Celtics roll in second half, take 3-2 series lead over Sixers


Celtics roll in second half, take 3-2 series lead over Sixers

BOSTON Because of the earlier than usual 7 p.m. start, the Boston Celtics had a late-arriving crowd at the TD Garden for their Game 5 matchup with the Philadelphia 76ers.

The same could be said for the Celtic players, whose slow start had many in Celtics Nation ready extremely nervous.

But as the game wore on, the crowd grew louder.

And as they continued to make their presence felt, the players did the same.

When all was said and done, the C's pulled away for a 101-85 Game 5 win that gives them a 3-1 series lead. Boston now needs one victory to advance to the Eastern Conference finals to face either Indiana or Miami.

This game, like so many for Boston, certainly had a heavy dose of that Green team defense fans have come to know and love.

And while there were a number of moments in which the Celtics showed signs of life, they ultimately got a spark from about as unlikely a place as you could imagine - the officials.

Trailing 57-53, Kevin Garnett drove into the lane for what he thought was a foul.

It was a foul against him, with official Ed Malloy ruling that Garnett used his arm to shield the defender, Spencer Hawes, from cleanly blocking the shot.

After the play was shown on the Jumbotron, the crowd came to life with a chorus of boos that seemed to be just what the Green team needed to hear.

From there, they reeled off 10 straight points before the Sixers called a time-out.

That was just the beginning, as the Celtics went on to close out the quarter with a 22-9 run that gave them their biggest lead of the night at that time, 75-66.

The key player during that run by Boston was Brandon Bass, who went into the fourth quarter having already scored a playoff career-high 23 points. He finished with 27 points and six rebounds.

Boston's fantastic finish came after the Sixers dominated the first half with some hot shooting and strong rebounding.

Philadelphia connected on 54.8 percent of their shots in the first half compared to 48.6 percent shooting by the Celtics.

Much like the third quarter foul against Garnett provided an unexpected spark, the same could be said for the contributions in the first half made by Greg Stiemsma.

Having been replaced by Ryan Hollins as the first big man off the bench for Boston, C's coach Doc Rivers opted to go back with Stiemsma on Monday.

Good call, Doc.

Stiemsma responded with his best game of the series, scoring eight of his career playoff-high 10 points in the first half which included a driving lay-up just seconds after stepping on to the floor.

It was indeed a bizarre first half that at one point, had Stiemsma and Ryan Hollins having more points scored (10), than Garnett and Bass (8).

The game also saw the Celtics establish themselves as the aggressor, and they were rewarded with a slew of free throw attempts.

In the first half, Boston had 13 free throws taken compared to just two for the Sixers.

Still wait-and-see on Smart's status for Celtics' opener


Still wait-and-see on Smart's status for Celtics' opener

BOSTON – Marcus Smart’s sprained left ankle injury continues to heal, but the Celtics remain in wait-and-see mode when it comes to his availability for the season opener on Wednesday against Brooklyn.
Smart sprained the ankle in the second quarter of a 121-96 preseason loss to the New York Knicks when he stepped on the foot of Knicks guard Justin Holliday.
He was helped off the floor by teammates Avery Bradley and Isaiah Thomas along with head trainer Ed Lacerte.
Since the injury, the Celtics have been pleased with the healing progress of the ankle, the same ankle he sprained as a rookie which kept him out for several weeks.
Celtics coach Brad Stevens said Smart is no longer in a walking boot and continues to be day-to-day as he receives a steady diet of treatments to help speed up the healing process.
Smart will undergo a series of tests to determine the ankle’s strength, prior to getting any kind of clearance to play.
That’s why Stevens isn’t worried about Smart returning to the floor too soon.
“I trust our staff. Our staff and Marcus will make that decision well,” Stevens said. “Then I play guys, if they are available.”
Smart has established himself as one of the Celtics’ top reserves, with the ability to play both guard positions and some small forward depending on the lineup on the floor. The Celtics have to prepare for the possibility that he will not be able to play in the opener (or the first few games considering Boston opens with three games in four nights.

His absence would create more playing time for Terry Rozier in addition to likely resulting in extended minutes for starters such as Avery Bradley and Jae Crowder.
As eager as Smart is to get back on the floor, he and the Celtics are mindful of the big picture.
This team wants to make a deep playoff run and they’ll everyone – Smart included – to do so.
That’s why as much as Smart wants to get on the floor immediately, he has to remember – or be reminded of – that this is an 82-game season and his long-term value to this team and its goals can’t be taken for granted.

Olynyk cleared for full contact at Celtics' practice


Olynyk cleared for full contact at Celtics' practice

BOSTON - The Celtics got a bit of good news on the injury front with Kelly Olynyk being cleared for full contact.
The 7-foot center participated in most of the Celtics’ drills on Saturday, some of which included contact.
Olynyk said he had been doing some contact work prior to practice Saturday, but in a more controlled setting.
“I’m just trying to ramp it up a little bit more, every day,” Olynyk said. “Just trying to take a step in the right direction every day.”
Olynyk had surgery on his right shoulder in May with him expected to be out for at least five months.
Danny Ainge, C's president of basketball operations, recently said that he anticipated Olynyk returning sometime in the middle of November.
That would put his return about six months out from the time of surgery.

“He did a lot more than he has done,” coach Brad Stevens said. “We’ll see how he feels and progress at the appropriate rate after that.”
One of the strengths that Olynyk brought to the floor when he played was the ability to help space the floor because of his 3-point shooting.
Olynyk was not just a good 3-point shooter for a center, but one of the better 3-point shooters in the NBA last season when he connected on 40.5 percent of his 3s last season.  And it’s clear that last season was not a fluke, evident by him shooting 37.3 percent on 3s for his career.
However, the addition of Al Horford not only solidified the Celtics’ interior defense but also provides them with another stretch center.
Horford, who spent the past nine seasons with the Atlanta Hawks, shot 34 percent on 3s last season which at the very least, makes him a player that defenses have to respect when he’s outside of the 3-point line.