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Surging Celtics To Clash With Cavaliers

By on February 4, 2016 at 8:37pm

Winners of seven of their last eight and 10 of there last 13 the Celtics head to Cleveland for a Friday night match up with the beast of the east, the Cleveland Cavaliers. The Cavs stand alone atop the Eastern Conference at 35-13 while Boston has mustered a 29-22 record, good for a third place tie with Atlanta. The Celtics have been winning games by putting up points, scoring over 100 points in 13 of their last 14 games, that ties them for fifth best in the NBA with San Antonio. Defensive intensity has also been a mainstay with the C’s giving up 100.3 points per game, not too shabby, and good for ninth best in the NBA, just behind Indiana and ahead of the Clippers.

Led by All-Star point guard Isaiah Thomas there is no doubt that the Celtics are on the rise and coming down the stretch run will hope to continue this push for home court advantage in the first round of the playoffs. It should be noted however that the competition that Boston has recently played is not near what they will face Friday night. The Celtics have essentially taken care of business and won games they are supposed to win to be considered a contender in Eastern Conference. The most notable recent victories have come over the Pistons, Pacers and Bulls who, if the regular season ended today, would be in the playoffs.

Cleveland on the other hand is in a different class than recent Celtics competitors. They are 7-3 in their last 10 games and have had marquee wins over San Antonio and the Clippers. Changes for Cleveland since they beat the Celtics 89-77 in December include the presence of Kyrie Irving who did not play as he was still rehabilitating a fractured knee cap and Cavs new head coach, ex-Celtics assistant coach Tyronn Lue, after the surprise firing of David Blatt.

Its likely going to be a difficult environment for the Celtics playing in Cleveland in front of a Friday night packed house. Not to mention LeBron James and the Cavs will be looking to rebound from a loss to the Hornets in a game where they did not face their opponents leading scorer Kemba Walker. Instead they were torched by Jeremy Lin, that’s right Jeremy Lin who hung 24 points and eight dimes on Cleveland, sending them too defeat. Expect a fired up crowd and a Cavaliers team trying to fend off a second straight loss as the Celtics try to keep their string of winning ways alive at Quicken Loans Arena.

Key match ups to watch will be Isaiah Thomas, who is coming into the game scoring 21.4 points per game to go with 6.6 assists, and Kyrie Irving who is averaging 17.2 points per contest. However it is somewhat unlikely they will actually defend one another all the time as Brad Stevens will rotate Marcus Smart and Avery Bradley onto Irving to stifle his attack with their tenacious on ball defense. Another match up to watch will be Jae Crowder doing his best to slow down the LeBron James freight train and the carousel of Celtics bigs trying to rebound with Kevin Love, Timofey Mozgov and Tristan Thompson.

If the Celtics are able to score over 100 points, as they have been consistently doing, and are able to keep the Cavs off the offensive glass for easy put backs, they will have a shot of dethroning the King and his Cavs in their own castle. On the other hand, if the Celtics are forced to grind out a poor shooting performance like the game back in December they will surely struggle against the defending Eastern Conference Champs.

Its a potential playoff preview of two teams heading in the right direction, the Cavs under the new direction of Tyronn Lue, and the red hot C’s playing their best basketball under Brad Stevens. The Q Arena should be rocking on Friday night and Celtics fans will be able to see how this improved Boston team measures up against the likely number one seed in the east!

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David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

After Avery Bradley edged the Celtics over the Cavaliers Friday night with a buzzer beater 3-pointer he continued his sharp shooting against the Kings going 6-7 from 3-point range and scoring 25 points in a 128-119 victory Sunday in Boston. The win in Cleveland was likely the Celtics biggest win of the season, especially being on the road and playing the Cavaliers after they had come off a loss. It looked ugly early for the Celts Friday in Cleveland but they were able to hang in and keep it close in the first two quarters before gaining the lead in the second half. A balanced attack with Isaiah Thomas, Avery Bradley, Evan Turner, Tyler Zeller and Jared Sullinger all scoring in double figures helped to hold off the Cavaliers late game push. The grittiest play of the game came with the Celtics down two points with seconds left. A missed free throw from Evan Turner allowed for Marcus Smart, 6’4″, boxing out Timofey Mozgov, 7’1″ to cause a scramble for the rebound that ultimately went out off the Cavaliers. This afforded the Celtics just the chance they needed and, on a broken play, Bradley gathered himself to knock down the game winning triple from the corner.

Rolling into Sunday winners of three straight and coming off dethroning the mighty King the C’s hung 46 points on Sacramento in the first quarter en route to the win. They were in control wire to wire despite a pesky performance from the Kings who made runs but were never able to recover from the 76 point first half performance of the Celtics.

Boston is now in sole possession of third place in the Eastern Conference behind Cleveland and Toronto, they are winners of four in a row and nine of their last ten. Celtics’s fans have reason to be excited with the wins and the way the team has continued to get better and play together. However, four and half games is all that separates the now third place Celtics and the ninth place Hornets. The C’s will need to continue to win with a tough schedule ahead. Boston not only has a slew of balanced Eastern Conference teams to play that will all be jockeying for position but still has a variety of tough Western Conference opponents to face after the All-Star break including Golden State, Oklahoma City, Los Angeles Clippers (and Lakers), and Memphis to name a few, those wins will not come easy.

For now Boston will head to Milwaukee to go for five straight wins against the Bucks who are losers of five straight, before coming home to face Doc Rivers and his 34-17 Clippers that have won seven of their last ten, doing so without Blake Griffin.

The Celtics should feel confident heading to the Midwest behind their Eastern Conference player of the week Isaiah Thomas who continues to put up numbers and help the C’s win games. His most recent weekly stat line to earn said honors goes like this: 20.3 points, 7 assists, 4.5 rebounds, and 1.3 steals over 33.6 minutes per game. With the C’s seeming to play their best basketball of the season coach Brad Stevens will continue to keep their feet on the ground and their eyes on the clipboard to hopefully finish the next two games strong before heading into All-Star weekend.

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Celtics

After one of the worst seasons in franchise history (25-57 in 2013-14), the Celtics went shopping for a new head coach and landed on a very talented Brad Stevens who was running a top NCAA program at Butler University. In his first year with the Celtics, the team showed improvement, ending up with a respectable record of 40-42 while squeezing into the playoffs.

Regardless of expectations from the fans, Stevens was surely looking for nothing more than continued improvement coming into the 2015-2016. With a little more than half the season in the books, it seems safe to say the Celtics have indeed made that next step forward. With a current record of 27-22, they are ranked #6 in the Eastern Conference with a reasonably good chance of making the playoffs. Continue reading Orlando Magic Snaps Boston’s 5-Game Winning Streak »

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nba-trade-rumors-atlanta-hawks

With the NBA trade deadline a mere three weeks away the hot stove is heating up, and rumors from Chad Mannix have linked the Celtics and Hawks in trade conversation regarding Al Horford and Jeff Teague. Although the Celtics have been involved in many rumors they have yet to make a deal. This particular option, if completed for both players, would put the Celtics on a win-now path with championship aspiration in the near future.

The positive attributes of Horford are renown around the NBA. He is proven winner, has averaged 14.3 points and 9 rebounds over his career, and would fill the vacancy at the center position that I covered here last month. This is not a knock on Amir Johnson, I love the way he plays, but Al Horford is a big improvement. He is 29 years old, is a presence on the glass, and can get a bucket in post when his team needs it. He is exactly what the Celtics are lacking. The negative aspect of a trade involving Horford is his contract. This is the final year of his current deal and he is expecting to get a significant salary in free agency this summer. If the Celtics were to pull the trigger on a deal for Horford, Ainge would either have the upmost confidence in the team’s ability to sign him to a contract extension or be sending a message loud and clear that the goal is to win this year.

Teague is an electric athlete and has shown the ability to both score the basketball and run an offense at the NBA level. The Wake Forest product, now 27 years old, has averaged 11.8 points and 5.1 assists per game over his career, and his current contract is worth $8 million per year for both this season and next. Not a bad deal for a really good point guard. The only problem with his addition to the roster is that he would join an already crowded back court. The guard position does not feel like a pressing need for the Celtics at this point, which makes this rumor puzzling unless the front office plans to completely reconstruct this lineup mid season.

Danny Ainge has shown the guts and willingness to make this type of deal and go all-in for a championship, but has shown patience with player development and ‘trusting the process’ with young guys. Is the goal to win a championship this year? If so, then this trade will certainly move the team toward that goal. Also, is the front office that confident in their ability to sign Horford to a contract extension after this season? Another essential consideration when weighing this deal. If not, then a one year window of return is not an optimal return. It all remains to be seen and or now Celtics fans can only wait anxiously. Ainge is a diligent general manager and will surely consider every and any possible option before making a decision. In the meantime, we should continue to foster the hope of a DeMarcus Cousins-Isaiah Thomas reunion in a green and white uniform.

 

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Avery Bradley

At a time when the Boston Celtics are playing good ball, they last thing they want to see is personnel issues that could disrupt what seems to be great team chemistry. That may have been a bit too much to expect as G Avery Bradley has come forward with apparent issues related to his current four-year, $32 million contract

Based on information provided by writer Matt Moore of the Boston Globe, Johnson is becoming increasingly more dissatisfied with the contract he signed back in 2014 when represented by sports agent Mitchell Butler. He signed the contract after four years with the Celtics when he spent a good deal of time on the sidelines due to various injuries. Continue reading Celtics’ Avery Bradley Unhappy With Current Contract »

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NBA.com/Celtics

The Boston Celtics will be represented at All-Star Weekend in Toronto in two weeks with their leading scorer Isaiah Thomas being selected as an Eastern Conference Reserve. Thomas joins a stacked group of guards including Dwayne Wade, Kyle Lowry, John Wall, Jimmy Butler and DeMar DeRozan. NBA coaches vote on the reserve All-Stars which, some may say, adds to the merit of the selection as fans can tend to lean toward names and popularity (see Lakers representation below).

Thomas has been an on and off the court leader for a young Boston team. He has provided an offensive spark scoring 21.6 points per game and dishing out 6.6 assists per night showing he can be a play-maker as well as a scorer. Isaiah has made an impact in the win column with the Celtics going 46-31 since he arrived in the lineup on Feb. 22, 2015, many will remember a much more dismal record prior to his landing in Boston. Under coach Brad Stevens, Thomas has helped lead the Celtics to a 26-21 record, good for 5th place in a balanced Eastern Conference. Boston is in good position to jockey for a home playoff coming out of the All-Star break and down the stretch.

Quick, fearless, and deceptively strong are some of the adjectives you may hear when people talk about Thomas. He is able to knock down the 3-point shot but makes his money pushing the ball in transition, weaving through the lane to make plays for teammates or going hard to the tin to score at the basket and draw fouls. His teammates and the fans in Boston love him as he embodies the spirit of a rising Celtics squad.

Thomas’ teammates and opponents for the 2016 All-Star Game are listed below:

Eastern Conference All-Stars

Starters
Carmelo Anthony, New York
Paul George, Indiana
LeBron James, Cleveland
Kyle Lowry, Toronto
Dwyane Wade, Miami

Reserves
Jimmy Butler, Chicago
John Wall, Washington
Andre Drummond, Detroit
Chris Bosh, Miami
DeMar DeRozan, Toronto
Paul Millsap, Atlanta
Isaiah Thomas, Boston

Western Conference All-Stars

Starters
Kobe Bryant, L.A. Lakers
Stephen Curry, Golden State
Kevin Durant, Oklahoma City
Kawhi Leonard, San Antonio
Russell Westbrook, Oklahoma City

Reserves
Draymond Green, Golden State
Klay Thompson, Golden State
Chris Paul, L.A. Clippers
James Harden, Houston
DeMarcus Cousins, Sacramento
LaMarcus Aldridge, San Antonio
Anthony Davis, New Orleans

A star-studded field with both teams having plenty of fire power should make for the usual high-scoring event that will hopefully turn into a game in the fourth quarter as it has tended to the past few years. The talent level in the Western Conference is insane, the only thing that is likely to slow those guys down is Kobe’s number of field goal attempts (sorry Kobe, you are not retired so I can’t appreciate you yet).

Thomas can look forward to getting some minutes against the best in the west but its hard to imagine anyone can get excited about guarding the dazzling Steph Curry or the crafty Chris Paul on the perimeter and whoever is in the way of Russell Westbrook during the All-Star game is asking to end up a poster. Fortunately for Thomas, and probably for most of these offensive-minded players, the All-Star game is about 3-pointers, dunks and behind the back passes for at least three quarters, defense starts to seep in around the same time as the competitive nature of these individuals takes hold.

The Celtics are proud to be sending Thomas to the 65th NBA All-Star game in Toronto, no one deserves it more, if only I had the authority to give a Tommy Point he’d get two from me!

Congratulations to Isaiah!

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The Celtics Need a Center

January 7, 2016 at 10:11pm in Boston, Celtics, NBA
Brad Stevens

Last night at the Boston Garden the Celtics dropped a tough 99-94 loss to the Detroit Pistons. The C’s came out of the gate hot and held command of the lead for a majority of the game, but failed to execute and score over big stretches of the second half.  Although Isaiah Thomas did his best to will the team to victory despite a poor shooting night and some crucial misses at the free throw line, his late effort was not enough and the Celtics fell. The heart and grit of this group is displayed by their tenacious defensive intensity, but what the team lacks is a go-to scorer – someone they can give the ball to in the post and confidently say ‘go get me a bucket big man’. With an ace like that the Celtics could become elite team and a real contender in the Eastern Conference.

Trade speculation has been buzzing around big-time NBA centers including Dwight Howard, Brooke Lopez, and DeMarcus Cousins, and the Celts have been tied to almost all of the rumors. The question remains whether Danny Ainge is ready to make that kind of deal, which would undoubtedly require separating with some very valuable assets. Rumor has it that Ainge has expressed interest in such a deal, but has been unwilling to accept a trade that includes Marcus Smart or the Brooklyn Nets’ 2016 1st round draft pick that was acquired in the trade involving Pierce and Garnett. This is a fair assessment by Ainge as that selection has a chance of becoming a number one overall and Marcus Smart has shown tremendous promise. It is clear that Ainge does not consider Smart on the trade block, but that 2016 draft pick deserves some reconsideration.

The obvious top pick in this year’s draft class is LSU’s freshman phenom Ben Simmons. Anyone that watched he and the Tigers dismantle Kentucky on Tuesday got to see the superior talent level and athleticism that has NBA general managers salivating. After him on the in the top five of the mock draft board are Brandon Ingram (Duke), Kris Dunn (Providence), Jaylen Brown (California), and Ivan Rabb (California). Although all these players are certainly talented and may blossom into quality NBA starters, none of them seem to address the Celtics’ needs other than Simmons.

The chance of the Nets’ pick becoming #1 overall is 15.9% as of January 7th and the chance of it being in the top 3 is 46.9%. And keep in mind, every time the Celtics continue to lose to the Nets decreases that probability. Drafting Ben Simmons would be ideal for any team because the potential he offers, but acquiring him is far from a sure thing at this point for the Celtics and the lucky team that gets the number one overall will also need to demonstrate patience as the youngster develops.

It seems like given the circumstances and the current Celtics roster trading that Nets’ unprotected draft pick could be beneficial to the Celtics if it is dealt for the right guy. Of the three aforementioned centers on the market the easy name to cross of the list is the plague of the NBA – Dwight Howard. But both Brooke Lopez and DeMarcus Cousins are interesting and offer intriguing options that deserve some consideration. Here is a career comparison of the two.

Age Points per game Rebounds per game Assists per game Blocks per game Steals per game
Brook Lopez

27

18.0 7.4 1.3 0.6

1.8

DeMarcus Cousins 25 19.4 10.7 2.6 1.3

1.4

The two other important elements that need attention are health and character, which are both important when analyzing these two options at center. With DeMarcus Cousins the main concern is his attitude, as he has a history of clashing with coaches and quitting on his teammates. For Brook Lopez it is his injury history that includes foot and ankles problems that often become a chronic hinderance for many big men. Other than those two concerns both players statistical output have been fairly comparable over their careers, with DeMarcus having an advantage on the offensive end. 

The answer here is DeMarcus Cousins. He is younger than Lopez, has not had the scary injury history, and has shown flashes of defensive ability to go along with his offensive skill set. As previously mentioned the concern is about Cousins’ character, which is a valid source of anxiety and skepticism. But the leadership role on the Celtics that Isaiah Thomas has assumed, and his friendship with Cousins that was developed during their time playing together for the Sacramento Kings offers some optimism. This relationship could harness Cousins’ potential and influence him to buy into Coach Stevens’ system. Sure it is not an absolute certainty, but the presence of Thomas along with leaders like Jae Crowder and Avery Bradley could simmer Cousins’ attitude and allow him to blossom on in team-oriented environment.

With the addition of an elite center the Celtics would be a real contender in the Eastern Conference. Brooke Lopez’ health concerns are not worth giving the Nets back their first round draft pick despite his talents, but the promise of DeMarcus Cousins would be. In either case the deal would likely also include a second round draft pick or two, and a player like David Lee to balance each teams’ salary cap. DeMarcus Cousins offers a superstar offensive skill set with defensive potential if he is surrounded by a competitive team that he gels with. This acquisition could move the Celtics one step closer to their championship aspirations. Celtics fan are waiting patiently for this team to turn the corner and although a supreme college talent like Ben Simmons is promising, it will only serve to further delay the winning process. On the other hand DeMarcus Cousins is under contract through 2018 and could propel the club to the next level upon his first day in the green and white. If Ainge wants to win in the near future he will make this type of deal, if not Celtics fans will have to continue to wait patiently for the team to become a legitimate contender for the NBA championship.

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