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.
“It was the perfect storm. Things just went well for them down the stretch,” said Cavs coach Tyronn Lue, making an early submission for understatement of the year.
The Bostonians had trailed by nine in the last quarter. Then they led by seven. Then things got really crazy.
“If you play this game, you should believe you’re going to win until the horn goes off,” said Bradley.
Even if that belief defies logic apparently.
The Celtics were down by five points after Kyrie Irving made two free throws with 18.6 seconds left. Jae Crowder, whose right ankle was noticeably restricting him, then picked an opportune time to shake off eight misses in as many attempts and drill a trey from the left corner.
“Guys, let’s get to the bottom as quick as we can, because let me tell you, the ride up is a lot of fun.”
That second quote was about restructuring Ford Motor Company, not rebuilding the Boston Celtics, but it’s stuck with me ever since I first saw it almost a decade ago. It seems particularly appropriate after what was, if not the most surprising win of this season, certainly the most enjoyable one.
Look, the team that beat Cleveland last night isn’t good enough to beat them four times in seven or fewer games. I think we all know that. But, on the other hand, look at where they are. The team is 8 games over .500 for the first time since the season that Boston pushed Miami to the brink in the playoffs. They’ve got so many picks in the upcoming draft that other GMs are starting to anonymously call it a problem–a problem that they would all probably love to have.
They’re one of the youngest teams in the NBA, they’ve got arguably the best bench in the league, one of the best defenses in the league, one of the smartest coaches in the league, and an offense that is slowly working its way into the top ten.
And they’re doing that without a super star, much less a “future hall-of-famer”.
While there’s a possibility that the team will hit another existential funk like the one they went through a month ago, it doesn’t feel really likely at this point. This feels more like a team that has figured it out, and that includes Brad Stevens. The rookies are racking up DNPs as he’s tightened the rotations. I’m sure he didn’t want to do that, but he’s shown the kind of flexibility that another hotshot college coach in Boston never really learned.
So enjoy this, guys. Enjoy this time where the Celtics are getting better right in front of our eyes. Don’t focus too much on stuff you can’t control–which is basically everything, ’cause you’re just fans.
Page 2: Why Boston fans love Jae Crowder
Crowder could have pretended Friday night meant the same as any other game, but opted for the truth. Despite an injured ankle that almost forced him out of the lineup, he wanted to guard James, to give his team a chance against the Eastern Conference’s top club.
“I didn’t have it,” Crowder said. “I probably should have sat out, but pride got in the way a little bit. You know how that goes. I wanted to just give our team a chance to not lack in any perspective. I know it was a big test for us to guard LeBron, to try to slow him down as much as possible. But I just didn’t have it physically. I was there mentally, though.”
Down 5 with 18.6 seconds to play, Bradley missed a rushed 3-point attempt but the ball bounced directly to Jared Sullinger, who alertly elected to kick it to a wide-open Jae Crowder in the corner. Crowder, battling ankle soreness after getting rolled up on Wednesday night, made his only shot of the night on a 3-pointer from about the same spot that Bradley would eventually deliver the winner.
Jae Crowder, after the game, said he shouldn’t have been playing. He had missed every shot he took before that one. He couldn’t contain LeBron.
And if he doesn’t hit that shot, Boston’s almost certainly done for.
Crowder is not going to be an “all-time” anything. But he’s a guy who will win you games in the playoffs. He’s one of those guys that stars need on their teams to win championships. Think of Eddie House, or Cornbread, or Bill Walton in his last good year.
Finally: Let’s all enjoy some Brad Stevens photochops.
— Chris Forsberg (@ESPNForsberg) February 6, 2016
— KWAPT (@KWAPT) February 6, 2016
Just gonna leave this here… pic.twitter.com/b1JgHXwTCw
— Tim MacLean (@TJMacNBA) February 6, 2016
Again, take a moment and enjoy this guys.
(NB for those confused by the above pics: That 12 year old kid in a Lakers uniform? That’s Ty Lue)
The rest of the links:
CSNNE: A big one | Small ball lineups continue to energize Celtics | Thomas’ troubles against Cavs disappear late | Celtics ‘kept fighting’ in extraordinary win over Cavs | Smart bulldozes Mozgov to set up C’s win vs. Cavs
Boston Globe: Avery Bradley, Celtics shock Cavaliers