Celtics goal: Get this show on the road

Celtics goal: Get this show on the road

WASHINGTON -- The Celtics aren't inclined to believe that what happened in their first-round series with Chicago will naturally transfer to their current battle with the Washington Wizards. 
But as we’ve learned, experience is often the best teacher for how to deal with what's on the horizon. 
That's why the Celtics understand all too well how important it is for them to close out the Wizards tonight. 
It won’t be easy, especially when you consider the next win by a road team will be the first in this series.
“It’s a very important game. We want to finish it tonight,” said Isaiah Thomas.
Like most of the goals these two teams have set for themselves, that will be a lot easier said than done. 
In the two games here, the Celtics have lost by an average of 23 points. That doesn’t exactly inspire tremendous confidence, right? 
Still, win or lose, the C's have proven themselves to be a team whose confidence may get rocky at times but never fades out. 
And coming off their most complete game in the series, a 123-101 Game 5 victory, it’s clear Boston feels tonight will be different . . . even though they're in a building where they've had no success so far this year.

The way they see it, their blowout losses in Games 3 and 4 were fueled by long Washington runs -- 22-0 in Game 3, 26-0 in Game 4 -- that proved to be the difference in the games. 
“If we eliminate those runs and cut down on our turnovers, that puts us in a better position to win those games,” Thomas said. “And we got to start off well. If we start off well tonight and we hit first, we’ll be all right.”
Said Avery Bradley: “It’s not a better feeling than closing out a series on someone else’s court. It’s a great opportunity for us tonight. I know that if we come out and play the same way we played last game, we’ll have a chance to be smiling, laughing just like we were after the Chicago series.”

  • Avery Bradley: He’s coming off a playoff career-high 29 points in Boston’s Game 5 win. He shot 12-for-19 from the field, which more than doubled the five made baskets (on 17 shot attempts) he had in Games 3 and 4.
  • Al Horford: The man has been on fire shooting the ball in this series, connecting on at least 50 percent of his shots in every game. In the five games thus far, Horford is averaging 16.4 points, 6.8 rebounds, 5.6 assists and 1.6 blocked shots while shooting 69.4 percent from the field and 58.8 percent on 3’s. 
  • John Wall: Without question, he's the motor that makes the Wizards run effectively. He leads Washington with 26.4 points per game to go with 10.6 assists, 3.0 rebounds and 2.4 steals.


  • Bojan Bogdanovic: He is a vital part of the Wizards’ bench because of his shooting. But in this series, it’s been night or day for him. In Washington’s two wins, he has averaged 16.0 points on 11-for-19 (57.9 percent) shooting, along with 6.5 rebounds. But in the three losses, he has connected on just 4-for-14 (28.6 percent) while averaging 5.3 points
  • Brandon Jennings: There has been a consistent drop-off whenever Jennings comes in to replace John Wall. He's struggled with his shot (he’s shooting just 21.4 percent this series) and the Wizards have a plus/minus of -27 when he’s in the game.
  • Jae Crowder: Since he broke out for 24 points on 8-for-14 shooting in Game 1, Crowder hasn’t been shooting the ball nearly as well since then. While you love what he’s doing on the boards (he’s sharing the team-lead of 6.8 with Al Horford), he has to do a better job at making shots. In the last four games, Crowder has shot just 37.2 percent from the field.


  • They make 3s: They have been a team that has lived and died by the long ball all season, so why should they change now? In the three wins over Washington, the Celtics have averaged 16 made 3’s per game. The two losses have seen that number drop to 12 per game
  • They find a second scorer: Thomas’ impact on the game is a given. He’s going to draw attention and, along with that, score a good amount of points. But the next big-time scorer for Boston has to emerge. In Game 5 it was Avery Bradley. While they don’t necessarily need a player to score 29, someone – Bradley, Crowder, Horford – has to play at a level above what we saw in the regular season. 
  • Horford continues his playmaking: A tremendous amount of the Wizards’ focus has been on Thomas. But it's been Horford’s wheelin’ and dealin’ as Boston’s primary playmaker that has been a problem for Washington. He’s balancing his inside-outside game offensively had a high rate, and his defense has been strong as well. If that continues, this series will be over in a matter of hours. 


  • They start fast: They went on a 22-0 run in Game 3 and a 26-0 run (though that came at the start of the third quarter) in Game 4 to put the Celtics in catch-up mode. The Wizards will obviously be looking for another quick start to things, with much of that scoring coming in transition off of turnovers. 
  • They get scoring from their bench: This has been a weakness of the Wizards most of the season, so if the reserves can get it going as a group -- which they are capable of doing -- they can be the X-factor that swings this series in their direction tonight. Keep an eye on Kelly Oubre Jr. and Bojan Bogdanovic, who have played well at home in this series off the bench. 
  • They rebound: No statistic is more telling about how this game will play out than rebounding. When the Wizards win the battle on the boards, they win, period. In their two victories over Boston in this series, the rebounding margin was plus-13. But in their three losses, the Celtics wound up grabbing the same number of rebounds (127) as the Washington. 

Blakely: Why Celtics should feel pretty lucky on St. Pat's

Blakely: Why Celtics should feel pretty lucky on St. Pat's

It’s hard being an NBA fan and not thinking about the Celtics on St. Patrick’s Day.

All that green, the shamrocks and the libations that so many of us enjoy even more today than most days, it’s pretty cool and certainly something – well, for me at least – to be thankful for.

The Celtics, yeah, they got a few – quite a few - things to be thankful for as well.

So what better day to point a few of them out than the unofficial holiday of the Celtics, St. Patrick’s Day.


When Danny Ainge drafted Terry Rozier three years ago, I admit I wasn’t a believer. You had guards, Danny Ainge. What do you need another one for? Draft Sam Dekker from Wisconsin, or UVA’s Justin Anderson. Hey, that kid Bobby Portis from Arkansas looks pretty good, too.

Ainge and the Celtics took a look at all those guys and came away convinced that Rozier was the best fit for what the wanted both in the short and long-term from that draft.

While Rozier has not emerged as a star, he has shown us all more than enough to know that he’s a pretty damn good player.

And throw in the fact that the dude was born on St. Patrick’s Day - as was Ainge - how can this guy not have a little bit of luck on his side?


LeBron James’ timing has been impeccable when it comes to leaving for greener pastures. So, when Kyrie Irving let the Cavs know he wanted out of Cleveland, it took a minute to sink that they were about to be LeBron’d by someone other than LeBron. But in making his desire to be traded, Irving was giving the Cavs an opportunity to get something in return for shipping him out to who knows where. The Cavs eventually wound up with a couple of draft picks, with one being a coveted first-rounder via Brooklyn in June’s NBA draft along with a trio of players headlined by Isaiah Thomas who was still on the mend from a hip injury.

The injury took longer to heal and the Cavs wound up trading Thomas and ex-Celtic Jae Crowder to teams out West.

Today, Cleveland is treading water as a middle-of-the-pack club that has shown very few signs of late that they will be nothing more than first-round fodder for some team with deep playoff aspirations and a roster ready to make that happen.

And Irving?

He was named to his fifth All-Star team and has spent most of this season playing for a Boston team that until recently held down best record in the East and currently sits in the No. 2 spot.

Irving is dealing with a sore left knee that has limited him recently to not playing, but it doesn’t appear to be an injury that will significantly impact what he does in the postseason for a Celtics team that, despite all their injuries, still holds out hope of making a strong postseason run.


Whenever you ask Brad Stevens about his decision to leave Butler for the Celtics in the NBA, he makes it clear from the outset how difficult a decision it was for him and his family.

Just imagine if Stevens had won a national title instead of having a pair of national runner-up finishes to his name? Leading a mid-major like Butler to an NCAA title, which would have meant slaying UConn or Duke in the process? Stevens would have been more than just a big deal on the Butler campus. He would have been seen as a basketball god who would have had an even tougher time walking away from what he had helped build at Butler.

So Celtics fans, be thankful for Duke and UConn because without their national title game wins over Butler, there’s a very good chance that Brad Stevens would not be coaching the Celtics now.


Remember back in 2013 when Danny Ainge had the serious basketball man crush on Duke’s Justise Winslow, a player that he was willing to trade plenty of draft picks (reportedly as many as four first-round picks) to acquire the rights to draft?

Ainge suspected the Miami Heat would select him with the No. 10 pick, so Ainge tried to swing a deal with the Charlotte Hornets who were in the No. 9 slot.

Charlotte liked Winslow, but they were more smitten with Frank Kaminsky. Because of that, they wouldn’t do a deal with the Celtics.

Not doing that deal allowed Boston to have the kind of assets to eventually acquire Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown and Irving, moves that have collectively led to Boston’s surge towards the top of the NBA standings despite having the fifth-youngest team in the NBA.

Winslow, selected by the Heat with the 10th overall pick, has come nowhere close to being the impact player Miami was hoping they would get. And while Kaminsky has had some decent stretches, he too has been a bit underwhelming. Meanwhile, Boston kept its 16th overall pick and used it to select Rozier who as it turns out, has arguably been the best player among the trio.

Having a good scouting staff is important, of course.

But a little luck every now and then doesn’t hurt, either.




Against Magic, C's do what they're supposed to

Against Magic, C's do what they're supposed to

Beating one of the few teams already eliminated from the playoff race is in itself not that big a deal.

It’s called doing what you’re supposed to do.

But for these Celtics, their 92-83 victory over the Orlando Magic on Friday night was more than just another victory.

It was the latest installment in a season filled with teachable moments and lessons that can bolster in some fashion their chances at a deep playoff run.

While there’s no way they’re going to go far without their core guys Kyrie Irving, Marcus Smart and Jaylen Brown, getting guys to fill in for them and still manage to win, is important in this team’s overall development in both the present and future.

No one on the Celtics’ roster can score like Irving, the league’s 11th-ranked scorer at 24.4 points per game.

Still, getting his fill-ins Terry Rozier and Shane Larkin to go for 17 and 10 points certainly helps.

And Jaylen Brown’s ability to play both ends of the floor at a high level is huge, but rookie Abdel Nader has shown he too has some potential to be a solid two-way talent.

Smart’s defense sets him apart from others, but the Celtics collectively were able to make up for that with an impressive defensive rating of 83.1 against the Orlando.

And their collective efforts serve as yet another teachable moment for the Celtics.

Here are five takeaways from a game that wasn’t nearly as close as the final score might lead one to believe: 

There may not be another Celtic whose stock has risen more than Terry Rozier’s this season. He has become a reliable two-way talent off the bench whose capable of giving you starter-like production when needed. He had 17 points against the Magic along with seven rebounds and five assists.

With Marcus Smart (right thumb) out for the rest of the regular season, Terry Rozier in the starting lineup along with Marcus Morris, those are three really big chunks of Boston’s second unit no longer coming off the bench. The second unit players might have been different, but that didn’t affect the Celtics’ bench from impacting the game in a significant way. Against the Magic, they outscored Orlando’s backups, 39-28. 

He signed with the Boston Celtics at a time when a role for him was far from defined. His patience and Boston’s faith in him has paid for both as Larkin continues to be that utility player that Brad Stevens has leaned on at times. Larkin was solid off the bench, scoring 10 points.

This may be one of the closest Coach of the Year votes we have ever had in the NBA. Regardless how short the list may be, you can bet Brad Stevens will be on it. The way he has been positioning the Celtics to be among the last teams standing despite all the injuries they have endured this season, speaks to his ability to not just draw up X's and O’s but also his ability to develop players who when called upon to play, are more than ready for the challenge.

It’s fair to expect the Celtics are going to be short-handed for the rest of the season, which means those still around have to step their game up – Horford included.

For Horford, stepping up involves being more assertive as a scorer and not rely as much on his skills as a play-maker. We saw that from Horford on Friday, as he tallied a near double-double of 15 points and nine rebounds but more important, he took a game-high 18 shot attempts.