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When Brad Stevens accepted the Celtics head coaching job five years ago Isaiah Wynn Patriots 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, including Terry Rozier James Daniels Bears Jersey , 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,” 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 Mike Gesicki Dolphins Jersey , so has their coach.



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




DENVER — When he starts Wednesday against the New York Mets, Chad Bettis will try to build off his last game for the Colorado Rockies, one that included a deceptively bad pitching line that masked an abrupt turnaround.

On Friday at Texas, Bettis (5-1, 4.65) gave up five runs in the first inning, including two two-run homers on badly located breaking pitches. But Bettis went on to pitch 4 2/3 scoreless innings, a span in which he allowed two singles and retired 12 of the final 13 batters he faced with six strikeouts.

The Rockies erupted for six runs in the second and went on to win 9-5 and give Bettis his first victory after six straight no-decisions. He had not won since May 5 at Citi Field when he worked seven scoreless innings against the Mets.

“It didn’t surprise me what he did (against the Rangers) because he’s tenacious,” Rockies manager Bud Black said. “He doesn’t back down. He doesn’t quit. And I think he knew there was a long way to go. I think it naturally energized him when we got six runs in the top of the next inning.”

Before that uprising, Black said Bettis could have caved in and accepted that it wasn’t his night.

“The good ones don’t let that happen,” Black said. “He knew that there were four or five more innings for him to stay out there Cheap Mike Hughes Jersey , especially in that American League game. That showed me a lot that he put up zeros for 4 2/3 (innings).”

Bettis, who is 1-0, 4.05 in three starts against the Mets, will be trying to finally win at Coors Field this year where he is 0-0, 7.76 in six starts. He will take the mound after the Rockies beat the Mets 10-8 Tuesday night to even the four-game series and break an eight-game losing streak at Coors Field. The win was just the fifth in 18 games for the Rockies, who are 12-20 at Coors Field, where they have typically dominated.

“Overall we haven’t pitched well here for whatever reason,” Black said. “We got to do that. We got to make pitches. It doesn’t matter where we play, we got to pitch well. And what’s happening here at home is the other team is making better pitches than us over the course of 150, 180 pitches.”

Bettis will be opposed by Seth Lugo (2-2, 2.49) Christian Kirk Youth Jersey , who will be making his Coors Field debut and is 1-1, 3.00 in three starts this season with one walk and 18 strikeouts in 15 innings. Lugo is 1-0, 3.55 in three games, including one start, against the Rockies.

The Mets’ three-game winning streak ended Tuesday as they lost for the 13th time in 17 games and fell to 14-30 since May 1.

The Mets put outfielder Jay Bruce on the 10-day disabled list retroactive to Monday with right hip soreness after he missed a fourth start in five days and sent him back to New York for an MRI. Dominic Smith, a first baseman by trade, played left field Tuesday, and Mets manager Mickey Callaway said Smith, who began playing the outfield last month for Triple-A Las Vegas and entered Friday’s game in Arizona as the left fielder, would receive work at that position as the Mets go with four outfielders.

To replace Bruce, they recalled Tim Peterson Jimmy Garoppolo Youth Jersey , wanting an extra reliever with three games left in the series at hitter-friendly Coors Field. Peterson threw 19 pitches in two perfect innings Tuesday. The Mets will re-evaluate their roster before beginning a Friday series at home with the Los Angeles Dodgers.

The Mets outfield corps now includes Smith and Jose Bautista along with regulars Brandon Nimmo and Michael Conforto. Callaway said Wilmer Flores, who has had outfield experience, would stay at first base, leaving Smith and Bautista as the primary options in left field.

“We won’t hesitate to put Dom out there like we did today,” Callaway said, “but Bautista, who has been having great at-bats and playing pretty well in the outfield for us will get some playing time as well.”

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