|5 things we learned: Time for the Celtics to make a change in the middle||12.05.14 at 9:56 pm ET|
The Lakers made their only trip of the season to the TD Garden on Friday night, and the fans turned out to see them. But in a building with a surprising number of Laker fans, the home team delivered a commanding performance against Kobe Bryant‘s squad, as the Celtics won, 113-96.
Tyler Zeller and Jared Sullinger had huge nights for the C’s (more on them later), while all five starters scored in double figures for Boston. Rajon Rondo was back to his old self, but Jeff Green and Avery Bradley were big contributors as well with 19 and 16 points respectively.
Bryant, of course, led the way for the Lakers. He finished with a pedestrian 22 points.
Here’s five things we learned in Boston’s victory:
TYLER ZELLER NEEDS TO REMAIN THE STARTING CENTER
Zeller was phenomenal in this game. In 17 first half minutes, he put together a near double-double with 14 points (on 7-for-8 shooting, no less) and nine boards. Zeller and Rondo have been fantastic together on the floor all season, but even more so on Friday. Five of Zeller’s seven first half field goals were assisted by Rondo. His combination of always being a pick-and-roll threat along with running the floor play perfectly into Rondo’s passing skill set.
“I think, obviously, Tyler played at a really high level,” Brad Stevens said after the win. “I felt Rondo was just so much more aggressive and comfortable being aggressive tonight and that was great. Anytime he’s probing like that, Tyler’s going to roll to the rim and be available. And Tyler’s got that nice little flip shot at five or seven feet where he can shoot it with either hand. He doesn’t have to get it all the way to the rim to finish. So Rondo looks for him and that’s a good thing.”
Zeller wound up with a game-high 24 points and 14 rebounds — probably the best game of his career. His miss in the first half turned out to be his only one, as he went 10-of-11 from the field for the night.
Friday was Zeller’s fourth start this season in place of Kelly Olynyk, and Stevens claimed before the game that it remains a temporary role. If Stevens is watching what everyone else has seen, he should officially hand the starting center job to Zeller.
After the game, Stevens was willing to concede that Zeller will in fact be the starting center when practice begins on Saturday.
RAJON RONDO BROUGHT SOME MUCH NEEDED AGGRESSION
Rondo has scored two points in each of his last three games. He recently said that he hadn’t been himself during those games. Something evidently changed between then and the start of Friday’s game. Rondo got off to a hot start, scoring six first quarter points to go along with five assists. Rondo’s impact was clear: his plus/minus was +14 when he came out of the game for the first time, while the Celtics‘ lead was trimmed to as few as three points before Rondo reentered with his team up seven.
Rondo may have even taken it too far, attempting 17 shots in the game (and making six), but his attacking style represented a noteworthy departure. Even with all the misses, Rondo turned in a pretty effective game, scoring 12 points along with eight rebounds and 16 assists. On the other side, the Lakers only had 14 assists as a team.
Stevens did speak with Rondo about breaking out of his slump prior to Friday’s game, and he felt it may have worked.
“The main one [thought about Rondo] was that I felt like he was waiting for the game to materialize around him more than just attacking the game, and so it was really good. I thought he attacked great tonight,” Stevens said. “And every time he shot it, I was like a fan saying, ‘Go in!'”
JARED SULLINGER WAS A BEAST
Sullinger’s performance was easy to lose track of behind Zeller’s big night, but the front court duo was not one to mess with against the Lakers. Sullinger brought it in the second half, scoring nine points and grabbing five rebounds in the third quarter alone.
He finished the game with an energetic and efficient 17 points on 5-for-9 shooting with 13 rebounds. Sullinger has said that starting alongside Zeller or Olynyk doesn’t matter to him, but things seem to be going pretty well at the moment. Read the rest of this entry »
|Report: Celtics, Lakers have had Rajon Rondo trade talks in the past||12.05.14 at 3:16 pm ET|
As most know by now, Kobe Bryant and Rajon Rondo shared breakfast together in Boston on Thursday, but as Ramona Shelburne of ESPN reported, there was nothing to the breakfast — it had actually been planned for weeks.
That doesn’t mean there haven’t been any trade conversations between the two legendary franchises recently, though.
According to one of Shelburne’s sources, the Celtics and Lakers did briefly discuss a Rondo deal a few months ago, but talks have since ended. The Lakers don’t have much to offer, and are not keen on including a first-round pick in a deal — something Danny Ainge would require at least one of one of in order to ship Rondo out. Although the odds of Rondo being traded are slim, a deal along the lines of a first-round pick, rookie Julius Randle (who is out for the year with a broken leg), and an expiring contract would be something Ainge would at least be forced to ponder.
But even at season’s end, assuming Rondo has not been dealt, it’s been no secret that the Lakers plan to pursue the crafty point guard in free agency. Rondo has long been one of Bryant’s favorite players.
However, Thursday’s hangout session had nothing to do with Rondo giving up Boston for Los Angeles. “It was a basketball geek conversation,” Bryant said to reporters earlier on Friday.
And as for Kobe’s thoughts on the breakfast? “It was delicious,” he said.
|D-tales from the D-League: James Young shines, Marcus Smart struggles||12.05.14 at 12:26 pm ET|
James Young played the best game of his professional career, scoring 31 points and pulling down nine boards for the Maine Red Claws in Thursday’s 110-106 win over the Fort Wayne Mad Ants. Young was efficient, shooting 9-for-15 from the field, including 7-for-10 from beyond the arc. He still had some defensive lapses, but his shooting stroke was quite impressive.
Fellow Celtics rookie Marcus Smart struggled in his first Red Claws appearance. Turns out he can’t shoot in the D-League either, as he missed his first 11 shots.
Dwight Powell had a great fourth quarter, getting to the rim with ease. He was an efficient 9-for-14 and finished with 21 points.
|Rajon Rondo, Kobe Bryant get breakfast together in Boston||12.04.14 at 2:33 pm ET|
With Rondo set to become a free agent following this season, could Bryant be doing some recruiting?
Kobe & Rondo grabbed breakfast in Boston. KB loves him. LAL could probably get RR for two 1sts + Nash expiring deal. pic.twitter.com/PYeEt0zI04
— Baxter Holmes (@BaxterHolmes) December 4, 2014
Another shot of Kobe & Rondo grabbing breakfast in Boston: pic.twitter.com/TK6qBEB5qx
— Baxter Holmes (@BaxterHolmes) December 4, 2014
|Greg Monroe willing to ‘weigh options’ with Celtics||12.04.14 at 10:25 am ET|
When Pistons starting forward Josh Smith fouled out with 6:47 remaining against the Celtics on Wednesday night, Detroit trailed by nine. Enter backup Greg Monroe off the bench.
Over a 2:21 stretch in the final minutes of regulation, the 24-year-old big scored 10 straight points — all either within four feet of the basket or from the free throw line — during a furious comeback to force overtime.
“We played pretty well in a lot of the fourth quarter, until the very end,” said Celtics coach Brad Stevens. “Monroe, obviously, that’s a tough spot, especially when you’re coaching, because you know what can beat you is the 3, and they keep chipping away with two after two. I thought [Brandon] Bass and Tyler Zeller guarded them about as well as you could, but he just made shot after shot after shot.”
The Celtics had few, if any, answers for Monroe or Andre Drummond, who combined for 56 points (21-35 field goals), 21 rebounds and six blocks. (And, yet, somehow the Pistons still managed to lose to a Celtics team that shot a combined 39.8 percent from the field.) The C’s could sure use a guy like that.
Actually, the Celtics could sure use that guy. And it’s not out of the realm of possibility.
|Marcus Smart on Celtics-Lakers rivalry: ‘We’ve got 17 [championships]; they’ve got 16′||12.04.14 at 1:38 am ET|
In his first action in almost a month, Celtics rookie Marcus Smart played just 4:38 of the first half of Wednesday’s 109-102 overtime win over the Pistons, but he feels ready to contribute more.
“It felt good to be out there,” said Smart, who missed all three of his 3-point attempts, collecting two assists and a pair of fouls. “Last game I played was Nov. 7, so it’s always a good feeling to get back out there with this group of guys and get a feel for the game again. I felt like I could’ve gave more, but we’re taking things slow, and that’s just kind of how it goes.”
“I didn’t think he looked ready,” said Stevens. “It had nothing to do physically. He hadn’t practiced. I felt like it would be better to go with Phil and Gerald. They would give us the same things that Marcus gave us, and they’ve been traveling with the team and everything else. That’s kind of tough to just throw him in there. I didn’t even see him until we got to the gym today.”
“What he says goes,” countered Smart. “If he felt like I wasn’t ready, then that’s what it is. I thought I was ready. I was lagging a little bit until my ankle got warm, and then once it did, by that time I was already out of the game. But, like I said, we’re just taking things slow, so it’s all good.”
The Celtics do not plan on practicing Thursday and will hold only a walk through session prior to Friday’s game, so there isn’t much of a window for Smart to make up for lost time. Still, Smart is optimistic he’ll be able to impact his first career game against the Lakers.
“It’s the rivalry,” he said. “We’ve got 17 [championships]; they’ve got 16. Everybody knows that. I’m excited. I definitely feel like I’ll be ready Friday to give a little bit more, but it really comes down to how coach feels and if he feels like I’m able to give more.”
|Rajon Rondo: ‘I’ve not been myself’||12.04.14 at 1:15 am ET|
After finishing 1-for-6 from the field against the Pistons, Celtics point guard Rajon Rondo has now scored just two points in each of his last three games. He’s been held to single digits in six of his last seven outings and he hasn’t made a free throw since Nov. 23.
This isn’t your older brother’s Rajon Rondo.
“I’ve not been myself,” he said after a 109-102 win snapped a five-game losing streak. “I haven’t been as aggressive. I haven’t been making shots. I’ve been turning the ball over. So, like I said, a lot of those losses I put on myself, and I’ve got to find a better rhythm.”
How, exactly, does Rondo plan to find that rhythm? He could start by attacking the basket, getting to the free throw line and breaking out of his 30 percent free-throw shooting funk.
“I don’t really have the answer,” added Rondo, who had eight assists against four turnovers. “If I had it, I’d probably figure it out, but I’m still confident in myself. I’m still believing in myself. So, that hasn’t shied away from my game, and I’ll continue to get better.”
Things have gotten so bad that Celtics coach Brad Stevens benched Rondo for one possession on each end in the final minute of a one-possession game, replacing him with Evan Turner for free-throw shooting and defensive purposes. In the final minutes of overtime, the Celtics actively kept the ball out of Rondo’s hands in order to avoid any Hack-A-Rondo attempts. It’s hard to remember any team ever freezing out an All-Star and all-defensive point guard in such a manner.
“Evan’s shooting 87 percent or something?” said Stevens, who sold Turner short on his 92 percent free-throw shooting. “We were playing Rondo off the ball in some actions … and it doesn’t really matter who has it to me. I took him out the one time, and I immediately regretted it. I felt like I should have had him back in, so I had him take the ball out the rest of the time.”
Regardless of how Stevens couched his reasoning, it was obvious the Celtics did not trust their captain with the ball in the final minutes of a close game, and that strategy actually worked to their advantage in their first home victory in almost a month. That’s not normal.
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