Darren Hartwell

Nuggets' Will Barton raves about Isaiah Thomas' playoff mindset

Nuggets' Will Barton raves about Isaiah Thomas' playoff mindset

Isaiah Thomas' days of NBA playoff heroism are well behind him. But the veteran guard is still finding a way contribute, even if it's not on the court.

Thomas hasn't played a single minute in the Denver Nuggets' first-round series with the San Antonio Spurs. After Denver's Game 5 win Tuesday night. though, Nuggets guard Will Barton took considerable time out of his media session to discuss how Thomas has inspired the team.

Barton's struggles early in the series earned him a demotion to the second unit. But it's safe to say Thomas has it worse than Barton. At this time three years ago, the former All-Star was enjoying an incredible postseason run with the Boston Celtics. Two hip surgeries later, Thomas isn't even sniffing the court for the Nuggets.

Despite the brutal turn of events, though, Thomas is maintaining a positive outlook. Per The Athletic's Joe Vardon, the 30-year-old guard still goes through the exact same pregame shooting routine he did with the Celtics and even challenged a group of Spurs assistant coaches to a pickup game before Game 4.

"He’s an inspiration to me," Barton told Vardon. " ... He still cheers for us, he still works out every day and goes hard, so like I said, he’s motivation."

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Celtics easily on your device.

Is Semi Ojeyele the Celtics' secret weapon vs. Giannis Antetokounmpo, Bucks?

haberstroh_vod_1920x1080_042219.jpg
NBC Sports File Photo

Is Semi Ojeyele the Celtics' secret weapon vs. Giannis Antetokounmpo, Bucks?

The Milwaukee Bucks boast an NBA MVP favorite in star forward Giannis Antetokounmpo. But the Boston Celtics might have his kryptonite in ... a guy who played 29 seconds in the first round?

That's the case NBC Sports' Tom Haberstroh makes in his latest "Big Number" segment: that Semi Ojeleye, of all people, could be the key to containing the Greek Freak.

Here's the evidence: The Bucks have a 109.6 offensive rating over the least two seasons. But on possessions when Ojeleye guards Antetokounmpo, that number drops to 104.3.

 

As Haberstroh points out, Ojeleye hasn't exactly kept Antetokounmpo off the score sheet. The superstar forward has shot 59 percent from the floor while averaging 34 points per 100 possessions when defended by Ojeleye over the last two seasons.

But Milwaukee's offense still suffers as a whole when Ojeleye locks up Giannis, which is why head coach Brad Stevens has started the little-used swingman in five of Boston's last six matchups with the Bucks.

Stevens has raved about Ojeleye's defensive prowess, so with Marcus Smart sidelined, we could be seeing a lot more muscle on the court during Round 2.

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Celtics easily on your device.

Brad Stevens is openly frustrated by Celtics-Bucks schedule uncertainty

Brad Stevens is openly frustrated by Celtics-Bucks schedule uncertainty

File this under "first world problems," but Brad Stevens just discovered an unfortunate consequence of the playoff sweep.

Stevens' Celtics dispatched the Indiana Pacers in the first round last Sunday and already know they're playing the Milwaukee Bucks in Round 2 of the NBA playoffs. The issue? They still don't know when that series will start.

"We are still awaiting final word," Stevens told 98.5 The Sports Hub's "Zolak & Bertrand" in his radio interview Wednesday. "And we've been awaiting final word for multiple days now. So, hopefully we get final word very, very soon."

If you detect some irritation in Stevens' answer, you're onto something. As the Celtics head coach pointed out, not knowing the date for Game 1 has thrown a wrench in his plans.

"(The NBA) tell(s) both teams as it's going along kind of what they're thinking," Stevens said. "This one's been frustrating, because obviously we've been not playing games since Sunday night.

"So, to create a practice schedule where you can practice appropriately, prepare appropriately and rest appropriately obviously depends on when your next game is."

There isn't too much variance, as C's-Bucks is expected to start on Saturday or Sunday depending on when the three remaining active series finish up.

But that one-day difference does impact scheduling and logistics, from practice times to treatment programs for players like injured guard Marcus Smart.

Stevens acknowledged the schedule uncertainty is a result of their series sweep, and we're sure the Pacers would love to have the Celtics' problem. But as the first round drags on, it's clearly still a problem for Stevens.

UPDATE (2:25 p.m. ET): Apparently Stevens got his message across...

Game 1 of Celtics-Bucks is set for Sunday at 1 p.m. ET, the NBA announced just hours after Stevens' comments.

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Celtics easily on your device.