Crowder leads way for Celtics as they hold off Nets for 98-95 win

Crowder leads way for Celtics as they hold off Nets for 98-95 win

When Jae Crowder arrived in Boston, he was a throw-in player to a trade that centered around Rajon Rondo.

While he established himself as a do-it-all player defensively, his play has been overshadowed by the dynamic Isaiah Thomas and the arrival of Al Horford.

But with Thomas (knee) back in Boston healing up, Crowder had his chance to take center stage for Boston.

Did. He. Ever.

Crowder delivered one of his best performances of the season as Boston held off a late charge by the Brooklyn Nets to escape with a 98-95 win.

Crowder had his seventh double-double of the season, finishing with season highs in scoring (24 points)  and rebounds (12 rebounds).

"We had one of our leading scorers out, so someone had to (pick it up)," Crowder told CSN's Abby Chin after the win.

With the scored tied at 85, Crowder – who had left the game earlier after taking a Quincy Acy elbow to the midsection – drained a 3-pointer and followed that up with a 3-point play.

The Nets were able to chip away at Boston’s lead, but the Celtics made all the necessary plays at both ends of the floor to keep Brooklyn at bay.

Marcus Smart, filling in for Isaiah Thomas, made a pair of free throws that put Boston ahead 95-91 with 24.1 seconds to play.

Brooklyn called a time-out, knowing they needed a quick score to keep their comeback hopes alive.

Former Harvard standout Jeremy Lin drained a bankshot jumper to make it a one-possession game, leading to a Celtics time-out with 16.5 seconds to play.

Smart was back at the free throw line and once again drained a pair of free throws that made it a 97-93 game which led to the Nets calling a time-out with 15.1 seconds to play.

A driving lay-up by Brooklyn’s Randy Foye made it a one-possession game again.

Crowder had trouble in-bounding the ball, so he called a time-out before a five-second violation was called.

Following Boston’s last time-out, Avery Bradley was set to go to the line with 9.1 seconds to play. He missed the first of two free throws, which made it a three-point game.

Brooklyn called another time-out, needing a 3-pointer to tie the game and potentially force overtime.

The Nets got a pair of 3-point attempts (one from Brook Lopez and the other from Acy) that each hit the back iron, literally inches away from forcing the game into overtime.

Boston spent most of the first half playing with a lead which is surprising when you consider how they played through the first two quarters.

In the first half, the Celtics shot less than 40 percent (36.4) from the field, less than 25 percent (23.1) on 3’s and turned the ball over eight times (for 10 points) … and they were up by eight points?

And as much as the Celtics seemingly played down to the Nets’ level most of Friday night, bad stats across the board doesn’t necessarily spell defeat.

Brooklyn opened the fourth quarter with a trio of 3-pointers, the last of which put them ahead 74-71.

Celtics head coach Brad Stevens had seen enough and called a time-out with 10:32 to play.

The Celtics had played one of their worst games of the season offensively, struggles that were certainly aided by the absence of Isaiah Thomas.

Thomas (knee) did not travel with the team and in addition to missing tonight’s game against Brooklyn, he’ll be sidelined for Sunday’s game at Philadelphia.

Making his absence even more pronounced was the fact that the Celtics were in a close battle, one that they would have to finish without Thomas who is the league’s best scorer in the fourth quarter.

It was far from a thing of beauty, but give the Celtics credit. They did what they had to do and that was find a way to win without their best player.

Isaiah Thomas isn't ruling out return to Celtics

File Photo

Isaiah Thomas isn't ruling out return to Celtics

Isaiah Thomas back in green? Maybe there's a chance after all.

The former Celtics guard, now with the Lakers, started a Q&A session on Twitter and was asked whether he'd consider returning to Boston this offseason. This was his answer...

That's not a no.

Thomas has had a rough go of it since leaving the Celtics. His brief tenure in Cleveland didn't go according to plan, and things haven't gotten a whole lot better out in L.A. The 29-year-old is averaging 15.3 points per game just a year after averaging 28.9 with Boston.

Let the speculation begin.


Horford not making any excuses after C's rough outing vs Pelicans

Horford not making any excuses after C's rough outing vs Pelicans

Al Horford understands that there’s plenty of blame pie to go around following Boston’s 108-89 loss to New Orleans. 

Considering how Pelicans stud Anthony Davis dominated the game on so many levels Sunday night, Horford was quick to acknowledge his role in the loss. 

“He (Davis) was able to get behind our defense a lot,” Horford told reporters after the loss. “Some mistakes on my end; gotta give him credit. He dominated tonight. I’ll definitely take the blame for that.”

Davis finished with a double-double of 34 points and 11 rebounds, a total that would have been higher if not for the game being so lopsided which allowed Davis to head to the bench early in the fourth. 

MORE - Blakely's stars, studs, and duds from C's-Pelicans

And Horford’s struggles defensively were just as problematic on offense as the five-time All-Star tallied just six points on 3-for-11 shooting to go with four rebounds and three assists. 

Boston has been a team whose collective sums have fueled their success. 

But Horford understands he has to be a high impact performer, a job that’s even more vital when key starters like Kyrie Irving (left knee soreness) and Jaylen Brown (concussion) are out as well as top reserves Marcus Smart (right thumb) and Daniel Theis (torn meniscus). 

And by Horford’s own admission, he just didn’t bring it on Sunday at a level to give him and the Celtics a legit shot at winning the game.

“Defensively we had too many breakdowns,” Horford said. “And the game got away from us in the second half. So there’s no excuses. I didn’t give us a chance, either; missing a lot of looks offensively. I just need to be better.”

And he’ll have to be if Boston (47-23) is to get back on track with a win on Tuesday against a talented Oklahoma City squad led by Russell Westbrook, Paul George and Carmelo Anthony. 

At full strength, the Thunder would be a significant challenge for the Celtics. 

But having a roster with a number of key players out with injuries, it becomes even more imperative for Boston’s top players to elevate their play. 

And as you scan this Celtics roster and examine those who are healthy enough to play, it’s clear that Horford more than any other Boston player, has to find a way to become more impactful.

Certainly, more points and rebounds would help. 

But as we’ve seen time and time again with Horford, often his greatest contributions to winning games don’t necessarily show up in the final box score. 

That being said, a six-point, four-rebound game doesn’t cut it. 

Horford has to be better, something he knows better than anyone. 

“I’ll definitely look at the film and see how I can be better individually,” Horford said. “The good thing about the NBA, is we have a chance to play on Tuesday. Hopefully we’ll learn from this game and be ready to go Tuesday at home.”