|Streak snapped: Celtics end nine-game slide with win over Raptors||01.15.14 at 10:04 pm ET|
With former starting point guard Jordan Crawford in a different uniform, backup guards MarShon Brooks (traded) and Keith Bogans (indefinite absence) out, and the Celtics trying to snap a prolonged losing streak against a solid Raptors (19-18) team, one would be excused for counting out Boston before tip-off.
However, Boston (14-26) avoided the predictable outcome, and finally snapped its nine-game losing streak with a 88-83 win over Toronto at the Garden. The loss marked the 11th straight in Boston for the Raptors.
Jared Sullinger continued a recent run of solid play with a monster game: 25 points, 20 rebounds. Avery Bradley, an emerging star for the Celtics, tallied 20 points. (He’s now led Boston in scoring four of the last five games.). Jeff Green scored 13 points, while Kris Humphries added 12.
WHAT WENT RIGHT FOR THE CELTICS
Sully: Sullinger completely dominated the Raptors’ frontline of Amir Johnson and Jonas Valanciunas. His 25-point, 20-rebound performance marked Sullinger’s fourth straight game with at least 10 rebounds, and third double-double in four games. Seven of his rebounds were of the offensive variety. Four-and-a-half minutes into third quarter Sullinger already had 15 rebounds. He brought the crowd to a tizzy at the end of the third quarter when he received a full court pass from Gerald Wallace and drained a fadeaway jumper to put Boston up 17 seconds. The Celtics had just over two seconds remaining to convert the play
Pressey starts: With Crawford and Brooks traded, the starting point guard onus fell to Phil Pressey. The undrafted rookie handled the promotion well with 10 assists and three rebounds, although he failed to score. Most importantly Pressey did not commit any turnovers. Pressey’s best stretch came in the final minute of the first half. It began with a pick-and-roll between Sullinger and Pressey that resulted in a Sullinger floater with 58 seconds left. Then, with Boston on the fast break, Pressey nonchalantly flipped a pass behind his back to a trailing Bradley for an easy layup. On the next defensive possession, Pressey plucked a Toronto miss out of the air, and immediately turned and found Bradley streaking to the hoop. Bradley was fouled on the play and made both free throws. Crawford and Brooks’ departure bodes well for Pressey, who will likely remain to see big minutes with a recovering Rajon Rondo the only true point guard currently on the roster.
Avery’s first-half run: Nearly half way through second quarter, Boston had absolutely nothing going on offense. After a DeRozan jumper at the 7:28 mark, the Celtics were trailing by five points, in large part due to a 1-for-7 second quarter shooting effort, and an over all shooting percentage of 28.8. But on the corresponding possession, Bradley cooly splashed a 23-foot jumper. This started a Bradley scoring outburst over the final seven minutes of the half to push Boston into a 45-41 lead. Bradley scored 14 of his 16 first-half points during this stretch, knocking down a number of mid-range jump shots and finishing a couple uncontested layups.
WHAT WENT WRONG FOR THE CELTICS
Fourth quarter flop: At the end of three quarters, not only was it looking like Boston would win, it appeared that the Celtics would be able to coast to victory. The Celtics led by 17 points at the end of the third, but Toronto mounted a massive fourth quarter to give Boston a scare. At one point, the Raptors were down by only three points. But the Celtics came up with a couple of vital defensive stops to ice the game.
D on DeRozan: The electric shooting guard seemed to be the only Raptor prepared to play. He scored a team-high 23 points and added eight rebounds and three assists. DeRozan, Toronto’s leading scorer at 21.3 points per game, made tough shot after tough shot, all while being blanketed by Boston’s top defender, Bradley.
|Danny Ainge: The Wolf of Causeway Street||01.15.14 at 4:12 pm ET|
Danny Ainge has pulled the trigger on two trades in the span of 10 days, and the Celtics president of basketball operations likely isn’t done dealing before the NBA’s Feb. 20 trade deadline. Hence, The Wolf of Causeway Street.
|Celtics briefly send Rajon Rondo to D-League||01.15.14 at 1:07 pm ET|
Rajon Rondo‘s Red Claws tenure lasted less than two hours.
The All-Star point guard participated in a workout with the Red Claws in Boston and is still expected to make his return from ACL surgery on Friday against the Lakers.
“Rajon is progressing terrifically in his rehab and this is the next step,” Celtics president Danny Ainge said in a statement.
The Celtics backcourt against the Raptors on Wednesday will be thin. They excused Keith Bogans indefinitely for personal reasons on Tuesday, and then reportedly traded Jordan Crawford and MarShon Brooks a day later.
That leaves Avery Bradley and the newly acquired Jerryd Bayless as the likely starters against Toronto, with rookie Phil Pressey as the lone true backup guard.
|Breaking down the Celtics’ Jordan Crawford trade||01.15.14 at 12:56 pm ET|
Thus ends the Jordan Crawford era.
The Celtics traded Crawford and MarShon Brooks to the Warriors in a three-team deal with the Heat that will bring Joel Anthony, a protected first-round pick and a future second-round pick to Boston, according to Yahoo’s Adrian Wojnarowski.
The first-round pick comes by way of the 76ers and is lottery protected for this season and next. Should Philadelphia fail to reach the playoffs in either season, the Celtics will receive Philly’s 2015 and 2016 second-round selections. The second-round pick currently in place is reportedly Miami’s 2016 selection.
Regardless, Ainge traded one player who was out for the season (Leandro Barbosa) and another who was out of the league within two months (Jason Collins) for Crawford at the trade deadline last season, and turned him into at least two future picks. Pretty savvy on the Celtics president’s part.
Meanwhile, the Heat received Toney Douglas from the Warriors and managed to unload Anthony’s burdensome contract on the Celtics. The 31-year-old center, who has appeared in just 12 games for Miami, is making $3.8 million this season and will surely pick up his $3.8 million player option in 2014-15. That’s the downside, as Crawford is a restricted free agent at season’s end.
In Crawford and Brooks, the Warriors add backcourt depth behind the oft-injured Stephen Curry.
|Report: Celtics close to dealing Jordan Crawford||01.15.14 at 11:07 am ET|
Jordan Crawford, who has had somewhat of a career resurgence with the Celtics this season after being moved to point guard, might soon have to make a fresh start. According to a tweet from veteran NBA reporter Peter Vescey, the Celtics are close to moving Crawford, with the Nets, Clippers, Sun, Rockets and Warriors showing interest. (The league told the Celtics they can’t deal directly with the Clippers for one year following the Doc Rivers deal, but there is speculation that they might be able to work around it, perhaps with the inclusion of a third team.)
With Rajon Rondo expected back for Friday’s game against the Lakers, Crawford became obvious trade bait.
Crawford, 25, is averaging 13.7 points and 5.7 assists per game.
Benched by the Wizards midway through the 2012-13 season and then acquired by the Celtics, Crawford got an opportunity to start under new coach Brad Stevens this season, following the offseason roster overhaul and with the absence of Rondo.
Crawford turned some heads with his early season play, and he peaked in early December, when he averaged 23.3 points and 6.7 assists in a 3-0 week that earned him Eastern Conference Player of the Week honors. However, his shooting percentages have substantially declined and his turnovers have increased since that time.
|The NBA’s big problem, according to Jeremy Lin||01.14.14 at 12:38 pm ET|
As if a game involving a team riding an eight-game losing streak and trailing by 20 points couldn’t have gotten any uglier, the Celtics began fouling Dwight Howard, over and over, midway through the fourth quarter.
Once Rockets coach Kevin McHale inserted his center into the final frame against his former team, the Celtics hacked a Howard seven times in 3:27, resulting in 14 mostly terrible free throw attempts for the viewing pleasure of the fans who remained until the bitter end. It wasn’t pretty, and that’s a problem for the NBA, because it worked.
“It freezes everybody,” Rockets point guard Jeremy Lin explained after his team’s 104-92 victory at the Garden. “We just don’t get rhythm. We don’t play offense for a while. We’re just watching. We get cold, and then there’s no flow. At that point, their goal is to freeze us, so they are accomplishing that.”
As Howard missed 8-of-14 from the line, the C’s slashed a 16-point deficit to seven and could’ve sliced it further had they not turned the ball over three times down the stretch. These are the Rajon Rondo-less Celtics, after all. Then, the two-minute mark hit, the C’s could no longer foul Howard off the ball and had to play real defense, which promptly resulted in a pair of Houston layups that mercifully brought their ninth straight loss to an end.
“I would probably support a change in the rule that would call it intentional or call it like it would be called int he last two minutes,” admitted Stevens. “But because it’s a rule and usually if a guy’s making one out of two, it makes you think twice. To his credit, he made one almost every time up to the foul line. But we were scoring, and so we were getting a plus-one in about 10 or 15 seconds off the clock for the better part of three or four possessions. And then we went dry, and that’s when the two-minute mark hit anyways and we really couldn’t do it anymore.”
To paraphrase: The Celtics, like most teams, Hack-a-Howard because they can, even if they don’t like it. And why should they? It’s ugly and cheap, like an inflatable doll, and nobody wants to see that. Especially fans.
So, what should the NBA do about it? Take a cue perhaps from Shaquille O’Neal himself, who once said of the Hack-a-Shaq technique, “The only thing I call cowardly is when you’re up by 10 and do it. That’s a coward move.” Adam Silver could make it his first order of business upon taking over for David Stern as commissioner: Off-the-ball whistles become intentional when a team is leading by 10 points. That way ugly basketball can’t get any uglier.
|Irish Coffee: When Rajon Rondo returns, Jerryd Bayless should bump Jordan Crawford down the Celtics depth chart||01.14.14 at 9:31 am ET|
Since winning Eastern Conference Player of the Week for Dec. 2-8, Jordan Crawford is among a handful of the NBA’s worst shooting regulars (46.5 TS%), and yet his usage rate ranks second only to Jeff Green on the Celtics.
By no coincidence, the C’s are 3-14 in that span. We have a sample size of 215 games in Crawford’s career, and his teams are now 71-144 when he takes the floor. That’s a .330 winning percentage. And that’s bad.
Rajon Rondo has hinted that his return could come as soon as Friday against the Lakers, and Celtics coach Brad Stevens will be forced to adjust his backcourt depth chart. Assuming Rondo and Avery Bradley start and each play 30-plus minutes a night, that leaves somewhere around 25-30 minutes to split between the remaining guard corps.
Who deserves those minutes more? Crawford or Jerryd Bayless. Friday night’s loss to the Rockets offered the answer: Jordan Crawford is the odd man out. As Crawford forced shot after shot through three quarters, Bayless bided his time, taking only two in 11:31. Then came the fourth quarter, when Stevens stuck with Bayless over Crawford for all 12 minutes, and the newly acquired guard asserted himself as the game demanded, ultimately scoring 15 points on 11 shots and making a game of what was once a mockery.