|12.16.13 at 10:16 pm ET|
It was a tight one for much of the second half, with the Celtics owning a lead as big as nine points in the second quarter, but leading by just one at the half. But big performances by Jared Sullinger and Avery Bradley, as well as contributions from the Celtics bench, pushed Boston past Minnesota, 101-97, as the Celtics split the season series with the Timberwolves.
With the lead beginning to slip away in the last minutes of the fourth quarter, it took a few big defensive stands and three free throws from Sullinger to give the Celtics a little breathing room. Sullinger would put the final nail in the coffin with a free throw with just one second left to give the Celtics a four-point lead.
Sullinger led the Celtics with 24 points and 11 rebounds, as well as five assists. He outplayed superstar Kevin Love in the fourth quarter with 15 points, including a big three to give the Celtics a 95-92 lead with just over two minutes to play. The forward was also 9-of-11 from the line and shot 50 percent from the floor.
Avery Bradley got the Celtics off to a hot start, scoring six unanswered to kick off the first quarter and scoring 10 points in the by halftime (though he was stuck at 10 for the entire second quarter). Bradley would finish with 19 points on the evening with five boards.
In his second game back from an ankle injury, Kelly Olynyk scored nine points with four boards, while also making some big plays that didn’t necessarily show up in the box score. He threw himself into the stands twice in the fourth quarter to save loose balls, with Courtney Lee ready to receive the pass on both occasions. Kris Humphries, who was also sidelined, missing the last two games with a bruised right knee, made his presence felt with eight points and seven rebounds. The bench came up big for both teams, with the Celtics reserves adding on 35 points and the Minnesota bench coming up with 45 points, including 12 from Dante Cunningham and 10 apiece from Northeastern product J.J. Barea and Alexey Shved.
The Timberwolves came into the night hitting about 44 percent of shots from the 3-point range in their previous four games, with Love hitting 17 of 29 from behind the arc. But the Celtics defense held Minnesota’s 3-point game in check, with the T-Wolves hitting just 27.6 percent of shots from 3-point range, while Love was just 2-for-11 behind the line.
The Celtics contained Love and the Timberwolves offense in the first quarter, holding Minnesota to 21 points while Love was just 1-of-7 shooting and 2-of-4 at the line. Love came alive in the second quarter, but was still just 3-for-11 from the field. Regardless, the MVP candidate notched his 22nd double-double of the season and was the game’s leading scorer with 27 points and 14 boards.
Wolves’ point guard Ricky Rubio was a surprising non-factor, shooting just 2-for-12 from the field and hitting just one three on the night.
With the win, the Celtics move to a full game ahead of the Toronto Raptors in the Atlantic Division and improve to 12-14.
|12.16.13 at 1:25 pm ET|
As we’ve discussed in great detail, the Celtics have the picks and assets to enter just about every NBA trade conversation, so it comes as no surprise that they have reportedly entered the Omer Asik sweepstakes.
The advice offered to us on Sunday was stern: Keep an eye on Boston. The Celtics possess two players in different salary ranges that would presumably fit in useful ways next to Dwight Howard: Jeff Green and Brandon Bass. The Celts also have a spare first-round draft pick or two to plug into any trade equation to sweeten the deal for Houston, amid rising suspicions around the league that Morey’s Rockets are going to find a way to come out of the Asik saga with at least one future first. — Marc Stein, ESPN.com
The Rockets set a self-imposed deadline of Thursday to deal Asik, who requested a trade last month and even sat out a game due to concerns that resulted from the Dwight Howard signing this summer. The 7-footer hasn’t played since Dec. 2 after suffering a bruised right thigh and getting his swollen right knee drained.
This season and next, Asik is owed $20.1 million of his uniquely structured three-year, $25.1 million deal, including $14.9 million next year, although he would count $8.4 million against the salary cap. Make no mistake, though, Asik is a catch. The 27-year-old Turk played every game of his first three NBA seasons, culminating in career averages (10.1 points, 11.7 rebounds) during his first winter in Houston. He’s widely considered an elite rebounding center with an improving offensive game whose impact is measured best by advanced analytics.
But how much would the Celtics be willing to give up for Asik? First, Rockets GM Daryl Morey‘s asking price.
|12.13.13 at 10:22 pm ET|
Down by as many as 11 points in the fourth quarter, the Celtics went on a game-ending 22-7 run in the final 10 minutes to claim a 90-86 victory over the visiting Knicks on Friday night. Avery Bradley contributed seven points in the fourth quarter, including the 3-pointer that put the Celtics ahead for good with 2:38 left to play. Bradley’s 24-footer turned an 84-83 deficit into an 86-84 lead for Boston that set up the team to maintain its first-place standing in the Atlantic Division.
Jared Sullinger scored 19 points to lead the Celtics in scoring, but most of his damage came early, when the Celtics opened up a lead of up to 17 points in the first half. But in a game of drastic swings, New York ended up outscoring the Celtics by 28 points between the second and fourth quarters, until Boston went on its game-ending run.
For a more detailed recap, click here.
|12.13.13 at 11:46 am ET|
Avery Bradley turned down a four-year, $24 million offer from the Celtics in hopes of earning an $8 million average annual value in restricted free agency this coming summer, according to a Bleacher Report report (h/t Red’s Army).
While everything from Bleacher Report requires one part sodium and one part chloride, this line from NBA analyst Jared Zwerling‘s piece should be taken with an extra packet of salt: “Bradley will be a restricted free agent next summer, so things could get ‘tricky,’ as one source said, for the Celtics to keep him.”
There’s really nothing tricky about the Celtics keeping Bradley. They can match any offer this summer, and they have the means to do so. The hard part, given present salary cap restrictions, will be for others to offer Bradley $8 million.
The Celtics thinking here probably goes something like this: We currently value Bradley as a $6 million player, but if he commands $8 million on the open market, then so be it. We can still match it. No harm, no foul, no overpayment. There’s no sense in starting a bidding war when everyone else has yet to arrive at the auction.
Given the guard’s inability to remain healthy, it was a smart play on Danny Ainge‘s part. The variance in what Bradley might earn this summer was simply too vast to offer more than a bargain level salary at the time.
However, Bradley has played himself into the $8 million conversation as an All-NBA defender averaging a career-high 15.7 points on 44.6 percent shooting, especially considering Marcus Thornton cashes a similar check.
But Thornton’s deal was signed in 2011, and most teams smartened up this summer. Look at the deals top free agent shooting guards landed. Talented two-guards Tony Allen (4 years, $20 million), Gerald Henderson (3 years, $18 million), Kyle Korver (4 years, $24 million), Kevin Martin (4 years, $28 million), J.J. Redick (4 years, $28 million), O.J. Mayo (3 years, $24 million) and Monta Elllis (3 years, $25 million) all signed between $6-8 million, and they also took a quarter of the league out of the running for Bradley’s services.
|12.13.13 at 8:40 am ET|
The three-day former Celtics reunion tour ended Thursday night in Brooklyn, where Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett led their Nets to a 102-93 victory against Doc Rivers‘ Clippers, and naturally it was a mutual love-fest.
Quotes courtesy of the New York Post.
Pierce: “I grew under him. I was a young player, played nine years with him, just continued to mature and become a better all-around player under him. Before I was really known as a scorer; now when he took over he taught me the other parts of the game, the defense, the rebounding, the passing, just helped my game grow and mature.”
Garnett: “He taught us a lot about not just basketball and the philosophies of it, but about being a young man, a young black man, understanding your responsibilities, because we were starting our families. [He’s] just overall a great model. No one’s perfect, all humans have their flaws or whatever; but shoot, he’s damn near close to it. I’m just grateful he came into my life and that I had that experience to him.”
Those two remarks offer a reminder of the one significant difference between Rivers and new Celtics coach Brad Stevens. Doc is revered by veterans. Those who know Rivers love and respect him, and those who don’t hear stories from the ones who do. That helps when a team is trying to lure high-profile players. Stevens may get there one day, but it takes years to develop that type of cache, and that’s what the C’s will miss most in Rivers’ absence.
|12.11.13 at 10:56 pm ET|
“I’m still emotional. I though the fans were … it was just a really nice day. It’s just such a classy place here. So, it was really nice when I walked out — and I’m not used to walking out on that side — and all those people lined up. I was basically useless for the first 18 minutes of the game, I thought.
“It was just nice. It didn’t surprise me, because that’s just the way they are. You’ve got to live here to understand it. It’s an amazing fan base. It really is. And I just want everything to go well for them.
“That was hard. That was hard. Every time they were taking the ball out, one of their guys — Jeff [Green] and everyone — was talking to you, and you’re trying to keep focus. It’s funny. I told my coaches I needed halftime far more than the players, and I think they sensed that. You could see at halftime CP [Chris Paul] was like, ‘We got it. We got it.’ He kept saying that. So, I think they sensed that a little bit from me, and that was nice.
“I’ll tell you: Boy, this is such a neat place. I tell people all the time — people don’t get Boston. They really don’t. They don’t understand. And I think you have to be a part of it to get it. I really do. I don’t think you can get it from the outside. It’s just a special, different place. People are born here and raised here, and they cheer for their teams, and they love their athletes. And it’s just a great place to be. The best decision I ever made was 10 years ago, when I decided to come. That was the best decision I ever made.”
|12.11.13 at 9:57 pm ET|
Celtics fans thanked Doc Rivers with a standing ovation during a video tribute after the first quarter, and how did he repay his former organization? Guiding his Clippers to a 96-88 victory in his first game since leaving Boston.
Jeff Green (29 points), Brandon Bass (17 points, 12 rebounds) and Jordan Crawford (20 points, 9 assists) all had themselves a game against their former coach, but it wasn’t enough to help the Celtics avoid a second straight loss.
Not the greatest reunion week for the C’s, who drop to 10-14 and watch their Atlantic Division lead dwindle to a game over the idle Raptors.
WHAT WENT WRONG
The usuals: While the Celtics played stout defense, Clippers stars Chris Paul and Blake Griffin got theirs, combining for 40 points, 14 rebounds and 13 assists on the night. Meanwhile, the C’s held Los Angeles’ remaining three starters — Willie Green, Jared Dudley and DeAndre Jordan — to 22 points, 13 boards and two dimes. The strategy that probably wasn’t a strategy at all nearly worked.
Jump shoot: While Avery Bradley‘s jump shot has vastly improved since last season, Wednesday wasn’t his night. He didn’t connect on his first jumper until midway through the fourth quarter, although he did throw down this impressive one-handed alley-oop from Crawford early. His first connection from long distance, though, did give the Celtics a lead back after Los Angeles started the second half on a 15-4 run.
Benched: For the second straight night, Celtics coach Brad Stevens got little contribution from his second unit. With Kris Humphries nursing a bruised right knee and rookie Kelly Olynyk (ankle) missing his ninth straight game, Vitor Faverani was the lone big off the bench, and he put up zeroes again. The C’s reserves didn’t score their first points until Gerald Wallace‘s layup with 1:54 remaining in the third gave the C’s a 63-60 lead. And somehow Courtney Lee fouled out with all of zero points in the 15 minutes of action.
WHAT WENT RIGHT
Steez: The legend of Crawford continues to grow with each passing game. Facing Paul, the best floor general in the business, Crawford held his own in the first half. The Celtics point guard entered the break with nine points, five assists and just one turnover — respectable numbers opposite Paul’s 15 points, three assists and two turnovers. Meanwhile, the C’s assisted on 12 of their 18 first-half field goals to take a 45-39 lead.
Motivation: Two of the Celtics most scorned by Doc’s departure, Green and Bass, came to play against their former coach. When Rivers left, admitting an unwillingness to go through another rebuilding process, that had to sting for the players left on the roster. Bass tallied his second double-double of the season in as many nights, and Green netted 20 points for the first time this month, including this monster dunk.
Defense: Through three quarters, the Celtics held the Clippers to 66 points on 43.1 percent shooting (40.9 percent in the first and 40.0 in the second), staying within two when the C’s themselves were shooting just 39.1 percent from the field. Los Angeles came into the game shooting 46.5 percent on the season and scoring 105.1 points per 100 possessions, both top-five marks in the league. Unfortunately for Boston, the aggressive defense led to 17 personal fouls and 34 free throws for Los Angeles (as opposed to 19 free throws for the C’s).
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