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Amir Johnson, Jonas Valaciunas out for Raptors

11.05.14 at 7:49 pm ET
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Raptors power forward Amir Johnson and center Jonas Valunciunas will not play Wednesday night against the Celtics.

Johnson has already missed two games with an ankle injury and did not make the trip with the team to Boston. Valanciunas injured his head after an inadvertent collision with the open hand of Thunder point guard Sebastian Telfair. Valanciunas was also forced to leave the game due to an injury to his hand. After the game, Raptors head coach Dwane Casey said the Lithuanian 7-footer was, “all messed up.” Valanciunas was initially listed as probable, but was ruled out about an hour before the game.

With Johnson and Valaciunas on the sidelines, expect the Raptors to rely on perimeter players Kyle Lowry, DeMar DeRozan and Terrence Ross. This should be an advantage for the Celtics, who excel when defending guards, yet struggle with taller, longer players on the interior.

Tyler Hansbrough will start in place of Valaciunas, but also look for former Celtic  — and personal NBA2K favorite — Greg Stiemsma to get a lot of burn Wednesday for the Raptors.

Read More: Amir Johnson, Jonas Valunciunas,

Report: Lakers to target Rajon Rondo in free agency

11.05.14 at 4:42 pm ET
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Multiple NBA executives believe the Lakers will target Celtics point guard Rajon Rondo in free agency this summer, according to SI.com’s Chris Mannix.

Rondo’s contract expires at the end of the season and he has publicly stated his desire to test the market while maintaining Boston is his top choice. The four-time All-Star doesn’t like change and the Celtics also can offer more money and one more year than any other team — all of which points toward Rondo staying in green.

However, the Celtics drafted a point guard with the No. 6 overall pick and are years from contending in the Eastern Conference, making the decision to sign Rondo to a max contract a difficult one, even if he appears healthy.

Enter the Lakers. The C’s rivals will have the cap space to offer Rondo significant money when Steve Nash and Jeremy Lin come off the books this summer and the possibility of competing for a playoff spot next season alongside Kobe Bryant — an unabashed fan of the Celtics star — could be an intriguing possibility for Rondo come July, particularly if Mitch Kupchak lures other pieces to L.A.

However, Rondo can see the Lakers’ long-term prospects just as well as everybody else in basketball circles and the outlook in Boston seems rosier. He knows what becomes of aging legends on proud franchises. After all, the article in which Mannix cites front office sources focuses instead on the potential of the Lakers trading Bryant.

Take a deep breath, Celtics fans. This isn’t Rondo’s first rumored departure from Boston, and it won’t be the last.

Read More: Boston Celtics, Kobe Bryant, NBA, Rajon Rondo

NBA power and sour rankings: Top 5, bottom 5

11.05.14 at 10:13 am ET
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In the NBA, the worst place to be is the middle of the pack. If you are not contending for a championship or tanking, in my mind, you are not relevant. Because of this, each week I will rank the top five and bottom five teams in the league. The rankings are based entirely on my own observations and opinions, so please feel free to call me names in the comments section.

FIVE BEST

1. Warriors (3-0)

Klay Thompson continues to score on and off the court. He dropped 41 points on the Lakers, signed a four-year max contract extension and, as recently reported, started dating Instagram celebrity Hannah Stocking. Personally, I would be more impressed if it was revealed Thompson was dating #AlexFromTarget. That dude got over 500,000 Twitter followers in about three days, which is damn impressive.

2. Grizzlies (4-0)

The Grizzlies are all about attitude, and it shows on the defensive end of the floor. They beat the Hornets 71-69 then held the Brow and the Pelicans to only 81 points. The Mike Conley injury is cause for concern, but the video of Tony Allen randomly smacking a cameraman is hilarious.

3. Spurs (1-1)

Even though they haven’t been spectacular during their first two games, the Spurs still are the reigning champs. Interesting storyline to pay attention to. The Spurs did not sign Kawhi Leonard to an extension before the deadline on Friday, allowing him to become restricted free agent at the end of the season. If I am Danny Ainge, I am offering Sugar K Leonard anything up to and including my daughter’s hand in marriage to get him to sign in Boston. Although there is little chance Pop and the Spurs let him go, a man can dream.

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Read More: Dirk Nowitzki, Kawhi Leonard, Klay Thompson, Kobe Bryant

Irish Coffee: On Rajon Rondo, Avery Bradley and Marcus Smart, the Celtics’ ¡Three Amigos! wreaking havoc

11.04.14 at 12:54 pm ET
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Celtics guards Avery Bradley, Rajon Rondo and Marcus Smart wreak plenty of havoc. (Glenn James/Getty Images)

Celtics guards Avery Bradley, Rajon Rondo and Marcus Smart wreak plenty of havoc. (Glenn James/Getty Images)

With the exception of two brief offensive substitutions, Celtics coach Brad Stevens fielded a backcourt triumvirate of Rajon Rondo, Avery Bradley and Marcus Smart for the final nine minutes of Monday’s 118-113 loss to the Mavericks, and they wreaked more havoc than the “¡Three Amigos!” in Santa Poco.

The Celtics scored 29 points down the stretch, and that trio scored or assisted all of them, pulling the C’s within one with 39 seconds left after trailing by 31 points at one point in the game. Bradley scored 14 of his career-high 32 points during the run, Rondo collected six of his 15 assists and Smart submitted highlight after highlight in what can only be described as atomic excitation.

It was all thrilling basketball, and a sure sign Stevens will experiment further with this trio.

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Read More: Avery Bradley, Boston Celtics, Marcus Smart, NBA

Five things we learned in Celtics’ failed comeback against Mavericks

11.03.14 at 11:07 pm ET
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For the second straight game, the Celtics dug themselves a deep early grave and spent the rest of the night trying to climb their way out. This time, though, they nearly pulled a “Kill Bill” and escaped Texas with a victory.

After losing by double digits to the Rockets on Saturday, the Celtics fell behind by 31 in the first half against the Mavericks Monday night only to slice the lead to one in the final minute. But, the C’s couldn’t convert multiple chances to tie the game, ultimately losing 118-113 to the NBA’s highest-rated offense.

Jeff Green scored a game-high 35 points while Avery Bradley added a career-high 32. Rajon Rondo collected seven points, nine rebounds and 15 assists. Marcus Smart added seven points, six boards and three assists in his homecoming, submitting the most impressive effort of his young Celtics career.

Despite becoming the first Celtics teammates to each score 30 points in a game since Rondo and Ray Allen on Rondo’s 23rd birthday five years ago, Bradley and Green both missed the mark on opportunities to tie the game in the final 39 seconds. Fouled on a 3-point attempt, Bradley made two of three free throws to cut the Dallas lead to 114-113 and Green couldn’t convert his sixth 3-pointer of the night with a chance to tie it at 116 in the closing seconds.

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Read More: Boston Celtics, Dallas Mavericks, Jeff Green, NBA

Five things we learned in Celtics’ blowout loss in Houston

11.01.14 at 10:27 pm ET
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Somewhere between TD Garden and the Texas state line, the Celtics lost their way.

Brad Stevens‘ team arrived safely in Houston for Saturday night’s tilt, but its game was misplaced. Everything that went well for the Celts in their runaway, season-opening win Wednesday night went wrong in a 104-90 loss to the Rockets.

In a nutshell, the Celtics weren’t aggressive enough early on, and were remarkably bad from beyond the 3-point line. The C’s went to the foul line 24 fewer times than the Rockets, while having the worst 3-point shooting night in franchise history.

With the 1-for-25 showing from beyond the 3-point stripe, it marked the first time in franchise history the Celtics have not hit a three while taking more than 10 attempts. Jeff Green hit his team’s 22nd attempt. The NBA record still stands at 0-for-22, set by the Nuggets in 2012.

The closest the Celtics would come in the second half was 11 points. (For a complete box score, click here.)

RAJON RONDO IS A WORK IN PROGRESS

It was easy to forget Rondo didn’t play a single preseason game after watching him excel against the Nets. But in Game No. 2, the point guard seemed out of sorts from the start.

Before exiting the game for the first time, with the Celtics trailing, 22-8, Rondo had trouble both offensively and defensively (where he was often lost on rotations after double-teaming Dwight Howard). He would re-enter the game with the C’s still trailing by 14 (32-18), continuing to lack any sort of spark.

Rondo finished the first half going 0-for-2 from the field. For the game, the point guard went 2-for-9 from the floor, but did haul in 10 rebounds.

LEANING ON JUMPERS PROVED DANGEROUS

There was a reason the Celtics attempted just three first-half free throws, while the Rockets were going to the line 24 times: the C’s weren’t exactly taking it at the hosts.

The missed jumpers, particularly in the first quarter, were especially damaging considering how Houston was able to transition into makable shots (shooting 57 percent from the field in the initial quarter, leading to a 15-point Celtics deficit). The Celtics started going inside more in the second quarter, but the hole had already been dug.

The most noticeable aspect of the Celtics’ reliance on their outside game came from beyond the 3-point line, where they turned in a historically bad performance.

DEALING WITH HOWARD PROVED DICEY

Stevens attempted to rotate the trio of Jared Sullinger, Kelly Olynyk and Tyler Zeller on Howard. That strategy, however, ran into some issues with all three carrying three fouls into halftime. The trio finished with five fouls apiece.

The unevenness at the position also translated to a dramatic 180 for Olynyk from Wednesday night, when he totaled 18 points. This time the second-year big man couldn’t find a comfort zone, finishing with eight points in 15 minutes.

Howard only finished with 14 points and eight rebounds, but his presence allowed for the likes of James Harden (26 points) to get in the clear.

LIVING WITH THE UPS AND DOWNS OF MARCUS SMART

So much was made of the performance of the rookie in Game 1, with Smart contributing on multiple levels against Brooklyn.

This time, however, he couldn’t supply any help for a Celtics team desperate for some aggressiveness. Smart went 0-for-7 from the field

HOT STARTS ARE STILL A THING OF THE PAST

The Celtics failed to go 2-0 once again, not having accomplished the feat since 2009.

Kevin Garnett, Rajon Rondo and a shared love for Gino

10.30.14 at 9:09 am ET
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There was a different feel to this Kevin Garnett homecoming than the first. No longer paired with Paul Pierce on the Nets, he received a standing ovation from Celtics fans and a smattering of “KG” chants during Brooklyn’s pregame announcements in the Garden, but nothing like the catharsis in January.

Still, the love is there, as it always will be in Boston, and the feeling is mutual.

“It’€™s always special to come back to Beantown,” Garnett said after a 121-105 loss. “Hearing the little things, it’€™s very hard to focus. I had to go to yoga this morning, ooh-sah, get my meditation right, stay level. A lot of energy in the building. It’€™s always great to come back here. I love Beantown. I’€™m always bleeding green. Y’€™all know what it is.”

Garnett finished with 10 points, six rebounds and three assists in 23 minutes, but old friend Rajon Rondo won the night, amassing 13 points, 12 assists and seven boards in 30 minutes. “Rondo was classic,” added Garnett. “I don’€™t know what he said he was at — 89, 83 percent? That was a hell of an 83 percent.”

Rondo returned the favor.

“It was special again going against KG,” he said. “He’€™s like my big brother. He hit me a couple times on the pick, but he didn’€™t hit me as hard as he was hitting Avery [Bradley]. He nails guys on the pick, and I’€™m used to him nailing guys for me. It’s always great to play against the guy, especially since it’s his 20th year.”

Garnett begrudgingly paid respect to another old friend he would’ve rather not seen: Gino. So often staring at the Jumbotron, disco dancing in Celtics sweats at the end of blowout wins from 2007-13, Garnett retreated to Brooklyn’s huddle and didn’t even glimpse at the long-haired man who brought him so much joy.

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Read More: Boston Celtics, Gino, Kevin Garnett, NBA
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