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Former Boston College star Reggie Jackson helps Thunder overpower Celtics

01.05.14 at 9:25 pm ET
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Reggie Jackson enjoyed a career night at the expense of the Celtics on Sunday, as the mighty Thunder dealt floundering Boston a walk-in-the-park, 119-96 defeat.

Jackson eviscerated the C’€™s defense with a career-best 27 points and handed the Celtics (13-21) their fourth straight loss and seventh in eight games.

The NBA’€™s leading scorer, Kevin Durant, played more of a facilitating role for Oklahoma City (27-7), allowing the point guard his moment in the limelight. Durant still went for 21 points, eight assists, seven rebounds and three steals.

Jeff Green and Avery Bradley anchored Boston with 19 points apiece, while Jordan Crawford (17 points) and Kris Humphries (14 points) also contributed.

WHAT WENT WRONG

Jackson erupts: Prior to the game, much of the defensive consternation revolved around the matchup between Green and Durant. How Boston’€™s top defender, Avery Bradley, would defend Oklahoma City’€™s raw point guard was not a hot topic. However, Jackson, filling in for an injured Russell Westbrook, surprisingly torched the usually stingy Bradley for a career-high 27 points. The Boston College product lit up Bradley in the first half. He scored 11 points in the first five minutes, and 19 over all in the half.

D on Durant: In one sense, the Celtics defense deserves plaudits for not allowing Durant to break out for 46 points like he did in the Thunder’€™s previous win. But Durant’€™s 21 points (in just 27 minutes) against Boston did not properly reveal the impact he had on the game. He dished out eight assists, and when Oklahoma City was comfortably ahead, Durant went out of his way to pad his teammates’€™ point totals. Durant also pulled down seven rebounds.

Front-court production: While Crawford and Bradley kept Boston’€™s head above water, the Celtics‘€™ starting big men did next to nothing to aid the guards offensively. Forwards Brandon Bass and Jared Sullinger combined for 13 points compared to their combined season average of 25.5 points per game. Their sparse production was not a product of a dearth of opportunities; Sullinger finished 3-for-11 from the field and Bass 1-for-5. Sullinger fouled out in just 19 minutes.

WHAT WENT RIGHT

Bogans’€™ christening: It took close to the entire first half of season, but Keith Bogans finally found the score sheet. The veteran guard acquired by the Celtics this offseason opened up the second quarter by burying a 3-pointer. Bogans last appeared in a game on Nov. 30 and had played in just 28 minutes over four games and attempted three shots. He saw playing time in lieu of backup shooting guard Courtney Lee, who was in the process of being traded Sunday.

Three-point barrage: A usually docile Celtics 3-point game erupted as Boston canned 11 3-pointers, the most since Dec. 10. The C’€™s defied a recent trend of poor 3-point shooting, particularly over the past three games. Boston shot a horrendous 14-61 (23 percent) in recent losses to the Hawks, Bulls and Pelicans. Crawford and Green authored the outburst with three 3-pointers apiece. Boston shot a nifty 8-13 from downtown in the first half to stay within 10 points.

Humphries: Kris Humphries again logged solid minutes off the bench, collecting 14 points along with three blocks and rebounds and two assists. In the last three weeks, Humphries has proved himself the most reliable Celtic off the bench. In his last 10 games, Humphries has averaged 9.8 points per game on 56 percent shooting, and 6.9 rebounds.

Read More: Avery Bradley, Jeff Green, Kevin Durant, Reggie Jackson

How a Courtney Lee for Jerryd Bayless trade affects Danny Ainge’s Celtics future

01.05.14 at 7:10 pm ET
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The Celtics and Grizzlies have reached an agreement to swap guards Courtney Lee and Jerryd Bayless pending approval from the league on Monday, according to ESPN.com’s Marc Stein.

Lee addressed the trade on his Instagram account.

“Would like to thank every1 in the celtics organization for the opportunity to be a celtic, I enjoyed my time in Boston and am grateful. Would also like to thank @celtics for showcasing my desire to give back to the community and also making me look good in the pictures lol. Would also like to thank the fans for the amazing year and a half journey, we started off a little rocky but I got my game back right so thanks for the extra motivation. #allgoodthingscometoaend!!!”

As a result of the deal, the Celtics save $2.1 million this season and shed the $11.1 million owed Lee over the next two seasons, since Bayless is slated to become an unrestricted free agent this summer.

Of course, the C’s also acquire a 25-year-old point guard who has averaged highs of 11.4 points, 4.0 assists and 2.5 rebounds with a 52.2 true shooting percentage and 13.5 Player Efficiency Rating for five teams in his six NBA seasons. Bayless averaged 8.0 points (46.8 TS%), 2.0 assists and 1.9 boards while producing an 11.2 PER in 20.8 minutes over 30 games for the Grizzlies this season. He has totaled 57 points in his last three games against the Celtics.

The trade effectively ends a disappointing Boston tenure for Lee. While the 28-year-old has scored 7.4 points on 57.3 true shooting (49.2 FG%, 44.2 3P%) in 30 games for the Celtics this season, he never quite lived up to the four-year, $21.5 million deal he signed in 2012.

Most importantly, the Celtics cut their guaranteed payroll to just $42.5 million next season — well below the projected salary cap of $62.1 million — offering Celtics president Danny Ainge even more flexibility to re-sign Avery Bradley, acquire anyone on the free-agent market and/or make any trade under the sun. The Celtics now also have some wiggle room to add another player this season to fill the roster at 15.

Read More: Boston Celtics, Courtney Lee, Jerryd Bayless, Memphis Grizzlies

Fast Break: Avery Bradley, Celtics can’t hold off Pelicans

01.03.14 at 10:10 pm ET
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In an ugly but entertaining game, Avery Bradley‘s contested go-ahead layup attempt ricocheted off the rim in the final seconds against the Pelicans, and — after a pair of Brian Roberts free throws — Jared Sullinger‘s game-tying 3-piont attempt sailed wide, as the Celtics fell short against New Orleans at home, 95-92.

The Celtics (13-20) lost their second game in as many nights and third straight — a killer for a team headed on a five-game-in-seven-nights West Coast trip against the Thunder, Nuggets, Clippers, Warriors and Nuggets on Sunday.

Bradley (22 points) led the Celtics in scoring while Sullinger (13 points, 11 rebounds) and Brandon Bass (16 points, 11 rebounds) each notched double-doubles. Jeff Green (16 points) also reached double figures.

WHAT WENT WRONG

Cold start: Whether it was the frigid temperatures, the same-day trip from Chicago or just plain stagnant offense, the Celtics scored just 13 points in the first 10 minutes against a team that allowed 108.9 points per 100 possessions entering the game. Bradley scored seven points (3-5 FG) in that stretch, but his Celtics teammates scored only six (3-11 FG) — including a zero-point, zero-rebound start for the ailing Sullinger.

The Stiemer: Battling a knee injury, old friend Greg Stiemsma hadn’t scored in double figures all season — until his glorious return to Boston. No Stiemboat whistle sounded in his honor, but the 7-footer who found his way back into the NBA under Kevin Garnett‘s tutelage scored 12 points on seven shots in 19 big minutes off the bench.

Ryan Anderson: In a scary moment that deserves mention, the Garden crowd sat in silence despite a 75-73 C’s lead early in the fourth, as Pelicans forward Ryan Anderson lay motionless on the floor following a head-to-head collision with Gerald Wallace. Considering all that Anderson’s been through already this season, it’s no wonder every player on both sides of the ball stood in support as paramedics carted him off in a neck brace on a stretcher. He was taken to the hospital, where he was diagnosed with a cervical stinger.

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Read More: Avery Bradley, Boston Celtics, Jared Sullinger, NBA

Fast Break: Celtics’ slump continues with loss to Bulls

01.02.14 at 10:34 pm ET
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The Celtics‘€™ swoon continued on Thursday night in Chicago, as Boston fell to the Bulls, 94-82, on the road for the team’€™s fifth loss in six games.

The C’€™s (13-19) struggles come at an inopportune time as they now face six straight Western Conference teams including four red-hot teams in the Trailblazers, Warriors, Thunder and Clippers.

Chicago was led by Joakim Noah, who nearly recorded a triple-double with a team-high 17 points, 11 rebounds and nine assists. Carlos Boozer (16 points) led five other Bulls in double digits.

Jordan Crawford paced Boston with 22 points and seven assists. Jared Sullinger produced a double-double with 11 points and 11 rebounds.

WHAT WENT WRONG FOR THE CELTICS

Sloppy start: The Celtics committed six turnovers in the first quarter. This sloppiness led to a 24-21 deficit for the team in the first 12 minutes, and marked only the second time in the last eight games that Boston trailed after one quarter. All six giveaways were credited to the Celtics‘€™ starters, as every member of the starting lineup was credited with at least one turnover. Boston’€™s sloppiness with the basketball was not necessarily isolated to the first quarter as it committed 19 turnovers. Read the rest of this entry »

Streaky Celtics falter at end in one-point loss to Hawks

12.31.13 at 3:30 pm ET
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In a topsy-turvey game befitting of much of their play thus far in the 2013-14 season, the Celtics could not put the hammer down after opening up sizable leads in both the first and second halves, ultimately missing five potential go-ahead shots in the final 90 seconds of the game en route to a 92-91 loss at home to the Hawks. The loss dropped the Celtics to 13-18, 1 1/2 games behind Toronto in the Atlantic Division.

The Celtics, who led 23-20 after the first quarter, threatened to blow the Hawks out of the building with a 13-0 run to open the second quarter, with Boston’s lead eventually ballooning to 18, at 42-24. But Atlanta closed the half on a 15-2 run of its own, with the Celtics enduring a stretch of more than 10 minutes (the final 5:52 of the second to the 7:26 mark of the third quarter) without a field goal. The Hawks laid claim to a six-point lead (54-48) with 4:55 left in the third.

From there, however, the Celtics bounced back with a 9-0 run that was punctuated by Jordan Crawford‘s 3-pointer with 3:16 to go in the third, giving Boston a 57-54 lead that it extended to as much as a nine-point lead halfway through the fourth. But the streaky Celtics once again ran off the rails after taking an 85-76 lead, as 10 unanswered points by Atlanta allowed the Hawks to claim a one-point lead with just over three minutes left. From there, the lead changed hands six times, with Jeff Teague‘s two free throws with 1:30 left (following a foul by Avery Bradley) finally giving the Hawks a lead they would not relinquish. The Celtics missed five shots down the stretch with an opportunity to take the win, the last coming when Crawford missed a 10-footer as time expired.

Kelly Olynyk led the Celtics with 21 points off the bench, shooting 8-of-11 including 3-of-5 from beyond the arc. Kris Humphries added 18 points and 10 boards off the bench. But the strong effort of the reserves was undone by an ugly performance from the starting five of Brandon Bass (9 points, 2-of-6 shooting), Jeff Green (8 points, 4-of-10), Jared Sullinger (2 points, 1-of-6 before leaving with a bruised wrist), Crawford (8 points, 3-of-15) and Bradley (8 points, 2-of-10). Meanwhile, the Celtics had no interior answer for Paul Millsap, who scored 34 points (on 12-of-19 shooting) with 15 boards.

After splitting a two-game homestand, the Celtics will next hit the road to face the Bulls on Thursday.

Irish Coffee: Why an Andrew Bynum trade isn’t crazy

12.30.13 at 11:02 am ET
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The Cavaliers suspended 26-year-old former All-Star center Andrew Bynum indefinitely over the weekend — a penalization for detrimental conduct that the team lifted after all of 24 hours before placing him on paid leave — so rumors have swirled around Cleveland dealing the oft-injured, much-maligned, weird-hairdoed 7-footer.

Naturally, Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge is doing his due diligence to determine Cavs owner Dan Gilbert‘s asking price. In a series of tweets on Saturday, Bill Simmons lumped the Celtics in with the title-contending Clippers and Heat among Bynum’s suitors, but there’s a catch to all this.

Regardless of whether or not Bynum eventually lands in Los Angeles or Miami — the latter of which Gilbert would probably like to prevent — the Celtics may still be interested in acquiring him, if only for his quirky contract.

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Read More: Andrew Bynum, Boston Celtics, Cleveland Cavaliers, Jeff Green

Brad Stevens on Celtics: ‘#EveryGameIsAnAdventure’

12.28.13 at 4:43 pm ET
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The Celtics watched a 22-point lead dwindle to two in the final minute, but coach Brad Stevens breathed a sigh of relief when his defense held the fort against the Cavaliers’ charge on the final two possessions.

“We did a really good job and played exceptionally well in the fourth quarter — for 18.3 seconds,” joked Stevens.

Brandon Bass blocked Dion Waiters with 8.9 seconds remaining and Earl Clark‘s last-second 3-point attempt missed the mark, so the Celtics avoided blowing a double-digit lead for the third time in three games.

“Sometimes you get on your heels, and we’ve got to figure out a way to not be on our heels,” added Stevens. “And I think sometimes when you win a game like this, that helps you the next time. Obviously, there’s that tension of, ‘Oh, no, don’t lose,’ and that’s no way to live life, that’s no way to play, but it’s a factor.”

After Bradley’s put-back dunk  gave the Celtics a 94-84 lead, Stevens’ charges made just one field goal in the game’s final 6:36 — a spinning, off-balance Jordan Crawford runner amid a flurry of turnovers and failed 3′s.

“I was telling [Celtics president] Rich Gotham, it should have been promoted as part of our holiday package: Every game is an adventure. ‘Green runs deep #EveryGameIsAnAdventure,’” said Stevens, gifting the C’s pro shop a t-shirt idea. “That would be a great thing to promote. Maybe we can work on that — get that on the website.

“It was an adventure, and we’ve got to get better in those situations. Again, we have been for the majority of the time, but for whatever reason in the last two weeks we haven’t. Today, I just didn’t think we played purposefully when it mattered. You have to balance this idea of playing with extreme maturity with still playing clear and loose.”

The absence of Rajon Rondo is never more glaring than in their late-game execution , but despite a three-game losing streak that snapped  Saturday, the C’s remain a half-game behind the Raptors for first place in the division.

“Hopefully people come in and say, ‘Hey, we can get down,’ but I think we’ve made the last couple weeks an adventure, and we haven’t played the right way the whole game,” said Stevens. “And whether that’s in the first half or the fourth quarter, we have to become a better team for 48 minutes. Three times we’ve not played well in the second half, but once we didn’t play well the whole game. So, we’ve got a lot of minutes we’ve got get better at.”

So it goes  for these Rondo-less C’s. Improve every minute, every game; stem the tide until their fearless returns.

Read More: Boston Celtics, Brad Stevens, NBA,
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