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Jared Sullinger, Jerryd Bayless provide offensive punch, lead short-handed C’s to win 02.07.14 at 9:50 pm ET
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The short-handed Celtics have suddenly won three straight.

Jared Sullinger scored a career high 31 points and grabbed 16 rebounds to lead the short-handed Celtics to their third straight win, a 99-89 victory over the Kings Friday night at TD Garden. All three wins (Orlando, Philadelphia and Sacramento) come against losing teams that figure to provide much stiffer competition for draft position in the NBA lottery this spring.

Playing without Rajon Rondo (knee soreness) and Avery Bradley (ankle), Jerryd Bayless (19 points) and Kelly Olynyk (11 points, nine rebounds, five assists) also helped to pick up the slack.

Gerald Wallace added eight points, grabbed 12 rebounds and dished nine assists as the Celtics have followed up their worst month in history (2-15 in January) with three straight wins to open February.

Jeff Green added 17 points on 6-of-20 shooting to help the Celtics improve to 18-33, which may not be great news in the long run. Boston moved 3.5 games ahead of last place Philadelphia in the Atlantic Division.

The Kings took advantage of the depleted Celtics early on, building a 29-19 lead late in the first quarter. DeMarcus Cousins was big early on, scoring 13 of his team-high 31 points in the opening quarter. Cousins and Sullinger each finished with 31 points and 16 rebounds. Sacramento led 29-21 after 12 minutes.

But Olynyk led the Celtics back in the second quarter, scoring nine of his 11 first-half points off the bench. Olynyk couldn’t miss in the first half, hitting all three field goals, including a 3-pointer, while draining all four free throws. Olynyk had eight of Boston’s 12 points in a 12-0 run that put the Celtics on top, 31-29. Boston outscored Sacramento, 28-17, in the second quarter to grab a 49-46 halftime lead.

The Kings scored the first six points of the second half, taking a 52-49 lead, moving coach Brad Stevens to call a time out. After the break, the Celtics responded with a 10-0 run. The Kings responded with the game’s next seven points to tie the game again, a trend that continued for most of the third quarter as the Celtics led, 71-69, heading into the final 12 minutes.

Isaiah Thomas added 24 points for the Kings and got into a brief scuffle with Bayless late in the fourth quarter under the Kings basket. The tussle came close to spilling into the stands but was brought under control just in time. Both players were assessed technicals but remained in the game.

The Celtics opened the fourth quarter on an 18-4 run and were never threatened down the stretch. The Celtics have Saturday off before hosting the Dallas Mavericks on Sunday evening (6:30 p.m. ET) at TD Garden.

For more, visit the Celtics team page at weei.com/celtics.

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Celtics sign Chris Johnson for rest of season 02.07.14 at 8:11 pm ET
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Chris Johnson (12) has earned a stay with the Celtics for the rest of the season. (AP)

Chris Johnson (12) has earned a stay with the Celtics for the rest of the season. (AP)

Chris Johnson has earned a stay with the Celtics for the rest of the season.

The team announced just before Friday’s game with Sacramento that they have signed 6-foot-6 swingman to a multi-year contract.

Johnson 23, has appeared in eight games for the Celtics and has averaged 7.6 points, 2.8 rebounds, and 1.3 assists in 21.6 minutes in eight games. He posted a career-high 12 points against Brooklyn on Jan. 26 and recorded a career-high four steals against Washington on Jan. 22.

He is currently shooting 40.0 percent from the three-point line which is tops on the Celtics since he signed his original 10-day contract with the Celtics on Jan. 17.

Johnson had appeared in 20 games for the Rio Grande Valley Vipers of the NBA Development League earlier this season where he had averaged 19.4 points, 6.8 rebounds, 2.5 assists, 1.6 steals and 1.0 block in 37.2 minutes per game.

According to Chris Forsberg of ESPNBoston.com, Johnson will be paid at a prorated rate based on a salary of $320,000 this season, allowing the Celtics to stay below the luxury tax threshold.

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Jared Sullinger, Kelly Olynyk on same team for 2014 Rising Stars Challenge 02.07.14 at 9:57 am ET
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Jared Sullinger.

Jared Sullinger

During a draft of the 18 best rookies and second-year players Thursday evening, Celtics Jared Sullinger and Kelly Olynyk were placed on the same team for the 2014 Rising Stars Challenge.

The two teams, which are managed by retired NBA players Chris Webber and Grant Hill, will face off next Friday night during NBA All-Star Weekend in New Orleans.

The draft took players out of a pool determined by the NBA’€™s assistant coaches. Webber picked Sullinger in the fifth round, and Olynyk, who was one of the last four players chosen, was selected via a blind draw.

Full rosters:

Team Hill

  • Damian Lillard (Portland)
  • Bradley Beal (Washington)
  • Andre Drummond (Detroit)
  • Harrison Barnes (Golden State)
  • Terrence Jones (Houston)
  • Giannis Antetokounmpo (Milwaukee)
  • Jonas Valanciunas (Toronto)
  • Dion Waiters (Cleveland)
  • Pero Antic (Atlanta)

Team Webber

  • Anthony Davis (New Orleans)
  • Michael Carter-Williams (Philadelphia)
  • Tim Hardaway Jr. (New York)
  • Trey Burke (Utah)
  • Jared Sullinger (Boston)
  • Mason Plumlee (Brooklyn)
  • Victor Oladipo (Orlando)
  • Steven Adams (Oklahoma City)
  • Kelly Olynyk (Boston)
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Celtics set to sign Chris Johnson for remainder of season 02.07.14 at 8:47 am ET
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Chris Johnson‘s second 10-day contract expired at midnight, but the Celtics have already informed the 23-year-old wing they will sign him for the remainder of the season. Yahoo’s Adrian Wojnarowski first reported the news.

The 6-foot-6 Johnson has averaged 7.6 points, 2.8 rebounds, 1.3 assists and 1.0 steals in 21.6 minutes over eight games in a Celtics uniform, registering an impressive 60.9 true-shooting percentage. His performance convinced Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge to fill one of the team’s two open roster spots for a pro-rated minimum salary that translates into less than $500,000 against the cap.

“I think it’€™s a great story, but it’€™s not like it’€™s some miracle,” Celtics coach Brad Stevens told reporters after Thursday’s practice. “It’€™s the result of hard work, doing the right things, not being scared of the moment, taking advantage of opportunities, those type of things.”

As the Celtics did with Chinese imports Shavlik Randolph, D.J. White and Terrence Williams last season, they are expected to give Johnson, who was playing for the D-League’s Rio Grande Valley Vipers three weeks ago, a non-guaranteed deal for next season that will keep him around until training camp.

Thanks to the Courtney Lee deal, the Celtics still have roughly $1 million worth of wiggle room under the luxury tax line after signing Johnson, granting them some flexibility as the trade deadline looms.

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As Celtics head toward lottery, here’s a look at top prospects in NBA draft 02.06.14 at 10:07 am ET
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The Celtics are coming off of their worst month in team history — a record of 2-15 in January.

Jabari Parker (left) and Andrew Wiggins (right) are two of the top prospects for the 2014 NBA draft. (AP)

Duke’s Jabari Parker (left) and Kansas’ Andrew Wiggins (right) are two of the top prospects for the 2014 NBA draft. (AP)

Wrap your mind around that: the worst month in Celtics history. The 2006-07 team that lost 18 straight never dropped more than 14 games in a month. Even M.L. Carr‘€™s 1996-97 tank-squad that won a total of 15 games never topped 14 losses in a single month.

So what does this mean? It means the Celtics are going to lose a ton of games this season, even with Rajon Rondo.

The trade deadline is looming, and Danny Ainge already has showed that he is not afraid to make moves for the future — trading Courtney Lee and Jordan Crawford for expiring contracts and draft picks is evidence. And it’€™s safe to expect similar moves between now and Feb. 20.

It’€™s also safe to expect Ainge to hold a high draft pick come June. Boston currently has the sixth-worst record in the NBA and has reached as low as third (the C’s were fourth worst entering Wednesday). Recent wins over bottom-feeders Orlando and Philadelphia have the Celts sitting a bit higher in the standings. Losing another game or two would allow them to get in that bottom three, which yields a 96 percent chance at a top-five pick. The timing couldn’€™t be better, as the class of 2014 is loaded with prospects that project to be NBA stars.

Given the Celtics‘ current position, selecting somewhere in the top five seems reasonable. So let’s look at the top five prospects in the draft and how they would work in Boston.

Joel Embiid, Kansas, freshman – Embiid has scouts drooling over his NBA potential. He has grown from a mid-to-late lottery pick to a probable first overall pick in just about half a season.

Embiid is a 7-footer with a 7-foot-5 wingspan. And oh, yeah, he’€™s only been playing basketball for about three years. Originally from Cameroon, Embiid still is learning the game at Kansas under Bill Self. The conventional wisdom was that he would take more time to develop, but Embiid has been masterful on the defensive end and is far less raw on offense than we were led to believe. “He’s skilled, he’s tough, he’s learning quickly, he’s all of 7 feet and he battles,” ESPN college basketball analyst Jeff Goodman said in a Thursday interview with Mut & Merloni. “And he’s getting better.”

Embiid has posted season averages of 10.9 points, 7.6 rebounds, 2.6 blocks and 1.3 assists in only 22.7 minutes per contest. He has done all this while shooting 61.6 percent from the field and making plays that have (rightfully) drawn comparisons to Hakeem Olajuwon. The lone flaw in his game? Embiid fouls far too often. His 3.5 fouls per game are much too high, especially considering his minutes.

Read the rest of this entry »

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Celtics remain unbeaten with Rajon Rondo, Avery Bradley backcourt 02.05.14 at 9:33 pm ET
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The Celtics hadn’t won two games in a row since Dec. 13 and 16, gathering Ping Pong balls as they slid down the NBA standing over the past month, but the C’s improved to 2-0 with Rajon Rondo and Avery Bradley in the starting backcourt.

Rondo approached triple-double territory (8 points, 11 assists, 9 rebounds), Bradley contributed 14 points before tweaking his ankle again and the two combined for five steals in a 114-108 victory against the host 76ers.

Jeff Green led all scorers with 36 points, helping the Celtics (17-33) avenge last week’s buzzer-beating loss to Philadelphia (15-35) in the Garden. Jared Sullinger (19 points, 10 rebounds, third straight double-double), Brandon Bass (18 points) and Jerryd Bayless (11 points) also reached double figures.

WHAT WENT RIGHT

Backcourt’s back: After missing two weeks with an ankle injury, Bradley  picked up where he left off, scoring 17 points in his return on Sunday and reaching double figures against the Sixers within the game’s first 10 minutes. Despite playing four seasons together, Bradley and Rondo haven’t even started in the same backcourt for half a season’s worth of games. How that duo performs the rest of the way could dictate whether they remain teammates for years to come. The early returns are positive — on both sides of the ball, as Bradley and Rondo also helped keep Michael Carter-Williams (11 points) and Evan Turner (12 points) in check.

Green thumbs up: Likewise, Green showed signs of the uber-athletic potential everyone imagined in his pairing with Rondo. Green had a baker’s dozen by halftime, and Rondo assisted on three of his five field goals — including back-to-back buckets during a 10-0 run that helped the Celtics establish a nine-point lead just before halftime. Green’s confidence tends to build momentum when he’s involved early, and Rondo may help make that a trend.

Sharing the wealth: Actually, just about everybody benefited from Rondo’s presence. The C’s assisted on 13 of their 14 first-quarter field goals, taking a 34-23 lead after one, and finished the first half with 19 dimes on 23 FGs. Rondo had nine of the 19. While the Sixers made their runs to cut into the advantage — even taking the lead in the second quarter — the Celtics‘ execution on the offensive end helped keep them at bay.

WHAT WENT WRONG

Awkward KlynykKelly Olynyk continues to endure some growing pains. Brad Stevens severely limited the rookie’s minutes during an all-around poor performance. In one tough-to-watch stretch, a Philadelphia shot clock violation bailed him out of biting on a Spencer Hawes up-fake from beyond the arc, and then he committed a horrific turnover in transition. He finished with one point and two giveaways in 12 minutes.

Sloppy second: Stevens rested Rondo with a seven-point lead midway through the second quarter, and the 76ers immediately rattled off a 10-2 run that included a pair of Carter-Williams buckets in his absence. The stagnant C’s were forced to bring back the still recovering Rondo after just three minutes. Through three quarters, the Celtics outscored the Sixers 68-57 with Rondo on the floor while Philly owned a 25-20 advantage with him on the bench.

Avery’s ankle: Bradley tweaked his ankle again late in the fourth quarter and sat the final 3:16. After his performance alongside Rondo the last two games, any more missed time would be another devastating blow.

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Rajon Rondo posts double-double, leads Celtics to win over Magic 02.02.14 at 3:20 pm ET
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Rajon Rondo scored a season-high 19 points and the Celtics snapped a four-game losing streak with a 96-89 win over the Magic on Sunday afternoon.

Rondo, who sat out Boston’€™s loss against the 76ers on Wednesday, shot 9-for-11 from the field, and added 10 assists for a Boston team that had lost 16 of its last 18.

Jared Sullinger led all scorers with 21 points, and he tallied his second straight double-double with 12 rebounds. Avery Bradley returned from his five-game absence with an ankle sprain to score 17 points. Brandon Bass also chipped in 19.

Arron Afflalo paced five Magic starters in double figures with 18 points.

WHAT WENT RIGHT FOR THE CELTICS

Rondo: For the first time this season, Boston fans got their old point guard back. Rondo, who entered Sunday’€™s game averaging 6.7 points and 5.7 assists per game on 27.9 percent shooting, played his best game of the season. He scored a season-high 19 points and added 10 assists and five rebounds. Rondo did all this on shooting 9-for-11 shooting. He stuffed the stat sheet in the first half with 13 points, four assists, three rebounds and two steals.

Sullinger: In the Celtics‘€™ 95-94 loss to the 76ers on Wednesday, Sullinger put together a 24-point, 17 rebound performance that on the surface looked impressive. However, the fact that Sullinger needed 25 shots ‘€” and only made nine ‘€” to get his 24 points took some of the punch out of that statline. Against the Magic, Sullinger again posted a double-double (18 points, 11 rebounds), but this time he did it in an efficient manner (9-for-14 from the field).

Rough on the rookie: Victor Oladipo will presumably have plenty of opportunities to showcase the talent that made the Magic use the second overall pick of the 2013 NBA Draft on him against the Celtics in the future. But after one season, it’€™s safe to say that Oladipo’€™s career versus Boston has begun inauspiciously. Oladipo’€™s fourth and final game against the C’€™s this season was his worst. He shot 3-for-16 from the field, scored 12 points while playing the unfamiliar point guard position in place of an injured Jameer Nelson.

WHAT WENT WRONG FOR THE CELTICS

Green shooting: Jeff Green had a miserable shooting game in Boston’€™s win, as the small forward missed 11 of his 13 shots. Green, Boston’€™s leading scorer, finished with eight points and shot 1-for-5 bound the arc. To Green’€™s credit, he did dish out five assists. In his last four games, Green’€™s had two 2-for-13 shooting performances, and a 4-for-13 night as well.

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