Celtics

Report: Celtics had deals to trade Pierce, Allen

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Report: Celtics had deals to trade Pierce, Allen

The Celtics have found new life since the All-Star break. In that time, they've gone on an impressive 21-10 run, surprising everyone in what is assumed to be the last run for the Big Three.

According to a report, though, the Big Three's run was very nearly cut short.

Yahoo!'s Adrian Wojnarowski reports that Danny Ainge had separate deals to trade Ray Allen and Paul Pierce fall apart just before the trade deadline on March 15.

The Celtics were ready to send Allen to Memphis in exchange for guard OJ Mayo and a draft pick. The deal was so close to completion that the Celtics actually called Allen to tell him he had been dealt. But then the trade fell through and Allen stayed put. Awkward.

Pierce was very nearly traded to New Jersey in exchange for Mehmet Okur's expiring contract and a lottery pick. Had this one been pulled off, it would have signaled the official beginning of the rebuilding process: Team captain gone, more salary cap relief, the arrival of a promising rookie to anticipate.

Instead, whether Danny Ainge wanted it this way or not, the Celtics' core remained in tact and they are now looking at an Atlantic Division title and a likely No. 4 seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs.

Celtics history shows a strong second half is coming

Celtics history shows a strong second half is coming

LOS ANGELES – Dropping three in a row and four of five right before the All-Star break, it’s clear the Celtics did not hit the break playing their best basketball.

But they’re not hitting the panic button either, and for good reason.

As disappointing as they may have been leading up to the All-Star break, the Celtics (40-19) still have the second-best record in the East, which is exactly where they were a year ago this time heading out of the break.

And if recent history is any indicator of the future, you can count on the Celtics putting together a surge after the break that, at worst, will keep them close to where they are in the standings.

Now in his fifth season as the Celtics’ coach, Brad Stevens has won at least 16 regular-season games after the break each of the past three seasons.

And that success helped propel Boston to a playoff berth each season and the Celtics’ postseason seeding improving from one year to the next.

After having had the best record in the East for most of this season, the Celtics are once again counting on a strong finish.

It’s one thing for the Celtics to tout their confidence in getting back on track.

But that belief is shared by others as well.

“They're a very good team,” said Golden State’s Draymond Green. “They're young, this is their first year together. Obviously, Kyrie [Irving] is one of the few guys, if not the only guy, with championship experience. So, it takes a little experience to kind of figure things out.”

Boston is banking on Green’s theory panning out, a theory that will be put to the test considering the Celtics made no moves at the trade deadline other than to sign center Greg Monroe after he agreed to a buyout with the Phoenix Suns.

The talk of the league the past couple of weeks has been Cleveland. The Cavs (34-22, third in the East) engineered three trades that radically changed their roster and the likely trajectory of their season.

“It's been a small sample size so far. But just getting some new energy into the locker room and seeing how those guys play out there has been great,” said Cavs forward Kevin Love. “George Hill has stepped into the starting lineup right away; been super solid for us. Rodney Hood gives us a lefty with a lot of game. Kind of has a quiet confidence about him. Larry Nance is a double-double threat every night. He's a guy with a number of teams playing smaller basketball or position-less basketball in the league. He's a guy that can switch on to multiple positions.

Love added: “Jordan Clarkson is a selfless player and kind of has that swagger about him where he doesn't care if he starts, comes off the bench. He can go out there and give you 20 points and help our bench. I believe in our first two games with those guys, we scored over 50 off the bench in both games against two very good teams. So it's going to be interesting to see what happens because we feel like if we get a couple months under our belt playing together. We could be tough.”

The same is true of the Toronto Raptors, who came into the break with the best record in the Eastern Conference, a first for that franchise.

As well as the Raptors (41-16) have played, their coach, Dwane Casey, hesitates to do too much patting on the back right now.

When asked if his team was the best in the East, he replied, “I don't know. The record says we are, but for me to sit here and say we are the best team...we have confidence, but I'm not going to sit here and say we are the best team. Right now, we're number one. The numbers say that.”

The numbers also indicate that the Washington Wizards are another team that’s on the rise these days. They've won seven of their past nine leading up to the break to re-enter the conversation as one of the East’s top teams.

“It’s crazy. It’s wide open,” said Washington’s Bradley Beal. “We’re all right there, neck-and-neck. Everybody is going to continue to get better. Everyone has 24, 25 games left. They’re going to fly by. It’s definitely going to come down to the playoffs. Anybody can take it.”

And the Celtics will remain among the leaders of that pack, even as they come out of the break struggling to win games.

Green believes more than anything, the Celtics are still figuring out how to handle being a team that’s targeted every night as one of the biggest games on the opposing team’s schedule.

“I think they went from going into the season with Kyrie and Gordon [Hayward] and Al [Horford] kind of expecting to be really good,” Green said. “With young guys like Jaylen [Brown], Jayson Tatum, expected to be really good. Then Gordon went down and then there were no expectations for them. And they completely outplayed that.

Green added, “So, then it's a different thing. Now, all of a sudden everyone is gunning for you and that takes some adjusting to. So, I think they're just adjusting to it, but they'll be fine. Everyone hits that rough patch in the season. I think it's just that's what they're going through right now.”

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Krejci snaps tie late in 3rd, Bruins rally past Oilers 3-2

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Krejci snaps tie late in 3rd, Bruins rally past Oilers 3-2

EDMONTON, Alberta -- Patience paid off for the Boston Bruins on Tuesday night.

David Krejci broke a tie with 1:04 remaining and Boston rallied for a 3-2 victory over the Edmonton Oilers.

Noel Acciari and Matt Grzelcyk also scored for the Bruins (37-13-8), who have won seven of nine and are one point back of NHL-leading Tampa Bay in the Atlantic Division. Boston trailed 2-0 before scoring three times in the third period.

"We have a will to win," coach Bruce Cassidy said. "There are 82 of these and sometimes you just don't have it, but I think our group is pretty good at pushing right to the end. It would have been easy for us to say it was our third game in four nights and we were playing back-to-back games, and maybe it is not our night after the frustration early on of not being able to finish and (Oilers goalie Cam Talbot) being really good, but we stuck with it."

Bruins goalie Anton Khudobin agreed the key was staying positive after falling behind a team they felt they were outplaying.

"If you are thinking things aren't going your way, then they are never going to go your way," he said. "You have to keep positive, keep playing and shooting and you are going to get rewarded. We were rewarded tonight."

Ryan Strome and Jujhar Khaira had the goals for the Oilers (24-31-4), who have lost seven of eight.

"At the end of the day, you're here for wins and losses and it's tough to take moral victories out of the game," Strome said. "We know the position we're in and that's a disappointing result after 40 good minutes."

The Oilers scored the game's first goal with 1:31 left in the opening period - despite being outshot 13-2 to that point - when Strome beat Khudobin on a 2-on-1 break for his ninth of the season.

The Bruins came close five minutes into the second when David Pastrnak's shot clanged off the post behind Talbot, but instead the Oilers extended their lead just more than six minutes later when a knuckler by Khaira beat Khudobin up high.

The shots favored the Bruins 29-14 through 40 minutes.

Boston got on the board 4:37 into the third when Acciari swung a puck in front of the Edmonton net and it bounced off Strome and in to make it 2-1.

The Bruins tied it with eight minutes to play after a flurry in front led to Grzelcyk putting the puck past a diving Talbot.

Boston completed the comeback with just 64 seconds to play in the third, after the Oilers lost control of the puck in their own end. Danton Heinen sent it out in front, allowing Krejci to score his 11th of the season.

NOTES: It was the second and final meeting this season between the teams. The Oilers took the first game 4-2 in Boston on Nov. 26. ... Oilers defenseman Kris Russellplayed his 700th NHL game. ... The Bruins acquired D Nick Holden from the New York Rangers for minor league defenseman Rob O'Gara and their third-round pick in this year's draft. Holden was not in Edmonton in time for the game.

UP NEXT

Bruins: Saturday at Toronto.

Oilers: Host the Colorado Avalanche on Thursday.