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When Brad Stevens accepted the Celtics head coaching job five years ago http://www.redskinsauthorizedshops.com/authentic-geron-christian-jersey , he didn’t allow himself to get caught up in thinking about how he could add his name to the franchise’s rich history.

He was too busy trying to figure out how to avoid being buried under it.

”You realize that if you’re going to break records here, you’re probably going to break bad ones,” he recently said. ”Because none of the good ones are reachable.”

While achieving Red Auerbach status may not be on Stevens’ radar, in just his fifth season there’s no question the 41-year-old is also beyond being the wide-eyed former Butler University coach who arrived in Boston.

In a timeframe that has often already swallowed up most first-time NBA coaches, he’s managed to endear himself to a championship-driven city by helping Boston make an improbable run back to the Eastern Conference finals.

The Celtics seemingly had their championship hopes derailed following the season-ending injuries to both of their offseason additions in Gordon Hayward and Kyrie Irving.

Yet, Boston won 55 games during the regular season and increased its win total for the fifth consecutive season under Stevens.

Despite having a roster that was down to just 11 healthy players by the end of their second-round win over Philadelphia, the Celtics enter their conference finals rematch with Cleveland on Sunday with a 7-0 record at home this postseason.

They are also the first team in NBA history to make it back to this point without their leading scorer from the regular season (Irving).

Most of the NBA community was taken aback after Stevens failed to receive a single vote from his peers when the National Basketball Coaches Association gave out its coach of the year award. The honor went to Toronto’s Dwane Casey, who was fired Thursday after his team was swept in the East semifinals by the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Stevens has always downplayed the attention placed on coaching awards. He said that he thought Casey deserved the honor and didn’t expect him to be without a job for long.

Boston’s successes this season aside, Stevens said comfort remains a commodity this profession.

”I don’t think that I would ever define anybody in the coaching or playing shoes probably as comfortable,” he said. ”You’re just focused on what’s next. But it is basketball. There’s only so much you can do.”

But it’s also clear that one of the reasons that Casey lost his job was the Raptors‘ inability to challenge the Cavs in the postseason. Toronto was also swept out of the playoffs by Cleveland last season.

Most of the credit for Boston’s run thus far surely belongs to veteran Al Horford and the Celtics’ corps of young players Harrison Phillips Color Rush Jersey , including Terry Rozier, Jaylen Brown and rookie Jayson Tatum.

Stevens agrees with that assessment and has remained true to his style by blending into the background in public, instead waiting for the huddle or practice to make his voice heard.

He believes his team’s mental toughness and grit have carried it more than anything he’s done.

Horford said Stevens hasn’t shied away from putting their young players in pressure situations.

”I think a lot of our guys have been thrown into the fire. I think it’s been designed that way so guys can just develop and learn as they go,” Horford said. ”But I think that one of the things that helps them is the way that coach helps them prepare and the way that he teaches them the game.”

There is also at least one person watching from afar who thinks a lot of the credit belongs to Stevens. And it just happens to be the same player he will spend the next few weeks trying to stop: LeBron James.

From Stevens’ ability to draw up plays out of timeouts, to his management of late-clock situations, to getting the best out of his roster, James has long been a fan.

”I think they are one of the most well-coached teams in our league,” James said. ”No matter who has played for them, he can put guys in position to succeed and get the most out of whoever has been in their lineup over the past few years. It’s not just this year.”

Stevens said he’s focused on living in the moment.

”From our standpoint, I feel like it’s been a lot of fun Mike McGlinchey Color Rush Jersey ,” he said. ”We talked about it prior to the playoffs; nobody should love a challenge more, nobody should have more fun doing it. I think our guys have done a good job with that.”

And though he may never say it, so has their coach.



AP Sports Writer Tom Withers in Independence, Ohio contributed to this report.



The San Antonio Spurs know what they have to do to win this season, and they have a slim margin for error.

LaMarcus Aldridge scored 28 points to help the Spurs beat Damian Lillard and the Portland Trail Blazers 116-105 on Saturday night.

”It’s been shown in the last month that when we don’t have the aggression and the determination, we’re not winning,” San Antonio veteran Manu Ginobili said. ”Years before, we had enough talent and corporate knowledge to be able to bounce back. Even if we struggled for 40 minutes, we could execute and figure it out because of the way we knew each other. Now, it’s not the same.”

The Spurs (46-34) snapped a two-game losing streak. They have the same record as New Orleans and Oklahoma City DJ Chark Color Rush Jersey , but are sandwiched between the two in sixth place based on tiebreakers. Utah is one-half game ahead of all three in fourth place.

San Antonio, which has been without injured star Kawhi Leonard for all but nine games this season, can clinch a playoff spot with a victory over visiting Sacramento on Monday.

Portland (48-32) dropped its third consecutive game and missed out on an opportunity to secure home-court advantage in the first round. Lillard had 33 points for the Trail Blazers, and Evan Turner finished with 18.

”We knew that we were going to come across teams that are fighting for their playoff lives,” Lillard said. ”No game is going to be easy.”

Former All-Star teammates Aldridge and Lillard dueled on a night when both teams shot well from the field.

Lillard was 11 for 22, including 6 for 12 from beyond the arc. He returned after missing one game with an injured left ankle.

Aldridge made his first five shots, including a left-handed runner he seemed to throw up to rebound against the smaller double-team on him. He finished 13 for 22.

Ginobili gave San Antonio a needed boost, scoring 17 points on 7-for-7 shooting.

”I was feeling that type of rush and that type of excitement flow,” Ginobili said.

The 40-year-old Ginobili had back-to-back 3-pointers followed by a right-handed layup against Al-Farouq Aminu to turn a four-point game into a 101-89 lead.

”That’s why he’s a Hall of Famer, he hasn’t really lost a step http://www.texansauthorizedshops.com/authentic-martinas-rankin-jersey ,” Trail Blazers guard CJ McCollum said. ”His shot’s still good. He’s still able to get to that left hand, and even tonight he finished two right-hand shots that are pretty high degree of difficulty, one scoop in the lane and another scoop going out of bounds.”

McCollum finished with 17 points for Portland.

Dejounte Murray finished with 17 points and 10 rebounds for San Antonio.

TIP-INS

Trail Blazers: Turner departed in the final minute with a cut along his right brow caused by an inadvertent blow by Murray on a rebound. . Jusuf Nurkic, who had 12 points and 12 rebounds, received a technical foul with 36.4 seconds left in the first half. Nurkic was yelling at official Curtis Blair for a foul assessed to him on a drive by Murray. … Maurice Harkless missed his seventh straight game with an injured left knee. … Ed Davis missed his fourth straight game due to an injured right ankle.

Spurs: Pau Gasol played in his 1,194th career game, moving past Alex English for 42nd in league history. … Danny Green was assessed his first technical foul of the season with 10:40 remaining in the first half. After missing a layup, Green began jumping and clapping his hands angrily because no foul was called on Meyers Leonard. … The Spurs hold an 84-82 lead against the Trail Blazers in their overall series.

UP NEXT

Trail Blazers: Visit Denver on Monday night.

Spurs: Host Sacramento on Monday night.

STILL GOOD

McCollum said Portland is still in great position.

”We’re good,” McCollum said. ”If you had told me that we have 48 wins and have two games left and a chance to finish in third place, I would have told you I’ll take it. Considering where we’re at M.J. Stewart Color Rush Jersey , there’s no excuses for injuries and stuff like that, but I feel like we’re heading in the right direction heading to the playoffs. We should be fully healthy or close to fully healthy and I think that will make a difference.”

The Trail Blazers close the season against Denver and Utah.

NAP POWER

Ginobili has said he plays best when he can take a nap on game day and he made sure to take one Saturday.

”I even slept nine hours last night, so I was very juicy,” Ginobili said.
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