BOSTON (CBS) — The Boston Celtics won 40 games in 2014-15, which is about a baker’s dozen more than most predicted when the team first took the floor back on October 29.
Boston really didn’t hit their stride until after the New Year, following the trades that sent Rajon Rondo and Jeff Green out-of-town, but have 23 wins since February 3 — among the most in the NBA. And while Boston didn’t pile up as many wins as they would have hoped, they were in nearly every game, making for a surprisingly exciting campaign.
Here are the Top 10 Celtics wins from the 2014-15 season:
January 23: Evan Turner’s Game-Winning 3 @ Portland
Following a loss to the L.A. Clippers to start a tough six-game road trip against Western Conference foes, the Celtics sat at 13-26 on the season. A month had passed since Rajon Rondo was shipped out-of-town, and the team still had no identity as it hit a mid-season malaise.
So a matchup with the 31-13 Blazers wasn’t expected to be a game that could potentially propel the Celtics into a bit of a second half surge, but Evan Turner made sure to end Boston’s three-game skid.
Down 89-87 in the closing seconds of the game, Jared Sullinger took the inbound pass and nearly turned it over. But he somehow corralled the loose ball, and found Turner in the corner, who calmly drained the go-ahead three pointer with 1.9 seconds to go.
Portland couldn’t get off a shot on the other end of the floor, and the Celtics had one of their biggest wins of the season.
January 24: Avery Bradley’s Game-Winning 3 @ Denver
If their exciting end in Portland wasn’t enough (or if fans went to bed rather than stay up for the conclusion of a west coast battle), the Celtics made it two in a row the very next night in Denver.
This time it was Avery Bradley who played the role of hero, hitting a 20-foot jumper with 25 seconds to go to give Boston a 100-97 lead (they won 100-99):
Bradley also hit a three with 1:23 to go to put Boston on top 98-96, and finished the game with a team-high 18 points.
February 11: Win Over Hawks Before All Star Break
The Hawks were the best team in the Eastern Conference this season, and the Celtics managed to take one of their four games against Atlanta.
Once again, it was Evan Turner with some late-game heroics:
It was an impressive comeback win for the Celtics, who trailed by 14 with 7:20 left in the game. But they outscored Atlanta 28-16 in the fourth quarter, and hit the All Star break on a high note with an 89-88 win over the best team in the conference.
March 4: Tyler Zeller’s Game-Winner Over Jazz
Just one night prior, the Celtics were dealt their worst loss of the season, 110-79, by the Cavaliers in Cleveland.
Following that up with a loss to the 24-win Jazz — at home — could have sent Boston’s season into a tailspin, and back into all of that “tank” talk from a year ago. It looked as though that would happen when Gordon Hayward hit a fallaway with 1.7 seconds left to put Utah up by one.
But instead, the Celtics pulled off another memorable win with a last-second play crafted by Brad Stevens. However, it wasn’t the first play he drew up that evening.
With Marcus Smart in charge of the inbounds, he didn’t like what he saw. So the rookie showed some poise by calling a timeout, giving his coach another chance to draw up a play.
Shortly after, Smart threw a perfect inbounds pass to Tyler Zeller under the basket, who banked it in off the backboard as the buzzer sounded:
A win against the Jazz really shouldn’t mean much, but the Celtics had a knack for blowing late leads at that point in the season. They squandered an eight-point advantage in the fourth quarter against Utah, but this time fought back to pull off the W.
March 9: Wade Tries To Take Out IT, But IT Takes Out Heat
The Celtics entered this game trailing the Heat in the playoff standings, and needed to leave Miami with a victory.
Isaiah Thomas was once again the catalyst for Boston’s offense, but this performance was even more impressive given the fact that Dwyane Wade tried to take him out for good. As Thomas went for a layup in the fourth quarter, Wade threw him to the ground, badly bruising Thomas’ elbow and back.
But not even that could stop Thomas, who completed the three-point play at the free throw line and finished with 25 points off the bench — more than Miami’s total bench output that night.
Thomas hit a dagger three with 2:36 left to put Boston on top by 11, and the Celtics not only walked away with a 100-90 win, but dealt a big blow to Miami’s postseason picture.
March 11: Smart’s Alley Oop, Bradley J Leads To Big Win Over Memphis
Even without the services of Thomas, the Celtics won a back-and-forth battle with the Memphis Grizzlies in dramatic fashion.
There were 14 lead changes in this one, but Marcus Smart was responsible for the last one, courtesy of a lovely play drawn up by Brad Stevens out of a timeout (anyone else noticing a trend here?).
With Boston trailing 90-89, Smart snuck behind Courtney Lee and took the inbounds pass from Evan Turner. He banked it in, drawing a foul from Lee, and drained his free throw to give Boston a 92-90 edge with 51 seconds remaining.
After a Jeff Green bucket pulled Memphis to within one with 29 seconds left, Avery Bradley drained a jumper to give Boston a 95-92 lead, and Boston held on for the win.
March 14: Big Win In Indy Without Thomas
The Celtics were still on the outside looking in at the playoff picture when they arrived in Indiana in mid-March. It didn’t help that they were still without Thomas, and facing one of the hottest teams in the league.
It was no problem though, as the Celtics cooled off the Pacers with a 93-89 win, getting contributions from everyone who saw the floor.
Tyler Zeller led the way with 18 points and seven rebounds, while Brandon Bass, Avery Bradley and Jae Crowder each scored 16 points. The Pacers made a late charge, pulling within a bucket in the final seconds, but Bass sealed the win with a pair of free throws.
The Pacers had won seven straight before Boston crashed their party, and ended up missing the playoffs on the final day of the season.
April 4: Brad’s Timeout
Much has been made about Brad Stevens’ out-of-timeout plays, but how about getting some love for simply calling a timeout in Toronto?
That doesn’t always happen, but then again, not many would do what Stevens did.
With the Celtics trailing the Raptors by one in overtime, Stevens had a play he liked all drawn up. The call was to get the ball to Evan Turner, who as we’ve shown, kind of had a knack for hitting big shots at the end of games.
But the Raptors swarmed Turner, and the ball ended up going to Jared Sullinger. Not happy with what could have happened next, Stevens called another time out. In the middle of a play. With 2.6 seconds left.
It was a genius move though, because it paid off in the end. Stevens already had a new play drawn up when his team hit the sideline and this time, it was Isaiah Thomas who would get the ball. When he did, his “pass” to Marcus Smart couldn’t have been any more perfect:
Well, Thomas claims that was a pass. But whatever it was, the Celtics escaped with a 117-116 win that put them half a game out of the playoff picture.
April 8: Thomas’ 34-points vs. Pistons
Following his nasty tumble in Miami, which cost him eight games, it took some time for Thomas to knock off the rust upon his return. But there was no rust present when the Celtics hosted the Pistons last week.
Thomas was unstoppable, scoring 34 points in a 113-103 win over Detroit. He scored 13 of his points in the third quarter as Boston closed the frame on a 19-4 run, and finishing the night 10-for-17 from the field with four three-pointers.
If anyone was worried about Thomas after that fall, those worries slipped away with his performance against Detroit.
April 14: Celtics Clinch 7-Seed vs. Raptors
Tank for the Hawks? The Celtics would have none of that Tuesday night, closing out the home portion of their season with a 95-93 win over the Raptors.
How did they secure such a win? On a last-second play drawn up by Brad Stevens out of a timeout, of course. This time, it was Jae Crowder to the rescue:
The win secured the seventh-seed for Boston, and showed that they won’t quit at any point.
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