|02.23.14 at 12:40 am ET|
The Celtics lost out on another opportunity to register their first win on the road vs. a Western Conference team this season, as they fell to the Kings, 105-98, on Saturday.
Boston’s (19-38) current four-game road trip looked like the perfect opportunity for the team to snap its road woes vs. the West, but after falling in Sacramento (19-36), the Celtics have now lost all 12 road games against the West this year, and their last 17 dating back to last season. Boston still has three road more cracks at it (the Jazz on Feb. 24, the Pelicans on March 16, the Mavericks on March 17).
WHAT WENT WRONG FOR THE CELTICS
No Sullinger, Rondo, Bradley: The Celtics played without three impact starters in Rajon Rondo, Jared Sullinger and Avery Bradley. Bradley (ankle) did not make the road trip, necessitating a promotion into the starting lineup for veteran Gerald Wallace. Since returning from a lengthy absence due to a knee injury, the Celtics have avoided playing Rondo in back-to-back games (Boston lost to the Lakers, 101-92, Friday night). Phil Pressey stepped in for Rondo at point guard, but after an uneven first half, Bayless started for Pressey in the second half. Sullinger suffered a mild concussion in the game versus Los Angeles, and Humphries took his place in the starting lineup.
Green’s resilience: Green began the game ice cold as deep into the second quarter, his stat line was highlighted by his 0-for-9 shooting from the field, and an atrocious -19 plus-minus. But Green did not let his cold start ruin the rest of his game. His overall shooting night (7-for-25) doesn’t look impressive, but after missing his first nine shots, he put together a respectable 7-for-16 line. Additionally, Green reached the free throw line 18 times, converting on 13. Green’s faced constant criticism this season for his lack of aggressiveness at times, but no one could complain about his tentativeness Saturday after he attempted 11 more shots than his per-game average this season.
3-point shooting: Boston actually finished the game with more 3-pointers (six) than Sacramento (five), but for a few reasons, that simple statistic did not properly encapsulate the Celtics‘ disadvantage from beyond the arc. For starters, Boston missed 15 triples, and finished at 28.6 percent from downtown, compared to the Kings who missed just four treys. Additionally, every single one of the Celtics‘ missed threes ended in an empty possession — no second chances and corresponding points were recorded off of the 15 missed 3-pointers.
WHAT WENT RIGHT FOR THE CELTICS
Rebounding: Without their top rebounder Sullinger, and facing a dominant offensive rebounding team, the Celtic could have been excused for faltering on the boards against Sacramento. But despite missing Sullinger’s 8.3 rebounds per game, Boston held the rebounding advantage (42-38), and limited the Kings, the NBA’s sixth best offensive rebounding team, to just three offensive rebounds. It took until the 7:05 minute of the third quarter for Sacramento to grab its first rebound on the offensive end.
Humphries starts: On Saturday, Humphries was summoned back into the starting lineup for the injured Sullinger, and he stepped up with a complete performance. Humphries’ 19 points (9-for-13 from the field) were the most he’s scored all season, and he stuffed the stat sheet with eight rebounds, four assists, two blocks and two steals. He also made life tough for Sacramento’s double-double machine Cousins. The two sparred all night, but Humphries got the best of the immensely talented, but equally hot-headed Cousins, who finished with 13 points, seven rebounds and six turnovers. The 6-foot-11, 270-pound center averages 22.3 points and 11.6 rebounds per game, and in Boston’s first matchup with the Kings, he went for 31 points and 16 rebounds.
Anthony contributes: Since the Celtics traded for former Heat forward Joel Anthony, his role with the team has been relegated primarily to a spectator. He entered Saturday with just 38 minutes in 17 games as a Celtic. But with Boston’s frontline thin, Anthony saw more minutes than he’s used to off the bench. The six-year veteran provided a spark in 10 minutes of game time, his highest total in a game since joining the Celtics. Anthony, never a prolific scorer to begin with, only tallied two points, but grabbed six rebounds, including four offensive, and blocked a shot.
|02.22.14 at 10:58 am ET|
In somewhat of a surprise, Danny Ainge watched Thursday’s trade deadline come and go without shipping any of the current Celtics out of town. Although there were no deals that will take over the headlines, there certainly were moves made that will affect the NBA draft.
Typically, the focus of this post is college basketball‘s top stars and their draft stock — with the possibility that they may end up in Boston. But with a quiet week for the prospects, this week’s focus will be on why Ainge’s lack of a move can only hurt Boston’s lottery odds.
While the Pacers are getting attention for adding Evan Turner and Lavoy Allen, it should not go unnoticed that the 76ers are subtracting those players from a 15-win team. In addition, Philly sent its starting center, Spencer Hawes, to the Cavaliers. These moves leave the 76ers roster without two of its top four scorers this season.
Although Philly landed a multitude of second-round-picks (crazy stat: the 76ers now have nine second-rounders in this year’s draft — 30 percent of the picks in the round), they have essentially guaranteed themselves to finish in the bottom three of the league. Although the Sixers became the biggest ‘tankers’ of the deadline, other teams made splashes, too.
The 10-win Bucks dumped Gary Neal and Luke Ridnour on the playoff-hopeful Bobcats. The Lakers shipped Steve Blake away to give the Warriors backcourt depth, despite Kobe Bryant tweeting that he’s ‘not cool’ with the move. And the Magic, who couldn’t find a trade to make, decided to simply buy out the contract of Glen ‘Big Baby’ Davis.
So what’s the significance of all these seemingly insignificant moves? All of those teams that rid themselves of contributors sit below the Celtics in the standings.
Although Ainge was active earlier in the season, it appears he now has limited Boston’s odds at an elite draft pick simply by doing nothing. The idea of tanking rests solely on the GM’s ability to take key pieces away from the team; coaches and players are going to give it their all every night.
On the positive side of the spectrum, all the teams above the Celtics in the standings, aside from the Jazz, feel they have what it takes to make a playoff push. This still means in all likelihood that Boston can finish with the seventh-highest lottery odds at worst. But at the same time it makes it very difficult to see the Celtics landing inside the top five picks without a little help from the ping pong balls.
|02.22.14 at 1:05 am ET|
MarShon Brooks, who played 10 games this season for the Celtics before being dealt to Golden State, poured in 10 fourth-quarter points for a Lakers team that had acquired him from the Warriors earlier in the week. Brooks led a fourth-quarter surge by Los Angeles in which the Lakers outscored their visitors by 20 points (38-18) en route to a 101-92 victory at the Staples Center.
Brooks shot 7-for-11 from the field, joining a balanced offensive attack that featured six Lakers (including Pau Gasol, who scored 16 in his first game since Jan. 31) in double digits. Though the Celtics entered the fourth quarter with an 11-point lead, the Lakers blitzed them with a 13-2 run in the first 3:03 of the final quarter, with the two sides trading buckets and leads before Jordan Farmar‘s 16-footer put Los Angeles up for good at the 8:10 mark.
The Celtics were paced by Jeff Green‘s 21 points, but the forward battled foul trouble for much of the night. Jared Sullinger recorded a double-double (12 points, 12 rebounds) but shot 6-of-16 from the field, while Rajon Rondo misfired on 10 of his 12 shots (though he managed to contribute 11 assists and six boards).
For more from the game, click here.
|02.20.14 at 1:39 pm ET|
While the Celtics reportedly are not in the mix for any trades before Thursday’s 3 p.m. deadline, there have been a number of minor deals.
So far, the Boston Celtics have no traction on any deals, league sources tell Yahoo Sports.
‘ Adrian Wojnarowski (@WojYahooNBA) February 20, 2014
The Wizards reportedly are sending forward Jan Vesely to Denver and guard Eric Maynor to the 76ers. Philadelphia also picks up a pair of second-round draft picks.
Miller has not played since being suspended by the team Jan. 2 following an incident with coach Brian Shaw. The 37-year-old is averaging 5.9 points and 3.3 assists in 19.0 minutes over 30 games.
Vesely, 23, is averaging 3.2 points and 3.4 rebounds in 14.2 minutes over 33 games. The 7-footer was the sixth overall pick by the Wizards in 2011.
Maynor, 26, scores 2.3 points per game in limited action.
– The Bobcats acquired guards Gary Neal and Luke Ridnour from the Bucks in exchange for Ramon Sessions and Jeff Adrien, according to reports.
The Bobcats were said to have been pursuing Neal for some time while dangling Sessions, but Ridnour needed to be included to make the money work.
Neal, 29, is averaging 10.0 points in 20.2 minutes over 30 games this season. He was signed in the offseason after three years with the Spurs but has been unable to cement a spot in Milwaukee’s rotation. Ridnour, 33, averages 5.7 points and 3.4 assists in 21.2 minutes over 36 games for the league-worst Bucks.
The 27-year-old Sessions, in his seventh NBA season, is averaging 10.5 points and 3.7 assists in 23.7 minutes over 55 games.
Adrien, 28, from Brookline and UConn, is averaging 2.3 points in limited action.
Mason, who averaged 3.0 points in 25 games, is expected to be waived by the Kings.
|02.20.14 at 11:45 am ET|
Philadelphia reportedly will get two second-round draft picks and backup forward Earl Clark for Hawes, who is averaging 13.0 points and 8.5 rebounds in the final year of a deal that pays $6.6 million this season.
The 76ers have the second-worst record in the NBA at 15-40, leading only the Bucks (10-43). The Cavaliers are 22-33 and three games out of a playoff spot in the embarrassingly bad Eastern Conference.
– Jason Terry is on the move again. The veteran guard, traded along with Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett from the Celtics to the Nets in the offseason, was sent to the Kings along with Reggie Evans for guard Marcus Thornton.
Terry, 36, is averaging a career-worst 4.5 points and 1.5 assists while playing 16.3 minutes over 35 games this season. Evans, 33, is averaging 2.7 points and 5.0 rebounds in 13.3 minutes over 30 games.
Thornton, 26, is averaging 8.3 points and 2.7 rebounds in 24.4 minutes over 46 games. He makes $8.1 million this year and is due $8.6 million next season.
“Marcus is a proven scorer in this league,” Nets general manager Billy King said in a statement. “He is a young talent who will help us in the backcourt.”
– The Lakers and Warriors confirmed that guard Steve Blake is headed to Golden State for backup guards Kent Bazemore and former Celtic Marshon Brooks.
“The acquisition of Steve Blake will provide us with additional veteran depth at point guard as we enter the stretch run of the season,” Warriors general manager Bob Myers said in a statement. “He’s had a productive career and is a player who can both run an offense and has the ability to shoot the basketball. On the other hand, we thank Kent and MarShon for their contributions to our team both on and off the court and wish them success as they enter the next stage of their careers.”
Blake, who becomes an unrestricted free agent after the season, heads to his seventh team in his 11-year career.
Tough to see a great player, friend and professional get traded tonight. My best wishes @SteveBlake5 , the Warriors are lucky to have you.
|02.19.14 at 11:37 pm ET|
The Suns used a late rally to bury the Celtics, 100-94, Wednesday night in Phoenix in Boston’s first action since the All-Star break.
Boston blew a nine-point lead midway through the third quarter, as the Suns closed out the third quarter on a 15-1 run and never looked back.
Markieff Morris came off the bench for a team-high 18 points, and his brother, Marcus Morris, aided him from the pine with 11 points, including a number of big shots late. Dynamic guard duo Goran Dragic and Gerald Green, a former Celtic, each tossed in 17 points.
WHAT WENT WRONG FOR THE CELTICS
Third-quarter breakdown: At the 4:54 mark of the third quarter, Rondo drained a mid-range jumper to push Boston’s lead to a game-high 70-61. But the Celtics self-destructed over the final five minutes of the quarter, and a nine-point lead turned into a five-point deficit. The Suns embarked on a 15-1 run, to reclaim the lead after three quarters. Five different Phoenix players scored during the stretch, but late 3-pointers by Channing Frye and Marcus Morris were key. Morris’ triple came at the buzzer, from more than 30 feet away.
West road woes: The Celtics‘ inferiority against the Western Conference on the road has reached an embarrassing low. With the loss to Phoenix, Boston has dropped all 10 road games out West this season, and the last 15 overall dating back to Feb. 25, 2013, when the Celtics nudged out an overtime win in Utah. Looking ahead, Boston completes its current West road trip against the three worst teams in the West by record: the Lakers (18-35), the Kings (18-35) and the Jazz (19-33).
Bench matchup: Phoenix’s bench, and particularly the Morris brothers, outplayed the Celtics. The Suns reserve unit tallied 37 points compared to Boston’s 21. Markieff Morris erupted for 18 points, and 10 of Marcus Morris’ 11 points came late in the contest. It’s not just that the Celtics reserves failed to post large scoring figures, they also went about their play inefficiently. As a unit, they finished 7-for-23 from the field.
WHAT WENT RIGHT FOR THE CELTICS
Bass breakout: Bass continued to chug along in his role as one of Boston’s consistent scoring threats from the forward position. The Celtics’ forward notched 18 points and eight rebounds in his team’s loss. It was Bass’ third game in the month of February with at least 18 points. Bass has been the subject of myriad trade rumors this month, as the 28-year-old forward would seem to be a nice fit for a team in need of offensive help.
Forcing turnovers: One of the ways to combat an uptempo, run-and-gun offense is to limit the opposition’s shots and increase its turnovers. That’s exactly what Boston did as the Suns’ turned the ball over 18 times, and the Celtics managed to put up four more shots than Phoenix. Sure, the Suns’ fast-break game remained (30 fast-break points), but Phoenix’s 18 turnovers led to 25 points for Boston. Phoenix’s starters were the guilty party, as they accounted for 13 giveaways, with Green and Miles Plumlee fumbling the ball a team-high five and four times, respectively. The Suns, however, only turned the ball over once in the final 17 minutes of the game — the time frame when Phoenix mounted its comeback.
|02.19.14 at 1:39 pm ET|
With Thursday afternoon’s trade deadline approaching, ESPN NBA analyst Tom Penn said Wednesday is the day to look for deals to take shape.
“Today’s always ‘real deal’ day,” said Penn, who will appear on ESPN’s “Trade Deadline Special” Thursday at 3 p.m. “You start finally talking real deals, and then you’ll try to get them done tomorrow, and I expect to see quite a bit of movement. On a macro-picture, with the West being wide open, everyone should be looking to upgrade. In the East, strangely, you have some teams trying to get as bad they can get, so you have deals going in every direction.”
Penn worked as assistant general manager for the Grizzlies and then vice president of basketball operations for the Trail Blazers, and he has direct experience negotiating with Danny Ainge.
“Danny’s a pro,” said Penn, “a pro’s pro. He’s done everything in this league, and he’s had success making mega-deals and making smaller deals. He’s not bashful about asking for what he wants.”
Added Penn: “With Danny, he was always very confident in what he had and very direct in what he wanted to do. He tended to offer deals that were really good for the Celtics and really not so good for the other team, and he did so unashamedly.”
“The main challenge finding a match to give the Celtics what they want,” explained Penn. “Humphries [earning $12 million this season] is a lively big on an expiring contract, so I think there is significant interest in getting him, but his contract is the only significant expiring contract for the Celtics.
“Keith Bogans can go away, we know that, but the Celtics really need that money to go away. So they would be looking for a different combination of one-year expiring contracts and then something for the trouble, right? So that’s harder to see a match when you factor in what they need.”
Bass, who has another year left on his contract, is the most likely Celtic to be moved.
“A player like Brandon Bass is very valuable this year and next year to whoever’s looking at him,” Penn said. “His salary is [$6.4 million], and he’s been proven to deliver in the playoffs [most notably an 18-point quarter in game five of the 2012 Eastern Conference semifinals against the 76ers]. He can spread the floor, make shots, and isn’t going to hurt you too bad defensively.
“Unlike Humphries, who you’re just renting for the rest of this season, with Brandon you have in the fold for next year and see if he fits with you longer term. In Bass’ case, it’s easier to give up more of what the Celtics want — a younger piece, or a draft pick — when you know you have this player for two years.”
The NBA trade deadline is Thursday at 3 p.m.