the Celtics bench. During a stoppage in play, Celtics star Isaiah Thomas sauntered over to shake his hand.

During the game, Belichick got an up-close-and-personal look at LeBron James, who landed in his lap during one sequence after sailing out of bounds. After the game, Belichick went one better, visiting the Cavaliers locker room, according to multiple reporters, and making an impression on King James.

It’s enough to make you wonder how Belichick would use James if he could ever get him in pads. Perhaps an even more athletic version of Gronk?

It’s doubtful James gets starstruck around too many professional sports figures, but it looks like Belichick qualifies.

Blog Author: 
John Tomase

Early Wednesday afternoon, Brad Stevens issued a plan of attack and that evening his team executed it and turned it into one of their most impressive wins of the season.

Wednesday night’s 103-99 win over the Cavaliers was a testament to how tough the Celtics can be in the fourth quarter.

Early Wednesday afternoon, Brad Stevens issued a plan of attack and that evening his team executed it and turned it into one of their most impressive wins of the season.

Wednesday night’s 103-99 win over the Cavaliers was a testament to how tough the Celtics can be in the fourth quarter.

Avery Bradley

Avery Bradley

Early Wednesday afternoon, Brad Stevens issued a plan of attack and that evening his team executed it and turned it into one of their most impressive wins of the season.

Wednesday night’s 103-99 win over the Cavaliers was a testament to how tough the Celtics can be in the fourth quarter.

Even with their best scorer not hitting shots (1-of-4), the Celtics rallied behind defensive stops by Marcus Smart and Avery Bradley instead of relying on Isaiah Thomas to keep them in the game.

Facing a two-point deficit, Smart drew back-to-back offensive fouls against the Cavaliers before Jae Crowder (17 points) drained a 3-pointer under two minutes to go. Then, it was Bradley’s turn as he rattled Kyrie Irving (28 points) and drained a 3-pointer on the other end to keep his team ahead. 

Out of a Cavaliers timeout, Cleveland set up sharp shooter Kyle Korver for an open 3-pointer before Thomas drained his only field goal of the fourth quarter. Irving responded with a reverse layup to tie the game (99-99) before Thomas drew a shooting foul and drained a pair of free-throws to put the C’s ahead, 101-99.

LeBron James (28 points, 13 rebounds, 10 assists) passed up an opportunity to tie the game by passing the ball to Derrick Williams, who missed the potential game-winning 3-pointer. 

For a full box score and summary of Monday’s game vs. Cleveland, click here.

Stevens talked about the conversation he had with his team before facing the Cavaliers and what he told his team after the win. 

“I think the biggest thing: I went into the game thinking, and told our guys this afternoon, and just told them now, I wasn’t as concerned about the result,” Stevens said. “I just wanted to play with a real purpose possession to possession and maximize as many of those as possible. Let the chips fall where they may. We did a better job with that tonight than we have in a lot of games this year, which is required when you play a team of this caliber. And hopefully we can keep doing that when we go on the road.”

The Celtics held their own against the champs, surviving a third quarter scoring outburst by Irving — who scored all but five of the Cavaliers’ points in the frame — and only suffered a 3-point deficit in the fourth. Irving scored 15 of his 28 points in the third quarter but when he committed his fourth personal foul with 2:54 left, the Celtics capitalized as the two top teams in the Eastern Conference dueled until the finish. 

With the game tied at 76, Thomas checked in at the 10:02 mark of the fourth quarter but was held scoreless from the field throughout the final frame before ultimately hitting a go-ahead 3-pointer with 49.4 seconds left. 

“The best part of it was, we came in, we got together this afternoon, quickly talked about a plan of attack on both ends, and executed it,” Stevens said. “And after a day off, after a back-to-back, so I think that that’s a really good sign because we played with a real purpose. And I think that you have to play with a real purpose as you get further along. And the haphazard possessions that we had the other night, we had very, very few of those tonight. And I think that that was a huge difference for us.”

Blog Author: 
Josue Pavon

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Brad Stevens says Bradley will continue to play limited minutes for the Celtics (Josue Pavon/WEEI.com)

While Avery Bradley will continue playing on a minutes restriction, Celtics coach Brad Stevens will continue to lean on his rookie for steady production in the second half.

After missing 18 straight games, Bradley returned to the starting lineup against the Hawks on Monday. He finished with six points on 2-of-4 shots in 15 first-half minutes.

Bradley will most likely have a similar outing against the Cavaliers, which will give Jaylen Brown another opportunity to play extended minutes, especially in the second half.

Brown, who has clocked in over 25 minutes in each of his last three games, has been very efficient for the Celtics. Since the All-Star break, Brown is averaging 13.6 points while shooting at a 59.2 percent clip.

“Jaylen has been playing well,” Brad Stevens said. “I think he’s made a strong case to stay in that rotation. We’ll just continue to play like that.”

Lately, Brown has also proven he isn’t afraid to take big shots towards the end of the fourth quarter. His go-ahead 3-pointer with 37 seconds left against the Pistons last Sunday gave the Celtics a two-point lead and they never looked back in the Celtics’ only win in the last four games.

According to Stevens, the 15-25 minutes restriction on Bradley will be lifted by next week but until then the Celtics will need more minutes for Bradley than the 15 he saw against the Hawks. Against an offensive powerhouse like the Cavaliers, Bradley can do a good job in slowing down All-Star guard Kyrie Irving.

The Cavaliers enter Wednesday night’s game averaging 111.1 points per game, third in the NBA behind the Rockets and Warriors. However, against the Celtics, the Cavs averaged 126 points in their last two outings, including  LeBron James and Irving averaging a combined 54 points. 

Stevens will look to get the most out of his best on-ball defender in Bradley in the first half before giving Brown meaningful minutes against the champion Cavaliers. 

Blog Author: 
Josue Pavon

In the end, Andrew Bogut ended up exactly where we expected him.

Andrew Bogut

Andrew Bogut

In the end, Andrew Bogut ended up exactly where we expected him.

According to the Vertical’s Adrian Wojnarowski, the free-agent big man will sign with the defending champion Cleveland Cavaliers this weekend. The 76ers acquired him from the Mavericks at the trade deadline and then bought him out on Monday. He is expected to clear waivers on Wednesday.

Bogut has been limited to 26 games this year by knee and hamstring injuries. He reportedly narrowed his choices down to the Cavs, Celtics, and Rockets before settling on LeBron James and Co.

The Celtics were interested in Bogut as a potential rebounder who could shore up the inside, where the C’s have taken a beating recently.

Bogut is averaging three points and 8.3 rebounds this year.

Blog Author: 
John Tomase