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Win over Magic reminded us of Jaylen Brown’s potential

01.27.17 at 10:35 pm ET
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Jaylen Brown (Jerry Lai/USA Today Sports)

Jaylen Brown put together a strong performance against the Magic at TD Garden (Jerry Lai/USA Today Sports)

Not many people had high expectations for the league’s No. 3 pick Jaylen Brown this season.

In fact, the Celtics were criticized for their selection by most critics when the So. Cal product’s name was announced in last summer’s NBA Draft. 

But if there’s one thing that we can take away from the Celtics’ 128-98 lopsided win over the Magic, it was that Brown has the potential to blossom into a viable scoring option for the Celtics, sooner rather than later. 

For the second straight night, Brown started in the backcourt in place of the injured Avery Bradley (right Achilles) and finished with a season-high 20 points to go with his eight rebounds. Sure, this was against the Magic (18-29) — third-worst team in the Eastern Conference — but the rookie still gave you a glimpse of how valuable he could be in less than three months from now when Brad Stevens will be competing to win his first NBA playoff series. 

Whether it was because he started in place of Avery Bradley for the second consecutive night or the fact that he was left out off the roster of the BBVA Compass Rising Star Challenge at All-Star Weekend, Brown played with a chip on his shoulder. He played with a sense of urgency. After scoring nine of his 13 first-half points in the game’s opening seven minutes, Brown was dialed in. 

The third overall pick was active on defense, crashing the glass for boards and was assertive on offense. Doing what he does best when the ball is in his hands, Brown took his defender to the hoop. Sometimes he finished, sometimes he kicked it out, other times he earned trips to the free-throw line but what was promising was his knack for wanting to make plays. 

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Rajon Rondo, still making friends in Chicago, unloads on Bulls veterans, pines for Boston days in Instagram post

01.26.17 at 6:44 pm ET
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My vets would never go to the media. They would come to the team. My vets didn’t pick and choose when they wanted to bring it. They brought it every time they stepped in the gym whether it was practice or a game. They didn’t take days off. My vets didn’t care about their numbers. My vets played for the team. When we lost, they wouldn’t blame us. They took responsibility and got in the gym. They showed the young guys what it meant to work. Even in Boston when we had the best record in the league, if we lost a game, you could hear a pin drop on the bus. They showed us the seriousness of the game. My vets didn’t have an influence on the coaching staff. They couldn’t change the plan because it didn’t work for them. I played under one of the greatest coaches, and he held everyone accountable. It takes 1-15 to win. When you isolate everyone, you can’t win consistently. I may be a lot of things, but I’m not a bad teammate. My goal is to pass what I learned along. The young guys work. They show up. They don’t deserve blame. If anything is questionable, it’s the leadership.

A photo posted by Rajon Rondo (@rajonrondo) on

Do you miss Rajon Rondo? I’m not gonna lie — I miss Rajon Rondo.

It sure sounds like he misses Boston.

A brilliant meteor with the Celtics, he has since worn out his welcome in Dallas and now Chicago, where he was suspended for a game in December for conduct detrimental to the team.

On Thursday, he took aim at teammates Dwyane Wade and Jimmy Butler, who had blasted the Bulls a night earlier following a fourth-quarter collapse against Atlanta. Wade and Butler criticized teammates for not caring, and those words did not sit well with Rondo, who took to his Instagram account and obliterated them for not setting the example that he learned in Boston from Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett. (Rondo, it should be noted, scored 3 points in 9 minutes against the Hawks).

Beside a picture of himself in Celtics green with that duo, Rondo unloaded on Wade and Butler:

“My vets would never go to the media,” he wrote. “They would come to the team. My vets didn’t pick and choose when they wanted to bring it. They brought it every time they stepped in the gym whether it was practice or a game. They didn’t take days off. My vets didn’t care about their numbers. My vets played for the team. When we lost, they wouldn’t blame us. They took responsibility and got in the gym. They showed the young guys what it meant to work. Even in Boston when we had the best record in the league, if we lost a game, you could hear a pin drop on the bus. They showed us the seriousness of the game. My vets didn’t have an influence on the coaching staff. They couldn’t change the plan because it didn’t work for them. I played under one of the greatest coaches, and he held everyone accountable. It takes 1-15 to win. When you isolate everyone, you can’t win consistently. I may be a lot of things, but I’m not a bad teammate. My goal is to pass what I learned along. The young guys work. They show up. They don’t deserve blame. If anything is questionable, it’s the leadership.”

There’s only one word for that, and it’s, “Wow.” Not sure if Rondo is shooting his way out of town again, but given his acrimonious history with Wade when they were part of the Celtics-Heat rivalry, it looks like old grudges die hard.

Read More: Bulls, Celtics, Dwyane Wade, Jimmy Butler

Celtics defense shines in impressive win over Rockets

01.26.17 at 6:15 pm ET
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Jan 25, 2017; Boston, MA, USA; Houston Rockets guard James Harden (13) and Boston Celtics forward Jae Crowder (99) battle for the ball during the first half at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

Celtics defense forced 17 turnovers in their 120-109 win at TD Garden (Bob DeChiara/USA Today)

In their most impressive win of the season, the Celtics outscored one of the best offenses in the league while containing Houston’s leading scorer in a 120-109 victory over the Rockets.

The Celtics snapped a three-game losing streak on Wednesday night at TD Garden. Isaiah Thomas scored a game-high 38 points, Al Horford flirted with a double-double (23 points, 9 assists) and Jae Crowder (23 points, 10 rebounds) had a productive night but what stood out the most about the Celtics’ much needed win was their defense.

Harden, who entered last night’s game as the league’s second leading scorer, went cold in the third quarter (1-of-5) after Crowder — the team’s defensive anchor — cranked up his intensity and rattled the MVP candidate. Although Harden finished with a team-high 30 points, it took him 18 attempts to get there as he finished the night shooting 33.3 percent from the floor and committed seven of the team’s 17 turnovers.

More than half of Harden’s points came from the free-throw line — where he drained 16-of-19 attempts.

Throughout the Celtics’ three-game losing streak, the defense in the back court had been a turnstile for opposing guards like Bradley Beal, John Wall, C.J. McCollum, Damian Lillard and Derrick Rose. All five guards finished with at least 28 points or more against the C’s while shooting over 50 percent from the floor. With Avery Bradley still out of the lineup, the stars were aligned for Harden to have a monster shooting night but that certainly wasn’t the case.

Celtics rookie Jaylen Brown, who got the start over Marcus Smart in the backcourt, kept up with Harden in the first quarter before Smart and Crowder took turns pestering the veteran and forcing him to commit turnovers throughout the second half. For the first time in a while, the Celtics were a cohesive unit on the defensive end of the floor. It started with Crowder but was sustained with help from guys like Smart, Horford — who finished with a game-high plus-21 rating — and Jonas Jerebko in the front court. 

Jerebko, along with Brown, was another addition in the starting lineup against the Rockets in place of Amir Johnson and didn’t disappoint, especially on the defensive end of the floor. He finished with 7 rebounds and made the most of 23 minutes of playing time by clogging the lanes and providing plenty of help-defense in the post.

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Marcus Smart argues with Celtics coaches during embarrassing loss to Wizards

01.24.17 at 11:04 pm ET
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Bradley Beal led the Wizards to a big win over Marcus Smart and the Celtics on Tuesday night. (Brad Mills/USA Today Sports)

Bradley Beal (left) led the Wizards to a big win over Marcus Smart and the Celtics on Tuesday night. (Brad Mills/USA Today Sports)

It took until the fourth quarter for a Celtics player to finally put up a fight during Tuesday’s embarrassing loss to the Wizards.

The problem is, Marcus Smart was fighting with his own coaches.

The emotional guard jawed with no fewer than four Celtics assistants during a late-game timeout before apparently being dismissed from the team huddle by head coach Brad Stevens. He then was escorted to the locker room by teammate Amir Johnson.

Smart missed the closing seconds of his team’s 123-108 humiliation to a Washington team that approached this game like it was the playoffs (game recap here). The Wizards dressed in all black before the game and then buried the Celtics in an avalanche of jumpers and dunks. Washington shot 57.8 percent from the field and had its way with a Celtics defense that has struggled all season.

But first, the Smart incident.

“He just wanted to go back in,” Stevens said in his postgame press conference, although it clearly was much more than that, as Smart was chewed out by one assistant after another before departing. “He had played 12 minutes or whatever, and so he wasn’t going to back in. He wanted to go back in. … He wanted to go back in badly.”

Smart also downplayed the incident to reporters.

“Coaches and players, they’re real passionate about the game, hate losing, having different opinions and things about certain things on the bench,” he said, adding: “Of course I wanted to go back in. Just like everybody else, to play it out. Give it everything they have, leave it on the court. We had different opinions on that.”

Added Smart: “As a competitor, a lot of frustration. You hate losing regardless. I think everybody on this team hates losing. Everybody on this team knows I hate losing, and how much I hate losing. So it was a lot of frustration.”

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Loss to Trail Blazers reminds Celtics how important Avery Bradley is

01.21.17 at 8:39 pm ET
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Jan 21, 2017; Boston, MA, USA; Portland Trail Blazers guard Damian Lillard (0) gets fouled by Boston Celtics guard Marcus Smart (36) during the second half at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

Damian Lillard scored 19 of his 28 points in the second half. (Bob DeChiara/USA Today Sports)

When coach Brad Stevens broke the news that the Celtics were going to face the Trail Blazers without their best back court defender in Avery Bradley for the second straight game, you knew the C’s were going to have their hands full against Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum — one of best guard duos in the NBA.  

The Trail Blazers, losers of five of their last seven games, entered TD Garden hungry for a win and earned a 127-123 overtime win against the Celtics behind a combined 63 points from Lillard and McCollum.  

McCollum scored a team-high 35 points on 11-of-21 attempts and Lillard finished with 28 points on 9-of-21 shots. 

The absence of Bradley in the back court is felt against scoring guards. Isaiah Thomas’ shortcomings on defense isn’t new, but what is starting to become a trend in games when Bradley is out is Marcus Smart’s inability to keep up with his defensive assignments and they were magnified against Lillard and McCollum. 

However, Smart’s struggles haven’t only been against offensively gifted guards. 

The Celtics have now dropped two straight games against the Knicks and Trail Blazers, respectively, and in both games, both teams managed to capitalize on their back court’s offensive production. Derrick Rose of the Knicks had a 2011 MVP like performance against Smart on Wednesday. He finished with 30 points on 13-of-24 attempts all from inside the 3-point arc, including 4-of-4 from the charity stripe. Rose danced with Smart all over the parquet floor and won the matchup that ultimately made the difference in the game’s outcome.

On Saturday, Smart spent most of his time on McCollum — who put on a shooting clinic by scoring a whopping 26 points — in the first half before switching over to Lillard. 

After Amir Johnson split a pair of free-throws that gave the Celtics a one-point lead (108-107), Smart committed a shooting foul on Lillard while trying to fight through a screen that resulted in Lillard making both attempts and giving the Blazers the lead with 1:16 left in the game. But one of the biggest defensive blunders by Smart came not when left McCollum open for an open shot that would have sealed the game, but when he committed an offensive foul on Lillard while trying to covert a put-back layup. 

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Evan Turner reflects on special friendship with Brad Stevens: ‘He put me in a position to be successful’

01.21.17 at 5:57 pm ET
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IMG_20170121_160230

Evan Turner considers Boston a very special place. (Josue Pavon/WEEI.com)

While reminiscing on his time in Boston, former Celtic Evan Turner shared how much he misses the city and how him and Celtics coach Brad Stevens formed a strong friendship — one that he doesn’t take for granted.  

Turner, who played two seasons in Boston before signing four-year, $70 million deal with the Trail Blazers last summer, says while Stevens was a great coach to him and his teammates throughout his tenure in Boston, he’s also responsible for re-energizing his career.

“Obviously as a coach, he’s a was a great coach,” Turner said. “He helped me figure out myself and a lot of guys in the locker room’s career, re-energized it. I just always thought he was a great, classy person. A sincere individual. Never thought he was too big and he does a lot of great things but I really appreciate the friendship I was able to form with him and get to know what type of guy he is. Very special person, special coach. It makes a lot of sense why he’s had so much success throughout his career because he’s a good individual and his mentality stuff has definitely helped me learn how to be a pro and how to see bigger picture, point of views.

“He put me in a position to be successful,” Turner explained.

After coming off a season where they finished fifth in the Western Conference and reached the Western Conference semi-finals, the Trail Blazers (18-27) have gotten off to a rough start this year. They’re currently on a four-game losing streak and will look to bounce back from their loss against the lowly 76ers in Philadelphia on Friday. 

“Right now we’re struggling with consistency,” Turner explained. “Been in some close games, hasn’t been really going our way. Hopefully, it’ll change.”

Turner also recalled the chemistry he shared with his former teammates and how special it was to play for the Celtics — a storied franchise with a strong fan base. 

“We had a great team, we had great chemistry among our team,” Turner said. “I think that’s what I really recognized. Not saying we don’t here just in the locker room, the locker room feel was kind of rare. I definitely appreciate that the most. You know, playing at the garden was dope. Putting on a jersey was definitely dope. You don’t take it for granted, this isn’t like a normal franchise. Sell-outs and all that stuff. You don’t take that for granted. I definitely miss that.”

 

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Avery Bradley (Achilles) ruled out for Saturday’s game against Trail Blazers

01.20.17 at 2:08 pm ET
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The Celtics will have to again find a way to win without their second-highest scorer, as Avery Bradley will miss Saturday’s game against the Trail Blazers, per reports.

Said coach Brad Stevens, “The Achilles is structurally fine, but he has a lot of soreness around it. That’s one of those things you have to be ultra-careful with.”

With Bradley’s absence on Saturday, he will have missed four out of five games with the injury. He was slated to play, and start, in Wednesday’s loss to the Knicks, but was a late scratch and missed the game.

He had played 33 minutes in Monday’s win over the Hornets, scoring five points. The 26-year-old is averaging 17.7 points per game in 34.9 minutes in 36 appearances, all starts.

Another pair of injured Celtics, Tyler Zeller (sinus infection) and James Young (ankle), both practiced on Friday.

Read More: Avery Bradley, James Young, Tyler Zeller,
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