Celtics take care of home, tie series 2-2

The Celtics would be looking to tie the series at 2-2 before heading back to Atlanta for game 5. The crowd was yet again electric, Patriots head coach, Bill Belichick & some of his team were yet again there to support the Boston Celtics.

Crowder started the game with a 3, a great sign for him & the Celtics squad. Jae completed a put back basket to put Boston up 7-2 early before Milsap also found a rhythm in this series scoring 4 straight to bring the Hawks within 1. Atlanta hit 3 straight 3 pointers courtesy of Korver (twice) & Milsap before Boston answered with an 11-0 run to take the 22-15 advantage. Milsap scored his 11th point of the quarter to bring the Hawks within 3 at the end of the 1st.

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The Hawks started the 2nd on a 9-2 run to take a 4 point lead over the Celtics. Milsap continued his hot shooting as his 16th point kept Atlanta on top before baskets from Johnson, Crowder & Thomas put the Celtics in the lead by 6. Milsap scored the Hawks last 10 points of the quarter, giving him 26 at the half & his team the 2 point advantage.

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The Celtics came out of halftime poorly as the Hawks made us pay, starting on a 14-0 run to go up 16. Thomas got Boston going again with a hoop & the harm & Jonas put in another 2 to keep Boston around. Celtics cut the lead down to 8 but Boston’s newest villain, Schroeder, hit the steading 3 for Atlanta. Jerebko hit 2 3’s with a basket by Turner in-between to close the Hawks lead to 3 & the end of the 3rd.

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Jonas continued his 3rd quarter streak into the 4th as he scored 4 quick points as Boston took the lead. The Hawks answered again, Milsap scoring 5 of the Hawks 7 on the quick 7-0 spurt to give him 41 in the game. Smart scored Boston’s next 11 points before Isaiah found the bank was open to give the Celtics a 3 point lead. Milsap scored again before Jonas hit another 3 to put Boston up 4 with just over a minute left. Jeff Teague scored 2 straight 3’s before Thomas tied the game up with 15 seconds left. Atlanta ran an interesting play to close regulation as Teague’s shot didn’t drop & we were headed to overtime in Boston.

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Amir Johnson started the overtime period with the first 2 baskets before Teague hit again from deep. With the Celtics up 2, the Hawks couldn’t settle into a set possession but Bazemore hit a 3 that was reviewed & overturned when it was deemed the shot came after the shot clock had expired. Turner put the Celtics up 4 before Thomas hit a dagger 3, yet again. The Hawks fouled Thomas but as reliable as he is, IT went 2/2 giving him 28 & Boston the 104-95 win to even the series at 2-2.

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Statistics:

Isaiah Thomas – 28 points, 6 assists, 4 rebounds, +22 Marcus Smart – 20 points, 8 rebounds, 5 assists, +24 Jonas Jerebko – 16 points, 10 rebounds Evan Turner – 17 points, 7 rebounds, 6 assists Amir Johnson – 9 points, 9 rebounds Jae Crowder – 12 points, 5 rebounds

Portland catch fire as they down Boston in thriller

The Celtics would continue their West Coast road trip against the Portland Trailblazers. A quite important game for Boston if they want to have home court first round of the playoffs after the Lakers beat the Heat yesterday. Boston would be boosted by the return of Jae Crowder.

The Celtics jumped out to a quick 5-0 lead before McCollum got the Blazers on the board. Thomas’s 6th point of the quarter had the Celtics leading 12-4 but back to back 3’s by Portland got the momentum swinging on their side. Portland went on to hit another 3 triples in a row to take a 25-19 lead. Olynyk continued his hot 3 point shooting, scoring 2 of them in quick succession before a steal & another basket by Kelly had him up to 8 points. The Celtics finished the quarter on a 7-2 run to take a 31-30 advantage into the 2nd.

Evan Turner started the quarter with 4 points, a steal, which was already his 4th of the game & a block that led to a Crowder 3 as Boston went up by 8. Portland answered with their own 9-2 run to force a Boston timeout. Vonleh tied the game at 41 apiece after Crowder went 1-3 from the line, continuing Boston’s struggles this game (8-14 at this stage). Boston answered with an 11-0 blitz, going 4-4 from the line during the run. For the 3rd time this quarter, a timeout sparked a run, as Portland, courtesy of Aminu & Plumlee, went on a quick 5-0 run. The Blazers finished the quarter with 6 straight free throw attempts as Boston took a 58-54 lead into the break.

Avery Bradley started the 3rd quarter on fire, scoring 8 of Boston’s first 10 points as the Celtics went on top by 10. Aminu knocked down his 3rd & 4th triples of the night to keep Portland close but another basket by Avery had Boston back up 11. Portland again closed the quarter much better than Boston, finishing the quarter on a 10-2 run as Boston’s lead was cut to 2.

Aminu started the 4th with another pair of 3’s before Henderson also scored 6 straight as Portland started the 4th on fire. The Blazers were able to stop Boston & keep scoring themselves as a 21-6 start to the 4th had them leading 89-102 with just over 7 minutes left. 4 quick points by Boston had the lead back into single digits as Portland took a timeout. The Celtics continued the run & an offensive rebound off a missed free throw led to an Isaiah 3 that had Boston within 2. McCollum put Portland up 5 but another 2 free throws by Isaiah & Boston went to Hack-a-Plumlee who split the free throws. The Celtics then got 2nd chance points on back to back trips to take a 1 point lead after a Jae Crowder 3. CJ scored to put Portland back on top before an Isaiah turnover led to another 2 for Aminu. Portland held on in a thriller, beating Boston 109-116.

Thomas, Olynyk lead Boston to win over Magic

After a 4 game losing streak that Boston ended against the 76ers, the Celtics would be looking to start a win streak as they faced up against the Orlando Magic in Boston.

The Celtics started the game 0-7 from the field before an Isaiah Thomas and 1 basket had Boston up 5-4. An Evan Turner 3 followed by another Thomas basket had the Celtics on a 12-0 run to take the 14-4 advantage. The Magic cut the lead back down to 4 before Olynyk hit his second 3 of the quarter.

 

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The Celtics took a 17-22 lead into the 2nd quarter but a 13-4 Orlando run had them leading 30-26. Thomas tied the game back up at 35 before Avery continued his hot start, as his 10th point gave Boston back the lead. Olynyk scored 9 of Boston’s last 17 points of the quarter as 15 points in the half from Kelly & Thomas had the Celtics leading 56-49 at the break.

 

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Both teams started the second half trading baskets but Jennings fouled Isaiah on a 3 point attempt, resulting in 2/3 free throws before Evan Turner hit his 2nd 3 of the night, follow by another Olynyk basket had the Celtics extending their lead to 13. Fournier & Nicholson combined for all 10 of the next Orlando points as they cut the Boston lead to 7. Two big baskets by Turner & a pair of free throws for Olynyk had Boston close the quarter with a 6-0 run to take a 13 point lead into the 4th.

 

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Olynyk was in the action to start the 4th as he hit another 3 but picking up 2 quick fouls had him with 5 for the game as Orlando cut the lead to 10. Oladipo scored back to back baskets as Boston’s lead was down to 6 & the Celtics had only scored 3 points in the quarter with 6:49 left. Thomas put Boston back up 10 but Orlando quickly responded to cut it back to 6 after some poor defence.

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Johnson cleaned up a missed Thomas 3 as Avery converted the second chance points & some brilliant defence led to Thomas splitting a pair of free throws at the other end to put Boston up by 7 with 1:37 left. Payton scored for Orlando but a basket by Avery, a block by Amir & another 2 points for Thomas had Boston in an unbeatable position as they took the win 107-96.

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Statistics: Isaiah Thomas: 28 points, 7 assists, 5 rebounds Evan Turner: 16 points, 4 assists, 5 rebounds Kelly Olynyk: 22 points, 5 rebounds Amir Johnson: 11 points, 11 rebounds, 3 blocks Avery Bradley: 22 points, 3 assists, 9 rebounds Fast break points: Celtics 29, Magic 13 Second chance points: Celtics 11, Magic 7.
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Why the Celtics should definitely resign Evan Turner

“You’ve gotta respect a 15-percent 3-point shooter. A guy like that is always lethal.” – Evan Turner

Respect? 15% shooting? You can be sure that quote’s not appearing on any NBA coach’s pregame pep talk, anytime soon.

There’s no question about this: no one, I repeat, no one on the Boston Celtics this season, is more quotable than The (unofficial) Logo, Evan Turner himself.

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Entertaining quotes aside, Turner has definitely made his mark on the season so far. Sixth on the Celtics in scoring, fourth in rebounding, and second in assists per game, he’s been a veritable Swiss army knife who can do everything and anything.

Despite these (the performance, not the quotes), Bobby Manning recently wrote a thought piece on CelticsBlog, suggesting that the Celtics would be best served in letting Turner go in the off-season.

That’s rather controversial. Over at Celtics Down Under, we look at it from the opposite perspective. Why should ET be allowed to leave, when he has undoubtedly been one of the best pieces acquired in this post-Big Three era?

Team growth

First off, let’s address the issue of growth. Marcus Smart might be the future, and he is surely developing nicely, but we know it – Smart just isn’t ready. Are we ready to scuttle the team’s chemistry next season, leave a gaping hole in the rotation and move backwards while allowing Smart the massive developmental minutes he needs to grow rapidly?

When it comes to defense, Smart’s more than proven himself over and over again, with timely plays and big moments. He hasn’t really delivered as a ball distributor, not quite yet. There’s no question Turner’s the better ball handler, right now.

Smart is currently playing 27.1 minutes, a hair less than Turner’s 27.3. Are we really, really prepared to let Smart (plus Young or Hunter up the rotation) and soak ET’s minutes up, while sending Turner riding off into the sunset?

Is that the “next step forward”, logically speaking?

I’m not certain we’re ready to let Turner go, right now, all for the sake of development. The team is slowly coming together and is ready to take a step up – we need to move forward into the championship conversation, not take another step back.

Until Smart proves himself capable of taking the reins over from Turner, it looks like a case of fixing what’s not broken.

Turner’s indispensable tools

Brandon puts his argument forward in a logical manner.

“If the Celtics have a similar team next season, they would be best served resigning Evan Turner: an impactful team player who has one of the best mid-range shots in the league, & can get to the basket with an arsenal of ball handling moves.”

He may not look like it, but Turner has been an elite and rather sneaky distributor. His playmaking allows him to get to the rim, and in turn serve his open teammates the ball at the most unexpected moments.

“Coming off the bench, he is arguably having one of his most impactful seasons,” Brandon suggests. “Since coming to Boston, he has set a career-high in assists per game; last season he averaged 5.5 APG, breaking his previous best of 4.3 APG in the 2012-13 season.

Turner is averaging 4.4 assists a game this season. He has 289 total assists on the season through 65 games, where he has only started 4 of them. Evan is also ranked 26th in total assists in the entire NBA, a league best for a player off the bench.”

Michael also agrees on Turner’s passing, and calls it “criminally underrated” –a rather fitting description, considering how little noise it’s made outside of Boston fans– and goes on to talk about the level of trust he gives not only the fans, but likely his team on the floor.

“ET brings with him a level of assurance when he enters the game. While Marcus Smart is also capable of handling point guard duties when Isaiah Thomas is resting, I believe [Smart] still has some developing to do offensively over the next season or two.”

Make no mistake, coach Stevens has agreed on Turner’s importance recently too, after his clutch save during the Knicks game.

“I think Evan Turner’s been really good since he’s been here,” Stevens said recently. “The thing I’ve said all along is he’s a jack of all trades. He does a lot of good things for our team.”

“He’s figured out our system. He’s figured out where his spots are. He’s always been a confident person as far as playing the game. We’re asking him to do a whole heckuva lot. The thing about Evan is he’s always doing it with the intent of helping your team, so that’s the best thing I can say probably.”

“Finally, Turner’s confidence comes to the fore down the stretch. In close games, it’s significant having a player who can create his own shot off the dribble.

Time and again this season, Turner has made clutch baskets to score a go-ahead bucket or tie up the game. This is something the team has lacked since the departure of Paul Pierce and co. – you can never have too many finishers on your team!”

Hayley’s also on board with Turner’s well-balanced arsenal of skills, and it’s hard to imagine getting a replacement for someone of his caliber, should he leave.

“ET is Boston’s Mr Do It All. He gives Brad Stevens flexibility in his line-ups, and with his height he is a match-up nightmare for small guards.

What I enjoy most about Turner, is the fact that he knows his strengths and works with them. When he is in the lane or pulling up for mid-range jumpers I have faith that his shot will go in, no matter how may dribbles it takes.”

Need evidence? Hayley points to a rather interesting statistic.

“Turner is the only player on the Celtics that is averaging at least 10 points, 4 rebounds and 4 assists per game. This truly showcases ET’s worth to the Celtics.”

Free agency matters

Dave, who’s always ready to take a clear-eyed view on the bigger picture, agrees to a roster with Turner in all but the most positive situation: if the chance to nab a star player presents itself.

“Turner has been an integral part of the Celtics’ success this season as he has come up big, time after time. Having said that, I do not think we should keep him should the below were to eventuate:

For starters, if the very quiet rumblings of KD to Boston come to fruition (so what if I’m a dreamer?), then something has got to give cap-wise.

Jan 22, 2014; San Antonio, TX, USA; Oklahoma City Thunder forward Kevin Durant (35) reacts after a shot during the second half against the San Antonio Spurs at AT&T Center. The Thunder won 111-105. Mandatory Credit: Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports
Jan 22, 2014; San Antonio, TX, USA; Oklahoma City Thunder forward Kevin Durant (35) reacts after a shot during the second half against the San Antonio Spurs at AT&T Center. The Thunder won 111-105. Mandatory Credit: Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports

As much as I have enjoyed our team this season, I wouldn’t hesitate in letting ET and some of the non-guaranteed contacts go to make room.

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Secondly, if the Celtics get lucky in the draft with the Brooklyn pick (they are well overdue!) and select Ben Simmons, then they would have to look at developing him – which would certainly mean that Turner’s minutes would be effectively cut.”

The final piece of the puzzle of course, comes down to money; namely, Turner’s upcoming free agency.

“Lastly, it simply comes down to money. If Danny can get ET to resign at a cap-friendly contract, say 3 years for $20 million, especially with the cap rising, then that has to be done. If he gets an offer from another team for $10m+ per year?

Evan, it’s been great knowing you, and good luck!”

Celtics catch fire & take care of short-handed grit & grind Memphis.

The Celtics were coming off a loss to the Cavs, who the shorthanded Memphis Grizzlies had just beaten. Memphis would once again be without Conley, Randolph & Gasol with the Celtics home winning streak on the line.

Memphis jumped out to an early 8-2 lead before the Celtics went on a 13-4 run to take a 3 point lead off an Avery 3. The grit & grind Grizzlies went back on top 21-26 before Smart ended the quarter with a 3 as Boston would trail by 2 at the end of 1.

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Boston started the 2nd on a 10-3 run to take a 5 point lead but the Celtics inability to grab a defensive rebound, while Memphis were pounding the glass & getting 2nd chance points to stay in the game. Memphis took the lead on a pair of Chalmers free throws before Crowder put Boston back on top with a 3. Chalmers would finish the quarter with a deep 3 after a jump ball that gave the Grizzlies a 3 point lead at the half due to leading 2nd chance points 17-2 & rebounding 29-14. Jarell Martin posted a career high 15 points in the first half (previous high was 2, had 8 career points)

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The Celtics came out of the half aggressive, drawing 3 shooting fouls on Memphis in under 3 minutes, Thomas going 3-4 & Johnson 1-2 while on an 8-2 Boston run to go up 3 that forced a Memphis timeout. Mario Chalmers went down with an injury & was carried to the locker room with the Celtics up 64-61, Boston ended the quarter on a 19-6 run & outscored Memphis 12-31 in the 3rd to take a 83-67 lead into the 4th as Thomas was up to 22 points.

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Jonas started the 4th with another Celtics 3 before Vince Carter scored 5 points on 2 straight Memphis possessions. Vince Carter would add another triple but Zeller’s dunk would give the Celtics a 21 point lead & 100 points with 7:30 to go. Memphis went on 10-4 run to cut the lead to 14 but back to back 3’s by Crowder & Jerebko all but finished the game, Boston winning 96-116.

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Statistics:

Isaiah Thomas – 22 points, 5 assists Evan Turner – 16 points, 8 assists Avery Bradley – 15 points Jae Crowder – 15 points Jared Sullinger – 12 points, 5 rebounds Jonas Jerebko – 11 points, 4 rebounds, 5 assists Tyler Zeller – 9 points, 7 rebounds
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The Celtics extended their home winning streak to 14….

 

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The Celtics battle with Jazz in thriller at Garden

The Celtics would be looking for revenge against the Utah Jazz who had beaten Boston by 18 on the 20th of February before they made it even worse for the Celtics by losing to the Brooklyn Nets (Celtics own their first round pick) on Sunday.

The game started back & forth before the Jazz, through Hayward, Lyles & Mack, put Utah up 9 late in the first quarter. Isaiah Thomas scored 6 straight Boston points (8 in the quarter) to close the gap to 6 heading into the 2nd.

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The Jazz were pounding the Celtics on the glass, offensively & defensively, as an offensive explosion by Trey Lyles extended the Jazz lead up to a game high 13 points. To help with the rebounding & defensive struggles for Boston, Brad Stevens put rookie Jordan Mickey into the game, much to the delight of the Celtics fans. Mickey immediately had an impact, grabbing an offensive rebound that led to free throws, a dunk & 2 blocks that helped spark Boston on an 11-0 run, keeping Utah scoreless for 6 minutes. Hayward, Lyles & Hood all scored over the final 2 minutes for the Jazz but Boston stayed tough & only trailed by 3 heading into the half.

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Isaiah Thomas came out of the break on fire, scoring 6 straight for the Celtics. A lot more fouls were being called in the 3rd than at all in the first half as a pair of Hood free throws & a Neto jump shot put Utah back up by 6. Marcus Smart, Jae Crowder & Tyler Zeller scored all of Boston’s points over the final 4 minutes to keep the Celtics within touch going into the 4th, down by 1.

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Shelvin Mack started the quarter with a 3 for the Jazz but Boston scored 9 straight points to take a 5 point lead, their first since the 1st minute of the game. The Utah Jazz answered with a 9-2 run to take back the lead but Sullinger scored on back to back possessions to keep the game tied. Shelvin Mack, a guy who Brad Stevens coached at Butler, scored 7 straight Jazz points, the last being a 3 pointer to take a 2 point lead with only 49 seconds left. Crowder answered the call once again with a 3 of his own to give Boston back the lead before Avery Bradley blocked Hayward’s post up shot & was heading to the line for 2 free throws. Avery split the 2 free throws, missing the 2nd but Amir Johnson grabbed the offensive rebound & got the ball back to Avery who this time knocked down both. The Celtics held on to win 95-100 & keep the 11-0 home streak alive.

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Key statistics:

Jae Crowder – 22 points, 3 rebounds, 4 assists
Isaiah Thomas – 18 points, 2 rebounds, 9 assists
Avery Bradley – 18 points, 2 rebounds, 1 steal
Evan Turner – 8 points, 6 rebounds, 4 assists, 2 steals, 1 block & a + 8 (The Celtics are 21-1 when Evan is a +3 or better in +/-) gettyimages-513157496_master

 

Celtics, Clippers play thriller at Garden as All-Star point guards go head to head.

The Celtics were coming in hot, winning 9 of their last 11 but a one point loss to the Bucks the night before left a bitter taste. A chance for redemption, at home, against Doc, Pierce & the Los Angeles Clippers was todays challenge. A team who were also hot, winning 7 of their last 8.

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The first quarter didn’t start as planned when Pierce & Reddick knocked down back to back 3’s to give the Clippers a 10-4 advantage. The Celtics would fight back through Sullinger, Thomas & Crowder (who had all of Boston’s points apart from 3) to tie things at 19. Not much defence was being played & the Celtics had already started to Hack-a-Jordan, who made both of the free throws as Los Angeles would take a 37-33 lead into the 2nd.

Smart

The Clippers scored 4 points to start the quarter but Boston was hanging tough, attacking the rim & getting to the free throw line before a Marcus Smart 3 pointer gave the Celtics their first lead of the night. Bradley & Smart both hit 2 3’s, with a pair of Jae Crowder free throws in-between to extend the lead to 60-54. The Celtics once again ended the quarter with Hack-a-Jordan, who proceeded to make both free throws again but Boston took a 71-64 advantage at the half.

IT

The Celtics started the 3rd on a 10-4 run to go up 13 before the Clippers would make their own run by getting to the line, as 6 straight Clipper free throws had cut the Boston lead to 81-85. Over the final 3:40 of the quarter, Crowder & Thomas were the only Celtics to score, putting in 13 points to extend the lead back to 10 before a Chris Paul 3 beat the buzzer as the Celtics took a 91-98 lead into the 4th.

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Olynyk was announced out for the remainder of the game with a shoulder injury as Zeller took the floor to star the 4th. Tyler quickly knocked down a shot but a 9-2 Clippers run had the game at 100 apiece. Paul & Jerebko would exchange 3’s before Lance Stephenson also hit a 3, but a stare down of the Celtics bench got Lance a technical foul as the resulting free throw, made by Avery Bradley, gave Boston the one point lead. Crawford, Reddick & Stephenson all scored in the midst of an 8-2 Clippers run as Los Angeles took the 114-109 lead. The Celtics went back to Hack-a-Jordan, who went 3-4 over the next minute to put the Clippers up 5 with only 1:16 left in regulation. Thomas would score the basket out of the timeout & get a foul but he missed the free throw that Marcus Smart would fight & get the rebound for. The Clippers were called for another foul but Marcus could only manage to make 1 of the 2 foul shots & would immediately pick up his 6th & final foul after the missed free throw. Los Angeles were up 2 with Jordan heading to the line with under 24 seconds left, DeAndre failed to make either of the 2 free throws & Isaiah Thomas would tie things up before Chris Paul missed the game winning shot as time expired.

Overtime started with Avery Bradley fouling Reddick on back to back 3 point shots, one a 4 point play, the other Reddick went 2/3 from the line. Bradley quickly made up for the mistake, knocking down a 3 to bring Boston within 2. Crawford, Jordan & Paul all went 1 of 2 from the line in their next 3 possessions as a Sullinger 3 pointer got Boston back down only 1. 7 straight points for Evan Turner put Boston up 3, the Clippers had 2 chances to tie the game but failed on both as Jerebko hit the final 2 free throws to lead the Celtics to a 139-134 win over the Clippers heading into the All-Star weekend, where Isaiah Thomas will be in the Skills Challenge & the All-Star game.

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The Celtics head into ASW with a 32-23 record which has them sitting 3rd in the Eastern Conference.

Statistics:
Isaiah Thomas – 36 points & 11 assists (11-12 on free throws) Jared Sullinger – 21 points & 11 rebounds Jae Crowder – 19 points & 8 rebounds Evan Turner – 14 points, 6 rebounds & 6 assists Avery Bradley – 18 points Marcus Smart – 17 points
If that was Paul Pierce’s final game in Boston he finished with 6 points, 3 rebounds & an assist, shooting 50% from 3.