With 24 games left on the schedule, the Celtics will have to play high caliber basketball from here on out if they are serious about qualifying for the post-season. In that spirit, they face one of the NBA’s hottest teams tonight.
After blowing a 26 point home lead to the Golden State Warriors Sunday evening, the Celtics are in Cleveland to face another title contender. The Cavs are racing up the Eastern Conference Standings and have been playing very convincing basketball since Lebron returned from sabbatical.
Paying a visit to Lebron James and co is never an easy task, but after Bron’s long night in Houston this weekend, James could be a great looking for some cathartic therapy. The Celtics must prepare for the worst in order to defend themselves from Hurricane Lebron.
In a lot of ways, yesterday’s loss can be broken down into pretty simple summaries. The Celtics made shots in the first half and didn’t in the second. The Warriors were the inverse. Coach Stevens blew it. Too much isolation play. Stephen Curry is the realization of the Ubermensch. They’re all pretty legit points.
There was a definitive turning point, though, when the slow trickle eroding Boston’s mountain of a lead became an unstoppable deluge that included a 31-15 fourth quarter implosion. It wasn’t entirely expected given both team’s histories and styles of play, and it may portend to some pretty big issues for Boston going into the last five or six weeks of a season.
Granted, my experience in NBA locker rooms is limited, but I continue to be surprised by one facet of the environment: Supreme athletes, with the power to simply high jump over me on their way out the door if they don’t want to talk, speak so softly it’s as if they’re treating every reporter like a sleeping baby they’re terrified to wake. (The preceding sentence does not apply to Evan Turner.)
I could park a surveillance van next to Avery Bradley’s locker and perch a boom mic on his lips, and if a toilet flushed up on the 300 deck, I’d have nothing but 30 seconds of useless tape.
THAT IS NOT A COMPLAINT, just an observation, and the environment is undoubtedly a side effect of a team fighting hard for wins but not typically getting them.
Last night in the luxury accommodations of the visiting locker room (Steph Curry’s feet in a mop bucket, the smell of Toni Kukoc’s socks still lingering in the air), the atmosphere was different. I know this may come as a shock, but a win tends to produce a friendlier team, and players like Andre Iguodola and Draymond Green were taking way more time than is required to answer questions.
So much time that after the more professional journos had left, Green still fielded questions from dum-dums like me who much more interested in the mid-flight card games than the halftime adjustments. Read the rest of this entry »
When an opposing player drives at Tyler Zeller, it’s not that he gets out of the way. It’s that the other player knocks him backward so far (and with so little trouble) that Zeller can’t really contest the shot or make an attempt at a defensive rebound.
I like Zeller as a back-up big, but the whole thing has me dreaming of Willie Cauley-Stein. Solid offensive numbers for Zeller tonight though, as usual.
For a quarter-and-a-half, Isaiah Thomas was the best even we had seen. Then something seemed to knock the Celtics off — they stopped moving the ball with confidence, they started getting sloppy, and they stopped shooting like every single shot was going in. Thomas was no exception, and he finished with his least-efficient 20-point night as a Celtic so far.
James Young, SG15 MIN | 1-5 FG | 2-4 FT | 2 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 5 PTS | -4 +/-
Just keep shooting, Jimmy Buckets. We believe in you.
Stevens made a few head-scratching decisions that were probably the right call, but didn’t make sense to me (an infinitely inferior basketball mortal compared to Stevens). He stuck with the starters longer than I would have, never brought Jerebko back after the Swede buried a 3-pointer, and couldn’t seem to shake the Celtics out of an iso-ball malaise that doomed them offensively in the second half. Like I said, he probably had a good reason for doing all the things I’m complaining about, but I couldn’t see it, and I’M THE GRADER even though in this case the gradee is much smarter than the grader.
After Isaiah Thomas’ late game heroics Friday night, he and his new squad host the NBA’s best team and arguably the NBA’s most exciting player. Facing Steph Curry and co will be a proper heat-check for these new-look Celtics.
Boston put up a good fight when they played visitor to the Warriors back in January. Losing 114-111, especially at the time, was nothing but exiciting for the Celtics team still in limbo.
Now, at the beginning of March, it seems as if Boston has committed to qualifying for the post-season . At the very least, the players are ready to make a playoff push, and for that reason, a win over the Warriors would likely raise a few eyebrows among even the most loyal tankers.
The Celtics probably can’t expect another explosion out of the unlikely duo of Isaiah Thomas and Jonas Jerebko, but if Boston hits the right chords, a win tonight is far from out of reach. Read the rest of this entry »
By now, I think it’s pretty safe to assume that in 15 years, the number four will be in the Celtics rafters and Isaiah Thomas will be retired as a five- or six-time Finals MVP. After all, Tommy Heinsohn has declared him to be Tiny Archibald, and PROVE HE ISN’T. YOU CAN’T.
On Friday, Thomas once again showed his value to this team — a late-game closer who can take over by getting to line, hitting 3-pointers and attacking the basket. For the Celtics, he has been a revelation. Perhaps more importantly, Thomas was instrumental in creating offense for his teammates — not just as a passer, but also simply as a presence on the floor.
Thomas got to the rim several times in the fourth quarter, exploding around picks and defenders to convert layups seemingly at will. This is part of Thomas’ strength as a fourth-quarter closer — he creates where nothing appears to be available.
The Celtics were down sixteen and in one stretch had been outscored 25-1. The Celtics offense looked meager and stagnant. With a few minutes to go in the third, however, the tide began to change. Avery Bradley hit a big shot and made a few big plays to end the third.
In the fourth, the Celtics bench went ballistic, outscoring Charlotte 37-23 in the quarter. With Isaiah Thomas at the helm and Jerebko at the five and Crowder at the four, the Celtics made shot after shot to regain the lead. The newest Celtics had the Garden ready to burst, and for Celtics fans expecting a playoff push, tonight was nothing but encouraging. More to come on this wild game, but for now, here are your player grades.
Brandon Bass, C20 MIN | 3-9 FG | 2-2 FT | 7 REB | 1 AST | 0 STL | 1 BLK | 1 TO | 8 PTS | -7 +/-
Played fine, but tonight wasn’t really about Bass. If this Jerebko-Crowder front court takes off, Bass better get used to the bench…
Tyler Zeller, C24 MIN | 3-8 FG | 1-1 FT | 9 REB | 1 AST | 1 STL | 3 BLK | 0 TO | 7 PTS | -14 +/-
9 rebounds is nice, but Tyler got out played by his brother Cody for most of the game.
Avery Bradley, PG34 MIN | 8-18 FG | 0-0 FT | 5 REB | 2 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 2 TO | 19 PTS | +2 +/-
Arguably the catalyst for the Celtics’ initial comeback, plus AB had two *great* put back slams late. Bradley is really settling into a groove as of late.
Marcus Smart, PG31 MIN | 4-9 FG | 0-0 FT | 2 REB | 3 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 10 PTS | -6 +/-
Did most of his scoring early, and was dogging it a little on defense. I suspect Smart needs some practice when it comes to running a fast-break.
Evan Turner, SG30 MIN | 1-5 FG | 0-0 FT | 6 REB | 7 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 2 PTS | -6 +/-
Turner very quitely logged 30 minutes. 7 assists and 6 rebounds sounds like dirty work to me, so props to ET for being a team player.
Jonas Jerebko, PF24 MIN | 6-9 FG | 1-2 FT | 10 REB | 3 AST | 0 STL | 1 BLK | 0 TO | 16 PTS | +22 +/-
Welcome to Boston and welcome to our hearts. Jerebko at the center was fantastic, and his double-double performance came almost exclusively in the fourth. He bailed out the Celtics on a few bad shots, sunk 3 three pointers, and looked more than capable cleaning up down low.
Jae Crowder, SF28 MIN | 5-11 FG | 0-0 FT | 6 REB | 0 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 14 PTS | +15 +/-
Three and D for life, I guess. Crowder never sat a play out and generally if he’s on the floor he’s doing the right thing. A few big threes and some great defense out of Crowder.
Isaiah Thomas, PG31 MIN | 9-22 FG | 8-10 FT | 1 REB | 7 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 3 TO | 28 PTS | +22 +/-
‘Saiah had the Garden rocking with his late game heroics. He was fearless in the fourth, and even if he was 2-8 from three, he willed the Celtics back into the game with aggressive penetration and smart passing. Push came to shove tonight, and IT proved he’s ready for a fight.
James Young, SG18 MIN | 1-5 FG | 0-0 FT | 1 REB | 0 AST | 3 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 2 PTS | +12 +/-
Young is still a little lost on defense and if he can’t connect on shots ends up being a big non-factor, which is exactly what happened tonight.
Brad StevensObviously Coach deserves big credit for going with the Jerebko-Crowder front-line down the stretch. That being said, the Celtics went 9+ minutes without a basket, and as impressive as tonight was, that sort of ineptitude won’t cut it moving forward. Still, a win is a win.
Tonight the Hornets are in town for a 7:30 tip-off at the Garden. Twice this season the Hornets have beaten the Celtics, and tonight Boston looks to grab an important win in the race for the eighth seed.
Regardless of your stance on whether the Celtics should make the playoffs, tonight’s game is without question an important way to gauge for whether or not they can. The Celtics are one game back from the eighth seed, and one game behind the Hornets in the loss column.
The C’s will need to jump Charlotte (among other teams) in order to qualify for the post-season, and tonight would be a great place to get started. Both teams are sporting shiny new point guards, so at the very least the game should be exciting.
In the chaos that was last week’s trade deadline, Ainge quietly reeled in a quality player on a team-friendly contract in the form of 27-year-old Jonas Jerebko. Instead of buying out Tayshaun Prince, Ainge found a trade partner, and from the ashes rose a Swedish phoenix.
While everyone in Celticsland, myself include, had Wednesday night’s game pegged as a chance for Garden fans to acquaint themselves with Isaiah Thomas, Jerebko made his own great first impression, lighting up the Knicks on 7-for-10 shooting en route to a tidy Celtics victory.
I wasn’t invited to this year’s Sloan Sports Analytics Conference. In fact, I was forewarned that I’m barred from the premises, and that my photo has been distributed to MIT’s security guards. Last year, there were… incidents.
But that hasn’t stopped me from conducting my own research. Over the past, oh, two hours, I’ve used the best sources at my disposal (Wikipedia) and my own top-notch mathematics skills (B- in Algebra) to prove my hypothesis that: Making the NBA Playoffs if You Are Anything Less Than a Four Seed is Stupid.
Parity is a hot term in professional sports now. Parity is the bedrock that the NFL has built itself upon this century. “There’s always next year,” is a platitude that holds real truth in football. That statement used to be a baseball cliché, but as the worst-to-first-to-worst Red Sox proved, it works in that sport now, too. All you have to do in MLB is make the playoffs, and, like in the NHL, a couple players can get hot, and you can ride them to the championship.
In the NBA, if you are less than a four seed, you are wasting your time for the sake of “playoff experience,” which is impossible to quantify, and gate receipts, which is substantially easier to count.
Let’s take a look at the last 10 championship match-ups for the four major American sports: