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Fast Break: Celtics drop fifth straight, spoil Jared Sullinger’s first start

11.20.13 at 10:46 pm ET
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It wasn’t quite as bad as Tuesday’s loss to the Rockets, but the Celtics dropped their fifth straight, 104-93 to the Spurs.

The C’s actually played San Antonio to a standstill in the first half, but the defending Western Conference champions outscored Boston by 10 in the third quarter and never looked back.

Jared Sullinger totaled 19 points and 17 rebounds in his first start of the season. Avery Bradley and Jeff Green also chipped in with 19 points apiece, but the C’s fell to 4-9 on the season.

WHAT WENT WRONG

Giving it up: The Celtics committed 17 turnovers, and that’s not even the bad news. The Spurs were outscoring the C’s 25-0 on points off turnovers at one point. You’re not winning many games with that kind of discrepancy.

Bass low: Coming off the bench for the first time this season, Brandon Bass finished with a minus-21 plus/minus rating in 19 minutes. His six points tied a season-low and his one rebound was his lowest output since Jan. 2.

Interior defense: The biggest problem for the C’s this season has been the lack of an interior presence. The Spurs found Boris Diaw time and again wide open under the basket, and San Antonio finished with 48 points in the paint as a team. Starting bigs Tim Duncan and Tiago Splitter combined for 24 points and 19 rebounds.

WHAT WENT RIGHT

Jelly Sullynyk: Celtics coach Brad Stevens tried his fifth different lineup in his first 13 games, finally teaming the complementary Sullinger and Olynyk combination to open the first quarter. Sullinger responded with his first double-double of the season, and Olynyk added eight points and eight boards.

Bradley buckets: Starting 7-of-11 from midrange, Bradley improved to 47.6 percent (40-84 FG) from that range — a clip that ranks second among guards who play 20 minutes a night, trailing only Mo Williams. Bradley made a concerted effort to improve his jumper this summer — his first without an injury — and it’s paid off big time.

Green machine: After scoring just six points combined in his last two games, Green bounced back to score 19 points on 14 shots, adding five rebounds and three assists.

For a complete box score, click here.

NBA fines Gerald Wallace for swearing, warns Jared Sullinger for flopping

11.20.13 at 6:22 pm ET
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The NBA levied a $10,000 fine against Celtics forward Gerald Wallace for his postgame comments during a locker room interview after Tuesday’s dreadful 109-85 loss to the Rockets. “I don’€™t know what the [expletive] tonight was, just to be honest with you,” Wallace told the media. “I don’€™t really know what was going on.”

Wallace has been extremely vocal after Celtics losses, regularly criticizing his teammates for their effort, but the NBA is walking a dangerous line by establishing a precedent for fining a player who used vulgar language during a locker room interview. After all, Kevin Garnett wasn’t exactly Mary Poppins.

Meanwhile, the NBA also issued a warning against Celtics forward Jared Sullinger for flopping while boxing out Houston center Dwight Howard. Of course, the game was already over at that point. A second offense would result in a $5,000 fine for Sullinger. In other words, swearing after a loss is twice as bad as flopping during one.

Read More: Boston Celtics, gerald wallace, Jared Sullinger, NBA

Celtics blown out by Rockets en route to fourth straight loss

11.19.13 at 10:28 pm ET
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The Celtics have been slapped with a big ol’ dose of NBA reality.

Brad Stevens team was blown out for a second straight road game, this time dropping a 109-85 decision to the Rockets in Houston. It was the Celtics’ fourth straight loss after having won four in a row.

The C’s continued to struggle offensively, having now scored under 90 points in six of their eight losses. This time the Celts’ woes came against a Houston team that came into the game having allowed the second-most points per game of any NBA team.

Not helping matters was the Celtics’ porous defense, with the Rockets shooting 57 percent. Houston managed the rout despite Dwight Howard totaling just 10 points. The hosts’ primary weapon was Terrence Jones, who scored a career-high 24 points on 10-of-12 shooting from the field in just 27 minutes.

The game was never close, with the Rockets holding a 40-18 lead after the first quarter (going 16-of-20 from the field), and 68-44 advantage at halftime.

Courtney Lee led all Celtics scorers with 17 points, while Avery Bradley chipped in with 11 (although he only made five of his 22 shots from the floor). The C’s shot just 32 percent from the field.

For a complete box score, click here.

Knicks reportedly purusing deal for Rajon Rondo, but Celtics not interested

11.18.13 at 7:24 am ET
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According to a report from Frank Isola in the New York Daily News, the Knicks have been trying to entice the Celtics with a package of players in a deal for point guard Rajon Rondo. The Knicks are said to be looking to move guards Iman Shumpert and Raymond Felton along with forward Amar’e Stoudemire. However, the report notes, the Celtics have yet to show much interest.

Isola also reported that Shumpert, who last week was rumored to be headed to the Nuggets for forward Kenneth Faried, had a second left knee operation over the summer — a procedure the Knicks did not make public. Isola reported in September that Stoudemire, who only played 29 games last season, also had knee surgery in the summer.

ESPN’s Chris Broussard reported that the Celtics would be willing to take on Stoudemire, but not for Rondo. Rather, the Celtics would be looking to deal Gerald Wallace and Courtney Lee.

Broussard writes that the Celtics “have every intention of keeping Rondo and seeing if they can build around him.”

Shumpert, the 17th overall pick in the 2011 draft, is averaging 8.3 points and 5.2 rebounds in nine games this season. The 29-year-old Felton, who has been battling a hamstring problem, is averaging 11.1 points and 5.2 assists in nine games. The 31-year-old Stoudemire, playing just 10.5 minutes per game over six contests, averages 3.2 points.

Read More: Amare Stoudemire, Iman Shumpert, Rajob Rondo,

Celtics come up small against Timberwolves’ bigs in blowout loss

11.16.13 at 10:19 pm ET
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While the Celtics remained competitive through the first half, trailing by just five through two quarters, they were blown out on the road by the Minnesota Timberwolves in the third quarter en route to a 106-88 defeat. A competitive game became a blowout during a third quarter in which Minnesota outscored the visitors, 34-20.

The Celtics could do little to stop the T-Wolves’ bigs, as center Nikola Pekovic (20 points on 8-of-9 shooting) and Kevin Love (23 points) faced little opposition. Minnesota outscored the Celtics in the paint, 52-28.

Avery Bradley led the Celtics with a season-high 27 points (one short of his career high) on 12-of-23 shooting, but Jeff Green proved invisible (two points) while the Celtics turned over the ball 21 times.

The Celtics dropped to 4-7, having lost three in a row.

For more Celtics coverage, visit weei.com/celtics.

Blazers blow by defenseless C’s

11.15.13 at 9:49 pm ET
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Before Friday’s game, Celtics coach Brad Stevens said any success on the upcoming road trip would rely on his team’s ability to play defense against some of the elite teams of the Western Conference.

If Friday night is any indication, they could be in for a long trip.

Nicolas Batum connected on 4-of-9 from 3-point range and finished with 18 points while LaMarcus Aldridge added a team-high 27 points and 12 rebounds to pace the Blazers to a 109-96 win over the Celtics Friday night at TD Garden.

The Celtics held Portland to just 8-of-22 shooting in the first quarter but still trailed, 23-21, heading into the second quarter.

But the second quarter was a different story as the Blazers started extending the Celtics defense and took 10 3-pointers, making four. The Celtics stayed close, shooting 64.3 percent, making 9-of-14 from the field. Vitor Faverani had all nine of his points in the quarter as the Celtics trailed 57-51 at the half.

Another huge factor in the game was the early foul trouble of Kelly Olynyk. The rookie was whistled for his third personal foul with 4:39 left in the second quarter and picked up his fourth just 29 seconds into the third quarter.

“Unfortunately, Kelly got the Sully treatment tonight,” joked Sullinger after the game, referring to the foul trouble Sullinger had in his rookie season last year.

The rough defense continued in the second half as the Blazers outscored the Celtics, 33-27, in the third quarter, led by 11 from Aldridge. Portland scored the last six points of the quarter to take a 90-78 lead into the final quarter.

The Celtics made it a seven-point game early in the fourth on back-to-back threes from Jared Sullinger and Courtney Lee but could get no closer. Sullinger led Boston with 26 points and eight rebounds in 36 minutes off the Boston bench.

Jeff Green (14) and Jordan Crawford (11) were the only other Celtics in double figures.

After winning four straight to even their record at 4-4, the 4-6 Celtics have lost their last two – both at home – and now head out on the road for a three-game road trip that begins Saturday night in Minnesota against the Timberwolves. They play Tuesday in Houston before wrapping up the swing on Wednesday in San Antonio against the Spurs.

The Blazers improved to 7-2 on the season.

Read More: Boston Celtics, LaMarcus Aldridge, NBA, Portland Trail Blazers

Brad Stevens knows road success depends on C’s finding ‘outstanding’ defense

11.15.13 at 8:38 pm ET
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As the Celtics embark on a four game/six night stretch, Brad Stevens is looking forward to the opportunity to see some of the Western Conference’s elite clubs. He is fully aware that his team will need to extremely sharp on the defensive end to keep their head above water against this type of elite type of competition.

“We’re going to have to be outstanding on the defensive end to have a chance to win these games,” said Stevens. “There’s no question about it. It’s one of those deals where you’re playing teams that you’ve got to play well against to have a chance to win. Defensively, every detail matters, every effort play matters, everything adds up.”

The Portland TrailBlazers, Minnesota Timberwolves, Houston Rockets, and San Antonio Spurs all present a multitude of challenges, yet the one consistent is an explosive guard and a dominating presence inside the post. Portland’s Damian Lillard/LaMarcus Aldridge precedes Minnesota’s Ricky Rubio and Kevin Love, and the beat goes on in Texas with the likes of James Harden, Dwight Howard, Tony Parker, and Tim Duncan.

“I watched a few of our preseason games,” Stevens said, “just to kind of get a gauge of if they’re improving at the rate we’d like them to, and they’ve improved quite a bit defensively. Offensively, we’ve had our moments. I think we’ve improved, maybe more so, just because of our shifts and rotations. We still have a long way to go. We’re getting a lot better on the basketball. We were a lot better at defending the paint, even though we got back cut a few times in the first half [against Charlotte]. We’ve been good all year defending the 3-point line, knock on wood, so I think it’s one of those deals where we’ve got some strengths to us. But we’ve got to foul less and we’ve got to make sure we’re as good defending the post as we possibly can.”

Without Rajon Rondo, the Celtics lack a true NBA superstar yet still present a balanced team. The roster is full of capable players at the offensive end, so when the C’s move the ball, they can get a lot of people involved.

In order to be successful in this upcoming trip, they will need to continue to play hard defensively, remaining active on the ball and creating steals. Without a true point guard, the Celtics understand the value of scoring in transition. The biggest surprise this season is the team’s ability to move the basketball on offense. Stevens has this team moving the ball from side-to-side and playing an enjoyable brand of team basketball. Any time a team that moves the ball, that presents a major challenge. Another bonus for these upcoming games is the return of post presence Jared Sullinger, who the Celtics missed desperately with right knee soreness during this past Wednesday night’s loss to the Bobcats.

“We’re not as good on the block [without Sullinger], obviously,” confirmed Stevens. “Throwing it into the post [Monday] night against Orlando, we went on a 4-0 run when we were down [by] throwing him the ball. He gives us a little more flexibility playing inside-out, and that’s been when we’ve been at our best. He is probably our best low post player.”

Beginning with tonight’s game against the Blazers, the Celtics will have an opportunity to show the league their early success is no fluke, but instead the result of hard work and the team buying into the Stevens system.

Read More: Boston Celtics, Brad Stevens, Jared Sullinger, NBA
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