|Weekly NBA Draft Watch: Final Four players to watch||04.05.14 at 10:07 pm ET|
We have reached a new low people! A home loss to Philly with Rondo active. Excellent. #celtics
‘ Julian Edlow (@julianedlow) April 5, 2014
That is my tweet following Friday night’s nine-point Celtics loss to the 76ers in a game in which Boston was favored by double digits. And after sleeping on it, I feel even more strongly that this was the C’s best loss of the season.
Now sitting alone in the fourth lottery position, Boston is coming off of a crushing blowout at the hands of the Wizards and an embarrassing home loss to Philly. Seriously, everyone who came off the Sixers bench I had to Google to find out who they were. This season is not worth trying to figure out anymore.
The only thing worth understanding? Nothing is more valuable than losing these final games. Boston could realistically finish with anywhere from the fourth-best to seventh-best lottery odds, it’s that tight. Look, it sucks to cheer for your team to lose, I get that, but it’s almost over. Next year the Celts are going to be on the rise whether Danny Ainge uses his draft picks or trades them. So if you truly bleed green, you can cheer for just a few more losses before we start to see the light at the end of the tunnel.
But is anyone even paying attention? The Red Sox are kicking off their World Series defense, the Bruins are at the same point of the season as the Celtics, only as the top team in the East, and the Patriots are working out some of the top quarterbacks in May’s draft.
Honestly, there is nothing on the court worth watching right now when it comes to Celtics basketball. The highlight of the last couple of months came on Monday when Rajon Rondo was in the booth calling the first half of Celtics vs. Bulls. The next big date for the Celtics is May 20 — the draft lottery. So here is something short term and something long term for Celtics fans to pay attention to until the big date.
In the short term, well, fortunately, we have the Final Four. This is our last chance to watch college hoops until next season, at the price of many of the top prospects already being sent home. But Kentucky is an interesting team to watch simply because of Julius Randle. A lot can happen between now and June, but right now Randle is expected to be about the fifth pick in the draft — the Celtics are expected to hold about the fifth pick in the draft. See the connection there?
|Sad Brad: The night the Celtics broke Coach Stevens||04.05.14 at 2:22 am ET|
Following each of the Celtics‘ first 52 losses this season, Brad Stevens always seemed to find the silver lining. Avery Bradley‘s defense. Chris Johnson‘s effort. Even Chris Babb‘s shooting. You name it. But after a 111-102 home loss to a Sixers team fresh off a 26-game losing streak, a dark cloud hung over the coach.
The captain knew it. “They were playing harder than us,” admitted Rajon Rondo.
The rookies knew it. “They scored more points than us,” added Kelly Olynyk, “and we didn’t play that hard.”
And the coach sure as heck knew it. “They played well,” said Stevens. “We played not well. That’s it.”
Including Wednesday’s 26-point debacle against the Wizards, the Celtics just suffered perhaps their two worst losses – or best, depending on how you look at it — and that’s saying something in a season full of defeat.
|Fast Break: Sixers nix Celtics, Rajon Rondo’s triple-double||04.04.14 at 10:04 pm ET|
This was far from a nationally televised game, but Rajon Rondo managed his first triple-double of the season — and first since tearing his ACL on Jan. 25, 2013 — but it still wasn’t enough for the Celtics in a 111-102 loss to the lowly 76ers.
Rondo finished with 11 points, 11 rebounds and 16 assists, but the Celtics dropped their seventh straight game to fall to 23-53. Jerryd Bayless led the C’s with 23 points. Brandon Bass (11 points, 12 boards), Jeff Green (15 points), Kelly Olynyk (14 points) and Jared Sullinger (10 points) also reached double figures.
The Sixers, meanwhile, “improved” to 17-59. Philadelphia and Boston have the second- and fourth-worst records in the league, respectively.
WHAT WENT WRONG
Everything: The Celtics barely shot 40 percent from the field and committed 22 turnovers against a team battling for the NBA’s worst record. Need we say more?
Worst first: The Celtics failed to come out firing on all cylinders against the Sixers. Instead, the engine wouldn’t start. They started 0-for-7 from the field and committed three turnovers over the opening 4:29. Luckily, Philly nearly matched their ineptitude, only taking a 6-0 lead in that span.
Powe-r to the people: Early in the first quarter, the Celtics showed Leon Powe on the Jumbotron. The highest profile member of the 2008 championship team the Red Sox could convince to take part in their home opener festivities earlier in the afternoon, Powe received a smattering of applause from a surprisingly sold-out crowd. He probably deserved more than that, but perhaps then again Celtics fans may have forgotten how to clap this season. Although, they did manage to orchestrate a wave as the Celtics trailed 74-69 late in the third quarter, so there’s that.
WHAT WENT RIGHT
Mondo Rondo: The Celtics had just six field goals in the first quarter, and Rondo assisted on five of them. He also had half of their rebounds in the quarter. Since returning, he’s made a concerted effort to get his teammates involved early, forgoing his own scoring in an effort to ignite the offense. In that respect, little has changed. And without him, it’s unclear whether the Celtics would have qualified as a basketball team after 12 minutes.
Bayless is more: Starting in the absence of Avery Bradley (strained right Achilles), Bayless found his stroke after a shaky first few minutes, and the fireworks continued throughout an otherwise ugly first half. He probably could’ve done without the double No. 1 finger salute to the sky on a 3-pointer in the opening quarter, but he managed 18 points — including 4-of-7 shooting from beyond the arc — before the break. Through 24 minutes, Bayless started 6-of-12 from the floor, his teammates were a combined 10-of-32 (31.3 FG%) and the Celtics lead 51-49.
Over the Hump: The Kris Humphries-Brandon Bass frontcourt has not been a successful pairing, getting outscored by 10.4 points per 100 possessions, and yet Celtics coach Brad Stevens has started the tandem for the past 19 games. By halftime of the 76ers game, apparently, he had seen enough. Stevens finally inserted Jared Sullinger into the starting lineup to begin the third quarter. Of course, that didn’t work, either.
|Celtics routed by Wizards for 11th straight road loss||04.03.14 at 6:34 am ET|
Marcin Gortat hit 10-of-13 shots and finished with 22 points for the Wizards, and Bradley Beal shot 7-for-8 and scored 19 points.
Jared Sullinger scored 25 points for the Celtics, who lost their sixth straight overall and 11th straight on the road.
The C’s, playing without Avery Bradley (strained right Achilles) never led, falling behind 19-4 five minutes into the game. The Wizards shot 61 percent in the first half en route to a 57-46 lead at the break, then outscored Boston 32-16 in the third quarter as the Celtics made just 4-of-18 shots with six turnovers in that period.
“We laid an egg,” C’s coach Brad Stevens said. “We didn’t provide any fight tonight.”
|The best of Rajon Rondo, Celtics broadcaster extraordinaire||03.31.14 at 11:56 pm ET|
Clearly nervous to start the broadcast, as evidenced by his forced smile finding the camera in the pregame, Celtics captain Rajon Rondo settled into his role as color analyst, offering some fascinating insight with a little help from consummate play-by-play man Mike Gorman. Here’s the best of Rondo’s TV debut.
RONDO ON THE CELTICS
On himself: “I’m almost at 100 [percent]. I’m feeling great. Each game, I’m getting stronger, my endurance is getting better. I feel strong. Each game, I’m trying to continue to get better. Offensively and defensively, just continue to try and look explosive. It’s definitely hard to be away from the game that you love. You take it for granted sometimes, but it was definitely a humbling experience. I’m glad I went through it. [I learned] patience. I’m very antsy. I love to do things on my own and when I want to get it done, but the patience is very key as far as being able to sit down.”
On Kris Humphries: “I didn’t know Kris was as good a shooter as he is. Kris definitely can hit a mid-range shot, and that’s why we play together. We have great chemistry. He’s definitely very professional. He wasn’t playing a lot at the beginning of the season, but he stayed in the gym, stayed working, and looking at him now — the starting center for the Boston Celtics.”
On Sullinger: “I’m very impressed. Coming off knee surgery is definitely different, obviously speaking from experience, but coming off back surgery with his size it’s definitely tough to … play the way he’s been playing. Our bigs don’t get enough credit. They’ve done a great job, especially in our pick-and-roll defense and the way they shoot the ball.”
On Phil Pressey: “To be in his situation — he’s a rookie not knowing when he’s going to play, when he’s going to start, when he’s going to get minutes — he’s been terrific. He’s very professional. He’s been in the gym working extremely hard. I’d like to see him [drive] more. He’s a pass-first point guard like myself, but he’s so quick, he can get in there, throw a couple floaters, a couple layups to create shots for himself as well.”
On Chris Johnson: From Day 1, since he’s come in, he’s been a pro. He’s a very confident player. When he started a couple days ago, we were playing the Toronto Raptors, and [DeMar] DeRozan had it going. I said, ‘You want me to check him?’ And he said, ‘No way.’ You need guys like that — that want the pressure, that want to compete out there on the floor with you every night — and he’s definitely one of those guys. He feels like he belongs, and he’s definitely belonging right now.”
On Brandon Bass: “He’s a very athletic guy. He’s the most athletic guy on the team besides Jeff [Green].”
On Jeff Green: He’s the best athlete on the team “by far. The things he can do are amazing.”
RONDO ON THE BULLS
On Joakim Noah: ‘”He pretty much fills up the stat sheet. He reminds me a little bit of myself. He plays hard on both ends of the floor. What I like about Joakim most is that he competes on every play. … He’s a guy you want on your team. He does everything on the court.’”
More on Noah: “I think this is 10 years for Noah and I that we’ve played against each other. We played each other in AAU and obviously in college, so Noah and I have been battling for a long time. A very long time. About two years ago, we came to an understanding, because we were always going at each other, and we didn’t never really understand why, but I think it’s because we both love to compete. He’s a guy who’s going to bring it every night, and I do the same, but we don’t play the same position, so one game we were at the free throw line and just thought about why we even go at each other. We kind of squashed it. No beef. No big deal. He’s fun to compete against.”
On Mike Dunleavy: “Gotta keep him going left. Dunleavy loves to go right, and coach [Tom] Thibodeau does a great job drawing up plays letting him go to his right hand.”
On Jimmy Butler: “Definitely a player you want on your team. He doesn’t get a lot of plays called for him, but he still makes plays on both ends of the floor.”
On Kirk Hinrich: “I love playing against Hinrich. He competes. I love playing against guys that compete. Every night he’s going to bring it no matter his matchup or his size. I remember one year in the playoffs, he checked myself, Ray [Allen] and Paul [Pierce] in one game, so whatever defense the coach asks of him, he’s pretty much going to do it.”
Of course, Rondo literally checked Hinrich into the scorer’s table during the 2009 playoffs.
More on Hinrich: “He’s definitely a physical guard. He’s one of the most physical guards we have in our game. He’s stronger than he looks. He plays hard.”
RONDO ON THE GAME
On the first quarter: “You’ve got to fight over the screens a little bit more. They’re setting the tempo. I’d like to see the Celtics get aggressive, because they’ve set the tone so far. Any Thibodeau team [is physical]. In the past, when he was with us, we were pretty high up, but this team in particular — Noah’s intensity, the way Hinrich plays the ball, the way Jimmy Butler plays the ball — they’ve got to be 1 or 2 on top of the league.”
On defending D.J. Augustin: “Give Pressey credit. He’s been pressuring the ball, staying close to his body. That’s what the Celtics couldn’t do last night.”
RONDO ODDS AND ENDS
On captaincy: “Being the older guy on the team or one of the oldest guys on the team, I have to be more vocal. The last couple years I’ve been able to stay behind KG [Kevin Garnett] or Paul, listen to those guys talk, but now this year my role has gotten bigger like it has each year, as I’ve been in the league eight years, so just try to continue to talk and also lead by example. Try to get out there, be the first one on the floor, stay in the weight room, continue to get better and encourage my teammates to do the same.”
On lessons from Garnett and Pierce: “Every night. You can’t pick and choose when you want to be a captain or a leader. If you want to be it, you’ve got to be it every day.”
On 2006-07 vs. 2013-14: “Try to continue to go one game at a time, keep your best foot forward, stay positive, stay in the gym, don’t get discouraged. Things aren’t always going to go as great as they were in college. This is the league, so it’s definitely an adjustment. You can’t win every game, but for the most part, continue to stay professional and continue to go to work.”
On 2009 series vs. Derrick Rose: “I love those memories. Great series, great battle going against one of the best point guards in the game, so we had fun going at it. Luckily, we came out with the victory 4-3. It was a tough battle. Doc [Rivers] played me around 47 or 48 minutes a game. We had a couple overtime games that series, and I was able to play the entire game. Obviously, being young helps. I definitely hate to come out. It’s part of the game, but if I could play every minute I would.”
On learning Brad Stevens: “Obviously, the coaching change is different, playing for one guy for seven years and chaining to a brand new guy, so I got to sit back during this injury and watch him from afar.”
On up-tempo vs. half-court offense: “Up-tempo. Up-tempo. Those are the funnest games to play. Teams like the Knicks, the Suns, the Denver Nuggets, the run-and-gun, the shootouts, those are games you want to be involved in, but a game like this isn’t bad. That’s what these games come down to at the end of the day in the playoffs. You have to be able to get stops and score and execute in the half-court offense.”
On playing point guard: “Basically, whenever the guy’s open, just try to hit him. And if not, try to get guys in the right spots offensively, so we can execute. For the most part, a lot of the plays do allow me to have the ball in my hands and create for my teammates.”
|Fast Break: Bulls stampede Celtics, Rondo calls it||03.31.14 at 10:14 pm ET|
Rajon Rondo made his broadcasting debut during a scheduled night of rest, and while he left the booth with his Celtics leading at the break, the Bulls put a taxed C’s team out of its misery in the fourth quarter, 94-80.
Brandon Bass and Jerryd Bayless led the fizzling offense with 18 points apiece, but the Celtics (23-51) couldn’t avoid a fifth straight loss. Remarkable, the C’s only victory in their last 11 games came against the Heat.
WHAT WENT WRONG
Ankle trouble: The right ankle that has plagued Avery Bradley throughout the season flared up again before halftime, forcing him out of the remainder of the game. Given his vastly improved jump shooting, Bradley’s injury has constantly disrupted what should have been an impressive contract season.
Wings: Playing opposite Jeff Green, who submitted another Jeff Greeny performance, Mike Dunleavy eclipsed 20 points for the first time in weeks. While Rondo stressed the key to stopping Dunleavy was forcing him left, Dunleavy scored going right and finding open perimeter shots. Likewise, Jimmy Butler (18 points) gave the Celtics fits.
Fourth and long: It took more than four minutes for the Celtics to score their first basket of the fourth quarter. Seemingly gassed from playing the same team in two nights, the Celtics watched the Bulls rattle off 13-0 run before a Kris Humphries jumper finally stopped the bleeding with 7:50 remaining. The damage was done, however, as Chicago turned a 71-70 lead after three into a comfortable 14-point advantage down the stretch.
|D.J. Augustin leads Bulls past pesky, inspired Celtics||03.30.14 at 9:23 pm ET|
D.J. Augustin scored a career-high 33 points and drilled the go-ahead 3-pointer with just over a minute remaining to lift the Bulls over the Celtics, 107-103. Rajon Rondo led a balanced attack for the Celtics, with 17 points and 10 assists as six Boston players scored in double figures. Jeff Green and Jared Sullinger each had 16 for the Celtics, who fell to 23-50 on the season.
It marks just the sixth time in history the Celtics have had a 50-loss season, the last coming in Rondo’s rookie season of 2006-07 when the Celtics won just 24 games and lost 58.
In a game inspired by the memory of two Boston firefighters who perished in last week’s fire on Beacon Street, the Celtics and Bulls put on one of the most entertaining games of the season.
Before the game, the Celtics wore warmup shirts with the Boston Fire Department insignia on them. The coaches and non-uniformed staff wore the department patches on their suits.
As for the game, it featured 18 ties and 14 lead changes.
Green‘s 3-pointer with 2:40 left in the fourth quarter drew the Celtics to within two, 95-93. After a free throw gave the Bulls a three-point lead, Green’s three with 2:18 left tied the game for an 18th time.
Augustin’s three with 1:19 left put the Bulls up for good, 99-96. After a Celtics turnover, Augustin added a pair of free throws with 34.8 seconds left to seal the victory for the visitors.
The two teams will meet again Monday night, this time in Chicago, as the 41-32 Bulls look to improve their playoff standing in the Eastern Conference.