|04.11.14 at 9:46 pm ET|
The Celtics coughed up a double-digit lead in the fourth quarter, but an inspired Rajon Rondo-less effort fended off the Bobcats in a 106-103 victory that snapped a nine-game losing streak. Meanwhile, Orland’s loss to the Wizards gave the Magic sole possession of the NBA’s third-worst record.
Avery Bradley led the Celtics (24-55) with 22 points. Jared Sullinger scored 20 while Jeff Green, and Brandon Bass each added 18. Kelly Olynyk (12 points) and Phil Pressey (10 points, 13 assists) also reached double figures. Pressey’s rebound tap to Bass in the closing seconds sealed the victory.
WHAT WENT RIGHT
Avery good night: The real shame in Rondo’s absence was another missed opportunity for the Rondo-Bradley backcourt. While the two provided the few highlights (43 points, 14 assists, 8 rebounds, 6 steals) against Atlanta in their first game together in almost two weeks, Rondo was not in uniform to play Batman to Bradley’s Robin against the Bobcats. Not that it mattered, as the soon-to-be restricted free agent led the Celtics with 14 points by halftime.
Triple take: Almost everybody got in on the C’s 3-point shooting effort, but Bradley again led the way, draining his first three attempts. Pressey and Olynyk also buried a pair each during their 9-of-13 start from distance.
Fighter’s mentality: Led by the consistent effort of Bass and a surprising spark from Green, the Celtics closed the third quarter on a 12-0 run, snagging an 84-75 lead entering the fourth quarter. Pressey’s dive for a loose ball and pass from his behind to a breaking Olynyk drew a playoff-like response from the Garden crowd. While the C’s would have been better served with the loss, the fight they showed may also pay dividends down the road.
WHAT WENT WRONG
Rondo no go: While Rondo’s absence should have benefited the Ping Pong count, his late scratch surprised the Garden crowd. When Brad Stevens addressed the media two hours before the game, Rondo was slated to start the first night of the team’s final back-to-back, but he returned from warmups with a bruised left shin. His status for Saturday’s game in Cleveland — originally a scheduled day off — remains uncertain. With Kemba Walker (groin) also sidelined, fans instead watched a starting point guard matchup between Phil Pressey and Luke Ridnour.
Big Al: As the Celtics have all season, they struggled against a talented offensive big man. This time it happened to be old friend Al Jefferson (32 points, 10 rebounds), who torched Sullinger & Co. with a variety of post moves for 14 points on 7-of-10 shooting in Charlotte’s 29-point first quarter. He signed a three-year, $41 million deal with the Bobcats over the summer, and while pundits criticized his move to a franchise in perennial peril, his 21.7 points, 10.7 rebounds and 2.1 assists for a team surprisingly ranked among the top defensive units in the league. Suddenly, that $41 million doesn’t seem so bad, especially when you consider the C’s are paying Gerald Wallace $30.3 over that same span.
Bumps and bruises: Jerryd Bayless suffered a right knee sprain in the fourth quarter and did not return. Additionally Sullinger rolled his left ankle and left for the locker room in the third, but returned after getting some tape on it. The last the Celtics want to see is injuries pile up in the last few games.
|04.10.14 at 2:19 pm ET|
I have been saying for about a month now that the bottom three teams in the NBA are etched in stone: Bucks, 76ers and Magic. However, thanks to a nine-game Celtics losing streak, combined with an unlikely two-game Magic winning streak, I was wrong. Both teams enter Thursday with records of 23-55, sharing the third spot in the lottery.
This is exactly what Danny Ainge had in mind at the start of the season, and now his plan is coming to fruition. But with only four games remaining for both Orlando and Boston, losing has become as important as ever this season. The Magic still have the inside track, as they play the Wizards, Nets (looking for revenge for Orlando’s win Wednesday), Bulls and Pacers.
The Celtics, on the other hand, have some very winnable games, so this is going to require some dedication to losing. The C’s face the Bobcats, Cavaliers, 76ers and Wizards in their final four outings. Yes, that’s right, the Celtics and 76ers will face off in another dreadful battle like the one we saw last Friday night at the Garden. Boston’s other three opponents are either trying to fight their way into the postseason or are jostling for position, so they arguably have something to play for.
This is all speculation at the moment, but if we are going by what the numbers tell us, Orlando will lose out. Meanwhile, the C’s should lose three of those games, leaving us with the 76ers contest. Look, the Celtics roster is clearly better than Philly’s, but Brad Stevens and company are going to have to understand the importance of sacrificing this game. This single game could hold the value of moving up one spot in the lottery — or not falling back a spot, depending on which way you want to look at it.
On top of that, unless the 14-win Bucks finish on a hot streak, the 76ers have nothing to lose by winning games now. They are six wins behind the Magic and Celtics, so even if they win out they still hold the second spot in the lottery. Essentially, I am saying the 76ers can stop tanking and it will not affect their lottery odds. Monday night in Philadelphia is the Celtics’ biggest game of the season.
This is all premature, as we have no clue what will happen in these games. The Magic are hot, maybe they can win another one and the C’s finish with sole possession of the third lottery spot. Maybe Orlando’s schedule is too much and Boston slips back to the fourth spot. Then there is the event of a tie, which actually is more likely at this point — both teams could easily go winless the rest of the season. If Boston and Orlando share the third-worst record in the NBA, they would split the lottery odds of third and fourth down the middle — a 42.4 percent chance at a top-three pick and an 89.4 percent chance at a top-five pick each.
|04.09.14 at 10:15 pm ET|
The Celtics continued their losing ways, dropping their ninth straight game, losing to the Hawks, 105-97, Wednesday night in Atlanta.
The defeat was also the Celts’ 13th straight road loss, tying a franchise record originally set in 1979. The C’s only two road wins over their last 15 games away from TD Garden came against the NBA’s two worst teams, Philadelphia and Milwaukee.
The Celtics are now tied with Orlando for the third-worst record in the NBA, standing at 23-55. They have four games remaining, playing the Bobcats and Wizards at home, with road games against Cleveland and the Sixers.
Milwaukee owns the NBA’s worst mark at 14-63, while Philly stands at 17-61. Utah (24-54) and the Lakers (25-53) are right behind Boston and Orlando.
Doing in the Celtics against the Hawks — who are clinging to the last playoff spot in the Eastern Conference — was a fourth quarter in which the C’s were outscored 35-20.
|04.09.14 at 12:17 pm ET|
ESPN college basketball insider Jeff Goodman joined Dennis & Callahan on Wednesday to talk about the Celtics and who they could draft, Duke star Jabari Parker, and the rumors about John Calipari going to the Laker. To hear the interview, go to the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page.
With the Celtics out of playoff contention and the season almost over, Celtics observers are looking at the upcoming NBA draft. Goodman sees a variety of players who could fit the Celtics, depending on where they are picking.
“If they go six, I would say a guy like Noah Vonleh,” Goodman said. “Local kid, from the North shore. Played in Indiana this past season. He’s about a [6-foot-9 1/2] 4 man and can kind of be a little bit of a 3. Played 5 this year at Indiana. A great, great high-character kid. He’s only going to get better. I think he’d be in the mix if they pick somewhere around that six range.”
Added Goodman: “They really need to get in the top three, and then if they’re drafting four or five, you’re probably talking about picking from a group of Julius Randle, who we saw really struggle the other night in Kentucky. Dante Exum, that combo guard from Australia who’s really athletic, got size, about 6-5. But a lot of people don’t whether he’s a 1 or a 2. Many people haven’t seen him against high-quality competition.”
Parker and Andrew Wiggins are considered two of the top prospects, with many analysts going back and forth on who is better. Goodman prefers Parker, comparing him to Knicks forward Carmelo Anthony.
“He’s as much of a given in this draft that you can’t miss,” Goodman said. “I know people are going to say, well, you shoot for the stars and Andrew Wiggins could be — I don’t know, who do they say, Tracy McGrady I guess. Jabari Parker could be Carmelo without some of the issues. That’s how good he is offensively. That’s how good he’s going to be. You’re not missing on Jabari Parker. But the bottom end of Jabari Parker, this is the worst-case scenario to me, is he’s a 13[-point] and six[-assist] guy. The top end is he’s Carmelo and he’s averaging 22 [points] and eight [assists].”
|04.05.14 at 10:07 pm ET|
We have reached a new low people! A home loss to Philly with Rondo active. Excellent. #celtics
‘ Julian Edlow (@julianedlow) April 5, 2014
That is my tweet following Friday night’s nine-point Celtics loss to the 76ers in a game in which Boston was favored by double digits. And after sleeping on it, I feel even more strongly that this was the C’s best loss of the season.
Now sitting alone in the fourth lottery position, Boston is coming off of a crushing blowout at the hands of the Wizards and an embarrassing home loss to Philly. Seriously, everyone who came off the Sixers bench I had to Google to find out who they were. This season is not worth trying to figure out anymore.
The only thing worth understanding? Nothing is more valuable than losing these final games. Boston could realistically finish with anywhere from the fourth-best to seventh-best lottery odds, it’s that tight. Look, it sucks to cheer for your team to lose, I get that, but it’s almost over. Next year the Celts are going to be on the rise whether Danny Ainge uses his draft picks or trades them. So if you truly bleed green, you can cheer for just a few more losses before we start to see the light at the end of the tunnel.
But is anyone even paying attention? The Red Sox are kicking off their World Series defense, the Bruins are at the same point of the season as the Celtics, only as the top team in the East, and the Patriots are working out some of the top quarterbacks in May’s draft.
Honestly, there is nothing on the court worth watching right now when it comes to Celtics basketball. The highlight of the last couple of months came on Monday when Rajon Rondo was in the booth calling the first half of Celtics vs. Bulls. The next big date for the Celtics is May 20 — the draft lottery. So here is something short term and something long term for Celtics fans to pay attention to until the big date.
In the short term, well, fortunately, we have the Final Four. This is our last chance to watch college hoops until next season, at the price of many of the top prospects already being sent home. But Kentucky is an interesting team to watch simply because of Julius Randle. A lot can happen between now and June, but right now Randle is expected to be about the fifth pick in the draft — the Celtics are expected to hold about the fifth pick in the draft. See the connection there?
|04.05.14 at 2:22 am ET|
Following each of the Celtics‘ first 52 losses this season, Brad Stevens always seemed to find the silver lining. Avery Bradley‘s defense. Chris Johnson‘s effort. Even Chris Babb‘s shooting. You name it. But after a 111-102 home loss to a Sixers team fresh off a 26-game losing streak, a dark cloud hung over the coach.
The captain knew it. “They were playing harder than us,” admitted Rajon Rondo.
The rookies knew it. “They scored more points than us,” added Kelly Olynyk, “and we didn’t play that hard.”
And the coach sure as heck knew it. “They played well,” said Stevens. “We played not well. That’s it.”
Including Wednesday’s 26-point debacle against the Wizards, the Celtics just suffered perhaps their two worst losses — or best, depending on how you look at it — and that’s saying something in a season full of defeat.
|04.04.14 at 10:04 pm ET|
This was far from a nationally televised game, but Rajon Rondo managed his first triple-double of the season — and first since tearing his ACL on Jan. 25, 2013 — but it still wasn’t enough for the Celtics in a 111-102 loss to the lowly 76ers.
Rondo finished with 11 points, 11 rebounds and 16 assists, but the Celtics dropped their seventh straight game to fall to 23-53. Jerryd Bayless led the C’s with 23 points. Brandon Bass (11 points, 12 boards), Jeff Green (15 points), Kelly Olynyk (14 points) and Jared Sullinger (10 points) also reached double figures.
The Sixers, meanwhile, “improved” to 17-59. Philadelphia and Boston have the second- and fourth-worst records in the league, respectively.
WHAT WENT WRONG
Everything: The Celtics barely shot 40 percent from the field and committed 22 turnovers against a team battling for the NBA’s worst record. Need we say more?
Worst first: The Celtics failed to come out firing on all cylinders against the Sixers. Instead, the engine wouldn’t start. They started 0-for-7 from the field and committed three turnovers over the opening 4:29. Luckily, Philly nearly matched their ineptitude, only taking a 6-0 lead in that span.
Powe-r to the people: Early in the first quarter, the Celtics showed Leon Powe on the Jumbotron. The highest profile member of the 2008 championship team the Red Sox could convince to take part in their home opener festivities earlier in the afternoon, Powe received a smattering of applause from a surprisingly sold-out crowd. He probably deserved more than that, but perhaps then again Celtics fans may have forgotten how to clap this season. Although, they did manage to orchestrate a wave as the Celtics trailed 74-69 late in the third quarter, so there’s that.
WHAT WENT RIGHT
Mondo Rondo: The Celtics had just six field goals in the first quarter, and Rondo assisted on five of them. He also had half of their rebounds in the quarter. Since returning, he’s made a concerted effort to get his teammates involved early, forgoing his own scoring in an effort to ignite the offense. In that respect, little has changed. And without him, it’s unclear whether the Celtics would have qualified as a basketball team after 12 minutes.
Bayless is more: Starting in the absence of Avery Bradley (strained right Achilles), Bayless found his stroke after a shaky first few minutes, and the fireworks continued throughout an otherwise ugly first half. He probably could’ve done without the double No. 1 finger salute to the sky on a 3-pointer in the opening quarter, but he managed 18 points — including 4-of-7 shooting from beyond the arc — before the break. Through 24 minutes, Bayless started 6-of-12 from the floor, his teammates were a combined 10-of-32 (31.3 FG%) and the Celtics lead 51-49.
Over the Hump: The Kris Humphries-Brandon Bass frontcourt has not been a successful pairing, getting outscored by 10.4 points per 100 possessions, and yet Celtics coach Brad Stevens has started the tandem for the past 19 games. By halftime of the 76ers game, apparently, he had seen enough. Stevens finally inserted Jared Sullinger into the starting lineup to begin the third quarter. Of course, that didn’t work, either.