|Celtics blow fourth-quarter lead in Rajon Rondo’s return, fall 107-104 to the Lakers||01.17.14 at 10:01 pm ET|
In limited minutes, Rondo tallied eight points, four assists and two steals. However, he missed a potential game-tying shot at the buzzer to put a sour taste in the mouth of a TD Garden crowd that had waited anxiously to see the return of their revered point guard.
Pau Gasol led the Lakers (15-25) with 24 points and Kendall Marshall added 19 points, including a 3-pointer with just over one minute to put the Lakers ahead for good.
In defeat, Boston’s bench showed up in a big way against Los Angeles. Kelly Olynyk (25 points), Gerald Wallace (14 points) and Brandon Bass (10 points) all came off the bench with double-digit performances for the Celtics (14-27).
|Celtics guard Rajon Rondo starting against Lakers||01.17.14 at 7:25 pm ET|
Rajon Rondo got the start at point guard in his much-anticipated return to the court on Friday night against the Lakers.
Rondo has been sidelined since Jan. 25, 2013 with a torn ACL he suffered in a regular season game versus the Hawks.
Undrafted rookie Phil Pressey started his first career game at point guard in the Celtics‘ 88-83 win on Wednesday night that snapped a nine-game losing streak. Pressey briefly took over for the starting duties for the traded Jordan Crawford.
Rondo averaged 13.7 points, 11.1 assists and 5.6 rebounds per game in 38 games last season.
|Danny Ainge confirms Rajon Rondo’s return set for Friday||01.16.14 at 11:21 am ET|
“Unless there are any setbacks [Thursday], we’re anticipating him playing [Friday],” Ainge said in an interview with Boston radio station WBZ-FM, noting that the guard will be restricted to five minutes per quarter.
Rondo was placed on the active roster and in uniform for Wednesday’s win over the Raptors, but he did not enter the game.
Rondo has been out since tearing his ACL last January and having surgery.
|Phil Pressey makes first career start, leads Celtics to victory||01.16.14 at 12:24 am ET|
A few minutes into the third quarter, Phil Pressey jetted around a pick-and-roll, confidently rose for an 18-foot jump shot and connected. But before he could celebrate a whistle sounded: A Boston foul nullified Pressey’s first points as a Celtic starter.
“I felt like that really was going to get me goin. When I finally hit one, it felt good,” Pressey said with a smile after Wednesday night’s game.
Pressey never scored those elusive first two points, but with Boston’s 10-game losing streak snapped in the team’s 88-83 win over the Raptors, he can now boast about his 1-0 record as a starting point guard in the NBA.
The undrafted rookie free agent’s 0-for-5 shooting line and zero points were not indicative of the impact he made on the game. Pressey dished out a career-high 10 assists and did not commit a single turnover in 26 minutes of play — also a career-high.
Pressey liked the 10 dimes, but not as much as the zero turnovers.
“I know if I take care of the ball, I know I’m giving my team an opportunity to get more shots up. That’s what I pride myself on,” Pressey said.
The Celtics‘ thinness at the guard position necessitated Pressey’s insertion into the lineup. (Starting point guard Jordan Crawford and reserve guard MarShon Brooks were dealt to the Warriors, Rajon Rondo is still out, and Keith Bogans indefinitely left the team for personal reasons).
Pressey said he was alerted of his promotion in shootaround. Yet the suddenness of the promotion was not alarming.
“The guys embraced me from the start, like I’ve been there from day one, so it was very easy for me to step in and help my team out,” Pressey said.
Pressey started off slowly, but he helped spark a 6-0 run to end the half that put Boston ahead 45-41. With under one minute left, Pressey and Jared Sullinger executed a pick-and-roll that culminated with Sullinger canning a long running jumper. Pressey then pick-pocketed Toronto point guard Kyle Lowry and set off in transition where he found a trailing Avery Bradley with a smooth behind-the-back pass for an easy layup. Then Pressey collected a Raptors miss and alertly sent an outlet pass to Bradley, who had leaked ahead of the field. Bradley was fouled and made both free throws.
Pressey helped extend Boston’s lead to 17 with three assists in the third quarter.
“I thought when things got tough, he got tough,” Stevens said.
And things got tough in the fourth quarter. The Celtics blew their massive lead, and suddenly found themselves nursing a three-point advantage in the waning moments. But Pressey helped weather the storm and Boston eked out the win.
“To his credit, I thought he pulled guys in and together instead of when something doesn’t go our way we’re not together,” Stevens said.
There’s speculation that Rondo will return on Friday against the Lakers. But Boston hopes to ease Rondo back into action, and Pressey’s strong outing suggests that he’ll continue to see big minutes until Rondo’s healthy.
|Brad Stevens, Celtics still uncertain about Rajon Rondo’s status against Lakers||01.15.14 at 11:17 pm ET|
While Brad Stevens and his Celtics players, depleted backcourt and all, could simply be maintaining the mystery, they sure seemed sincere denying any knowledge about the All-Star point guard’s plans for Friday.
“He hasn’t told anybody,” said Avery Bradley. “We honestly don’t know.”
Rondo dressed and participated in the layup lines for Wednesday’s streak-busting win against the Raptors, but was never a consideration despite this week’s departures of Keith Bogans, Jordan Crawford and MarShon Brooks.
“Well, we were up three with no timeouts trying to get the ball inbounds and one of the best passers in the world was sitting right next to me, so no,” said Stevens. “He would not have been [available]. I told [assistant coach] Jay Larranaga he was next, and [assistant] Walter [McCarty] was right after him, depending on what we needed.”
The coach said he still hasn’t been told whether or not Rondo will be available to play against the Lakers. If so, “he’s only going to play 18-20 minutes.” Members of the organization contend the decision is entirely up to the point guard. He’s been practicing for weeks, has been cleared to play and faces no known hurdles in his rehab.
Yet, Bradley & Co. maintain: “I’m not sure if he is going to play. I’m not sure when he’s going to play.”
|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|