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5 things we learned in the Celtics’ win over the winless 76ers 11.19.14 at 9:39 pm ET
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The Celtics arrived in Philadelphia on a three-game losing streak, but they had to feel confident knowing they would be facing off against a horrid 0-10 76ers team.

In the end, it wasn’€™t pretty, but the Celtics got the job done with a 101-90 victory for their second road win of the season, improving to 4-6 overall.

Here are five things we learned in the victory:

THE CELTICS PLAYED DOWN TO THE COMPETITION IN THE FIRST HALF

The Celtics came into the game sporting the third-best offense in the NBA, but the scoreboard read just 46-46 at halftime. The C’€™s matched the 76ers with 10 turnovers while getting outrebounded 27-19 by Philly — never good things when facing a winless opponent that ranks last in the league in rebounding.

Had it not been for 12 points from Brandon Bass off the bench, this one could have slipped away early. Bass was really the only player that put forward a noteworthy performance in the first half — he shot 5-for-8 in his 13 minutes.

THE BENCH VETERANS WERE KEY

Brad Stevens would have been in a whole lot of trouble in this one without key contributions from veterans off the bench. Bass’€™ strong first half carried over to the second half, while Marcus Thornton came up big as well.

Bass wound up with a game-high 23 points to go along with six boards, and Thornton finished with 13 points while also coming up with four steals.

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Read More: Brandon Bass, Rajon Rondo,
NBA power and sour rankings: Top 5, bottom 5 11.19.14 at 12:01 pm ET
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Follow Sam Packard on Twitter @SPackGuy

In the NBA, the worst place to be is the middle of the pack. If you are not contending for a championship or tanking, in my mind, you are not relevant. Because of this, each week I will rank the top five and bottom five teams in the league. The rankings are based entirely on my own observations and opinions, so please feel free to call me names in the comments section.

THE BEST

1. Grizzlies (10-1)

The Grizzlies have started the season on fire, and the only explanation I can offer is the addition of Vince Carter. On Monday they dropped 119 points on the Rockets, who had been playing exceptional defense. Last Thursday against King Boogie, the Grizz erased a 26-point deficit before Courtney Lee hit this buzzer-beater with three-tenths of a seconds remaining.

2. Warriors (8-2) If the season ended today, Steph Curry would be the MVP. I know Anthony Davis is putting up absurd numbers, but the Warriors are actually winning games. Just watch this video of Curry dismantling the Lakers and tell me you are not impressed.

3. Trail Blazers (8-2) Portland has won its last five games, including absolutely embarrassing the Nuggets on their home floor, putting up 84 points in the first half. THE FIRST HALF! The 76ers only average 88.5 points per game.

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Tyler Zeller rarely misses a shot these days 11.18.14 at 7:50 pm ET
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Tyler Zeller

Tyler Zeller

Tyler Zeller has always had the trust of coach Brad Stevens, but his minutes have yet to put that trust on display — until Monday night.

Zeller had his coming out party in the Celtics‘ 118-114 home loss to the Suns, playing a total of 27 minutes. Although Boston came up short in the win column, Zeller surely was not at fault, while Stevens was rewarded for trusting his fellow Indiana native.

The UNC product finished Monday’s game with 19 points, seven rebounds and three assists, to go along with a block and a steal. However, it was how Zeller got those numbers that made it so impressive. Besides playing with unmatched hustle — whether is be changing a shot on the defensive end or tipping a rebound to a teammate — Zeller shot an incredibly efficient 8-for-9 from the field.

As crazy as it sounds, that has been an average game in terms of shooting the ball for Zeller this season, just in smaller samples due to playing fewer minutes.

As of Tuesday, Zeller is shooting an eye popping 25-for-29 from the field in nine games this season. That’s good for 86.2 percent — tops among players in the NBA who have attempted more than four shots on the year.

“Some of it’s [knowing what you can and can’t do],” Zeller said following the loss. “Some of it’s my teammates, again, do a great job of getting the ball to me on time where I have time to make plays.”

“Some of it’s just taking easier shots,” he added.

So, will we see any bad shots from the seven-footer this season?

“Give it time, it will happen,” joked Zeller. “But, I mean, you’ve just got to take smart shots and make the plays you can.”

In case you were wondering, Cedric Maxwell shot 60.9 percent from the field in the 1979-80 season, which is the Celtics‘ single-season record for field goal percentage.

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Magic 9-Ball: Rajon Rondo Trade Barometer v2.0 11.18.14 at 1:33 pm ET
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Let’s face it: This is the season of Rajon Rondo. As interesting as it is to evaluate the frontcourt progress of Jared Sullinger and Kelly Olynyk, Avery Bradley‘s offensive potential and Jeff Green‘s surprising consistency, the biggest questions the Celtics must answer all involve Rondo. Just how good is he? Will he be traded? What can they get in return? In a weekly feature on Green Street, we’ll take stock of the Celtics captain’s status every Tuesday.

RAJON RONDO TRADE VALUE

Eight appearances into his contract season, the Celtics captain remains equal parts brilliant and baffling. In one breath, we can confidently say there’s never been another NBA player like Rajon Rondo, and in the next we rail against his three straight missed free throws in the final seconds of a two-possession game.

Rondo is averaging 11.6 assists, 10.6 points and 8.4 rebounds for a Celtics (3-6) squad that arguably should have won its last six games. The only player to produce those numbers over a full season was Oscar Robertson, who did so twice for a middling Cincinnati Royals team as a 6-foot-5 point guard in a league featuring just nine teams in the 1960s. Half a century later, a 6-foot-1 Rondo leads all 30 teams in assists per game, assist opportunities per game (21.6) and points created by assists per game (27.1), according to NBA.com’s stat tool.

Yet, it’s somehow reasonable to expect even more from Rondo. His 30 percent free throw shooting (6-20 FT) is the league’s worst among players who have attempted 10 or more free throws this season. While his jump shooting from the elbows had risen well above the league average prior to his ACL surgery, he’s seemingly reverted to the version of himself who was timid attempting jumpers earlier in his career.

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Read More: Boston Celtics, NBA, Rajon Rondo, The Rajon Rondo Trade Barometer
Jeff Green has been remarkably consistent so far this season 11.18.14 at 9:43 am ET
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Last year, Jeff Green began the season with a 25-point effort against the Raptors. “Maybe this will be the year that Green pulls it all together,” many said.

Green then scored 13 points in the second game of the year, followed by just seven points in his next game. Concerns about Green were answered early; he still couldn’t preform with the type of consistency that many hoped and believed he would upon arriving in Boston.

Coming into this season, there was no reason to believe anything would change, but clearly, Green has found his groove.

The season is still young, but nine games in, Green has been remarkably consistent, despite the Celtics‘ 3-6 record. Green has scored no less than 14 points in a game, and has carried the load on offense most nights —  like his season-high of 35 points in the Celtics‘ failed comeback in Dallas or the 28 he scored in Monday’s loss to the Suns.

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Isaiah Thomas: ‘Danny Ainge was 1st person to call me’ 11.17.14 at 11:48 pm ET
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Other than the late addition of Evan Turner at a bargain basement price over the summer, the Celtics came away from NBA free agency empty-handed, but president of basketball operations Danny Ainge made at least one attempt at a big-name player of small stature.

Moments after free agency opened on July 1, Ainge called point guard Isaiah Thomas.

“Danny Ainge was the first person to call me at 12:01 a.m.,” Thomas said, “so if that’€™s interest, then I guess so.”

Thomas actually missed the call, but exchanged messages with Ainge before his agent Andy Miller took over negotiations. So, was the feeling mutual?

“I was interested in whoever was interested in me,” Thomas added, “so he was definitely a little interested if he was the first one to call me, but they went their ways and I went mine.”

Thomas’ way ultimately took him to Phoenix, where he landed by way of a sign-and-trade deal with the Sacramento Kings. His agent reportedly reached a four-year, $28 million deal with Suns general manager Ryan McDonough, who worked under Ainge for 10 seasons before finishing runner-up in the NBA’s Executive of the Year voting in his first season in Phoenix.

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Read More: Boston Celtics, Isaiah Thomas, NBA, Rajon Rondo
5 things we learned in a wild Celtics loss to the Suns 11.17.14 at 10:06 pm ET
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Rajon Rondo and the Celtics came up short once again. (Getty Images)

Rajon Rondo and the Celtics came up short once again. (Getty Images)

We were expecting an exciting game from the Celtics and Suns at the TD Garden on Monday night, and that’€™s exactly what we got.

In the end it was an Avery Bradley turnover that led to an Eric Bledsoe fast break dunk with 29.5 seconds remaining that sealed the Suns’ 118-114 victory. (Click here for a complete box score)

The Celtics had trouble finding a shot on their final possession again, as a whole lot of dribbling and fumbling the ball around eventually led to three Rajon Rondo free throws, and Rondo went on to miss all three attempts.

Jeff Green was the high-scorer for the Celtics yet again, as he is beginning to find the consistency he has long lacked. Green totaled 28 points on the night and had a pair of monster dunks in the game.

Goran Dragic and Markieff Morris carried the load for the Suns. Dragic finished with 22 points, six rebounds and seven assists, while Morris dropped 30 to go with seven boards and five helpers.

THE FAST PACE CONTINUED

The Celtics have been an elite offensive team all season. So when they welcomed the run-and-gun Suns to town, a wild game was to be expected. As has been the case with many games this year, the score at the end of the third quarter looked like it could have been the final score (89-88).

The teams got up a combined 91 shots in the first half, while also combining for 24 free throw attempts. The up-and-down pace typically favors the C’€™s, but in this scenario, both teams were playing the way that they wanted to. 

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Read More: Avery Bradley, Jeff Green, Rajon Rondo,
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