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Fast Break: Al Horford misses last-second layup as Celtics let one slip away to Rockets

12.05.16 at 10:46 pm ET
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Avery Bradley defends James Harden during Monday's game. (Troy Taormina/USA Today Sports)

Avery Bradley defends James Harden during Monday’s game. (Troy Taormina/USA Today Sports)

The Celtics were handed a gift Monday night in Houston, but they treated it like an ugly sweater on Christmas morning — something they’ll look back on only with disgust.

Houston led by three points and had the ball with 16 seconds left, but in an instant the C’s were put in position to win after Rockets star James Harden was called for an offensive foul — and a flagrant 1 to boot — after throwing his elbow into Marcus Smart’s face while trying to create space. However, Boston could not capitalize.

After Smart (a 60 percent shooter from the line) hit two free throws to get the C’s within a point, Isaiah Thomas missed a driving layup, although the C’s retained possession when Harden knocked it out of bounds. On the ensuing inbounds, Al Horford caught the ball at the 3-point line and found an open lane to the basket but missed a layup with one second remaining, allowing Houston to escape with a 107-106 decision.

“I felt good when I shot it,” Horford told reporters about the final shot. “It just didn’t go down.”

“We got two good looks,” Celtics coach Brad Stevens said in his postgame press conference. “The guys did a great job in those moments.”

Harden led all scorers with 37 points on 8-of-14 field goals (3-of-5 treys) and 18-of-18 free throws. He also had eight rebounds, eight assists and 10 turnovers.

Horford led the Celtics with 21 points and nine assists. Thomas scored 20 points. Bradley had 16 points and 10 rebounds — and he’ll rue the additional point he thought he had. With 46 seconds left and the C’s trailing by five, Bradley lined up at the arc and drilled a big shot to end a 13-2 Houston run, but the officials ruled his toe was on the line, and it held up on review despite protestations from the Celtics, who saw the replay on the arena scoreboard.

“They said it was inconclusive and it was called a 2,” Stevens related.

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Bulls suspend Rajon Rondo 1 game for conduct detrimental to team

12.05.16 at 4:50 pm ET
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Rajon Rondo

Rajon Rondo

Former Celtics guard Rajon Rondo is already making friends in Chicago.

The mercurial point guard, whose talent is often dwarfed by his behavior, was suspended for one game by the Bulls for conduct detrimental to the team after getting in a “heated argument” with an assistant coach, according to Yahoo’s Adrian Wojnarowski.

Wojnarowski added that Rondo apologized and accepted responsibility for his actions.

Rondo’s outburst came after Saturday’s 25-point loss to the Mavericks, in which Rondo submitted his worst game of the season (2 points, 2 assists, 5 turnovers). Returning to Dallas may have brought out the worst in him, because the Mavericks memorably benched Rondo after repeated disputes with head coach Rick Carlisle during the 2015 postseason.

Rondo was suspended by the NBA last year for directing a homophobic slur at referee Bill Kennedy.

One year after leading the league in assists with Sacramento, Rondo is averaging 8.2 points and 7.2 assists per game with the Bulls, who are 11-8.

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Fast Break: Celtics overcome weak start, beat Sixers

12.04.16 at 8:55 am ET
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Dec 3, 2016; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Boston Celtics center Al Horford (42) has his shot blocked by Philadelphia 76ers center Jahlil Okafor (8) during the fourth quarter at Wells Fargo Center. The Celtics defeated the 76ers 107-106. Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

Al Horford (42) had this shot blocked by Jahlil Okafor, but the Celtics managed to win in the end. (Eric Hartline/USA Today Sports)

It didn’t look good in the beginning, but the Celtics ultimately beat the Sixers 107-106 on Saturday for their second win in as many nights. 

The Sixers are not a great team, and even with Joel Embiid on the bench, the Celtics struggled at first on defense. The intensity was lacking for Boston in a rough first quarter that ended with the team trailing 30-22 and missing both 3-point shot attempts.

The Celtics let the Sixers knock down nine 3-pointers in the first half, while Boston themselves only ended up making two. Lack of rebounding and defense in the paint were the team’s other biggest weaknesses as they found themselves down 53-45 at halftime. 

“We weren’t very good in the first half. I don’t think that’s rocket science to figure out,” coach Brad Stevens said after the game. “The second half we really competed. They made great plays and great shots. … It was a heck of a tough win for us. Considering we didn’t play well in the first half, it’s a good win.” 

Isaiah Thomas did not take this game lightly and played aggressively throughout, leading the Celtics with 37 points. Avery Bradley came in second in points with 20. 

For a complete box score, click here

Boston picked up its defense enough in the third quarter to take the lead for the first time since the opening minutes of the game. Still the score was closer than it should have been for much of the second half before the Sixers tied it at 100 with 34.6 seconds left in the game. Thomas made a layup to give the Celtics a 102-100 lead before they ultimately won the game on free throws. 

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Full Court Press: Does Brad Stevens really want his team swinging for the fences so much? Depends

12.03.16 at 9:24 am ET
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Nov 30, 2016; Boston, MA, USA;  Boston Celtics guard Avery Bradley (0) takes a shot while guarded by Detroit Pistons point guard Ish Smith (14) during the fourth quarter at TD Garden.  The Detroit Pistons won 121-114. Mandatory Credit: Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports

Avery Bradley is one of the Celtics leading the 3-point barrage this season. (Greg M. Cooper/USA Today Sports)

The 3-point shot is the home run of basketball. It’s a play that can get you back in a game and one that can close the door just as fast. 

Stevens, who earned three letters apiece in high school basketball and track, also earned on in baseball in his days at Zionsville, Indiana. On Wednesday, he used a baseball metaphor to make his point about shot selection and tempo. 

Brad Stevens, the man who wore No. 31 in high school after idol Reggie Miller, certainly saw the down side of it on Wednesday in a 121-114 loss to the Pistons, during which his team took 42 shots from beyond the arc. The Celtics made a reasonable number (15) and percent (35) but that doesn’t tell the whole story. His team committed just six turnovers and shot 44 percent. 

“I think we’re taking care of the ball, pretty obviously, really well. I wasn’t overly happy with some of our shots. I felt like some of shots were rushed. But again, when we play good offense we’re really good on that end of the floor. But we have a tendency when teams are making runs against us or things aren’t going our way to try to get it all back at once, and you just can’t do that. You have to keep hitting singles.”

The Celtics are averaging 31.1 3-point attempts a game (making 11.3). The 31.1 figure is fifth in the NBA, just behind Golden State. The three other teams ahead of Boston are Houston (37.0), Brooklyn (34.9) and Cleveland (34.3).

The problem Wednesday wasn’t the 42 threes the Celtics took. It was the 27 misses. Long shots usually lead to long rebounds, and that’s a problem for a team that can’t rebound. The Celtics were battered again on the glass Wednesday (52-33) and many of those were Detroit hauling in the long rebounds from the missed shots. 

While Stevens indicated that he wanted more “singles” after Wednesday’s game, he seemed to clarify that before Friday’s game with Sacramento, suggesting the Celtics were taking the right kind of threes.

“They are,” Stevens said. “At the end of the day, we want layups. If we don’t get layups, we want the floor to be shrunk. The defense shrinks in and you’re able to touch the paint and kick it out, in two of our last three games, maybe three of our last four games, two-thirds of our possessions we’ve touched the paint or shrunk the defense with a roll. That’s kind of our objective. Hey, we’re not a team that gets to the foul line a lot, we’re not a team that rebounds at a high rate, and we haven’t scored it in transition so to be able to be sitting where we are, offensively, I think a big reason is because we space the floor.”

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WEEI is how you listen to Celtics coverage. JBL cutting-edge wireless headphones and speakers are how you feel like you’re there. As the official Sound of the Celtics, Isaiah Thomas and the NBA, JBL is Made for the Biggest Stage.

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Mike Petraglia recaps Al Horford’s big night, outshining DeMarcus Cousins in Celtics win over Kings

12.02.16 at 10:59 pm ET
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DeMarcus Cousins and the Kings made it a lot more difficult than the Celtics had hoped Friday night but in the end Al Horford and Isaiah Thomas were enough. Mike Petraglia has the recap inside TD Garden.

JBL_CMYK_NoHarmanNoRBall

WEEI is how you listen to Celtics coverage. JBL cutting-edge wireless headphones and speakers are how you feel like you’re there. As the official Sound of the Celtics, Isaiah Thomas and the NBA, JBL is Made for the Biggest Stage.

Read More: Al Horford, Boston Celtics, DeMarcus Cousins, Mike Petraglia

Fast Break: Al Horford (26 points), strong fourth quarter leads Celtics past Kings

12.02.16 at 10:40 pm ET
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Dec 2, 2016; Boston, MA, USA; Sacramento Kings center DeMarcus Cousins (15) goes up for a shot against Boston Celtics center Al Horford (42) during the first half at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

DeMarcus Cousins (15) goes up for a shot against Celtics center Al Horford during the first half Friday at TD Garden. (Winslow Townson/USA Today Sports)

For the first time in four games, the Celtics held their opponent to under 100 points, defeating the Kings 97-92 and snapping a 3-game home losing streak.

The Kings couldn’t get much going throughout the game, shooting 37.9 percent from the field, highlighted by a disastrous 6-of-26 from behind the 3-point line.

The Celtics weren’t much better, as they shot 40.9 percent from the field, but their 3-point shooting (39.3 percent) is what proved to be the difference.

Al Horford led the way for the C’s, scoring 26 points (including 4-of-7 from 3-point range), grabbing eight rebounds and blocking six shots, including the game-winner. Jae Crowder also played well, shooting 6-of-12 from the field for 16 points.

Despite shooting 10-of-26 from the field, DeMarcus Cousins was the only reason the Kings were in the game down the stretch, making several key plays, including scoring 5 points in the final minute of the game.  Cousins took a nasty elbow to his face, resulting in a nasty gash above his right eye. He missed two minutes of the fourth quarter while he was being treated on the bench. 

The C’s jumped out to a 29-16 lead, led by a 5-of-7 12-point first quarter from Al Horford—two more shots than he took all of last game.

The Kings responded with a 13-0 run to close the quarter however, and the margin would stay within 8 the rest of the game.

Down 2 coming into the fourth quarter, the C’s outscored the Kings 28-20 in the final period, with the biggest play coming from Horford: blocking a potential game-tying three from Demarcus Cousins with 5.8 seconds left in the game. Free throws from Isaiah Thomas and Horford helped seal the deal.

In an ugly game featuring 23 lead changes, the Celtics found a way to get it done. 

For a complete box score, click here.


JBL_CMYK_NoHarmanNoRBall

WEEI is how you listen to Celtics coverage. JBL cutting-edge wireless headphones and speakers are how you feel like you’re there. As the official Sound of the Celtics, Isaiah Thomas and the NBA, JBL is Made for the Biggest Stage.

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Friday pregame notes: Celtics preparing for the boogie monster that is DeMarcus Cousins

12.02.16 at 7:14 pm ET
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Nov 28, 2016; Washington, DC, USA; Sacramento Kings center DeMarcus Cousins (15) shoots over Washington Wizards center Marcin Gortat (13) during the second half at Verizon Center. Mandatory Credit: Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

DeMarcus Cousins is the most dominant offensive big man in basketball. (Brad Mills/USA Today Sports)

The Celtics will get an up close-and-personal look at the player many believe is the biggest hope for them to transform their roster into an instant contender. 

DeMarcus Cousins entered Friday’s game fifth in the NBA in points (28.7) and rebounds (10.4) points while dishing out 3.2 assists per game. Before making just one of six from 3-point range against the Wizards last Monday, Cousins was on fire from deep, hitting 15-of-25 in his previous four games. He’s doing every any NBA team would want from a big man. In fact, he is arguably the most versatile big man in basketball. 

“He’s playing in space and attacking the basket and I think his 3-point percentage is pretty high in the last four games also so it becomes a kind of pick your poison deal when he’s out on the perimeter,” Kings coach Dave Joerger said. 

“He’s a tough guy to guard,” added Brad Stevens. “A good example is, in a simple pick-and-roll what do you do? Usually with guys who shoot 40 percent (from three) you switch or mix in switches. With his size it becomes a lot more difficult because he can bury you in the post. He’s a great low post scorer and a good offensive rebounder, especially against guys who are smaller. He’s a handful.”

Cousins is under contract for this season and next, averaging $17.5 million per season. Cousins is averaging 20.5 points and 10.8 rebounds in his eight-year career. That puts him in hall of fame company over the last 20 years. Only Charles Barkley, Karl Malone, Hakeem Olajuwon, Shaquille O’Neal and David Robinson have averaged 20 points and 10 rebounds for their career. 

After giving up 121 points on Wednesday to Detroit, Brad Stevens was asked before Friday’s game how comfortable he is with his team’s overall defense. 

“In the last three weeks we’ve actually been a little bit better,” Stevens said. “We were better on Wednesday than the score indicated, after I watched it. There were a few missed contests, a couple of moments in transition that were poor. But I thought it was pretty good. Detroit made great plays. Looking at it objectively with the sound off it was pretty obvious they played a hell of a game and we didn’t play quite as well. We’re focused on the things we can control. We have to shore up the rebounding. Then there’s little correctible things.”

Don’t blame the Kings if they were looking at the parquet a little suspiciously before Friday’s game. The last time they tried to play the court in Philadelphia was too wet from condensation to hold a game and the game with the Sixers had to be postponed. As a matter of fact, the Kings haven’t played since Monday when they lost in overtime at Washington, 101-95.

“We hadn’t played in two days so tried to scrimmage a little bit and keep our timing as much as possible,” Kings coach Dave Joerger said. 

Joerger also praised the play of Celtics star Isaiah Thomas, who entered play Friday averaging 26.1 points, ninth in the league.

“He’s a good player. I’m very impressed with what he’s become as a player,” Joerger said. “He plays in a lot of space because their bigs kind of invert the floor being able to step out and shoot. So they have an open court. They don’t post up a lot. They play their post-up game and scoring in the paint off of drives and playing in space.”

JBL_CMYK_NoHarmanNoRBall

WEEI is how you listen to Celtics coverage. JBL cutting-edge wireless headphones and speakers are how you feel like you’re there. As the official Sound of the Celtics, Isaiah Thomas and the NBA, JBL is Made for the Biggest Stage.

Read More: Boston Celtics, DeMarcus Cousins, Isaiah Thomas, NBA
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