|02.05.14 at 9:33 pm ET|
The Celtics hadn’t won two games in a row since Dec. 13 and 16, gathering Ping Pong balls as they slid down the NBA standing over the past month, but the C’s improved to 2-0 with Rajon Rondo and Avery Bradley in the starting backcourt.
Rondo approached triple-double territory (8 points, 11 assists, 9 rebounds), Bradley contributed 14 points before tweaking his ankle again and the two combined for five steals in a 114-108 victory against the host 76ers.
Jeff Green led all scorers with 36 points, helping the Celtics (17-33) avenge last week’s buzzer-beating loss to Philadelphia (15-35) in the Garden. Jared Sullinger (19 points, 10 rebounds, third straight double-double), Brandon Bass (18 points) and Jerryd Bayless (11 points) also reached double figures.
WHAT WENT RIGHT
Backcourt’s back: After missing two weeks with an ankle injury, Bradley picked up where he left off, scoring 17 points in his return on Sunday and reaching double figures against the Sixers within the game’s first 10 minutes. Despite playing four seasons together, Bradley and Rondo haven’t even started in the same backcourt for half a season’s worth of games. How that duo performs the rest of the way could dictate whether they remain teammates for years to come. The early returns are positive — on both sides of the ball, as Bradley and Rondo also helped keep Michael Carter-Williams (11 points) and Evan Turner (12 points) in check.
Green thumbs up: Likewise, Green showed signs of the uber-athletic potential everyone imagined in his pairing with Rondo. Green had a baker’s dozen by halftime, and Rondo assisted on three of his five field goals — including back-to-back buckets during a 10-0 run that helped the Celtics establish a nine-point lead just before halftime. Green’s confidence tends to build momentum when he’s involved early, and Rondo may help make that a trend.
Sharing the wealth: Actually, just about everybody benefited from Rondo’s presence. The C’s assisted on 13 of their 14 first-quarter field goals, taking a 34-23 lead after one, and finished the first half with 19 dimes on 23 FGs. Rondo had nine of the 19. While the Sixers made their runs to cut into the advantage — even taking the lead in the second quarter — the Celtics‘ execution on the offensive end helped keep them at bay.
WHAT WENT WRONG
Awkward Klynyk: Kelly Olynyk continues to endure some growing pains. Brad Stevens severely limited the rookie’s minutes during an all-around poor performance. In one tough-to-watch stretch, a Philadelphia shot clock violation bailed him out of biting on a Spencer Hawes up-fake from beyond the arc, and then he committed a horrific turnover in transition. He finished with one point and two giveaways in 12 minutes.
Sloppy second: Stevens rested Rondo with a seven-point lead midway through the second quarter, and the 76ers immediately rattled off a 10-2 run that included a pair of Carter-Williams buckets in his absence. The stagnant C’s were forced to bring back the still recovering Rondo after just three minutes. Through three quarters, the Celtics outscored the Sixers 68-57 with Rondo on the floor while Philly owned a 25-20 advantage with him on the bench.
Avery’s ankle: Bradley tweaked his ankle again late in the fourth quarter and sat the final 3:16. After his performance alongside Rondo the last two games, any more missed time would be another devastating blow.
|02.02.14 at 3:20 pm ET|
Rondo, who sat out Boston’s loss against the 76ers on Wednesday, shot 9-for-11 from the field, and added 10 assists for a Boston team that had lost 16 of its last 18.
Jared Sullinger led all scorers with 21 points, and he tallied his second straight double-double with 12 rebounds. Avery Bradley returned from his five-game absence with an ankle sprain to score 17 points. Brandon Bass also chipped in 19.
Arron Afflalo paced five Magic starters in double figures with 18 points.
WHAT WENT RIGHT FOR THE CELTICS
Rondo: For the first time this season, Boston fans got their old point guard back. Rondo, who entered Sunday’s game averaging 6.7 points and 5.7 assists per game on 27.9 percent shooting, played his best game of the season. He scored a season-high 19 points and added 10 assists and five rebounds. Rondo did all this on shooting 9-for-11 shooting. He stuffed the stat sheet in the first half with 13 points, four assists, three rebounds and two steals.
Sullinger: In the Celtics‘ 95-94 loss to the 76ers on Wednesday, Sullinger put together a 24-point, 17 rebound performance that on the surface looked impressive. However, the fact that Sullinger needed 25 shots ‘ and only made nine ‘ to get his 24 points took some of the punch out of that statline. Against the Magic, Sullinger again posted a double-double (18 points, 11 rebounds), but this time he did it in an efficient manner (9-for-14 from the field).
Rough on the rookie: Victor Oladipo will presumably have plenty of opportunities to showcase the talent that made the Magic use the second overall pick of the 2013 NBA Draft on him against the Celtics in the future. But after one season, it’s safe to say that Oladipo’s career versus Boston has begun inauspiciously. Oladipo’s fourth and final game against the C’s this season was his worst. He shot 3-for-16 from the field, scored 12 points while playing the unfamiliar point guard position in place of an injured Jameer Nelson.
WHAT WENT WRONG FOR THE CELTICS
Green shooting: Jeff Green had a miserable shooting game in Boston’s win, as the small forward missed 11 of his 13 shots. Green, Boston’s leading scorer, finished with eight points and shot 1-for-5 bound the arc. To Green’s credit, he did dish out five assists. In his last four games, Green’s had two 2-for-13 shooting performances, and a 4-for-13 night as well.
|02.01.14 at 6:43 pm ET|
Celtics point guard Rajon Rondo told ESPN.com that the idea of free agency carries some intrigue for him, though he stopped short of saying that he had decided with any certainty to pursue that avenue at the end of his current five-year, $55 million deal that runs through the 2014-15 season.
“It’s kind of like, I would say, maybe college recruiting,” Rondo told the website. “I’m pretty sure a lot more goes into it in the NBA. A lot more money is spent.
“I’ve heard stories, guys getting called right at midnight. It’s something that I haven’t experienced. I may want to go through it. I haven’t thought about it at all.”
Rondo, 27, is averaging 6.7 points, 5.7 assists and 3.8 rebounds in 24 minutes a night in the six games since he returned from his torn ACL. The Celtics are 0-6 in games where he’s played.
|01.31.14 at 5:49 pm ET|
Celtics captain Rajon Rondo is due $12.9 million next season — the final year of a five-year, $55 million extension he signed in October 2009 — and the NBA’s new collective bargaining agreement makes any suggestion he’d rather test the free agency waters than sign another longterm extension an obvious one.
In the simplest terms, Rondo stands to make twice as much money on his next contract if he becomes an unrestricted free agent in 2015. So, when he tells reporters, “I may want to go through” free agency, as he did after Friday’s practice, who can blame him? For years, Paul Pierce said the same, because it makes financial sense.
The following timeline — cobbled together using Larry Coon’s NBA Salary Cap FAQ and input from the Celtics front office — details what max contract Rondo can sign at different points over the next 18 months, and should help explain why Rondo won’t sign an extension this season and may not end up signing one next season.
(Even if Rondo doesn’t ultimately sign for max dollars, which he probably won’t, this exercise should still demonstrate the vast difference in money available to him at various times in his near future.)
|01.30.14 at 1:23 am ET|
The Celtics hit a new low with a buzzer-beating loss to the 76ers. They’ve lost four in a row, wrapping up January with a 2-15 record after losing to the only team that stood between them and the Atlantic Division basement.
Other than that, how was the play, Mrs. Lincoln?
On the bright side, the Celtics have three days off before traveling to Orlando to take on one of two teams that owns a worse record than them in the entire NBA, and somehow they’re only 5.5 games behind the hapless Eastern Conference’s eighth-seeded Bobcats (THE EIGHTH-SEEDED BOBCATS!). Oh, and the C’s possess a 15.6 percent chance at the No. 1 pick, a 46.9 percent at a top-three pick and a 96.4 percent chance at a top-five pick on the night Kansas freshman Andrew Wiggins scored a season-high 29 points on 16 shots. So, there’s that.
Here’s how various Celtics are dealing with their dire situation heading into the final 10 weeks of the season.
|01.29.14 at 9:59 pm ET|
Neither team seemed all that interested in winning — as the Celtics and Sixers combined for six missed free throws down the stretch before Hamilton product Michael Carter-Williams finally made one to tie the game at 92-92 in the final minute — but another free throw and Evan Turner‘s running layup at the buzzer negated a Kris Humphries jumper and put an end to a 95-94 Philadelphia victory that sunk the C’s to the bottom of the Atlantic Division.
Jared Sullinger led the Celtics with 24 points and 17 rebounds while Jeff Green (18 points), Humphries (13), Brandon Bass (11) and Jerryd Bayless (10) all reached double figures, but the C’s (15-33) dropped their 19th game in 22 tries. Here’s what went right and wrong in another loss loss.
WHAT WENT WRONG
No-go Rondo: For the second straight back-to-back, the Celtics rested Rajon Rondo in the second game, and the timing of both seemed a bit odd, particularly Wednesday. Not because Rondo should have played twice in two days, since he’s still experiencing some swelling in his knee, but because the second game (at Wizards and hosting 76ers) appeared infinitely more winnable than the first (in both Miami and New York) with him in the lineup. The C’s actually beat the Wizards without Rondo, but his presence against Philly would’ve a) helped counter the length of Michael Carter-Williams and b) given Boston fans another chance to see the All-Star point guard.
Worst first: The Celtics scored 26 first-quarter points, led by a baker’s dozen from Green, and held the Sixers to 29.6 percent shooting in the opening 12 points — yet only led by three after one. The C’s allowed five offensive boards and committed seven turnovers in the frame, leading to 10 of Philadelphia’s 23 points.
Phil pressing: After totaling 20 points and four assists in a victory against the Wizards in his previous start, rookie point guard Phil Pressey didn’t have the same luck opposite the 6-foot-6 Carter-Williams. Pressey finished just 1-of-7 from the floor (2 points) and committed five turnovers before Stevens yanked him for Bayless down the stretch.
WHAT WENT RIGHT
Green with envy: For whatever reason, the self-described “[expletive]-hole Jeff Green showed up against the 76ers. Both Green and Philadelphia forward Thaddeus Young were mentioned as potential trade chips in the Omer Asik discussions earlier this season, and a lot of folks were pegging Young as the more valuable chip. It’s unclear whether that was Green’s motivation or not, but it sure seemed like it.
Sully bully: Soon after the pregame announcement that both Sullinger and rookie Kelly Olynyk were selected to the Rising Stars Challenge, Celtics coach Brad Stevens called his sophomore forward to the mat. “One thing I challenged him on is not accepting being a 22-year-old in the league,” he said. “We’re in a unique situation where we’re asking some of our young guys to be leaders. My thing to him is for our team to grow, you almost have to play a few years ahead of where you are.” Despite an injury to his shooting hand that limited him to an average of 5.3 points and 4.0 rebounds over his previous three games, Sullinger responded with his first double-double in a week.
Nice Johnson: On his second 10-day contract, Chris Johnson continues to earn what should be a minimum salary contract for the remainder of the season. On what seems like sheer effort alone, he’s made an impact in just about ever game in which he’s appeared. His first fourth-quarter triple drew the Celtics even for the first time since early in the second quarter; in the next two minutes, he assisted on a Green 3-pointer that gave the C’s a three-point lead and drilled another 3 that doubled it. He also added a handful of assists and rebounds.
|01.28.14 at 9:58 pm ET|
This was the final score on Dec. 8 when the Atlantic Division-leading Celtics steamrolled an embarrassed Knicks team at Madison Square Garden. The 41-point margin of victory was the largest in the NBA at the time.
Boston has taken the court 25 times since that game, and looked like a shockingly different team.
This became glaringly clear on Tuesday night, as New York avenged the blowout loss in December with a 114-88 shellacking of their own back at the Garden. The Celtics (15-32) have dropped 20 of 25 games, and now find themselves in a three-game slide.
Carmelo Anthony authored the win with 24 points and nine rebounds. J.R. Smith (17 points), Jeremy Tyler (17 points), Tim Hardaway Jr. (16 points), and Tyson Chandler (12 points) aided the cause for New York (18-27).
WHAT WENT WRONG FOR THE CELTICS
Disastrous first half: The Knicks set the nets ablaze and suffocated Boston on defense in the first half, en route to a 63-37 advantage in the first half. There were no silver linings, no glass-half-full outlooks. It was simply complete and utter domination by New York. The Knicks outshot the Celtics, 61.5 percent to 31.8 percent from the field and also made four more 3-pointers. New York collected 10 more assists than Boston and forced the C’s into eight turnovers. Finally, just two Celtics scored at least six points. Conversely, all four Knicks off the bench tallied at least six points. While the bench’s 28 points in the half helped, Anthony paced the team with 17 points. Chandler also added 10 points.
Melo: It’s not that the Celtics needed to stop Anthony. This would be an unrealistic goal considering that Anthony entered Tuesday’s game with 97 points in his last two games, including a 62-point, 13-rebound performance on Friday versus the Bobcats. Instead, Boston hoped to slow him, frustrate him, and perhaps even break his unconscionable scoring rhythm. None of this happened, as Anthony finished with 24 points, and never broke a sweat. He needed just 15 shots and 28 minutes to tally his eighth straight 20-plus point game. Anthony left his mark on the game in other aspects with nine rebounds, four assists and four steals.
Rondo: Boston’s point guard continued the rusty start to his season with another shaky performance. Rajon Rondo used 13 shots to score just seven points, and he turned the ball over four times in 26 minutes of play. It was evident that the requisite chemistry and cohesiveness required for a player like Rondo to possess with his teammates was lacking. Multiple times Rondo whipped a pass past a Celtic big who was staring at the basket in anticipation of a shot. This is not unexpected as Rondo has played just six games this season with a completely different supporting cast than what he thrived with in his heyday. But his first five games are tough to look at statistically: 6.6 points, 5.8 assists, 4.2 rebounds and 3.2 turnovers per game on 29.9 percent shooting.
WHAT WENT RIGHT FOR THE CELTICS
CJ: Johnson earned his second 10-day contract with the Celtics before the game Tuesday, and he continued to show he belongs in the league with another strong outing. Johnson scored 12 points from the bench, all on 3-pointers, and provided a rare burst of energy to a lethargic Boston team. The former Grizzlies guard is averaging 10.4 points per game for Boston.
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