A long-awaited big win for Boston

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A long-awaited big win for Boston

Merry Day After Christmas, everyone. I hope you had a great time with the family. I hope that you got everything that you asked for. I hope that your pants still fit. If nothing else, I hope that you enjoyed an impressive Celtics victory.

Ever since Boston beat Oklahoma City waaaay back on November 23, weve waited for the Cs to come through in another major match-up. Over that time, we saw them lose to Brooklyn, lose to Chicago and lose to San Antonio. We saw them beat the Sixers, but that was only after losing to them the night before. The bottom line is that entering yesterdays game, it had been more than a month since the Celtics had delivered a win that really left you feeling good about their situation; confident that were ready to finally turn this season around and join the ranks of Eastern Conference contenders.

But yesterday did it. Yesterday was that win.

Of course, if the Celtics arent careful, that win will very quickly become insignificant. With Christmas in the rear view, Boston now heads out west for games at the Clippers (winners of 14 straight, owners of the best record in the NBA), Warriors (always a tough place to play, especially now that theyre good) and Kings (OK, they still stink). After that, the Green returns home to take on the Grizzlies (one of the biggest and baddest teams in the league, with the NBAs second best defensive rating) and the Pacers (winners in six of seven; the NBAs No. 1 rated defense). After that the Celtics are back on the road against the Hawks (who finally look like theyre for real) and then wrap up the killer stretch on Monday, January 7 at Madison Square Garden against Steve Novak and the Knicks.

When the dust settles on that brutal schedule, well either remember yesterday as a turning point or we wont remember it at all, but for now, lets soak in the rest of the Christmas cheer and take a look at what went right for the Celtics: contributions from the supporting cast.

Coming into this season, we knew that Bostons returning core could get the job done. Rajon Rondo, Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, Avery Bradley (when healthy) and Brandon Bass had proven that they can compete collectively at the leagues highest level. But it was that supporting cast Jeff Green, Jason Terry, Courtney Lee, Jared Sullinger that was supposed to make a good Celtics team great, and for the most part, thats whats been missing over the first two months of this season.

But yesterday in Brooklyn, that clearly wasnt the case.

After a 1-15 showing against Milwaukee, Jason Terry was 4-7 (including 3-4 from deep) for 11 points and even dished out four assists. Jeff Green was good Jeff Green, with 15 points and a defensive energy and focus that allowed him to stay on the court for 28 minutes. Jared Sullinger was a beast, registering a career high 32:50 of playing time, tying career highs with 16 points and six free throw attempts, adding seven rebounds, two assists, a block and a steal, and generally carrying himself like a season-vet as opposed to a kid whos still not old enough to buy a beer. Lee was unspectacular but still steady. And Jason Collins JASON COLLINS continued to give the Celtics valuable time in the paint. He was only on the court for 13 minutes, but it certainly felt like more. His contributions can't be overlooked.

But they can't stop there. For this team to be all that it can be, Collins and company need to keep bringing it every night. Performances like yesterday can't be cause for celebrations and the focus of columns and blog posts, city-wide. They need to become the norm. They need to happen every game.

For the next seven games, at least. Or else Boston's Christmas miracle will quickly become a New Year's nightmare.

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

Despite Crowder's ties to Falcons, Celtics pulling for Patriots in Super Bowl

Despite Crowder's ties to Falcons, Celtics pulling for Patriots in Super Bowl

WALTHAM --  Go up and down the Boston Celtics roster and you won’t have any trouble finding players who will be cheering on the New England Patriots in Super Bowl LI.
 
But there are some Celtics who understandably have mixed feelings about the game.
 
Among them is Jae Crowder, who grew up in Villa Rica, Ga. which is about 32 miles outside of Atlanta.
 
“I’ve been cheering for the Falcons all my life,” Crowder said. “I’m here in Boston; I’ve been a Patriots fan.”
 
And within that fandom, Crowder has developed a friendship with New England players, among them being Patriots running back LaGarrette Blount.
 
Not soon after the Patriots punched their ticket to the Super Bowl, Crowder got a text message from Blount.
 
“He knows,” Crowder said of Blount. “Yeah, he knows I’m in between.”
 
Isaiah Thomas, whose hometown Seattle Seahawks were beaten by the Falcons, said Crowder didn’t become a Falcons fan until they made the playoffs.
 
“Bandwagon? But I just took his money though,” quipped Crowder, referring to the Falcons beating the Seahawks in an earlier round of the playoffs. “We did them Seahawks real dirty; bandwagon.”
 
He’s not the only Celtics player with ties to Atlanta.
 
Boston rookie Jaylen Brown grew up just a few minutes outside of Atlanta in Marietta, Ga.
 
Thomas said Brown is a Pittsburgh Steelers fan.
 
“I don’t know how that is,” Thomas said. “Don’t let him tell you he’s an Atlanta Falcons fan. Jae just started reppin’ them when they made the playoffs. They can do what they want; they might as well root for the Patriots.”
 
For Thomas, cheering for the Patriots is more than just supporting his fellow professional athletes. As he tries to continue growing as a player and a leader for the Celtics, the Patriots and the way they do things in many ways has been a blueprint of sorts for Thomas.
 
“They’re the team you want to be,” Thomas said. “Every year they give themselves a chance. From top to bottom, they’re 100 percent professional. They think championship every year. That’s how you should be. We want to model that. Hopefully the can go out and win it, and we can try to piggy-pack on what they did.”
 
Another Celtic with Atlanta ties is Al Horford, who made it clear which team had his support.
 
“Going to school in Florida, being in the south for so many years, college football is kind of my thing,” said Horford, who revealed that he never attended a Falcons during his nine seasons with the Atlanta Hawks. “I would watch them on TV and stuff like that. I know it’s exciting for them. It’s a big deal to be in the Super Bowl. But I’m here in New England now so I’ll be cheering for the Patriots.”

Blakely: Blown call didn't cost Celtics the game Saturday vs. Blazers

Blakely: Blown call didn't cost Celtics the game Saturday vs. Blazers

WALTHAM -- You won’t find the Boston Celtics blaming anyone but themselves for Saturday’s 127-123 overtime loss to Portland. 
 
But they certainly didn’t get any breaks down the stretch from the referees, who made a huge officiating mistake in the final seconds of regulation. 

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Following a Celtics miss in the game’s closing seconds, Blazers guard Damian Lillard wound up with the ball but was stripped almost immediately by Marcus Smart, who put the steal back in for a lay-up that would have given Boston a one-point lead with 10.8 seconds to play. 
 
The ruling on the floor at the time was a foul against Smart. But officials later determined as part of their report on the final two minutes of the game, that the foul against Smart was an incorrect call.
 
“It just pisses you off, doesn’t it?” Crowder said. “It just pisses you off. I don’t like it.”
 
Crowder, like a number of players I have spoken to about this particular subject, is not a fan of the league releasing the information. 
 
And his reasoning, like his NBA brethren, is simple. 
 
There’s no recourse relative to that particular game if the officials in fact got a call wrong. 
 
So for their purposes, the transparency that the league is seeking, while just, doesn’t do them a damn bit of good when it comes to what matters most to them. Which is wins and losses. 
 
“It’s over now. It’s too late to confirm it now,” said Smart who told media following the loss that the steal was clean. “The game is over with. It is what it is; on to the next game now.”
 
Smart added that having the league confirm the call was wrong is frustrating. 
 
“They come back and tell you they miss the call, but it’s over now,” Smart said. “We’re on to the next game. It’s like they shouldn’t even said it. But I understand it; they’re trying to take responsibility and show they made a bad call. We appreciate it but at that time as a player it’s frustrating. That possibly could have won us the game.”
 
But as Smart, coach Brad Stevens and other players asked about it mentioned, Boston made so many mistakes against the Blazers and played so uncharacteristically for long stretches that it would be unfair and just not right to pin the game’s outcome on one bad call late in the game. 
 
“It happens,” said Stevens who added that he’s never read a two-minute report other than what he has seen published by the media. “There were plenty of things we could have done better.”
 
He’s right.
 
That blown call didn’t cost the Boston Celtics the game. 
 
Their play did. 
 
The Celtics turned the ball over 21 times that led to 34 points, both season highs. 
 
They couldn’t contain C.J. McCollum and Damian Lillard, two of the league’s most explosive guards who combined for 63 points on 20-for-42 shooting.
 
Boston allowed Myers Leonard to score a season-high 17 points. 
 
Certainly the bad call against Smart was a factor. 
 
But it would not have been an issue if the Celtics had done a better job of controlling the things they could have controlled, like defending shooters better, making smarter decisions when it came to passing the ball and maybe most significant, play with a higher, more consistent level of aggression around the rim.