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Heat knock off Celtics behind LeBron James’ 29 points 01.21.14 at 10:01 pm ET
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Despite a valiant effort from a depleted Celtics team, the Heat nudged out a victory on Tuesday night, 93-86, in Miami.

Boston (14-29) played without two of its shooting guards, and Rajon Rondo‘s minutes were still limited, but a strong showing from some unlikely characters on the bench kept the game close.

LeBron James led all scorers with 29 points, and he also pulled down a team-high eight rebounds. Chris Bosh added 16 points.

Brandon Bass led Boston with 15 points off the bench. Kris Humphries (14 points), Jeff Green (12 points), Jared Sullinger (12 points) and Chris Johnson (11 points) also chipped in.

WHAT WENT RIGHT FOR THE CELTICS

Johnson debuts: Injuries to shooting guards Jerryd Bayless and Avery Bradley necessitated minutes of play from Johnson, who joined the Celtics late last week. In his first action with Boston, Johnson, the 6-foot-6 swingman from Dayton, finished with 11 points. His debut began with a pair of corner 3-pointers only two minutes apart. Before he drilled his first triple, Boston trailed 34-17; by the end of the half the Celtics had cut the deficit to 11. Johnson quieted until the fourth quarter. In the final frame he converted an and-1 play on Anderson, the Heat’s best shot-blocker; then grabbed an offensive rebound and put it back in; and finally dished out a beautiful assist to Humphries for an easy dunk.

Rebounding: It’€™s well known that the Heat’€™s one weakness is a lack of an interior presence, and more specifically, major issues with rebounding. Boston exploited Miami on the boards, as it held a commanding 46-33 advantage in rebounding. Humphries led the way with 13 rebounds. Sullinger also added 11 boards, including eight offensive.

Bass boost: Bass’€™ final line does not light up a stat sheet, but in a game where Boston desperately needed someone to step up because of injuries, and a general lack of a go-to scorer this season, Bass answered the call. The three-year Celtic came off the bench for 15 points on 5-of-7 shooting in 18 minutes. It was Bass’€™ third double-digit scoring game in his last five.

Double trouble: Both Sullinger and Humphries aided in the Celtics’€™ exploitation of the Heat on the boards with double-doubles. Humphries notched 14 points and 13 rebounds, while Sullinger scored 12 points and grabbed 11 boards. They both excelled in the second half after a sloppy first half. The starting forwards combined for four points, 11 rebounds and a dreadful 1-for-8 shooting line in the first 24 minutes.

WHAT WENT WRONG FOR THE CELTICS

Points in the paint: Boston showed its inferiority inside on offense and defense, particularly in the first quarter. Some stats that highlight this point: In the first seven minutes, the Heat led 16-7 and scored 14 points in the paint to the Celtics’€™ zero; It took Boston until the 3:04 mark to register its first points in the paint; and at the end of the quarter, Miami held a 16-4 advantage on inside points, which contributed to the Heat’€™s 14-point lead.

Bradley injured: With Bayless temporarily out, MarShon Brooks no longer a Celtic and a hampered Rondo, the last thing Boston needed was an injury to its most dependable guard. But that’€™s exactly what happened against Miami, as Bradley left early in the second quarter with a sprained ankle. The injury occurred when the shooting guard was engaged in his usual full-court defense, and his right ankle rolled outwardly. This left Boston with Pressey, Johnson and a limited Rondo as the only three available guards.

Rusty Rondo: For the second straight game, the effect of Rondo’€™s extended absence showed. Rondo scored just one point and failed to make any of his eight field goals. He also missed a pair of free throws with 44 seconds remaining that would have cut the deficit to two, and then missed a shot on the Celtics’ next possession. Rondo had six points on 3-of-10 shooting in Boston’s 93-91 loss to Orlando Sunday.

Bounceback: Kelly Olynyk enjoys breakthrough game 01.18.14 at 1:15 am ET
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After the Celtics win against the Raptors on Wednesday night that featured a zero-point output from Kelly Olynyk, Boston owner Stephen Pagliuca approached the 7-footer at his locker.

Pagliuca wanted to instill confidence in the Gonzaga product whom the Celtics took in the first round of the 2013 NBA Draft to offset the loss of Kevin Garnett. Olynyk’s lack of aggression was not limited to the Toronto game. His zero-point effort just capped off a rough stretch of play. From Jan. 2 to Jan. 15 (nine games), Olynyk averaged 14.5 minutes per game and 4.3 points per game on 39 percent shooting. His boss encouraged him to abandon his on-court reticence.

“€œ[He said] be confident, be aggressive, take shots when they’€™re there,” Olynyk said after Boston’€™s 107-104 loss to the Lakers on Friday.

Olynyk received that message and translated it to the court in a big way against the Lakers. He totaled a game-high and career-high 25 points, and tacked on seven assists and five rebounds.

“€œI thought he was good,” Celtics coach Brad Stevens said. “[He] took advantage of some match ups in the interior and then also got his jump shot rolling.”

The timid, unaggressive Olynyk who has been prominent at times this year vanished against Los Angeles. He was efficient around the rim and creative with his passing from the top of the key. Olynyk made his only 3-pointer in the first half, but played more of a facilitating role, tallying five assists in the first 24 minutes of the game. But in the second half, the Lakers had no answer for the center, as he scorched their frontline for 16 points. Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Brad Stevens, Kelly Olynyk, Kevin Garnett, Stephen Pagliuca
Despite disappointing ending, Rajon Rondo’s return a success 01.18.14 at 1:04 am ET
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Through 47 minutes and 59 seconds there was nothing to complain about regarding the debut of Rajon Rondo.

But it took just a second for that outlook to change.

With Boston trailing by three points in the waning moments, Rondo hoisted a 3-pointer that would have sent the game into overtime at the buzzer. But his shot clanked off the rim, and Boston fell 107-104 at the Garden.

‘€”Just came up a little bit short, but I was glad he had the ball,” Celtics coach Brad Stevens said after the game.

Still, there were plenty of positive takeaways from Rondo’s first game since last January — starting with the fact that he changed the dynamic of the team before the opening tip. Stevens, unbeknownst to Rondo, bestowed captainship upon Rondo before the start of the game. Rondo is the 15th Celtic captain, following Pierce, who reigned from 2003-2013.

“€œI never told him — I mean, maybe it’€™s something I should have done,” Stevens said. ‘”But I think it’€™s something you earn through your effort, through your leadership, through your involvement in the community.” Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Avery Bradley, Brad Stevens, Doc Rivers, Jared Sullinger
Celtics blow fourth-quarter lead in Rajon Rondo’s return, fall 107-104 to the Lakers 01.17.14 at 10:01 pm ET
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The return of Rajon Rondo was not enough as the Lakers came back from eight down with just over three minutes left in the fourth quarter to shock the Celtics, 107-104.

In limited minutes, Rondo tallied eight points, four assists and two steals. However, he missed a potential game-tying shot at the buzzer to put a sour taste in the mouth of a TD Garden crowd that had waited anxiously to see the return of their revered point guard.

Pau Gasol led the Lakers (15-25) with 24 points and Kendall Marshall added 19 points, including a 3-pointer with just over one minute to put the Lakers ahead for good.

In defeat, Boston’s bench showed up in a big way against Los Angeles. Kelly Olynyk (25 points), Gerald Wallace (14 points) and Brandon Bass (10 points) all came off the bench with double-digit performances for the Celtics (14-27).

WHAT WENT WRONG FOR THE CELTICS Read the rest of this entry »

Celtics guard Rajon Rondo starting against Lakers 01.17.14 at 7:25 pm ET
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Rajon Rondo got the start at point guard in his much-anticipated return to the court on Friday night against the Lakers.

Celtics (14-26) coach Brad Stevens confirmed Rondo’s return to reporters before the 7:30 tip-off at the Garden.

Rondo has been sidelined since Jan. 25, 2013 with a torn ACL he suffered in a regular season game versus the Hawks.

Undrafted rookie Phil Pressey started his first career game at point guard in the Celtics‘ 88-83 win on Wednesday night that snapped a nine-game losing streak. Pressey briefly took over for the starting duties for the traded Jordan Crawford.

Rondo averaged 13.7 points, 11.1 assists and 5.6 rebounds per game in 38 games last season.

Read More: Brad Stevens, Jordan Crawford, Phil Pressey, Rajon Rondo
Phil Pressey makes first career start, leads Celtics to victory 01.16.14 at 12:24 am ET
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A few minutes into the third quarter, Phil Pressey jetted around a pick-and-roll, confidently rose for an 18-foot jump shot and connected. But before he could celebrate a whistle sounded: A Boston foul nullified Pressey’€™s first points as a Celtic starter.

“I felt like that really was going to get me goin. When I finally hit one, it felt good,” Pressey said with a smile after Wednesday night’€™s game.

Pressey never scored those elusive first two points, but with Boston’€™s 10-game losing streak snapped in the team’€™s 88-83 win over the Raptors, he can now boast about his 1-0 record as a starting point guard in the NBA.

The undrafted rookie free agent’€™s 0-for-5 shooting line and zero points were not indicative of the impact he made on the game. Pressey dished out a career-high 10 assists and did not commit a single turnover in 26 minutes of play — also a career-high.

“I thought he was absolutely terrific,” Celtics coach Brad Stevens said.

Pressey liked the 10 dimes, but not as much as the zero turnovers.

“I know if I take care of the ball, I know I’€™m giving my team an opportunity to get more shots up. That’€™s what I pride myself on,” Pressey said.

The Celtics‘€™ thinness at the guard position necessitated Pressey’€™s insertion into the lineup. (Starting point guard Jordan Crawford and reserve guard MarShon Brooks were dealt to the Warriors, Rajon Rondo is still out, and Keith Bogans indefinitely left the team for personal reasons).

Pressey said he was alerted of his promotion in shootaround. Yet the suddenness of the promotion was not alarming.

“The guys embraced me from the start, like I’€™ve been there from day one, so it was very easy for me to step in and help my team out,” Pressey said.

Pressey started off slowly, but he helped spark a 6-0 run to end the half that put Boston ahead 45-41. With under one minute left, Pressey and Jared Sullinger executed a pick-and-roll that culminated with Sullinger canning a long running jumper. Pressey then pick-pocketed Toronto point guard Kyle Lowry and set off in transition where he found a trailing Avery Bradley with a smooth behind-the-back pass for an easy layup. Then Pressey collected a Raptors miss and alertly sent an outlet pass to Bradley, who had leaked ahead of the field. Bradley was fouled and made both free throws.

Pressey helped extend Boston’€™s lead to 17 with three assists in the third quarter.

“I thought when things got tough, he got tough,” Stevens said.

And things got tough in the fourth quarter. The Celtics blew their massive lead, and suddenly found themselves nursing a three-point advantage in the waning moments. But Pressey helped weather the storm and Boston eked out the win.

“To his credit, I thought he pulled guys in and together instead of when something doesn’€™t go our way we’€™re not together,” Stevens said.

There’€™s speculation that Rondo will return on Friday against the Lakers. But Boston hopes to ease Rondo back into action, and Pressey’€™s strong outing suggests that he’€™ll continue to see big minutes until Rondo’€™s healthy.

Read More: Avery Bradley, Brad Stevens, Jared Sullinger, Jordan Crawford
Streak snapped: Celtics end nine-game slide with win over Raptors 01.15.14 at 10:04 pm ET
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With former starting point guard Jordan Crawford in a different uniform, backup guards MarShon Brooks (traded) and Keith Bogans (indefinite absence) out, and the Celtics trying to snap a prolonged losing streak against a solid Raptors (19-18) team, one would be excused for counting out Boston before tip-off.

However, Boston (14-26) avoided the predictable outcome, and finally snapped its nine-game losing streak with a 88-83 win over Toronto at the Garden. The loss marked the 11th straight in Boston for the Raptors.

Jared Sullinger continued a recent run of solid play with a monster game: 25 points, 20 rebounds. Avery Bradley, an emerging star for the Celtics, tallied 20 points. (He’s now led Boston in scoring four of the last five games.). Jeff Green scored 13 points, while Kris Humphries added 12.

DeMar DeRozan sparked Toronto with a team-best 23 points. Kyle Lowry (18 points, 12 assists) and John Salmons (13 points) also chipped in.

WHAT WENT RIGHT FOR THE CELTICS

Sully: Sullinger completely dominated the Raptors’ frontline of Amir Johnson and Jonas Valanciunas. His 25-point, 20-rebound performance marked Sullinger’s fourth straight game with at least 10 rebounds, and third double-double in four games. Seven of his rebounds were of the offensive variety. Four-and-a-half minutes into third quarter Sullinger already had 15 rebounds. He brought the crowd to a tizzy at the end of the third quarter when he received a full court pass from Gerald Wallace and drained a fadeaway jumper to put Boston up 17 seconds. The Celtics had just over two seconds remaining to convert the play

Pressey starts: With Crawford and Brooks traded, the starting point guard onus fell to Phil Pressey. The undrafted rookie handled the promotion well with 10 assists and three rebounds, although he failed to score. Most importantly Pressey did not commit any turnovers. Pressey’s best stretch came in the final minute of the first half. It began with a pick-and-roll between Sullinger and Pressey that resulted in a Sullinger floater with 58 seconds left. Then, with Boston on the fast break, Pressey nonchalantly flipped a pass behind his back to a trailing Bradley for an easy layup. On the next defensive possession, Pressey plucked a Toronto miss out of the air, and immediately turned and found Bradley streaking to the hoop. Bradley was fouled on the play and made both free throws. Crawford and Brooks’ departure bodes well for Pressey, who will likely remain to see big minutes with a recovering Rajon Rondo the only true point guard currently on the roster.

Avery’s first-half run: Nearly half way through second quarter, Boston had absolutely nothing going on offense. After a DeRozan jumper at the 7:28 mark, the Celtics were trailing by five points, in large part due to a 1-for-7 second quarter shooting effort, and an over all shooting percentage of 28.8. But on the corresponding possession, Bradley cooly splashed a 23-foot jumper. This started a Bradley scoring outburst over the final seven minutes of the half to push Boston into a 45-41 lead. Bradley scored 14 of his 16 first-half points during this stretch, knocking down a number of mid-range jump shots and finishing a couple uncontested layups.

WHAT WENT WRONG FOR THE CELTICS

Fourth quarter flop: At the end of three quarters, not only was it looking like Boston would win, it appeared that the Celtics would be able to coast to victory.  The Celtics led by 17 points at the end of the third, but Toronto mounted a massive fourth quarter to give Boston a scare. At one point, the Raptors were down by only three points. But the Celtics came up with a couple of vital defensive stops to ice the game.

D on DeRozan: The electric shooting guard seemed to be the only Raptor prepared to play. He scored a team-high 23 points and added eight rebounds and three assists. DeRozan, Toronto’s leading scorer at 21.3 points per game, made tough shot after tough shot, all while being blanketed by Boston’s top defender, Bradley.

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