Jae Crowder may not agree, but could his injury actually be a blessing in disguise for  the Boston Celtics? (CSNNE)

Entering the March 10th game against the Houston Rockets, the Boston Celtics were 39-26 and seemed fairly well entrenched as the third seed in the Eastern Conference.

Then Jae Crowder ran into the stanchion on a fast break, exited with a high ankle sprain, and hasn’t played since.

In his absence, the Celtics lost four in a row to the Rockets, Indiana Pacers, Oklahoma City Thunder, and Toronto Raptors before rebounding with wins over the lowly Philadelphia 76ers and the struggling Orlando Magic. Those two wins propelled the Celtics back into the conversation for the third seed, but they are now mired in a playoff seeding slugfest with 11 games left in the regular season, including a season long five game road trip with stops against the Portland Trail Blazers, LA Clippers, and (gulp) Golden State Warriors. That doesn’t sound like much of a silver lining (even if Crowder will travel with the team).

But looking at the Celtics through a slightly different lens, isn’t Crowder’s injury a blessing in disguise? Continue reading Is Jae Crowder’s Injury a Blessing in Disguise for the Celtics? »

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celtics

After sitting comfortably at #3 in the Eastern Conference for a month, the Boston Celtics have hit a little bump in the road. With 11 games remaining in the regular season, the Celtics are now tied for the third spot in the conference with the Miami Heat and the Atlanta Hawks. Another 5 games back is the Charlotte Hornets at 40-30 with 12 games remaining on its schedule.

With three more teams (Chicago Bulls, Indiana Pacers and the Detroit Pistons) within 3.0-3.5 games of the Celtics, a playoff spot is far from assured. Of the nine teams occupying the top nine spots in the conference, only one team has failed to record a winning record over the last 10 games. That team is the Celtics at 5-5. Continue reading Celtics Begin Final Push Towards the Playoffs »

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brandon lafell

It has been a week to remember in Boston sports. Let’s recap all that happened from Wednesday to Friday.

The Patriots released Brandon Lafell and Scott Chandler, opening up some salary cap space to revamp the New England offense. LaFell and Chandler underperformed this year. Robert Kraft and Bill Belichick are most likely looking for tight ends and backs. Tom Brady is willing to give up part of his salary for the right receivers. Will that be enough to make a difference? It all depends on what kind of talent is out there.

Continue reading Week In Review: Patriots, Red Sox, Celtics, Bud Collins »

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jah-lil

The rumor mill was churning at the trade deadline last Thursday but the Celtics refrained from having any part of the action. Initial speculation focused on Al Horford and Jeff Teague but as the deadline approached another blockbuster deal developed. Unfortunately for Celtics fans the front office kept the details confidential.

During a recent appearance on WEEI’s OM&F, Celtics’ President of Basketball Operations Danny Ainge confirmed that a deal was “very close” to transpiring until the other team backed out in the final moments. The target of this deal, Ainge revealed, was the Sixers’ 20 year old center Jahlil Okafor.

Unfortunately Ainge did not divulge and the exact specifics of the deal remain a mystery. It is safe to presume the deal involved the Nets’ highly coveted first round selection in the upcoming draft and possibly David Lee’s contract, but the details of the agreement remain subject to speculation. In any case this revelation from Ainge is a very interesting development for eager Celtics fans.

Okafor is raw low-post presence with the opportunity at greatness and stardom. Renown among local sports fans for his involvement in a bar fight in Boston after their game against the Celtics at the start of the season, the 20 year old rookie has plenty of time to mature and develop. This will need to happen both on and off the basketball court. On the court he has, statistically, been quite impressive in his rookie campaign despite the deplorable Sixers’ record. In 48 appearances so far this year the Duke product has averaged 17.1 points, 7.3 rebounds, and 1.2 blocks in his 30.2 minutes per game.

The idea of Jahlil Okafor on this young roster is unexpected yet captivating. Imagine adding his presence to the Celtics’ front court? It would add a dimension to the offense that this team lacks. As a go-to scorer and quality rebounder in the paint, the only concerns about Okafor emerge on defensive side of the basketball. He has always been such a physical superior among his peers that his lack of technique and awareness were never at risk of exploitation. Now that he has finally reached the NBA these aspects of his game need polish, but if he puts in the hard work both are skills that can develop and improve.

As Celtics fans let’s hope the Sixers’ don’t fully default on their interest in a deal involving Okafor. There is a lot left to be determined between now and the NBA draft, and even more rime before the start of the next season; this trade could still materialize. In the mean time we should cross our fingers and trust in Ainge’s ability to entice the Sixers because Okafor is a generational talent who could address an important void in the Celtics roster.

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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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NBA.com

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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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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