Seldom-used bench player could have success against James

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Seldom-used bench player could have success against James

Paul Pierce isn't the only member of the Boston Celtics who has learned LeBron James' game inside and out.

While Pierce has been battling against James on the opposing team for years, including this season in the Eastern Conference Finals, Celtics swingman Sasha Pavlovic has more firsthand experience with the Miami Heats power player.

James was the top pick in the 2003 NBA Draft. Pavlovic was selected 18 picks after him. A year later, the two became teammates on the Cavaliers when Pavlovic was traded to Cleveland. They played together on the 2008 Cavaliers squad that was eliminated by the Boston Celtics in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals.

Pavlovic spent five years on the same team as James and watched him develop from a young phenom into a league MVP. Now that they are facing off in the playoffs for the second year in a row, Pavlovic knows what to expect -- and how to limit -- his former teammate.

LeBron's always going to be LeBron, Pavlovic said. He can score, he's one of the best players in the league, but we've got to make it hard for him. Contest every shot, don't let him get into the lane.

James scored 32 points in the Heats Game 1 victory over the Celtics on Monday, the most points allowed by the Cs this postseason. The 6-8, 250-pound forward got to the rim and attacked the lane, a weapon Pavlovic says the Celtics have to take away from him.

He is most effective probably driving to the middle, Pavlovic said. We can't allow him to do that. He has the size and he's more aggressive. He tries to get in, then his shots open up, and we've just got to stop him from driving.

Pavlovic emphasized the Celtics need to focus on the entire Heat team, not just James. But after netting 13 field goals in Game 1 (also the most allowed by the Cs this postseason), it was clear who they have to make defensive adjustments on moving forward.

All I know is, he's like everybody else during the playoffs, said Pavlovic. Hes more focused and playing as hard as he can.

Pavlovic played four minutes in the series opener. Whether or not he will be called upon to use his familiarity with James remains to be seen.

Isaiah Thomas continues to claim Celtics' franchise records

Isaiah Thomas continues to claim Celtics' franchise records

BOSTON – This continues to be a historic season for Isaiah Thomas as more records fell in Wednesday’s 103-100 loss to Milwaukee, and the company he’s keeping becomes even more exclusive. 

Thomas had a game-high 32 points on Wednesday which included five made 3’s on nine attempts. That gave him 223 for the season which is a new franchise single-season record for made 3-pointers. The previous record was 222 set by Antoine Walker during the 2001-2002 season.

And his 32 points scored gives him 2,012 this season. 

Only six players in franchise history (Paul Pierce was the last to do it during the 2005-2006 season) have scored 2,000 or more points in a single season. 

Oh, there’s more. 

With Wednesday being the 66th time this season he has had 20 or more points, Thomas has now tied Pierce (2005-2006) and Larry Bird (1985-1986; 1987-1988) for sixth on the Celtics’ single-season franchise list. 

“I didn’t even know that,” a visibly disappointed Thomas said following Wednesday’s loss. “It doesn’t feel that good right now. But when I look back on it, probably in the offseason, I’ll appreciate it a little more. But I’m just staying in the moment and try and play as best I can to lead this team to as many wins as possible.”

Other season milestones Thomas is in the mix for include the following:

  • The 5-foot-9 guard is one of three players this season to have 50 or more games of 25-plus points, joined by Oklahoma City’s Russell Westbrook (57) and Houston’s James Harden (54).
  • Thomas has made at least one 3-pointer in a franchise-record 50 straight games (Dec. 3 – March 29). That’s also the longest current streak in the NBA. 
  • With 66 games of 20 or more points this season, Thomas is second in the NBA to Westbrook (67).

Marcus Smart at center of yet another controversial call

Marcus Smart at center of yet another controversial call

BOSTON – One of the more bizarre plays in Boston’s 103-100 loss to Milwaukee came in the second quarter, requiring some explanation from the officials afterwards. 

With 3:55 to play in the second quarter, the officials had originally called a foul on Marcus Smart which he verbally protested that eventually led to him being whistled for a technical foul. 

After the officials reviewed the play, they changed the call to a personal foul against Khris Middleton but no change to the called technical foul against Smart who objected to a call that, upon review, they agreed was the wrong call to make. 

Official Sean Corbin, through pool reporter Ken Powtak of the Associated Press, acknowledged that the original call was a loose ball foul against Smart. 

“The (officiating) crew got together, we met prior to video and we decided that we needed to look at video because both players were on the floor bleeding so we went to the video for a hostile act,” Corbin told Powtak. “In the review we noticed that Khris Middleton initially made contact to Marcus Smart’s face. That’s how the original contact to the play occurred.”

Fortunately for the Celtics, Middleton missed his technical free throw while Smart split a pair of free throws which cut Milwaukee’s lead to 49-40.

Still, that’s no consolation for Smart who was whistled for a technical foul on a play that the official acknowledged was the wrong call to make. 

In the fourth quarter, Smart was at the center of yet another controversial call that was also reviewed by the officials. The verdict wasn't nearly as good for Smart who was whistled for a flagrant foul after getting his feet tangled up with Milwaukee's Giannis Antetokounmpo who was called for a non-shooting foul in the play with 4:46 to play. 

Antetokounmpo made one of two free throws and on the Bucks' ensuing possession, he was called for traveling.

Smart was unavailable to talk after the game in part because the aforementioned incident left an abrasion to his mouth and, because of the technical foul, a little lighter in the wallet as well.