Stars, studs and duds: Celtics 'really wanted this win'

Stars, studs and duds: Celtics 'really wanted this win'

BOSTON – At the end of the season, beating the Toronto Raptors doesn’t do any more for their win total than beating say, Philadelphia, Sacramento or any other team.

But there was no denying the importance of Boston’s 109-104 come-from-behind win over Toronto.

Following the game, players acknowledged the importance of beating a team that has had their number for a while.

Since Brad Stevens took over as the Celtics’ coach prior to the 2013-2014 season, the Celtics were 4-10 against Toronto prior to Wednesday’s win,  a stretch that included losses in five of the six matchups prior to Wednesday.

“Big win, both teams in the same division, battling to get that top spot,” Boston’s Amir Johnson, a former Raptor, told CSNNE.com. “We really wanted this win.”

With the win, Boston (31-18) increase its second-place standing over Toronto (30-20) which now trails Boston by 1.5 games. Meanwhile, the Celtics find themselves within striking distance of knocking off Cleveland (33-15) for the best record in the East with the Celtics and the Cavs now separated by just 2.5 games.

While players spoke glowingly about how much of relief it was to finally beat the Raptors, head coach Brad Stevens was pleased with the win but didn’t feel it was their best effort against the Raptors despite having lost the two previous meetings.

“You know what’s crazy, is I thought we played better in the first two games,” Stevens said. “I’ll go back and watch film; maybe I’m wrong, but sometimes that’s the way it goes.”

And for a change, it went Boston’s way in what has to fall in line with being one of their best wins of the season.

“It feels like every game is close against them and they always beat us, so it was big for us to not put our heads down and not get discouraged and keep at it,” said Isaiah Thomas. “A lot of guys stepped up.”

Here are the Stars, Studs and Duds from Wednesday night’s game.



Isaiah Thomas

Even in battling another high-scoring, fourth quarter team with their own fourth quarter scoring assassin (Kyle Lowry), Thomas still delivered in a big way for Boston. He finished with a game-high 44 points, 19 of which came in the decisive fourth quarter.

Kyle Lowry

As I mentioned earlier, Lowry is one of the league’s best scorers in the fourth quarter of games. And while Toronto lost, Lowry didn’t disappoint with a team-high 32 points that included 12 in the fourth quarter.



Marcus Smart

He had 10 points on 4-for-11 shooting, but it was Smart’s all-around game that catapulted Boston to an important victory. No play was bigger than the jump ball with 14.7 seconds to play and Boston up 103-101, that Smart won by tipping it into the hands of Isaiah Thomas who was immediately fouled. Thomas made both free throws which eventually became the game-winning points.

Jared Sullinger

The former Celtic had his best game of the season with the Raptors, coming off the bench to score 13 points on 5-for-8 shooting with six rebounds.

Jae Crowder

It wasn’t his best shooting night, but he made some good hustle, high energy and finished with 14 points, eight rebounds (three offensive) with an assist and a steal.



Al Horford

He had 11 points and six assists with three rebounds, but he missed way too many easy shots that he normally makes which is the last thing the Celtics needed in one of their more challenging games this season. But to his credit, he drained a 3-pointer in the fourth quarter that gave the Celtics the lead briefly.

Ainge: 'Setback' wrong word to use about Hayward

Ainge: 'Setback' wrong word to use about Hayward

When is a setback not a setback?

When Danny Ainge says, "You know what? Sometimes I talk too much," Ainge told the Boston Herald over the weekend. "'Setback' wasn't the right word, so let me rephrase that because it's not exactly true to say it - or say it that way.

The Celtics president of basketball operations, in his weekly radio interview with Toucher and Rich on 98.5 The Sports Hub and simulcast on NBC Sports Boston, used that word when he was describing how Gordon Hayward is coming along in his recovery. 

"He had like one setback for a couple of weeks, maybe a month and a half ago," Ainge said on the radio last week. "We were progressing a little bit too fast, we thought."

Ainge clarified that to the Herald's Steve Bulpett. 

"What happened is he went on the AlterG [anti-gravity treadmill] the first day and he felt some soreness," he said. "It was the first day he tried the AlterG, a long time ago. He just wasn't ready for it at that point. That's all it was."

Celtics coach Brad Stevens has been adamant that Hayward, recovering from his gruesome leg and ankle injury in the season opener, will not play for the Celtics this season. On Sunday, Stevens, via MassLive.com's Jay King, characterized Stevens' soreness as a "small" issue. 



Chest pains and lack of sleep lead to medical leave for Cavs coach Lue

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Chest pains and lack of sleep lead to medical leave for Cavs coach Lue

CLEVELAND - Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue is taking a leave of absence from the team to address health issues that have included chest pains and loss of sleep.

Lue said Monday in a statement that tests have offered no conclusion about what the issue is and offered no timetable for his return. The coach said he feels he needs to step away "and focus on trying to establish a stronger and healthier foundation" from which to coach the rest of the season.

Here's a portion of Lue's statement:

I have had chest pains and other troubling symptoms, compounded by a loss of sleep, throughout the year. Despite a battery of tests, there have been no conclusions as to what the exact issue is.

"While I have tried to work through it, the last thing I want is for it to affect the team. I am going to use this time to focus on a prescribed routine and medication, which has previously been difficult to start in the midst of a season," Lue said. "My goal is to come out of it a stronger and healthier version of myself so I can continue to lead this team to the championship we are all working towards."

A stress-filled season for the Cavs has taken a toll on the Lue, 40, a former Celtics assistant under Doc Rivers who led them to the 2016 NBA championship after taking over for David Blatt midway through that season. They are j40-29, third in the Eastern Conference, behind the second-place Celtics and East-leading Toronto Raptors, and have endured roster shake-ups, injuries and other distractions as they try to return to the NBA Finals.

David Aldridge of TNT reports that the plan is for Lue to return in a week. The NBA playoffs begin April 14. 

"We all want great players, we all want the best teams, but with that comes a lot of pressure as well. And what Ty Lue has had to go through this year with that team, with the trades and the injuries and the pressure, it's unrelenting," Denver coach Michael Malone said. "So I hope that he gets healthy and is able to get back in time for the playoffs and help that team win as many games as possible."

Lue spent the second half of Cleveland's victory in Chicago on Saturday in the locker room because of an illness, the second time this season he left a game because he wasn't feeling well. The former NBA guard also sat one out against Chicago at home in December.

Associate head coach Larry Drew coached the second half of Saturday's game, the finale of a six-game, 11-day road trip. Cleveland is back home to host Milwaukee on Monday.

"We know how difficult these circumstances are for Coach Lue and we support him totally in this focused approach to addressing his health issues," general manager Koby Altman said.

Charlotte coach Steve Clifford also left his team to address his health this season. He took six weeks off. Medical tests revealed that the 56-year-old Clifford did not have any internal problems, but the doctor's diagnosis was the coach was suffering from severe sleep deprivation.

AP Basketball Writer Tim Reynolds contributed to this report.

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