OFFSEASON

Celtics blow huge lead, still beat T'Wolves, 85-82

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Celtics blow huge lead, still beat T'Wolves, 85-82

By A.Sherrod Blakely
CSNNE.com

MINNEAPOLIS Oh no, not again!

The Boston Celtics came out dominating the Minnesota Timberwolves.

Then the game got close.

After that, they found themselves in an nip-and-tuck battle with a team that won't even sniff the postseason.

Sound familiar?

Too many times lately, the Celtics have found themselves having a hard go at it against teams that, for most of this season, have been going nowhere.

Fortunately for the Celtics, that 25-point lead they built - and eventually lost in the fourth quarter - didn't go to waste completely, as the C's (51-21) managed to escape with an 85-82 win.

Paul Pierce led all Celtics with 23 points, 12 of which came in the fourth. Kevin Garnett had his 25th double-double of the season with 13 points and 13 rebounds.

Minnesota's Michael Beasley led all scorers with 28 points while Anthony Tolliver came of the Timberwolves bench and scored 16 points to go with a game-high 15 rebounds.

To open the game with such a dominate showing - Boston led by as many as 25 points in the first half - only to have to cling to dear life down the stretch, certainly proves that the Celtics still have a ways to go before they regain the form that led many to believe they were the best team in the East.

For now, they'll simply settle for a victory that snapped a two-game losing skid.

The C's tried their best to put on a brave face, doing all they could to give the look that everything was OK.

"Wins are great," said coach Doc Rivers.

Said Pierce: "It's good to play in close games. You realize in the playoffs, there's going to be a lot of close games. It's all about execution, being on the road."

But the more Pierce thought about the game and how the C's played, he soon delivered what we've come to expect from him - the Truth.

"We should have been more consistent throughout the game, could have been a double-digit win," he said. "But hey, we'll take it."

And that's what has to be disturbing about this team, right now.

Far too often, they seem complacent rather than overly competitive.

Rivers and his players chalk it up to the team just going through one of those funks that all teams, good and bad, go through during the season.

But their problems seem to be deeper than that, primarily because their problems don't seem to change from one game to the next.

In recent days, Rivers has used words like 'soft' and 'selfish' to describe his team's play at times.

Had they lost to the Timberwolves, which would have been a season-high third straight defeat, you could have added the word 'sad' to the list.

Although there's still time, Chicago (53-19) has the record and the game of late to claim the top spot in the East. And Miami (50-22) is finally figuring out how its three stars can co-exist and lead the team to victories over quality opponents.

Meanwhile, the Celtics are muddling their way to the regular-season finish line, producing the kind of results we saw a year ago.

But this team and their play should not be compared to last season's team, which advanced to the NBA Finals as a fourth seed.

A year ago, Rivers was limiting his core players to ensure that they were well-rested for the playoffs.

This season, the C's are simply losing games to bad teams.

And while Sunday's win is certainly a step in the right direction, the Celtics have to know that they have to step their game up significantly in the coming weeks if they are to have any shot at bringing home Banner 18.

A. Sherrod Blakely can be reached atsblakely@comcastsportsnet.com.Follow Sherrod on Twitter at http:twitter.comsherrodbcsn

OFFSEASON

If not this year for Durant-to-Celtics, then next?

If not this year for Durant-to-Celtics, then next?

BOSTON – The Celtics are considered long shots at landing Kevin Durant during free agency, which begins next week.

Still, if they come up short this summer, league sources tell CSNNE.com that the Celtics will be on a “watch list” of sorts by Durant’s camp when the former league MVP is expected to hit the free agent market once again in the summer of 2017.
 
The Vertical’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported that Durant will have teams meet with him in New York beginning next week. In addition to the Celtics, his current team Oklahoma City will sit down with him, as well as Golden State, the Los Angeles Clippers, Miami Heat and the San Antonio Spurs.
 
Durant can re-sign with the Thunder for as many as five years with the total value of his contract worth slightly more than $150 million.
 
However, by signing a one-year deal or a two-year pact with a player option for the second season, Durant would make a projected $25.9 million for the 2016-2017 season and can then hit the free agent market again in 2017 when the salary cap is expected to cross the nine-figure threshold.
 
And at that time, if he decides to stay with the Thunder, he can ink a five-year deal that, when combined with his salary in 2016-2017, would be more than $230 million over six years – that’s about $80 million more than he would get by re-signing a long-term deal with the Thunder now, and would more than double what he would make by signing a maximum-salaried four-year deal with another team.
 
That’s why it makes a lot of sense for him to sign a short-term deal now and better position himself for a bigger payday the following summer when his starting salary will likely be on the north side of $35 million.
 
For the Celtics, Durant going through free agency back-to-back years affords coach Brad Stevens and the Celtics one more opportunity to continue their ascension up the Eastern Conference standings while still being a team that’s clearly in need of adding at least one additional All-Star talent to play with Isaiah Thomas.

In his three seasons as the Celtics coach, Stevens has improved the team’s win total each season.
 
However, they have failed to win a playoff series after having been knocked out in the first round each of the past two seasons.
 
While Durant is the team’s No. 1 priority on the free agent market, the Celtics will quickly pivot their attentions to other highly-regarded players as well with Atlanta’s Al Horford being among their targets.

Depending on how quickly Durant’s free agency gets taken care of, the Celtics might be able to turn their attention towards potentially re-signing Evan Turner, who was sixth in the NBA’s Sixth Man of the Year voting last season.

OFFSEASON

Celtics' Isaiah Thomas continues recruitment of Durant with tweet

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Celtics' Isaiah Thomas continues recruitment of Durant with tweet

With the Celtics reportedly in the running in the Kevin Durant Derby, C's guard Isaiah Thomas is continuing his recruiting pitch with this playful tweet.

Thomas said in a radio interview earlier this week that the Celtics "definitely have a shot" at landing Durant and a few months ago, Thomas' essay in the Players Tribune is perhaps his best sales job of all.