|01.02.15 at 9:51 pm ET|
The TD Garden played host to some festive games during the month of December, including reunions with Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett. But January started with what would have been an unexpected return just a couple of weeks ago: Rajon Rondo‘s first game in Boston as a visitor.
Rondo did not plan on letting his team lose this one. Dallas jumped out to a lead and held onto it for the entire game. The Mavericks ended the third quarter with a 92-64 lead, and despite the C’s cutting the gap to 10 in the fourth, the Mavs wound up victorious by a score of 119-101. Click here for a full box score.
“If you were to tell me before the game that we held [Dirk] Nowitzki and [Monta] Ellis to 15-for-36 [shooting], I would’ve said we have a shot. But you know, Rondo was fantastic shooting the ball tonight,” said Rondo’s former boss and Celtics head coach Brad Stevens.
This night was all about one man, though. So here’s five things we learned in Rondo’s return to Boston:
RONDO GOT OFF TO A HOT START
Rondo scored the first 10 Maverick points of the game in just under five minutes of action, but it didn’t stop there. Rondo went on to finish the first quarter by pouring in 15 total points on 6-for-6 shooting (3-for-3 from downtown). Rather than fans cheering (as they did during Rondo’s video tribute), this left many with their hands on their heads gasping, “Where was this when he was in Boston?”
RONDO HAD HIS BEST GAME SINCE TEARING HIS ACL
We all know Rondo likes to preform when the stage is brightest, and that was no different in his homecoming to Boston. Rondo’s hot start propelled him to 29 points — the most since before tearing his ACL in Jan. of 2013. Rondo finished a ridiculous 12-for-19 from the field and connected on five of his seven 3-pointers on top of it all. Rondo didn’t stuff the stat sheet quite as he did in Boston, but his six rebounds and five assists went pretty nice alongside his scoring outburst. Read the rest of this entry »
|01.02.15 at 7:51 pm ET|
The banner around the TD Garden video board read “Thank You Rondo!” And with that, a three-minute tribute to the former Celtics superstar point guard concluded Friday night. The Celtics showed their appreciation for Rajon Rondo, their most recent captain, in a stirring three-minute tribute featuring highlights of his eight-plus seasons in Boston, marking his return for the first time since the December trade that sent him out of town.
At the end of the tribute produced by the Celtics, Rondo acknowledged the standing ovation from the fans, and then went over to the Celtics bench, giving a hug to longtime trainer Ed Lacerte and others. Before the game, he had a hug with Celtics TV announcer Mike Gorman.
Rondo capped a 15-point first quarter with his third three-pointer in as many tries with 0.2 seconds remaining. Rondo connected on all six shots as the Mavericks raced out to a 31-17 lead.
Rondo cooled off a bit in the second quarter, connecting on 1-of-4 shots and finishing the half with 18 points, three rebounds and one assist as the Mavericks led, 59-46.
Rondo scored the first 10 points of the game for Dallas, including a pair of 3-pointers on his first two attempts from long distance.
|12.31.14 at 6:58 pm ET|
Marcus Smart had a reputation in college as someone who wouldn’t back down. Now that reputation is carrying over to the NBA.
That attitude was on full display on New Year’s Eve Wednesday at TD Garden. In the fourth quarter of Boston’s 106-84 win over the Sacramento Kings, DeMarcus Cousins threw Smart to the floor after a box out under Boston’s basket.
Cousins had been frustrated by Smart running through a pair of picks earlier.
“I did have an issue,” Cousins said. “It didn’t start with the box out. It was the pick, he tried to run through my chest and then he came and I felt he took a cheap shot on the box out. That resulted to what happened. Even with that being said, I’ve got to make better decisions. The team depends on me every night and I just can’t do things like that.”
Asked if he thought Smart went low on the box out, Cousins said, “absolutely.”
“It was a box out. That’s his opinion,” Smart answered. “Everybody saw the play. Like I said, I’m not going to back down from anything and if that’s what he thinks, that’s what he thinks.”
Several years back, Cousins was hurt on a similar play while setting a pick.
“I did. Even with that being said, I’ve still got to make better decisions,” Cousins said. “I’ve still got to keep my emotions in check. Even with that happened, I still think that could have been avoided. I’m blaming nobody but myself for that.” Read the rest of this entry »
|12.31.14 at 3:22 pm ET|
A frustrated Cousins (11 points, 11 rebounds) earned his second technical foul of the game in the fourth quarter, but by then it was already Gino Time.
Jared Sullinger led the way with 20 points and 11 rebounds, and fellow Ohio State product Evan Turner added 10 points and 11 rebounds. Kelly Olynyk (15 points), Jae Crowder (12 points) and Marcus Smart (11 points) all scored double-digits off the bench.
Snapping a four-game losing streak, the C’s improved to 11-18, remarkably just three wins out of the Eastern Conference’s No. 8 seed.
Asking Celtics center Tyler Zeller to curb Kings counterpart DeMarcus Cousins‘ production was a tall order on New Year’s Eve, but Zeller drank in the challenge, causing all sorts of problems for Cousins. The Sacramento star missed eight of his first nine shots and earned his first technical foul for his trouble. Cousins still got his double-double, of course, but Zeller’s early effort helped the Celtics establish a 49-39 halftime lead.
|12.30.14 at 12:23 pm ET|
Despite his league-leading assists average, former Celtics point guard Rajon Rondo wasn’t the player over the past season we came to know during three trips to the Eastern Conference finals from 2008-12. That much is certain.
Rondo’s true shooting dipped to an alarmingly low level in 2014-15 (career-worst 42.2 percent), and his performance on the other end was no longer all-defensive worthy. As a result, the Celtics proved better both offensively and defensively without him on the court, per Basketball Reference.
While Rondo’s decline at the age of 28 appeared a result of a player once reliant on slicing and scrapping his way into the restricted area still struggling to recover both physical and mentally from a serious knee injury, there have been rumblings in the fortnight since his trade that the regression might have been the result of another factor entirely: Effort.
“He’s always up to stuff when he’s locked in, and I think that’s the guy that Dallas is getting,” Grantland editor-in-chief Bill Simmons told writer Zach Lowe during their podcast last week. “In Boston, he would just give up the ball and just stand there, and I do think they had to trade him. It was too bad that was the way it worked out, not just from what we were seeing from the games, but from what I was hearing. In practice, when you have your guy who’s the unquestioned best guy on the team and the quote unquote ‘leader’ of the team, and he’s just not going hard in practice at all, that puts a coach who is trying to get through to young players in a really bad spot. And I think they knew they had to trade him.”
That’s new information, and while some hearsay can be discarded as the customary smear campaigning from Boston teams in the wake of major trades, Simmons’ sources aren’t the only ones dropping hints.
|12.26.14 at 11:25 pm ET|
Friday marked just the second start in the NBA career of 20-year-old Marcus Smart.
Smart worked hard Friday (5 points, 6 assists in 31 minutes) but it wasn’t enough in the end as the Celtics fell to the Brooklyn Nets, 109-107.
“A lot of confidence, actually,” Smart said. “It just shows I’m getting back to the player that I was in the preseason and getting back to what this team needs, energy-wise, on the defensive end, and just trying to help my team.”
But asked if he’s ready to assume the role of Rondo, Smart stopped short of that complete commitment.
“Not really. I don’t feel like there’s a guy on this team,” Smart said. “Everybody’s the guy because you never know on any given night, it can be somebody’s night.
“It’s a lot. It’s a lot that comes with it but obviously, I’ve done a lot in my life and throughout my whole career through basketball to prepare me for this type of situation and to just to do whatever I can to help this team come out with victories.”
Still, only at 20, he’s earning the respect of his peers around the NBA. Take Kevin Garnett. KG fell on top of him while scrambling for a loose ball in the third quarter. After Smart got the ball ahead on the break, Garnett tapped him on the backside for his hustle on the floor. Afterward, Garnett said he was “trying to trip his ass.”
“Knowing KG, I wouldn’t be surprised,” Smart said. “The guy goes hard. That’s who KG is and that’s why a lot of guys respect him.”
Smart could laugh because he’s becoming more and more comfortable assuming command of his team.
‘Felt very comfortable. Practiced the other day helped that. Went over some plays and getting guys in the right spots so I was able to know where guys were going to be and try to find them today.’
Smart found out on Christmas Day that he was starting on Friday.
“Coach [Brad Stevens] called me before practice and told me that I was going to be starting and just to keep bringing the energy,” Smart said.
“Both, practice time and conditioning. With an injury you tend to sit on the sideline and your conditioning goes and its easy to get out of shape then it is to get into shape. Getting those minutes and practice time has put me back into the shape that I was in in the preseason.’
|12.26.14 at 10:32 pm ET|
In many ways, coming back to TD Garden was surreal and odd for Kevin Garnett Friday afternoon.
It was the first time the 38-year-old future hall of famer has been back to Boston since the Celtics traded Rajon Rondo away to the Dallas Mavericks. And it might be the last time he gets a standing ovation from the Garden crowd that had a love affair with his game for six unforgettable seasons in Celtic green.
After Garnett’s Nets managed to escape with a 109-107 win over the Celtics, Garnett reflected on playing a Boston team that no longer has any members of the 2008 championship squad.
“I’ve been getting a lot of ‘Rest in peace’ texts and stuff, so I had to change my number,” Garnett said. “It’s all good, though. We’re infinite. Once you win once, you win forever.”
Garnett didn’t have a big role in Brooklyn’s win. He had just six points and four rebounds in 17 minutes and didn’t play the final 17 minutes in which the Nets rallied from a 12-point deficit to win.
Before Friday’s game, he received a standing ovation in the dark from the fans who came out to see him play in Boston for perhaps the last time in his career.
“It’s always love here,” said Garnett. “It’s always an appreciation that I can never give back, other than the salute. Winning is infinite. And I’ll always have that special relationship with this city.”
Garnett admitted that he has indeed given some thought to the end of the road coming at the end of this season and that Friday might have been his swan song in Boston.
“At this stage it’s always somewhere lurking in the back, probably whether I admit it or not,” Garnett said. “But, if I’m being truthful with you, sometimes [I do think about it]. Seeing Paul [Pierce] the other day, he was in town to play the Knicks and we had a conversation. So, at this stage, we know that things are not taken for granted, but more appreciated. It crosses [my mind], I wouldn’t lie about that.”
Read the rest of this entry »
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