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The Celtics will bring a confident squad onto the Garden hardwood for Tuesday night’s matchup with the Eastern Conference first place Cleveland Cavaliers. Boston is 3-2 in their last five games with wins over Charlotte, Chicago and New Orleans, however, it may be their recent losses that are the most telling. Boston has played the two best teams in the NBA, San Antonio last week and Golden State on Friday night. Both games ended with one more in the loss column but the young Celtics team showed a lot of character and poise despite defeat. In San Antonio the Celtics looked to be out of it in the fourth quarter before a late rally to close the gap that came up short and had them lose by three as the Spurs remained undefeated at home. The Celtics bounced back to beat the Pelicans on the road and then the Bulls at home before facing the Warriors at the Garden. As expected Boston played Golden State tough, fighting them tooth and nail to force not one but two overtimes.

One thing that can be said about the Celtics Friday night is they took every punch from the Warriors and kept on coming. Every time they got knocked to the mat by a great play or a Steph Curry three, of which he made six, they got back up, tried to have a good possession and continued to fight. It seemed as though they truly believed they were supposed to be playing with the Warriors, it didn’t matter if no one else had beat them, they had come to Boston to lose. Ultimately Golden State did what they had done to everyone else, maintained perfection and ripped the heart out of Celtics fans with a double overtime win that felt more like a steal after all that had happened between the fourth quarter and overtime. There is, however, no doubt that the C’s had chances to win the game in regulation and OT but were just unable to capitalize.

In the end of regulation Isaiah Thomas had a chance to win it with a couple tics on the clock but couldn’t connect as he was well defended by the long Shaun Livingston. Brad Stevens then drew up a great inbound play for the hot-handed Kelly Olynyk to screen then pop for the potential game winning jumper, unfortunately it was a bit rushed with 0.7 seconds on the clock and with that miss on to overtime they went. In the first overtime Thomas had a better look with a floater to win it that didn’t fall and in the second OT with the Celtics down by three Jae Crowder had a chance to tie it up but was also unable to hit the shot. Ultimately the looks were there, the Celtics were just unable to knock them down.

Although Boston did not pull out the victory they do know they can hang with the best two teams in the NBA and give them all they want. The next step for Brad Stevens’ team is to figure out how to finish those games and get the big victories. Lets face facts that a loss is never a good thing but with a team that appears to be gelling they have the opportunity to build from these losses. If anything, Boston can be confident now that they can play with anybody in the NBA, the key is the finish.

It appears the balanced attack is a solid approach but one does have to wonder without a go-to player is the pressure now going to be on Isaiah Thomas to take and make these shots? Is it his job to put the harpoon in and finish opponents? For better or worse the days of Paul Pierce are over, but when he was in Boston you could almost guarantee it was going to be The Captain and The Truth putting it up from the elbow or going to the rack to try and draw a foul during the final seconds of any close game.

Either way Boston is playing solid team basketball and should enter the matchup against LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers Tuesday night with a great deal of confidence. The matchup will be a home game for the Celtics who currently sit at 14-10 in seventh place in a tight early race in the Eastern Conference. The Cavs enter the game at 15-7, good enough for first place in the east, (they would be fourth in the Western Conference behind Golden State, San Antonio and Oklahoma City). The Cavs have stumbled a bit of late going 2-3 in their last five games with wins over Orlando and Portland but loses to Washington, Miami and New Orleans. Cleveland recently got shooting guard/wing Iman Shumpert back from an sprained wrist however still do not have All-Star point guard Kyrie Irving in the line up who is expected to potentially make his season debut next week.

Another great feature to this game is that there is no love loss between these two teams. Boston is a young team gunning, albeit from a distance for now, for the Cleveland crown. The C’s have played them tough despite getting swept out of the playoffs in the first round last year on Cleveland’s way to the NBA Finals. The Cavs left the City of Boston bruised, battered and down one star player after Kelly Olynyk dislocated Kevin Love’s shoulder and ended his season as well as diminished their chances for an NBA title. Jae Crowder suffered an injury of his own at the (back)hand of J.R. Smith in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference playoff series last year. Crowder suffered a vicious blow that landed him on the ground with a sprained ACL requiring rehab as the league slapped Smith with a suspension. Both teams play physical and both teams play defense, there is a good chance bodies will hit the deck tomorrow night in Boston as these teams are hungry for a win. The Cavs will be trying to maintain first place and the Celtics trying to prove they are a legitimate contender in east.

LeBron James, who might be one of the most physical players, and is likely one of the most physically impressive specimens the league has ever seen, is entering the game scoring 26.4 points per contest to go along with 7.7 rebounds and 6.4 assists. The superstar floor general is also getting All-Star production out of Kevin Love who is scoring a shade under 18 points per game and ripping down 11.0 rebounds a night. The supporting cast of Mo Williams filling in for the injured Kyrie Irving as well as J.R. Smith are both averaging in double figures.

The Celtics will need to match the Cavs physicality, trying to keep the LeBron James locomotive out of the lane and off the fast break to avoid easy buckets at the rim, free throws and foul trouble. Another apparent force is the big Russian, no not Ivan Drago, the center Timofey Mozgov. Despite his limited action he is able to score at the rim, rebound and block shots and may see a lot of time if the Celtics try to play a smaller line up with more skilled big men. Boston will need to look for Jared Sullinger to be a beast on the boards and the rest of the rotation of bigs to do their part in the trenches boxing out to avoid easy second chance points. The Celtics don’t have to be perfect to beat the Cavs but they need to play smart, grind it out on defense and get good looks on offense as points may be at a premium in this one. Boston is led in scoring by Isaiah Thomas averaging 20.8 points per game and Avery Bradley pouring in 16.3 a night and continue with a deep and balanced team having seven players averaging 9.0 or greater points per game.

Celtics fans have a lot to be excited about as a confident C’s team welcomes the Eastern Conference establishment, Cleveland Cavaliers, to what will be a jam-packed Garden heavily supporting this never-say-die Celtics team. Although early in the season this one will have the feel of a potential future playoff series.

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www.sport.net

The Celtics have won two in a row and four of their last five games with road wins over Miami, Sacramento, and New Orleans, as well as a solid victory at home holding off Jimmy Butler and the Bulls last night. The only loss in their last five games was a close one when Boston travelled to San Antonio and fell 108-105 to the Spurs (18-5). Boston has also notched four straight home court wins and is averaging 108.0 points per game in their last five games, this will be important if they want to have a chance against the high octane Golden State Warriors.

The C’s are coming off an impressive team performance against the Bulls in which eight players scored in double figures without a single one playing over 40 minutes. Isaiah Thomas again led the scoring charge with 20 points, 5 assists and 5 rebounds. Jared Sullinger continued to clean the glass with 16 rebounds to go with his 10 points and Kelly Olynyk once again provided a spark off the bench pouring in 15 points in just 20 minutes of action. Ex-Warriors big man David Lee got back in the flow last night after missing time with a bruised heel to score 12 points and snatch six rebounds. Chicago, who now sit at 11-8, third in the central division behind Cleveland and Indiana put up a fight until the final bell. Jimmy Butler dropped 36 points and nabbed seven boards while Gasol was good for a double-double in points and rebounds with 16 and 15, respectively. A face mask-wearing Derek Rose had 12 points and six assists in the loss.

Boston is coming into this game flying high. Success on the road plus a good win in a tight game at home has the guys in green as ready as ever for the matchup with the champs. However, there is no doubt the undefeated Warriors come into the game, despite key injuries to Harrison Barnes and Klay Thompson, with ultimate confidence. Why shouldn’t they be confident? They have stepped on the court 23 times this season and won all 23 games, it seems like everyday they are breaking or about to break another consecutive win record.

The matchup is interesting for many reasons, statistically the Warriors rank 1st in the NBA in offensive efficiency, 1st in 3-point FG points per game and rarely turn the ball over ranking 24th in the league in that regard. On the flip side the Celtics rank 3rd in the NBA in defensive efficiency, 4th in 3-point FG points per game and are 1st in defensive turnovers. Putting the stats on the back burner for a minute, someone that watches the Celtics can see they pass the eye test as well. This team is deep, they keep fresh legs on the floor, they have young athletes that can get up and down with Golden State to contest and try to keep them from scoring easy transition buckets, and they have the ability to defend the three point shot, at least as good as anyone can against a Warriors team with a plethora of shooters.

As far as offensive and defensive personnel for both teams, Steph Curry may be the best offensive player in basketball right now but the Celtics have one of the better defenders at the guard position in Avery Bradley. An interesting play may also be to try the longer Evan Turner on Curry in efforts to disrupt his hair-trigger release and to mix in different looks defensively.

A major advantage that Golden State has over most teams is their ability to go to the smaller line up and have success. They have so many skill players with Draymond Green perhaps being the best example. Green is someone that can bang down low and guard on the perimeter then turn around and knock down threes or drive to the basket on offense. The Celtics also have a lot of skill players and bigs that can stretch the floor making the Warriors work on defense just as they force opponents to night in and night out. Trying to keep pace in a run and gun style with the Warriors would surely be a mistake however the option to play with a smaller line up may help the Celtics manage the tempo without giving up blow-by layups and penetration on the defensive end.

Offensively the Celtics can help themselves by playing disciplined basketball, getting up good shots, continuing the balanced attack, and making the Warriors play defense for the majority of the shot clock. Another key will be taking care of the basketball. Carelessness will lead to layups and transitions threes and no one puts up points faster than Golden State.

For the Warriors, who will be going for the NBA record for most consecutive road wins, they have a big question mark named Klay Thompson. At this point he is listed as a game-time decision after tweaking his ankle in a 131-123 win over the Pacers Tuesday in which he lit them up for 39 points and went 10-16 from behind the arc. If Thompson doesn’t play and Barnes continues to sit as planned, the Celtics can focus more efforts on Curry, perhaps trying to trap him, double him, aggressively hedge screens and do anything else in their power to make him give up the basketball. This season the reigning MVP, averaging 32.2 points per game, has shown he is not just a shooter, he’s a pure scorer, a passer, and a playmaker with other worldly handles. Steph Curry and the team basketball culture this Golden State team brings out each night is truly a spectacle and a treat for all basketball fans. Most of the time Curry has the ball on a string and during this win streak seems to be making all the right decisions with the rock. However with increased pressure from a barrage of Celtics defenders and his one and two wing options in suit coats he will have to be special to create for himself and make plays for teammates. If Thompson does play the task will be a tall one for Boston but with the spirit of this young, hungry Celtics team its unlikely they would want it any other way.

If the Warriors are able to get by the Celtics they play their next four games against teams with records of .500 or worse before the Christmas Day NBA Finals rematch against Lebron James and the Cavaliers at Oracle Arena in Oakland. The Warriors have remained humble and hungry on this record setting season which will serve them well as Brad Stevens will have the Celtics geared up and locked in for what is sure to be a raucous TD Garden on Friday night in Boston. Tip-off is set for 7:30 as the C’s try to dethrone the undefeated and undisputed heavyweight champs of the NBA.

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Marc D'Amico/Celtics.com

As part of the NBA Global Games Initiative the Boston Celtics squared off against the Sacramento Kings in a regular season match up that started at 9pm local time, 10pm on the East Coast last night. Boston came into the game sitting at 10-8 going 2-3 in there last 5 games and in second place in the Atlantic Division behind Toronto. The C’s put one in the win column taking it to the Kings 114-97 with four Celtics scoring twenty or more points.

Isaiah Thomas, who continues in the starting line up, and Kelly Olynyk, a spark off the bench, each put up 21 points in the victory while Avery Bradley and Jae Crowder both notched 20-point games as well. The Celtics continued their balanced attack and seemed to play everyone with 12 players scoring in the game. Thomas maintained his average as coming into the game he was scoring 20.8 points per game and Avery Bradley knocking in 16.1 per contest. Other key players moving forward include Jared Sullinger and Jae Crowder both averaging double figures and Evan Turner who is close averaging 9.0 points per game adding solid defense and play-making on offense.

Sacramento hasn’t exactly gotten off to a blistering pace with their 7-13 record however they have been hampered by injury in the form of a back strain for Demarcus Cousins and are now 6-6 in games that he has played in. Cousins, a player much sought after by Danny Ainge and the Celtics this off season, was averaging 28.2 points per game in the contests in which he has been able to play coming into the game against the Celtics. Former Celtics point guard Rajon Rondo was averaging a shade under 13 points and 10.7 assists per game and hoping he and Cousins can get this Kings team out of the basement of Pacific division (Also known as the Golden State division), and at least compete for an eight seed in the wild western conference.

The Celtics were able to hold Cousins to just 16 points and seven rebounds in twenty four minutes of action. Rondo scored five points and dished out eight assists in the loss. Rudy Gay appeared to be the only Kings player to really shine scoring 18 points and ripping down seven boards. Heading into the game most were excited about the match up between the always difficult to handle Rondo and a great defender in Avery Bradley, as well as the rotation of Celtics bigs in the trenches against a powerful low post presence in Cousins. Boston was able to get the best of that match up to get a victory south of the border. The Kings also lost rookie center Willie Cauley-Stein during the game with a dislocated finger, he will be out 4-6 weeks by initial reports.

The Celtics will continue to be without Marcus Smart for the road trip who is missing time due to, to steal a phrase from hockey, a “lower leg injury” which in medical terms is a subluxation of the proxmial tibfib joint. Ainge recently said on the Boston SportsHub 98.5 that he will likely be out a few more weeks but is working hard on getting back.

Fortunately for Boston they are a deep team with twelve players averaging over ten minutes per game so the rotation can pick up some slack however Smart’s spark, athleticism, defense and intensity are hard to match, the Celtics have gone 4-3 in his absence.

The Celtics got a much needed win in Mexico City as the next stretch of games are not any easier. They go on the road to play the new Twin Towers in LaMarcus Aldridge and Tim Duncan in San Antonio and then travel to New Orleans to do battle against Anthony Davis and the Pelicans. After that they will host Jimmy Butler and the Chicago Bulls before the reigning NBA Champion Golden State Warriors, led by MVP Stephen Curry, bring their currently undefeated, high tempo show to Boston next Friday night.

The Celtics will try to continue to grind through this difficult road trip while Sacramento is falling quickly out of contention in the breakneck paced race for the western conference playoffs.

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Isaiah Thomas had a chance to tie the game in the closing seconds, but fumbled the ball much like the Celtics fumbled an early 18-point lead to the Dallas Mavericks. (USA Today)

Do you remember those Kevin Garnett commercials after the Boston Celtics won the NBA title in Year One of the Big Three era? “It’s all about eighteen.”

The 2015-16 Celtics may not be quite ready to contend for the franchise’s 18th championship, but Wednesday’s loss was all about the number 18: the first quarter lead the Celtics held over the Dallas Mavericks before blowing it all in a 106-102 loss at home in the TD Garden.

A blown early lead isn’t particularly shocking in the NBA, as the tide almost always turns. (The Celtics could hardly be over .500 otherwise.) But what was frustrating was that the 31-13 advantage was just one of many sizable leads the Celtics held throughout the night. They led by 15 after one, 9 at halftime, 8 after three quarters, and another double digit lead early in the fourth. With less than eight minutes to play, Brad Stevens’s squad was still holding on to a seven point lead.

But alas, all good things must come to an end, and the Mavericks went on a run to take their first lead of the game (!) with 4:31 remaining. Behind Dirk Nowitzki’s ageless (and game high) 23 points, and Deron Williams’s improbable resurgence after escaping Brooklyn Nets purgatory, the Mavs surged ahead to a seven point lead of their own late in the game, and it seemed that the tide had irrevocably turned, with no winds to fill the Celtics’ sails.

But these overachieving Celtics, as Stevens has always had them do, scrapped their way back into the game by forcing some timely turnovers, making some big shots, and getting some help from Raymond Felton at the charity stripe. That left the Celtics with the ball in Isaiah Thomas’s hands, trailing by two with the clock winding down. The script was on schedule.

But Thomas lost his handle as he tried to drive into the lane, the Mavs’ Williams upped his streak of consecutive free throws to 30 to start the season, and Mark Cuban got some measure of revenge for the ill fated Rajon Rondo trade last year by celebrating a Mavericks win on he parquet floor.

Not only did the loss drop the Celtics to 6-5, it represented a missed opportunity to capitalize on a doubly meaningful win. No, it wouldn’t have counted twice in the win column, but the Celtics own the Mavericks top-seven protected pick in the upcoming NBA draft. Adding to the Dallas loss total while also walking away with a win would have helped the Celtics cause both this year and next year by perhaps inching the Mavericks that much closer to the back-end of the NBA lottery. Blast!

Luckily, the Celtics are going to have two more chances to help their own cause in more than one way with a home-and-home against the one and only Brooklyn Nets. The Nets, of course, owe the Celtics their unprotected first round pick in the 2016 NBA Draft thanks to their trade for Paul Pierce and “all about eighteen” star Kevin Garnett. And with just two wins on the season (really, Rockets and Hawks??) are poised to deliver a prime pick at the top of the lottery. A couple of wins over their divisional counterparts will only push those lottery odds higher (can you say Ben Simmons??).

Hopefully the Celtics can do a better job of improving their playoff odds for both this season and next against the Nets than they did against the Mavericks. That way the next “all about eighteen” is actually about another Celtics championship, not a lost opportunity in November.

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Feb 25, 2015; Boston, MA, USA; Boston Celtics forward Jonas Jerebko (8), guard Evan Turner (11), guard Isaiah Thomas (4), forward Jae Crowder (99) and guard Marcus Smart (36) celebrate against the New York Knicks during the second half at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: Mark L. Baer-USA TODAY Sports

Welcome to the Jungle! That’s the song that will be blasting through the speakers at tip off tonight as the Boston Celtics take on the Philadelphia 76ers in the home opener at TD Garden. The crowd will be rockin’ in anticipation of a young Celtics team that finished last season on a 24-12 run to lock up the 7th seed in the Eastern Conference playoff picture. Of course Boston did get swept by LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers on their way to the NBA Finals but they gave everything they had and left the Cavs bruised, battered and even dislocated (sorry, Kevin Love).

One thing is for sure, the Celtics plan to build on last year’s success. They finished last season 40-42 and would like to see that win total creep into the high forties or low fifties this season. With Brad Stevens running the show, a core of young talent, and a few veterans added to the mix Boston is poised to continue the rebuilding of a winning culture and get back to the post season.

Continue reading The Celtics Are Back! 2015-16 Season Starts against the 76ers at TD Garden »

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Flip Saunders

Longtime NBA head coach Flip Saunders, the current coach of the Minnesota Timberwolves, has died. He was 60 years old.

Saunders died of cancer. He announced over the summer that he was being treated for Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Continue reading Timberwolves Head Coach Flip Saunders Dies »

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Bre Smith writes

Walk into any Boston sports bar any day of the week, and you can get into a heated discussion with everyone from the waitress to the regular on the bar stool next to you about who the best Celtics players of all time are and why. Whether you favor Larry Bird over Bill Russell or Kevin Garnett over Paul Pierce, Boston’s storied NBA team has had its fair share of remarkably memorable players.

Whether you’re the kind of Celtics fan who wears your love for your team in an elaborate tattoo that spans your neck, chest, and back, or you take a more subtle route and have all your credit cards emblazoned with the team mascot, you’re likely having some version of this conversation anyway. Here’s a deeper look into eight of the best and what it was that made them so formidable while they wore green. Continue reading 8 of the Best Celtics Players of All Time and What Made Them Great »