Celtics

Celtics rally back from 26-point deficit to beat Heat, 98-88

Celtics rally back from 26-point deficit to beat Heat, 98-88

The Boston Celtics have played a it-ain’t-over-until-it’s-over brand of basketball all season, so why would the final game of the season be any different.

After trailing by as many as 26 points to the Miami Heat, the Celtics rallied for what seemed an improbable comeback that ended with a 98-88 Celtics win.

Isaiah Thomas led the Celtics with 21 points and six assists along with four rebounds while his backcourt mate, Avery Bradley, had 17 points on 8-for-12 shooting in addition to some solid defense on Heat all-star Dwyane Wade (17 points). Joe Johnson (19 points), Hassan Whiteside (19 points, nine rebounds) and Goran Dragic (18 points) also had big games for Heat who will be the No. 3 seed by virtue of winning the tie-breaker with fellow Southeast Division teams Atlanta and Charlotte.

The Celtics, also tied with Miami, Atlanta and Charlotte with a 48-34 record, will be the fifth seed and begin the playoffs at Atlanta this weekend.

The comeback began with a strong surge in the third quarter that saw Miami’s defense punctured at every turn by Boston speeding up the game.

And many of the good looks Miami got in the first half were no longer available in the second half as Boston’s perimeter defenders picked up the pressure and the Celtics’ big men played, well big.

Making it all that more impressive was it came on a night when the Celtics were celebrating championship teams from 1966, 1976 and 1986 who all played with their own brand of fight and grit – the ingredients on display Wednesday night by this most recent incarnation of Celtics.

Even with the victory, Boston still wasn’t able to secure home court.

They will begin the postseason this weekend at Atlanta.

And in a really cruel act by the Basketball gods, the Heat wind up with the No. 3 seed in the East by virtue of winning the tie-breaker with its fellow Southeast division foes Atlanta and Charlotte.

Had the Hawks won their season finale against Washington, the Celtics would have wound up as the fourth seed and with that, had home court advantage after having swept the season series with the Heat.

 

CELTICS TALK PODCAST: How 2018 playoffs will get the 2019 Celtics close to Banner 18?

CELTICS TALK PODCAST: How 2018 playoffs will get the 2019 Celtics close to Banner 18?

Kyle Draper and A. Sherrod Blakely are joined in this episode by Ian Thomsen to discuss the Celtics/Bucks series, a big picture look at where Boston is right now in the NBA landscape, and his new book, “The Soul of Basketball.”

The guys get into a deep discussion about how the 2018 playoffs should help the long-term growth of this team. 

Kyle Draper started off the debate saying "on paper they have to be favorites coming out of the East, depending on obviously what LeBron does, going into next season."

Ian Thomsen largely sided with Drapes but added the Celtics still have plenty of work to get there.

"I agree, so long as everyone is happy with their roles going into next year. So let's say they decide to bring Marcus Smart back, is Terry Rozier going to be happy with the minutes he gets? This has been a balancing thing for Brad Stevens every year and he does such a good job of it that we kinda take for granted, if they are this talented going into next year, there's going to be a lot of management here between ego and ambitions to manage. I'm not saying anybody is a bad guy, this is just natural. This is your career and livelihood, it's everything you care about. What if Terry Rozier helps drive the Celtics to the conference finals? They do it without Kyrie, Hayward, without Marcus Smart for half the playoffs, Daniel Theis, they're missing like 40% of their team."

Complete show notes:

(:30) Kyle and Sherrod talk about the first two games of the series against the Bucks, and how the lack of fight and organization from a talented Bucks team has been the most noticeable factor so far.

(4:57) Ian Thomsen joins the pod, and starts off talking about how the Bucks need to win the next four games, because there’s no way they’re winning a Game 7 in Boston.

(6:30) Ian weighs in on the Terry Rozier/Eric Bledsoe “feud.”

(8:25) Jaylen Brown has been huge for the C’s so far. Thomsen talks about how impressed he’s been with the 2nd year guard this season.

(10:44) While in some respects, the logjam of point guards the Celtics have had has hurt Terry Rosier, the benefits have also been great in some aspects, including how to be a leader. Ian references Avery Bradley as a mentor to Rozier on his inconsistent minutes. Thomsen talks about the number of role models and culture the Celtics have built.

(12:29) The discussion then moves to how this postseason and the experience the Celtics young players are getting could be a huge factor in Boston being a contender next year, when their health hopefully returns. Ian talks about the only factor that could derail this thinking.

(15:00) Thomsen talks about what Danny Ainge might do with Marcus Smart and Terry Rozier, and the possibility they could be used in a trade for Anthony Davis.

(16:40) Thomsen then talks about his new book “The Soul of Basketball” and how Paul Pierce and the Celtics shaped the last 7-8 years of the NBA. Thomsen gives us some great nuggets on the 2010 behind-the-scenes drama with Rajon Rondo and Ray Allen. Ian’s of the opinion that Paul Pierce, the Celtics, and the 2007 NBA Draft lottery had a lot to do with LeBron’s decision to leave Cleveland for Miami.

(25:00) Kyle and Sherrod take a quick trip around the NBA playoffs, discussing the Cavs/Pacers series, along with OKC/Utah and New Orleans/Portland.

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Celtics fans may see a little Pierce in Middleton's game

Celtics fans may see a little Pierce in Middleton's game

MILWAUKEE – Sitting down before a recent shoot-around, Khris Middleton looks comfortable, at ease, very chill.

And when you watch him play, he exudes similar qualities on the floor, often moving at a pace that seems slower than most and yet he still manages to get buckets – lots of buckets.

Celtics fans have had the pleasure of seeing similar skills on display for more than a decade in Paul Pierce.  

So, it’s no surprise that Middleton counts Pierce among those whose play has greatly influenced his game.

“He was a great scorer,” Middleton said of Pierce whose number 34 was retired earlier this season at the TD Garden. “He had great footwork. He knew how to use his body, angles to get his shot off. He was probably a little bit faster than me, more athletic than me but he was crafty, knowing how to create just enough space to get his shot off or get by a guy. That’s what I try to do.”

While Boston has a 2-0 lead in the best-of-seven series against Middleton's Milwaukee Bucks, it certainly hasn’t been because of Middleton’s scoring.

The 6-foot-8 wing is averaging 28.0 points in the first two games, along with six rebounds and 3.5 assists, while shooting 64.7 percent from the field and 69.2 percent (9-for-13) from 3-point range.

Game 3 is Friday night in Milwaukee.

“He’s a good player,” said Boston’s Marcus Morris, who has competed against Middleton dating to when they were at Kansas and Texas A&M, respectively.

Middleton’s ascension to being such a key figure in Milwaukee’s roster speaks to how he was prepared when given an opportunity to perform.

A second-round pick of the Detroit Pistons in 2012, injuries limited his chances to play there.

So they traded him in 2013 to Milwaukee as essentially a salary-cap filler as part of a deal that sent Brandon Knight to the Bucks and Brandon Jennings to Detroit.

Middleton stresses that he has no ill-will towards Detroit; in fact, he’s thankful in hindsight for them trading him to a franchise that was willing to give him a shot at playing and to Middleton’s credit, he has been healthy enough to take advantage of it.

“Growing up all your life, you’re kind of that guy,” he said. “And then to get to the next level and be told you’re not that guy...it’s humbling. But it gave me a hungry mindset to keep working and never give up. That’s why I keep working, prove that I belong in this league and I belong on that court.”

You won’t get an argument from Celtics coach Brad Stevens, who has been singing the praises of Middleton well before Boston found itself facing him and the Bucks in the first round of the playoffs.

“Middleton spaces the floor. He can run off screens and score,” Stevens said earlier. “He’s a really good scorer cutting off the ball. And he’s a knockdown shooter.”

And he’s hungry to continue adding to his offensive arsenal by learning from the league’s best players past and present, a group that includes Pierce.

“I try to take a little stuff from their game and fit it in my game,” Middleton said. “I’m not the most athletic guy, so I see how they set up some of their moves just to create a little bit of space to get their shot off; that’s what I try to do.”

 

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