|02.19.14 at 11:37 pm ET|
The Suns used a late rally to bury the Celtics, 100-94, Wednesday night in Phoenix in Boston’s first action since the All-Star break.
Boston blew a nine-point lead midway through the third quarter, as the Suns closed out the third quarter on a 15-1 run and never looked back.
Markieff Morris came off the bench for a team-high 18 points, and his brother, Marcus Morris, aided him from the pine with 11 points, including a number of big shots late. Dynamic guard duo Goran Dragic and Gerald Green, a former Celtic, each tossed in 17 points.
WHAT WENT WRONG FOR THE CELTICS
Third-quarter breakdown: At the 4:54 mark of the third quarter, Rondo drained a mid-range jumper to push Boston’s lead to a game-high 70-61. But the Celtics self-destructed over the final five minutes of the quarter, and a nine-point lead turned into a five-point deficit. The Suns embarked on a 15-1 run, to reclaim the lead after three quarters. Five different Phoenix players scored during the stretch, but late 3-pointers by Channing Frye and Marcus Morris were key. Morris’ triple came at the buzzer, from more than 30 feet away.
West road woes: The Celtics‘ inferiority against the Western Conference on the road has reached an embarrassing low. With the loss to Phoenix, Boston has dropped all 10 road games out West this season, and the last 15 overall dating back to Feb. 25, 2013, when the Celtics nudged out an overtime win in Utah. Looking ahead, Boston completes its current West road trip against the three worst teams in the West by record: the Lakers (18-35), the Kings (18-35) and the Jazz (19-33).
Bench matchup: Phoenix’s bench, and particularly the Morris brothers, outplayed the Celtics. The Suns reserve unit tallied 37 points compared to Boston’s 21. Markieff Morris erupted for 18 points, and 10 of Marcus Morris’ 11 points came late in the contest. It’s not just that the Celtics reserves failed to post large scoring figures, they also went about their play inefficiently. As a unit, they finished 7-for-23 from the field.
WHAT WENT RIGHT FOR THE CELTICS
Bass breakout: Bass continued to chug along in his role as one of Boston’s consistent scoring threats from the forward position. The Celtics’ forward notched 18 points and eight rebounds in his team’s loss. It was Bass’ third game in the month of February with at least 18 points. Bass has been the subject of myriad trade rumors this month, as the 28-year-old forward would seem to be a nice fit for a team in need of offensive help.
Forcing turnovers: One of the ways to combat an uptempo, run-and-gun offense is to limit the opposition’s shots and increase its turnovers. That’s exactly what Boston did as the Suns’ turned the ball over 18 times, and the Celtics managed to put up four more shots than Phoenix. Sure, the Suns’ fast-break game remained (30 fast-break points), but Phoenix’s 18 turnovers led to 25 points for Boston. Phoenix’s starters were the guilty party, as they accounted for 13 giveaways, with Green and Miles Plumlee fumbling the ball a team-high five and four times, respectively. The Suns, however, only turned the ball over once in the final 17 minutes of the game — the time frame when Phoenix mounted its comeback.
|02.19.14 at 1:39 pm ET|
With Thursday afternoon’s trade deadline approaching, ESPN NBA analyst Tom Penn said Wednesday is the day to look for deals to take shape.
“Today’s always ‘real deal’ day,” said Penn, who will appear on ESPN’s “Trade Deadline Special” Thursday at 3 p.m. “You start finally talking real deals, and then you’ll try to get them done tomorrow, and I expect to see quite a bit of movement. On a macro-picture, with the West being wide open, everyone should be looking to upgrade. In the East, strangely, you have some teams trying to get as bad they can get, so you have deals going in every direction.”
Penn worked as assistant general manager for the Grizzlies and then vice president of basketball operations for the Trail Blazers, and he has direct experience negotiating with Danny Ainge.
“Danny’s a pro,” said Penn, “a pro’s pro. He’s done everything in this league, and he’s had success making mega-deals and making smaller deals. He’s not bashful about asking for what he wants.”
Added Penn: “With Danny, he was always very confident in what he had and very direct in what he wanted to do. He tended to offer deals that were really good for the Celtics and really not so good for the other team, and he did so unashamedly.”
“The main challenge finding a match to give the Celtics what they want,” explained Penn. “Humphries [earning $12 million this season] is a lively big on an expiring contract, so I think there is significant interest in getting him, but his contract is the only significant expiring contract for the Celtics.
“Keith Bogans can go away, we know that, but the Celtics really need that money to go away. So they would be looking for a different combination of one-year expiring contracts and then something for the trouble, right? So that’s harder to see a match when you factor in what they need.”
Bass, who has another year left on his contract, is the most likely Celtic to be moved.
“A player like Brandon Bass is very valuable this year and next year to whoever’s looking at him,” Penn said. “His salary is [$6.4 million], and he’s been proven to deliver in the playoffs [most notably an 18-point quarter in game five of the 2012 Eastern Conference semifinals against the 76ers]. He can spread the floor, make shots, and isn’t going to hurt you too bad defensively.
“Unlike Humphries, who you’re just renting for the rest of this season, with Brandon you have in the fold for next year and see if he fits with you longer term. In Bass’ case, it’s easier to give up more of what the Celtics want — a younger piece, or a draft pick — when you know you have this player for two years.”
The NBA trade deadline is Thursday at 3 p.m.
|02.18.14 at 12:26 pm ET|
Speaking with WEEI’s Mut & Merloni on Tuesday morning, NBA analyst Stan Van Gundy said that he sees Celtics guard Rajon Rondo staying in Boston after this week’s trade deadline. To listen to the interview, visit the Mut & Merloni audio on demand page.
Van Gundy said that while Rondo is one of the best in the league at his position, he’s not necessarily a good fit with any of the potential trade partners that have been kicked around.
“He’s a hard guy to classify, because he’s very unique,” Van Gundy said of Rondo. “I don’t think he can carry a team without a ton of talent. But on a championship-level team, he’s as good as anyone.”
With that in mind, Van Gundy said that among those teams, Rondo wouldn’t necessarily be a good match.
“I’m not sure any of the contenders are lacking at that spot,” said Van Gundy, who added he would be “shocked” if any team gave Boston two unprotected first-round picks for Rondo.
“Maybe the Pacers would be the best fit,” he said. “But my guess is that he stays in Boston through the trade deadline.”
Van Gundy also said that the two best teams in the Eastern Conference are Miami and Indiana, and added he “can’t imagine what would happen at the trade deadline to change that.”
“I think it was a perfect situation for a college guy to go in to, in that he has time,” Van Gundy said of Stevens. “Brad is a very smart, very analytical guy who relates to players very well. I think he’s done a great job late in games this year in terms of situational stuff.
“I think he’s very good, and will continue to get better,” he added.
|02.18.14 at 9:42 am ET|
As Rondo said, “It’s been like that my last eight years as a Celtic.” Other teams want an All-Star, All-Defensive point guard, and they want him cheap.
Here’s the latest that’ll make Danny Ainge chuckle.
According to the Toronto Sun (h/t SB Nation), the Raptors would like Rondo, and the C’s may budge on the alleged asking price of two first-round picks, citing a source who believes Ainge would welcome “at least one lottery pick and talented young player.”
It’s no secret Boston has dangled four-time all-star Rajon Rondo league-wide and while the asking price is steep, he has piqued the interest of Toronto’s front office, according to multiple sources. Toronto is eager to up its ‘star’ quotient and is also enamoured with Rondo’s resume, particularly his four all-defensive team selections (two all-NBA first team). He has many backers in the organization.
Oh, one of the game’s top five point guards has piqued their interest? Well, then, we might as well lump the remaining 28 teams into this rumor. And is it no secret the C’s have dangled Rondo league-wide? Time and again, Ainge reminds everyone willing to listen the phone may ring but he’s not making the calls about his lone star.
Take this retread rumor, for example. As a number of less reputable outlets reported two months ago, the Kings offered Isaiah Thomas, Ben McLemore and a pick in exchange for Rondo, according to Yahoo’s Marc J. Spears. Except, “Rondo wasn’t interested in re-signing with Sacramento and the Kings strongly value McLemore.” Let me get this straight: Sacramento didn’t want to part with Ben McLemore for Rajon Rondo. That must be it. And there’s the small matter of that deal missing roughly $10 million in salary to make it work.
|02.17.14 at 4:05 pm ET|
The first ambiguous Celtics trade rumor of NBA trade deadline week comes courtesy of Sam Smith at Bulls.com (h/t HoopsHype): “The asking price if you can get [Rajon] Rondo is said to be two unprotected first rounders.”
Seven teams other than the Celtics currently own two first-round picks in the 2014 NBA draft: Charlotte, Chicago, Oklahoma City, Orlando, Philadelphia, Phoenix and Utah. Only the 76ers and Magic currently own a pair lottery picks this June, and Philly already appears to have a point guard of the future.
Naturally, a host of other teams would have multiple picks to offer over the next couple years, but the hard part is also finding a lottery-bound trade partner with expiring contracts to match Rondo’s $12 million salary (because who wants late first-round picks and more money on the books?). Plus, the Celtics already own as many as 10 first-round selections over the next five seasons, and at some point they have to find players rather than assets to rebuild the franchise.
|02.13.14 at 9:25 pm ET|
This is the Kelly Olynyk that Danny Ainge saw all along.
Heading into his first All-Star weekend, the rookie is showing real signs of finally getting into an NBA groove.
In 31 minutes Wednesday night, Olynyk had 15 points and 10 rebounds in 31 minutes off the bench. On Monday night, in a win in Milwaukee, the rookie out of Gonzaga had 14 points and 11 rebounds in 21 minutes. He’ll take the momentum with him to New Orleans for the Rising Stars game Friday night, joining teammate Jared Sullinger on Team Webber.
In six games in February, Olynyk is averaging eight points, 6.7 rebounds and 20 minutes off the bench. Drafted 13th overall by the Mavericks last June and immediately acquired by Ainge in a trade, Olynyk was seen as an athletic big man who could draw bigs out of the paint, shoot effectively and create his own shot on drives to the basket.
“He’s starting to get a good feel for [the offense],” coach Brad Stevens said Wednesday of Olynyk. “There’s a base offense, there’s a set offense, and then there’s play-in and space and understanding and picking where your opportunities are when you have those kind of structured-but-unstructured opportunities. And he’s really starting to figure that out. On all the pick and rolls where he’s playing off, whether he’s rolling, whether he’s picking and popping, whether he’s playing in the seam and then when he catches, where does he go from there?
|02.13.14 at 4:12 pm ET|
The Celtics head into the All-Star break with a record of 19-35. With this season’s diluted NBA product, that gives them the sixth-worst record in the league.
Even the smallest of streaks makes a difference when it comes to the number of ping pong balls owned come lottery time. Boston got hot and won 4-of-5 games starting on Super Bowl Sunday, a streak that took them from the third-highest odds of winning the lottery to the eighth. The C’s fell to the Spurs on Wednesday night, though, which, combined with unlikely recent wins by the Jazz and Cavaliers, has them sitting in the sixth spot.
The Celtics are on pace for about 28 wins by season’s end, but with the trade deadline around the corner, and the tanking only expected to become more obvious, no predictions are safe. The C’s could find themselves selecting anywhere in the lottery, which makes for excitement but also causes uncertainty.
Here’s a look at what some of the top draft prospects have done in the past week, plus a brief look at some players on the rise.
Marcus Smart, Oklahoma State, sophomore ‘ As everyone knows by now, Smart only hurt his draft status in the past week. On Saturday night at Texas Tech Smart had a decent game, but his name was in the headlines for another reason.
With 6.2 seconds left, and the Cowboys on their way to a fourth consecutive loss, Smart’s frustration boiled over in the worst way. Falling into the crowd going for a block, Smart was helped up, but he did not head to the court as expected. Instead he went deeper into the crowd and argued with a fan who had been heckling him. Smart then shoved the fan, which isn’t tolerated in any sports forum.
Both the fan and Smart have since apologized for their actions, but that was not enough to save Smart from a suspension. Smart missed his team’s blowout loss to Texas on Tuesday, and will miss the next two games to round out a three-game ban. His return, oddly enough, will come against Texas Tech, but this time on Oklahoma State‘s home floor.
“Marcus made a big mistake [Saturday] night, he knows that,” Cowboys coach Travis Ford said Sunday. “We talked about it extensively. He knows we don’t condone things of that matter. He has owned up to it.’
Added Ford: ‘Marcus is a young man that has been in the public eye for quite a bit. And I think we’d all agree for the highest percentage of the time, he’s conducted himself as a tremendous young man. But he made a mistake that he’s going to pay for.”
Smart probably will end up paying a steeper price than his three-game suspension once the draft rolls around.
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