It wasn’t a fun game to watch most of the way through, but it turned into a thriller late as the Celtics faced the Jazz Wednesday at the TD Garden. Gordon Hayward hit a jumper over Tyler Zeller with just 1.7 seconds remaining to give Utah an 84-83 edge, but it was Zeller that would get the last laugh. Brad Stevens drew up a play to perfection and Marcus Smart hit Zeller under the hoop for what turned into the game winner at the buzzer. The shot went under review, then the Garden erupted at the refs announced that the Celtics were coming away with an 85-84 win.

Isaiah Thomas and Jae Crowder were the game’s two high scorers with 21 and 18 points respectively — both coming off the Boston bench. Avery Bradley was the Celtics’ only starter to reach double figures with 13. Trey Bruke and Derrick Favors led the way for Utah with 16 points apiece. The Celtics are now 24-35 after the win, while the Jazz drop to 24-36 on the season.

For a full box score, click here.

UGLY FIRST HALF

Yes, both teams did play in different cities last night, but 34-33 at halftime is not a common sight in the NBA. Typically a cold start will get better for both teams. But after the Jazz took a 19-18 lead into the second quarter, the teams combine for only 30 more points in the half — leaving the Celtics with a one-point edge at the break. Despite turning the ball over just once, the C’s managed their 34 points on 32.6 percent shooting (including 16.7 percent from downtown). The Jazz weren’t much better, shooting a mere 37.1 percent, but attempted 11 less shots than Boston (46-35).

LINEUP ADJUSTMENTS

Despite leading at the half, Brad Stevens’ club was clearly struggling offensively, so he opted to make a move. Jae Crowder — who has been making a huge impact recently off the bench — started the second half over Brandon Bass. Crowder was the C’s lone bright spot offensively in the first half, tallying 13 points on 6-for-8 shooting. Crowder wound up going scoreless in the third frame, but the slack was picked up elsewhere.

AVERY BRADLEY CARRIED THE LOAD WHILE HURT

Bradley returned to the locker room in the first half with what the team deemed to be a left elbow contusion. He returned, but scored only two points in the half. Coming out of the break was another story, as Bradley scored all 11 of the Celtics points in the first six minutes of the third, before handing the torch over to the C’s new finisher.

ISAIAH THOMAS CLOSED AGAIN

It was Zeller who hit the game-winner, but Thomas came up huge for Boston late, scoring 19 of his 21 points in the second half. As he does so often, Thomas dominated the final frame, scoring 10 points while pacing the Celtics offense throughout. Thomas played only the fifth most minutes on the team with just over 26, which begs the question: When will Thomas get more minutes? Coming off the bench may be the right role for Thomas, but after proving how lethal of a scorer he is, it’s a matter of time until we see him on the floor more.

KELLY OLYNYK RETURNED (KIND OF)

After missing 18 games with a badly sprained left ankle, Olynyk was back in the lineup on Wednesday for the first time since Jan. 22. Olynyk saw just over seven minutes of action (all in the first half) and went scoreless in his return. “I thought Kelly was fine, but the way the game was going I felt like [Jonas] Jerebko was active and all over the place,” Stevens said following the game.

Obviously, Stevens did not give Olynyk much of a chance on the floor, but the forward looked a step behind and is going to have to earn his minutes to get back in the rotation. Clearly Olynyk has not yet returned to 100 percent.

Blog Author: 
Julian Edlow
Marcus Smart

Marcus Smart

Marcus Smart has been recognized for his efforts to keep the Celtics in the playoff hunt through a crazy trade season in Boston.

Smart and Minnesota Timberwolves sensation Andrew Wiggins were named Wednesday the Kia NBA Eastern and Western Conference Rookies of the Month, respectively, for February.

Smart ranked third among East rookies in scoring (9.8 ppg), assists (4.3 apg) and steals (1.64 spg) for the month. He also was fourth in rebounding (4.5 rpg) and averaged a conference-rookie-high 32.6 minutes in 11 games for the Celtics, whose 7-4 record was tied for fourth best in the East.

The 6-4, 220-pound point guard set single-game career highs in rebounds (10), assists (nine) and steals (five) during February. Smart scored in double figures in six of his final seven games of the month.

Smart’s playing time increased significantly following the Dec. trade of Rajon Rondo to Dallas. He continued to impress even as Danny Ainge brought in Isaiah Thomas in a deadline deal with Phoenix. Wednesday against Utah marked Smart’s 16th start of the season.

As for Wiggins, the rookie out of Kansas won the West award for the fourth consecutive month and helped the Timberwolves to a 5-6 record, their best mark in a full calendar month this season. The 6-8, 199-pound forward led all rookies in scoring (16.8 ppg) and minutes (38.7 mpg), and he shot 45.7 percent from the field and averaged 4.8 rebounds.

On Feb. 23, Wiggins scored 30 points in a 113-102 loss to the Houston Rockets, his third 30-point game of the season, matching the Minnesota rookie record set by Isaiah Rider in 1993-94.

Here are just some of the highlights of the month for Smart:

  • Feb. 1 vs. Miami: Dished out a career-high nine assists and had only one turnover in an 83-75 loss to the Heat.
  • Feb. 4 vs. Denver: Grabbed a career-high 10 rebounds and added four points, eight assists and three steals in a 104-100 victory over the Nuggets.
  • Feb. 20 @ Sacramento: Scored 16 points and contributed five rebounds and a career-high five steals in a 109-101 loss to the Kings.
  • Blog Author: 
    Mike Petraglia

    After a three-game win streak and a hard-fought loss to the Western Conference-leading Warriors, the Celtics began answering questions this weekend about possibly playing in the playoffs.

    After a three-game win streak and a hard-fought loss to the Western Conference-leading Warriors, the Celtics began answering questions this weekend about possibly playing in the playoffs.

    Well, nothing tempers expectations like a 31-point blowout by the surging Cavaliers.

    LeBron James scored a game-high 27 points, and Cleveland dominated from start to finish in a 110-79 victory against the visiting Celtics on Tuesday night. The loss marked the second straight for the C’s (23-35), who fell two full games behind the Nets for the eighth seed in the East playoff race.

    Brandon Bass‘ 15 points led an anemic Celtics offense that finished 35 percent from the field. Meanwhile, five more Cavs joined LeBron in double figures: Kyrie Irving (18 points), Kevin Love (12), J.R. Smith (12), Timofey Mosgov (10) and Tristan Thompson (10).

    For a complete box score, click here.

    WORST LOSS OF THE SEASON

    The 31-point loss marked the Celtics’ worst of the season. The C’€™s haven’€™t been blown out many times this season, as they’ve shown the ability to keep games close throughout the season. This time, though, the effort just wasn’€™t there, especially on the defensive end. The Celtics will not have long to dwell on their poor performance, as they host the Jazz on Wednesday night.

    ISAIAH THOMAS, MERE MORTAL?

    Thomas played his first bad game as a Celtic, scoring only 11 points in just under 20 minutes. He continued to attack the rim, but was repeatedly stifled by the Cavs’ long defenders. Thomas also missed all three of his attempts from 3-point range and finished 4-of-13 from the field.

    THE KING STAYS THE KING

    After LeBron missed two key free throws at the end of Sunday’s loss to the Rockets, some dared question the legitimacy of his reign. On Tuesday, King James proved why he deserves not only the throne, but another MVP trophy. LeBron dominated in all phases of the game, but really excelled shooting from the outside, hitting a number of ridiculous jumpers. Jae Crowder, Avery Bradley and Marcus Smart all tried to contain James, but none of them had the answer.

    NO FAST START

    After scoring 38 points in the first quarter on Sunday against the Warriors, the Celtics were looking to get a repeat performance from their offense on Tuesday. No such thing occurred. The Celtics jumped out to an early 9-5 lead, but only scored seven points in the final nine minutes of the quarter. The offense struggled to create space and often settled for long jumpers. One possession even featured a Crowder iso at the top of the key; it was ugly. It only got worse from there.

    SAY HELLO TO LUIGI DATOME

    The Italian Stallion, rocking the rare No. 70 jersey, played a season-high 15 minutes. Datome collected seven points and five rebounds. He probably felt comfortable on the court, as he was surrounded by some familiar faces — fellow benchwarmers Shavlik Randolph, Gerald Wallace and Phil Pressey, who all saw significant playing time.

    Blog Author: 
    Sam Packard

    Newly acquired Celtics point guard Isaiah Thomas captured the NBA’s Eastern Conference Player of the Week honors, becoming the f

    Newly acquired Celtics point guard Isaiah Thomas captured the NBA’s Eastern Conference Player of the Week honors, becoming the first Boston player to earn the award since Jared Sullinger last season from Feb. 3-9, 2014.

    Thomas averaged 22 points (53.8 true shooting percentage), 6.5 assists and 2.5 rebounds this past week, leading the Celtics to a 3-1 record, including Sunday’s near upset of the Warriors.

    Here’s a quick look at the week that was for Thomas.

    Celtics 115, Suns 110: 21 PTS (6-16 FG, 3-8 3P, 6-7 FT), 7 AST, 1 REB, 1 STL
    Celtics 115, Knicks 94: 19 PTS (3-10 FG, 2-6 3P, 11-11 FT), 7 AST, 6 REB
    Celtics 106, Hornets 98: 28 PTS (9-22 FG, 2-8 3P, 8-10 FT), 7 AST, 1 REB, 1 STL
    Warriors 106, Celtics 101: 20 PTS (8-21 FG, 3-11 3P, 1-1 FT), 5 AST, 2 REB

    Thomas edged Hawks forward Paul Millsap, Hornets teammates Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Mo Williams and Pacers guard George Hill for the award. Damian Lillard, who averaged 26 points, 5.7 assists and 4.7 rebounds from Feb. 23 to March 1, earned Western Conference Player of the Week honors.

    Celtics coach Brad Stevens, who submitted the first winning month (7-4) of his career in February, was nominated for Eastern Conference Coach of the Month, but lost out to Pacers coach Frank Vogel for the honor.

    Blog Author: 
    Ben Rohrbach

    

    The Celtics are holding their own against the NBA’s elite.

    The Celtics are holding their own against the NBA’s elite.

    Less than three weeks after beating the Eastern Conference-leading Hawks, the Celtics gave the West-leading Warriors all they could handle, establishing a 26-point first-half lead in front of a raucous home crowd before Golden State chipped away and crumbled their hosts, 106-101.

    Once again, Isaiah Thomas ignited the C’s scoring effort with 20 points — missing a 3-pointer that would have tied the game in the final seconds — to go along with five assists in 29 minutes off the bench. Tyler Zeller’s 17 points led all five Celtics starters in double figures, followed by Brandon Bass (15 points, 12 rebounds), Avery Bradley (12 points), Marcus Smart (10 points) and Evan Turner (10 points). Jae Crowder added 17 rebounds and nine points off the bench.

    Still, it wasn’t enough to overcome a Warriors team that owns the league’s best record (46-11) and features MVP favorite Stephen Curry, who netted 37 points to lead all scorers. Meanwhile, the Celtics drop to 23-34 and remain on the outside looking in on the East’s eighth and final playoff seed.

    For a complete box score, click here.

    THE RUN THAT WAS ALWAYS GOING TO COME

    Since taking a 5-4 lead 1:55 into the game, the Celtics held the Warriors at bay longer than anyone expected, but it was only a matter of time since the league’s top-scoring team got back in the game. Over the course of 12 minutes from the end of the third quarter to late in the fourth — as Shaun Livingston gave them a spark off the bench, Green heated up and Curry remained on fire — Golden State outscored the Celtics 32-15 to grab their first lead since the opening minutes.

    DEFENDING THEIR LIVES

    If the Celtics have any hope of making the playoffs, it’ll be their improvement on the defensive end that will make the difference between a first-round series and a lottery pick. Six games after holding the Hawks to 42.3 percent shooting, the C’s held the Warriors to 42.1 percent — not an easy task two of the game’s most prolific shooters. Curry and Klay Thompson (20 points) were always going to get their points, but the C’s built their lead by holding Golden State’s frontcourt — Draymond Green, Harrison Barnes, Andrew Bogut, David Lee and Andre Iguodala — to combined 4-of-20 shooting in the opening 24 minutes. That’s especially impressive considering the Celtics are sans Jared Sullinger and Kelly Olynyk.

    ISAIAH THOMAS IS AN ELITE SCORER

    Quite simply, Thomas has been a dominant offensive force during his Celtics tenure, anchoring a unit that scored 117.9 points per 100 possessions during his first four games in Boston. Even more impressive, he owns a usage rate of 35.4 percent, meaning more than a third of the C’s possessions are running through Thomas when he’s on the floor. His 58.2 true shooting percentage during that four-game stretch would rank among the NBA’s best guard over a full season. Sunday night was no different, as his 15 points before the break led a 65-point first-half for the Celtics. He cooled off in the second half, finishing just 8-of-21 from the field and missing eight of his 11 3-point attempts, but his presence remains a revelation.

    JAE CROWDER IS THE C’S DRAYMOND GREEN

    Granted, Green will receive a max contract on the restricted free agency market this summer and Crowder won’t command anywhere near that salary, but the two offer similar styles. Crowder has shown the ability to knock down the open 3-pointer, defend multiple positions on the other end and generally fill up the stat sheet across the board. Crowder’s outside shot wasn’t falling, as he made just 4-of-17 shots, but he finished with nine points, 17 rebounds, two assists and a block in 26 minutes off the bench  — a Green-esque performance.

    JONAS JEREBKO IS A STRETCH 5

    The Celtics continued to play small-ball with great success, in large part because the Warriors didn’t have a center capable of making them pay defensively. That allows the C’s to space the floor offensively with Jerebko playing the five. His entrance coincided with an 18-5 run that helped the C’s establish the startling 26-point lead. Starting the second quarter alongside Thomas, Marcus Smart, James Young and Crowder, Jerebko knocked down his lone 3-point attempt while collecting four combined rebounds, blocks and steals — and finished a plus-11 in seven first-half minutes.

    Blog Author: 
    Ben Rohrbach

    Don’t look now, but the Boston Celtics are making a playoff push ‘€“ and a strong one at that, having won seven of their last 10 games.

    At the beginning of the season, if you had to pick the three best players on the Celtics, your answer probably would have been Rajon Rondo, Jeff Green and Jared Sullinger. As we now know, Rondo and Green were sent packing, and Sullinger is out for the season with a stress fracture in his foot.

    Enter the likes of Isaiah Thomas, Jae Crowder and Jonas Jerebko ‘€“ players that were on three separate rosters at the start of the season (none of which were the Celtics). The trio have been dominating games off the bench in Boston’€™s last two wins. We know the NBA has been trending towards ‘€œsmall ball’€ lineups, but this unit often takes things to a whole new level.

    Thomas is undersized for his matchup every night at just 5-foot-9, but plays far above his height in the sense that he is constantly comfortable battling in the paint. Crowder (typically a small forward) and Jerebko (a power forward) are each moved up to power forward and center in the new ‘€œsmall ball’€ lineup. The other two positions are often filled by 6-foot-2 Avery Bradley and 6-foot-4 Marcus Smart. Like I said, a whole new level.

    ‘€œWell, with a two-game sample size I would say it’€™s been good, but I don’€™t know that we can determine if it’€™s good long-term or not,’€ Brad Stevens said of his new lineup that he seemingly stumbled upon. ‘€œI think that the biggest thing for me has always been if you can find somebody with enough speed and skill that can guard above their size. Then you can create some havoc on the other side of the court, and that’€™s what Jae has done. Jae’€™s ability to guard the post has given us some options as we’€™ve been smaller here, and Jonas too. But we had to double Al [Jefferson] still and we had to do some of that stuff, but Jae did a great job on Al Jefferson. He did as good as anybody can.’€

    So what’€™s been the difference in the C’€™s recent success?

    ‘€œIsaiah Thomas,’€ Bradley said without hesitation when asked what sparked the change in the team. ‘€œNot only him, Jae Crowder, I can go down the list. Everyone’€™s just buying in to what Brad’€™s trying to do and that’€™s team basketball.’€

    ‘€œThat’€™s pretty nice,’€ Thomas then replied to Bradley’€™s compliment. ‘€œIt’€™s not me, though, it’€™s just this team. We’€™re playing hard, coach is putting us in a position to be successful and that’€™s the big key. We’€™re believing in each other.’€

    Come April, team basketball could be something that carries the C’€™s to the playoffs ‘€“ something Bradley admitted has been a goal he’€™s thought about since the beginning of the season. Thomas concurred, admitting that Friday’€™s atmosphere felt much like a playoff game to him. Turns out Thomas might not have to wait as long as we thought to get his first taste of the postseason for real.

    Follow Julian Edlow on Twitter @julianedlow

    Blog Author: 
    Julian Edlow