Celtics

Ainge on his critics: 'It's fair, but I don't agree with them'

Ainge on his critics: 'It's fair, but I don't agree with them'

CHICAGO – If the Celtics continue to struggle and ultimately lose their first-round playoff series to Chicago, Boston would then have the dubious distinction of being the rare top seed that doesn’t get out of the first round.
 
That’ll only intensify the critics of Danny Ainge who thought he should have addressed the team’s biggest weakness – rebounding – by adding a frontcourt player at the trade deadline.
 
And while coach Brad Stevens has done well in his three-plus seasons in Boston, bowing out in the first round as the top seed will certainly raise questions about whether he is as good as advertised.
 
Ainge, Boston’s president of basketball operations, said he’s okay with those being the two dominant storylines.
 
“It’s fair, but I don’t agree with them,” Ainge said on his weekly call-in to 98.5 the Sports Hub’s "Toucher & Rich" show. “But I haven’t written this series off yet, either.”
 
While Ainge acknowledges that the Celtics have not played their best basketball in this series, he doesn’t believe Stevens’ coaching is the problem, despite the fourth-year coach having a 2-10 postseason record.
 
“There’s reasons for that,” Ainge said. “You can go down the list.”
 
While this is the third season in a row that Stevens has led the Celtics to the postseason, it’s the first postseason in which Boston has been the higher seed.
 
“The coaching isn’t the issue,” Ainge said. “I think he’s a fantastic coach.”
 
This postseason run began with some unusual, heartbreaking circumstances as well.

Early Saturday morning, Chyna J. Thomas, the 22-year-old sister of Celtics All-Star Isaiah Thomas, was killed in a one-car accident in Federal Way, Washington.
 
Understandably, her death was a huge emotional blow to Thomas, as well as his teammates. Although Thomas has been able to play well through the pain in the first two games of this series, the Celtics as a team have struggled to the point where they are now down 2-0 to the Bulls with the series shifting to Chicago for Games 3 and 4 at the United Center on Friday and Sunday.
 
Thomas left for Tacoma, Washington to be with his family after the 111-97 Game 2 loss on Tuesday, and is expected to be with the team in Chicago for practice later this afternoon.
 
The biggest problems for the Celtics in this series has been the Chicago bigs; specifically, Robin Lopez.
 
His dominance of this series has really been the trigger-point for the success the Bulls have had this postseason.
 
In the first two games, he has averaged 16.0 points and 9.5 rebounds while shooting 67 percent (14-for-21) from the field – all above his season average.
 
When asked about whether it’s fair that the team be criticized for not getting a rebounder at the trade deadline, Ainge said he “definitely thinks those are fair criticisms.”
 
 
He added, “I don’t agree but it’s fair to have that opinion.”
 
The Bulls came into the playoffs fourth this season in rebounding percentage while the Celtics were just 27th.
 
In the first two games, it has been decisively lopsided in Chicago’s favor as the Bulls have out-rebounded Boston, 96-74.
 
 
“There’s a lot of factors,” Ainge said. “That’s a conversation to have when it’s over, but I’d like to continue the conversation on how the Celtics are going to come back in this series.”
 
Okay.
 
I’ll bite.
 
How’s that gonna happen Danny?
 
“Listen, you have to give them credit,” Ainge said. “They’ve answered every run we’ve had; we haven’t been dominated. Every time we’d make a run, they made shots. Bobby Portis made all his shots in Game 1, Dwyane Wade and Jimmy Butler and [Paul] Zipser, Lopez, they all made shots. We haven’t caught that fire yet. We can make shots too. And they can miss some shots.
 
Ainge added, “We need to play our best basketball. We need to play like the basketball we were playing in the middle of March. And I still think we have that in us.”

'Resilient' Celtics continue to find ways to win

'Resilient' Celtics continue to find ways to win

We have seen the Boston Celtics play less-than-stellar basketball for long stretches, only to turn it on in the second half and escape with a win.

But Monday night’s game at Dallas was different.

Usually it has been Boston’s offense that has kept the game closer than expected, but on Monday it was the team’s defense that struggled more than usual.

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But this team continues to show an ability to withstand all in-game struggles to eventually emerge victorious which was exactly what happened as the Celtics rallied from a double-digit fourth-quarter deficit to knock off the Mavericks 110-102 in overtime.

The Celtics (16-2) have now won 16 in a row which ties the fourth-longest winning streak in franchise history.

But this win, like so many of its predecessors during this historic run, was not one to celebrate afterwards.

“Quite a resilient comeback in the fourth,” said Celtics head coach Brad Stevens. “Not our best foot forward before that. Of all the comebacks, that did not look good for a long time. We found a way to win it.”

Kyrie Irving scored a game-high 47 points, 10 of which came in the overtime period.

But his performance was just one of many Boston needed to extend its winning streak.

“In a game like this, you have to do whatever it takes, both ends of the floor,” Boston’s Jayson Tatum told reporters afterwards.

And he did just that.

In the final seconds of the fourth quarter, Tatum’s defense forced a Harrison Barnes miss that would have won the game for Dallas.

And in the fourth quarter, Tatum’s rebounding was critical to Boston (16-2) extending its stay atop the NBA standings.

The 6-foot-8 rookie had a near double-double with 15 points and nine rebounds, with four of his boards coming in overtime.

Boston also got another strong game from Jaylen Brown (22 points, nine rebounds) and Marcus Smart, whose shooting was well off the mark most of the night (3-for-15) but like he has done too many times to count, Smart managed to make a positive impact on the game.

He led the Celtics with eight assists off the bench, in addition to a slew of hustle plays that included a desperation save of a ball going out of bounds that managed to find its way into the hands of Kyrie Irving, who drained a much-needed 3-pointer late in the game.

“Those are worth more than whatever the shot goes in,” Stevens said. “That’s why it’s hard to quantify Marcus Smart.”

The same can be said about Boston’s winning streak which has come about despite several stretches, every game seemingly, where the Celtics struggle.

But to their credit, they don’t allow the in-game setbacks take away from their focus night-in and night-out and that’s to find a way, any way possible, to emerge with a victory.

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Stars, studs and duds: Kyrie Irving stands tall

Stars, studs and duds: Kyrie Irving stands tall

As NBC Sports Boston’s Kyle Draper talked with Kyrie Irving following his best performance as a Boston Celtic, you could hear the chants “M-V-P! M-V-P! M-V-P!” from the crowd behind him.
 
Considering the way Irving played on Monday night, that’s not just a case of fandemonium people!
 
Irving delivered a performance that won’t be forgotten anytime soon, tallying 47 points in leading Boston to a 110-102 overtime win at Dallas.
 
With the win, Boston has extended its winning streak to 16 in a row which ties the fourth-longest winning streak in franchise history.
 
While there were lots of Celtics who contributed to the victory, no one stood as tall as Irving who tallied 10 of Boston’s 16 points in overtime.
 
“We had to claw, fight our way back for this one,” Irving told NBC Sports Boston’s Kyle Draper. “But we had to earn it. These guys, the Dallas Mavericks, they gave us their best shot.”
 
And the Celtics countered with their best shot – Irving.
 
Even before the edge-of-the-cliff finish, Irving was in a rhythm that made it absolutely clear that he was going to have a big night scoring the ball.
 
“We just have to continue to get better from this point,” Irving said.
 
And as far as those “M-V-P” chants?
 
“It’s pretty awesome,” Irving said of the chants. “But we got a long way to go.”
 
Here’s a look at Stars, Studs and Duds from Boston’s 110-102 overtime win over Dallas which extends Boston’s winning streak to 16 in a row which is the fourth-longest winning streak in franchise history.
 
 
STAR

Kyrie Irving

This wasn’t even close, folks. Irving kept the Celtics afloat for most of the game, then guided them to victory with a dominant performance. He finished with 47 points, the most he has scored as a Boston Celtic. And on a night when most of the team struggled to make shots, they needed everything he had to offer.
 
 
 
STUDS
 
Harrison Barnes

He had a chance to win it in regulation, but failed to knock down the game-winning shot. Still, Barnes had a strong game for the Mavericks while finishing with 31 points and six rebounds.
 
Jaylen Brown

Kyrie Irving’s backcourt mate had yet another strong performance for the Celtics. He had a near double-double of 22 points and nine rebounds.
 
Jayson Tatum

Don’t let the 15-point total fool you. Tatum was a major factor in Boston’s comebacks with his ability to finish in transition and his defense down the stretch on Barnes gave the Celtics a shot as the game went into overtime.
 
J.J. Barea

The former Northeastern star was a huge spark off the bench for Dallas, tallying 16 points.
 
Marcus Smart

You can count me among those who cringed at a lot of those shots Marcus Smart took – and missed. Despite going 3-for-15 from the field, Boston doesn’t win this game without Marcus Smart. He made hustle plays defensively. He set teammates up for easy scores. And as bad as Smart shot the ball, he did make one of the biggest shots of the night, a 3-pointer that cut Dallas’ lead to 96-94 with 1:23 to play.
 
 

DUDS
 
Al Horford

He poked the ball free from Harrison Barnes late in the game which was a huge play, but for the most part Horford’s imprint on the game was non-existent. He missed four of his five shots from the field, tallying 3 points to go with eight rebounds and seven assists.
 
Dennis Smith Jr.

He is an explosive guard and scored six points in the first couple of minutes. From there, he was a non-factor, finishing with eight points on 4-for-16 shooting and maybe most significant, being nothing more than a cool breeze defensively as Kyrie Irving blew by him time and time again.

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