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Fast Break: Rajon Rondo’s triple-double can’t keep Celtics from five-game skid

01.24.13 at 10:43 pm ET
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Give them this: At least the Celtics played with heart, but the Knicks still handed them their fifth straight loss, an 89-86 defeat made even more discouraging by J.R. Smith‘s wide-open 3-pointer and Paul Pierce‘s turnover with several chances to tie the game in the final minute. Here’s what else went wrong (and right).

WHAT WENT WRONG

Terry dry: Since his return to the bench, where he’s been most comfortable during his career, Jason Terry continues to slump. He entered the game shooting under 40 percent from the field and 30 percent from 3-point range in 22 minutes a night this month, and those numbers didn’t get any better. After getting off to an 0-for-4 start in his first six minutes, Rivers limited his playing time. Terry finished 1-for-6 in 14 minutes, including a costly fourth-quarter turnover.

Brain farts: As well as the Celtics played in stretches, they still took their foot off the pedal at times. The Knicks started the second quarter on a 9-0 run made up of a couple Amar’e Stoudemire buckets around the basket, a J.R. Smith layup and a Pablo Prigioni 3-pointer. In the third quarter, the Celtics committed five turnovers, including three that directly led to layups and New York’s 72-66 lead after three quarters.

Off the mark: While the C’s defense held the Knicks below 40 percent shooting on the night (38.6 percent FG), their offense wasn’t much better (40.8 percent FG). Despite getting a ton of open looks, the Celtics missed jumper after jumper. They combined for 3-of-18 shooting from beyond the arc, including an 0-for-5 night for backup guards Terry, Courtney Lee and Leandro Barbosa. Compounding that fact, the C’s didn’t tally a single point off their misses, getting outscored 16-0 on second-chance points.

WHAT WENT RIGHT

Secondhand: Celtics coach Doc Rivers pledged to experiment with lineups, and he got started on that promise early, finishing the final four minutes of the first quarter with Lee, Terry, Jeff Green, Jared Sullinger and a combo of wild cards Barbosa and Jason Collins. Pleading for his second unit to run the floor and attack the basket, Rivers watched that group finish the frame on an 8-4 run for a 24-20 lead.

Inspired ball: Whether it was the TNT cameras, Knicks rivalry or threats from their coach, the Celtics came to play, which is more than can be said during their previous four games. By halftime, Kevin Garnett already eclipsed his season average in rebounds, Paul Pierce did the same in points and Rajon Rondo was headed for the 27th triple-double of his career. Even Rivers seemed please with the effort, leading cheers off the bench during breaks.

Defending their honor: Included in that effort was the C’s defensive play. They held the three most productive Knicks — All-Stars Carmelo Anthony and Tyson Chandler as well as almost star J.R. Smith — to combined 15-of-46 shooting. New York shot 39.2 percent as a team and just 8-of-28 (28.6 percent) from 3, but Smith made his when it mattered most, giving the Knicks an 89-84 advantage in the final minute on his first make from long distance.

Read More: Boston Celtics, Carmelo Anthony, NBA, New York Knicks
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