NBA playoffs

Danny Ainge: 'Too many individual goals' hindered young Celtics

Danny Ainge: 'Too many individual goals' hindered young Celtics

Looking back at a Celtics season that ended in a disappointing second-round playoff exit and on the eve of free agency, Danny Ainge said the team was hindered by players with too many individual goals and not enough focus on winning.

"I felt like at some point in the year, players will accept a role. We just had too many individual goals, like we didn't have enough guys that winning was the most important thing," the Celtics president of basketball operations said at the team's annual corporate partner's summit in Newport, R.I. 

Ainge didn't name individual players, but reports of dissatisfaction with roles and playing time emerged throughout the season and after the Celtics were eliminated by the Milwaukee Bucks. 

"When you have 21- and 22-year-old kids, that's going to happen. I like them and I understand where every player is. I was that player. Yes, I wanted to be an All-Star and yes, I wanted more shots. I used to celebrate every time [Larry] Bird didn't play," Ainge said, relating his own experience on the great Celtics teams of the '80s. "Are you kidding? That's more shots..." 

Watch the attached video for his complete comments.

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Happy 31st birthday, Larry Bird vs. Dominique Wilkins Game 7 duel

Happy 31st birthday, Larry Bird vs. Dominique Wilkins Game 7 duel

Thirty-one years ago today, the old Boston Garden was the site of one of the great superstar duels the NBA has ever seen.

Larry Bird vs. Dominque Wilkins. Celtics vs. Hawks. Eastern Conference Semifinal Game 7.

On a Sunday afternoon, in the first of a Garden playoff doubleheader (the Bruins and Edmonton Oilers would play Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Final later that night), the two Hall of Famers staged a one-on-one battle to remember.

Bird and the Celtics came out on top, 118-116. Wilkins finished with 47 points - 12 in the fourth quarter - on 19-for-33 shooting. Bird had 20 of his 34 points in the fourth and was 15-for-24 for the game. And, in an ode to how different a game the NBA was then - each player only hit one 3-pointer. 

Tommy Heinsohn was the CBS analyst for the game with Brent Musburger doing the play-by-play. Former Celtics coach Doc Rivers was in Atlanta's backcourt. Heinsohn and Rivers looked back at the game with the voice of the Celtics.

Heinsohn: "Once it started to happen, you just saw the desire of both these players." 

Rivers: "The crowd here was amazing. I gotta tell you, I fell in love with the Celtic crowd in this game."

The Celtics would go on to lose to the Detroit Pistons in six games in the Eastern Conference Finals, but this game provided a lasting memory from that postseason.

Perhaps Musburger put it best after another late Bird drive and finish: "You are watching what greatness is all about."

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About Last Night: Warriors making quick work of Blazers

About Last Night: Warriors making quick work of Blazers

What we’re talking about: Warriors making quick work of Blazers

Even with a change of venue, a fired-up fan base and another double-digit lead in the first half, the Golden State Warriors wound up doing what they always seem to do this time of year - find a way to win.

The absence of Kevin Durant has been a non-factor. In fact, one could argue not having the former league MVP has brought out the best in the rest of the Warriors who seemed to have found that hunger that champions often struggle with discovering after having won at the highest of levels over and over again. Steph Curry has been a killer shot-maker in this series, but the MVP has been Draymond Green. It was his aggressiveness during the early stages of Game 3 that kept Golden State in the game before finishing with a triple-double of 20 points, 13 rebounds and 12 assists. He showed tremendous leadership both in his play and his words, frequently offering words of encouragement to his younger teammates when they made mistakes. This is the version of Golden State teams fear: the one that’s hungry and when challenged, plays as close to their best brand of basketball which as the Blazers are finding out now, makes them damn near impossible to beat.

What we’ll be watching: Raptors must-win mode now

This is it. The Toronto Raptors’ amazing season comes down to this game. Facing a 2-0 series deficit, there is no way they can lose tonight and bounce back from a 3-0 series deficit and beat the Bucks. Milwaukee has won with Giannis Antetokounmpo dominating as well as with his teammates carrying the load towards victory. Kawhi Leonard has been the best individual talent in the playoffs from beginning to where things stand now. But his team’s 2-0 series hole is a reminder that being great in the playoffs doesn’t necessarily catapult you to victory unless your success becomes contagious. While Leonard may be the best player, no one has elevated the play of those around them more than Antetokounmpo. His scoring is lethal, obviously. But when he’s finding guys in their sweet spots the way we saw in the Boston series and now against Toronto? He becomes an unstoppable force that has the Raptors on the ropes who will continue to get big-time production from Leonard.

But will anyone else step up?

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