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Brad Stevens and the Magic of the Celtics’ Out-of-Bounds Plays

bradstevens

Last night’s game against Miami was 95% debacle, but it almost didn’t end that way thanks to a late-game play designed for a Jae Crowder layup. The layup was a dud, so it was lost among the nether of the Celtics’ performance – or, as the saying goes, the operation was a success, but the patient died. But it highlighted one of the keys to the team’s recent playoff push.

There’s a Christopher Nolan movie that came out in 2006 called The Prestige (it’s a solid watch if you’ve never seen it, but make sure you’re ready for a mental-workout Nolan film). The plot centers around two rival magicians battling each other in a game of magical one-upmanship to see who is more talented. It gets weird from there, but one of the overarching themes is the three parts that make up a good magic trick: the Pledge, the Turn, and the Prestige. The Pledge is where an ordinary object is presented to the audience, the Turn is where the object is turned into something else, and the Prestige is when the original object returns for resolution.

This brings me to Brad Stevens. I know, I know, bear with me. Read the rest of this entry »

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Game 71 Grades: Miami Heat 93, Boston Celtics 86

Miami Heat 93 FinalRecap | Box Score 86 Boston Celtics
Brandon Bass, PF 22 MIN | 3-6 FG | 3-6 FT | 5 REB | 1 AST | 2 STL | 1 BLK | 1 TO | 9 PTS | -15 +/-
Should have owned this game going against the likes of Udonis Haslem and Michael Beasley, but instead looked tentative down low and suffered defending the paint against the pick and roll.

Tyler Zeller, C 19 MIN | 4-5 FG | 2-2 FT | 8 REB | 2 AST | 0 STL | 1 BLK | 1 TO | 10 PTS | -4 +/-
See Brandon Bass, but slightly more efficient with some more fun screen-and-roll action.

Avery Bradley, PG 28 MIN | 4-9 FG | 2-3 FT | 1 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 3 TO | 12 PTS | -17 +/-
Started out hot, then he hit his funny bone and was never the same. At least it’s not more serious, seeing as it was the same elbow he injured last month. Started the game on Chalmers, which was interesting, but did little to stop the array of open 3′s Miami had early. Was “OK” on Dragic.

Marcus Smart, PG 30 MIN | 1-8 FG | 3-4 FT | 3 REB | 2 AST | 4 STL | 0 BLK | 2 TO | 6 PTS | +9 +/-
Started the game defending Dragic, and summarily let him do anything he wanted for 3 quarters. Well, technically 2 1/4, since Stevens pulled him early in the third quarter for defensive purposes (yes, it was that bad). Finished the game strong with lots of deflections and aggressive rotations, but that doesn’t excuse a woeful beginning.

Evan Turner, SG 20 MIN | 1-5 FG | 2-2 FT | 4 REB | 5 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 4 PTS | -7 +/-
Another one who couldn’t close out on open 3′s off the pick and roll. Couldn’t punish the smaller Miami lineup at all. Did little of substance in this game.

Jonas Jerebko, PF 23 MIN | 2-7 FG | 0-0 FT | 7 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 4 PTS | +7 +/-
Off shooting night, but was really the only Celtics big who looked like he had a pulse at any point. Came up with a couple of key jump balls late, although in reality he probably should have grabbed the rebound cleanly in the first place.

Gerald Wallace, SF 4 MIN | 0-0 FG | 0-0 FT | 0 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 0 PTS | -1 +/-
One foul, one turnover. That’s it. If not for the box score, I would have forgotten he played. *shrug*

Luigi Datome, SF 12 MIN | 2-3 FG | 0-0 FT | 2 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 6 PTS | +13 +/-
How weird was tonight? Gigi Freakin’ Datome might have done the best job of defending wings and chasing down 3 point shooters, including a ridiculous stop on Dragic after a bad switch. Hit his shots, too. If the game ended in a win, I had an analogy to the ringer in season 1 of The Wire ready to go, but it’s still pretty close.

Jae Crowder, SF 27 MIN | 4-10 FG | 8-11 FT | 7 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 1 BLK | 2 TO | 16 PTS | -9 +/-
He and Pressey were the only ones trying to take it to the basket on a consistent basis, which seemed like the obvious move given the roster they were facing. Shot selection was a little wonky in the fourth, but that’s become part of his charm. Had trouble deciding whether to prevent the drive or the outside shooter off the PnR, but fixed that in the fourth with great rotations.

Kelly Olynyk, C 17 MIN | 1-3 FG | 2-2 FT | 1 REB | 0 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 4 PTS | -2 +/-
Tonight was not a game that fit KO, as he’s more of a finesse player, and the Heat were outfinessing the entire team with ease. Still looked a bit tentative, but decision making was overall sound.

Phil Pressey, PG 18 MIN | 4-6 FG | 3-4 FT | 5 REB | 6 AST | 1 STL | 1 BLK | 2 TO | 11 PTS | +9 +/-
When it became clear Thomas was not going to be of any use tonight, Pressey stepped up and did a solid impression of him. He challenged the Heat’s interior defense, came up with rebounds he had no business grabbing, and made terrific plays 90% of the time. The other 10% of plays were killers, but for the 12th man, tonight was pretty good.

Isaiah Thomas, PG 20 MIN | 2-7 FG | 0-3 FT | 0 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 3 TO | 4 PTS | -18 +/-
Woof. Did not look healthy in the slightest. Backs are tricky, and I rather his long term health be preserved, but if he isn’t right going forward, this team is pretty much done for. Tonight’s game would be a prime example of when he is needed at full strength.

Brad Stevens
Coach took responsibility for the first 2 1/2 quarters, which he probably should to some degree. But Stevens did what any coach should do on nights like this – throw the entire bowl of spaghetti at the wall and see what sticks. Zone D, a 3 PG lineup, all bench for the whole 4th, benching Smart in the 3rd, he did it all. It almost kind of worked, but the gap was too big to start with.

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Game 71 Preview: Miami Heat (32-38) @ Boston Celtics (31-39)

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With a dozen games remaining on their schedule, the Celtics host the Heat tonight for a game with big playoff implications. Boston beat Miami just a few weeks ago to the tune of 100-90, and tonight Miami will likely be short-handed.

Hassan Whiteside is listed as doubtful for tonight after receiving ten stitches in his right hand for a bizarre injury he sustained during an equally bizarre Miami loss last night against Milwaukee.

Charlotte is at home against the Nets, and the Pacers are in DC to face the sinking Wizards. The C’s can certainly afford to lose tonight’s game, but it would certainly benefit their playoff push to walk away with a W. Boston is 18-17 at home, but really tonight is a bit of a toss-up. Let’s discuss.

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Celtics Likely to Target “Second-Tier” Free Agents this Offseason

middleton

All Boston focus has been on the playoffs lately, as it should be – who doesn’t love the playoffs? But even if the Celtics continue to play well and grab an 8th seed, or maybe even up to a 6th if you’re feeling very optimistic, their championship prospects are, euphemistically, pretty minimal. With that in mind, this offseason is going to be crucial for the continued progress of this team.

Jackie MacMullan of ESPN Boston dropped a bit of insight on that front a few days ago that went largely unnoticed, but may prove prophetic in the next few months:

“I think they’ll get somebody that can help them. I don’t think it’s going to be a big splash and I’m not sure it has to be this summer…”

“I think they’re going to try and get those [second tier free agents] anyways. Let’s say if you’re Khris Middleton, for instance, he’s become everyone’s darling because analytically his numbers are eye popping. Either way I believe the Celtics were going to go after those guys anyways.”

My thoughts on this:

- Jackie MacMullan is legend. She has a better feel of the team’s pulse than arguably anyone else right now, and I can’t remember the last time she was wrong about something. So this is about as legit a source as you can get.

- This doesn’t mean the team won’t put their foot in water for the big fish, but easier said than done. Marc Gasol has little to no reason to leave Memphis. Kevin Love is a popular target, but he could just as easily go to Los Angeles or New York, or even exercise his player option and stay, especially if Cleveland does well. Barring a total collapse in the playoffs, LaMarcus Aldridge isn’t leaving Portland, and definitely not for Boston. There’s a decent crop of restricted free agents and players who control options, but those will be even harder to sign away. After that, you’re pretty much in the second tier Jackie is talking about. Slim pickings for stars in this year’s crop.

- The team doesn’t have to make a drastic move right now; they’re in a good spot to just keep developing and improving. Brad Stevens has had a lot of success working with the second and third tier type of players Jackie is referring to. Other than bringing back Crowder (I’ve been hearing around $5 or $6 million is about what he’s earned in his new contract) and maybe Bass if he’s willing to buy in at a slightly smaller number, the bevy of cap space Boston has right now could be put to good use making slight improvements across the board. Keep in mind, this team still has little shooting and no interior defense. Don’t have to break the bank to improve those tremendously.

- If you’re worried about “wasting” cap space on second-tier players, don’t forget the league and player’s union failed to work out a cap smoothing agreement, meaning the following offseason is just going to get weird with cap space. As in literally everyone is going to have it pretty much regardless of what they currently have (well, maybe not Brooklyn still. Zing.) Also, Gerald Wallace’s paid internship as an assistant coach will finally be over, which clears an extra $10 million or so off the books, meaning they can still make a “second-tier” signing this year and be fine for the following year to sign a max player.

- As for Khris Middleton specifically, I’m pretty sure none of you had really heard the name until he made one of the most ridiculous game-winners of the season last night. But he’s exactly the kind of player the team could use – he shoots 3’s very well, he defends at a good rate (96.7 individual defensive rating!), and he’s a decent size for a wing player, meaning you can move him around the 2 and 3 spots without much difficulty. It’s not super sexy, but it’s the kind of versatility that has made this team successful as of late. Unless someone like Love or Gasol really is available, getting multi-tooled players that make you better is nothing to scoff at, and when the star does eventually become available, you’re ready to go.

The offseason is a few months away, and a playoff run (or *NO JINXING* coming up short of the playoffs) might change the trajectory a bit. But Jackie is smart, and this plan would make sense from a short-term and long-term standpoint. So while people may be hoping and expecting for fireworks this summer, don’t be disappointed if it ends up just being a sparkler or two.

Follow Jesse on Twitter: @JesseAlling

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The Home Stretch: Previewing Boston Celtics’ Playoff Push

Screen Shot 2015-03-24 at 10.49.47 AM

Against all odds, the Boston Celtics are still firmly in the conversation for the 2015 NBA Post-season, although their final slate of games is anything but easy. In twelve games, Boston will face several teams poised to make deep playoff runs, and more importantly, will face several teams with whom the Celtics are in direct competition for the seventh and eighth seeds in the Eastern Conference playoff bracket.

Boston is currently 31-39 after a much-needed win over Brooklyn Monday night and they hold the eighth seed in the East with a half-game lead over Charlotte. They have a dozen games remaining on the schedule, and owe their current position not only to Brad Stevens but also to the lukewarm conditions in the Eastern Conference.

Since the All-Star break, Boston’s offensive rating, or points per 100 possessions, is 101.4, good for 14th in the league. They’ve also held opponents to 100.7 points per possessions, the 10th best defensive rating in that time. We’ll use these metrics, among others, to try to make sense of Boston’s final twelve games.

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Boston Celtics 110, Brooklyn Nets 91: Game Grades

Boston Celtics 110 Final

Recap | Box Score

91 Brooklyn Nets
Brandon Bass, PF 26 MIN | 4-8 FG | 4-4 FT | 5 REB | 2 AST | 2 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 12 PTS | +10 +/-Rough first quarter among the trees, but once he found a way to get shots up around the rim, he was in business. We’ll also forget about Deron Williams abusing him with a nice crossover in the third quarter.

Tyler Zeller, C 30 MIN | 9-13 FG | 0-0 FT | 7 REB | 3 AST | 0 STL | 1 BLK | 2 TO | 18 PTS | +8 +/-If you are an immobile big man in the NBA, you don’t want to face Tyler Zeller. He’s not fast enough to make your coach take you of the game, but he will punish you with his jumper. Same thing that happened to Roy Hibbert last week happened again tonight.

Avery Bradley, PG 32 MIN | 8-16 FG | 2-3 FT | 7 REB | 1 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 2 TO | 20 PTS | +8 +/-Lots of pretty midrange jumpers. As Gary Washburn pointed out, he’s shooting over 60 percent in four career games at Barclays. Was a good shooting gym for the C’s tonight.

Marcus Smart, PG 23 MIN | 1-3 FG | 0-0 FT | 1 REB | 0 AST | 2 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 2 PTS | +1 +/-Didn’t notice him too much out there tonight. Stevens benched him to start second half to get more size/rebounding in there, but it was everyone else’s show tonight. Defense remained steady as always.

Evan Turner, SG 40 MIN | 9-13 FG | 1-2 FT | 10 REB | 12 AST | 0 STL | 1 BLK | 2 TO | 19 PTS | +19 +/-2 triple-doubles in 16 games for ET. In a stretch that the Celtics desperately needed him with Isaiah Thomas sidelined, Turner’s offense came alive. 15 points and 7 assists per game for the last seven games.

Jonas Jerebko, PF 24 MIN | 5-12 FG | 0-0 FT | 6 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 10 PTS | +4 +/-Bonus points for two mean throwdowns by Jonas. Lots of hustle points on the glass as well, and was aggressive using his speed to get to the rim after late closeouts by Brooklyn.

Jae Crowder, SF 31 MIN | 3-13 FG | 2-3 FT | 5 REB | 1 AST | 1 STL | 1 BLK | 0 TO | 9 PTS | +18 +/-Ugly shooting night, but still found a way to get a couple big buckets on drives to the rim. The Crowder bandwagon is getting crowded at this point.

Kelly Olynyk, C 17 MIN | 7-12 FG | 1-2 FT | 5 REB | 2 AST | 1 STL | 1 BLK | 1 TO | 18 PTS | +13 +/-Easily Kelly’s best game since returning from the ankle injury last month. Got a lucky roll to end the half on a 3-point buzzer beater, but seemed to get his confidence back from there as well. Solid defensive play as well. Encouraging bounceback for the second-year big man.

Phil Pressey, PG 18 MIN | 1-2 FG | 0-0 FT | 1 REB | 4 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 2 PTS | +14 +/-More assists than shot attempts from Phil is always a good sign. After biting off a little more than he could chew during the losing streak, good back to gritty D and finding his teammates tonight.

Brad Stevens
Shortened the rotation and got Boston’s offense back in order after a depressing loss vs. Pistons. 7-1 on 2nd half of back-to-backs since January 23rd means these guys are coming out prepared and hungry each night. Credit Brad.

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Game 70 Preview: Boston Celtics (30-39) @ Brooklyn Nets (29-39)

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Boston came out strong Sunday night against Detroit, only to fizzle out and come up short in overtime. They’ve now lost three straight and are in Brooklyn for a game with big playoff implications.

The Celtics are ½ games out from the eight seed, and with just twelve games left on the schedule, the C’s can’t afford to fall apart they way they did last night.

Boston has won two of it’s three regular season matches against Brooklyn so far, and tonight is just the first of several crucial games coming up for the Celtics. Let’s discuss.

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Boston Celtics Monday Afternoon Notebook: Olynyk, Thomas, Larranaga, and Playoffs

NBA: Boston Celtics at Phoenix Suns

Jay Larranaga is Not Going to George Mason

Brad Stevens is an incredibly smart coach. Other teams notice smart coaches. They also figure that said smart coaches surround themselves with smart people. They then try to pick off those smart people to be their own smart coach, and the natural cycle continues.

So it should come as no surprise that Jay Larranaga, one of Stevens’ top assistants, is garnering interest from the college ranks, this time from his father’s old stomping grounds at George Mason. The mild twist in this story was that Larranaga elected to turn down their interview request, according to Yahoo! Sports, expressing an interest in keeping his professional prospects open.

While the George Mason move would make sense, it’s not that surprising Jay is choosing to stay in the NBA ranks. He’s already been interviewed for NBA jobs (including the Celtics, before Stevens was hired), so he knows the interest is out there, and it would be a bit early to jump from the rising star that is Brad Stevens and the Celtics.

So while it is nice to have a loyal assistant like that who won’t jump at just any job, keep in mind: NBA jobs won’t open until the summer, and teams are noticing Boston. Young coaches (Jay is only 39) are garnering lots of success. You will hear Larranaga’s name called again for coaching gigs, and it will likely be sooner rather than later.

 

Kelly Olynyk is Slumping

Kelly Olynyk returned from his ankle injury on March 4th. To say his performance has been a raging dumpster fire since then would be putting it mildly. Read the rest of this entry »

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Detroit Pistons 105, Boston Celtics 97: Game 69 Grades

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Detroit Pistons 105 Final
Recap | Box Score
97 Boston Celtics
Brandon Bass, PF 35 MIN | 6-15 FG | 0-1 FT | 9 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 2 BLK | 2 TO | 13 PTS | -9 +/-

You have to appreciate Bass’ effort on the boards, but he didn’t shoot well, and his mid-range shooting was uncharacteristically inconsistent.

Jae Crowder, SF 45 MIN | 7-16 FG | 4-5 FT | 7 REB | 3 AST | 1 STL | 1 BLK | 1 TO | 19 PTS | -7 +/-

One of the few Celtics who legitimately had a good game, Crowder hit a big layup-plus-the-foul to give Boston the lead late. All Boston needed was one stop to pull out a hard-fought win in regulation. Obviously, they didn’t get it.

Tyler Zeller, C 20 MIN | 4-10 FG | 2-2 FT | 4 REB | 1 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 10 PTS | -18 +/-

Zeller was bumped out of the post and generally dominated by Andre Drummond. He also fumbled a couple of passes that really should have been easy layups. Tough night after a long stretch of good games.

Avery Bradley, PG 38 MIN | 3-10 FG | 2-2 FT | 4 REB | 4 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 3 TO | 10 PTS | -10 +/-

It wasn’t really Bradley’s fault, but Boston needed a basket late, and Bradley wasn’t able to convert. He was part of the icy-cold shooting stretch that doomed the Celtics. He defended Reggie Jackson extremely well, however, even through all of Jackson’s repeated push-offs.

Evan Turner, SG 39 MIN | 10-21 FG | 1-2 FT | 6 REB | 8 AST | 3 STL | 0 BLK | 2 TO | 23 PTS | -8 +/-

Turner is a pain sometimes, but he is one of the few Celtics who is legitimately able to create offense for himself. That was necessary tonight.

Jonas Jerebko, PF 21 MIN | 4-12 FG | 1-1 FT | 9 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 10 PTS | -1 +/-

He made a lot of nice hustle plays, but Jerebko was certainly hoping for a bigger game against his former team.

Gerald Wallace, SF 13 MIN | 1-3 FG | 0-0 FT | 8 REB | 1 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 2 PTS | +2 +/-

Look, anytime it’s 2015 and your name is Gerald Wallace and you come off the bench to grab eight rebounds in a game, you’re getting a good grade. This is all on a curve, and that’s just how this works.

Luigi Datome, SF 5 MIN | 0-0 FG | 0-0 FT | 0 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 0 PTS | +6 +/-

Datome couldn’t have gotten a few more minutes in this one to prove himself to the team that buried him on the bench?

Kelly Olynyk, C 29 MIN | 1-9 FG | 2-2 FT | 9 REB | 5 AST | 0 STL | 2 BLK | 2 TO | 4 PTS | +13 +/-

Good lord, Kelly. Shoot the 3-pointer. You’re killing me.

Phil Pressey, PG 15 MIN | 1-5 FG | 1-2 FT | 2 REB | 2 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 3 PTS | -2 +/-

Pressey was uncharacteristically careless with the ball, but he did make some things happen generating offense for his teammates.

James Young, SG 7 MIN | 1-4 FG | 0-0 FT | 1 REB | 0 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 3 PTS | -6 +/-

A typical James Young night: One 3-pointer with the perfect lefty stroke that makes you excited for better things, a couple of misses that rim out, and a whole lot of defensive breakdowns that led to open 3-pointers for the opposing team. The Pistons didn’t convert all of them, but I counted three good looks from downtown that were a direct result of Young’s defensive slip ups.

Marcus Smart, PG DNP SUSPENDED BY LEAGUE MIN | FG | FT | REB | AST | STL | BLK | TO | PTS | +/-

I watched it again. You meant to hit him, Marcus. Let’s be real. You get another F for that.

Brad Stevens

Not much Stevens can do when shots just stop falling and two of his best guards are sidelined. That being said, the ball stopped zipping around the court in the second half, which was ugly to watch and a little puzzling.

Follow Tom on Twitter: @Tom_NBA.

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Game 69 Preview: Detroit Pistons (25-44) @ Boston Celtics (30-38)

Photo courtesy of Gazettenet.com

Photo courtesy of Gazettenet.com

The Celtics had the wind knocked out of their playoff-push sails with two losses on the road earlier this week, and they look to regain momentum tonight back in Boston against Detroit.

The Celtics beat the Pistons in OT at home in early December, although both rosters looked a little different than they do now. Most notably for Detroit, Reggie Jackson finally found his spotlight in the Motor City, Josh Smith has been exiled, and Tayshaun Prince  returned home.

That also means that this will be Jonas Jerebko and Gigi Datome’s  first game against their old club for. More importantly, however, it is a chance for the Celtics to cushion the half-game lead they have over Charlotte and Indiana for the 8th seed in the East.

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