OFFSEASON

Doc: 'The key is to keep our focus'

691640.jpg

Doc: 'The key is to keep our focus'

PHILADELPHIA Conventional wisdom would lead one to believe that the Boston Celtics, having already regained home-court advantage with their Game 3 blowout win, already have what they came for.
A win in Game 4 would be nice, but not necessary.
For all the game-planning Doc Rivers and his staff will do between now and Friday night's Game 4 matchup, flushing that kind of mentality out of his players will be his biggest challenge.
"We won the first one and now we have another one," Rivers said. "The key is to keep our focus and play the way we played, with the same energy and not play like, 'You won one. Now you can relax.' "
That'll be easier said than done, especially against a Sixers team that will play a desperate brand of basketball knowing a Game 4 loss would make a Game 5 trip to Boston nothing more than a coronation of what many believed was true before the series started -- Boston is better and will make short work of a good, but still growing, Sixers team.
Anyone who witnessed the C's beatdown of the Sixers on Wednesday came away with no doubt as to which team was better.
Even Rajon Rondo, who tends to keep his feelings and thoughts close to the vest, made it clear that Game 3 was indeed a statement-type game for the Celtics after two down-to-the-wire finishes in Games 1 and 2 in Boston.
Celtics guard Ray Allen acknowledged the C's came into Game 3 with something to prove.
"We won Game 1, but there was almost a sense that we stole it from them," Allen said. "And in Game 2, we kicked ourselves because we feel we should have won that one. After those two games, the Sixers are looking at it like, 'Hey, we're supposed to be up 2-0' and we're going to our home floor.' Game 3 was evident if we played convincingly the way we did last night, in the first two games, there would have been a different feeling around the series but it's not. We have to take Game Three and produce that same feeling, that same effect in Game Four."
But as much as the C's want to build off of what they did well in Game 3, the reality is that Game 4 will be different.
The Sixers are only down 2-1, but they know another loss will put them in a predicament that they are highly unlikely to rebound from.
So as much as the Celtics want to replicate the success they had in Game 3, Friday night's Game 4 battle will be a much tougher challenge than Game 3.
There was a heightened sense of urgency heading into Game 3 on the part of the Celtics, the kind of urgency that's difficult to produce again so quickly when the circumstances this time around are so different.
Had the Celtics lost Game 3, they would be the desperate team heading into Game 4, knowing another loss would make it next to impossible for them to move on to the next round.
In so many ways, that must-win mentality brought out the best in the Celtics.
Kevin Garnett continued his dominance of this series with 27 points and 14 rebounds. Rajon Rondo (23 points, 14 assists) once again proved to be a big-game performer. The C's even found a defibrillator for their seemingly dead-to-the-world bench that had produced very little offensively aside from Allen's contributions.
Mickael Pietrus, returning to the Sixers' home floor for the first time since suffering a Grade-3 concussion on March 23, had a huge game off the bench with 13 points on 4-for-8 shooting.
"That's huge for us," said Paul Pierce. "When you got guys like him coming in, Ryan Hollins, Keyon Dooling. Everybody has to contribute for us to win. It takes a lot of pressure off us when our bench can come in and contribute as well as defensively."
The C's will look for all that and then some in Game 4, hoping the end result will be the same as Game 3.
But as hard as it may be to look past the Game 3 beating, Rivers knows that game, as good as it was for his team, won't do them a bit of good on Friday.
"You have to win the series," Rivers said. "That's the point here. You have to take one game at a time. You can't look at what you done, if you lost or won. That last game is over."
And if the C's win on Friday, you can say the same for this series.

OFFSEASON

Report: Celtics make qualifying offers to Zeller, Sullinger

jared-sullinger-tyler-zeller-10-31-2015-boston-celtics.jpg

Report: Celtics make qualifying offers to Zeller, Sullinger

All the free-agent focus on the Celtics has been on players -- Kevin Durant, Dwight Howard -- who they might bring in. But they have players they might lose, too.

One, of course, is Evan Turner, who's an unrestricted free agent, free to sign to anyone after July 1. But they also have two others, Tyler Zeller and Jared Sullinger, who could have joined Turner on the completely open market if they didn't tender them qualifying offers.

Yesterday, according to Steve Bulpett of the Boston Herald, they did just that:

Zeller and Sullinger are still free to solicit offers. But, because they made the qualifying offers, the Celtics have the right to match any deal the two might receive and keep them in Boston.

OFFSEASON

Blakely: Boston becoming a favored destination for free agents

Blakely: Boston becoming a favored destination for free agents

BOSTON -- In some circles the pursuit of Dwight Howard by the Boston Celtics is just as perplexing as Boston being one of the six teams getting an audience with Kevin Durant and, with that, a shot at the Durant sweepstakes this summer. 
 
Both serve as examples of how the Celts are no longer at the back of the line when it comes to being a potential destination for the best free agents. 
 
Of course it’s about sealing the deal, and getting the best free agents on the market under contract, and all that good stuff.
 
But before that can happen, Boston has to be seen as a place to even be seriously considered by free agents. That's exactly what we’re starting to see happen right now.
 
It’s easy to point to the Celtics having a ton of salary cap space, which in itself makes them a possible landing spot for players who we all know will be hauling in max to near-max salaries this offseason.
 
But there’s just one problem with that line of thought. More than half the league enters free agency with enough money to sign one max player.

The fact that Boston is on the short list for the summer’s top free agent (Durant) and have already secured a sit-down with one of the top centers (Howard) says a lot in terms of how far Boston has come in the eyes of players. 
 
And several factors point towards the Celtics getting an audience with other top-shelf free agents this summer if they fail to secure one or two of their top choices.
 
But let’s not kid ourselves. How others view this franchise is the reality of what the Celtics have to deal with when it comes to adding elite, upper-echelon talent like Durant. 
 
The fact that Durant is willing to include Boston in his short-list of teams is a bit of a head-scratcher when you see that the Celtics are the farthest away from the group in terms of competing for an NBA title (although an argument can be made that they are neck-and-neck with the Miami Heat along those lines). Durant has said in the past that would be something he would be looking for in whatever team he signed with.
 
The biggest selling point the Celtics have to offer Durant or any other free agent (besides money) is that they are a franchise on the rise, they have stability on the floor with Brad Stevens as the head coach, and they have stability in the front office with Danny Ainge. Both Stevens and Ainge signed long-term extensions earlier this month. 
 
And one of the perks that players who come to Boston quickly discover is the fan base, which is about as rabid a group as you'll find in the NBA.
 
There’s no mistaking they wear their emotions on their sleeves, whether it’s cheering the team on following a season-ending playoff loss, or booing the owner after the team makes a draft pick they don’t particularly care for. 
 
They bleed green!
 
Add all those things up and it’s clear that Boston has the kind of environment, the kind of culture, where a star can come and thrive. 
 
The Celtics and their fans have known this for a while.
 
Now it seems some of the game’s best players are starting to catch on, as well.

OFFSEASON

Is it curious that Kevin Durant is even giving the Celtics an audience?

Is it curious that Kevin Durant is even giving the Celtics an audience?

Mike Felger, Dan Shaughnessy and Glenn Ordway wonder why the Celtics are even getting a meeting with Kevin Durant when free agency begins. Does it mean they have a legitimate chance of signing him?