Celtics sneak by Heat, 78-66, can still get home-court

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Celtics sneak by Heat, 78-66, can still get home-court

BOSTON For weeks, Doc Rivers and the Boston Celtics talked about home court advantage the same way they talked about winning the Atlantic Division - it'd be nice, but not a necessity.

For most of this season, the Celtics' main guys carried them to the division title. But on Tuesday, it was the reserves positioning them for a shot at beginning the playoffs at home with a 78-66 win over the Miami Heat.

The Celtics have maintained that rest will come before a strong run towards trying to secure home court advantage.

And rest was indeed in order on Tuesday for both Boston and Miami.

The Heat gave their Big Three - LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh - the night off. Boston countered with giving Kevin Garnett the night off, although his rest was in part because of a sore hip flexor injury. Boston was already planning to play without Ray Allen, whose right ankle injury is still sore. In addition, the C's also played without Rajon Rondo (back), Greg Stiemsma (feet) and Mickael Pietrus (right knee).

Boston was led by Sasha Pavlovic's 16 points on 7-for-10 shooting. The C's also got a strong game from Marquis Daniels off the bench with 13 points and five rebounds. Miami got 11 points from James Jones off the bench.

As for home court, it's pretty simple.

A win over the Milwaukee Bucks on Thursday coupled with an Atlanta loss to the Dallas Mavericks would result in the C's and Hawks having an identical 39-27 record with the tie-breaker - and home court advantage - going to the Celtics.

The Celtics didn't look like a team headed for a blowout victory, with the first points not coming until Paul Pierce hit a 10-footer with 5:45 to play in the first quarter which ended with the Celtics trailing,17-10.

Boston opened the second with an 8-0 run to take their first lead of the game, a spurt that was sparked by Marquis Daniels who had eight points and five rebounds at the half.

However, the Heat backups, led by James Jones, regained the lead and went into the half ahead, 34-28.

It remained a low-scoring affair in the third quarter, but the C's were able to make the game even closer and went into the fourth tied at 50.

And with the win, Boston has positioned itself for the playoffs to start here at the Garden.

"Home court is great," said C's Paul Pierce. "You want to have home court, you want to play for home court. At the end of the day, we want to be healthy first. We're definitely a better home team than road team, but at this point we feel like if we're healthy we have a chance in anybody's building. We've shown we can beat anybody in the Eastern Conference in their building."
HOT SHOT: Sasha Pavlovic had the hot hand when it mattered most for Boston, leading all scorers with 16 points - 12 of which came in the fourth quarter. "If I'm wide open I shouldn't be hesitant," Pavlovic said. "And that's what I'm trying to do. The most important thing with me, just don't think and shoot the ball when I'm wide open."
IN-N-OUT: It has been awhile since Avery Bradley had a dud of a game shooting, so he was more than due for a night like this. He finished with eight points, but missed eight of his 10 shots from the field. Like Paul Pierce and Brandon Bass, Bradley never looked comfortable playing without the usual cast in the starting lineup.

"I just kept saying, 'the quicker we get the starters off the floor, the better the chance we have to win the game,'" Rivers said. "And the reason is, I thought mentally it was very challenging for them. Brandon, Avery and Paul. I really did. I just thought they looked around and they didn't see anyone out there and they were just trying to do more stuff."

SUPER SUB: Marquis Daniels came up with another strong night off the bench for the Celtics, delivering the kind of all-around game that the C's haven't seen nearly enough of this season. He had 13 points, five rebounds, four assists, two steals and a blocked shot. "It's good timing," said C's coach Doc Rivers. "We need it."
TURNING POINT: Leading 60-56, the Celtics got a driving dunk followed by a 3-pointer from Sasha Pavlovic that put the C's ahead by nine points. Boston's control of the game was never in doubt afterward.
QUOTE OF NOTE: "Well, someone had to win the game. And we did, which was really nice." - Celtics head coach Doc Rivers.

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. 

“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.”

Stars, studs and duds: Celtics have no answer for Lowry

Stars, studs and duds: Celtics have no answer for Lowry

BOSTON — For most of Friday night’s game, the Boston Celtics played the kind of game that on most nights would result in a victory. 

But Toronto is one of the best teams in the Eastern Conference with talent, depth and an undeniable desire to win at all costs. 

One strong quarter by the Raptors was just enough to put away the Celtics, 101-94. 

And it came in the third when Toronto outscored Boston 33-18 which turned out to be the only quarter the Raptors (16-7) outscored the Celtics. 

“They got hot; made some tough shots,” said Boston’s Marcus Smart. “The tough shots kind of hurt us.”

The tough shots and a flawless 8-for-8 performance from the free throw line. 

While it’s a 48-minute game, there was no getting around the fact that it was Toronto’s dominance in the third that ultimately determined the game’s outcome. 

“If you look at it from our perspective it’s what went wrong; if you look at it from theirs, they ratcheted up the defense quite a bit (in the third quarter),” said Celtics head coach Brad Stevens. “It was hard for us to break their … break their wall of defense.”

In the third quarter, Boston shot just 27.8 percent from the field, 30 percent (3-for-10) on 3’s and a woeful 5-for-10 from the free throw line. 

“We started making everything difficult for them and not letting them get that easy in and try to take advantage of that,” said Toronto’s DeMar DeRozan.

Here are the Stars, Studs and Duds from Friday night’s game.

 

STARS

Kyle Lowry

The Celtics had no answer for the All-Star point guard who led all players with 34 points, 21 of which came in the second half. 

Avery Bradley

Bradley was the lone Celtics starter who seemed to be in a good shooting flow, tallying 19 points on 7-for-11 shooting which included five made 3’s. 

DeMar DeRozan

The Celtics made him work a lot harder than he usually does to score, but he still managed to tally 24 points – just four points below his season average – on 9-for-25 shooting.

 

STUDS

Al Horford

He made a few more turnovers than usual, but Horford still put together a relatively balanced performance. He had 19 points and seven rebounds with six assists and a blocked shot. 

Norman Powell

The X-factor in Friday’s outcome had to be Powell. A 5.8 points per game scorer this season, Powell had 20 points on 7-for-10 shooting along with a game-high five steals. 

 

DUDS

Jae Crowder

With Isaiah Thomas (right groin) out, the Celtics really needed its core starters to step up and have a productive night offensively. Crowder just didn’t have it going on Friday, scoring just seven points on 2-for-11 shooting which included a number of 3s that rimmed in and out on him.