Celtics

Five points on a B.I.G. Game 5

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Five points on a B.I.G. Game 5

Today would have been The Notorious B.I.G.s 40th birthday a fact that hit me with a range of emotions when I came across it this morning.

Most of these emotions revolved around two harsh reminders:

1. How long hes been gone: 15 years now.

2. How young he was when died: That he was and still should be the same age as Shaq. Only one year older than the Fab Five. Less than four years older than Kevin Garnett.

On so many levels, its hard to imagine what it would be like if Biggie was still around today (assuming he's not actually off getting high and getting on the beach).

On so many others, its clear that he never planned to be around.

Either way, as small birthday tribute, heres a quick look at tonights Game 5, with five Notorious talking points.

Things Done Changed

Or have they?

Despite all thats happened in the five days and 96 minutes of basketball since the Celtics last graced the Garden, this series looks very similar to the way it did after Game 2. There've been no major injuries, no extenuating circumstances, no real shifts in momentum andor overall confidence.

The biggest development is undoubtedly the emergence of Lavoy Allen and the Born Again Thaddeus Young, as the pair now gives Doug Collins the luxury of a larger, more athletic line-up (A. Sherrod Blakely breaks it down here) that presents a wrinkle that hadn't previously concerned the Celtics.

But as Doc Rivers said at yesterday's practice: "In the fourth game, our small lineup hurt us. In Games 1, 2 and 3 the small lineup, defensively, changed the game."

And as I'll say now: "It's one thing for Allen and Young to have a game-changing performance at home. Let's see them do it on the road before calling that line-up a series altering development."

Bottom line: The Celtics are still the better team in this series. They still have home court advantage. Sure, there are plenty of ways in which they can lose, but there will be no excuses if they do.

Everyday Struggle

Well never know exactly how much pain Avery Bradley's in right now, or has been for the better part of these playoffs. All we know is that he's tough as hell, and what he's lacked in production, he's made up for in respect and admiration earned from coaches, teammates and hundreds of thousands of fans.

But in terms of tonight, what can we expect?

Well, Game 4 marked the third time in these playoffs that Bradley's shoulder popped out.

The first time was Game 3 against Atlanta. In Game 4, he only played 19 minutes, and scored only six points on 2-7 shooting (1-5 from three).

The next time was Game 2 against Philly. In Game 3, he only played 20 minutes and scored zero points on 0-2 shooting (0-1 from three).

Not so great. Then again, Game 4 against Atlanta and Game 3 against Philly were far and away the Celtics best two performances of the playoffs. On both nights, they took an early lead and Bradley was free to rest. Perhaps more importantly, those two games prove that the C's are able to click and play some of their best basketball without Bradley heavily involved.

Moving forward, I think all we can do is look at anything Bradley brings to the table as a bonus, and hope that 1) Ray can crank the energy back up (at least to what it was against Atlanta). 2) Mickael Pietrus can convince his Frenchy Godmother to give him a few more nights as the Good Mickael Pietrus before turning him back into a streaky pumpkin.

Whats Beef?

The NBA playoffs are supposed to be nasty. But to this point, the CelticsSixers series has been relatively timid.

We had Garnett's missed elbow in Game 4 (which was nothing), followed by Elton Brand raking him across the face. We had Evan Turner clapping in Paul Pierce's face as the captain frustratingly pushed him away. We've had a fair amount of pushing and shoving, and a few double techs (Bill Kennedy factor). But in general, the on-court feistiness has been at a playoff minimum.

As a fan, four games into a series, there are typically at least two or three guys that you've grown to despise; whose mere existence drives you insane. Is there anyone on Philadelphia that has you feeling like that? Not really, right?

And that's a credit to Doug Collins. He's kept his team level-headed and focused. He knows that if they lose their cool, that's not all they'll lose. They'll be playing right into the Celtics trap.

But thus far, Philly's handled it perfectly. They've stayed respectful, without losing confidence, and I think that's one of the major reasons they come back to Boston tied at 2.

But tonight will be a serious test. Tonight, emotions will be higher than any point in the series. Any point in the season. For some of these guys, higher than at any point in their careers. Meanwhile, the C's have been here before, and know what it takes.

By the end of this game, Philly will know what beef is. How they handle it may very well determine their fate.

Would You Die For Me
"Man, I would die out here if I had to, real talk."

That was Kevin Garnett, a few weeks back during an interview with WEEI, and while Doc Rivers and Danny Ainge surely appreciate the dedication, I'm positive that they'd much rather Garnett just go out there and return to the form that's carried the C's for the better part of these playoffs.

At this point, we've stopped trying to figure when and where the good KG will show up. It's a waste of time. There's no rhyme or reason. No good explanation for where this ridiculous resurgence came from, and even less of one for why it randomly disappears.

All we know is that the Celtics need THAT Garnett to win. There have been times during the past five years when the C's have known KG wasn't at his best, and have found ways to work with and around him. But right now, with Pierce and Allen at less than 100, and the rest of the rotation no where near as consistent as they need to be, the Celtics need the dominant KG. Tonight, and always.

Skys the Limit

If the Celtics lose this series, Game 4 will be remembered as the one that got away, but their performance in Game 3 will be most be the most haunting. As I've written before, it was on that night that this team showed exactly how good they can be; when they raised the ceiling on all our expectations.

Whether or not they show us that level of dominance again remains to be seen, but we know it's in there. At this point, that knowledge serves as a point of optimism and inspiration. If they fall short, it's a nightmare.

Rich can be reached at rlevine@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Rich on Twitter at http:twitter.comrich_levine

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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