It isn't pretty, but road-weary C's find way to win

It isn't pretty, but road-weary C's find way to win

BOSTON – As crazy as it may sound, the Boston Celtics needed a game like Wednesday’s 104-97 victory over New Orleans.

Regardless of the opponent, Celtics’ victories have come about usually because they played well.

That was not the case on Wednesday.

It was a game that featured Boston at its worst at times, the kind of game that they would have easily lost earlier this season.

But this team is starting to show the kind of growth to where even on bad nights against bad teams, they’re starting to figure out ways to still emerge victorious.

It began with their lackluster 107-100 win over the woeful Los Angeles Lakers on Sunday, and Boston’s winning ugly ways continued on Wednesday with a hard-earned victory over the Pelicans.

It was Boston’s first game back from their five-game West coast trip, and they certainly looked and played like a team trying to re-adjust to the time zone change.

“I thought we looked a little road-weary,” acknowledged head coach Brad Stevens. “But on those nights you have to find a way.

He added, “This was a game that we had to find a way, and we found a way. We will improve. We’ll get better off of the things we didn’t do well from watching film and again, get off our feet before Friday night (against the Milwaukee Bucks).”

While both teams are far apart record-wise, the Celtics knew their first game back home after the long road trip was going to be challenging on several fronts.

“I don’t feel like we played the right way the entire game,” said Celtics guard Avery Bradley. “But I’m happy we were able to finish the game out and get the win.”

With 2:39 to play, the score was tied at 93 following a 17-footer by New Orleans’ Luke Babbitt.

Twenty seconds later, Bradley drained a 15-foot baseline jumper to put Boston back on top.

Bradley then forced a steal which ended with a lay-up by Jae Crowder.

The Celtics’ late game run continued when Isaiah Thomas made a pair of free throws with 1:23 to play which put Boston ahead 99-93 and would later prove to be the game-winning points.

Players agree that the re-adjustment from having been out West for nearly two weeks, was a factor in some of the struggles they had against the Pelicans whose roster has been hit particularly hard by season-ending injuries to key players.

But those injuries have created opportunities for several players to see action in the NBA who otherwise would be in the Development League or not playing at all.

And that has essentially created an audition-like atmosphere to where New Orleans how has a team full of hungry players with something to prove.

That lends itself to guys playing their best basketball, which makes for matchups that are much closer than most would expect going in.

“Those guys played very hard,” Crowder said of the Pelicans. “They didn’t lay down at all, we got up ten and the fought back and you know, that’s what you expect from a team, when you are playing for nothing, playing for pride and playing for the organization, but props to them.”

Celtics guard Marcus Smart sees Wednesday’s game as a precursor for the types of games that are on the horizon for Boston.

“From here on out, things aren’t going to be easy,” Smart said. “No games are easy in the NBA. Guys are here for a reason. Everybody is competitive, they want to win. So they’re going to try and do everything they can to stop us from winning. To get a win like that against this team and we didn’t play too well together as a team, it’s great for us.”

Ainge: 'Setback' wrong word to use about Hayward

Ainge: 'Setback' wrong word to use about Hayward

When is a setback not a setback?

When Danny Ainge says, "You know what? Sometimes I talk too much," Ainge told the Boston Herald over the weekend. "'Setback' wasn't the right word, so let me rephrase that because it's not exactly true to say it - or say it that way.

The Celtics president of basketball operations, in his weekly radio interview with Toucher and Rich on 98.5 The Sports Hub and simulcast on NBC Sports Boston, used that word when he was describing how Gordon Hayward is coming along in his recovery. 

"He had like one setback for a couple of weeks, maybe a month and a half ago," Ainge said on the radio last week. "We were progressing a little bit too fast, we thought."

Ainge clarified that to the Herald's Steve Bulpett. 

"What happened is he went on the AlterG [anti-gravity treadmill] the first day and he felt some soreness," he said. "It was the first day he tried the AlterG, a long time ago. He just wasn't ready for it at that point. That's all it was."

Celtics coach Brad Stevens has been adamant that Hayward, recovering from his gruesome leg and ankle injury in the season opener, will not play for the Celtics this season. On Sunday, Stevens, via MassLive.com's Jay King, characterized Stevens' soreness as a "small" issue. 



Chest pains and lack of sleep lead to medical leave for Cavs coach Lue

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Chest pains and lack of sleep lead to medical leave for Cavs coach Lue

CLEVELAND - Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue is taking a leave of absence from the team to address health issues that have included chest pains and loss of sleep.

Lue said Monday in a statement that tests have offered no conclusion about what the issue is and offered no timetable for his return. The coach said he feels he needs to step away "and focus on trying to establish a stronger and healthier foundation" from which to coach the rest of the season.

Here's a portion of Lue's statement:

I have had chest pains and other troubling symptoms, compounded by a loss of sleep, throughout the year. Despite a battery of tests, there have been no conclusions as to what the exact issue is.

"While I have tried to work through it, the last thing I want is for it to affect the team. I am going to use this time to focus on a prescribed routine and medication, which has previously been difficult to start in the midst of a season," Lue said. "My goal is to come out of it a stronger and healthier version of myself so I can continue to lead this team to the championship we are all working towards."

A stress-filled season for the Cavs has taken a toll on the Lue, 40, a former Celtics assistant under Doc Rivers who led them to the 2016 NBA championship after taking over for David Blatt midway through that season. They are j40-29, third in the Eastern Conference, behind the second-place Celtics and East-leading Toronto Raptors, and have endured roster shake-ups, injuries and other distractions as they try to return to the NBA Finals.

David Aldridge of TNT reports that the plan is for Lue to return in a week. The NBA playoffs begin April 14. 

"We all want great players, we all want the best teams, but with that comes a lot of pressure as well. And what Ty Lue has had to go through this year with that team, with the trades and the injuries and the pressure, it's unrelenting," Denver coach Michael Malone said. "So I hope that he gets healthy and is able to get back in time for the playoffs and help that team win as many games as possible."

Lue spent the second half of Cleveland's victory in Chicago on Saturday in the locker room because of an illness, the second time this season he left a game because he wasn't feeling well. The former NBA guard also sat one out against Chicago at home in December.

Associate head coach Larry Drew coached the second half of Saturday's game, the finale of a six-game, 11-day road trip. Cleveland is back home to host Milwaukee on Monday.

"We know how difficult these circumstances are for Coach Lue and we support him totally in this focused approach to addressing his health issues," general manager Koby Altman said.

Charlotte coach Steve Clifford also left his team to address his health this season. He took six weeks off. Medical tests revealed that the 56-year-old Clifford did not have any internal problems, but the doctor's diagnosis was the coach was suffering from severe sleep deprivation.

AP Basketball Writer Tim Reynolds contributed to this report.

© 2018 by The Associated Press