Celtics

Celtics pull off sweep, beat Knicks, 101-89

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Celtics pull off sweep, beat Knicks, 101-89

By A.Sherrod Blakely
CSNNE.com

NEW YORK For most of the night, the Boston Celtics made it look easy.

The defense was crisp and the offense had a Niagara Falls-like flow to it.

Boston even called off the search party for its bench, which had been missing in action throughout most of the first three games.

Then came some Celtics slippage, hot-shooting by the New York Knicks and just like that - new ballgame, folks.

But on this day, with so much at stake, the Celtics refused to let their lead-blowing tendencies get in the way of yet another milestone during the Big Three era.

When the game mattered most, the Celtics' defense was too good, Kevin Garnett was too hot and the Knicks were too overwhelmed by it all as the Celtics pulled away for a 101-89 victory Sunday at Madison Square Garden to complete the first playoff series sweep in the Big Three regime.

It was also the Celtics' first sweep in the playoffs since 1992 (vs. Indiana), and first in a best-of-seven series since 1986 (vs. Milwaukee)

Garnett, whose defense late in the first three games critical to Boston victories, was the Celtics' go-to guy when in the game's closing moments.

He led all Celtics with 26 points to go with 10 rebounds, and also scored six of Boston's final eight points.

"It was great to see that," said coach Doc Rivers. "Fourth-quarter scoring for him has been very good for us all year. He did that again tonight."

For most of the game, it didn't seem as though the C's would need any late-game heroics to send the Knicks home for the summer.

After trailing for the entire game in Friday's 113-96 Game 3 win, the Knicks weren't much better on Sunday. Their lead over the C's in Game 4 lasted less than two minutes - all in the first quarter.

Boston maintained a modest lead for most of the first quarter, but didn't really seize control until the second quarter with a strong showing by the Celtics' bench.

In a matter of minutes, Boston's six-point lead had blossomed into a 17-point margin by halftime.

Glen Davis, who came into Game 4 shooting 5-for-16 from the field and not really making much of an impact defensively or on the boards, was all over the floor on Sunday, delivering the kind of high-energy, hustle plays the Celtics are counting on him to provide.

He also came through with some much-needed baskets, scoring 14 points on 6-for-8 shooting to go with five rebounds.

But these are the Celtics.

And a game by the Green team wouldn't be complete without some stretch of lackluster play.

That was indeed the case in the third quarter, as Boston's lead - which peaked at 23 points - was trimmed all the way down to just four (84-80) following a 3-pointer by Anthony. (That's Anthony Carter, not Carmelo Anthony.)

After a Celtics timeout, lay-ups by Paul Pierce and Rajon Rondo had the C's back up by eight points.

The Knicks were never able to get any closer than that.

Rivers was pleased with the win, but would have preferred his team to close the game out in better fashion.

"We dropped the guard a little bit," Rivers said. "We came out and scored a little bit to start the third and we lost our edge and they had an edge."

But New York's edge wasn't nearly as sharp as it could have been, not with Amar'e Stoudemire limited because of a back injury and Chauncey Billups (left knee) unable to play in the last three games.

"It was tough," Knicks coach Mike D'Antoni said of Sunday's loss. "Boston is a good team, obviously. We just didn't get quite enough from a lot of people. We really played hard the whole series. I thought these guys played as hard as they could."

Now the Celtics' focus will shift to the next round, where they will likely face Miami. The Heat lead their series with Philadelphia, 3-1.

One thing is for sure.

The Celtics are starting to show signs of being the team we saw at the start of the season, and not the one that limped into the playoffs.

How do we know?

Because they're starting to make the game look easy.

"I love our team," Rivers said. "We do some things that are a little nuts, but they have a way to play together and they trust each other and as a coach, that's all you can ask for."

A. Sherrod Blakely can be reached atsblakely@comcastsportsnet.com.Follow Sherrod on Twitter at http:twitter.comsherrodbcsn

Blakely: Work in progress, but oh, what progress

Blakely: Work in progress, but oh, what progress

BOSTON – The words of Stephen Curry following the Celtics’ 92-88 win over his Golden State Warriors had an off-handed, end-of-the-night throwaway feel to them, a statement that would soon be forgotten after the Warriors reel off what should be a long string of victories going forward.
 
“They’re playing the best right now in the East,” Curry said of the Celtics, who now have a 3-2 edge in their past five meetings following Thursday night’s thriller. “And obviously until they beat Cleveland, who's done it three years in a row … so we’ll see.”

CELTICS 92, WARRIORS 88

We already have, folks.
 
The Celtics and the Warriors are both quick to remind us all that we are only a month into the season and that there’s still lots of basketball to be played.
 
But the big takeaway from Thursday was that the Celtics’ ascension to the top of the NBA mountain is a matter of when, not if, it’ll happen.
 
Because what we’re seeing now is a team that is very much a work in progress, yet one that still manages to win games on a lot of nights that they have no business winning.
 
Think about it.
 
They shot 32.9 percent against the Warriors, the best team in the NBA, and still managed to get the win. According to NBA stats guru Dick Lipe, it was only the second time in the past 35 years that the Celtics shot less than 33 percent from the field and still managed to win.
 
That speaks to how well Boston defended the Warriors, who came in averaging a league-best 119.6 points per game.
 
But more than that, it shows this team has a will to win that’s almost unheard of for a group whose pieces are so relatively new to one another.
 
Of the 14 Celtics with guaranteed contracts on the roster, all but four are in their first season in Boston.
 
But even with the new guys coming together quicker than anticipated, Boston should not all of a sudden be considered the favorites in the NBA.
 
Even with the victory, Boston still has some ground to make up if they are to be on the same level as Golden State, a franchise that has been to the NBA Finals each of the past three seasons and has emerged a champion twice.
 
“It takes a lot of basketball to get there,” said Warriors guard Klay Thompson. “They have a good, young, hungry team. You have to give them credit. They have a better record than us, so you can say they’re better now.”
 
And while Thompson didn’t place an emphasis on it, the last word in his comments, “now,” is why Thursday’s victory leaves the Celtics cautiously optimistic.
 
Because as we’ve seen time and time, regular-season success does not always travel well beyond that and into the playoffs.
 
Still, Thursday’s win provides something for Boston beyond hope and optimism.
 
They now have results to go with the work they’ve put in to be a better team and compete with the league’s best.
 
And they’ve done it under less-than-ideal circumstances.
 
Gordon Hayward went down with an ankle injury less than five minutes into the season and he’s expected to be lost for the rest of the season. Al Horford missed two games while recovering from a concussion while Kyrie Irving missed a game after suffering a facial fracture.
 
So in other words, the Big Three that Boston was set on unleashing to the rest of the world has logged less than five minutes together all season.
 
And yet there are the Celtics (14-2), tops in the NBA while riding a historic 14-game winning streak, and there's reason to believe that maybe, just maybe, these two will be the last teams standing when all is said and done and some of those customary throwaway lines uttered by Curry might have some value after all if these two wind up meeting in the NBA Finals.

“I hear the weather is great here in June,” Curry said.
 
 

Brown leads C's to victory just a day after best friend's passing

Brown leads C's to victory just a day after best friend's passing

BOSTON – The NBA is an emotional game, but the feelings Jaylen Brown was working through on the eve of Thursday’s game against Golden State, are the kind you don’t wish anyone with the death of his best friend less than 24 hours before Thursday night’s tip-off.

Brown channeled his pain into a performance that was absolutely vital to Boston pulling off the biggest upset for them this season, a 92-88 win over the defending NBA champion Golden State Warriors.

He led the Celtics with a team-high 22 points in the win which extended the Celtics’ winning streak to 14 straight. 

But he was in no mood to celebrate afterwards.

CELTICS 92, WARRIORS 88

“My best friend (Trevin Steede) passed last night,” Brown said after the game. “It was tough to accept it. Everybody was kind of in shock. I knew coming in today, he would want me to play.

Brown paused, and added, “It’s hard to get my thoughts together. After talking to his mom and family, they inspired me to come out. I wasn’t in any shape to come out. I didn’t want to leave my room. They inspired me to come out and play and I came out and played in his spirit today.”

Indeed, Brown played with the kind of purpose that made it clear that this wasn’t just another game. 

Sure, Golden State was the defending champs but Brown’s temperament seemed to be on a level higher, much higher, than what you would come to expect from a highly-anticipated matchup. 

His teammates as well as the coaching staff were aware of what Brown was dealing with, and were prepared for him to not play if he decided that was the best thing for him. 

After the game, Kyrie Irving gave the game ball to Brown.

“I knew from start of the game, I gave him some great words that were given to me,” Irving said. “I’ve lost individuals in my life. It’s never a good thing when someone is going through it. You do your best to encourage them, to console them. But at the end of the day, it’s about the strength within themselves and he showed a lot of that tonight.”

Irving added, “to be able to go out and perform the way he did, I knew exactly who the game ball was going to.”

Dealing with this kind of adversity unfortunately is nothing new to the Boston Celtics. 

On the eve of the playoffs last season, ex-Celtics guard Isaiah Thomas’ younger sister Chyna Thomas died in a car accident. 

Just as they rallied around Thomas at that time, the Celtics have done the same for Brown. 

“It’s been a tough 24 hours for him as you call can imagine,” said coach Brad Stevens. “Very similar meetings and talking points I had with Isaiah (Thomas) last year, today. Like Isaiah used it as a distraction, he (Brown) went out there and played and was really, really good.”

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