Your Morning Dump… Celtics Complete Amazing Comeback, Temporarily Restore the Faith

bradley game winner

Every morning, we compile the links of the day and dump them here… highlighting the big story line. Because there’s nothing quite as satisfying as a good morning dump.

After a timeout, the inbounds pass came to Smart, the 28-percent 3-point shooter who had somehow carried the Celtics with his long-range accuracy all night, making 7 of 10 attempts from behind the arc.

With LeBron James guarding him about 35 feet from the basket, he took a few calm dribbles before firing a pass to Bradley, who had somehow become open on the left arc after two defenders followed Jae Crowder along the baseline on a screen.

If Bradley’s shot had gone in cleanly, there would have been about two seconds left. Instead, it bounced high off the rim, then caromed off the back of the rim, and then hit the front of it before sliding through the net with just 0.1 seconds to play. It was a charmed result on a charmed night for Boston.

Boston Globe

For the past 48 hours, that Game 2 performance turned the Celtics into the primary reason why playoff basketball has been so mundane. They were called a fraud No. 1 seed, hardly qualified to even compete with the Cavaliers, and those opinions were mostly correct.

So what happened Sunday at Quicken Loans Arena, especially after Cleveland drained 3-pointers like Pop-A-Shot in the first half and lived at the free throw line while Tristan Thompson bullied the Celtics on the boards, was even more astonishing and cemented Boston as a resilient team, even if it is far from the most talented.

The Celtics rallied from a 21-point deficit with 6:39 left to steal Game 3, 111-108, on Avery Bradley’s four-bounce 3-pointer with 0.1 left.

Boston Globe

It’s been quite the week for the Boston Celtics. Tuesday night, they won the draft lottery. It was the ultimate coup for the organization. On top of 53 wins and a conference finals appearance, they now secured the number one pick. Oh yeah, and their core players are all under contract, and they enter the offseason with near-max cap space.

Celtics Nation was on it’s high horse, but that barely lasted 24 hours. The Cavs came into Boston on Wednesday and wiped them off the floor. It got even worse on Friday, with Cleveland winning by 44 points. The C’s looked like a JV team compared to LeBron’s Cavs, and to make matters worse, Isaiah Thomas’ hip injury will sideline him for the rest of the playoffs.

Outside of Boston, the NBA community rejoiced in ridiculing this Celtics team for its embarrassing home losses, and everybody, including Bostonians, expected two easy Cleveland victories on its home court. But the Celtics were having none of that. They clawed back from a 21 point deficit, and Avery Bradley’s clutch 3 propelled them to victory.

The Celtics escaped with a 111-108 win following Bradley’s heroics. Of course, a beautifully orchestrated Brad Stevens’ inbounds play set up the open look.

It’s overwhelmingly clear that JR Smith and Iman Shumpert royally fucked up the defensive switch. Bradley screened for Crowder cutting to the basket, both Smith and Shumpert followed Crowder, and Bradley immediately popped out for a wide open three.

Boston trailed 77-56 midway through the 3rd quarter, but Marcus Smart and Jonas Jerebko led the rally and the score was 87-82 by quarter’s end. Smart had the game of his life, finishing with 27 points, 7 assists, and 5 rebounds. He shot an improbable 7/10 from three-point range. Jerebko played only 13 minutes but scored 10 points on 4/4 shooting, grabbed 5 boards, and finished with a +22. Jerebko’s not known as a tough guy, but he jostled with Deron Williams and Kevin Love immediately upon entering the game. Despite the limited minutes this postseason, Jerebko was unafraid of the moment, and provided a much needed spark for the previously hapless Celtics.

Boston shot 45 percent from three and 46 percent overall. They had the same number of offensive rebounds (11) as Cleveland and outscored them 36-24 in the paint. The Celtics also forced 16 turnovers, six from LeBron James. After two incredible performances, LeBron laid an egg in game 3, finishing with just 11 points on 4/13 shooting and 6 turnovers. His second half: 22 minutes, 3 points, 1 rebound, 1 assist, 1/8 shooting… not your typical LeBron stat-line. Kevin Love had 22 points on seven three-pointers in the first half but was non-existent afterwards.

The series is now 2-1 with game 4 on Tuesday night. Everybody expected the Celtics to roll over and allow the Cavaliers to waltz to the finals undefeated in the postseason. Will the Cavs win the next two games and silence any green-teamer hope? It’s highly probable. But the Celtics no longer fear the Cavs. They’re facing adversity but playing with nothing to lose, and as we’ve learned over the past three seasons, these situations are where the Celtics thrive.

Recaps: WEEI | Herald | NESN | USA Today | CSNNE | MassLive | ESPN Boston | Providence Journal | CBS Boston | Deadspin

Page 2: Markelle who? This is Marcus Smart’s team… for now

Starting in place of injured point guard Isaiah Thomas, who will miss the rest of the postseason with a hip injury, Smart delivered the best game of his career, scoring 27 points, making seven 3-pointers, and setting up Avery Bradley for the buzzer-beating game-winner in Boston’s 111-108 victory.

“We can talk about his shooting all year long, but you know when it’s in a big moment, that kid is going to rise to the occasion,” said Celtics coach Brad Stevens. “He just always has. That’s one of the reasons why if he goes through a funk at some time in March, shoot yourself out of it, and we believe in you, and let it fly. Because in this moment when we needed him the most, he made huge shots. He was terrific tonight.”

Smart played all but 38 seconds in the second half, scoring 21 points. Most of his 3-pointers weren’t of the wide-open variety, either. He dazzled with pull-ups off the dribble, as well as a slick between-the-legs, behind-the-back step-back over J.R. Smith to tie the game at 95 with a little over five minutes left.

“Marcus just kind of led us,” Stevens said. “One of the things about Marcus is he’s going to play regardless of the score. Like you mentioned to me, he’s going to compete, and sometimes he’ll try to hit home runs because that’s — and then we talk about those after the game and we always say, and it’s true, those are his greatest strengths. He is a true competitor. He’s a tough guy.”


The Marcus Smart podium game was inevitable. But hitting 7 of 10 from three? That’s teetering on delusion. While Bradley provided the heroics and Jerebko brought the energy, in my mind, Smart was the game’s MVP.

Simply, he was lights out. 21 points in the second half coupled with relentless defensive effort. After a season’s worth of “winning plays,” he put the team on his back when the Celtics badly needed offensive firepower. He will never be a scorer like Isaiah, but he did his best IT impersonation on Sunday night.

Smart scored 11 in the third quarter after the Cavs went up by 21. He hit a game tying three with five minutes remaining. With 3:30 on the clock, he pulled down offensive rebounds on consecutive possessions, then assisted a Horford three to give Boston a 102-101 lead. With 1:19, he drew a foul on JR Smith while shooting a three, and his two free throws gave the Celtics a 104-103 lead. And of course, Smart assisted on Bradley’s game-clinching three.

After last night, Smart is now shooting 41 percent from deep in the playoffs, and not on limited attempts — he’s 26 of 63 in 16 playoff games. I repeat, MARCUS SMART IS SHOOTING 41 PERCENT FROM THREE ON A HIGH VOLUME OF ATTEMPTS… IN THE PLAYOFFS!!!

The detractors will say we’ve seen isolated stretches where Smart shoots well from deep. But as Stevens explained in his quotes, Marcus tends to show up in big moments. The offensive metrics will tell you he’s an abominable shooter, but they cannot measure the grit he plays with on a nightly basis, and the small ways he influences winning.

The Celtics are lined up to select a point guard in next month’s draft. Despite having Isaiah, Smart, and Rozier on the roster, it’s most sensible drafting the prospect with the highest upside. In other words, it would be dumb for the Celtics not to take Markelle Fultz. There’s no doubt Marcus is using this as motivation, and regardless of what happens this draft, Celtics fans know we have the highest level of competitor in Marcus Smart.

Related: CSNNE | Herald | NESN

And Finally…

Fired up Horford is the best Horford! This is a completely different side of him, and I’m sure most of us would love to see more of it!

The Rest of the Links:

Globe: Shaughnessy: Celtics Emerge Victorious | Finn: C’s Deserve Credit

CSNNE: Lebron no-show | Stars, Studs, Duds

MassLive: Horford Speaks Mind | Bradley’s 3 (video) | Lebron Knew Shot was Good

ESPN: C’s Bounce Back | Cavs Blow 21 point lead | No Hiding for Lebron

WEEI: Celts Show Cavs Less Respect

Herald: Buckley: Bradley 3 Caps Historic Effort | Bulpett: Firey Marcus Smart Ignites Team

USA Today: 5 Takeaways From Celtics-Cavs

The Vertical: Celtics Not Ready to Step Aside

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