Celtics hand Pacers first home loss of the season

Celtics hand Pacers first home loss of the season

When it comes to getting breaks, it seems the Boston Celtics have been getting the wrong ones this season especially when it comes to health. 

That was not the case on Saturday night as the Indiana Pacers found themselves without all-star Paul George, which certainly gave Boston a much better chance at beating them. 

And the Celtics made the most of the moment as they held on for a 105-99 win over the Pacers. 

Boston (5-4) has now won two in a row while handing the Pacers (4-6) their first loss at home this season. 

The Celtics are trying to get back that defensive swagger that made them a nightmare for teams last season. 

Saturday’s performance was yet another step in the right direction. 

It was only fitting that the Celtics put the game away with an Isaiah Thomas lay-up late in the game that came about after an Avery Bradley steal followed by a pass to Marcus Smart who then quickly got the ball in Thomas’ hands for the lay-up that made it a 101-94 game with a minute to play. 

Boston has played short-handed all season, so Saturday’s game was nothing out of the ordinary. 

But for the Pacers, a George-less game was something they had not experienced this season. 

For the most part, Indiana made due without their best player as contributions came in from many players. 

The same could be said for the Celtics who have played most of his still-young season without Al Horford (concussion). 

And on Saturday, Boston’s top scorer Isaiah Thomas was having one of the worst shooting games of the season. 

His first made basket didn’t come until the latter stages of the third quarter. 

But with every possession counting, there was Thomas in the fourth, making one clutch hoop after another which allowed Boston to continue playing with a slim lead. He would finish with 23 points.

It wasn’t a surprise that the game came down to the final minutes, because for most of the first half it was very much an up in the air affair.

The game’s momentum began to swing in Boston’s favor near the end of the second quarter which ended with the Celtics riding a 13-0 run that put them ahead 48-45 at the half. 

The third quarter was a back and forth tussle that ended with the Celtics still holding on to a 3-point lead going into the fourth.

Boston came in feeling good about themselves following a 115-87 beat-down of the New York Knicks Friday night. 

But they got a boost moments before tip-off when the Pacers announced that three-time all-star Paul George was not going to pay due to an ankle injury. 

Indiana’s Jeff Teague, a one-time all-star in his own right when he played with Atlanta, tried to pick up some of the scoring slack.

But the Celtics did a good job of not letting him get into any kind of good rhythm shooting the ball as he finished with 20 points on 4-for-15 shooting. 

Indiana’s Myles Turner had a strong performance with 17 points and 8 rebounds with 4 steals and 3 blocks.

The Celtics weren’t playing their best basketball in the first half but to their credit, they hung around and finally caught their stride in the closing minutes with a 13-0 run. 

Trailing 45-35, the Celtics drained three consecutive 3-pointers to make it a one-point game. 

And from there, Amir Johnson took over. 

He made a pair of free throws with 57.4 seconds to play that put Boston ahead 46-45. 

And on the ensuing Pacers possession, Johnson came up with a blocked shot that gave Boston a chance to increase its slim lead which they did on a Johnson lay-up. 

He finished with a near double-double, scoring 14 points to go with 9 rebounds.

Boston also got a strong game from their bench which featured James Young leading the way. 

He had 12 points (one shy of tying his career high) with three rebounds and assist and two steals. 

More than the points, the third-year guard made a slew of hustle plays which included diving on the floor, winning jump balls and keeping balls alive that either wound up in the hands of a Celtic player for a basket or resulted in a rebound and change of possession. 

Tyler Zeller (7 points, 6 rebounds) and Terry Rozier (11 points, 6 rebounds, steal, assist, block) also played well off the Celtics bench.

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.