NBA Top Plays

March, 1, 2015
Mar 1


Danilo Gallinari's half-court shot is the top play in the NBA.
BOSTON -- The Boston Celtics already had overhauled their roster twice before visiting the Golden State Warriors in late January. The Celtics still looked a bit different to the NBA's best squad on Sunday because of two more swaps at February's deadline.

The Warriors showered the current version of the Celtics with praise after rallying from a 26-point deficit for a 106-101 triumph at TD Garden.

"We studied them [this weekend] and the trades they made, obviously they’re not as familiar with each other but the talent they have and the pace that they try to play at now is tough and they showed that obviously in the first quarter," Steph Curry said. "We had to make adjustments, we didn’t want to be down 26."

Echoed Splash Brother Klay Thompson: "[The Celtics have] improved since the last time we played them. They play real well together, I’m just happy we grinded it out."

Newcomer Isaiah Thomas gave Boston a spark that helped Boston put up 65 first-half points before the Warriors ramped up their defensive efforts in the second half and countered with their own small-ball lineups that the Celtics struggled to contain.

But the Warriors were complimentary of what they saw from Boston.

"The trade has made them different," Warriors coach Steve Kerr said. "We [didn't] see [Jared] Sullinger, who killed us last game. ... I know they’ve had [22] guys on their roster. The consistent thing is the guard play. I’m a big fan of Avery Bradley; I think [rookie Marcus] Smart's going to be a really good player, they are both excellent defensively. Along with Isaiah, he’s a pain to guard on that high screen. They are playing hard, they are extremely well-coached. They’ve got some good young pieces. Obviously, this is the first stage of a process."

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CelticsMaddie Meyer/Getty ImagesThe Celtics let a big lead slip away Sunday against the Warriors.
BOSTON -- Isaiah Thomas stood near midcourt pumping his first and imploring the crowd to get louder. The Boston Celtics had just unleashed a 3-point barrage to open an improbable 26-point first-half lead against the Golden State Warriors -- the best team in the NBA -- and Thomas took a moment to savor the energy inside TD Garden as the visitors called a timeout to collect themselves.

"It was one of those games I used to watch on TV when [Kevin] Garnett and those guys were here," said Thomas, the pint-sized spark plug who has helped ignite these Celtics since being acquired at last month's trade deadline. "The crowd was wild. It’s crazy, that’s what you want to be a Boston Celtic for. That was amazing."

[+] EnlargeIsaiah Thomas
Steve Babineau/NBAE/Getty ImagesIsaiah Thomas drives against the Warriors on Sunday.
He paused briefly before adding, "It hurts because we didn’t finish it off."

Yes, even when the Celtics owned their big lead, there still was a nervous energy in the building because of how fast Golden State can erase deficits. The Warriors clamped down on Boston in the second half, rallied all the way back, then hung on for a 106-101 triumph.

The Celtics were left stung by the loss because not only did they let the big lead slip away, but they had a couple of chances late to steal a win. There was Jae Crowder's long jumper with less than a minute to play in a one-point game that rattled in and out (hanging on the back rim for a second) or Thomas' clean look at a last-second 3-pointer that could have forced overtime had it not slammed off the side of the rim.

But Boston can pluck a lot of good from this loss. The Celtics gave one of the league's elite teams all it could handle. This was a playoff atmosphere against the caliber of opponent Boston might see if it scraps its way into the postseason. And the Celtics made the NBA's best sweat a bit.

"I thought we should have won the game," Evan Turner said. "There’s no such thing as good losses, but I think we can compete with anybody."

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Stephen Curry scored 37 points as the Warriors rallied for a 106-101 win over the Celtics.
BOSTON -- The Boston Celtics built a 26-point first-half lead against the best team in the NBA, but couldn't hold on as the Golden State Warriors rallied for a 106-101 triumph at TD Garden.

The Celtics came out hot, put up 38 first-quarter points (highlighted by Isaiah Thomas' eight-point outburst over the final 69 seconds of the frame) and Boston's new bench Big 3 (Thomas, Jonas Jerebko and Jae Crowder) kept up the onslaught early in the second quarter. The Celtics hit three 3-pointers in a 60-second span to push their lead to a game-high 26 points at 56-30 with 6:53 to play in the half.

But everyone in the building knew the Warriors were going to make a run.

Sure enough, Golden State slowly chipped away and Draymond Green's tip-in with 3:26 to play had the Warriors out front 96-94. Boston wouldn't go quietly and rookie Marcus Smart's 28-foot rainbow from neighboring Somerville put the Celtics up 1 with 1:43 to go, but the Warriors kept punching back.

Both Harrison Barnes and Andre Iguodala drove hard for layups to put Golden State on top by 3 with 26 seconds to play. Thomas got a great look at a potential tying 3-pointer in the final seconds but missed.

Steph Curry finished with a game-high 37 points on 14-of 22-shooting while Klay Thompson added 20 points on less efficient 9-of-23 shooting.

Thomas had a team-high 20 points on 8-of-21 shooting but struggled in the second half. Tyler Zeller added 17 points as Boston put six of its nine players in double figures for scoring.

The big takeaway for Boston though: These Celtics can hang with the NBA's elite and should not fear what lies ahead if they sneak into the playoffs. They have potential to give any team in the East some fits.

Value the ball: The Celtics were able to hang with the Warriors in large part because they took care of the ball. Boston had just one first-half turnover, which played a large part in building the big lead. The Celtics gave the ball away seven times in the second half.

All about that Bass: Brandon Bass put Andrew Bogut on a poster with a thunderous dunk late in the third quarter. Bass exploded to the basket, then delivered a two-handed jam over the Australian center. Bass finished with 15 points and 12 rebounds.

Loose balls: While Kelly Olynyk missed his 17th consecutive game, the Celtics have settled recently on a nine-man rotation. Luigi Datome, Phil Pressey, Shavlik Randolph and Gerald Wallace were healthy DNPs. ... The Celtics had a season-high 109 field goal attempts (shooting just 36.7 percent). Boston really struggled from the floor in the second half.

What it means: The Celtics fall to 23-34; the Warriors improve to 46-11. Boston's three-game winning streak is snapped. Things don't get any easier as the Celtics head to Cleveland on Tuesday night.

W2W4: C's vs. Warriors (Game 57 of 82)

March, 1, 2015
Mar 1
The Boston Celtics (23-33, 14-15 home) host the Golden State Warriors (45-11, 21-9 away) on Sunday evening at TD Garden (6 p.m., CSN). Here's what to watch for:


The Boston Celtics have earned three straight victories behind the strong play of several newcomers, but the league's top team stands in the way of a fourth.

The Golden State Warriors head to Boston on Sunday night hoping to further re-establish their dominance following a convincing road win.

The wins have started to pile up for Boston (23-33) since acquiring Isaiah Thomas and Jonas Jerebko on Feb. 19. Thomas scored a team-high 28 on Friday, and Jerebko had 16 points and 10 rebounds as the Celtics beat Charlotte 106-98 to match a season-best three-game winning streak.

Thomas has averaged 22.3 points and 6.0 assists in four games with the Celtics, creating enough of an impact for Avery Bradley to call him the "spark."

"That's pretty nice," Thomas said of his teammate's praise. "But it's not me -- it's this team. We're playing hard, coach is putting us in position to be successful and that's the key. We are believing in each other."

Jerebko has been equally effective in his two games with Boston, hitting 13 of 19 from the field. He preceded his 16-point performance against Charlotte with a season-high 20 in a win over New York. Jerebko averaged only 5.2 points in 46 games with Detroit.

After working with 22 different players this season, coach Brad Stevens believes he has finally found the right mix.

"We've had a lot of good additions, and we've got a group that supports each other," Stevens said prior to Friday's win. "To me, as you're growing in a place where improvement and development are so critical, you better be in a good environment. And I'm pleased with where we are from that regard."

Another victory Sunday would mark Boston's eighth in 11 games and first four-game winning streak since Nov. 6-11, 2013.

While the Celtics try to chase down the eighth seed in the Eastern Conference, Golden State (45-11) has built a sizable lead atop the West.

The Warriors, though, had lost two of three to begin a season-high six-game road swing, but they responded with a 113-89 blowout of Atlantic Division-leading Toronto on Friday.

(Read full game preview)

ONE THING TO WATCH (via Chris Forsberg)

The Celtics are rolling after winning seven of their last 10, including three straight. Now they're going to really be tested. "I think [the Warriors] have a great chance of winning it -- each of the next two teams we play [Golden State and Cleveland], they might be the two teams with the best chance. At least they are in the mix and in the discussion," Stevens said. "They’re really good and they don’t have many flaws, if any." The Celtics actually played the Warriors tough out west as part of the road trip that reinvigorated the team. It'll be interesting to see, in the wake of Boston's deadline moves, whether they can hang with the league's best again. Every game is important for Boston moving forward if it desires to make the playoffs and Golden State should offer a better indication of the team's recent progress.
Isaiah Thomas, Jae Crowder, Jonas JerebkoGetty Images, USA TODAY SportsThree in-season acquisitions have given Boston a boost this season.
WALTHAM, Mass. -- Former Boston Celtics coach Doc Rivers used to playfully refer to it as "coaches' pornography." Whether it was textbook execution or simply making scrappy hustle plays, there are few things that get coaches more excited than watching their players make quality basketball plays.

For Celtics coach Brad Stevens, there was a moment late in Friday's rally against the Charlotte Hornets that really stuck with him. Boston, leaning on a small-ball lineup, had come back from 16 points down and was clinging to a one-point lead with little more than 2 minutes to play when newcomer Jonas Jerebko's hustle created an offensive rebound.

Fellow newcomer Isaiah Thomas reset the play at the top of the key, then created immediate havoc by accelerating off a high pick-and-roll and getting into the paint. He sent a bounce pass to Jerebko in the corner and, when his man came rushing out, the 6-foot-10 big man put the ball on the ground and attacked the paint himself.

The Hornets' defense was completely discombobulated from the movement and paint touches and Jerebko kicked the ball back out top to a wide-open Jae Crowder for a 3-pointer that helped Boston score the game's next nine points and emerge with a 106-98 triumph.

For the better part of the past 20 months, Stevens has endured an offense that struggled to consistently generate points, particularly in crunch-time situations. Even when Rajon Rondo was healthy, the Celtics struggled to consistently get in the paint and create havoc off the pick-and-roll. But that's exactly what Thomas has thrived at since arriving last week and, what's more, he's excelling the past two games with undersized lineups heavy on shooting, especially with in-season acquisitions like Jerebko and Crowder.

Over the past two games, that Thomas-Crowder-Jerebko trio has shared the floor for 28 minutes. Boston's production in that span: 55.6 percent shooting overall (30 of 54), including 57.1 percent shooting beyond the 3-point arc (16 of 28), plus-37 in plus/minus while outscoring opponents 89-52 overall.

While it's a small sample size, it's the per-100 possession numbers that hammer home just how efficient that unit has been. For the season, the Celtics rank 21st in the NBA with an an offensive rating of 101.4. That Thomas-Crowder-Jerebko unit owns an absurd offensive rating of 157.2 over the past two games.

In the four games since Thomas' arrival, the Celtics own an offensive rating of 117.9 when he is on the floor. The number jumps to 125.5 when Jerebko is on the court. It's still at 117.2 during Crowder's floor time.

Yes, meet Boston's new Big 3: Thomas, Crowder, and Jerebko.

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Olynyk on ankle: 'Getting there'

February, 28, 2015
Feb 28
WALTHAM, Mass. -- Boston Celtics second-year big man Kelly Olynyk went through nearly all of Boston's light offday workout Saturday, but seemed to hint that he's still not quite ready to get back on the floor for game action.

Olynyk has been sidelined since Jan. 22 with a sprained right ankle that has forced him to miss 16 consecutive games. Coach Brad Stevens had previously deemed Olynyk questionable for Sunday's visit from the Golden State Warriors, but Olynyk doesn't want to return until he's certain he won't be a liability on the floor.

"I wouldn't say [the ankle is] ready yet, but it's definitely getting there," said Olynyk. Later he added, "I'm just letting it play out. It's tough. It's real tough. The fact that you could go probably, but you just want to make sure you’re helping your team; you’re not a detriment [and] you can do the things you want to do out there."

Olynyk spent time after practice playing 1-on-1 against assistant coach Jay Larranaga. He moved well, but there's a difference between post-practice pick-up and live game action.

"I'm getting better. I'm going through some more motions now," said Olynyk. "It's feeling a little bit better each day, but sometimes you have some setbacks. You go hard and the next day it's sore and [you're] a little less able to do stuff. So I'm just trying to get more and more consistent on it and able to trust it and trust that you can help your team."

Stevens said he wouldn't be surprised if Olynyk was available Sunday, but admitted he hadn't talked to Olynyk at that point and he'd also defer to the player on how he was feeling. The coach has started pondering how to reintegrate Olynyk into a rotation thin on pure size, but admitted that the success of the second unit recently, including newcomer Jonas Jerebko, adds some challenges to that process.

"We have to figure out what’s best for us going into every game," said Stevens. "And play the guys that you feel like give you the best chance of winning. Obviously, some of that is depending on matchups, who you are playing against, and how you can best attack them. I think we have to be conscious that the guys that -- especially those second-unit guys -- have played really really well the last few games."

Roster overhaul hasn't changed C's goals

February, 27, 2015
Feb 27
Boston CelticsBrian Babineau/Getty ImagesBoston's roster has changed often this year, yet their playoff goal remains intact.
BOSTON -- Boston Celtics coach Brad Stevens was drawing up a play earlier this week when he stopped briefly during the timeout to examine the faces seated in front of him.

"I write the initials on the board -- I don’t do like 1 through 5 [positional shorthand] when I draw up the play," explained Stevens. "We’re 22 people in and these initials -- I gotta clear my mind and make sure I get the initials right on the board."

The Celtics have already tied a team record set in 1949 by utilizing 22 different players during the 2014-15 campaign and they've had a preposterous 40 total bodies on the roster overall. Stevens admits now that he was probably a bit selfish when he pleaded for roster stability before the trade deadline, but that didn't stop president of basketball operations Danny Ainge from delivering three new faces.

Make no mistake, Stevens is thrilled with the early returns from newcomers like Isaiah Thomas and Jonas Jerebko. The constant change has simply left Boston in a most unique situation as the team balances the integration of new players, the development of a young core, and a rather improbable quest for a playoff spot.

After rallying from a 16-point deficit over the final 18 minutes of Friday's rollicking 106-98 triumph over the Charlotte Hornets, the Celtics have now shuffled into a virtual four-way tie for the eighth seed in the Eastern Conference with 27 games to play.

While Stevens is quick to point out that Boston (23-33) is 10 games under .500 and not exactly "setting the world on fire," the Celtics are certainly heating up after winning seven of their last 10 despite a roster that's been in constant flux. The Celtics' most recent additions have reinvigorated the team in recent weeks, allowing Boston to fight on despite losing Jared Sullinger to a season-ending foot injury, this after trading away maybe its two most talented individual players earlier in the year in Rajon Rondo and Jeff Green.

They've found a new hero in 5-foot-10 Thomas, who joined forces with 6-foot-10 Jerebko to bookend a small-ball lineup that rallied Boston on Friday night. Jae Crowder, himself a midseason acquisition who was part of that same spark-inducing lineup, was told jokingly after the game that he was ruining the front office's plan for a glitzy lottery pick.

"I’m sorry. I’ll apologize to Danny right now if that’s what they were trying to do," said Crowder. "But I’m a winner. He brought me here; I like to win games. I’m a basketball player, I don’t know how to just lay down and lose. I don’t agree with that."

Neither does Stevens, who has implored his team to focus on daily improvement and embrace the potential playoff push that a head-shaking Eastern Conference has offered his team.

"I still think we have a lot of room for growth and we've got to get a lot better, there's not question about it," said Stevens. "But we approach improvement the right way, and that's big. That's not just the new guys, that's the guys that have been here... everybody has approached it the right way and stayed pretty even-keeled through all the results."

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Notes: Olynyk (ankle) nears return

February, 27, 2015
Feb 27
[+] EnlargeKelly Olynyk
Fernando Medina/NBAE/Getty Images
BOSTON -- Boston Celtics second-year big man Kelly Olynyk is expected to participate in the team's offday workout Saturday and could be back on the court as early as Sunday night's visit from the Golden State Warriors.

Olynyk missed his 16th consecutive game during Friday's 106-98 win over the Charlotte Hornets, but coach Brad Stevens pegged him questionable for Sunday's game.

"Kelly did a little bit more [Thursday]. He’s going to be able to hopefully practice [Saturday] then we’ll go from there," said Stevens. "I would say that, I don’t know what the levels of game detail are, I guess questionable maybe for Sunday, if he practices well. Even if he practices well and feels good, we’ll see how he does. But he’s getting close."


It was eight years ago this August that the Celtics traded Al Jefferson to Minnesota as part of the deal that brought Kevin Garnett to Boston. With Garnett returning to Minnesota this week, Jefferson was asked during Friday's visit to TD Garden if he ever thinks about ending his career with the Boston team that drafted him.

"Aw, man, I ain't trying to grow old too fast. C'mon, man," scoffed Jefferson.

Jefferson turned 30 in January. He holds a $13.5 million player option for the 2015-16 season. But what about a Boston return a bit further down the line?

"Many, many years down the road," said Jefferson. "But I thought it was big for [Garnett] to go back where he started. I just think that was good for the city, good for him. It's just like a welcome home."

And pondering the thought of wearing Celtics green again, Jefferson channeled Garnett (minus the screaming).

"Anything's possible," he said. "I never would close that door."

Jefferson noted how he still comes back here most summers and works out with former Celtics strength and conditioning coach Walter Norton. Maybe Boston can go get rookie classmate Kendrick Perkins, too?

"That would be crazy, right? Me and Perk playing together again," said Jefferson. "I'd rather play with him than against him, I know that. I hate that he's in the East now again."


• After six straight losses to start their NBA rivalry, Tyler Zeller broke up the shutout against his brother, Cody, on Friday night. The Zellers still find time to communicate during the season and used Charlotte's early arrival into Boston as a chance for a rare dinner. Who paid? "We split it," said Tyler.

• Did Friday's game have a bit of a playoff atmosphere given Boston's proximity to Charlotte in the standings? "No doubt," said Isaiah Thomas. "I think that was a playoff game; two teams fighting to get into the playoffs and we were down 16 and we didn’t give up we just kept fighting and fighting and kept believing in each other and we got the win." And how did Boston rally from that 16-point hole? " “Staying in attack mode," said Thomas. "I think once we hit a few shots, we got a little bit of confidence and we’re just in attack mode the last 16-17 minutes of that game where we had the Hornets on their heels. That’s where we wanted them and we played a pretty good half."

Isaiah Thomas scored 28 points off the bench in the Celtics' 106-98 win over the Hornets.
BOSTON -- Go ahead and book that (refundable) hotel room in Atlanta (or Cleveland?) starting on April 17.

The Boston Celtics rallied from 16 down over the final 18 minutes of play, sparked by a small-ball lineup bookended by newcomers Isaiah Thomas and Jonas Jerebko, and emerged with a 106-98 triumph over the Charlotte Hornets on Friday night at a rocking TD Garden.

With the win, Boston pulls even with the Hornets and makes things just a little bit more interesting in the race for the eighth seed in the Eastern Conference.

The Celtics, once up 10 with 5:27 to play in the first half, watched the Hornets embark on a 25-1 run spanning into the third quarter. The Celtics couldn't buy a basket until they went small and got a spark from Thomas, Jerebko, and Jae Crowder -- three players acquired during in-season trades.

Thomas relentlessly attacked the basket while scoring a team-high 28 points on 9-of-22 shooting (8 of 10 at free-throw line) while adding seven assists over 31:24. Jerebko came off the bench to score 16 points on 6-of-9 shooting with 10 rebounds over 23:51.

Mo Williams scored a game-high 31 points for the Hornets.

Bradley provides a spark: Avery Bradley helped light the fuse on Boston's comeback with his shooting. He finished with 19 points on 8-of-18 shooting. The Celtics' other four starters combined for 27 points total.

Loose balls: Boston stuck with a nine-man rotation and rookie James Young got extended time with the team's fourth-quarter lineup. ... Luigi Datome, Phil Pressey, Shavlik Randolph, and Gerald Wallace were all healthy DNPs. ... Boston connected on 47.6 percent of its 3-point attempts (10 of 21 overall).

What it means: The Celtics improve to 23-33, while the Hornets fall to the same mark. Boston has now won three straight and seven of its last 10 overall. The Celtics close a three-game homestand by hosting the Golden State Warriors on Sunday night.

Tech rescinded for Isaiah Thomas

February, 27, 2015
Feb 27
BOSTON -- The NBA rescinded one of the two technical fouls that led to Boston Celtics guard Isaiah Thomas' ejection in his debut against the Los Angeles Lakers on Sunday.

Referee Tony Brothers tagged Thomas with consecutive technical fouls leading to his disqualification in the fourth quarter of Boston's overtime loss. Thomas missed the final 10 minutes of play.

"I'm glad [the NBA rescinded] that," said Thomas.

He was asked if that came a bit too late for his liking.

"Not with the money. It's definitely not too late with that," he cracked. "But it sucks that I got kicked out, because I felt like if I didn't, we had a great chance of winning -- even though we still had a good chance of winning [in overtime]. But I'm glad it got rescinded, because I didn’t say anything to get the second one."

Thomas slammed the ball in frustration after Brothers whistled him for a questionable offensive foul leading to his first tech. Celtics coach Brad Stevens said Brothers told him that Thomas got the second tech for throwing the ball at him after the initial tech.

The league's review suggests that Thomas' returning of the ball wasn't as mean-spirited as the quick-triggered Brothers seemed to believe.

Thomas saves at least $2,000 in having the technical rescinded. That will help him pay for the winter coat he said he splurged on Thursday to combat the weather change in relocating from Phoenix to Boston.

W2W4: C's vs. Hornets (Game 56 of 82)

February, 27, 2015
Feb 27
The Boston Celtics (22-33, 13-15 home) host the Charlotte Hornets (23-32, 10-16 away) on Friday night at TD Garden (7:30 p.m., CSN). Here's what to watch for:


Coach Brad Stevens is still learning how to use the array of new players on the Boston Celtics.

Mo Williams is fitting in just fine with the Charlotte Hornets.

The Celtics look to extend their longest home winning streak of the season Friday night against Williams and the Hornets.

Boston (22-33) has undergone an overhaul over the past three months and is starting to see some results with six wins in nine games. The Celtics turned in one of their best performance over that span Wednesday, routing New York 115-94 for their fourth straight home win.

Their top three scorers were all recent acquisitions, with Isaiah Thomas scoring 19 and Jonas Jerebko getting 20 in their first home games with Boston. Jae Crowder -- acquired from Dallas in the Rajon Rondo deal on Dec. 18 -- finished with 18 points.

"We're just throwing darts," Stevens said. "Like (Wednesday) -- we found a lineup that nobody would ever thought would play together right in an NBA game.

"We've got a long way to go still but the vibe is good. The desire to share the ball is very good and the aggressiveness has been unquestioned for me for a few weeks now."

Thomas has provided a big spark in three games off the bench for Stevens' team, averaging 20.3 points on 56.4 percent shooting and 5.7 assists.

"We've got a lot of talented guys," Thomas said. "Coach's offensive system is freedom for everybody and he wants everybody to have confidence and attack."

Thomas has scored 18.5 per game over his last four against Charlotte, including 23 in a win for Phoenix on Dec. 17.

The Celtics' improved play has them tied with Detroit and Indiana, one game behind Charlotte (23-32) and Brooklyn in the race for the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.

(Read full game preview)

ONE THING TO WATCH (via Chris Forsberg)

The biggest storyline here might simply be these two teams' spot in the Eastern Conference standings. Boston is 1 game back of a final playoff berth, while the Hornets are essentially tied for the eighth spot. Including the Nets, Pistons, and Pacers, there are five teams within one game of each other at the moment, all jockeying for that final spot (Miami is trying to pull away a bit at the seventh seed). The Celtics have already lost twice to the Hornets this season, including a defeat in Boston on Jan. 5. Two head-to-head meetings remain and those could be important if either team ultimately makes a surge towards the postseason.

Race for Eighth in East

Second honeymoon for Crowder

February, 26, 2015
Feb 26
BOSTON -- At the start of the February, it felt like the honeymoon was over.

[+] EnlargeCrowder
Mark L. Baer/USA TODAY Sports
Jae Crowder, acquired by the Boston Celtics in mid-December as part of the deal that sent Rajon Rondo to the Dallas Mavericks, had raised eyebrows early in his Boston tenure and, when Jeff Green was dealt away to Memphis in early January, Crowder elevated to starting small forward.

But his production waned and, in a 10-game span beginning on Jan. 14, Crowder was a team-worse minus-71 in plus/minus and his advanced numbers were an absolute eyesore (team-worst minus-16.8 net rating when he was on the floor). On Feb. 2, coach Brad Stevens shuffled rookie Marcus Smart back into the starting lineup, shifted Evan Turner to his more natural swingman spot, and moved Crowder to a reserve role.

A weird thing happened. Crowder embraced the bench role, got increased playing time at power forward with Boston's depth eroded by injuries, and emerged as a primary reason why Boston has since won six of nine games.

In that nine-game span, Crowder is averaging 12 points, 5.8 rebounds, 2 assists, and 1 steal over 26.7 minutes per game. He's carved out his role as a versatile body that Stevens can utilize at both forward spots. His plus-7.1 net rating is the best on the team for players that have been here throughout the nine-game stretch.

While Dallas deals with the fallout from Rondo's shouting match with coach Rick Carlisle, the Celtics must privately look at the quiet Crowder and take great pleasure in what he's accomplishing. The 24-year-old forward on a budget deal has the potential to be a part of this team's young nucleus moving forward and is making the sort of progress that Boston desires to get from all its young players.

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Isaiah Thomas
22.3 6.0 1.0 27.8
ReboundsJ. Sullinger 8.1
AssistsI. Thomas 6.0
StealsM. Smart 1.2
BlocksT. Zeller 0.7