From Comcast SportsNetSYRACUSE, N.Y. (AP) -- Jim Boeheim called it just another number. The message board in the Carrier Dome didn't agree.Moments after his third-ranked Syracuse Orange held off Detroit for a 72-68 victory Monday night in the Gotham Classic, making Boeheim just the third Division I men's coach to reach 900 wins, Hall of Famer Dave Bing, Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski and Louisville's Rick Pitino offered congratulations on the big screens inside the Teflon dome as the hometown faithful cheered.Boeheim, 68 and in his 37th year at his alma mater, is 900-304 and joined an elite fraternity. Krzyzewski (936) and Bob Knight (902) are the only other men's Division I coaches to win that many games."To me, it's just a number," said Boeheim, whose first victory was against Harvard in 1976. "If I get 900, have I got to get more? That's why maybe it's just not that important to me because to me it's just a number, and the only number that matters is how this team does."So far, it's done OK.James Southerland had 22 points for Syracuse (10-0), which increased its home winning streak to 30 games, longest in the nation. Detroit (6-5), which lost 77-74 at St. John's in the second game of the season and 74-61 at Pitt earlier this month, had its four-game winning streak snapped.Bing, Boeheim's college roommate, teammate and fellow Hall of Famer, and Roosevelt Bouie, a star on Boeheim's first team in 1976-77, were in the Carrier Dome crowd of 17,902.Bing was standing tall in the locker room after the game."Nobody would have thought when we came here 50 years ago that either one of us would have had the kind of success we've had," said Bing, today the mayor of Detroit. "I'm so pleased and proud of him because he stuck with it. He's proven that he's one of the best coaches ever in college basketball, and he'll be No. 2 shortly."After a victory that nearly was short-circuited, Boeheim was presented a jersey encased in glass with 900 emblazoned on it."I'm happy. I've stayed around long enough. I was a little nervous," Boeheim said at center court. "I'm proud to be here. To win this game is more pressure than I've felt in a long time. I wasn't thinking about losing until the end. That wouldn't have been a good thing to happen, but it very well could have."Indeed.Midway through the second half with Syracuse dominating, fans were given placards featuring cardboard cutouts of Boeheim's face with 900 wins printed on the back to wave in celebration. But when the public address announcer in the Carrier Dome invited fans to stick around for the postgame ceremony, the Titans roared back.Juwan Howard Jr., who finished with 18 points, scored 14 over the last 6 minutes to key a 16-0 run, his two free throws pulling Detroit within 67-63 with 55.1 seconds left after the Titans had trailed by 20 with 6:09 to play."You know what, I didn't hear it, but the players probably heard because they sure came alive," Detroit coach Ray McCallum said. "This is a big stage. Guys sitting around the hotel watching television getting ready to play the No. 3 team in the country and they're talking about going for 900 wins, coach Boeheim. That's a lot for a young man to digest."Michael Carter-Williams hit three of four free throws in the final seconds to secure the win."Michael made big-time free throws you've got to make. If he misses a couple, it's a new game. That was the difference," Boeheim said. "We have not been in that situation. Hopefully, we'll learn from that."Carter-Williams finished with 10 assists and 12 points, his sixth straight double-double."It was great to be part of this," Carter-Williams said. "It's a part of history."Doug Anderson scored 18 points and Nick Minnerath had 13 for Detroit. Ray McCallum Jr., the coach's son and Detroit's leading scorer at 19.4 points per game, finished with nine, while Jason Calliste had seven.Southerland scored a career-high 35 points, matching a school record with nine 3-pointers, in a win at Arkansas in late November and, after an 0-for-10 slump over three games, found his range again Saturday night with three 3s in a win over Canisius. He finished 5 of 8 from behind the arc against the Titans.One of the keys to breaking Syracuse's 2-3 zone is hitting the long ball, and Detroit struck out in the first half. The Titans were 0 for 10 and the lone 3 they did make -- by McCallum with just over 6 minutes left -- was negated by a shot-clock violation.Detroit could only lament what might have been if a couple had gone in."We never gave up. That's a tribute to our team," Howard said. "We had the right attitude. We played a tough opponent. You usually don't want a moral victory, but we can take some positives from this game."Syracuse plays again Saturday against Temple in Madison Square Garden, and the Orange faithful are likely to be out in numbers as they usually are when the team plays there.Boeheim was effusive in praise of the support the team has received during his long tenure. Syracuse has had 71 crowds of over 30,000 since the Carrier Dome opened in 1980 and holds the NCAA on-campus record of 34,616, set nearly three years ago against Villanova."The support of fans cannot be overestimated," he said. "You have to have that kind of support in your building to bring recruits in, to help you play better. We've had a tremendous loyal fan base. That's why I always felt this was a great place to coach and why I never really thought about going anywhere else. The support from the fans is the No. 1 thing you have to have."
CLEVELAND – For about 30 or so seconds following Boston’s 111-108 Game 3 win over Cleveland, Al Horford was not Al Horford.
He’s a passionate player, but seldom is it on display in as outwardly a fashion as it was following their Game 3 victory.
In an interview with CSN’s Abby Chin after the game, Horford tried to put into words what the victory meant.
But the aggressive high-fives to teammates passing him by, the intense way he looked into the camera … that spoke volumes about what this game meant to the veteran big man.
“It’s big, it’s big!” Horford said in between high-fives with Jonas Jerebko and other Celtics who came past him.
“A lot of people doubting us out there!” Horford said, staring intently into the camera as if he was saying, ‘yeah, I’m talking about you!’”
Less than 24 hours after the game, Horford’s emotions had cooled down considerably.
“It was an emotional game,” he told CSN following a short practice at the Q Arena on Monday. “Just, having to hear … since the blowout, everybody counting us out. Everybody really believing that it was over.”
The Celtics came into Game 3 having lost both Games 1 and 2 at home by a combined 57 points which includes the worst playoff loss (Game 2, 130-86) in franchise history.
So with that as the backdrop, knowing full well that no one outside of their locker room gave them an ice cube in hell’s chance at winning Game 3, the victory brought about a level of satisfaction that Celtics players had seldom experienced before if at all.
“The emotions at that time were high for our group,” Horford admitted. “And it shows what we’ve been talking about all year, a resilient group that has a lot of fight in them. We were hit with some adversity with Isaiah being down but our group responded.”
Thomas re-aggravated a right hip injury in Game 2, and was later ruled out for the rest of the playoffs.
After falling behind 77-56 in the third quarter, the Celtics closed out the third with a 26-10 run to come within 87-82 going into the fourth quarter. During the run, Marcus Smart had 11 points which turned out to be equal to LeBron James’ scoring output … for the entire game.
This is Horford's 10th NBA season, all of which have included a trip to the postseason.
That, combined with having won a pair of national championships when he played at the University of Florida, serves as a reminder that the 30-year-old has been on the winning ledger of big games before.
But even he acknowledged Sunday’s Game 3 win was … different.
“I have had plenty of moments like this,” Horford said. “But this was definitely emotional. This was very emotional, exciting, on the road, no one really giving us any chance. To be able to come through like that, it just felt great. I’ve been part of emotional wins, but this one was a special one.”
That was evident in Horford’s energy-charged, post-game comments.
“Heart! Heart! This team got heart!” he yelled. “We got beat bad (in Game 2), but it’s all about how you rebound!”
And we get that message, loud and clear!
CLEVELAND – Gone but definitely not forgotten.
Isaiah Thomas, out for the rest of the playoffs with a right hip injury, wasn’t in the Q Arena physically, but his presence – and his face via FaceTime – were inside the locker room in the initial moments following their 111-108 Game 3 win over Cleveland.
“We called him right after the game,” said Boston’s Avery Bradley. “He got to celebrate with us a little bit. It’s sad that he’s not here. We wish he was here with us. We just want him to get better.”
Celtics head coach Brad Stevens added, “I didn’t even realize that had happened until later on. one of my first text messages was from Isaiah. He’s hurting not being out there but he’s completely invested, for sure.”
He initially suffered the injury on March 15 at Minnesota, but re-aggravated it in the first half of Boston’s Game 2 loss to the Cavs. Less than 24 hours later, Thomas was deemed out for the remainder of the playoffs.
Instead of Thomas being the rock of sorts that the Celtics lean on with his play, he has become their rallying cry for the remainder of the playoffs.
“All we can do is play hard for him,” Bradley said. “He was excited with the way we played. We’re a family. Other guys got an opportunity to step up for us. Marcus (Smart) had a big game for us. It could be somebody else next game.”
Smart led the Celtics with a career-high 27 points which included a career-best seven 3’s going down.
And most important, the Celtics avoided going down 3-0 which would have all but sealed their fate in this series considering no team in league history has ever come back for a 3-0 series deficit.
Doing so without Thomas, the Celtics’ leading scorer and the top regular season scorer in the Eastern Conference, made the win all that more impressive for Boston.
“It meant a lot,” Horford said. “We know, Isaiah gives us so much and gave us so much this year. For him, we definitely wanted to come out and fight for him and our season and our team. It felt good to keep believing despite being down big. Just felt good to win the game and bring life back to our locker room. Because going down 3-0, that’s a death sentence pretty much. This was big.”
Not only to the Celtics players but also to Thomas who also texted head coach Brad Stevens full of excitement following Boston’s surprising win.
“He was excited,” Horford recalled. “He was ecstatic. I know he wishes he was here being part of it. We just need to keep doing it for him and our group and doing the best we can.”