OFFSEASON

Celtics find a way to beat Detroit, 86-82

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Celtics find a way to beat Detroit, 86-82

By A.Sherrod Blakely
CSNNE.com

BOSTON Despite their impressive record, the Boston Celtics (32-9) are not going to play great basketball every night.

That's OK.

The great teams don't have to.

On those nights when very little goes their way, the great teams find a way to get it done when it matters most.

The Boston Celtics are no exception.

For three-plus quarters, the resurgent Detroit Pistons seemed poised to beat Boston for the second time in three meetings this season.

But they made one critical mistake.

They allowed the C's to be within striking distance in the closing moments.

And the Celtics, like any great team, made them pay.

Boston's defense clamped down in the game's final minutes, finishing the game with an 8-0 run as they rallied for an 86-82 win to extend their winning streak to four in a row.

"Listen, nothing was working today," said Celtics coach Doc Rivers. "We were bad."

For three-plus quarters, at least.

But the C's refused to go completely away, and eventually took the lead on a long 2-pointer by Ray Allen that gave the C's an 84-82 lead with 24.5 seconds to play.

Detroit (15-27), winners of three in a row heading into Wednesday's game, was unable to respond.

After a Pistons time-out with 24.5 seconds to play, Rodney Stuckey's floater in the lane hit the back of the rim, and was rebounded by Kevin Garnett.

Garnett sank the second of the two free throws, giving Boston a 3-point lead with 16.6 seconds to play.

Following another time-out by Detroit, Pistons guard and former UConn star Ben Gordon drove into the lane but missed the lay-up.

Glen Davis grabbed his sixth rebound of the night and was immediately fouled.

Davis, who had 11 points off the bench, made the first of two free throws to secure the victory.

"They are an experienced team," said Pistons coach John Kuester, a former Celtics assistant. "They took their time, they were poised."

And it is that poise that was on display down the stretch, a time when the C's battle-tested veterans tend to play their best basketball.

That certainly was the case with Shaquille O'Neal, the oldest player in the league who seemed to have the most spring in his step in the fourth quarter.

He finished with his first double-double as a Celtic, tallying 12 points and 12 rebounds, which included a 3-point play in the fourth that tied the game at 76-76.

"The whole team was flat," O'Neal said. "It was a slow game, it was an ugly game. I just wanted to do my part and try to get us close so we would be able to win."

Said Rivers: "Shaq was the difference in the game, with his energy. Forget his size and all that. I thought Shaq was . . . he won the game for us tonight."

In addition to O'Neal's play, Boston also got another strong game from Paul Pierce who led all players with 22 points.

The C's can't explain why they collectively came out so flat, and never seemed to play with any kind of energy for most of the game.

But they found a way to win.

And when you're looking at an Eastern Conference race that'll likely be decided in the final days - not weeks - of the season, there's no such thing as a bad win.

"Every game is important for us to win, especially on our home court," Paul Pierce said. "All of these games, no matter who we're playing, are big. When you look at the standings, it's going to come down to the end of the year. We're playing for home court advantage throughout the playoffs, so all these games are big for us."

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

OFFSEASON

Celtics are anything but "a middle of the road team"

Celtics are anything but "a middle of the road team"

Charles Barkley said Friday that the Boston Celtics are a "middle of the road team in no man's land." Kevin O'Connor joined Greg Dickerson on Sports Tonight and explained just how foolish of a statement that is.

Make sure you watch the video above, but here are some of the key stats O'Connor mentions regarding the state of the Celtics.

Competitive teams rarely select at the top of the draft, but the Celtics have already done it before and could again in 2017 and 2018. Over the last 40 years, only 10 teams have won at least 45 games and used a top five pick in the draft. Here’s the list:

PLAYER TEAM WINS YEAR PICK
Greg Ballard Washington 48 1977 4
Mychal Thompson Portland 58 1978 1
Magic Johnson LA Lakers 47 1979 1
Kevin McHale Boston 61 1980 3
James Worthy LA Lakers 57 1982 1
Charles Barkley Philadelphia 52 1984 5
Sam Bowie Portland 48 1984 2
Len Bias Boston 67 1986 2
Darko Milicic Detroit 50 2003 2
Jaylen Brown Boston 48 2016 3

Two of those teams won a single championship (Washington and Detroit). Two became dynasties (Boston and the Lakers). Four of the players are Hall of Famers (Johnson, McHale, Worthy, Barkley). You’ll also find Jaylen Brown, who could be a cornerstone even if we don’t know it yet.

If they play their cards right and the Nets struggle as much as everyone expects them to, they’ll be right back in the conversation for another star next season. Due to their tremendous flexibility, that could happen through the draft, the trade market, or free agency.

For more on this topic, click here.

OFFSEASON

Carroll: Crowder doesn't understand what it takes to win in playoffs

Carroll: Crowder doesn't understand what it takes to win in playoffs

Celtics forward Jae Crowder recently said, “Toronto is not a team we’re worried about,” and Raptors forward DeMarre Carroll thinks that's a silly comment to make.

“It’s a comment from a person who hasn’t really been in the playoffs that much. That’s how I reacted to that type of comment. When you haven’t been on that level and you don’t understand what it takes to get to that level. Myself going to back-to-back Eastern Conference Finals, I understand what it takes,” Carroll said on SportsNet.ca. “It’s a comment from a guy who hasn’t been on that level, who hasn’t played on that level. It sounds like a young comment.”

The Raptors won 56 games last season and went all the way to the Eastern Conference Finals before falling in six games to the Cavaliers, so Carroll is right that he’s speaking from experience.

But you can understand the confidence Crowder has. After winning 48 games last season, the Celtics just landed Al Horford, and they have repeatedly said they’re not done making moves. So perhaps their roster will look even better on Opening Night than it does right now.

Carroll doesn’t care about that though.

“We’ll let Jae Crowder do all the talking,” Carroll said. “We’ll just fly under the radar and do what we’re supposed to do.”

The Celtics went 1-3 versus the Raptors last season. They better hope they perform better next season, or Carroll might be the one talking.

OFFSEASON

Report: Celtics 'won't give up much' for Okafor

Report: Celtics 'won't give up much' for Okafor

Just recently, CSNNE.com's A. Sherrod Blakely laid out a compelling case why the Celtics are far more likely to trade for Jahlil Okafor than make a blockbuster for Russell Westbrook or Blake Griffin.

But, apparently, they're not willing to give up a whole lot to get him.

According to Keith Pompay of the Philadelphia Inquirer, the Celtics have concerns about Okafor's off-court problems, including two incidents in Boston, and "will not give up much" to get him:

"[The Celtics] have concerns about his playing in the city after being involved in two street fights there in the early hours of Thanksgiving morning. Nor do they like the fact that the center saw a gun pointed at his head in Old City and that he was stopped for going 108 mph over the Ben Franklin Bridge."

Pompay reports the Sixers "are determined to receive equal value in any trade," which -- if the Celts actually are hesitant to bring Okafor on board -- would seem to make Okafor-to-Boston unlikely. Especially since, in the words of NBC's Pro Basketball Talk's Kurt Helin, "Okafor would fit with the Celtics -- the guy can score inside and rebound, valuable NBA skills -- but he’s not the game-changer they need. He’s okay. He’s not the answer."

Or perhaps the two sides using the media to lower/raise the price tag.

Stay tuned.