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Postgame Reaction on the Physical Play in Game 4


So as you may have heard, things got a little chippy, even compared to how the rest of the series had been going. You can see all of the ugly plays in question at that link.

The reactions to all of the plays have been pretty strong and, as you can imagine, split according to region. Kelly, Kendrick, and JR might want to hold off on travelling to Cleveland or Boston, respectively, anytime soon.

The reaction among the teams was pretty polarized, as well. Here’s what each team had to say on the incidents.

On the Kelly Olynyk foul on Kevin Love:

(Kelly did not comment on the foul after the game)

Love: “I thought it was a bush-league play…I have no doubt in my mind that he did it on purpose.”

LeBron James: “I’ve seen the replay and it didn’t look like a basketball play. I’ve seen a lot of tie-ups in my day and that tie-up was a little different.”

Coach David Blatt: “We didn’t look at it as a team at halftime. I hope that it wasn’t a play on purpose. I don’t think its in the character of Olynyk (Kelly) to do that, but I hope not…I didn’t see the play, but obviously Kevin did and if that’s what he thinks then he was the closest guy to it.”

Coach Brad Stevens: “…I watched it on film after the fact…I thought it was two guys locking each other. But I thought the foul call was correct on Kelly. I can’t imagine there was any negative intent on Kelly; that’s not the type of person he is. And I hope Kevin’s okay to play, whenever they play next.”

Evan Turner (easily the quote of the day): “(Kelly) wasn’t being malicious. He doesn’t have a mean bone in his body. He just can’t box out to save his life.”

On the JR Smith Foul on Crowder

Smith: “He was cutting in to the lane after the shot had been shot, I tried to box him out. As I’m boxing him out I just kept feeling his fore arm on my head…tried to keep backing up but he kept pushing…I tried to swing my arm loose thinking it was the best way to try to get my arm up in position to rebound and we made contact. There was nothing malicious about it.”

Stevens: I haven’t seen it. But we don’t know exactly what the deal is yet; he had a lower leg potential injury as he fell, but he’s going to go get an MRI and everything else today. And then he got, I guess he got elbowed to the head and that’s how he fell; I shouldn’t be saying that because I don’t really know because I couldn’t see the play from my vantage point. But that’s what I was told. It’s what I know.”

Kyrie Irving (on physical play in general of the series): “Things got a little chippy, obviously Kev dislocates his shoulder. Honestly I didn’t see what happened but I think it was a shared feeling that it just wasn’t a basketball play. Then the Jae Crowder incident, both of them, it got physical but you never want to wish anything will happen to him, or anyone. It just got chippy and guys got to stand up for themselves. Sometimes things get out of hand a little too much but the game of basketball, it just got chippy.”

Isaiah Thomas: “We can say the same thing (like Love said Olynyk was on purpose/Perkins play) we are all men here. We don’t need to cry and tell you guys. It is what it is, its playoff basketball. We don’t want to hurt anybody and things happen and you got to move forward.”

Neither play looks great on review (and nobody even mentions the Perkins slap on Crowder), but neither should come as a huge surprise, either. This series was incredibly physical from the get-go, and it was only a matter of time before things escalated to where they did.

Does it mean anything long-term in regards to a rivalry rekindling? I would guess not, since the general consensus (other than Love) is that, ugly as they may be, both plays came in the course of hard-fought playoff basketball. Still, those hoping to bring Love into a Celtics uniform next year might need to temper their expectations a bit.

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Cleveland Cavaliers 101, Boston Celtics 92, Cavs Sweep Series


In a lot of ways, the team finally came full circle today, and not necessarily in a positive way.

The season started with the team having a propensity to digging itself a gigantic hole in games. The offense would sputter and stall, and the team would find itself down by 20 or more in the second or third quarters. They would always fight back admirably, and that is the heart and spirit we’ve grown to love from this team for the year. They would scrap for points in unexpected ways and grind their opponents down to a nub. But the hole would often be too great to overcome.

So it only seems fitting that the final game of the season would bring back some of the old bugaboos. The defense was a little bit better after a series of failing to stop LeBron and Kyrie. But the ball simply would not go into the basket. The final shooting line was not pretty – 39% from the field, 3/23 (!!!) from 3, 24/37 from the line. There’s at least the 8 point difference of the game somewhere in those missed extra points. Isaiah Thomas was particularly rough – he finished with 21 points and 9 assists, but the 4/17 output with 4 turnovers was something the Celtics could ill afford to endure.

The return of Jared Sullinger to meaningful play had a bit of a retro feel to it. Finishing with 21 points and 11 rebounds, this was easily the first time in ages we’ve seen Sullinger play anything close to his full potential. But that was counteracted by the return of Ugly Evan Turner, who was barely usable on the day to cap off a miserable series (save a good effort in much of Game 3).

Even the persistent problems that have been this team’s undoing remained unfixed one last time. Cleveland still killed the Celtics on the offensive glass. At one point, Stevens went with a goal-line package of Olynyk, Jerebko, and Sullinger, and the Cavs still grabbed multiple possessions. No matter what lineup Stevens threw out there (and he threw out a lot of them), Cleveland was able to attack Boston how it has since mid-November.

But even the fight shown in the 4th quarter had a familiar air to it. An oddball lineup of Smart, Bradley, Thomas, Sullinger, and Gigi (yup) turned what should have finished as a comfortable win for Cleveland into a 6 point affair and an ever-so-slight Gigi rim-out away from making the game interesting. Because why wouldn’t this team turn to Gigi Datome on the most important play of the season and have it almost work?

In the end, what we thought would doom this team to another lottery appearance finally came to roost in the only elimination game they will have this year. And so, the feel-good underdog of the year turned back into a pumpkin.

Much more to come on this game and series later, including postgame reaction from the Celtics, the physicality from both teams (legit or not), the weaknesses (re-)exposed by the Cavaliers, and where the team needs to go from here. But let’s first take a moment to appreciate the ability of a team expected to compete for Okafor to instead compete for a playoff seed and gain some much-needed high-stakes experience. This season was unexpectedly awesome.

Also, this.

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Jae Crowder Sprains His Knee After Hit from JR Smith, Will Not Return

As if the game wasn’t going poorly enough, Jae Crowder, the hardest playing Celtic for this series, has been ruled out for the rest of the day with a sprained left knee.

Crowder was taken down by a pretty cheap backhand to the head from J.R Smith, and in the process of falling twisted his leg in an ugly fashion. You can watch the video of the “play” below:

This of course follows Perkins’ slap to Crowder’s face in the second quarter (which somehow wasn’t an ejection):

…and the Olynyk/Love tangle-up that left Love minus a clavicle (which wasn’t really dirty, just ugly, but that’s a debate for later):

Stevens talked about the physicality of the series before the game, and it is starting to boil over here.

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Celtics Game 4 Pregame Notes: Crowder In, Smart Out (and Late), Sullinger Good to Go

With their backs up against the wall, Brad Stevens has finally decided to make a switch to the starting lineup, switching out Marcus Smart in favor of Jae Crowder.

“I decided that yesterday just because Jae has been very good this series. Could have gone a couple of different ways with that…Obviously it’s just five more minutes where you’re matched up a little more traditionally.”

Stevens went on to say he thought of a couple different lineups, but this is the one he settled on because Crowder has been playing so well. He expects both Crowder and Turner to take turns guarding LeBron, but I would imagine Crowder will get the bulk of the work.

Fans have been pining for Crowder to start since Game 1. He has been the only Celtic to match up well against LeBron, and his energy has been one of the more consistent positives for this team. The expected odd man out was Turner, but his performance in Game 3 was much better than the previous two, and taking him out would leave no one in the lineup who could create offense effectively.

Instead, Smart will take a seat and play with the second unit. This might have been the case anyways, as apparently he was late to shoot-around this morning because his alarm didn’t go off (why is that a thing this year?).

For their part, neither Smart nor Stevens is treating the move as a major surprise or cause for concern. Smart said, “It was just one of those days…It’s the first time I’ve been late, but it’s not acceptable.” He also apologized to the team and coaching staff and said he “had to take the consequences like a man”.

Meanwhile, Stevens said, “As I told Marcus, I’m not worried about him at all. This is not a big Marcus thing.” He also said the change to Crowder was already in place, and the move wasn’t related to Smart’s tardiness. So while it’s a huge bummer that this happened, it’s unlikely it had a major change in what the strategy would have been for the team today, although Smart’s minutes might be even further diminished. It also doesn’t look to be anything to worry about for the future.

In other lineup related news, Jared Sullinger says he is feeling much better after going through shoot-around and working out with the training staff, and he “didn’t get an Isaiah type injury” after his tangle with Kevin Love in the previous game. He will likely play the same amount of minutes he would in a normal game.

Other notes:

-          One of the key points Stevens made during his pregame conference was the need to “execute a bit better during their runs…we need to make it a 6-3 run or an 8-2 run instead of a 12-0 run”. Look for the team to try and control tempo more in this game, although that’s easier said than done against this Cleveland team.

-          Stevens also mentioned he doesn’t plan to coach any differently even though this is an elimination game in part because “that’s one of his areas of strength from college…Every game you play in March is basically (an elimination game).” He did also express optimism for Game 4, saying, “The one thing we haven’t been yet…is out of it.”

Follow Jesse on Twitter: @JesseAlling

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The Diverging Paths of Jae Crowder and Rajon Rondo

B6Y1KYVIgAAiLbyWhen the Celtics traded Rajon Rondo to the Mavericks in December, the move was supposed to push Dallas into the title contender discussion and throw Boston into the great Eastern Conference tank race of 2015.

A little more than four months later, both teams are in the exact same position: No. 7 seeds about to get swept out of the playoffs. Oh, how quickly things can change.

In the deal, the Mavs took Rondo and Dwight Powell in exchange for Jameer Nelson, Brandan Wright, a conditional 2015 first-round pick, a 2016 second-round pick, a $12.9 million dollar trade exception and the only player from the trade currently with Boston, Jae Crowder. Read the rest of this entry »

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Paul Pierce is Still The Truth

26 BKN Pic 3In the midst of a disappointing series against the Cleveland Cavaliers, Celtics fans still can be upbeat about one thing: Paul Pierce is still the Truth.

The 37-year-old was at it again last night, dominating the Raptors down the stretch with a pair of back-breaking three-pointers in the midst of a critical win for Washington in Game 3.

This morning, Pierce followed up his performance with a fun bit of trolling as well.

To recap, in the past two years against Toronto, Pierce has won a Game 7, forced Masai Ujiri into a $35,000 fine after ripping the team, and hit clutch 3-pointers in Game 1 and Game 3 in the series. Not too bad for the 16-year veteran.

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LeBron Dominates Game 3, Send Celtics to 3-0 Series Deficit

Photo courtesy of  @nbacom

The Celtics came up fighting in Game 3, but they did not show up with their best stuff in front of the home crowd at the TD Garden. LeBron James erupted for 31 points and 11 rebounds, Kevin Love added 23 points including six 3-point shots, and Boston did not have an adequate counterpunch, falling 103-95 to the Cavs to drop to a 3-0 deficit in the best-of-seven series.

Jae Crowder energized the crowd all night by filling up the box score with a bit of everything (multiple points, rebounds, assists, blocks and steals) but he was the only Celtic firing on all cylinders. Evan Turner shot well, but turned the ball over (four miscues). Avery Bradley had another off shooting night (7-for-18).

Isaiah Thomas laid an egg (2-for-9) and the Celtics big men good abused on the offensive glass again (11 offensive rebounds for Cleveland). On the defensive end, there were numerous breakdowns and sloppy performances that gave the Cavs countless open looks in the first half.

The end result? A scrappy game that kept the Celtics from getting over the hump. A pride game will be waiting for the C’s on Sunday afternoon at the Garden to avoid the sweep, but Boston will need to show up with their A game for the first time this series.

Full grades on the way in the A.M.

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Why the Celtics Should Go Small in Game 3

CA9eEvyXIAAOKk0The Celtics have fallen into a 0-2 hole against a Cavs team that can seemingly flip a switch and go on a game-ending run at any time. There is little Boston can do when LeBron James and Kyrie Irving decide they are going to score all 24 of Cleveland’s points in the fourth quarter of Game 2.

Despite the obvious talent disparity, Brad Stevens will continue to make adjustments to put his players in the best position possible to compete. As the Celtics travel back home, he might want to consider playing smaller, quicker lineups that will push the pace and create better spacing.

In half court sets, post ups have not gone well, particularly in Game 2 with Brandon Bass. Through the first three quarters, Bass led all players with eight post ups that led to a total of two points. Not exactly good efficiency.

The lack of interior scoring is to be expected given the Celtics’ personnel and the paint presence of Timofey Mozgov. The 7-1 Russian registered five blocks and Boston went 4-10 on shots where Mozgov was near the rim.

A possible counter to this is having four players on the floor with guard skills and one frontcourt player. The lineup on this play from Game 1 is Smart-Thomas-Crowder-Jerebko-Zeller. The lone traditional big man, Tyler Zeller, sets a ball screen for Marcus Smart, but Smart rips through and drives down the middle of the lane for a layup. Read the rest of this entry »

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Grades for Game 2 Eastern Conference Playoffs: Cleveland Cavaliers vs. Boston Celtics

Perhaps the toughest thing to watch in Tuesday’s loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers was the Cavs’ attitude: For the most part, they seemed to be toying with the Boston Celtics.

That’s not an encouraging sign. Boston has kept itself alive in each of the first two games, but at no point in either did it really feel like the Celtics had a chance to break through. Cleveland just has too much firepower to drop a 48-minute game to the Celtics, whose best player is roughly the same height as an average 7th grader in a pair of Air Maxes. The Celtics have to play flawless basketball for 48 minutes. Any hint of slippage and the Cavaliers — who haven’t seemed to ratchet up the intensity level much past 70 percent to this point — will come storming back and claim a back-breaking lead.

That’s the worst part: All Cleveland needs is a millisecond’s letdown to take control. They just need the Celtics to miss a shot and then doubt whether they can hit their next one to take over the game and win comfortably.

The Celtics are working extremely hard. You can’t fault their effort, and you certainly would expect nothing less from a team that scratched, bit, clawed, punched and pulled to get to this point. There’s no reason to believe they would quit, and they haven’t. But they are also so in over their heads that a coasting Cavaliers squad can pretty much decide when they want to be the best players in the world, and then they go do it. Jae Crowder can’t decide to be the best player in the world. He can only decide to be Jae Crowder, and while Celtics fans like him in his Jae Crowder role quite a bit, simply being himself against LeBron isn’t enough.

The Celtics are scrappy. They could still win a game in Boston if the Cavaliers keep hitting snooze on their first-quarter alarms until suddenly they’re faced with a 15-point fourth quarter deficit and can’t quite overcome it. But any fans who legitimately thought Boston could push Cleveland in a seven-game series should rethink their expectations. This series needs to be about progress, not about wins, because the wins very well might not come.

Boston Celtics 91 Final
Recap | Box Score
99 Cleveland Cavaliers
Brandon Bass, PF 15 MIN | 0-6 FG | 2-2 FT | 2 REB | 3 AST | 1 STL | 2 BLK | 0 TO | 2 PTS | -13 +/-

Bass didn’t get enough minutes to be in rhythm, but he also finished with an atrocious shooting percentage, and his defense was less-than-ideal.

Tyler Zeller, C 30 MIN | 5-8 FG | 1-2 FT | 6 REB | 1 AST | 1 STL | 1 BLK | 2 TO | 11 PTS | -5 +/-

Not a bad shooting night for Zeller, but he had a big dunk ripped away from him that cost the Celtics dearly late.

Avery Bradley, PG 29 MIN | 3-9 FG | 0-0 FT | 4 REB | 0 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 8 PTS | -12 +/-

Bradley looked like he might shake off his shooting slump, but he cooled off as the game went on. His defense was excellent at times, but he was called for some very questionable fouls. Aggressive defense often gets punished, but man…Bradley did not get any favors from the officiating.

Marcus Smart, PG 26 MIN | 4-9 FG | 1-2 FT | 1 REB | 1 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 10 PTS | -20 +/-

In typical Marcus Smart fashion, he did some things to help the Celtics stay float, but he also missed a lot of 3-pointers.

Evan Turner, SG 33 MIN | 3-11 FG | 3-4 FT | 12 REB | 3 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 9 PTS | +8 +/-

This is a nightmare matchup for the Celtics across the board, but perhaps no one personifies it as much as Evan Turner, who is frequently guarded by LeBron James. It rarely ends well for the Celtics.

Jonas Jerebko, PF 4 MIN | 0-1 FG | 0-0 FT | 1 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 0 PTS | +2 +/-

Not sure where Jerebko was throughout the first half or why the Celtics seem to have decided he can’t help much.

Jared Sullinger, PF 22 MIN | 6-12 FG | 0-0 FT | 5 REB | 1 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 14 PTS | -8 +/-

Sullinger going 2-for-4 from 3-point range might be pretty beneficial for Cleveland if he decides that he’d rather float around the perimeter. Still, on a team that lacks floor spacing badly, perhaps it can be a weapon.

On a less negative note (sorry), Sullinger looked as healthy as we’ve seen him since he went down for what was supposed to be the season.

Jae Crowder, SF 30 MIN | 4-10 FG | 2-2 FT | 5 REB | 3 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 10 PTS | -2 +/-

I used to feel pretty confident when Crowder fired up 3-pointers. I’m quickly losing confidence, and it’s bumming me out, because if teams figure it out and stop chasing him off the line, he’ll lose a lot of effectiveness. Until then, his drives to the rim are a legitimate weapon.

Kelly Olynyk, C 21 MIN | 2-5 FG | 0-0 FT | 2 REB | 0 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 2 TO | 5 PTS | +13 +/-

Olynyk remains completely mystifying as an offensive force — more likely to pump fake and drive into the lane than pulling the trigger from 3-point range. That said, with the way he has been shooting from behind the arc, one has to wonder if Stevens should try to put together some sets specifically designed to create 3-point looks for Olynyk in Game 3.

Isaiah Thomas, PG 30 MIN | 6-14 FG | 10-10 FT | 1 REB | 7 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 4 TO | 22 PTS | -3 +/-

How is it that a 5’9 point guard coming off the bench is the only player on a playoff team who can be counted on to create offense consistently.

Brad Stevens

Boston’s adjustments on LeBron were pretty ingenious, even if he generally seemed to be toying with the Cs. It’s grating on my powers of reasoning that the starting lineup — so devoid of offensive talent — is building leads. I don’t understand. Oh well.

Follow Tom on Twitter: @Tom_NBA.

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Boston Celtics vs. Cleveland Cavaliers Game 2 Open Thread

Boston Celtics vs Cleveland Cavaliers

Tue Apr 21, 7:00 PM EST – TNT, FSOh, CSNE

Line: CLE -11.0, O/U: 205.5

Quicken Loans Arena – Cleveland, OH

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