No, seriously. The BOSTON CELTICS. Are in the playoffs. Tomorrow.
I’m sincerely having a hard time wrapping my head around it. Fortunately, other Celtics Hub writers are being forced to wrap their heads around Boston’s first-round series against Cleveland for tomorrow, and we’ll have extensive coverage throughout the playoffs (however long that is) and beyond. It’s going to be a lot of fun. I think. Assuming LeBron doesn’t go completely nuclear.
“We have to be stars at what we do,” Stevens said. “We’re not asking Tyler Zeller to break a press by himself here. We’ve gotta be stars at what we do, and we’ve gotta be great in our roles. If you collectively do that then you give yourself a chance, and against the best of the best, all you are giving yourself is a chance. And then you have to get over the hump by making plays. Those type of things have to happen. Again, it’s easier said than done. It’s why they’re picked by many to represent the East and by some to win it. They have a bigger margin. And that’s OK. We’ve gotta figure out how we can play best on every possession, focus on every possession, and see where we stand.”
Stevens is the best. All of this is sounds like wise advice from an old basketball mind, except Stevens is 38.
We’ll have some real analysis tomorrow, but for now, Stevens is absolutely correct: Boston isn’t going to beat Cleveland by being better than the Cavs stars — they will need to maximize their own strengths. The Cavaliers have an enormous margin for error, especially against the Celtics. They can make leads disappear by getting hot for short amounts of time. The Celtics can’t afford to let down at all. Fortunately, that’s how they’ve been winning since the All-Star break. We’ll see if it can continue.
The NBA released the compete rundown of the Celtics-Cavaliers series on Thursday morning. Here’s where you can find all the games, including TV broadcasts. All games (except the ABC) contests will be broadcast locally on CSN New England as well.
Game 1 – Sun. April 19, Boston at Cleveland, 3:00 PM, ABC/R
Game 2 – Tue. April 21, Boston at Cleveland, 7:00 PM, TNT
Game 3 – Thu. April 23, Cleveland at Boston, 7:00 PM, TNT
Game 4 – Sun. April 26, Cleveland at Boston, 1:00 PM, ABC
Game 5 * – Tue. April 28, Boston at Cleveland, TBD
Game 6 * – Thu. April 30, Cleveland at Boston, TBD
Game 7 * – Sat. May 2, Boston at Cleveland , TNT
Full series preview and analysis to come here at the Hub.
Brandon Bass, PF28 MIN | 4-11 FG | 5-5 FT | 9 REB | 1 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 13 PTS | +1 +/- Not his most efficient night, which could be said with just about everyone on the team. 9 rebounds is awesome. Looked much more active and potent than against the Cavs last week, including a monster putback slam early.
Tyler Zeller, C26 MIN | 5-11 FG | 2-2 FT | 8 REB | 1 AST | 0 STL | 1 BLK | 0 TO | 12 PTS | +20 +/- Got beat up really badly by Valanciunas, which may portend to how it will go against Mozgov. Got to the hoop easily with his prototypical agility, which may portend to how it will go against Mozgov.
Avery Bradley, PG21 MIN | 5-11 FG | 3-3 FT | 3 REB | 2 AST | 0 STL | 1 BLK | 3 TO | 14 PTS | -1 +/- Started off very cold, heated up a bit as the game continued. Defense was OK, not great. Left the game in the third quarter with a thigh contusion, will be fine in the long run but won’t play tomorrow.
Marcus Smart, PG30 MIN | 4-12 FG | 0-0 FT | 5 REB | 3 AST | 1 STL | 2 BLK | 1 TO | 9 PTS | +11 +/- Smart has struggled defending Lowry all year; he hasn’t figured out how to deal with that combination of strength and quickness. But, per usual, he hit a big 3 late and shut down Lou Williams on a couple of last minute Raptor possessions. Dunking twice in murderous fashion was a pleasant surprise.
Evan Turner, SG31 MIN | 7-14 FG | 0-0 FT | 7 REB | 9 AST | 1 STL | 1 BLK | 7 TO | 14 PTS | +4 +/- I mean, if Evan can hit from midrange and set up the entire team like that consistently every game in the playoffs, I will gladly take back every negative thing I said about his point abilities. What a late-season run for him. Defense remains iffy, but if he can learn to cover the corners he should be ok.
Jonas Jerebko, PF17 MIN | 2-5 FG | 0-0 FT | 7 REB | 1 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 4 PTS | -12 +/- Danny Ainge anointed him the “Swedish Kyle Singler” on the telecast tonight. I’m not sure whether that’s a compliment. He continues to be really good at tipping out offensive rebounds.
Jared Sullinger, PF14 MIN | 1-4 FG | 2-2 FT | 2 REB | 1 AST | 0 STL | 1 BLK | 0 TO | 4 PTS | -8 +/- He still can’t move laterally, which makes his defense pretty rough. Rebounding and vertical aggression was a bit better. Will be interesting to see how much he plays tomorrow to see if he can’t get his conditioning back in line. His size and rebounding might be sorely needed.
Luigi Datome, SF6 MIN | 0-2 FG | 0-0 FT | 0 REB | 0 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 0 PTS | -2 +/- Didn’t hit a shot, looked tentative, and got destroyed by James Johnson on multiple occasions. Playoff minutes aren’t likely to be a thing unless the shooting situation becomes desperate.
Jae Crowder, SF21 MIN | 4-9 FG | 1-1 FT | 4 REB | 0 AST | 2 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 9 PTS | -2 +/- Bound and determined to give me an aneurysm with all the 3′s. Average game overall, but can’t ignore the biggest shot of the night. Might be our only hope of defending LeBron.
Kelly Olynyk, C13 MIN | 1-4 FG | 0-0 FT | 4 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 3 PTS | -8 +/- Only one make, but had little to no hesitation shooting it, and as long as that’s a thing, other teams will have to respect it.
Phil Pressey, PG5 MIN | 1-3 FG | 0-2 FT | 0 REB | 0 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 2 PTS | -7 +/- Spot minutes to help fil in for AB’s absence. Didn’t really result in much.
Isaiah Thomas, PG27 MIN | 4-13 FG | 0-0 FT | 1 REB | 6 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 11 PTS | +14 +/- No free throws, and really struggled to get shots off against taller Raptors. If those trends continue against Cleveland, Boston is pretty toast. Some nice table-setting for others sprinkled here and there helped make up for it.
Multiple awesome ATO plays, handled Bradley’s departure well, weathered the storm of awful teamwide shooting, etc etc etc. At this point, sure, why not play Cleveland? Not like much else has been able to stop this team lately.
The following is a post from guest contributor Jordan Greer
The Celtics have made the 2015 NBA Playoffs. Sounds weird to say. This team was 14 games under .500 on Feb. 2, and today Boston is guaranteed at least four postseason games.
All that’s left to find out is whether the Celtics will be traveling to Atlanta or Cleveland for the first round. Boston is currently seventh in the East and could finish eighth, but only if it loses its final two games and the Pacers win their last two.
It’s not a likely scenario, as the Celtics finish with the Raptors and Bucks while the Pacers take on the Wizards and Grizzlies. Washington is locked in at No. 5, so that could be a game where Indiana might see more of Ramon Sessions than John Wall. Read the rest of this entry »
“Celtics clinch playoff spot” is not a headline many folks expected to be writing during the 2014-15 season. Sure enough, the team’s remarkable second-half turnaround is complete and Boston’s place in a dreadful Eastern Conference is now cemented. Even if the Celtics lose their final two games of the season to Toronto and Milwaukee, they will still be in.
Here’s an updated look at the Eastern Conference playoff picture:
The Celtics can still be caught by the Pacers, but they are no longer within reach of the Nets or Heat. With a first round matchup against the Cleveland Cavaliers likely looming, it will be interesting to see how Brad Stevens handles the final two games of the year in order to prep his guys. With no apparent injuries on the roster, it’s unclear if there will be any reason to rest. We will find out Tuesday.
For now, Stevens and this roster can celebrate for at least one night.
Almost everything went Boston’s way today after a complete thwomping of Cleveland’s JV team, leaving Boston almost upending logic and claiming a playoff berth after trading away their two best players and countless other transactions. Miami also lost last night, which means they cannot catch Boston and can finish no higher than 8th, eliminating yet another challenger to the Celtics’ standing. But Indiana just finished withstanding yet another Westbrook performance for the ages, and thus they remain one game behind Boston (they lost the season series to Brooklyn 2-1, so they currently lose the tiebreaker for 8th).
The (pretty) good news is that Milwaukee also had their own rompfest today, beating the Nets 96-73. While this officially puts the 6th seed out of reach of anyone, it does mean that the Celtics’ magic number, in any situation, is 1. So for you standings hawks out there, the Celtics will claim a playoff berth if:
a) They win either of their next two games (vs Toronto, at Milwaukee)
b) Indiana loses either of their next two games (vs Washington, at Memphis)
c) Brooklyn loses either of their next two games (vs Chicago, vs Orlando)
Now, if ALL of that doesn’t go Boston’s way, they will miss the playoffs. But, as you can see, that would be a collapse and turn of fate of epic proportions.
For those of you wondering about seeding, Boston is almost as likely locked into the 7th seed. The only way they can “fall” to 8th and face Atlanta is if they lose both of their next two games and only ONE of either Indiana or Brooklyn win their next two games. I don’t know about you guys, but that’s playing it too close too comfort to try and play for seeding.
At any rate, it looks like Boston is really, actually, seriously, honest to god doing this playoff thing. And it’s looking very likely they’ve got a date with LeBron in the first round. And this could all become official as soon as tomorrow night. Get ready, folks!
Brandon Bass, PF18 MIN | 3-7 FG | 0-0 FT | 3 REB | 0 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 2 TO | 6 PTS | +9 +/- The usual, wasn’t asked to do a ton, so he didn’t need to. A fun one-man breakaway in the second was his only highlight.
Tyler Zeller, C19 MIN | 5-6 FG | 0-0 FT | 5 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 10 PTS | +7 +/- His usual efficient self from midrange. Mozgov beat him up pretty good down low, but not sure how much of a concern that will be in the playoffs if these two teams face off once the stars return. Bonus points for an absolutely monstrous tomahawk over Dellavedova early.
Avery Bradley, PG28 MIN | 5-9 FG | 0-0 FT | 0 REB | 4 AST | 2 STL | 0 BLK | 2 TO | 12 PTS | +17 +/- Teamed with Smart to make the lives of Dellavedova and Shumpert absolutely miserable. He had 2 steals, but something like 259 deflections and balls poked loose. He was finding his own shot pretty regularly, too. Picking a fantastic time to be hitting his groove.
Marcus Smart, PG33 MIN | 3-9 FG | 0-0 FT | 0 REB | 2 AST | 4 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 7 PTS | +35 +/- Wild and inconsistent on offense, especially with his shot, an absolute terror on any Cleveland ballhandler. This seems like a great time to encourage you to read Tom’s excellent piece on him if you haven’t yet.
Evan Turner, SG27 MIN | 6-12 FG | 3-4 FT | 7 REB | 5 AST | 4 STL | 1 BLK | 1 TO | 15 PTS | +6 +/- Docking him slightly because he continues to struggle containing corner 3′s, and that seems an important point against either Cleveland or Atlanta. Other than that, strong midrange, great distribution, aggressive attacking passes, pretty outstanding game.
Jonas Jerebko, PF19 MIN | 4-7 FG | 0-2 FT | 3 REB | 2 AST | 2 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 10 PTS | +21 +/- Against a line of trees, Jerebko was the one getting offensive rebounds through sheer hustle and grit. Slow shooting in the first half, but he was absolutely blistering in the second. We even got a running hook!
Jared Sullinger, PF17 MIN | 4-7 FG | 3-4 FT | 2 REB | 4 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 11 PTS | +7 +/- Starting to get there, very slowly. One maybe-important note: it was late, but Sully seemed to be the only Celtic big and strong enough to hold his ground against Mozgov and/or Thompson in the post. A minor point, but may be important later.
Jae Crowder, SF25 MIN | 3-7 FG | 2-4 FT | 7 REB | 3 AST | 3 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 9 PTS | +30 +/- I still wish he wouldn’t take so many threes, but Crowder did just about everything else today. Still don’t know about him guarding in the post against Thompson, but the team can address that later.
Kelly Olynyk, C18 MIN | 4-5 FG | 2-2 FT | 7 REB | 1 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 10 PTS | +28 +/- A couple more tentative moments where he should’ve shot, but anytime you cap off efficient offense with a massive alley-oop over two Cavs, you’re getting an A. It is what it is.
Phil Pressey, PG6 MIN | 2-2 FG | 0-0 FT | 1 REB | 2 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 4 PTS | +1 +/- The Celtics are up by 30 with 5 minutes to go, and Pressey is out there blowing by Mike Miller. Repeatedly. Love it.
Isaiah Thomas, PG22 MIN | 5-10 FG | 5-6 FT | 2 REB | 6 AST | 2 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 17 PTS | +25 +/- I’ve watched this at least 15 times, and I still have no idea what happened. Whatever it was, it was a big fat cherry on yet another fantastic offensive display from Isaiah.
After a choppy first quarter, this team was pretty much unstoppable for the next 36 minutes. Granted, they only had to worry about Iman Shumpert iso’s and Dellavedova PnR with Perkins, but still, any 40 point win is pretty impressive. Magic number down to 1!
Things are coming down the wire for the Celtics. They have yet to secure a spot in the Eastern Conference Playoffs, and with just three games left on the regular season schedule, they host Lebron James and the Cavaliers.
Having said that, Lebron sat out the entire fourth quarter Friday night when the C’s were in Cleveland, and all signs point to him sitting out today’s 3pm tilt. Kevin Love also sat the final period of Friday’s game, and with Kyrie Irving and Iman Shumpert fighting through injuries, the Cavs may elect to keep their most important players sidelined.
The Cavs will finish as the two-seed in the East no matter what, so today’s game is of little importance to their big picture goals. The Celtics, meanwhile, can’t afford to take anything for granted, even with Friday’s big win. With a win today and a Pacers’ loss, the Celtics will clinch a playoff spot.
I got a direct message from a member of basketball Twitter yesterday asking me a very simple question: “Who is Marcus Smart?”
Roughly 270 characters into my response, I realized it would be a lot easier if I wrote out my thoughts in blog post form and put them on Celtics Hub where everyone can disagree with me loudly in the comments section. So let’s give this a shot: Who is Marcus Smart?
Let’s break this up a bit.
The Simple Answer
Smart is a 6’3 guard with a 6’9 wingspan that serves him well as a defender. He’s not a hyper-athlete like Andrew Wiggins or several other members of the 2014 draft class, but he is extremely strong. His position is tough to determine, since Evan Turner has played significant amount as the primary ball-handler this season. For now, let’s call him a combo guard.
On a more intangible level, Smart is the young hope of the Celtics organization. He is the best prospect (by far) on a still-rebuilding team (don’t let the playoff hopes distract you), and since Rondo was traded earlier this season, he is the last player introduced in Boston’s starting lineup. I don’t know if that means anything, but it feels significant enough to mention.
Brandon Bass, PF29 MIN | 6-8 FG | 0-0 FT | 5 REB | 1 AST | 3 STL | 0 BLK | 4 TO | 12 PTS | -1 +/-A few mid-range jumpers, some decent defense on LeBron James in spurts. The guy just does his job night in and night out at this stage. One of the most consistent Celtics.
Tyler Zeller, C18 MIN | 5-9 FG | 3-4 FT | 6 REB | 3 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 13 PTS | +10 +/-Limited minutes, but his jumpers were a big part of Celtics building an early lead in this series. If C’s end up facing Cavs in first round, his matchup against Mozgov will be big.
Avery Bradley, PG31 MIN | 7-12 FG | 0-0 FT | 2 REB | 4 AST | 2 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 15 PTS | +2 +/-Wreaked havoc with Smart for most of the night, as the pair combined to score 19 of Boston’s first 28 points.
Marcus Smart, PG34 MIN | 7-10 FG | 2-5 FT | 3 REB | 1 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 19 PTS | +10 +/-10 of 19 points came in the first quarter thanks to his hot shooting. Unlike Detroit, there were no unnecessary heat checks here, just high quality shots. He even drove to the rim a couple times and got to the charity stripe.
Evan Turner, SG34 MIN | 2-8 FG | 0-0 FT | 6 REB | 13 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 4 PTS | +11 +/-Shot was off, but the distribution was there all night. Needs to remember to never leave LeBron on the defensive end of the floor in order to double team.
Jonas Jerebko, PF15 MIN | 2-5 FG | 0-0 FT | 6 REB | 0 AST | 2 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 5 PTS | +7 +/-The box score isn’t flashy, but Jonas grabbed a number of huge offensive rebounds in the fourth quarter and also hit a timely 3-point jumper to help C’s pull away late. Guy has been in the right spot more often than not with this team.
Jared Sullinger, PF19 MIN | 2-7 FG | 0-0 FT | 8 REB | 2 AST | 1 STL | 2 BLK | 4 TO | 5 PTS | +4 +/-Rust is slowly coming off, but the rebounding was welcome. I like how Stevens is inserting him in short shifts, while keeping everyone else in the mix in the rotation. Going to give him a lot of options once the postseason rolls around.
Jae Crowder, SF26 MIN | 2-9 FG | 3-4 FT | 2 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 7 PTS | +3 +/-Off shooting night, but the Celtics don’t want him shooting too well anyway, since it’s just going to make his offseason free agency price go up more.
Kelly Olynyk, C10 MIN | 1-4 FG | 0-0 FT | 2 REB | 1 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 2 TO | 2 PTS | -5 +/-Made one nice move through a 2-3 Cavs zone in the first half. Other than that, didn’t shoot enough and made a few poor passes in lieu of it. Stevens need to stay away from him in fourth quarter when possible.
Isaiah Thomas, PG23 MIN | 4-12 FG | 7-8 FT | 3 REB | 5 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 2 TO | 17 PTS | +4 +/-Perhaps the most encouraging part about the Celtics win is Thomas didn’t dominate on the offensive end of the floor, yet Boston still took care of business. He hit the big shots when it mattered (in fourth quarter) but C’s got away with him shooting 33 percent. The four trips to the free throw line were nice as well.
Six-game winning streak on the road for the first time since the 2010-11 season? That’s something we did not expect to see this season. Once again, big-time credit must go to the coach.