Celtics pull off sweep, beat Knicks, 101-89

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Celtics pull off sweep, beat Knicks, 101-89

By A.Sherrod Blakely
CSNNE.com

NEW YORK For most of the night, the Boston Celtics made it look easy.

The defense was crisp and the offense had a Niagara Falls-like flow to it.

Boston even called off the search party for its bench, which had been missing in action throughout most of the first three games.

Then came some Celtics slippage, hot-shooting by the New York Knicks and just like that - new ballgame, folks.

But on this day, with so much at stake, the Celtics refused to let their lead-blowing tendencies get in the way of yet another milestone during the Big Three era.

When the game mattered most, the Celtics' defense was too good, Kevin Garnett was too hot and the Knicks were too overwhelmed by it all as the Celtics pulled away for a 101-89 victory Sunday at Madison Square Garden to complete the first playoff series sweep in the Big Three regime.

It was also the Celtics' first sweep in the playoffs since 1992 (vs. Indiana), and first in a best-of-seven series since 1986 (vs. Milwaukee)

Garnett, whose defense late in the first three games critical to Boston victories, was the Celtics' go-to guy when in the game's closing moments.

He led all Celtics with 26 points to go with 10 rebounds, and also scored six of Boston's final eight points.

"It was great to see that," said coach Doc Rivers. "Fourth-quarter scoring for him has been very good for us all year. He did that again tonight."

For most of the game, it didn't seem as though the C's would need any late-game heroics to send the Knicks home for the summer.

After trailing for the entire game in Friday's 113-96 Game 3 win, the Knicks weren't much better on Sunday. Their lead over the C's in Game 4 lasted less than two minutes - all in the first quarter.

Boston maintained a modest lead for most of the first quarter, but didn't really seize control until the second quarter with a strong showing by the Celtics' bench.

In a matter of minutes, Boston's six-point lead had blossomed into a 17-point margin by halftime.

Glen Davis, who came into Game 4 shooting 5-for-16 from the field and not really making much of an impact defensively or on the boards, was all over the floor on Sunday, delivering the kind of high-energy, hustle plays the Celtics are counting on him to provide.

He also came through with some much-needed baskets, scoring 14 points on 6-for-8 shooting to go with five rebounds.

But these are the Celtics.

And a game by the Green team wouldn't be complete without some stretch of lackluster play.

That was indeed the case in the third quarter, as Boston's lead - which peaked at 23 points - was trimmed all the way down to just four (84-80) following a 3-pointer by Anthony. (That's Anthony Carter, not Carmelo Anthony.)

After a Celtics timeout, lay-ups by Paul Pierce and Rajon Rondo had the C's back up by eight points.

The Knicks were never able to get any closer than that.

Rivers was pleased with the win, but would have preferred his team to close the game out in better fashion.

"We dropped the guard a little bit," Rivers said. "We came out and scored a little bit to start the third and we lost our edge and they had an edge."

But New York's edge wasn't nearly as sharp as it could have been, not with Amar'e Stoudemire limited because of a back injury and Chauncey Billups (left knee) unable to play in the last three games.

"It was tough," Knicks coach Mike D'Antoni said of Sunday's loss. "Boston is a good team, obviously. We just didn't get quite enough from a lot of people. We really played hard the whole series. I thought these guys played as hard as they could."

Now the Celtics' focus will shift to the next round, where they will likely face Miami. The Heat lead their series with Philadelphia, 3-1.

One thing is for sure.

The Celtics are starting to show signs of being the team we saw at the start of the season, and not the one that limped into the playoffs.

How do we know?

Because they're starting to make the game look easy.

"I love our team," Rivers said. "We do some things that are a little nuts, but they have a way to play together and they trust each other and as a coach, that's all you can ask for."

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

Phil Jackson: Knicks' biggest mistake was not trading for Jae Crowder in 2014

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Phil Jackson: Knicks' biggest mistake was not trading for Jae Crowder in 2014

Knicks president Phil Jackson’s biggest mistake? Taking the job in the first place?

Well, besides that. Jackson tells Today’s Fastbreak that it was not getting Jae Crowder when he had the chance.

Here’s Jackson quote, part of a long interview with Charley Rosen: 

"I think my biggest mistake was actually this…One of the first deals I engineered when I came back to New York was to trade Tyson Chandler and Raymond Felton to Dallas for Shane Larkin, Jose Calderon, Wayne Ellington, Samuel Dalembert, plus a second-round pick that the Mavs owed to the Celtics. In talking with Boston, I was given the option of taking that pick or else taking Jae Crowder. I liked Crowder but I thought he wouldn't get much of a chance to play behind Carmelo, so I took the pick, which turned out to be Cleanthony Early. While Cleanthony has missed lots of time in the past two seasons with us, he still has the potential to be a valuable player. Even so, I should have taken Crowder."

Jackson’s timeline is actually a little off. The Chandler and Felton to the Mavs deal was actually in June 2014. The Celtics, of course, acquired Crowder at the December 2014 trade deadline in the deal that sent Rajon Rondo to the Mavericks. Still, you get the point. Jackson covets Jae Crowder, who has proven to be a little more valuable than Cleanthony Early. And, in light of where NBA salaries have gone, the five-year, $35 million deal Crowder signed with the Celtics last offseason now seems like one of the biggest bargains in the NBA. 

 

 

Can Jerebko parlay playoff starts to a bigger role with Celtics?

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Can Jerebko parlay playoff starts to a bigger role with Celtics?

Every weekday until Sept. 7, we'll take a look at each player at the Celtics roster: Their strengths and their weaknesses, their ceiling and their floor. We continue today with Tyler Zeller. For a look at the other profiles, click here.

BOSTON – Considering all the different storylines that developed among the Celtics at the end of last season and this summer, it’s easy to forget that Jonas Jerebko was in the starting lineup.

With sporadic minutes in the regular season, Boston found itself trailing the Atlanta Hawks 2-0 in their best-of-seven playoff series.

So what did coach Brad Stevens do?

He shook up the starting lineup by inserting Jerebko. who helped Boston even up the series at two games apiece before the Hawks bounced back and ended the Celtics season after six games.

Those last four games against the Hawks – the only games Jerebko started all season - served as a reminder to many that the 29-year-old could still be an impact performer.

It was the kind of run to close out the season that Jerebko will certainly be focused on trying to build upon this season.

The ceiling for Jerebko: Starter

While he will likely begin the season as a reserve, Jerebko will certainly come into camp with a little more bounce in his step courtesy of a strong showing in the playoffs.

After averaging just 4.4 points and 3.7 rebounds in 15.1 minutes in the regular season a year ago, Jerebko became a major force in the playoffs for Boston.

In his first game as a starter, Jerebko had a double-double of 11 points and 12 rebounds as Boston won Game 3, 111-103.

He was even more impactful 48 hours later with another a second straight double-double (16 points, 10 rebounds) in yet another Celtics victory.

The Hawks made some adjustments in Games 5 and 6 to close out the series, but it wasn’t before Jerebko had put together the best postseason stretch of his career.

Compared to the regular season, Jerebko more than doubled his playing time in those final four games by averaging 31.3 minutes to go with 11.5 points and 7.8 rebounds.

Jerebko will be hard-pressed to return to that role at the start of this season.

Boston signed Al Horford to a four-year, $113 million contract, so you know he’s starting.

And Amir Johnson’s defense and ability to run the floor so effectively will likely result in him resuming a starting role, too.

That leaves Jerebko joining what looks to be a very talented and deep Celtics bench.

Even though he’s unlikely to start, Jerebko will get his share of opportunities to play.

At 6-foot-10, Jerebko has the size to play both power forward and center. And depending on the opposing team’s lineup, Jerebko has the potential play some small forward as well.

It was that versatility that made Stevens turn to Jerebko in the playoffs last season to replace Jared Sullinger, who signed with the Toronto Raptors in the offseason.

And while the idea of Jerebko as a starter seems a bit far-fetched at this point, he is yet another Celtics reserve who has proven himself to be ready to play and play well when given an opportunity to step on the floor regardless of what that role may be.

The floor for Jerebko: Seldom-used reserve

Despite a strong finish last season, Jerebko will once again have to fight and claw for any minutes on the floor. While the Celtics certainly were aided by his versatility, this season’s roster has a number of players who, like Jerebko, can play multiple positions at both ends of the floor.

NBA veteran Gerald Green is 6-8 and will play shooting guard and small forward. But depending on the lineup, it’s not a stretch to envision him playing some power forward. Ditto for rookie Jaylen Brown and starting small forward Jae Crowder sliding up one position.

Beginning the season on the rotation fringes is nothing new to Jerebko, whose role was very much up in the air when the Celtics traded Tayshaun Prince to Detroit prior to the 2015 trade deadline for Jerebko and Gigi Datome.

Gradually, Jerebko earned his minutes and proved he was indeed a valuable piece of what Stevens and the Celtics were trying to build here in Boston.

And now, with a season-plus of time with the Celtics under his belt, Jerebko finds himself once again being challenged to show that he’s more than just a body on the roster.

 

Report: Celtics renounce draft rights to 2013 pick Colton Iverson

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Report: Celtics renounce draft rights to 2013 pick Colton Iverson

By Dan Feldman, NBCSports.com Pro Basketball Talk

The Celtics bought the No. 53 pick in the 2013 NBA draft to get Colton Iverson out of Colorado State, and he thanked them by allowing them to keep his rights the last three years.

Iverson rejected the required tender – a one-year contract, surely unguaranteed at the minimum, teams must extend to retain exclusive negotiating rights to a second-round pick – year after year to sign overseas. Accepting the tender would’ve likely meant Iverson going to Boston’s training camp and getting waived. Perhaps, the timing of that would’ve limited his European options that year. But it would’ve made him an NBA free agent – or, best-case scenario, he could’ve made the Celtics and drawn an NBA paycheck.

As it was, Iverson limited himself to joining Boston and only Boston. If another NBA team wanted Iverson, it would have had to trade for him.

And what does Iverson get for that loyalty? A Celtics contract with at least a partial guarantee?

Nope.

Just a head start on finding another team – which he could’ve gotten for himself three years ago.

Adam Himmelsbach of The Boston Globe:

This is why second-round picks should be more aggressive about accepting the required tender. Even if you get waived, you open NBA options.

Iverson is a strong 7-foot center who plays with physicality. He can help in certain matchups, and he’d make sense as a third center on teams that have first- and second-stringers playing a different style.

But Iverson is 27, and his NBA window may be closing if it hasn’t already.

It’s a shame he spent so many years beholden to Boston, which didn’t want him.

It was probably just courtesy of the Celtics to renounce his rights now rather than have him sign the tender. They would have guaranteed him no money with the tender, and they could have gotten a few minor benefits with it – an extra body for training camp, the ability to assign his D-League rights to their affiliate after waiving him and the slightest chance he impresses enough in the preseason to hold trade value.

But them forgoing those potential advantages, even if out of courtesy, also sends a signal about how little they value him. Teams don’t do these types of favors for players they actually covet.