Celtics

Celtics have shown a knack for the comeback this year

Celtics have shown a knack for the comeback this year

BOSTON -- As I made my way towards the Boston Celtics locker room following their 100-99 win over Oklahoma City on Tuesday night, I walked past co-owner Wyc Grousbeck, who, as you might expect, was pleased with what he had just witnessed.
 
“That was a good one,” he said.
 
That’s one way to describe it.

HE CALLED IT . . . SORT OF

But explaining the Houdini-like way the Celtics seem to get out of some serious jams over and over again, and against really good teams, is indeed a head-scratcher for most.
 
It’s getting to the point where we’re running out of fresh adjectives to describe this team, which has a knack for the comeback.
 
“Improbable” doesn’t do justice to how Boston’s hit-the-lottery luck has played out so often on nights when it seemed on the doorstep of defeat.
 
And this town loves a good comeback story, whether it’s Tom Brady leading the Patriots to a Super Bowl win after being down by 25 points, or the Celtics spotting the NBA champ Golden State Warriors a 17-point cushion before rallying for a meaningful November win -- a rarity in the NBA.
 
But the obscure and unexpected have become standard in this seemingly alternate basketball universe that the Celtics play in, one that we have been bearing witness to all season.

I mean, look at their body of work:


 
DECEMBER 18: Down by one on the road at Indiana in the closing seconds of play in what appears to be a tough road loss, Terry Rozier steals and races down the floor looking like Deion Sanders in high-tops, for a game-winning dunk.


 
DECEMBER 28: Trailing the Houston Rockets by 26 points in the third quarter, they rally back and steal the win with not one, but two offensive fouls drawn in the last minute by Marcus Smart against perennial league MVP candidate James Harden.

JANUARY 11: In London, they erased a 22-point deficit and defeated Philly.


 
FEBRUARY 4: There was a buzzer-beater by Al Horford to beat Portland on Super Bowl Sunday.

And . . . well, you get the idea.

Boston has six wins by a single point this season, which is tied with Miami for the season lead and is one shy of tying the franchise record for one-point wins in a season. 

In addition, Boston has won 10 games this season in which it fell behind by 12 or more points. 
 
Winning so many games under less-than-ideal circumstances has not only padded the Celtics' win total, but also reinforced this team with a Teflon-strong mindset. They believe they're tthe ultimate practitioner of basketball necromancy, consistently finding a way to rise up from the basketball graveyard of defeat and win in dramatic fashion.

Like they did Tuesday night against the Thunder.

How can you bank on Carmelo Anthony, a career 81.2 percent free-throw shooter, missing a pair with less than nine seconds to play?
 
Or botching the play Brad Stevens drew up at the end of the game -- "We kind of messed [it] up," said Jayson Tatum -- but, rather than it leading to a turnover, instead becoming a game-winning 3-pointer by Marcus Morris with 1.8 seconds to spare? 

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 It was another crazy ending in what has been a season filled with bizarre finishes, jaw-dropping rallies and a never-say-it’s-over brand of basketball that has kept Celtics fans on the edge of their seats all season.
 
“It’s great to be in a situation where you’re down six with under a minute to play or whatever it was, and you find a way to win the game,” said Stevens. “That’s going to be pretty unique, but they just kept playing the next possession and we were fortunate that that shot went down. That was a heck of a shot by Marcus."
 
A heck of a shot?
 
Absolutely.
 
But in this bizarro world of Celtics basketball this season, it was predictable as the Thunder became yet another team to play Boston and leave wondering the same thing most Celtics fans do … “Did THAT just happen?

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Blakely: Jaylen Brown evolving into high-impact player before our eyes

Blakely: Jaylen Brown evolving into high-impact player before our eyes

BOSTON – Jaylen Brown can still hear the murmurs from draft night two years ago shortly after his name was called. 

It was the pinnacle for every kid who has ever dreamed of being an NBA player, and yet Brown’s moment of great adulation from fans became a dream deferred with a mix of cheers and jeers from Celtics fans who felt the team would have been better off packaging the No. 3 pick used on Brown to acquire a more proven talent. 

That would serve as one of the many boulder-sized chips on Brown’s shoulders that has brought him to where he is now, as one of the biggest breakout performers in the playoffs. 

He is coming off a career-high 30 points in Boston’s 120-106 win, making the 21-year-old the youngest player in Celtics history to score 30 or more in a playoff game.

Brown comes into Friday night’s Game 3 matchup leading the Celtics (2-0 in best-of-seven series) averaging a team-high 25 points per game on 51.2 percent shooting from the field and 41.2 percent from 3-point range. 

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What Brown is doing now is a direct reflection of the progress made in his overall game from where it was a year ago, even if it doesn’t seem like that big a deal to him.

“To be honest, I don’t even pay attention to it. I’ve just been playing basketball all year,” Brown said following Tuesday’s win. “My teammates help me out a lot by finding me. Terry (Rozier) found me a lot throughout the course of the game and I was able to take some shots. Ultimately, we just want to win games, so that’s the only thing that we are concerned with. We are confident as ever. Teams have been writing us off all year and we just keep proving people wrong, so that’s what we’re going to do.”

Proving folks wrong is part of the narrative that is Brown’s story. 

When he came into the NBA, folks loved his athleticism. But his jumper, ball-handling and defensive awareness needed work. There’s an expectation that with time and experience, young players will get better. But what we’ve seen in Brown is more than just growth. It’s the byproduct of a young man who's extremely motivated to do more than just get better. 

He wants to be the best player on the floor, every minute he’s out there. While it is a goal that he’ll fall short of achieving, Brown is developing into a major, high-impact player before our very eyes. 

“Well I think Jaylen loves the moment,” said Celtics head coach Brad Stevens. “I think he really appreciated the opportunity like to – to compete on this stage and at this level and we’ve seen him against the better teams in the league all year be able to really raise his level in some of the biggest games. And, you know, I think that obviously he’s gaining more experience by the minute and he – he lived quite a lot last year. And so, he’s one of our more experienced guys in some ways in this setting.”

It is a setting Brown has always felt that it was a matter of when, not if, he would be here. And while he has certainly become a fan favorite, he knows he still has a few skeptics out there.

“I love it. I thrive off it,” Brown told NBC Sports Boston. “When people say this, say that, tell you what you’re gonna do, tell you how successful you are going to be, I smile and keep it moving.”

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Terry Rozier, Jaylen Brown showing up Bucks veterans

Terry Rozier, Jaylen Brown showing up Bucks veterans

BOSTON – When this Boston-Milwaukee playoff series began, there were legitimate questions about how Boston’s youthful backcourt tandem of Terry Rozier and Jaylen Brown would hold up against the Bucks and their more experienced tandem led by Eric Bledsoe and Tony Snell.

Two games and two Celtics wins later, this hasn’t even been marginally close with Boston’s 1-2 backcourt punch delivering one big shot after another which has been among the keys to Boston taking a 2-0 series lead as Games 3 and 4 shift to Milwaukee.

In two games, Rozier and Brown have outscored Milwaukee’s starting backcourt 96-25.

Celtics head coach Brad Stevens believes those numbers are a bit skewed because they don’t take into account the scoring of Khris Middleton whom Stevens considers as being part of the Milwaukee backcourt.

Ok, coach.

Add Middleton’s 56 points scored in the first two games and that brings the Bucks’ perimeter point total up to 81.

“We’re trying a lot of different bodies on Middleton,” Stevens said. “Bledsoe’s a handful because of his ability to drive the ball and knock down shots off screens. And Snell as always been a guy that’s been able to make open shots.”

But if you’re gonna factor in Middleton’s points for Milwaukee, you have to throw in Jayson Tatum’s 23 points in two games which would bring the final tally to 122-81, a staggering lopsided figure as well. 

Stevens knows all too well that the road for his perimeter players and his entire team for that matter, will only get rougher in time.

“We know we have our hands full and our guys are preparing ever game like that’s the case,” Stevens said.

And even with the lopsided nature of the scoring thus far from the starting perimeter players by Boston, there’s still a sense that some Bucks – ok, one Bucks player – isn’t quite ready to put some respect on what the Celtics were able to do perimeter-wise in Games 1 and 2.

Bledsoe, who is averaging 10.5 points in this series, was asked about Rozier’s play after two games which in addition to averaging 23.0 points also includes him failing to turn the ball over once in more than 78 minutes of action.

“Who?” was Bledsoe’s initial responded which was followed by, “I don’t even know who the (expletive) that is.”

Stevens was aware of Bledsoe’s comments about Rozier but made it clear that he was not going to get into anything that might he constructed as a war of words.

“I heard that,” said Stevens about the comments in regards to Rozier before adding, “Our team is just focused on Game 3.”

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