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Celtics eclipsed by Suns late in return of Avery Bradley 03.14.14 at 9:52 pm ET
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Alex Len’s three-point play with 54.1 seconds left broke an 80-80 tie and lifted the Suns over the Celtics, 87-80, Friday night at TD Garden. Kris Humphries led the Celtics with 11 points and 13 rebounds. The Celtics lost their third straight and fell to 22-44 on the season.

Cold shooting from the field put the the Celtics in an early hole, falling behind by as many as 11 in the opening minutes of the second quarter. But strong rebounding, led by Kris Humphries, allowed Boston to work their way back in, cutting the halftime deficit to two, 46-44.

The Celtics again went cold from the floor in the third quarter, making just four of their 20 shots from the field. As a result, Phoenix grabbed a 61-53 lead with 3:24 left in the third. But the Celtics again showed their resiliency, cutting to the deficit to just four, 64-60 heading into the fourth.

The Celtics continued that momentum by scoring the first nine points of the fourth quarter to cap an 11-0 run and grab a 69-64 lead, matching their biggest lead of the game.

Phoenix came back with the next six points to take a 70-69 lead. The Celtics led 78-75 before the Suns scored five straight, including the go-ahead basket, a turnaround jumper by Markeiff Morris with 2:30 left, putting Phoenix up, 80-78. Jeff Green‘s two free throws with 2:02 left tied the game again, 80-80.

After Len’s three-point play, the Celtics could not get off a shot close to the basket and the Suns put away the game with two breakaway layups.

The Celtics are off Saturday and begin a brief two-game road trip Sunday evening in New Orleans. They play in Dallas Monday night before returning home to play the Miami Heat Wednesday night at TD Garden.

WHAT WENT WRONG

Cold feet: The Celtics shot just 37.5 percent from the floor in the first half, making just 18-of-48 shots, including 2-of-12 from long range. Good defense and Phoenix sloppiness kept the Celtics in it, as Boston trailed by just two, 46-44 at the half. It didn’t get much better in the third quarter as the Celtics shot just 20 percent on 4-of-20 shooting.

Gone fishing: There are games where Brandon Bass can take over and find his shots in the paint and under the glass seemingly at will. Then there’s nights like Friday. He started but never got into a rhythm, scoring just eight points on 4-of-12 shooting, playing 21 minutes. Part of this was due to the fact that coach Brad Stevens elected to go with a smaller, three-guard lineup of Rajon Rondo, Avery Bradley and Chris Johnson for the better parts of the second and third quarters. Throw in the continued emergence of Kelly Olynyk and guards Jerryd Bayless and Phil Pressey and there was little time left for Bass.

Green-out: Like Bass, Jeff Green can look like a world-beater one game and come out with a dud the next, like Friday. He had just nine points in 36 minutes on 2-of-14 shooting.

WHAT WENT RIGHT

Bradley’s back: Avery Bradley returned to game action for the first time since injuring his ankle Feb. 9 against Dallas. The team’s shutdown defender came off the bench with 3:24 left in the first quarter. With 5:09 left in the third, Bradley showed his offensive skills, getting into traffic, knocking down a 10-footer and drawing the foul for a three-point play. He finished with nine points in 17 minutes.

On the rebound: The Celtics attacked the glass with authority in the first half outrebounding the Suns, 27-24. Leading the way with six in the first half was Kris Humphries, who grabbed six of his xx for the game in the opening half. Humphries finished with his seventh double-double of the season, scoring 11 points while grabbing 13 rebounds.

Balancing the scales: The only player not to get into the scoring column in the first half was Chris Babb, the undrafted rookie out of Iowa State who was signed to his second 10-day contract on Monday. Even Joel Anthony got into the mix for the first time since playing four minutes against Golden State on March 5 and scoring two points in the first half, his first points since netting four against Atlanta on Feb. 26.

Rondo passes knee test: With about seven minutes left in the third quarter, Rondo drove to the left side of the basket for one of his patented dishes under the basket but he lost his footing, slipping to the court. His knee was protected by the black ACL brace he wears and he remained in the game and played the remainder of the third quarter with no apparent ill effects.

Read More: Avery Bradley, Boston Celtics, NBA, Phoenix Suns
Weekly NBA Draft Watch: Celtics must go fourth with more losing 03.14.14 at 10:32 am ET
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The New England Patriots finally got the message that they needed to do more to win. As you know by now, the Pats agreed to a deal with highly coveted cornerback Darrelle Revis on Wednesday, an uncharacteristic move for the organization.

The Celtics have uncharacteristically been losing all season, but they might have come to grips with another message on the night Revis was brought to New England — they need to do more to lose.

I thought Boston might have been on that path last week after a blowout loss to the Warriors, but the C’s ended up winning their next two games. Maybe this time around it will be different. Wednesday’s 24-point thumping at home at the hands of the depleted Knicks — with Rajon Rondo sitting on the Celtics bench — was nothing short of inspiring for Boston’€™s lottery odds.

Since last week’s draft piece the Celtics have gone from the fourth-worst record in the NBA to a tie for seventh worst to back into a three-way tie for fourth worst. Some, including myself, think the NBA plays too many games, the thought process being that fewer games will put more emphasis on winning in the regular season. However, this season it’s arguable that the last month of the regular season will carry significance, only much more crucial to the clear-cut lottery teams than anyone else.

The three highest lottery spots are essentially locked up at this point by the Bucks, 76ers and Magic, but the next four spots (where the Celtics figure to land) remain wide open. What’s the emphasis on winning the rest of the season? Well, the only answer seems to be “to instill a winning mentality,” as some would say. If you think the difference between winning 30 games and 25 games is going to make Jared Sullinger arrive next season feeling more confident, then you do not know the NBA.

A season like this happened right in front of our eyes in 2006-07, and look how that turned out the next year. So what’s the emphasis on losing? Well, there actually is hard evidence that this is the right move. The team that finishes with the fourth-highest lottery odds will have a 37.8 percent chance at a top-three pick and an 82.8 percent chance at selecting in the top five. The seventh-highest lottery odds only yield a 15 percent chance at a top-three pick; otherwise you pick seventh or later.

Yes, there are no guarantees in the lottery, but I ask pro-winning Celtics fans this: Would you rather miss the playoffs and own the fourth spot in the lottery, or miss the playoffs and own the seventh spot in the lottery?

With the ever-changing landscape at the bottom of the NBA, a mock draft seems almost useless. Instead, this week I will post my current big board as it stands prior to the NCAA tournament.

1. Jabari Parker, freshman, Duke – I wrote about the possibility of the Celtics stealing Parker in the draft last week, and I maintain that he is the best player in the draft (assuming he declares). Parker has been a beast all season, and he finished the regular season with perhaps his best performance. With Duke hosting rival North Carolina, Parker dropped a season-high 30 points and collected 11 boards in a 93-81 victory. He is a can’t-miss star at the next level.

2. Joel Embiid, freshman, Kansas – The big man is battling a stress fracture in his back, and it is worse than anticipated. Embiid will not play until the Sweet 16 at the earliest, and that obviously is only if Kansas is fortunate enough to make it there. This injury doesn’t change his draft stock, though. He still is very smooth on his feet for a 7-footer and possesses a growing skill set reminiscent of Hakeem Olajuwon.

Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Aaron Gordon, Andrew Wiggins, Dante Exum, Doug McDermott
Fast Break: Carmelo Anthony, Knicks stomp Rajon Rondo-less Celtics 03.12.14 at 9:47 pm ET
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A 17-foot Raymond Felton jump shot 58 seconds into the game gave the Knicks a 2-0 advantage, and they never looked back, stretching the lead to 10 in the first 4:21 and ultimately handing the Celtics a 116-92 loss.

The C’s (22-43) kept pace with the Jazz, Lakers and Kings out West for the NBA’s fourth-worst record. Jeff Green‘s 27 points paced the offense, although much of his scoring came in the second half of a blowout and he added just two rebound and no assists. Kris Humphries (15 points), Jerryd Bayless (15 points) and Jared Sullinger (10 points, 8 rebounds) also reached double figures.

Meanwhile, the Knicks (26-40) moved within three games of bumping Atlanta from the eighth seed in the disastrous Eastern Conference. Carmelo Anthony led New York with 34 points and nine rebounds.

WHAT WENT WRONG

Worst first: The undermanned Celtics didn’t exactly make a defensive stand in the opening quarter. The Knicks connected on 63.6 percent of their shots — including 5-of-6 3-pointers — to to snatch a double-digit lead and seemingly put the game out of reach in the game’s first five minutes. The C’s had no answer for Anthony, who netted 13 points on 3-of-4 shooting from distance in the first quarter.

No Rondo: It doesn’t appear the Celtics point guard will make an appearance on the second night of a back-to-back this season. Since the C’s have four such contests in their final 17 games, that should be welcome news to anyone rooting for Ping Pong balls. Of course, they could have sat Rondo on the first night of the back-to-back in Indiana, but alas he sat the more winnable game on paper in front of the home crowd on Wednesday.

Hardaway got away: Would you rather have Kelly Olynyk or Tim Hardaway Jr.? The Knicks selected the Hall of Fame finalist’s son eight slots behind the Celtics, and once you throw in the two second-round picks Danny Ainge dealt to move up and grab the 7-footer, the scales probably tip in Hardaway’s favor. Especially after he submitted a a near-flawless first half against the C’s, scoring 17 points on seven shots to give New York a 68-48 lead at the break.

WHAT WENT RIGHT

Hump day: While many Celtics are playing for pride at this point, Humphries is competing for his next contract. A veteran in an ever-changing role on a young squad, he’s been a steady presence in an otherwise unsteady locker room, as the rest of the acquisitions in the Nets trade are through wearing green for the rest of the season. Humphries was the only Celtics player in double figures at halftime, and his chase-down block of Hardaway in the third quarter was the stuff of legend. (Well, as much as a Kris Humphries chase-down block can be.)

Halftime speech: The Celtics could have easily thrown in the towel at the break, but they came out punching in the third quarter. Green’s personal 7-0 run sliced New York’s lead to single digits with 13 minutes to go, but the comeback was short-lived. The Knicks starter quickly reestablished a comfortable advantage.

Read More: Boston Celtics, NBA, New York Knicks,
Celtics fall in close battle with first-place Pacers 03.11.14 at 9:24 pm ET
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Apparently, the Celtics were exactly what the Pacers needed.

After losing four straight games, Indiana, the cream of the crop in the Eastern Conference, returned to the friendly confines of Bankers Life Fieldhouse to snap its worst losing streak of the season. The Pacers (30-4 at home) outslugged Boston, 94-83, on Tuesday night. The Celtics‘ two-game winning streak — only their second winning streak since Dec. 16 — came to a conclusion.

David West tossed in a game-high 21 points, and received help from Paul George (12 points), George Hill (12 points) and Luis Scola (11 points).

Jared Sullinger scored 13 of his team-high 17 points in the second half. Kris Humphries posted another solid game with 15 points and nine rebounds, and Chris Johnson chipped in 14 points off the bench.

WHAT WENT WRONG FOR THE CELTICS

Non-Humphries starters: Humphries got next to no help from the other four starters. Brandon Bass, Rajon Rondo, Jeff Green and Jerryd Bayless combined for 34 points, but shot a putrid 11-for-43 from the field. Rondo (4-for-15), Green (3-for-15) and Bayless (1-for-6) were the worst offenders.

Shooting: It’s next to impossible to beat the best team in the Eastern Conference shooting 36 percent. That’s exactly what Boston did on Tuesday night as it finished 32-of-89 from the floor. Additionally, the Celtics finished 3-for-18 from the 3-point line.

WHAT WENT RIGHT FOR THE CELTICS

Offensive rebounding: The Celtics mounted a second-half comeback because of their work on the offensive glass. Boston collected 19 offensive rebounds, 11 in the second half. Sullinger contributed most prominently to the cause, snagging seven rebounds of the offensive variety. In just seven first half minutes, Sullinger scored four points and grabbed two rebounds.

Humphries: Facing another dominant center (Roy Hibbert) one game after bumping down low with double-double machine Andre Drummond, Humphries again responded with a big game. Humphries followed up his 20-point, 11-rebound performance with 15 points and nine rebounds, and kept Boston’s head above water when no other Celtic was contributing offensively. Hibbert had an uncharacteristically quiet night with just six points and nine rebounds.

Johnson: Celtics fans infatuation with Chris Johnson has worn off. He’€™s gone from one of the stories of the year — earning two 10-day contracts as an undrafted rookie free agent — to just another average role player in the last month. But Johnson recreated a piece of that two-week magic on Tuesday, posting his first double-digit game since Jan. 9. Johnson tied a career-high with 14 points, and finished 6-for-8 from the field.

Rajon Rondo (sore Achilles) explains exactly why he’s not playing back-to-backs 03.09.14 at 10:42 pm ET
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Rajon Rondo went into detail after Sunday night’s win over the Pistons, explaining exactly why he doesn’t feel ready to play in back-to-back games, nearly two months after returning to game action.

“If I was ready [for back-to-back games], I’d play,” Rondo said. “It’s a matter of a combination of things that bother me on my lower part of my body, my calves, my Achilles and then my knee so it’s just a part of all of those three that are affecting me after games. The next day, I need the rest.”

Rondo has been taking long massage treatments after each game on his lower body to try and reduce the impact from running up and down the court and playing his typically aggressive, sometimes reckless style. But the massages, he said, only go so far. He still has to wake up the next morning.

“I’m pretty sore when I wake up,” Rondo said. “My Achilles bothers me the most when I get out of bed. Throughout the day it gets better. I still don’t want to try to overdo it and something else may happen just because of that.”

Which is why coach Brad Stevens before Sunday’s game all but ruled out Rondo from playing in any of the five remaining sets of back-to-back games for the team this season, with the next one coming Tuesday in Indiana and Wednesday at home against the Knicks. Stevens, Rondo and GM Danny Ainge don’t want their superstar point guard injuring something like his Achilles trying to compensate for a right knee that may not still be 100 percent.

Is Rondo surprised it’s taking this long to get back to full strength?

“No. it’s the NBA season,” Rondo said. “It’s tough. I’m up to 30, 34, 35 minutes a night now. I’m doing the right procedures. I’m taking the massage. I’m icing after the games. I’m doing what I’m supposed to do it’s just that I have to listen to my body.”

Rondo had 18 assists and no turnovers in Sunday’s 118-111 win over the Pistons, falling just two assists shy of the NBA record for most assists without a turnover in NBA history. Rondo also passed Bill Russell for fifth place on the Celtics all-time list with 4,101, one more than the NBA Hall of Fame center.

Read More: Achilles, ACL, Boston Celtics, NBA
Chris Babb impresses, signs second 10-day contract 03.09.14 at 10:27 pm ET
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Chris Babb will be staying for at least another 10 days in a Celtics uniform.

Babb indicated after Sunday’s 118-111 win over the Pistons that he had agreed to accept a second 10-day contract after the first one expires Sunday at midnight.

The move will keep the rookie guard on the team for at least six more games. The Celtics signed the undrafted rookie after an impressive showing in camp in October and after Avery Bradley went down with an ankle injury, leaving the team short on off-guards who could defend. Bradley is expected to return on Friday at home against Phoenix but the Celtics clearly like the determination Babb has shown in practice and games and is willingness and ability to pick up the system.

“Hopefully I make a couple more shots, but that will come,” said Babb, who was 1-for-3 from the floor and had an assist in 12 minutes off the bench Sunday. “I’€™m just really focusing on just playing hard when I get into game, when I get my opportunities. Play hard, be prepared, and know the role. Just continue to do what I’€™ve been doing.”

Babb has appeared in four games, averaging 3.3 points, 1.8 rebounds and 13 minutes of action after playing most of the season for the Maine Red Claws of the D-League.

“That’€™s 90 percent of the battle, just getting a shot, because there’€™s so much talent,” said Babb. “In the D-League, [there are] guys coming out of college and veterans, so all it takes is for some guys like me is a chance. I was fortunate enough to get one.”

“I’€™d really like to have him around,” added coach Brad Stevens said before Sunday’s game. “All indications are that everybody feels that way within our organization.”

Read More: Boston Celtics, Chris Babb, Maine Red Claws, NBA
Rajon Rondo, Jeff Green, Kris Humphries power Celtics over Pistons 03.09.14 at 8:32 pm ET
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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.

Read More: Boston Celtics, Detroit Pistons, Jeff Green, Kelly Olynyk
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