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Marcus Thornton needs to get minutes in crunch time 12.11.14 at 9:05 pm ET
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Marcus Thornton

Marcus Thornton

The Celtics‘ primary struggles have been well documented to this point. They are very, very bad when it comes to late game execution. One of the players most people look to in those situations — including his teammates — is Rajon Rondo. But, Rondo has preformed poorly in those scenarios so far this season, something he hasn’t lost any sleep over.

Realistically, crunch time scoring is not Rondo’s forte. That’s not his fault. He’s a brilliant passer that is trying to find his young teammates who are attempting to learn on the fly while under pressure.

Another seemingly strong option late in games should be Jeff Green, who has hit some game-winners before. Green is having the career-year many have been looking for from him, at least in terms on consistency and aggressiveness, but even he hasn’t done enough to keep the Celtics from throwing away games in fourth quarters.

Here’s an idea: Give Marcus Thornton a try.

Thornton was an afterthought entering the season. He’s in Boston because his expiring contract was included in a trade that Danny Ainge used to add Tyler Zeller and a first-round pick to the tall-standing pile of assets the Celtics have collected. Thornton, a streaky bench scorer, has kept his team in games a few times this season, but even more so recently.

In Sunday’s win over the Wizards, Thornton scored 21 points in just 17 minutes off the bench. 11 of those points were during a run that broke the game open for the C’s in the second quarter, and then he added another eight points to keep the Celtics on top in the fourth quarter after the Wizards were threatening to steal the win.

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Celtics practice notes: Rajon Rondo not feeling pressure, Jeff Green’s special gloves 12.11.14 at 4:18 pm ET
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The Celtics returned home from an unsuccessful two-game road trip and got right back to practice on Thursday. They were a unique couple of games in the sense that the starters didn’t see many minutes during crunch time in Monday’s loss to the Wizards, but then were unable to keep up with the Hornets’ starters on Wednesday when they were on the floor late in the game.

There was a lot of speculation surrounding Rajon Rondo being benched for the fourth quarter and both overtimes in Washington. Many expected him to bounce back strong in Wednesday’s game, but instead he committed three late-game turnovers that potentially cost the C’s the game. Rondo seems to be putting his mishaps in the past.

“It’s not weighing on me at all,” Rondo said of his team’s struggles.

Does he feel like he’s getting too much of the blame?

“It doesn’t matter to me,” Rondo replied. “I’ve been here the longest. I’m the team captain and I’m the point guard. Just like in football, in the beginning they blamed [Tom] Brady a lot. It’s just part of it. It’s not weighing on me at all.”

Rondo doesn’t put much emphasis on trying to improve on things that went wrong after having a bad game — instead he looks forward.

“You let it go,” Rondo said of his fourth quarter in Charlotte. “I’ve been playing this game for nine years. I’m one of the best at what I do. I’m human, I make mistakes. I own up to my mistakes, this is part of the game.”

Rondo’s coach understands where is he coming from.

“I think he has an idea that as a leader and an older guy you have to be accountable,” Brad Stevens said. “At the same time, if he says, ‘Hey, this one’s on me,’ or he says something to that extent, none of us think that. We all were accountable for all the different things that went wrong in a loss or a win.”

“I think as a teammate, and as a person on the team, you appreciate that accountability, but you certainly don’t think that [Rondo is the one to blame], but it’s part of being a leader,” Stevens added.

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5 things we learned in the Celtics’ loss: Al Jefferson upstages Rajon Rondo’s triple-double 12.10.14 at 9:28 pm ET
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Marcus Thornton

Marcus Thornton

Marcus Thornton scored 13 of his 16 points in the fourth quarter, but it wasn’t enough to claw the Celtics out of an early hole in a 96-87 loss to the Hornets .

Rondo finished with 12 points, 10 assists and 10 rebounds — his third triple-double of the season — and Jeff Green added 16 points, but the Celtics scored just two points in the final 4:32 against Charlotte (6-15).

Meanwhile, the C’s had no answer for Al Jefferson (23 points, 14 rebounds) in the middle, losing a third straight road game and falling to 7-13 on the season.

For a complete box score, click here.

SLOW START: The Celtics entered Wednesday’s game with one of the NBA’s most efficient first-quarter offenses, averaging 26.7 points on 49.4 percent shooting, but struggled in the opening 12 minutes against one of the league’s worst defensive units. With the exception of Green (3-for-5 field goals), the Celtics started just 4-of-16 from the field, missing all five of their 3-point attempts. The end result was a 22-16 deficit, so rather than protecting an early lead, the C’s found themselves in the unfamiliar position of digging themselves out of a first-quarter hole.

BENCH PRESS: The C’s bench picked up right where it left off in Monday’s second-half comeback against the Wizards, quickly erasing the early deficit and pulling even at 32 apiece midway through the second quarter. Kelly Olynyk anchored the effort, scoring eight points in a span of just more than three minutes. While the reserves battled their way back into the game, the C’s starters couldn’t maintain the momentum, falling behind again 45-40 by halftime.

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Magic 9-Ball: Rajon Rondo Trade Barometer v4.0 12.09.14 at 1:20 pm ET
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Let’s face it: This is the season of Rajon Rondo. As interesting as it is to evaluate the frontcourt progress of Jared Sullinger and Kelly Olynyk, Avery Bradley‘s offensive potential and Jeff Green‘s surprising consistency, the biggest questions the Celtics must answer all involve Rondo. Just how good is he? Will he be traded? What can they get in return? In a weekly feature on Green Street, we’ll take stock of the Celtics captain’s status every Tuesday.

RAJON RONDO TRADE VALUE

Either Rondo hasn’t fully recovered from the knee injury he suffered nearly two years ago or he’s no longer capable of carrying the Celtics offense the way he once did during four straight trips to the NBA All-Star Game from 2009-13.

We may have to accept one or the other as fact.

Rondo’s 32.1 minutes per game are the lowest of his career since former Celtics coach Doc Rivers handed him the keys to the duck boat during the 2008 playoff run, and he’s been atrocious in back-to-back performances this fall after sitting out those games last season. The Celtics have played three back-to-backs this year, and here are the point guard’s performances in those contests.

  • Celtics 106, Bulls 101: DNP. The Celtics opted to keep Rondo home in order to remove screws from his surgically repaired left hand.
  • Celtics 109, Pistons 102 (OT): 34 min, 2 pts (1-6 FG, 0-1 3P), 8 ast (4 to), 3 reb, 3 stl. At the end of regulation and for portions of overtime, the C’s deliberately kept the ball out of Rondo’s hands, even benching him for a stretch in favor of Evan Turner, a superior free throw shooter.
  • Wizards 133, Celtics 132 (2OT): 21 min, 0 pts (0-3 FG), 4 ast (3 to), 2 reb, 1 stl. Rondo did not return once Marcus Smart replaced him with 5:20 remaining in the third quarter and the Celtics trailing by 20.

As you can see, the C’s finished 2-1 in those games, only losing to the Southeast Division-leading Wizards in double overtime. Any way you slice it, there’s been a stark contrast between rested Rondo and fatigued Rondo.

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Read More: Boston Celtics, Marcus Smart, NBA, Rajon Rondo
5 things we learned in Celtics’ crazy 2OT loss to Wizards 12.08.14 at 10:58 pm ET
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Where to even start with this game?

After collecting their best win of the season on Sunday, the Celtics almost did the same on Monday on the tail end of a back-to-back with the Wizards. Paul Pierce and company were looking for revenge against Boston, a team they felt they shouldn’t have lost to on Sunday, but Washington was in for more than it expected before finally coming out on top, 133-132, in a wild double-overtime affair in Washington. (Click here for the full box score)

The Wizards came out hot and opened up a lead as large as 23 points. This didn’t phase the Celtics, as their bench completely turned the game around (much, much more on this later) along with Jeff Green. Boston cut the lead down and needed an Evan Turner 3-pointer with just 0.6 seconds left in regulation to send the game to overtime tied at 110.

The C’s dominated the early part of the overtime, led by Green, Kelly Olynyk and Marcus Smart. But, the Wizards came back from down seven points to tie it at 121 with under a minute left thanks to a huge 3-pointer, by who else but Pierce. After Brandon Bass missed a potential game-winner on a breakaway, the game went into double-overtime.

The second overtime was almost identical. It started with a 3-pointer by Smart, like the first one did, and Boston continued to open up another seven-point lead. The Wizards fought back again, though. John Wall gave them a one-point lead with 44 seconds left on a 3-point play that put his athleticism and speed on display. It ended up being the final score of the game, as Turner was unable to connect on an isolation play and Smart couldn’t convert on a put-back attempt at the buzzer.

Pierce was huge in the win scoring 28 points on 9-for-12 shooting, while Wall was able to score 26 to go with 17 assists and seven rebounds (although he did have nine turnovers). Green led the Celtics with 28 points, but the rest of the damage in the near upset was done by the bench.

Here’s five things we learned in the epic loss:

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Read More: Boston Celtics, Jeff Green, Marcus Smart, Paul Pierce
5 things we learned: Avery Bradley’s late 3-pointer gives Celtics their biggest win of season 12.07.14 at 3:56 pm ET
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It didn’t come easy, but the Celtics earned their first three-game winning streak of the season.

Longtime Celtics captain Paul Pierce was on the opposing side, just his third game in Boston as a visitor. The Celtics once led his Wizards by as many as 25 points, but Washington cut the lead to one late. Boston has blown several leads throughout the season and gone on to lose games. Not this time.

Avery Bradley hit a huge 3-pointer with 37 seconds to go that put the Celtics up by four points, then lobbed one up for Jeff Green on the next play after Boston forced a turnover. The Celtics‘ late-game execution got them a 101-93 win in the end. (For the complete box score, click here.)

RAJON RONDO WAS AGGRESSIVE AGAIN

After admitting that he did not feel like himself for a stretch, Rondo made sure to put his stamp on Friday’s win over the Lakers. He maintained that aggressiveness on Sunday, collecting 13 points, 13 rebounds and 11 assists for the 31st triple-double of his career.

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Celtics captain Rajon Rondo and Lakers legend Kobe Bryant, ‘just two [expletives] having breakfast’ 12.06.14 at 2:37 am ET
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As Lakers coach Byron Scott gritted his teeth through another postgame press conference, this time after a 113-96 loss to their equally struggling rivals, Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge stopped to ask, “Want to get some breakfast?”

He was joking, of course, about Rajon Rondo and Kobe Bryant sharing a morning meal at The Paramount in Boston on Thursday, a concept that might have seemed absurd when Ainge’s Celtics and Scott’s Lakers split four straight trips to the NBA Finals from 1984-87.

It’s a different NBA landscape nowadays — what with AAU, shared agents and summer workouts making bros out of foes more than ever before — and it’s a different rivalry.

“We’€™ve had our battles, but it doesn’€™t carry over,” Bryant said after his team fell to 5-15 on the season. “The stone-throwing and all that doesn’€™t carry over to these types of games.”

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Read More: Boston Celtics, Kobe Bryant, NBA, Rajon Rondo
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