Celtics

Celtics rally back from 26-point deficit to beat Heat, 98-88

Celtics rally back from 26-point deficit to beat Heat, 98-88

The Boston Celtics have played a it-ain’t-over-until-it’s-over brand of basketball all season, so why would the final game of the season be any different.

After trailing by as many as 26 points to the Miami Heat, the Celtics rallied for what seemed an improbable comeback that ended with a 98-88 Celtics win.

Isaiah Thomas led the Celtics with 21 points and six assists along with four rebounds while his backcourt mate, Avery Bradley, had 17 points on 8-for-12 shooting in addition to some solid defense on Heat all-star Dwyane Wade (17 points). Joe Johnson (19 points), Hassan Whiteside (19 points, nine rebounds) and Goran Dragic (18 points) also had big games for Heat who will be the No. 3 seed by virtue of winning the tie-breaker with fellow Southeast Division teams Atlanta and Charlotte.

The Celtics, also tied with Miami, Atlanta and Charlotte with a 48-34 record, will be the fifth seed and begin the playoffs at Atlanta this weekend.

The comeback began with a strong surge in the third quarter that saw Miami’s defense punctured at every turn by Boston speeding up the game.

And many of the good looks Miami got in the first half were no longer available in the second half as Boston’s perimeter defenders picked up the pressure and the Celtics’ big men played, well big.

Making it all that more impressive was it came on a night when the Celtics were celebrating championship teams from 1966, 1976 and 1986 who all played with their own brand of fight and grit – the ingredients on display Wednesday night by this most recent incarnation of Celtics.

Even with the victory, Boston still wasn’t able to secure home court.

They will begin the postseason this weekend at Atlanta.

And in a really cruel act by the Basketball gods, the Heat wind up with the No. 3 seed in the East by virtue of winning the tie-breaker with its fellow Southeast division foes Atlanta and Charlotte.

Had the Hawks won their season finale against Washington, the Celtics would have wound up as the fourth seed and with that, had home court advantage after having swept the season series with the Heat.

 

Bean: Kawhi in Cleveland makes great theater for everyone

Bean: Kawhi in Cleveland makes great theater for everyone

Other than LeBron Watch, Kawhi Watch will likely be the most captivating Watch of the NBA offseason,  and there's obviously a chance the two end up in the same place. Regardless of what happens with LeBron, I've officially decided where I want Kawhi to land. 

Cleveland. 

I've got my reasons, but I'll start with why I'm not clamoring for the C's to get one of the five best players in the league. Yes, the C's can offer the best package, but I don't want them to make an offer the Spurs can't refuse. I don't want them to trade Jaylen Brown and the Sacramento pick for a flight risk. I don't want them to trade Kyrie Irving. I want them to be loaded, as they currently are, and set to add to that in the future. 

Leonard supposedly wants to be traded to the Lakers. The more well-connected basketball reporters have noted the Spurs wouldn't have any motivation to turn the Lakers into a Western Conference powerhouse, which makes sense. 

So, if it's not going to be the Lakers, make it the Cavaliers. 

This might sound ridiculous, but I want LeBron James to be a character in this Celtics group's run. One of the things that made the 2017-18 Celtics' run so exciting was that it culminated in a showdown with LeBron, the best player in the league and the centerpiece of great Celtics series past. 

I don't want the Celtics to go on runs with LeBron in a different time zone. I want battling (and beating) the best player of this generation to be part of what the Tatum Era does. If the Cavs can land Leonard, maybe that will keep James from bolting in free agency. 

They're also rumored to be inquiring about Kemba Walker's availability from Charlotte to help surround LeBron with another star.

To be fair, I wrote last week that I'm fine with LeBron going to the Lakers and even forming a super team with Kawhi and Paul George. That's because I think either that team or the Warriors would be all tuckered out by the time they got to the finals against a Celtics team that just waltzed through the East. 

That wouldn't be as fun though, especially if the Lakers kept getting eliminated by Golden State. If the Celtics have another championship run coming during the final years of LeBron's career, I want it to involve a Kyrie/LeBron matchup. I certainly want it to involve a competitive underdog, and I don't trust the 76ers for that yet. Considering they probably wouldn't be able to get much else, a team of LeBron, Kawhi and a bunch of junk still wouldn't be favored against the Celtics at full health. 

If LeBron goes somewhere West this offseason, I'd still want the Cavs to get Kawhi. Assuming Kawhi actually plays, he'd at least keep the Cavaliers a playoff team and an interesting opponent. 

Could the Cavaliers actually get Kawhi? I don't see why not. If his status as a player who can opt out after next season scares some teams away, the eighth overall pick and whatever they could get for Kevin Love would already make their offer better than whatever the Lakers would try to scrape together. Sacramento could always trump everyone by offering the second overall pick for Leonard, but that would be stupid. Then again, sometimes the Kings are stupid. 

Kawhi in Boston? Not at the likely price, and not if it means that much risk. LA? Predictable. Put Kawhi in Cleveland, keep the East exciting and give LeBron a real decision to make. 

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE

BREAKFAST POD: Jaylen and Rozier for Kawhi?

BREAKFAST POD: Jaylen and Rozier for Kawhi?

1:43 - Chris Mannix joined Gary Tanguay and Kyle Draper on Early Edition to discuss if the Celtics could trade up in the draft, and if the Celtics have any chance of acquiring Kawhi Leonard.

6:35 - Phil Perry talks about Albert Breer’s report that the Patriots talked with four teams (Lions, Titans, 49ers, Texans) about trading Rob Gronkowski. We also hear from Holley, Merloni, and DJ Bean about Tom Brady commenting “cuarenta y cinco” in response to an Instagram post about when he’ll retire.

10:34 - Lou Merloni and Chris Gasper debate how important it is for the Red Sox to avoid the Wild Card play-in game and win the AL East over the Yankees. 

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NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE