Thomas gets help from teammates in big win over Hawks

Thomas gets help from teammates in big win over Hawks

BOSTON - Isaiah Thomas' importance to the Celtics was well understood long before he dropped 42 points in Game 3 to carry them to victory.

But it did hammer home the fact that this Celtics team relies on Thomas to do a bulk of the scoring. Too much, to be honest.

Brad Stevens said it himself after Game 3: Thomas will never have a greener light than he has here in Boston. A lot of that is due to how great of a scorer he is. But at least part of it is due to not having another bonafide scorer out there with him.

Generally speaking, take away Thomas, and things get ugly fast on offense.

But on Sunday, Thomas wasn't needed to score every single time down the floor as he's been tasked to do in the past. He had lots of help this time, and that's actually a great sign as the Celtics head back to Atlanta for Game 5 tied 2-2.

The first team positive came right off the jump, with Jae Crowder hitting a three-pointer to put the C's on the board. Crowder has struggled mightily with his shot in the series, but Sunday was a big step in the right direction as he hit his first three shots of the game to get the C's going.

Jonas Jerebko once again got the start and though he didn't make a huge mark early on, came on strong in the later stages, closing the third quarter with two big three-pointers during Boston's big run and beginning the fourth quarter with a couple more jump shots on his way to 16 points.

Evan Turner had 17 points, seven rebounds, and six assists in a team-high 44:38 of playing time. Amir Johnson scored five of his nine points in overtime.

And then you had Marcus Smart, the real hero of Sunday's win. Smart proved to be the kryptonite for Paul Millsap, who finished with 45 points but just two with Smart guarding him for the majority of the fourth quarter and overtime. And Smart did it on the offensive end as well, scoring 20 points on 7-for-15 shooting and dishing out five assists.

"We wear those shirts, 'We're one superstar' And you never know who's going to have it going," Crowder said. "Guys really stepped up and made one big play after big play. Jonas and Evan, all of us, we just tried to take what the defense gave us and move the ball and play within ourselves and it worked out."

Said Turner, "We rocked out the past two games. I thought we did our thing the last two games and everyone played pretty well last game and tonight. If you look at the stat sheet, I think Jonas had a double-double, Smart had 20, I did pretty well, Jae bounced back and did his thing. We all did a great job as a unit."

Of course, Thomas still had a strong game, finishing with a team-high 28 points. He hit the game-tying layup with 15 seconds remaining in regulation and then hit the dagger three-pointer in overtime to turn a four-point Celtics lead into a seven-point lead with 30 seconds to go.

But that the Celtics were getting huge shots like that from a number of players on the team all throughout the game had Thomas feeling better about this win than the one in which he carried them.

“It says a lot. I think it does say more [than Game 3's win]," Thomas said. "We played well to start the game, but we didn’t play great. The start of the second half was horrible for us, they made every shot, we couldn’t get anything going on the offensive end but we didn’t put our heads down. I think we were down 14 or 16 points and we just kept at it. Knowing what was at stake and we just stayed the course. That says a lot about this team and our fans continued to cheer, continued to help us out energy wise. We fought back and we got the win.”

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.