|Rajon Rondo, Jeff Green, Kris Humphries power Celtics over Pistons||03.09.14 at 8:32 pm ET|
Rajon Rondo dished out a season-high 18 assists to go with 11 points and the Celtics rode a red-hot third quarter from the field to post a 118-111 win over the Pistons Sunday night at TD Garden. Jeff Green scored 27 while Kelly Olynyk provided a big first-half spark off the bench, scoring 13 of his 18 points in the opening 24 minutes.
Rondo’s 18 helpers were all the more remarkable considering he had no turnovers, just two assists shy of matching the NBA record for assists in a game without committing a turnover, achieved three times.
Kris Humphries added his sixth double-double of the season, scoring 20 points on 9-of-13 shooting, while grabbing 10 rebounds. The Celtics improved to 22-41, winning consecutive games for the first time since beating Orlando, Philadelphia and Sacramento to open February. Josh Smith led Detroit with 28 while Greg Monroe added 22 for the Pistons, who fell to 24-39. The Celtics are just five games out of the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference with 19 games remaining.
As was the case in Friday’s win over the Nets, the Celtics took a lead after the first quarter and were in command most of the way. Jared Sullinger’s layup with 31.3 seconds left in the first gave the Celtics a 24-22 lead, an advantage they would not relinquish.
Green scored 11 of his 27 in the second quarter as the Celtics took 57-49 halftime lead.
The Celtics came out blazing hot in the third, making 11 of their first 16 shots to open a 17-point lead. After shooting just 2-for-14 from long range in the first half, the Celtics drilled 8-of-12 from long range to put up 31 points in the first nine minutes of the quarter. The Celtics, thanks to 68 percent (15-of-22) shooting, scored 38 points in the quarter taking a 95-84 lead into the fourth.
The 38 points was the third-highest total in any quarter this season, behind the 42 in the first quarter against the Pistons on Dec. 18 and the 39 against the Bucks on Dec. 3.
While the Celtics were on fire offensively, they were leaking oil badly on defense, allowing 35 points as Detroit kept the game within range by shooting 60 percent from the field.
The 73-point quarter was a throwback to the old days of the ABA when little defense was played and open shots were the norm.
Green’s ill-fated behind-the-back pass to Will Bynum set up a Pistons fast break layup and three-point play on the other end as the Pistons drew to within eight, 95-87, in the opening 90 seconds. The two teams went back and forth. Josh Smith hit a three with 4:43 left to cut the Boston lead to nine before Jeff Green answered on the next possession.
Another Smith three cut the lead to eight, 111-103 with 2:53 left. Will Bynum hit two free throws with 2:29 left to make it 111-105. Rondo found Humphries under the basket for a nice reverse layup to make it 113-105. Bynum converted another pair of free throws with 1:10 left to make it a six-point game. His two free throws with 48.2 seconds left cut the lead to four, 113-109.
The Celtics will leave Monday after practice for a game at Indiana Tuesday night. They return to Boston to play the Knicks on Wednesday night at TD Garden. Head coach Brad Stevens indicated before the game that Rondo will likely not play in the second game of back-to-backs the rest of the season and is expected to sit out the Knicks game if he plays Tuesday night.
|Brad Stevens: Rajon Rondo ‘probably’ won’t play back-to-back this season||03.09.14 at 6:35 pm ET|
Rajon Rondo will likely not be playing in the final five sets of back-to-backs this season.
“My guess is probably that he will not play on the second game of a back to back,” Stevens said of Rondo, who had played in 17 of Boston’s 22 games since coming back from his right ACL tear.
The Celtics play on the road at Indiana Tuesday night before returning home to take on the Knicks Wednesday night at the Garden. Since Rondo came back on Jan. 17 against the Lakers, the Celtics have played four sets of back-to-backs and Rondo has missed the backend each time, including his now-infamous LA birthday bash on Feb. 22 in Sacramento.
The Celtics travel to Indiana Tuesday before returning home to play the Knicks Wednesday. There are four remaining sets of back-to-backs after this week.
“In this league, at his position, he’s going to get tested,” Stevens added. “There’s really good players at the point guard spot every night.”
Rondo is averaging 12.2 points and 8.2 assists per game in his 17 games back this season.
|Paul Pierce still thinks Rajon Rondo can be ‘unstoppable’||03.08.14 at 11:09 am ET|
“He’s unstoppable,” Pierce said of Rondo. “I always said the more he’s improved, the more he’s expanded his game, he’s one of the best. If he’s coming down and knocking down threes, it’s almost impossible to keep him out of the paint at times, he has the floater, the way he finds people in traffic. If he continues to consistently knock down that [3-point] shot, watch out.”
Rondo drilled his first three 3-point attempts Friday night and, except for a hiccup at the end of the third quarter, Rondo and the Celtics didn’t look back in a 91-84 win over Pierce’s Nets Friday night at TD Garden.
Rondo nearly had a triple double, with 20 points, nine assists and seven rebounds.
Pierce even gave Rondo an assist of his own, helping Rondo to his feet late in the first half after Rondo took a spill to the floor. He gave the Celtics point guard a pat on the rear and got an ovation from the crowd.
“In the end, me and Rondo share a special bond,” Pierce said. “We’ll always be friends, we’ll always have something in common with our championship, our kids still hang out together.”
Then Pierce went a little further, offering that their kids share that same bond and “hung out for his birthday, actually.” Pierce laughed out loud very hard for several seconds.
Of course, Pierce was very aware of the much ballyhooed Rondo birthday party in Los Angeles last month, when he skipped out on a trip to Sacramento after being asked to travel with the team and not stay behind. Ask Pierce and he’ll tell you all things considered, he’d want Rondo as his captain any day.
“Rondo, I respect him and what he’s doing moving forward with this franchise and it will always be that way,” Pierce added.
If anyone can understand what Rondo is going through right now it’s Pierce. Pierce made the Eastern Conference finals in 2002 and were in the playoffs the next two seasons before the team went through a massive rebuild, bottoming out in 2006-07 with a 24-win season.
“I try to forget those days,” Pierce said, laughing again. “Those were trying days. But you grow from there. I think it made me a better player, physically, mentally, it made me stronger. You can only learn from this process. You find out what type of players you have when you go through moments like this.
“They are a young team, they got a mix of some veterans, some young guys they are developing and they are only going to get better,” said Pierce. “Rondo is leading them right now, moving into the next generation of Celtics. I think their future is going to be very bright.”
|Kelly Olynyk starting to figure out NBA||02.13.14 at 9:25 pm ET|
This is the Kelly Olynyk that Danny Ainge saw all along.
Heading into his first All-Star weekend, the rookie is showing real signs of finally getting into an NBA groove.
In 31 minutes Wednesday night, Olynyk had 15 points and 10 rebounds in 31 minutes off the bench. On Monday night, in a win in Milwaukee, the rookie out of Gonzaga had 14 points and 11 rebounds in 21 minutes. He’ll take the momentum with him to New Orleans for the Rising Stars game Friday night, joining teammate Jared Sullinger on Team Webber.
In six games in February, Olynyk is averaging eight points, 6.7 rebounds and 20 minutes off the bench. Drafted 13th overall by the Mavericks last June and immediately acquired by Ainge in a trade, Olynyk was seen as an athletic big man who could draw bigs out of the paint, shoot effectively and create his own shot on drives to the basket.
“He’s starting to get a good feel for [the offense],” coach Brad Stevens said Wednesday of Olynyk. “There’s a base offense, there’s a set offense, and then there’s play-in and space and understanding and picking where your opportunities are when you have those kind of structured-but-unstructured opportunities. And he’s really starting to figure that out. On all the pick and rolls where he’s playing off, whether he’s rolling, whether he’s picking and popping, whether he’s playing in the seam and then when he catches, where does he go from there?
|Jared Sullinger has chip on his shoulder as he heads into All-Star break||02.13.14 at 12:28 pm ET|
An athlete can take anything and use it as motivation.
Sometimes it’s just for a game or a season but listening to Jared Sullinger after the final game before the All-Star break Wednesday night, being snubbed in the 2012 NBA draft is having a lingering effect.
With concerns over his back, which required surgery in his rookie year, Sullinger fell to No. 21 on draft night, just weeks after leading his Ohio State Buckeyes to the Final Four.
Usually for younger players selected to All-Star activities – like Friday’s “Rising Stars Challenge” – the weekend provides a chance to chill and show off their skills. But to Sullinger, this weekend means more, much more.
‘To me, it means everything,’ Sullinger said. ‘All the hard work. And also on top of that, being picked where I was picked, it was kind of a slap in the face towards me even though I had the back injury. But it’s a blessing.’
The slap in the face has apparently lit a fire under the big man. Only sickness (which required IVs earlier) Wednesday night could bring an end to his career-best string of six straight games with a double-double. He was named the Eastern Conference player of the week last week as he averaged 20 points and 11 rebounds. Sully had just four points and seven rebounds in 19 minutes in the 104-92 loss to the Spurs.
“I was a little sick. Still feel it a little bit, but I’m all right,” said Sullinger. “I missed a lot of shots, but I don’t really think [the illness] affected me. I think it was just that I was a little bit off in my routine, came in a little bit later because (team trainer) Eddie [Lacerte] wanted me to stay in bed. Just off my routine a little bit. As a result, I missed a lot of shots that I normally make.”
Just how long does Sullinger plan on using the motivation?
‘A long time? For the rest of my career,’ Sullinger answered.
Sullinger isn’t the first Celtics star to use a chip on his shoulder as motivation. Rajon Rondo does it every time people bring up his career at Kentucky with Tubby Smith. Paul Pierce, like Sullinger was projected by some as a “Top-5″ pick. He fell to 10th in the 1998 NBA Draft.
Now Sullinger, like Pierce and Rondo, are busy proving NBA executives wrong for passing on him. Sullinger is averaging 13.2 points and 8.2 rebounds in his second season in the NBA, earning a spot on the “Rising Stars” squad this weekend.
‘I don’t want to get satisfied,’ Sullinger said. ‘I never will get satisfied. I’ve got a lot more work to do.’
|On a milestone night, Rajon Rondo getting closer to where he wants to be||02.09.14 at 10:53 pm ET|
On his second of 12 assists of the night, Rajon Rondo became the 101st player in NBA history to amass 4,000 assists and just the sixth player in the storied history of the Celtics to reach the plateau. Bill Russell is next with 4,100. Bob Cousy is the all-time franchise leader with 6,945.
But that milestone was just one significant milestone for Rondo Sunday in a 102-91 loss to the Mavericks at TD Garden.
“It’s definitely an honor, especially to have so many in this organization,” Rondo said. “It’s right up there. It’s definitely an honor to get that many assists. I’ve played with a lot of great players. Give them credit. They have to make the basket.”
The Celtics point guard played a season-high 36 minutes and looked good doing so.
“I played 36 tonight and I’m a little sore but I’ll be fine,” Rondo said. “I try to listen to my body as much as possible.”
Celtics coach Brad Stevens said after the game that he spoke with Rondo and believes the time restrictions are all but gone after his return from ACL surgery.
‘Time limit’s off, yeah,” Stevens said after the game. “Not playing in the back-to-back. Probably will be cleared to play in back-to-backs again very soon. I asked the question right after we met prior to the game and it sounds like, again, that’s sooner rather than later but no time issues.’
Rondo clarified that position when he spoke post-game, about 45 minutes after Stevens made his initial proclamation.
“I wouldn’t say [limit] is completely off. I won’t be playing 40. When I’m out there and my adrenaline is going, I’m fine,” Rondo said.
Rondo will not be playing in Milwaukee on Monday night. Rondo would not say whether he would travel with the team or not on Sunday.
|Dirk Nowitzki, Vince Carter too much for Rajon Rondo, Celtics||02.09.14 at 8:17 pm ET|
Dirk Nowitzki scored 20 points and Vince Carter added 14 off the bench to help the Mavericks pull away for a 102-91 win Sunday night at TD Garden. The loss snapped Boston’s three-game win streak, which was one shy of the four straight at the beginning of the season.
That win streak in November put the Celtics at 4-4. Sunday’s loss dropped Boston to 18-34.
The Celtics were led by Jeff Green with 18 points while Rajon Rondo returned from a night off Friday and scored 15 with 12 assists. Green was rumored to be trade talks between Atlanta and Celtics vice president of basketball operations Danny Ainge while Rondo’s name was again in trade rumors involving the Knicks.
The Celtics could not overcome dreadful shooting Sunday night. They were down just six at the half, 44-38, despite shooting just 27.1 percent (13-of-48) from the floor.
The Mavericks pulled away in the third quarter, outscoring Boston 28-18 to take a 72-56 lead into the fourth. Avery Bradley (2-for-13), Jared Sullinger (4-for-13) and Green (6-for-15) highlighted the struggles of the Celtics. Sullinger extended his string of double-doubles to five games with 12 rebounds and 11 points, scoring a basket late in the fourth quarter to keep the streak alive.
Chris Johnson, signed to a multi-year deal on Friday, had a career high 14 off the bench for the Celtics.
Nowitizki had been averaging 28 points a game in his last six games entering Sunday’s contest but Dallas didn’t need him to be spectacular against a Celtics team that couldn’t find its offensive rhythm all night. Nowitzki was 7-for-16 from the field and his his three with 9:23 left in the fourth quarter put Dallas up, 81-58.
Dallas would build the lead to 24 in the fourth before a late Celtics run, sparked by the bench, cut the Mavs’ advantage down to nine, 98-89, with just over a minute left.
The Mavericks, who entered Sunday in the eighth and final playoff spot in the West, are making a push in the highly competitive conference. Sunday’s win on the parquet was their fourth straight and six in their last seven as they improved to 31-21.
The Celtics return to action Monday night in Milwaukee against a Bucks team that is currently leading the NBA Lottery race with a league-worst 9-41 record.
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