|Fast Break: Shavlik Randolph, Celtics shoot down Hawks||03.29.13 at 9:59 pm ET|
In his first game back on the Celtics bench since his knee surgery, Rajon Rondo witnessed everything his new-look team had to offer. Shavlik Randolph (9 points, 13 rebounds) turned in the finest performance of his NBA career and Jeff Green (27 points) submitted another critic-silencing effort in a 118-107 victory against the Hawks that gave the C’s a 2.5-game lead on the seventh seed over the idle Bucks.
Kevin Garnett may have missed his fourth straight game with a foot injury, but fellow over-35 club members Paul Pierce (20 points, 10 rebounds, 10 assists) and Jason Terry (24 points) shined. Here’s what else went right.
WHAT WENT RIGHT
Shav: In eight first-half minutes, Shavlik Randolph made both his shots and grabbed five boards. The C’s trailed by four when he entered early in the second quarter and led by 11 when he left. Given his team’s depth and Chris Wilcox‘s struggles, Celtics coach Doc Rivers has been turning to Randolph earlier, and the 6-foot-10 big man has delivered in limited action. His biggest contribution has been rebounding (10.4 per 36 minutes), but he also appears to grasp the defensive rotations, which doesn’t hurt in Doc’s book.
Terry and Terrence: Sounds like a bad Disney Channel program, right? Actually, the duo put on a good show. A second quarter, Terry (7-10 FG) made back-to-back 3-pointers to tie the game, and Terrence Williams sandwiched a pair of emphatic dunks around a Pierce layup to give the C’s a lead. That kickstarted a 22-6 run that pushed the edge to double digits. Terry scored 14 points on 4-of-5 shooting from beyond the arc in the frame.
Green and Pierce: The two Celtics wings have each raised their game for a Celtics squad in desperate need of leaders without Garnett on the floor. Green, obviously, has been the bigger surprise, eclipsing 20 points for the fourth time this month and fourth time in eight starts. Meanwhile, despite hobbling his way through a portion of the game, Pierce continued to do Truth things, submitting his third triple-double of the season. In all, they combined for 47 points, 14 assists and 14 rebounds.
|Avery Bradley: Celtics not ‘playing the right way’||03.27.13 at 12:25 am ET|
Avery Bradley‘s performance had New York media wondering what all the fuss has been over the 22-year-old.
Average Bradley better be the second coming of Michael Cooper defensively because offensively he’s a liability.
— Frank Isola (@FisolaNYDN) March 27, 2013
Bradley submitted another poor shooting effort in Tuesday night’s 100-85 loss to the Knicks, making just 3-of-11 attempts and dropping his field goal percentage to only 30.5 percent over his last eight games. In that same stretch, a 2-6 run for the Celtics, he has committed as many turnovers as he has collected assists (14).
“He’s struggling,” said Celtics coach Doc Rivers, whose team has lost five straight games. “Listen, Avery’s trying his best. His shot is struggling right now. He can shoot the ball, but when you’re thinking about it, he’s clearly going through something. And so we’re going to have to to try to get him through that.
“Especially now with all the guys out, we’re going to need him to be effective. I’m probably going to have to do something to try to get him going more, not less. But I feel for him, because he wants to play hard, he wants to play right, but you can see it. So, we’ll get him going.”
The most troubling part of Bradley’s offense has been his inability to finish at the rim. He entered Tuesday’s game shooting just 45.7 percent within eight feet, and he clanged another four gimmes against the Knicks. He’s missed significantly more layups (76) than he has corner 3-pointers (53), where he’s been decent despite his struggles.
|Fast Break: J.R. Smith, Knicks knock out Celtics||03.26.13 at 9:50 pm ET|
J.R. Smith and Carmelo Anthony combined for 61 points and the Knicks delivered a 100-85 knockout of a Celtics team without Kevin Garnett and Courtney Lee that all but ended the C’s reign atop the Atlantic Division.
Jeff Green, Paul Pierce, Jordan Crawford, Brandon Bass and Jason Terry all reached double figures, but the C’s committed 20 turnovers and couldn’t stop New York on the other end. Here’s what else went wrong.
WHAT WENT WRONG
Ugly start: It took almost three minutes for either team to score, and neither club’s former NBA Defensive Player of the Year was involved. The Celtics missed their first three shots and committed a pair of turnovers while the Knicks missed their first five attempts until an Anthony (29 points, 8 rebounds) layup broke a scoreless game 2:42 into the first quarter. This wasn’t exactly the epic Celtics-Knicks battle national television had banked on.
J.R. Smith: The Knicks Sixth Man scored 32 points on 24 shots (oddly, just three 3-pointers) in 35 minutes. He outscored the entire Celtics bench by 13 points. Smith also grabbed four of his six first-half rebounds on the offensive end, helping New York establish a comfortable 58-44 halftime lead.
Chris Wilcox: Speaking of rebounds, Chris Wilcox had none in 10 minutes. That’s not good, and neither were his five total boards in three previous games. Meanwhile, the Knicks reached double-digit offensive rebounds by halftime, netting 50 points in the paint and outscoring the C’s 29-6 in second-chance points for the game. Meanwhile, D.J. White and his eight boards per 36 minutes in his career rode the pine until the final three minutes and Shavlik Randolph out-rebounded Wilcox 4-0 in five garbage minutes.
Avery Bradley: The lone healthy Celtics pitbull hasn’t had much bite on the offensive end. He’s shooting worse than 40 percent this month and hasn’t hit half of his shots in a game for more than two weeks. That includes Tuesday night’s 3-for-11, six-point effort against the Knicks that featured a pair of badly missed layups.
|Irish Coffee: Five reasons not to panic about Celtics||03.25.13 at 3:00 pm ET|
Add Kevin Garnett and Courtney Lee to the list of walking Celtics wounded. While neither will join Rajon Rondo and Jared Sullinger on the season-ending injury manifest, only 13 games remain in the regular season, they’ve lost four straight and the goodwill built from a seven-game win streak without Rondo seems like ancient history.
So, is it finally time to bury the C’s this season? Not so fast. Here are five reasons not to panic about the current state of the Celtics, even if they only have 10 healthy bodies at this point.
They’re firmly entrenched in seventh place, even if they’re only two games up on the Bucks.
Even with Rondo, when the Celtics owned a 20-23 record and sat in eighth place, the best they could’ve hoped for was either a sixth or seventh seed and a chance to avoid the Heat until the Eastern Conference finals.
Well, Doc Rivers‘ Rondo-less charges play seven of their remaining 13 games at home, including a four-game stretch from April 3-10 that includes the Pistons, Cavaliers and Wizards. Not a brutal stretch by any measure. Meanwhile, the Bucks face the Thunder (twice), Lakers, Knicks, Heat, Hawks and Nuggets over their final 13 games — seven of which are on the road. As a result, a seventh seed seems to be the C’s most likely scenario.
Their road record isn’t as bad as it seems, even if they’re a putrid 12-23 away from home.
|Celtics sign Shavlik Randolph for remainder of season||03.21.13 at 6:29 pm ET|
As they did with Chinese Basketball Association imports Terrence Williams and D.J. White before him, the Celtics signed Shavlik Randolph for the remainder of the season. The deal includes an option for next season.
Randolph has appeared in three games for the C’s this season, averaging 3.3 points and 4.3 rebounds in 12.0 minutes per game. He posted highs of six points, eight rebounds and two steals against Charlotte on March 16.
Randolph played the maximum of two 10-day contracts since March 1, so the team had to make a decision about his future on Thursday. Barring an outright cut, the Celtics roster is set at 15 for the remainder of the season.
|Danny Ainge: Jeff Green ‘deserves to be on the court most minutes’||03.21.13 at 6:05 pm ET|
Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge joined Salk & Holley in his weekly Thursday afternoon appearance to face questions about his team’s tough losses to the Hornets and Heat, Jeff Green‘s (lack of) playing time and the NCAA tournament.
C’s coach Doc Rivers, who ripped his team’s performance in New Orleans, only played Green 26 minutes and resorted to another off-balanced Paul Pierce isolation jumper in the 87-86 loss. Even Ainge seemed to have questions about those decisions.
“I think Jeff is starting to prove and has proven to Doc that he deserves to be on the court most minutes of the game,” Ainge said. “Doc needs something off the bench, and I think he’s trying to figure all that out.
“And he will. He’s played Jeff at the 2 and the 3 and the 4 this year, and so I think that last night might’ve been a good opportunity for Jeff to play more at the 2. They had two big guys in there. They were killing us on the glass in the second half. I think in one stretch it was 27-9, and that just shows you lack of effort.”
Ainge stopped himself before including Green’s second-half performance as part of that lack of effort, but he did cite Brandon Bass‘ improved play in defense of Rivers’ decision and eventually blamed the loss on the backcourt.
“I think that last night maybe [we needed] some Jeff at the 2 guard,” said Ainge, who watched Avery Bradley and Courtney Lee combine for eight points in 39 combined minutes, “because our guard play was not good last night.’
While Ainge commended Anthony Davis‘ effort in what he termed “a bad loss” — calling the Hornets rookie “a Spiderman” and “a young, athletic KG” — he also expressed disappointment in his team’s late-game execution.
|Celtics sign D.J. White for remainder of season||03.20.13 at 2:33 pm ET|
The Celtics have signed D.J. White for the remainder of the season.
White averaged 2.8 points and 1.5 rebounds in just 6.8 minutes over four appearances since originally arriving in Boston from China on Feb. 28. The two sides reached a deal before the C’s had to part ways with the 6-foot-9, 250-pound big man upon completing the maximum of two 10-day contracts.
The Celtics announced “a multi-year contract” with White, and while terms of the deal were not disclosed, it’s likely the team owns an option for the 2013-14 season — much like the contract Terrence Williams signed earlier this month.
The next domino to fall should be Shavlik Randolph, whose second 10-day contract expires on Thursday. Randolph made the trip to New Orleans for the opener of the C’s three-game road trip, indicating the Celtics expect to reach a similar agreement with the journeyman forward.
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