|01.13.14 at 9:53 pm ET|
When the Celtics and Rockets matched up on Monday night, Boston clung to the hope that a change of scenery, and the end of its arduous road trip, would finally stop the bleeding.
But a night back in the TD Garden did nothing to suture the wounds administered from Boston’s disappointing five-game West Coast trip. The Celtics lost their ninth straight game, as the Rockets claimed a 104-92 victory. Boston has lost 12 of its last 13 games. The lost to Houston means that Celtics are 3-14 against the Western Conference this season.
Avery Bradley led Boston in scoring for the third time in four games, as he tallied 24 points. Jerryd Bayless used a massive fourth quarter to post 17 points. Brandon Bass, coming off the bench, scored 14 points, and Jordan Crawford added 13.
WHAT WENT WRONG FOR THE CELTICS:
Defending Dwight: Boston managed Houston’s behemoth center very well in the first quarter, as Howard scored eight points, but that figure came on eight shots and he only pulled down one offensive rebound. It’s no mistake that the Celtics led 27-19 at that point. But the final three quarters went nothing like the first one. Howard missed just one shot for the rest of the game, and accumulated 24 points on eight shots from the second quarter on. No Boston defender should be held solely culpable as the Celtics rotated a number of defenders on him, and the help defense required to shut down a player of Howard’s caliber was absent.
First half free throws: The difference at halftime was simple enough: the Rockets got to the free throw line, while the Celtics did not. Houston outshot Boston by a slim margin (Rockets=41.9 percent, Celtics=35.8 percent) front the field, Boston turned the ball over two times less than Houston and the rebounding figures were nearly deadlocked. But the Rockets made 16 trips to the line, and converted 13 times, en route to a 52-43 advantage. Boston reached the charity stripe just three times, as Crawford finished 3-for-3. Houston made seven more free throws than the Celtics in the second quarter, which the Rockets claimed emphatically 33-16.
Avery’s starting helpers: Bradley did everything he possibly could have to keep Boston in it, scoring a team-high 24 points and forcing Harden into 6-of-17 shooting. But the other four starters did next to nothing on offense to aid Bradley. Only Crawford reached double digits, and he achieved his 13 points at an inefficient 3-for-11 rate. Bradley finished the game 11-for-21 from the floor. The rest of his unit shot 10-for-39.
WHAT WENT RIGHT FOR THE CELTICS
Bayless: With Boston trailing by 19 points after three quarters, Bayless received the opportunity to play the entire fourth quarter. The newly-acquired reserve guard ran with his chance, scoring 16 of his 17 points in the final frame and cutting the deficit to six points at one juncture late in the quarter. Bayless’ effort was not enough, but his performance will not be forgotten with starter Crawford struggling, and Boston thin at guard.
Bradley’s first: For the second straight game, Bradley erupted in the first quarter and helped push Boston to an early lead. Against Houston, Bradley tossed in 14 first-quarter points, and added three steals, two assists and two rebounds in a first quarter that Boston dominated, 27-19. He shot 6-for-8 from the field, and made five jump shots, including two 3-pointers. On Saturday, Bradley tallied 13 first-quarter points, again buried six shots and only missed one in the Celtics‘ loss to the Trail Blazers.
MarShon returns: MarShon Brooks, one of the returns in the trade that sent Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett to the Nets this offseason, made his first appearance for Boston since Dec. 22. Brooks ran the point for Boston and led a spirited fourth quarter, when the Celtics provided the crowd something to cheer for, for the first time since early in the second quarter. Brooks did not light up the stat sheet (two points, five rebounds, one assists in 12 minutes), but he ran the point with a confident aura that was not prevalent prior to his demotion to the D-League.
|01.13.14 at 9:52 pm ET|
With the Celtics mired in a losing streak and spiraling down the standings, Rajon Rondo‘s return can’t come soon enough, and it doesn’t appear the All-Star point guard is all that far off from playing for the first time since his ACL injury.
While Stevens, Rondo and the Celtics are avoiding any strict timeline, the coach didn’t rule out a return this week. “I think you could say possibly,” he said.
Yahoo’s Marc Spears reported that the Rondo was targeting Friday’s game against the Lakers as his comeback night. The Celtics also face the Heat on Jan. 21 before hosting Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and the Nets on the 26th — on ESPN, no less, and we all know how Rondo enjoys national TV audiences.
Rondo added to the speculation when he sent out a tweet Monday night reading “29,233,380 secs.” That’s the amount of time from his surgery on Feb. 13 to tipoff for Friday’s game.
|01.12.14 at 12:18 am ET|
The Celtics‘ worst-case scenario for their West Coast trip came to fruition on Saturday night: five games, five losses.
Boston finished the trip with a 112-104 loss to the Trail Blazers in Portland. The C’s losing streak has been extended to eight games, the longest losing streak since 2007 when they dropped 18 straight in the dreadful 24-58 campaign that precipitated the formation of the Big Three.
LaMarcus Aldridge led Portland’s explosive, league-leading offense with 21 points and 13 rebounds. Five other Trail Blazers scored between 10 and 18 points with Wesley Matthews topping that group (18 points).
Avery Bradley scored 25 points in the losing cause. Jeff Green (16 points), Jared Sullinger (14 points, 10 rebounds), Jordan Crawford (13 points), Jerryd Bayless (12 points) and Kris Humphries (10 points) also reached double figures.
WHAT WENT WRONG FOR THE CELTICS
Poor third: While Boston, for the most part, carried its torrid shooting pace from the first half (61.9 percent) into the third quarter, and avoided turnovers, the team failed in other areas that led to Portland reclaiming a four-point lead. Portland out-rebounded the Celtics in the third frame 14-9. Additionally, Portland got to the line at will and converted every opportunity, finishing 10-for-10 in the quarter.
|01.11.14 at 1:06 am ET|
Stephen Curry buried a 23-foot jumper with 2.1 seconds remaining to break a tie game and secure a 99-97 win for the Warriors over the Celtics, as Boston suffered its seventh straight loss.
Andre Iguodala paced the Warriors with 22 points, and dynamic guards Curry and Klay Thompson added 19 and 17 points, respectively.
WHAT WENT WRONG FOR THE CELTICS
Igoudala: It seemingly happens all the time: Commit all your defensive effort on the top scorer(s), only to have a complementary player step up and torch you. In the case of the Celtics Friday night, the team focused its game plan around curtailing the production of Curry and Thompson. But the added attention to the spectacular guard duo allowed Iguodala to step up for a huge game. Iguodala posted a team-high 22 points, seven assists, five rebounds and three steals. It was his first game with at least 20 points since Nov. 6, and he reached double figures for only the third time in his last 14 games. Read the rest of this entry »
|01.10.14 at 5:56 pm ET|
Celtics point guard Rajon Rondo, out since last February when he required surgery to repair a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee, told reporters on Friday that he will return to the court either this month or next, sometime prior to the All-Star break. The Celtics‘ final game of the half is on Feb. 12.
According to the Boston Globe, Rondo suggested that he feels significantly better on the court since he first began full-contact practice in December, but he acknowledged that he is not yet in basketball shape. According to the Globe, he remained open to the possibility of an assignment in the NBA Development League before returning to the Celtics lineup.
“I feel more confident, stronger, more explosive. What I’m doing in the weight room, it’s productive,” Rondo told the Globe. “[But] I’m just trying to get back into shape. … I haven’t played ball in 12 months. You can do all the cardio, treadmill, running you want, it’s still different from basketball shape.”
Rondo was averaging 13.7 points, 11.1 assists and 5.6 rebounds a game at the time of his injury last season, the third straight year in which he averaged 11 or more assists a night. In his absence, the Celtics are averaging 19.3 assists per game, 27th among the 30 teams in the NBA.
|01.09.14 at 8:28 am ET|
The Celtics have lost all three games on their road trip, six straight and nine out of their last 10, dropping from first place in the Atlantic Division to within a half-game of last with the Warriors and Blazers remaining on the West Coast — and Rajon Rondo, apparently, is tired of it. With 10:30 start times for these games, so are Celtics fans.
|01.09.14 at 1:11 am ET|
Considering how the Celtics‘ last two losses ended (124 points allowed per game, and an average margin of defeat of 27 points) their most recent defeat to the Clippers on Wednesday night could be seen with a positive twist.
Boston lost 111-105 in Los Angeles, but unlike in the first two games of the road trip, the Celtics competed admirably, and even led late in the third quarter. Alas, the defeat marked the C’s sixth straight loss and ninth in 10 games. It could get worse from here as the Warriors (24-14) and Trail Blazers (27-9) still remain on Boston’s road trip.
Blake Griffin led five Clippers starters in double digits with 29 points. Jamal Crawford went for 26 and Jared Dudley added 18. Darren Collison (15 points) and DeAndre Jordan (11 points) pitched in as well.
Jordan Crawford continued his strong play at the point guard position this season with a team-high 24 points and eight assists. Fellow guard Avery Bradley also contributed 24 points, while Jeff Green and Brandon Bass and added 15 and 14, respectively.
WHAT WENT WRONG FOR THE CELTICS
First-quarter fast break: One might think that without dynamic point guard Chris Paul, the Clippers transition game would be slowed. Think again. Los Angeles’ high-flying attack remained, and it was no more prominent than in the first quarter. Of the Clippers’ 32 total points in the quarter, 18 came via the fast break (for perspective, Boston allowed 117 points in a loss to the Thunder Sunday, 17 of those were fast break points). The up-tempo style was one-sided as the Celtics only logged two fast break points in the quarter.
Sully benched: After his ejection Tuesday night for a pair of flagrant 1 fouls (the league eventually rescinded the first) in Boston’s 129-98 loss to the Nuggets, Jared Sullinger came off the bench. The demotion did not remove Sullinger from his current slump (he entered Wednesday’s game averaging 8.1 points per game, and 29.9 percent shooting in the last seven games). Sullinger played sparingly, and he made little impact on the game with just two points. In the fourth quarter, he was whistled for his fifth flagrant foul this season — the most in the NBA.
Frontcout D: Boston’s front court had a whale of a time slowing the front court of the Clippers. Dudley, Griffin and Jordan combined to notch 57 points with each contributing in other facets as well. Aside from his four 3-pointers, Dudley grabbed four steals and collected three assists and two blocks. Jordan pulled down 13 rebounds and Griffin did a little bit of everything with eight assists and six rebounds.
WHAT WENT RIGHT FOR THE CELTICS
Guard play: The guard rotation of Crawford, Bradley and Jerryd Bayless excelled vs. a battered Clippers guard corps, missing Chris Paul and shooting guard J.J. Redick. Bradley and Crawford led Boston in scoring with nearly half the team’s points. Crawford added five assists, and Bradley’s points came on an efficient 10-for-18 shooting night. Bayless, playing in his second game with the Celtics, provided a spark off the bench with 11 points in 20 minutes.
Effort: Aside from an obvious disadvantage in the talent department, the Celtics were seriously lacking effort in their recent blowout losses to the Thunder and Nuggets. That seemingly absent effort was much improved against Los Angeles. When Boston fell into a 26-10 deficit in the first quarter, it appeared that a third straight blowout loss was imminent. But the Celtics fought back and cut the deficit to four by halftime. In the third quarter, they even grabbed their first lead since the opening moments of the Oklahoma City game.
Humphries returns: Boston’s most consistent bench player this season, Kris Humphries, sat out of the team’s loss Tuesday with an ankle injury. They desperately needed his post presence, as the Nuggets flattened the Celtics 129-98. But Humphries returned on Wednesday, and received a surprise start in place of Sullinger. Humphries had a productive all-around game with six points, eight rebounds and four assists in 32 minutes.
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