OFFSEASON

Celtics survive another thriller with Knicks, 96-93

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Celtics survive another thriller with Knicks, 96-93

By A.Sherrod Blakely
CSNNE.com

BOSTON The look on Doc Rivers' face didn't tell the full story of what just happened.

It was a sullen look, the kind you expect to see after a gut-wrenching loss.

But that was not the case, as the Celtics once again squeaked by the New York Knicks, 96-93.

Kevin Garnett scored the go-ahead basket with 13.3 seconds to play, and came up with a steal with 4.1 seconds remaining.

Delonte West made a pair of free throws with 0.6 seconds to play to seal the victory.

Boston has a 2-0 series lead, with the series now shifting to New York for Games 3 and 4 on Friday and Sunday, respectively.

But if you went by the emotions and words spoken by both Rivers and his players, you would have thought the C's lost by 30.

"We're not happy with the win, but obviously you'll take any one you get in the playoffs," said Rajon Rondo.

Said Paul Pierce: "We shouldn't be satisfied with the way we played. We've got a lot of things to clean up, but hopefully we can play better when we get to New York."

As Rivers left the media room and made his way back to the Celtics locker room, it was clear he wasn't overly pleased with how Game 2 was played by the C's.

"I'm not down," Rivers said. "Listen, we still won the game. But I just know we have to be better."

Especially when it comes to defending Carmelo Anthony.

One of the league's top scorers, Anthony put on the kind of scoring clinic you seldom see in a regular season game, let alone a playoff matchup.

He led all scorers with 42 points and 17 rebounds, the kind of one-man scoring effort that usually results in a victory.

New York needed everything Anthony had to give, especially when you consider he was without two-thirds of the Knicks' Big Three for most of the night.

Amar'e Stoudemire only played 18 minutes, and did not play in the second half because of back spasms. And Chauncey Billups (left knee) did not play at all after suffering a left knee injury in the closing seconds of Boston's 87-85 Game 1 win.

Billups told CSNNE.com prior to Tuesday's game that he would have an MRI performed on Wednesday.

"Of course there's concern (about when he'll return)," Billups told CSNNE.com. "Tomorrow, hopefully I'll have a better idea of what's going on."

While Billups' status remains unclear, one thing we do know:

When Rondo goes into attack mode, there's very little a team can do to slow him down.

And when you factor in a team like the Knicks that plays little to no transition defense, it opens up a plethora of scoring options for Rondo.

Rather than play his usual role as set-up man, Rondo took on a starring role as Boston's primary scorer with a number of baskets coming in transition.

"I tried to expose them because I didn't think they did a great job getting back in transition," said Rondo who had a career playoff-high 30 points along with seven assists and four rebounds.

With Anthony carrying them for most of the game, the Knicks remained within striking distance and at various stretches in the second half, were leading.

And like every game between these two this season, it ultimately came down to which team did the better job of executing at both ends of the floor.

Score one for the Green team.

"They're good at it," Knicks coach Mike D'Antoni said, referring to Boston's play down the stretch. "They've been together for a while and they understand what they have. They've just got so many weapons and it's tough."

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

OFFSEASON

Celtics take two in international players in record breaking NBA Draft

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Celtics take two in international players in record breaking NBA Draft

BOSTON –  The Boston Celtics turned quite a few heads when they used two of their three, first-round picks on International players.

They were part of a record-setting night for international players, with 15 being selected in the first round – the most ever in NBA history.

But like many international draft picks, it is far from a given that you’ll see either of Boston’s international first rounder picks Guershon Yabusele and Ante Zizic who were selected with the 16th and 23rd picks, respectively.

While it’s not uncommon for teams to draft international players in the first round and do so with the plan being to keep them overseas for another year or two, the potential hold-up for Boston’s two international picks has more to do with coming to terms on a buyout amount with their current teams.

“We’ve had initial discussions with their representatives,” said Danny Ainge, Boston’s president of basketball operations, when I asked him about it during the team’s press conference to introduce the newest Celtics on Friday. “We have not concluded anything yet. We’re still in that discussion. And I’m not sure about summer (league).”

While it remains an option, a league source told CSNNE.com that it’s unlikely that either player will participate in either of Boston’s summer league squads which will play in Salt Lake City and Las Vegas.

Ainge agrees that there are a number of positives one can take from drafting an overseas player in the first round.

But the decision by Boston to draft Yabusele and Zizic in the first round had a lot to do with one thing – talent.

“The reason that these two guys are here, … is because they’re good players,” Ainge said. “The fact that they have people that want them on their teams on the International top level competition, tells you how good players they are. They could easily find jobs overseas at the top level. They’ve earned that reputation. They’re both very productive. Guerson very productive and Ante very good rebounding … now we’re trying to figure out the best way they can help us for their development. We’re working with their representatives on that plan.”

Yabusele, a 6-8, 275-pound power forward, averaged 11.5 points, 6.8 rebounds in 28.7 minutes with Rouen Metropole Basket in the LNB Pro A league in France. While appearing in 34 games last season, he grabbed 10 or more rebounds 11 times while tallying eight double-doubles.

Zizic, a 6-11, 250-pound center, distinguished himself as one of the better players in the Adriatic League this past season. He was voted by fans, media and coaches as the Adriatic League’s Top Prospect after averaging 12.7 points, 7.2 rebounds and 1.2 blocks per game in 24.8 minutes while shooting an impressive 60.7 percent from the field.

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.