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

Bonus Boston Basketball

It feels like the beginning of season 2014-15 is already a distant memory. On opening night, the Celtics roster included names like Rondo, Green, Thornton, Faverani and Powell. We saw brief stints in green from NBA veterans Tayshaun Prince, Brandon Wright and Jameer Nelson, even Austin Rivers passed through for a few days. Strange to think that was only a few months ago.

Now with a young core and impressive young coach, the Celtics are headed to the Playoffs in just the second year of a rebuild. The additions of Isaiah Thomas, Jae Crowder, Jonas Jerebko and Gigi Datome have given this team a big boost since the All-Star break. The landscape has changed so much since October – even Danny Ainge didn’t see this coming, which is testament to Brad Stevens and his ability to get consistent effort out of this team and to play for each other.

The Playoffs are always a great experience for any player’s development, and it doesn’t get much better than a match-up in the spotlight against the LeBron-led Cleveland Cavaliers. With Danny Ainge, Brad Stevens and owner Wyc Grousbeck stating they want to keep this young core together for the long-term, the 2015 Playoffs will be a great learning curve for the team as a whole.

You can bet a never-say-die mentality and a pumping TD Garden will give this team enough belief to push the Cavs to the brink. Whatever happens in the post-season should be considered a bonus; the Celtics have already been big winners in 2015.

Are you not entertained by the new-look Celtics?

Don’t look now, but the Celtics are playing some pretty awesome ball. Cleveland stink aside, the Celtics are playing some very inspired basketball for coach Brad Stevens. Whether it is Marcus Smart getting another key stop, Crowder hitting the three with more consistency, Bradley catching fire or even Jerebko putting in solid work – the Celtics have become entertaining to watch.

The biggest reason behind their post All-Star resurgence is none other than the trade deadline buzzer beater that landed them Isaiah Thomas III. He has lived up to (and exceeded) all the hype around him being a go-to scorer, a spark plug, and being the league leader in 4th quarter points. The Celtics have been transformed over from a 4th quarter push-over to a legitimate threat behind Thomas’ fearlessness of the big moment. The last game against the Pelicans is just adding to his young growing legacy. He managed to rip the heart out out of the Pelicans in the 4th before they even had a chance to make a run – which is something that he has done multiple times already, and something that the Celtics could not do for the last season and a half. He is not the only player that has stepped up, but, he just very well might be the reason why others have also taken their game up a level.

One of those players stepping it up is Marcus Smart, who has finally received some recognition in the league by winning the Eastern Conference Rookie of the month. It’s a a far step from being snubbed for the USA vs. World rookie/sophomore game, which happened in that same month. He may not be scoring 20 points a game or averaging 10+ assists per game (yet), but if you are just looking at his stat line, you are doing him an injustice. He just wants it. Smart is the guy that will get that key steal, come up with the loose ball, make that key pass, or take the big shot – he will basically do whatever it takes. Once his skill level catches up to his will to win, we will have ourselves a serious player.

I could go through the whole team as everyone is playing extremely hard (special shout-out to Bradley and Bass), but the main reason behind that is coach Brad Stevens. People forget – or take it for granted – that he is a second year coach from college at only 38 years old. Make no mistake, we have ourselves a coach.

There are only a handful of coaches in the league that can get the absolute best out of all his players regularly, let alone from a team with a losing record. Enough cannot be said about the job he has done to extract everything from this young core, especially after losing his two best players mid season in Rajon Rondo and Jeff Green. After that happened, the Celtics could have easily mailed in the season, and no one would have said anything – how could he possibly win with that? That is not the way Stevens is built. He is constantly tweaking, constantly trying to get better, and it shows. Danny Ainge has found an absolute keeper that I hope is around for a lonnnnnnng time.

Stevens & ThomasWith the Celtics playing as hard as they are with an improbable playoff spot up for grabs, the future looks bright. Everyone in the front office is in sync, with Stevens excelling with what he has got, and Ainge slightly improving the team at every chance he gets, it is not unreasonable to suggest that the Celtics could be a great team sooner than what people think (especially with the treasure trove of 1st round picks and trade exceptions at Ainge’s disposal).  If there are quality players out there to be had, you can bank on the fact that Ainge will try something.

I for one, will be sitting it back, and enjoying the ride – we are only going to get better from here on in and our future looks extremely bright.  Besides, wouldn’t it be fun for these Celtics to make a run for the playoffs and possibly even sneaking in?

Trade Deadline Recap: Well Done Danny

A mere two hours before yesterday’s trade deadline, Celtics reporters were all stating the same thing – expect Danny Ainge and his crew to stand firm and let the deadline pass with no moves. Think again! In the dying stages of the 3pm cut-off, the Celtics got involved in a very productive way.

Continue reading Trade Deadline Recap: Well Done Danny

Playoffs or Lottery?

With the first half of the season gone, and the Celtics possessing a similar record to that of last year, the same questions are being asked, what is better for the team: playoffs or lottery?

When Ainge traded away both Rondo and Green for future assets, it was assumed that the Celtics would waive the white flag this season in hopes of a high lottery pick – but after a stirring victory against the East-leading Atlanta Hawks going into the all-star break, the unlikely thought of playoffs for these stubborn Celtics in 2015 is now starting to become a reality.  But what is best for this team?  To make the playoffs or to blow it up even further for a better draft pick to keep building?  There is a valid argument to be made for both camps.

Playoffs
An unlikely run to the playoffs could have a greatly positive effect for this young Celtics team.  For starters, it would mean that our young core has stepped up, increasing their value to the team and around the league – this is especially important considering Ainge’s history of drafting/developing young talent, and then trading for a superstar.  It would also mean that Coach Brad Stevens will add another feather to his cap and pick up some valuable playoff experience whilst gaining even more recognition for the job that he has done.  Having a successful culture within the team is also critical with free agency on the horizon as potential free agents would factor this in to their decisions.
If the Celtics were to sputter down the home stretch and only make the playoffs because the lack of competition in the East, then there could be a negative effect for this team.  The team could miss out on a potential lottery pick/quality young player, they could be stuck in the dreaded land of mediocrity, or there could even be a false sense of where this team is really at.

Lottery
We have all been down this road before – Ainge guts the team, and lets them free-fall into the lottery, where we cross our fingers, cross our toes, clutch on to a rabbits foot or a four-leaf clover in hope for at least a top 3 pick in the draft.  In theory, this is a great idea, especially when the draft class is tipped to yield some potentially great players, it is a great way to acquire a franchise-altering player without having to sacrifice money/players/assets for them.
The reality is however, unless the team is bad enough (bottom 2, which the Celtics have no chance of being) – there is no guarantee that you could end up with a top 5 pick, let alone a top 3 pick.  This strategy can be flawed as the team would be relying on luck over anything else, and for the Celtics, luck has not been on their side when it comes to the lottery balls.

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“I would love to see our team in the playoffs, but I don’t want to see us back into the playoffs with a really bad record and not even have a fighting chance. If our team can keep getting better by developing, if we can make some deals at the trade deadline that put us in position to actually get into the playoffs and have a chance to win a playoff series, I think that would be a lot of fun.” – Danny Ainge, January 30th, 2015

Danny Ainge has nailed exactly how I feel with this quote.  I would love to see the Celtics reload at the trade deadline, and make a serious run for the playoffs.  Given that the Celtics have already won 20 games, and has the most games remaining against teams that are sub .500, the chance to increase lottery odds may prove quite difficult – especially with Lakers, Knicks, 76ers and Timberwolves all on 13 wins or under.  What I do not want to see however, is a team that makes the playoffs due to inferior competition, and then in turn, gets swept by a higher seed.
With the trade deadline rumours swirling all around the NBA and the Celtics in particular, it seems like it is a real possibility that the Celtics may actually pick up a piece or two to assist in a push for the playoffs which is a far cry from what direction everyone thought the team was going after trading Rondo and Green within a month of each other.

Given the position we are in, I would love to see a young, feisty team fighting all the way through for the second half of the season – we have tried to be lottery players in the past with no high picks to show for it.  As a fan, it is so much fun to watch a competitive, scrappy team fight hard and play for something meaningful every night rather than watching a lot of moral victories.  Not wanting to be mediocre is one thing, but wanting to either contend or have one of the worst records with no in between is too extreme.  Let the young guys learn, play and earn playoff experience.

What do you think is best for this Celtics team?  Would you like to see them make a run into the playoffs, or would you like to see them try their luck at a higher lottery pick?  Leave your comment below.

‘Celtics Talk Radio’ episode 48 Rajon Rondo quarterly review (feat. @AusCelticsFan)

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The latest episode of ‘Celtics Talk Radio’ with our friends Igor, Alex and Daniel is available online via Blog Talk Radio.

Celtics Down Under’s @AusCelticsFan was a guest on the show, as Rajon Rondo’s current form, and upcoming Max contract situation was discussed.

Click here to listen.

Check it out. Enjoy!

Retaining Rondo: A Comprehensive Examination

The rumours never end. Ever. Rajon Rondo has been the point guard of the Boston Celtics since 2006, and has repeatedly attracted trade speculation over the bulk of his career. And yet, here he is, a rarity in the league as a player who has remained with the same team since his rookie year, eight years on.

Then you realise why the rumours have been around for so long. To put it simply, he has immense talent, an NBA championship, and plays the game to make his teammates better by sharing the ball – an uncommon trait for point guards in the NBA. Then when you dig even further, you are reminded of his ability to step up his game in the postseason, of his drive to win at all costs, to sacrifice life and limb (literally) for his team. Of course other teams would be interested, there’s no doubt about that.

When you put all of this together, you really wonder why ‘experts’ are so keen to offload a player of this calibre. Allow me to analyse exactly why the captain of the most storied franchise in the game will remain in Boston not only for this season, but long enough to see that number 9 hanging in the rafters next to Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett.

Continue reading Retaining Rondo: A Comprehensive Examination