Can the Celtics close it out?

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Can the Celtics close it out?

Tonight in Atlanta, the Celtics have a chance to advance to the second round of the playoffs.

At times this season, that accomplishment alone felt nearly impossible, and was seen by some, if not all of us, as a best case scenario for a suddenly deteriorated team.

These days, we look at the second round as the tip of the iceberg. Even if the C's still aren't a super serious threat to bring home Banner 18, they're sure going to put up a fight. And there's not a team in this conference, or the entire league, who would feel comfortable drawing Boston in a seven-game series.

But, before we can talk about the second round, the Celtics have to get there. Which brings us back to tonight, to Boston's close out game against a Hawks team that's just asking for a beating.

Win or lose, the C's will still be in a great position to eventually advance, but as I said earlier today, the time is now to deliver the death blow.

However, looking back on this team's history, finding the killer instinct might not be so easy.

Believe it or not, since this core got together in the summer of 2007, the Celtics are a surprising 8-11 in close out situations.

They've gone into 19 games with a chance to close things out, and 58 percent of the time, they've come up short.

More often than not, the C's had built a big enough cushion to absorb the loss and bounce back to take care of business, and like I said, it's fair to assume that that's what will happen if KG and Co. blow this chance tonight.

But from here on out, they'll be hard-pressed to find a better opportunity to end things early and earn some well-deserved (and much-needed) rest.

The ball goes up 8.

Rich can be reached at rlevine@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Rich on Twitter at http:twitter.comrich_levine

Lowry, Sullinger and Blount interrupt interview with DeRozan

Lowry, Sullinger and Blount interrupt interview with DeRozan

DeMar DeRozan didn't get a chance to answer one question in his postgame interview before being interrupted by Kyle Lowry, Jared Sullinger, and LeGarrette Blount.

Sullinger on Celtics: 'I watch from a distance, I support from a distance'

Sullinger on Celtics: 'I watch from a distance, I support from a distance'

BOSTON – The trip to the TD Garden is one that Jared Sullinger has made many times but never like this. 

The former Celtic was back in town with his new team, the Toronto Raptors who signed him to a one-year, $5.6 million deal after the Celtics rescinded their qualifying offer to him and thus made him an unrestricted free agent. 

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“I had a feeling it was going to go that way once they signed big Al (Horford), that they were going to let me go,” Sullinger said prior to Friday’s game.  “We were prepared for it. It is what it is. I’m happy these guys are doing well.”

And he hopes to say the same for himself sometime in the future after undergoing surgery to have a screw inserted in the fifth metatarsal of his left foot – the same foot he had season-ending surgery on during the 2014-2015 season with the Celtics. 

There’s no specific timetable as to when he’ll be back on the floor, and Sullinger is cool with that plan. 

“I don’t know. They’re hiding the protocol from me so I won’t rush; we’ll see,” said Sullinger who is still in a walking boot. 

The 6-foot-9 forward played well in the preseason and solidified himself as the team’s starting power forward. 

Now that he’s out with another injury, he’ll have to once again try and prove himself either later this season when he returns, or this summer when he becomes a free agent again.

For now, Sullinger is happy to be back in town, seeing lots of familiar faces, friends and ex-teammates that he says he still keeps in close contact with. 

“Some of these guys I considered like brothers to me,” Sullinger said. “IT (Isaiah Thomas), Jae Crowder to name a few. So I watch from a distance, I support from a distance. They’re playing well.”

In addition to his former teammates, the lines of communication remained open between him and Celtics head coach Brad Stevens as well. 

Stevens said the two exchanged text messages right before he had foot surgery, and afterwards. 

“Obviously, everyone here wishes a speedy recovery and hopefully he gets back on the court soon,” Stevens said. 

Sullinger has been an effective player during his time in the NBA, with career averages of 11.1 points and 7.7 rebounds per game. 

But this will be the third time in his five NBA seasons that he will miss a significant amount of time on the court due to an injury or recovering from an injury. 

Stevens acknowledged that he feels for Sullinger who once again has to go through rehabilitation in order to get back on the floor.

“I like Jared a lot,” Stevens said. “He’s a heck of a player, he’s a really smart guy. Got a lot of respect for him and it stinks that he’s got to go through that but he’ll come back strong I’m sure.”