Celtics to face lots of desperate foes


Celtics to face lots of desperate foes

By JessicaCamerato

BOSTON -- Ray Allen still had a bandage above his eye two days after catching an elbow against the New York Knicks. It wasnt the first blow hes taken this season, and with the playoffs just a month away, he doesnt expect it will be the last.

Its getting down to crunch time in the NBA. Teams around the league are amping up for the postseason - leaving it all on the court and playing each game like its their last, knowing if they dont get it done, they could be packing up in April.

As the Celtics (50-20) battle for home court in the Eastern Conference, they will face a lineup of competitors fighting to stay on top - or stay in it altogether.

What I dont want to do is just make a mistake and take that mindset, like that team is not as good as we are, Allen said. Never, because for any level of sport, for any sport, youve got to respect your opponent by doing your job every single night. And I think thats where you end up losing games because you dont measure up to the competition and play them the way they should be played.

Take Wednesdays loss to the Rudy Gay-less Memphis Grizzlies as an example. The Grizzlies needed a win to maintain a two-game lead over the Houston Rockets for the final spot in the West. They got the victory and moved within half a game of the New Orleans Hornets for the seventh seed.

The Celtics, on the other hand, fell one game behind the Chicago Bulls in conference standings.

Every game means a lot to us right now, Glen Davis said after the upset. Were trying to get as many wins as possible to finish out the year strong. We want to achieve one of our goals and thats winning the Eastern Conference and having home-court advantage. Right now, were losing games and were losing time. So weve got to get it together as soon as possible.

The Celtics have 12 games left in the regular season, and the majority of their remaining opponents will be fighting for playoff seeding just like the Cs.
March 25 vs. Charlotte Bobcats
The Bobcats (28-42) have lost 8 of their last 10 games, dropping three games out of the eighth seed in the East. They will be desperate for a win in Boston on Friday.

March 27 at Indiana Pacers
The Pacers (32-40) are currently clinging to a three-game lead over the final spot in the Eastern Conference. Each contest could make a difference between the postseason and end of the season for this inconsistent team.

March 31 at San Antonio Spurs
The Spurs (57-14) sit atop the Western Conference, six games ahead of the Los Angeles Lakers. Home-court advantage is critical for the Spurs, and this veteran club won't let up against a team like the Celtics.

April 1 at Atlanta Hawks
The Hawks (40-32) have been plummeting, dropping seven of their last 10 games. They are in risk of losing their fifth seed to the Philadelphia 76ers, who are gaining ground, making this April game critical for their postseason ranking.

April 5 vs. Philadelphia 76ers
The 76ers (37-34) have been one of the hottest teams in the second half. They are inching their way up the Eastern Conference standings, and have already proven they can beat the Celtics this season.
April 7 at Chicago Bulls
The Bulls (51-19) currently have a one-game lead over the Celtics for first place in the East. After going 9-1 in their last 10 contests, they are challenging the Cs for the highly coveted home-court advantage.

April 10 at Miami Heat
The Heat (49-22) have won three straight to pull within 1 12 games of the Celtics. While they are currently ranked third in the East, expect LeBron James and Dwyane Wade to attempt a last-minute push to improve their position in the standings.

April 13 vs. New York Knicks
Theres no doubt the Knicks (35-36) will have Mondays collapse against the Celtics on their minds when they meet for the final game of the regular season. This is a potential first round match up, and neither team will go easy on the other.

Jessica Camerato is on Twitter athttp:twitter.comjcameratoNBA

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.”

Isaiah Thomas won't make trip to Oklahoma City for Sunday game

Isaiah Thomas won't make trip to Oklahoma City for Sunday game

BOSTON – Facing Oklahoma City Thunder star Russell Westbrook with a fully healthy squad is tough. 
Doing so without your leading scorer makes the challenge all that much greater. 
That is where the Celtics find themselves heading into Sunday night’s game against the Thunder without Isaiah Thomas, who did not travel with the team when they left for Oklahoma City today. 
Boston’s leading scorer this season with 26 points per game, Thomas suffered a right groin injury against Houston on Dec. 5 and has missed the Celtics’ past two games because of it. 
He was hoping to convince Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge to let him travel with the team, but Thomas acknowledged convincing Ainge was a long shot. 
“He’s not really in favor of me going,” Thomas told reporters on Friday. “I’m trying to convince them to let me go. If I’m there, they know I’m going to try and play. I’m shooting for Wednesday [at San Antonio] for the most part. That’s more realistic than Sunday. Hopefully I can play on Wednesday.”
Boston has split the two games with Thomas out, beating the you-know-what out of Orlando 117-87 on the road, but dropping one at home 101-94 to Toronto on Friday night. 
As disappointed as Thomas is with not being able to play – it’s the first games he has missed since the 2014-2015 season – he understands the potential problems that could surface with an injury like this if he and the Celtics aren’t careful. 
“They keep wanting to be very patient with this,” Thomas said. “They don’t want to re-injure it. It is an injury that can get re-injured and be a problem the rest of the season. I don’t want that. On top of that, it gives me time to heal all the other injuries I have.”
Among the other injuries Thomas was referring to, is a still-swollen finger on his left (shooting) hand. 
The injury was believed to have happened on Nov. 12 against Indiana. 
While it was painfully sore, it didn’t seem to be an issue in Boston’s next game against New Orleans when he scored a season-high 37 points. He followed that up with a 30-point performance in a 90-83 win over Dallas.