|11.05.14 at 10:13 am ET|
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.
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.
|11.04.14 at 12:54 pm ET|
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.
|11.03.14 at 11:07 pm ET|
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.
|11.01.14 at 10:27 pm ET|
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.
|10.30.14 at 9:09 am ET|
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.
|10.29.14 at 10:22 pm ET|
First the C’s took a 26-point lead into halftime, then they dropped 101 points by end of the third quarter thanks to a Kelly Olynyk buzzer-beater.
In the end, the Celtics played extremely well as a whole, winning 121-105 while shooting an insane 55.7 percent from the field for the game (Click here for the box score). And it was Rajon Rondo who gave them the shot in the arm that they really needed, not missing any games after breaking a bone in his left hand just 33 days ago.
Rondo dazzled in his return
Rondo returned to action just shy of five weeks after having surgery to repair a broken bone in his left hand and was better than ever. Wearing protective padding over his injured hand, Rondo posted a near triple-double in his first game action since April, finishing with 13 points (6-for-9 from the field), 12 assists and seven rebounds in just under 30 minutes of action.
Brad Stevens said prior to the game that there is no minute restriction on his star point guard, but he will open up the season playing in these types of short “stints” followed by even shorter rests.
“I thought he played great,” Stevens said of Rondo after the win. “I probably played him in the second half too long of stints for what I wanted to at one time, but I actually thought one of the best parts of the game for us was the fact that we went to the bench and we just kept going. And the bench made such a great contribution, and Rondo just kind of fit in seamlessly.”
|10.29.14 at 6:09 pm ET|
He’s been giving us updates on himself all week, from 79 percent on Monday to 83 percent on Tuesday, but now Brad Stevens has made it official. Rajon Rondo will play in the Celtics‘ first game of the season on Wednesday night just 33 days after surgery to repair a broken bone in his left hand.
Stevens was straight to the point when asked if Rondo would play and if he would start, simply responding, “Yes,” to both questions.
Then Stevens was asked if Rondo would have a minutes restriction: “No,” said the coach. ‘The way that I’ve looked at it is that I might play him in shorter stints, but no minute restrictions. And then, you know, it will be about how he plays after that, it really is his first preseason game as well for him.”
Stevens also went on to say that Rondo will receive shorter rest than he did last year in between his playing stints.
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