Celtics blown away by Miami, 100-77

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Celtics blown away by Miami, 100-77

By A.Sherrod Blakely
CSNNE.com

MIAMI A year ago this time, there were questions about the Boston Celtics' toughness, about their ability to lock in to opponents, about whether they had any Celtic pride left.

Well, here we are once again asking a lot of those same questions following a 100-77 drilling at the hands of the Miami Heat on Sunday.

The margin of defeat was the largest any Celtics team has endured this season, and it came in what was arguably the biggest game of the season.

Red flags, anyone?

Celtics Nation isn't the only one unsure of what to make of this team right now.

"Especially going into the playoffs," said a visibly dejected Paul Pierce, who had a team-high 24 points. "You expect a little more urgency, especially in the last week of the season. But we understand what it is. The hustle game, it's killing us."

Miami outscored Boston 18-3 in second-chance points. They rebounding margin was plus 16 for the Heat. Miami had a 12-3 advantage in fast-break points.

It was without question the most dominated the C's have been in a game this season.

"They just outplayed us," said Jermaine O'Neal, who had zero rebounds for the second straight game.

Of course, his struggles by no means should be considered an isolated issue.

As you look at the entire Celtics roster, all of them contributed to Sunday's slaughter.

And the lopsided nature of the game was surprising when you consider the Celtics opened the game with an 8-0 run that was soon extended to an 11-2 lead. But as the quarter wore on Boston found itself holding on for dear life, and it ended with the Celtics on top by a single point, 22-21.

"The first quarter, we were playing great," said coach Doc Rivers. "We got away from what we were doing. We got the lead and I thought we just stopped doing exactly what we were doing on offense; that stretch of turnovers gave them life and got them back in the game."

Said Pierce: "We went away from what we were doing best. At the end of the day, today was all about a great game - a grind game - and they won that war."

Normally, such games work in the Celtics' favor.

But as the playoffs loom around the corner, Boston is starting to come up short more often than not when facing the better teams in such gritty, grimy-type games.

And they're coming up short against teams like Chicago and Miami, the kind of teams they'll have to go through in order to bring Banner 18 back to Boston.

The Bulls loss, last Thursday night, wasn't all that big a shock. No one in the NBA has been playing better than the Bulls lately. And even if the Celtics had won, they would have still needed some help in order to unseat the Bulls for the top spot in the East.

But the Heat loss really hurts.

Boston (55-25) won the first three meetings against Miami this season, and began Sunday's game playing for the sweep.

But after the Heat closed out the first playing well, they just continued to pull ahead and eventually take over the game - and with it, the inside track for the second seed in the East.

Miami (56-24) must simply win its two remaining games - both on the road at Atlanta and Toronto, respectively - in order to finish at No. 2.

As for the Celtics (55-25), they find themselves limping into the playoffs for the second straight season.

While there are certainly some who will take solace in the fact that they did essentially the same thing last year and managed to get to the NBA Finals, players and coaches agree the hole they've dug for themselves this year is much deeper - and will be a lot more challenge to come out of.

"It's a different team," said Rajon Rondo. "Not the same. I don't compare it at all to last year, or the year we won it. Everything is different."

Rondo's right.

Everything is different.

So far, not for the better.

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

Celtics' team plane receives bomb threat

Celtics' team plane receives bomb threat

BOSTON -- There was a bomb threat to the Boston Celtics’ team plane to Oklahoma City on Saturday afternoon, but no one was injured.

The incident will be investigated by NBA security which will work in conjunction with the FBI on this matter which was one of several hoaxes called into airports across the country on Saturday.

News of the bomb threat was first known when Celtics forward Jae Crowder posted an Instagram photo showing players departing the plane with the caption, “BOMB THREAT ON US”.

Celtics officials declined to comment on the matter and instead referred all bomb threat-related questions to the league office.

Messages to the league office were not immediately returned.

Celtics' ball movement among NBA's best, with or without Thomas

Celtics' ball movement among NBA's best, with or without Thomas

BOSTON – When it comes to winning basketball, keep it moving – the ball that is – has become a staple of the Celtics this season. 
 
And lately they’ve had to do it without Isaiah Thomas, the team’s leading scorer at 26 points per game as well as their top assists guy (6.2) who will miss hish third game in a row Sunday in Oklahoma City because of a right groin injury.
 
The Celtics have split their first two games without Thomas, with the most recent being a 101-94 home loss to Toronto on Friday.
 
When it comes to this team and ball movement, fans are just as divided when it pertains to whether the Celtics move the ball better without the high-scoring Thomas in the lineup. 
 
Regardless of what fans think they know about this team and how they move the ball, the numbers paint a very clear picture that this team’s ball movement is among the best in the NBA, with or without Thomas in the lineup. 

And that will be important on Sunday against an Oklahoma City team that doesn’t rely on the ball swinging from one side of the floor to the other, nearly as much as the Celtics. 
 
The Thunder, led by MVP candidate Russell Westbrook, are dead-last in the NBA when it comes to passes made per game (267.1). 
 
Meanwhile, the Celtics are at the opposite end of the passing game spectrum, averaging 331.7 passes per game, which is second in the NBA (Philadelphia, 354.3).
 
And in the two games without Thomas, Boston has averaged 347.0 passes per game, which ranks second in the NBA in that period of time. 
 
In addition to missing his points and assists, the Celtics must also find ways to make plays in filling the void left by a player who has the ball in his hands a lot of the time. 
 
Thomas’ usage percentage (percentage of plays used by a player while he’s on the floor) of 32.9 percent ranks seventh in the NBA, ahead of notable stars such as San Antonio’s Kawhi Leonard (30.9 percent), Portland’s Damian Lillard (30.8 percent), New York’s Carmelo Anthony (29.5 percent), as well as Cleveland’s LeBron James (29 percent) and Golden State’s back-to-back NBA MVP Stephen Curry (28.2 percent).
 
So, considering how involved Thomas has been in the team’s offense, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that the numbers in terms of passing and ball movement are better without him than they are when he’s on the floor playing. 
 
What should be surprising is that the gap statistically without him, isn’t greater. 
 
Boston has been a top five team when it comes to assists this season, currently third in the league with 24.7 assists per game. In the past two games without Thomas, the Celtics’ assists numbers have risen to 26.5 per game, but that only ranks fifth in the league in that span.
 
When it comes to potential assists and secondary assists (a.k.a. the “hockey” assist), Boston’s numbers have improved slightly without Thomas as well, but in each category Boston is ranked second in the league. 
 
And that ranking is with, and without Thomas in the lineup. 
 
While it’s not clear if Thomas knows just how close the numbers in terms of ball movement are with and without him playing, he is acutely aware that there are some who believe they are a better team in terms of keeping the ball moving without him.
 
“I can’t control that,” Thomas told reporters on Friday. “At this point, I laugh about it. I know what I mean to my teammates. I know what I mean to this organization, to Brad Stevens.”