|Fast Break: Celtics extend win streak to four games||01.09.13 at 9:54 pm ET|
Riding the best game of Jared Sullinger‘s young NBA career, the Celtics won a season-best fourth straight game, 87-79 against the Suns, and improved to 4-1 since Avery Bradley’s return on Jan. 2.
Sullinger (12 points) grabbed a career-high 16 rebounds to record the second double-double of his rookie season, as the C’s (18-17) climbed above .500 for the first time since Christmas Day.
In a balanced effort, Sullinger, Jeff Green (14 points), Jason Terry (13 points), Kevin Garnett (10 points), Bradley (9 points), Rajon Rondo (8 points, 8 assists), Paul Pierce (7 points, 7 rebounds), Brandon Bass (6 points, 5 rebounds) and Courtney Lee (6 points) all scored between 6-14 points.
WHAT WENT RIGHT
Green machine: On back-to-back second-quarter possessions, Green threw down ferocious dunks on separate Suns to hand the Celtics a 38-33 lead and force a Phoenix timeout. The first came on a dribble drive over old friend Jermaine O’Neal, and he slammed the second on a fast break oop from Bradley over Michael Beasley.
Rotating schedule: Actually, the entire Celtics bench once again performed admirably. Green, Terry and Sullinger were the C’s three highest scorers as the reserves outscored their Suns counterparts 47-16. Bradley’s return has helped coach Doc Rivers find some consistency in his rotations, and the Celtics appear to be responding to their more clearly defined roles.
On the defense: The Celtics are slowly climbing the NBA’s defensive ranks. After allowing 98.1 points per game through December, the C’s have gave up an average of just 86.3 points in Bradley’s first four games back. In his fifth, the Suns didn’t reach 70 points until 4:15 remaining in the fourth quarter. Even lineups that contain Green and Terry, who aren’t exactly known for their defensive prowess, appear to be grasping the C’s defensive schemes.
WHAT WENT WRONG
Dudley do right: Quietly, Boston College product Jared Dudley has carved out a nice NBA career for himself. He’s averaging double-digit points for the third straight season, shooting 40.5 percent from 3-point range in his five-year career and dishing out a career-high 2.7 assists per game. Against the Celtics, he amassed 14 points, 10 rebounds and five assists, doing all the little things to keep the Suns in the game.
Bigs problem: It wasn’t a matter of whether the length of the Suns frontcourt would hurt the Celtics; it was a question of how much. The 6-foot-11, 240-pound Marcin Gortat and 6-foot-9, 245-pound Luis Scola entered the game averaging 24.5 points and 15.1 rebounds between them, and they combined to surpass both those numbers against the Celtics (28 points, 22 rebounds). In all, the Suns totaled 50 points in the paint.
Aunt Chippy: Whether the Celtics instigate it or not, there’s been some serious chippiness in their recent stretch of games. Two games after Rondo’s suspension for bumping a ref and two nights after Carmelo Anthony grew infuriated with Garnett, Rondo and Suns forward P.J. Tucker logged technicals and both Green and Courtney Lee took hard falls to the parquet floor. While some of their success can be attributed to the intensity, there’s a line between aggressiveness and overaggressiveness, and the Celtics have been riding it.
|Videos: How Carmelo Anthony-Kevin Garnett feud unfolds during quintessential Celtics-Knicks battle||01.08.13 at 7:47 am ET|
Kevin Garnett and Carmelo Anthony barked at each other throughout Monday night’s 102-96 Celtics victory against the rival Knicks, and for once KG didn’t appear to be the instigator. Instead, Anthony pushed and prodded Garnett every chance he got, stormed through the visiting tunnel towards the Celtics locker room after the game and eventually waited by the C’s team bus to confront his fellow All-Star.
Between the whistles, the referees did a poor job controlling the escalating feud. On the play preceding their double technicals, Garnett and Anthony exchange shoves for what seems like a lifetime directly in front of referee Violet Palmer, and as my wife said upon her first Dick Bavetta sighting, “Is he even alive?”
As Anthony’s Knicks teammate Marcus Camby said of Garnett, “He talks a lot, but that’s pretty much to pump himself up. He’s been doing that so long that it’s amazing how guys still succumb to it.”
|Why did Celtics waive Kris Joseph, Jarvis Varnado?||01.06.13 at 9:29 pm ET|
The Celtics waived rookie forwards Kris Joseph and Jarvis Varnado on Sunday. But why?
The C’s second-round draft pick, Joseph appeared in mostly garbage time of six games for the Celtics, but he averaged 17.7 points, 2.9 rebounds and 1.7 assists in 10 games for the Red Claws in the NBA Development League, so this transaction comes as a surprise.
Meanwhile, Varnado averaged just 1.2 points in 4.0 minutes over five appearances after signing from the D-League on Christmas Eve, and Fab Melo‘s emergence may have made him expendable.
The moves give the Celtics flexibility in two arenas:
1) Both Joseph and Varnado were playing on non-guaranteed contracts, and their waivers come prior to Monday’s 5 p.m. deadline to cut such players. After signing Jason Terry to the mid-level exception, the Celtics are forced to adhere to the NBA’s $74.3 million hard cap. These moves save the Celtics a few hundred thousand dollars, which doesn’t sound like much, but it opens the possibility of adding a veteran minimum talent like Kenyon Martin down the road.
2) The departures of Joseph and Varnado free up the team’s final two roster spots. Considering Danny Ainge‘s rumored interest in just about every big on the market, including DeMarcus Cousins and Marcin Gortat, the Celtics could take on additional players or slightly more dollars in a potential trade.
Either way, those roster spots won’t remain empty until June.
|Paul Pierce: Celtics can beat any team in the East||01.05.13 at 1:09 am ET|
When the Grizzlies briefly knocked the Celtics out of the Eastern Conference playoff picture, handing them a fourth straight loss and their eighth in the last 10, many buried the C’s. Just like they did the 2010 and 2012 versions. Even some of members of the team questioned their contender status. But this isn’t Paul Pierce‘s first rodeo.
“I was telling the guys before the game, you know, I told them to look at the East,” said the Celtics captain, who totaled 13 points, six rebounds and five assists in his team’s dismantling of the Pacers that lifted them back into the eighth spot in the conference. “There’s not one team out there that we feel like we can’t beat.
“You’ve got a couple of elite teams out there — San Antonio, Oklahoma City — and I was telling them how well we played against Oklahoma City. There’s no reason that we can’t play well against everybody like that. If you look at the elite teams, and we’re able to compete with them, then why can’t we compete with the other teams are coming here, like the Milwaukees, like the [Pacers], like the Grizzlies. I just want to keep the confidence going in the locker room and help them understand that when we want to, we can be this type of team.”
|Tyler Hansbrough: Kevin Garnett ‘just hit me in my face’||01.05.13 at 12:20 am ET|
On the Celtics PR staff’s quote sheets, the first sentence in Kevin Garnett‘s post-ejection press conference reads: “This game was not about foreplay.” There’s a chance he said “floor plan,” but foreplay seems more appropriate.
After being pushed around in four embarrassing blowout losses, the C’s finally fought back. Maybe a little too hard, as Garnett decked Pacers forward Tyler Hansbrough across the face midway through the fourth quarter of a lopsided victory of their own, earning a flagrant-2 foul and an early trip to the massage table.
“He just hit me in my face,” said Hansbrough, who scored a game-high 19 points. “I went to the basket and took a blow to the head. I didn’t really see the replay. I’ve got nothing to say about it. It is what it is.”
“I was firm,” countered KG (18 points, 7 rebounds). “I didn’t mean to get him in the face like that. I was actually trying to swipe the ball, but it was a physical game, and they called it that way. It was part of the game.”
|Kevin Garnett, Celtics lay smackdown on Pacers||01.04.13 at 9:53 pm ET|
Kevin Garnett was ejected after a flagrant-2 foul on Tyler Hansbrough, and unless you came to watch him dance during Gino Time, it didn’t even matter. The Celtics ended a four-game losing streak with a resounding 94-75 victory against the Pacers.
Combined with the Thunder’s blowout of the 76ers, the Celtics (15-17) leapfrogged Philadelphia (15-19) into the eighth playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. Garnett totaled 18 points and seven rebounds before his ejection.
Paul Pierce and Rajon Rondo combined for a triple-double (31 points, 12 assists, 11 rebounds) while Courtney Lee (13 points) and Jared Sullinger (10 rebounds) showed positive signs. Here’s what else happened.
|Avery Bradley’s philosophy: ‘Defense is just effort’||01.03.13 at 9:38 am ET|
“Defense is just effort,” he said after his return from double shoulder surgery. “If you give effort, you can never have a bad defensive game. That’s how I think of it. You play as hard as you can. That’s all you have to do.”
Outside of Kevin Garnett and possibly Jason Collins, it’s hard to say there’s anybody else on the Celtics who offers a consistent effort on the defensive end every night. Just ask Tony Allen. Rajon Rondo and Paul Pierce often conserve themselves for the offensive end, Courtney Lee hasn’t come as advertised defensively and nobody else on the C’s roster has developed much of a defensive reputation, unless you include Fab Melo, who started the season falling into a folding chair and currently suffers from a concussion after walking into a doorway.
In addition to being the NBA’s worst rebounding team, the Celtics rank in the middle of the pack in almost every defensive statistical category after ranking among the top five teams in defensive rating every season since 2008.
“Every team has its up and downs,” said Bradley, who scored four points on six shots during Wednesday night’s loss to the Grizzlies. “The best teams are the ones that can go through the adversity and overcome it. With the veteran leadership we have, I feel like we’re going to overcome it. We’ve just got to keep improving.”
Latest from Bleacher Report
- Why Celtics Will Be Better Than Expected in 2014-15
- Should Celtics Fans Buy or Sell Rondo's Hot Start?
- Lessons Learned from Celtics so Far
- Why Green Will Finally Succeed in Boston
- C's Big Offense Showing a Sign of Things to Come?
- Green's Transition to PF Could Reshape NBA Career Arc
- Could Rondo's Play Increase the Chances He's Dealt?