|Fast Break: Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett win Celtics reunion||12.10.13 at 10:01 pm ET|
The pregame hoopla may have focused on Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce‘s first game against their former team, but Brook Lopez and Deron Williams stole the show on the court in Brooklyn’s 104-96 victory against the Celtics.
Williams (25 points) and Lopez (24 points) helped the Nets end the C’s three-game win streak and crawl within two games of Boston’s Atlantic Division lead. Garnett and Pierce combined for 15 points, 16 rebounds and six assists.
All five Celtics starters scored in double figures, led by Bradley’s 22 points. Brandon Bass (13 points, 11 rebounds) notched his first double-double of the season. Jeff Green added 19 points and six boards while Jared Sullinger and Jordan Crawford added 15 apiece. The Celtics fell to 10-13.
WHAT WENT WRONG
Babbling Brook: The Celtics had no answer for Lopez. The undersized frontcourt of Sullinger and Bass was no match for the 7-foot, 275-pound Lopez, who scored 22 points on 10-of-12 shooting through the first three quarters, when the Nets owned a 46-24 advantage in the paint and an 85-72 edge on the scoreboard. The Celtics made it a game in the final minutes, but couldn’t overcome a Nets lead as large as 17.
El Hombre Destructible: Celtics coach Brad Stevens attempted to counter Lopez with Vitor Faverani, but the Brazilian 7-footer finished minus-12 in four minutes with two personal fouls and zeroes across the stat sheet. In his last five games, Faverani is averaging 2.8 points and 1.5 rebounds. While Kelly Olynyk‘s return may help the front line, the C’s still won’t have a defender capable of matching up with a true center.
Bench press: Pierce came off the bench for just the fourth time in his career, anchoring a Brooklyn second unit that dominated their Celtics counterparts. While Pierce scored in the single digits, he added seven rebounds and three assists to give the Nets reserves a total of 22 points, 20 rebounds and six assists. Faverani, Gerald Wallace and Kris Humphries all struggled, as the Celtics bench totaled just 12 points, eight rebounds and five assists.
WHAT WENT RIGHT
Second helping: Often matched up with Williams, who missed the previous nine games with an ankle injury, Bradley torched the Nets point guard in the second quarter, scoring 12 of his 15 first-half points to help the Celtics remain within nine, 56-47, at halftime. Bradley has now reached double-digit scoring in 15 games, a number he didn’t reach until mid-March last season.
Triple threat: The Celtics made eight of their first 14 3-point attempts, including their first three tries of the third quarter to tie the game at 60-60. Bradley started 3-of-5, Green made his first two and Sullinger connected on his first two tries after halftime, as the C’s erased a 13-point first-half deficit 2:22 into the third quarter.
KG greets his buddy Rondo during a timeout: pic.twitter.com/ZNi3GE4yRH
— Jay O (@MrTrpleDouble10) December 11, 2013
|Jordan Crawford named Player of the Week||12.09.13 at 3:18 pm ET|
Add this to the long list of things you never thought you’d read this NBA season (or ever, for that matter): Jordan Crawford, starting point guard for the first-place Celtics, earned Eastern Conference Player of the Week honors.
The C’s were the conference’s lone team to finish last week unbeaten, sweeping the Bucks, Nuggets and Knicks to improve their record to 10-12. Crawford averaged 23.3 points (61.0 FG%, 52.2 3P%), 6.7 assists and 3.0 rebounds.
- Celtics 108, Bucks 100: 25 points (season high), 5 assists, 2 rebounds
- Celtics 106, Nuggets 98: 22 points, 8 assists, 4 rebounds
- Celtics 114, Knicks 73: 23 points (career-high six 3’s), 7 assists, 3 boards
Crawford beat out Pacers forward Paul George and Pistons teammates Andre Drummond and Brandon Jennings for the honor. Obviously, this is the first Player of the Week award of Crawford’s four-year career.
|Carmelo Anthony recruiting Rajon Rondo to Knicks?||12.06.13 at 9:55 am ET|
In an interview with USA Today’s Jason Jordan, Mouth of Wilson (Va.) Oak Hill Academy boys basketball coach Steve Smith, whose teams featured Rajon Rondo and Carmelo Anthony at the prep level, claimed the Knicks superstar is lobbying the Celtics point guard to join him in New York.
JJ: Are you confident that he’ll be just as good, if not better, coming off of the ACL tear?
SS: No, I think he should be fine. He took a long time off and he’s rehabbed the right way. Whether he stays in Boston or not who knows. I know, talking to Melo , he’s recruiting Rajon to come to New York. Melo thinks he’ll come, too. You never know about that stuff though. I think either way, Rajon will be fine.
Last month, New York Daily News writer Frank Isola reported the Knicks eyed Rondo as their “primary target” and attempted to package Iman Shumpert, Raymond Felton and Amar’e Stoudemire in a deal for the three-time NBA All-Star — a preposterous proposal that Celtics president Danny Ainge said never reached his desk. Even if Ainge was willing to trade Rondo within the division, New York cannot currently trade a first-round pick earlier than 2018 and seemingly does not have the assets to acquire Rondo no matter how creative the offer.
Likewise, Rondo is signed through next season, when he could command a maximum contract on the free agent market, but the Celtics would be able to offer a significantly better deal than the Knicks should Ainge deem his rehabbing star a centerpiece worth building around. However, all of New York’s burdensome contracts, including Anthony’s, expire at the end of next season as well, so it’s not out of the question for the two former Oak Hill Academy stars to join forces. Rondo didn’t transfer to play for Smith until two years after Anthony graduated.
Of course, the NBA has strict rules against any form of tampering with players under contract for other teams.
|Pump the brakes on Rajon Rondo’s return||12.05.13 at 11:21 am ET|
Everybody can just pump the brakes on Rajon Rondo‘s imminent return.
After conflicting reports over the past week about whether or not Rondo has been cleared to return to practice 10 months after surgery to repair the ACL in his right knee, The Boston Globe’s Baxter Holmes is reporting that the Celtics point guard is not scheduled for a checkup with famed surgeon Dr. James Andrews for another two weeks. As a result, while Rondo has participated in limited practice work, he reportedly has not been cleared for full contact.
Likewise, in an interview up the dial, Celtics president Danny Ainge said Rondo would not return to the court for good until his knee is “back to 100 percent.”
“I don’t think he’s close,” Ainge said. “I don’t think it’s going to happen in the next few weeks. We’re not on pins and needles about it. We’re being very cautious with Rondo. He’s still got a little bit of a limp. He needs to get his strength back.”
So, if Rondo won’t be cleared for full contact until mid-December at the earliest and then must rehab his knee to full strength, it’s safe to assume we won’t see him in a Celtics uniform until 2014.
Meanwhile, the first-place C’s (8-12) have 11 games left on the December slate, and seven of them are against teams with better records. The other four — the Knicks (twice), Nets and Cavaliers — aren’t walkovers, either.
And things get worse in January. The Celtics visit the Bulls and host the Pelicans for a Jan. 2-3 back-to-back, and then face a brutal West Coast swing against the Thunder, Nuggets, Clippers, Warriors and Blazers from Jan. 5-11. If Rondo doesn’t return by then, the standings could look a whole lot different. After all, as SB Nation’s Paul Flannery noted, the C’s may own the No. 4 seed now, but they’re much closer to the East’s worst record (4.0 games up on the Bucks) than they are to the conference’s best mark (9.5 games behind the Pacers).
|Avery Bradley ‘can’t wait until’ Rajon Rondo returns||12.04.13 at 1:10 am ET|
As the past few days have brought conflicting reports about whether Rajon Rondo has already met with Dr. James Andrews or will do so in New York next week, the only certainty is that his return is on the horizon, and it couldn’t come at a better time for a Celtics squad that just assumed first place in the Atlantic Division.
“I think that’s going to be big and good for us to have a player like Rondo,” said Bradley, one of only five players on the current roster to play with him. “He’s a very good player, and that’s going to open up everything for everybody. Everybody’s going to get a lot of open looks, because he’s a great player. I can’t wait until he comes back.”
The C’s have shown a remarkable ability to stick with teams through the first three quarters of games, winning the ones when a handful of guys contribute on the same night — like Tuesday’s win over the Bucks, when Bradley’s 15 points, including a ridiculous over-the-backboard bucket, gave the Celtics six players in double figures.
“Everybody on our team I feel like can have a big game any night,” said Bradley. “That’s the good thing about our team. We have a lot of good players that could have breakout games. Jared [Sullinger]’s been playing well, Jordan [Crawford]’s been playing well and Jeff [Green]’s been playing well, and that brings a lot to our team when we have those guys come out every single night and take turns having big games.”
Except the Celtics can’t depend on six guys all coming to play every single night if they hope to cling to the fourth seed in the Eastern Conference. Just ask Gerald Wallace. They’re lacking star-power, especially when they need to execute in the final minutes of close contests. As Celtics coach Brad Stevens said, “It’s hard sometimes when things tense up late.” Basically, they need Rondo. Half of their 12 losses have been by six or seven points, and Bradley knows Rondo’s return could mean the difference between competing regularly and winning regularly.
“It could be big for us,” he said. “I know once he comes back, a lot of teams are going to hate to play the Celtics.”
|Behind the backboard: Larry Bird vs. Avery Bradley||12.03.13 at 11:56 pm ET|
“That was honestly just a lucky shot,” said Bradley, who finished with 15 points in the Celtics‘ 108-100 win over the Bucks. “I didn’t even know how much time was left. I just wanted to get the shot up.”
|Fast Break: Third time the charm as Celtics stop Bucks||12.03.13 at 9:50 pm ET|
All five Celtics starters reached double figures, led by Jordan Crawford‘s 25 points, and the C’s avoided falling victim to the three-win Bucks for the third time in as many tries this season with a 108-100 home win.
Starters Jeff Green (18 points), Brandon Bass (16 points, 9 rebounds), Jared Sullinger (12 points, 8 boards) and Avery Bradley (15 points) all reached double digits, and Courtney Lee added 11 off the bench.
WHAT WENT RIGHT
Long distance: The Celtics sunk their first four 3-point attempts — a pair of Bradley treys sandwiched around one apiece from Crawford and Green — to grab an early 18-9 advantage and force a Bucks timeout. While the C’s missed their next 10 3-point attempts, the early barrage staked them to a lead they wouldn’t relinquish, and a late string of triples gave them 11 on 24 attempts for the night. Crawford, Bradley and Green combined for 10 of them.
Over the Hump: The ankle injury to Kelly Olynyk finally created an opening for increased Kris Humphries minutes, and the veteran forward has responded with his usual rebounding prowess. As he has for his previous seven NBA seasons, Humphries entered the game averaging double-digit boards per 36 minutes (10.5), and that number only stands to improve after he snagged seven boards in his first seven minutes against Milwaukee.
Happy Lee returns: After missing the previous two games with soreness in his left knee, Lee scored 11 points on 5-of-7 shooting off the bench. He didn’t provide his usual stat sheet stuffing, but the Celtics desperately needed his offense after seeing their second unit get outscored by 49 points in his two-game absence.
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