4/15/2015: Game 82

Boston 105 Milwaukee 100

What a way to end the season. The Cs now head into the playoffs winners of six in a row, with a record of 24-12 in their last 36.

Both the Cs and Bucks had outlandish Assist numbers: Boston had 37 and Milwaukee tallied 35. Surprisingly, Phil Pressey led the team off the bench with 7, while Marcus and E.T. each had 6.

Being the final game of the season, Brad told reporters yesterday that he would go deep into the bench. Not deep enough to give Chris Babb any floor time, but my man James Young played 24 Minutes. He finished with 9 Points on 3/7 Shooting. Zeller, Bass and Turner didn’t surpass 20 Minutes, while the guy who was out there the longest (Sullinger) only played 28.

Gigi Datome led all scorers (yeah, that’s right) with 22 Points on a sharp 9/15 clip. He was flanked by the trio of bench bigs, Kelly (16), Jonas (16) and Sully (11). Sully’s biggest contribution, though, was his uncharacteristic 3 Blocks, surely a welcome sign heading into the postseason.

I could delve deeper into this game, but I’m not going to. The best players for both teams hardly played, and there was nothing at stake for either squad.

At this time last year, the Celtics ended their season 25-57, with dark clouds hanging all around. It was hard to be optimistic at the start of this season, and when Avery Bradley steadfastly declared playoffs as the goal for the team, it seemed implausible.

We’ve witnessed a dramatic change in culture amongst the Boston Celtics. Brad has everyone drinking his Kool-Aid, and any lingering pessimism from last season got checked at the door. The Celtics are well ahead in their rebuild, and now they’re headed to the playoffs with a chip on their shoulder. Hardly anyone expects them to get past Cleveland, but they’re confident.

Regardless of what happens next, it feels great knowing that 14 teams’ seasons are over, and the Cs aren’t one of them.

Game 1 on Sunday.

Homer Johnsen is a freelance writer and Chairman of the Boston Celtics’ Department of Excellence. He has been working overtime since February. His Celtics reactions and Certificate in Excellence Training are accessible right here on HeresTheDealLikeShaquille.

4/14/2015: Game 81

Boston 95 Toronto 93

The Raptors came into this one without Demar Derozan, and at the start of the 3rd Quarter, Avery was ruled out for the remainder of the game with a bruised a quad. Eye for an eye.

Toronto led for much of the first half, and was up 53-47 at halftime. In the 3rd and 4th, the Cs came alive. The game’s waning minutes featured made shots and quick counters by both teams. On two key Raptors possessions, Kyle Lowry went right to the hoop for easy-looking layups.

Then, with 3.5 seconds remaining and the game tied, Brad drew up a play for an unlikely hero:

E.T. then blocked Lowry’s game-winning three-point attempt as time expired.

I couldn’t help but shake my head and hold my hands up in exasperation. Up until that shot, Crowder was 3/8 with 7 Points, 4 Rebounds and 2 Steals. His D had been the only thing going for him, yet Brad still decided to entrust him with the final shot.

Overall, this was a blue collar, grind-it-out game. The Cs shot 38.4% on the night and 22.2% from distance. They had fewer Turnovers than the Raptors (14 – 18), but Toronto played superior defense. It was a playoff atmosphere, and all 48 minutes were needed to decide a winner.

There have been more than a few victories just like this one for Boston, including the big layup by Smart against Toronto in their last meeting.

This Celtics team is playing quite similarly to Brad Stevens’ Butler teams that pulled out so many clutch wins in NCAA Tournaments past. The core, plus Brad’s killer instincts have really impacted the Cs’ approach game-by-game.

The Celtics are now locked in as the 7th seed and will face LeBron and Cleveland. Let’s be honest, the cards aren’t exactly stacked in their favor, but if the Cs have proven anything, it’s that they’re resilient and they’re fighters. They refuse to roll over. Beating Cleveland in a 7-game series is extremely difficult, but by no means impossible. Just ask Brad.

How fitting that the Cs’ season ends with a back-to-back. The regular season finale takes place Wednesday night in Milwaukee.

Homer Johnsen is a freelance writer and Administrative Floater for the Boston Celtics. He does a number of jobs, including coffee runs, equipment cleaning, and data organizing. His Celtics reactions and full job description can be found right here on HeresTheDealLikeShaquille.

4/12/2015: Game 80

Boston 117 Cleveland 78

First things first, the Cs are in the playoffs! Brooklyn was just defeated by Chicago, which means Boston is a now a virtual lock. Seeding is the only uncertainty with two games left in the season.

As for the game, Cleveland rested LeBron, Love and J.R. Smith, while Kyrie is still nursing his hip. But a win is a win. Most everyone affiliated with the Cs felt good going into this one, though I doubt anyone expected a 39-Point thrashing.

This one was won on the defensive end. Boston tallied 20 Steals, one shy of a franchise record. Marcus and E.T. each had 4 Steals, and Brad singled out Marcus in particular for his “phenomenal” effort. The Cavs also committed 24 Turnovers, good for 36 Points-Off-of-Turnovers for the Cs.

Seven players scored in double-figures:

  • Isaiah: (17)
  • E.T.: (15)
  • Avery: (12)
  • Sully: (11)
  • Kelly: (10)
  • Jerebko: (10)
  • Zeller: (10)

Sully was an efficient 4/7 in 17 Minutes. Kelly was 4/5 with 7 Rebounds. E.T. filled the statsheet, with 7 Assists and 5 Rebounds. The Cs shot 54.8% from the field and 41.7% from distance. They also had 29 Assists. The defense was the resonating component of the victory, but the offense was equally strong.

After a down year and many pundits projecting only 30 victories, the Cs are back in the postseason and could tally as many as 40 wins by Wednesday.

Everyone deserves credit for this remarkable turnaround: E.T. came to town on a bargain deal, and is exceeding expectations. Isaiah arrived in the waning seconds of the trade deadline and has won Eastern Conference Player of the Week twice. Kelly and Avery took the next steps they were supposed to make. Jae, initially nothing more than trade filler, made a strong first impression. As a rookie, Smart has been one of the best defenders in the league. Everyone has contributed their own personal strengths for the betterment of the team.

But most importantly, Brad is team MVP. His calm, poised demeanor, incredible basketball I.Q. and leadership skills have enabled Boston’s success this season. I firmly believe that no other coach in the league could have achieved production like this from the players on the roster. He absolutely deserves serious consideration for Coach of the Year.

Raise a glass to the Cs on a job well done. The season isn’t over, but they can rest easy knowing more action awaits after Wednesday.

For now, though, Toronto on Tuesday.

Homer Johnsen is a freelance writer and Chief Organizer of the Brad Stevens for President Super PAC. His Celtics reactions and list of Stevens’ political positions can be found right here on HeresTheDealLikeShaquille. 

4/10/2015: Game 79

Boston 99 Cleveland 90

Yes, you’re reading that score correctly. Thanks to a hip injury, Kyrie did not play, and both LeBron and Kevin Love sat the entire 4th Quarter. But a win is a win, especially when it comes against Cleveland.

This victory was strictly a defensive one. The Cs finished with 11 Steals, and Cleveland had 20 Turnovers to boot. Boston was a respectable 45.2% (38/84) shooting it, and five players finished in double-figures: Marcus (19), Isaiah (17), Avery (15), Tyler (13) and Bass (12). Isaiah’s little streak of 20-Point games came to an end as he was only 4/12 on the night. Marcus, meanwhile, was a razor sharp 7/10.

My favorite stat of the night, though, was this: Brandon Bass, who oft-guarded LeBron, finished with a team-high 3 Steals. Uncharacteristic D from the big fella.

The last time the Cs played in Cleveland, they got blown out from the get-go. Brad had no problem ripping the team for their lack of effort and confidence.

This one was completely different. Through three quarters, Boston was the better team and responded whenever Cleveland hit back. Now, with the Cavs prepping for a title run, coach David Blatt was arguably in the right to sit his two key cogs in the 4th. In any event, the Cs were the better team even while LeBron was playing.

It remains to be seen what Blatt will do with the players on Sunday when they venture east to Boston. The Cs will be looking for the win regardless, but they may be at an advantage if the Cavs opt to rest their starters again.

Three games remain in the 2014-15 regular season, and the Celtics have shattered everyone’s expectations. They can cement the buzz with another win on Sunday, as they inch closer and closer to a playoff lock in the Eastern Conference.

Cavs part deux on Sunday.

Homer Johnsen is a freelance writer and team sneaker buyer for the Boston Celtics. His Celtics reactions and list of players’ sneaker habits/preferences can be found right here on HeresTheDealLikeShaquille. 

4/8/2015: Game 78

Boston 113 Detroit 103

Cold open:

Don’t get it twisted. This was a team win, but Isaiah came out roaring and had himself a monster night with 34 Points, 6 Assists, and 3 Rebounds in 30 Minutes off the bench. He was 10/17, including 4/8 from distance and 10/11 and the line.

I love Van Gundy’s answers in his interview before the 4th quarter; the perfect mix of frustration and shock. When his shots are falling, Isaiah looks like a premier PG in this league. Reggie Jackson has been playing very well as of late, and he had 21 Points and 15 Assists, but he couldn’t keep up with I.T.

Isaiah was an insane +35 on the night, but Jae was no slouch either (+23). He had 17 Points, 6 Rebounds, 3 Assists and 2 Steals in 30 Minutes.

The offensive efficiency from the starting unit– or lack thereof- is troublesome, but there is a better way to look at it: Marcus and Avery in the backcourt is defensively imposing for other teams. Each of them had 2 Steals, and even though Turner, Zeller and Bass aren’t exactly known to be stellar defenders, they all held their own. And at the same token, Jae isn’t going to shoot the lights out every night, but he’s gotten double-figures in six of the last ten. Of course, we all know what Isaiah can do. As such, the balance between the starting D and the bench O has proven effective.

Detroit has a very nice duo upfront between Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond. And like Reggie Jackson, both went off against the Cs. Boston lacks quality interior depth in general, but Bass, Zeller, Jerebko, Kelly and Sully were sufficient. The Cs blew a couple big leads, but never let things fall apart.

At 36-42, Boston and Brooklyn are tied for the 7 and 8 seeds, with Indiana and Miami close behind. It’s going to be a wild finish.

These last four won’t be easy though. Boston’s next two are against Cleveland in what could be a possible playoff preview.

First match on Friday.

Homer Johnsen is a freelance writer and liquid chemist for the Boston Celtics. He provides players with his own hydrating sports drink, brewed in the team lab in Waltham, Massachusetts. His Celtics reactions and hydration restoration tips are available right here on HeresTheDealLikeShaquille. 

4/4/2015: Game 77

With the clock ticking down, Marcus Smart nailed a contested catch-and-shoot corner three to put the Cs up by two with a Toronto possession left in OT.

The Raps made the most of it. Lou Williams hit a three, and once again the Raptors had the lead. This time only by one.

There were 2.5 seconds left when Brad drew up his inbound-play from halfcourt. E.T. dropped it in to Isaiah who sprinted to the basket with reckless abandon. Lou defended the drive well enough to force Isaiah into an awkward release, and the shot never had a chance.

Yet there was Smart who caught the ball and layed it in as the buzzer sounded.

Game.

This season, Smart has had a few coming out parties; the Wizards game on the road comes to mind in particular. But this one is bigger. It came in Toronto, the division leader and playoff-bound 4th seed, and displayed his guts not once, but twice, all in the span of thirty seconds. He finished with a glossy statline: 15 Points (6/9), 4 Assists, 4 Rebounds, 2 Steals and a Block.

Smart’s heroics aside, the Cs played a great game. They lost a nice lead in the 4th, but they came away victorious in OT, which is all that matters. Isaiah had another nice outing, this time with 25 Points on 10/19. Kelly, the Native Son for the evening, dropped 16 on 5/10 (2/5 from distance). E.T. had 18 Points, 10 Assists, 6 Rebounds and 3 Steals.

Easily the biggest– and quietest– contributor was Zeller, who registered 20 Points (8/10), 9 Rebounds and 3 Assists in 25 Minutes.

Also exciting was the second Sully sighting, this time on 12 Minutes of floor time. He finished with 7 Rebounds, 2 Steals and a Block. He was 0/3.

As it currently stands, the Cs occupy the 8th spot, up one on both Indiana and Miami. Brooklyn maintains the 7th seed, half a game up on Boston.

A clutch win, the continued reintegration of Sully, the big night for Marcus, the consistency from Isaiah, the genius of Brad. It’s all happening at the perfect time. The Cs have the Pistons next before taking on Cleveland twice. If they don’t make the playoffs, those two against the Cavs will be the most exciting part of the season’s end.

I’ve tried to articulate it a million times, so what the hell, I’ll try it again. I’d love to see Boston get into the playoffs, but I’m realistic about their chances, which is why I won’t get too bent out of shape if they miss out. What’s most important is that right now, every possible good thing is happening (knock on wood). And getting to play the Cavs back-to-back is the perfect way to highlight their strengths and weaknesses. I couldn’t give you anything concrete, but Danny and Brad are going to walk away from those games with a lot of new, valuable information on where to turn next in this rebuild.

Cs fans are excited. For now, it’s one game at a time.

Detroit on Wednesday.

Homer Johnsen is a freelance writer and Team Socialite for the Boston Celtics. He runs his own private dating service for the players on a strictly pro bono basis. His Celtics reactions and dating expose “The Passion of the Game” are accessible right here on HeresTheDealLikeShaquille.

4/3/2015: Game 76

Milwaukee 110 Boston 101

After the game, Jason Kidd credited the Bucks’ defense and pace as to why they walked away victorious. And he was exactly right. Milwaukee registered 10 Steals and 6 Blocks, and they beat Boston 31-19 in the Assist category. Boston attempted more shots, but the Bucks made more in fewer attempts.

This would have been a good W for the Cs. They entered halftime up by two points. In the third quarter, though, Milwaukee came out storming. A whopping seven players were in double figures, and the only two that weren’t– Michael Carter-Williams and Jerryd Bayless– scored 8 Points and 6 Points respectively. O.J. Mayo gave us a flashback with 24 Points, 6 Assists, 5 Rebounds, 2 Steals and a Block in 29 Minutes off the bench. He was 9/13, 4/6 from distance.

The Cs, on the other hand, only had four guys in double figures:

  • Isaiah – 23 Points (7/12)
  • Jonas – 17 Points (7/10)
  • Avery – 17 Points (7/15)
  • Bass – 12 Points (5/12)

It’s good to see Isaiah getting his sea legs back. This is his first really good came since returning from injury. Too bad he didn’t have a little bit more help. Zeller finished 3/9 after several highly efficient outings. E.T. managed 6 Points, 6 Assists and 6 Rebounds, as he keeps sticking to the triple-double blueprint. Kelly was a mere 2/7.

The big surprise for Celtics fans in this one, was the unexpected return of Jared Sullinger. Previously, the team had informed fans, and the league, that Sully would be done for the season with a foot injury. Yet somehow, he fought his way back. Sully only played 3 Minutes and was an underwhelming 0/2, but just seeing him on the court was great. He’s going to have to earn his minutes back, though, especially after the big game Jonas had.

With this loss, the Cs slip to 34-42 on the season, with six games left to play. They’re half a game behind Miami for the 8th Seed, and 1.5 games behind Brooklyn for the 7th Seed. Anything is possible, but the remaining schedule does present some hurdles, including back-to-back games against Cleveland.

The Cs would be wise to take a page from Milwaukee’s playbook in these final six. The pace they should have been playing with wasn’t there, and the defense is the glue is that holds it all together. They’ll turn it around, it just may be too little too late.

Another tough one coming up. Toronto on Saturday.

Homer Johnsen is a freelance writer and Treasurer of the Boston Celtics players’ gambling activities. He holds the monies during card games and sets aside 5% every game for charitable, tax-exempt donations. His Celtics analyses and Treasury Prospectus are available right here on HeresTheDealLikeShaquille.