Celtics hang on, beat Bobcats, 102-95

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Celtics hang on, beat Bobcats, 102-95

CHARLOTTE, N.C. Grind it out. Make it ugly. Deliver the kind of basketball that if Dr. James Naismith were around now, he'd probably tweet about how unattractive the C's brand of basketball is and end his message with an 'smh' tag-out.

None of that matters to this team.

Boston is concerned about two things now - winning as many games as possible and finishing atop the Atlantic Division.

They took a major step on both of those fronts with Monday's 102-95 win over Charlotte.

The victory was the Celtics' fourth in their last five games.

Just as important, beating the Bobcats puts the C's (27-22) in a tie atop the Atlantic Division with idle Philadelphia.

On paper, this was a game that the Celtics should have won easily.

But with this team, this year, with all their injuries, there's no such thing as a gimme win - even if its against a Charlotte team that's currently on track to have the lowest winning percentage in NBA history.

Not surprisingly, the C's found themselves in a down-to-the-wire battle that should have never come to that.

A pair of free throws by former UConn star Kemba Walker cut Boston's lead to 93-89 with 2:41 to play. Kevin Garnett missed a short jumper in the lane, but Brandon Bass grabbed the rebound and was fouled with 2: 25 to play. He made both, making it a two-possession game.

The Bobcats continued to scrap, but a lay-up by Pierce with 1:47 to play and soon after a jumper by Kevin Garnett, put an end to Charlotte's last gasp at rallying for the win.

Although the game had a relatively close finish, Charlotte played from behind for all but a couple minutes in the first quarter.

Pierce was a big part of the Bobcats' struggles, leading all scorers with 34 points. His ability to get into the lane on driving lay-ups and when that didn't work, draw fouls, was instrumental in the Celtics getting what amounts to one of their biggest wins of the year.

Not because of the opponent, or the margin of victory, but the impact that the win has on their potential playoff seeding.

Finishing atop the Atlantic will guarantee the C's open the playoffs with home court advantage.

Short of that, Boston's likely looking at a sixth or seventh seeding - something they clearly want no part of.

In the first quarter, Boston played with the kind of defensive intensity and offensive balance that you would expect in a game of this magnitude.

After the Bobcats tied the game at 13, the Celtics closed out the quarter with a 20-2 run to lead, 33-15. It was the third time in the last four games that Boston racked up 30 or more points in the fourth quarter.

With a chance to get a share of first place in the Atlantic Division at stake, against the league's worst team, it was the kind of start you would expect.

But the Celtics, far too often their own biggest enemy, allowed the Bobcats to open the second quarter with a 10-0 run to make it a single digit game again.

Charlotte was back in the game, and had what you hate to give teams with horrific records - confidence.

The Bobcats continued to chip away at Boston's lead, with the C's going into the half clinging to a mere two-point lead.

After a disappointing second quarter, the Celtics knew they had to re-establish control in the third.

The C's did just that with a 9-2 run to open the quarter, which included four points from Paul Pierce.

His contributions during that spurt were consistent with his role as the team's catalyst of late.

After scoring 17 points at the half, Pierce had another 10 in the third quarter which were much-needed as the Celtics took an 82-75 lead into the fourth.

Pedroia (knee) out of lineup again after leaving game early Thursday

Pedroia (knee) out of lineup again after leaving game early Thursday

Dustin Pedroia is out of the lineup again tonight after leaving the Red Sox game Thursday night with knee pain in the fifth inning.

Josh Rutledge will start at second base as the Sox open a three-game series with the Seattle Mariners at Fenway Park.  

The weather and sloppy field conditions were a factor in John Farrell deciding to get Pedroia out of the game Thursday and conditions haven’t improved significantly Friday. 

Pedroia (.288, two homers, 21 RBI) had surgery on that knee in October. It's the same leg that was hurt when Manny Machado slid into Pedroia at second base in April, the slide that sparked the plunking war between the Orioles and Red Sox.

The full lineups: 

MARINERS
Jean Segura SS
Guillermo Heredia CF
Robinson Canó 2B
Nelson Cruz DH
Kyle Seager 3B
Danny Valencia 1B
Taylor Motter LF
Ben Gamel RF
Mike Zunino C

Yovanni Gallardo RHP

RED SOX
Mookie Betts RF
Andrew Benintendi LF
Xander Bogaerts SS
Hanley Ramirez DH
Mitch Moreland 1B
Josh Rutledge 2B
Jackie Bradley Jr CF
Christian Vazquez C
Deven Marrero 3B

Eduardo Rodriguez LHP


 

Source: Celtics offseason focus is an All-Star frontcourt addition

Source: Celtics offseason focus is an All-Star frontcourt addition

WALTHAM, Mass. – No matter how an NBA team’s season ends, change is inevitable.
 
And while there’s no doubt that the Celtics are on the right track in terms of their ascension in the NBA, it's too soon to tell how many players on the Celtics’ 15-man roster that Danny Ainge, the president of basketball operations, will bring back next season.

MORE CELTICS

 
“One thing I do know. He’ll make the best decisions for the team and if players don’t end up being back here, I wish the best for them,” said Avery Bradley.  “Those are my brothers. We all had a special year. I appreciate everything, all the time I had with them. I’d love for all those guys to be back. We’ll see.”
 
And with Boston coming off its first trip to the Eastern Conference finals since 2012, adding just any player won’t cut it.
 
The Celtics’ mindset now isn’t just to improve, but get good enough to where they can better compete with the likes of Cleveland, which just ended the Celtics’ season with a Game 5 thumping.
 
The most significant move made by the Celtics last offseason was the signing of Al Horford to a four-year, $113 million contract.
 
Like most of his Boston teammates this season, Horford is eager to see what changes are in store this summer.
 
“We just have to wait and see,” Horford said. “We had such a good year. A lot of positive things. It’ll be interesting to see what Danny, the organization feels is going to be the next step.”
 
Multiple league sources have told CSNNE.com in recent weeks that the Celtics are focused on landing an All-Star caliber talent in the frontcourt.
 
That makes sense when you consider how guard-dominant the Celtics were this season and how that had a negative impact on the team’s rebounding and, to a lesser degree, their defense as a whole.
 
Gordon Hayward has emerged as a target, but all indications – for now at least – point toward him returning to Utah.
 
The Celtics may pursue Los Angeles Clippers big man Blake Griffin. Although like Hayward, he too is expected to re-sign with his current team for a max contract (for Griffin that would be five years, $175 million).
 
While trades are certainly in the cards for Boston, at this point the Celtics seem more inclined to improve their overall talent base via the draft and free agency.
 
“It’s always a good thing when you have the opportunity to add value to your team and don’t have to change your team too much,” said Celtics’ reserve Gerald Green, who will be a free agent this summer. “I’m going to be very interested to see what they do as far as building a team. We’re in a good place right now as far as being where we want to be organization-wise. I feel like we’re one or two steps away from actually being at the Finals. I think Danny has some things to think about, but I’m sure he’s going to do the job. I’ve seen Danny go to work in these situations. He always makes the team better. I’m pretty sure he’s got something planned that, at the end of the day, is going to make this organization better.”
 
Indeed, the Celtics could very well strengthen their position for next season by simply locking up some of their core players who may hit the free agent market soon.
 
Boston may look to work out an extension with Isaiah Thomas before the start of this season. Because if he hits free agency in the summer of 2018, he will be poised to command a salary that in year one would be worth more than the entire four-year, $27 million deal he signed with Phoenix in 2014.
 
“Boston’s changed my career, changed my life,” Thomas said. “I would love to be here long-term and win championships here. But as you guys know, it’s a business and anything can happen. I know that and understand that. But I would love to be here. This has been everything to me. This city, this organization … it’s been good.”