Crowder: Celtics 'have to capitalize' on Oubre's absence in Game 4

Crowder: Celtics 'have to capitalize' on Oubre's absence in Game 4

WASHINGTON --  In Boston’s first-round series with Chicago, the Celtics caught an unexpected break when Rajon Rondo suffered a fractured right thumb in Game 2 and was out the rest of the way.

Washington’s Kelly Oubre Jr. won’t be gone nearly as long. He'll miss just one game, a suspension for his hard shove of Kelly Olynyk in the Wizards' resounding Game 3 victory on Thursday.

But in a series in which the home team has won every game, not having Oubre Jr. could indeed become one of those little things the Celtics can use to their advantage tonight in Game 4.

“The league did what it had to do,” said Jae Crowder, referring to Oubre Jr.’s suspension. “I feel he does help those guys a lot, especially off the bench. He brings a lot of energy. We have to take advantage of them having a guy down. That second unit is going to try and find themselves a little bit, without his energy. We have to capitalize.”

Isaiah Thomas has a different take on Oubre Jr. not being on the floor tonight.

“We’re not really worried about him or what they’re doing,” said the C's All-Star guard. “We’re just, we’re worried about the Celtics right now.”

And he should be, considering how the Wizards have outplayed them most of the way despite Boston holding a 2-1 series lead.

In the three games thus far, Washington has played with a lead for 112 minutes and 12 seconds. Boston has been out front for just 26 minutes and 49 seconds. The remaining 10 minutes and 59 seconds spent tied up.

For the Celtics to get a firmer grip on this series, they have to find a way to start games better.

Washington has averaged 39.7 points scored in the first quarter of this series, and has held an average lead of 16.3 points after the first.

Game 3 was the worst of all for the Celtics, as the Wizards had a decisive 39-17 lead after the first and coasted to a 116-89 victory.

Suffice to say, Boston has a wide spectrum of areas to improve upon at the start of tonight’s game.

“I don’t think it’s as easy as saying one or two things,” said coach Brad Stevens. “[The Wizards] were terrific defensively, forcing turnovers, getting out and running. They’ve rebounded almost fifty percent of their shots in the first quarter against us. Tremendous; they’ve really been great.”

Said Crowder: “We went back to turning the ball over early in the game. They capitalized on it. That’s what they do; they get out and run. If we take good shots and take care of the ball, we can control the runs, the transition points. I just feel we take that out of the game, we give ourselves a chance to be strong coming out of the first quarter.”

Which would give the Celtics the best chance possible to emerge with a victory, something no team has been able to do thus far in the playoffs against the Wizards on their home court.

NBA: Congrats to the Celtics on the win, but they for sure should not have won

File Photo

NBA: Congrats to the Celtics on the win, but they for sure should not have won

The NBA officials' Last Two Minute report for Tuesday is out, and boy did the Celtics get away with one!

The league admitted to missing two infractions -- both committed by Marcus Morris -- on the possession on which Morris hit a game-winning three-pointer against the Thunder. 

The C's began the possession with Morris inbounding the ball, but a stopwatch revealed to the league that Morris did not release the ball within the five seconds allotted on an inbounding play. Had the correct call been made, the ball would have been turned over to the Thunder, who at the time held a two-point lead with 7.7 seconds remaining. 

Furthermore, video replay led the league to determine that Morris traveled prior to taking the shot. The video evidence that suggested this was that Morris was wearing an NBA jersey in the video, but also he moved his pivot foot prior to the release of his dribble. That call would have also given the Thunder the ball. 

What these nerds didn't consider is that the basketball gods have more power than their stopwatches. What a win. 

Celtics have shown a knack for the comeback this year

AP Photo

Celtics have shown a knack for the comeback this year

BOSTON -- As I made my way towards the Boston Celtics locker room following their 100-99 win over Oklahoma City on Tuesday night, I walked past co-owner Wyc Grousbeck, who, as you might expect, was pleased with what he had just witnessed.
“That was a good one,” he said.
That’s one way to describe it.


But explaining the Houdini-like way the Celtics seem to get out of some serious jams over and over again, and against really good teams, is indeed a head-scratcher for most.
It’s getting to the point where we’re running out of fresh adjectives to describe this team, which has a knack for the comeback.
“Improbable” doesn’t do justice to how Boston’s hit-the-lottery luck has played out so often on nights when it seemed on the doorstep of defeat.
And this town loves a good comeback story, whether it’s Tom Brady leading the Patriots to a Super Bowl win after being down by 25 points, or the Celtics spotting the NBA champ Golden State Warriors a 17-point cushion before rallying for a meaningful November win -- a rarity in the NBA.
But the obscure and unexpected have become standard in this seemingly alternate basketball universe that the Celtics play in, one that we have been bearing witness to all season.

I mean, look at their body of work:

DECEMBER 18: Down by one on the road at Indiana in the closing seconds of play in what appears to be a tough road loss, Terry Rozier steals and races down the floor looking like Deion Sanders in high-tops, for a game-winning dunk.

DECEMBER 28: Trailing the Houston Rockets by 26 points in the third quarter, they rally back and steal the win with not one, but two offensive fouls drawn in the last minute by Marcus Smart against perennial league MVP candidate James Harden.

JANUARY 11: In London, they erased a 22-point deficit and defeated Philly.

FEBRUARY 4: There was a buzzer-beater by Al Horford to beat Portland on Super Bowl Sunday.

And . . . well, you get the idea.

Boston has six wins by a single point this season, which is tied with Miami for the season lead and is one shy of tying the franchise record for one-point wins in a season. 

In addition, Boston has won 10 games this season in which it fell behind by 12 or more points. 
Winning so many games under less-than-ideal circumstances has not only padded the Celtics' win total, but also reinforced this team with a Teflon-strong mindset. They believe they're tthe ultimate practitioner of basketball necromancy, consistently finding a way to rise up from the basketball graveyard of defeat and win in dramatic fashion.

Like they did Tuesday night against the Thunder.

How can you bank on Carmelo Anthony, a career 81.2 percent free-throw shooter, missing a pair with less than nine seconds to play?
Or botching the play Brad Stevens drew up at the end of the game -- "We kind of messed [it] up," said Jayson Tatum -- but, rather than it leading to a turnover, instead becoming a game-winning 3-pointer by Marcus Morris with 1.8 seconds to spare? 


 It was another crazy ending in what has been a season filled with bizarre finishes, jaw-dropping rallies and a never-say-it’s-over brand of basketball that has kept Celtics fans on the edge of their seats all season.
“It’s great to be in a situation where you’re down six with under a minute to play or whatever it was, and you find a way to win the game,” said Stevens. “That’s going to be pretty unique, but they just kept playing the next possession and we were fortunate that that shot went down. That was a heck of a shot by Marcus."
A heck of a shot?
But in this bizarro world of Celtics basketball this season, it was predictable as the Thunder became yet another team to play Boston and leave wondering the same thing most Celtics fans do … “Did THAT just happen?