Tomorrow tells the story

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Tomorrow tells the story

You can't get wrapped up in yesterday when tomorrows all that matters.

I think I heard that once in an Oasis song. Or maybe it was Kanye. Or maybe it was whispered sweetly into Rachel McAdams' ear during some awful romantic comedy. Or maybe it was something Michael Caine said at the end of Mr. Destiny. Or maybe I just made it up.

OK, I made it up. But the words ring true on this absolutely beautiful and completely miserable Friday afternoon.

Lets face it: Yesterday was tough. Yesterday was impossible.

Yesterday was a reminder of how helpless the Celtics are, and the entire NBA is, when the best basketball player in the world plays like the best basketball player in the world. Its really that simple.

Yesterday was about LeBron James. Not the LeBron James hes become, but the LeBron he was supposed to be. The LeBron James that was not only admired, but almost universally loved by fans, players and coaches around this league. The LeBron James who was supposed to change basketball forever and for the better, before a big head, fragile psyche and a boat load of bad advice turned him into Alex Rodriguez in a tank top.

Today and if the Celtics fall short again tomorrow well talk about last night as a lost opportunity, but Im still not convinced that opportunity existed. I dont say that to let the Celtics off the hook, because lets be honest: That was a brutal effort. Considering who they are, where they were and what was on the line, last nights performance was an insult. Not to us, but to themselves. If last night was truly the last time we see the Big 3 together on the parquet, its a legitimate shame to have them go out like that with so much at stake and so little to show for it.

But regardless of how much better the Celtics should and could have played, they werent the story. It was LeBron. He was unstoppable. He was legendary.

But heres the thing about last night: It was last night.

And while LeBrons performance was powerful enough to keep us in awe up until tomorrows tip off, right now it means very little. It does nothing to alter his legacy or reputation, because unless he and the Heat can pull off not one, not two, but five more wins this season, the story on LeBron is staying put.

Instead, as great as it was, LeBrons transcendent performance is currently floating in limbo alongside the no-call on Rondo in overtime of Game 2, Wades missed three-pointer in overtime of Game 4, Pierces step back three and Rondos brilliant tip pass in Game 5. Right now, LeBrons 45-point outburst is merely one of a number of things that have led us to this point, the importance and historical significance of which will be entirely determined by the events of tomorrow night.

Tomorrow night.

Everything is tomorrow night. The results will affect the way we remember every aspect of these last six games, of the last two years of this rivalry, of the last five years of this historic era of Boston Celtics basketball. That may sound like hyperbole, but I promise you that it's not.

Can the Celtics do it?

Come on, thats a stupid question. Of course they can do it. If you dont believe the Celtics can go down to Miami, reverse the fortunes of Game 6 and shock the world one more time, then you're believing all wrong. You know nothing about this team, the resilience of champions, the level of grit, balls, fortitude and obscene levels of pride and skill that go into a Hall of Fame career, into making it this far in the first place. You dont know how much this team loves and cares about Doc Rivers, about each other, about their fans and about themselves. You didn't see the tears running down their faces in the moments after that Game 7 loss two years ago in LA. The feeling that they'd blown their last chance to separate themselves from the hordes of one-hit championship wonders and into another stratosphere of NBA history. As individuals, and more importantly, as a team.

Honestly, if you don't think the Celtics have a chance tomorrow then click off this page right now and never come back to this web site.

OK, I just talked to my editors. They want me to say you're always welcome back. But let me reiterate that you're missing the point: The Celtics can do this.

The question of "will they?" is obviously far more important, but unfortunately beyond our control. Anyone who tells you that they know what will happen tomorrow is lying. They're probably the same people who wrote the Celtics off after Game 2, who wrote the Heat off after Game 5, who spent the last two weeks mapping the Spurs' victory parade, and the last two days doing the same for OKC. The same people who repeatedly look ridiculous but are somehow the only ones who don't remember.

Sometimes you just don't know. Sometimes believing is all you've got.

Believing that tomorrow night, with everything EVERYTHING on the line, the best that these Celtics have to offer will once again be on display.

And hoping against all hope that the best of LeBron James is nowhere to be found.

Rich can be reached at rlevine@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Rich on Twitter at http:twitter.comrich_levine

Fast-break points aren't necessarily a good thing for Celtics

Fast-break points aren't necessarily a good thing for Celtics

BOSTON – Conventional NBA wisdom tells you that getting out to score in transition is a good thing, usually serving as easy points scored, which is what every team wants, right?
 
But bundles of transition points have been nothing but trouble for the Celtics this season.
 
They are coming off a game against the New York Knicks in which they scored 22 fast-break points, which was their second-best showing this season. But the final score, a 117-106 loss, wasn’t all that unusual from what has happened this season when their transition game has generated a decent amount of scoring.
 
Boston has a 2-6 record this season when they score 16 or more fast-break points. On the nights when Boston’s fast-break offense generates 10 or fewer points?
 
They’re 11-5.
 
While there are several possible reasons why this is, here’s what you have to remember.
 
The Celtics are a ball-movement, 3-point shooting team.
 
Often that means they’ll pass up potential shots in transition, to instead work the ball around from one side of the floor to the other, until they get what they deem is the best shot to take (usually it’s a lightly contested to wide open 3-pointer).
 
The Celtics average 329.6 passes per game, which ranks second in the NBA (Philadelphia, 354.8). Not surprisingly, that has led to them ranking among the league’s leaders in assists (24.9, third in the NBA).
 
And that has led to Boston being ranked among the top-3 in several other key passing statistics, such as secondary assists (7.1, 2nd in the NBA); potential assists (49.5, 2nd); and assists points created (60.8, 3rd);
 
Here are a few more stats to crunch on, courtesy of CSN Associate Producer Andy Levine.
 
PAINT BY NUMBERS: When the Celtics score 40 percent or less of their points in the paint, they are 19-5 this season. When Boston gets 40 percent or more of its points in the paint, they are just 7-11.
 
BROWN IN THE FOURTH: Jaylen Brown has been among the better rookies this season, especially in the fourth quarter. Among rookies who played in at least 20 games in the fourth quarter, Brown is second in fourth quarter shooting at 54.9 percent. With those same standards, he’s sixth in shooting 3’s in the fourth at 38.5 percent.
 
CROWDER BOUNCES BACK: The past four games has seemingly brought out the best in Crowder. In that span, he has averaged 18.5 points and 6.8 rebounds while shooting 57 percent from the field and 48 percent from 3-point range. Crowder’s 3-point shooting of late has elevated him to seventh in the league while connecting on 42.5 percent of his 3-point attempts (minimum 150 attempts).

OUCH! It has not been a smooth start for Evan Turner with his new team, the Portland Trail Blazers. This season, Turner’s plus/minus is -234, which is the fourth-worst plus/minus in the NBA.
 
 

Stevens: Bradley, Zeller, Jerebko out vs. Trail Blazers

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Stevens: Bradley, Zeller, Jerebko out vs. Trail Blazers

BOSTON – Before Brad Stevens addressed the media before the Celtics faced the Portland Trail Blazers on Saturday afternoon, he had to take a moment to make sure he wouldn’t forget anyone who wasn’t able to play.
 
Yeah, the list was a pretty long one.
 
Tyler Zeller, Demetrius Jackson and Jonas Jerebko will not play tonight due to sickness. And Avery Bradley (right Achilles strain) will also be out with a timetable that’s starting to feel like it’ll be longer than anyone would want.
 
“I don’t anticipate Avery this week at all,” Stevens said. “He still has some soreness. Obviously we’re concerned about the long-term impact of a sore Achilles; what it means on that foot but also what it means when you compensate off it. But he’ll be back when he’s ready but I think he’s still a little bit away.”
 
Bradley, the team’s top on-the-ball defender and No. 2 scorer this season at 17.7 points per game, will be out for the sixth time in the Celtics’ last seven games because of the Achilles injury.
 
Replacing him in the starting lineup will be Marcus Smart whose status for tonight’s game wasn’t a sure thing.
 
On the Celtics’ pregame notes package, Smart was listed as probable with a sore right ankle injury. I asked Stevens about Smart’s status a few minutes ago, and he said the 6-foot-4 Smart will play tonight.
 
In his 15 starts this season, Smart has averaged 10.9 points, 3.9 rebounds and 4.5 assists while shooting 38.4 percent from the field and 31.7 percent on 3's - all of which are better than what he produces when coming off the bench.