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5 things we learned as Hawks dominated Celtics 01.14.15 at 10:18 pm ET
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The red hot Hawks came into Boston on Wednesday and extended their winning streak to 10 games, and it wasn’t even close. Playing without Al Horford and Kyle Korver, Atlanta was unfazed and dominated the Celtics, 105-91 (click here for full box score).

DeMarre Caroll and Jeff Teague led the way for the Hawks with 22 points apiece while Avery Bradley led all Celtics in scoring with 17, but failed to score in the fourth quarter.

Here’s five things we learned in a loss that drops the Celtics to 13-24 on the season:

THE HAWKS ARE REALLY GOOD

The Hawks have been silent assassins all season. Atlanta has lost two games since Thanksgiving and have been rolling over the competition in the process. Teams around the league have certainly taken notice, but so far it has yet to change what the Hawks have been doing.

Even without two of their best players, Horford and Korver, the Hawks brought their quiet confidence into Boston and played very well. With names like Mike Muscala, Mike Scott and Kent Bazemore playing roles in the rotation and their starters all preforming like equally-talented All-Stars, the Hawks are onto something. Which begs the question: Could the Celtics build a “superstar-less” contender like Atlanta has?

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Read More: Atlanta Hawks, Avery Bradley,
Celtics go ice-cold in matinee loss to Bulls 11.28.14 at 3:25 pm ET
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Another big first half lead. Another would-be win turned into a loss as the Celtics were outscored 24-11 in the fourth quarter and fell to the Chicago Bulls, 109-102, Friday afternoon in a matinee contest at TD Garden. Jimmy Butler hit four key free throws while the Celtics went ice cold from the field as Boston fell to 4-9 on the season. The Bulls, who outscored the Celtics, 55-42 in the second half, gained a measure of revenge for Boston’s stunning win in Chicago earlier in the month.

Jared Sullinger led the Celtics with 23 points and 10 rebounds while Avery Bradley added 18 points. Rajon Rondo finished just two points, three rebounds and one assist shy of a triple-double but missed two key free throws late as the Celtics lost for the fifth time in six games.

“I felt good coming into the game,” coach Brad Stevens said. “I felt good about what we did at the end of the game. I’€™m not going to lose too much sleep over the ball not going in the basket. I’€™ll go back and re-watch the execution and the defensive possessions and those types of things, but I felt pretty good about, We scored 102 points on Chicago and that’€™s with an 11-point quarter. So we’€™re doing a lot of good things, but we’€™ve got to finish. It’€™s the difference between winning and losing.”

The game was highly entertaining, with plenty of back-and-forth.

Joakim Noah and Derrick Rose (hamstring) both overcame nagging injuries to start the game but it was an aggressive Celtics‘ dose of Bradley and Sullinger that proved to be painful for the visitors early on. Bradley hit his first three shots while Sullinger connected on three of his first four as the Celtics built a 16-point lead (54-38) midway through the second quarter.

But the Bulls finished the first half on a 16-6 run to cut it to 60-54 at the half. Brandon Bass came off the bench to score 11 points and haul in six rebounds to power Boston while Pau Gasol had 11 points to lead the Bulls.

The Bulls continued their charge in the third quarter, Rose connected on a three just four minutes into the third to tie the game, 68-68. Jimmy Butler’s 15-foot pull-up jumper gave Chicago its first lead since 6-4, capping a 16-8 run to open the second half.

The Celtics regained a measure of control late in the third quarter, going on a 15-6 spurt. Bradley scored the final 10 points in the run for Boston, which led 83-76 on Bradley’s layup with 1:54 left in the period.

The Bulls closed the Celtics‘ lead to 91-85 heading into the fourth quarter. Boston would shoot just 5-of-26 (19.2 percent) in the final 12 minutes, scoring just 11 points.
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Read More: Avery Bradley, Boston Celtics, Chicago Bulls, Jared Sullinger
Marcus Smart returns to practice, Avery Bradley tries to focus on being aggressive 11.26.14 at 4:37 pm ET
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Marcus Smart

Marcus Smart

The Celtics‘ main focus during their practices on Wednesday and Thursday will be on preparing to battle a tough Bulls team when Chicago arrives in Boston for a Black Friday matinee. However, a share of the spotlight will be on Marcus Smart’€™s return to practice, with the hope that he can suit up after missing seven games with a sprained left ankle.

“It’€™s just a matter of him getting back out here, and it’€™s more about conditioning than it is about anything else right now,” offered Brad Stevens. “€œJust because he hasn’t done anything on the court physically, as far as five-on-five in the last three weeks, or whatever it’€™s been.”

One thing the team certainly will not do is rush Smart,€“ especially after Avery Bradley attempted to return prematurely from an ankle injury just last season.

“I don’€™t know [if Bradley can offer Smart any help on returning],”€ Stevens said. “Again, I trust our medical team and medical staff, and I think that Marcus and Avery, I’€™m sure, will share that discussion and talk about that. We don’€™t want anybody to come back before they’€™re physically able, because, obviously, you don’€™t want to put yourself in a bad spot.”

Bradley knows he put himself in a bad spot last year, so his advice to Smart was simple.

“€œIt’€™s tough. This is his first year. Obviously he wants to help our team out and he’€™s a little disappointed that he hasn’t been able to every single game,” Bradley said. “He’€™s back, but one thing everyone’€™s been telling him is just make sure that your body feels good, listen to your body.”

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Read More: Avery Bradley, Brad Stevens, Marcus Smart,
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,
Irish Coffee: On Rajon Rondo, Avery Bradley and Marcus Smart, the Celtics’ ¡Three Amigos! wreaking havoc 11.04.14 at 12:54 pm ET
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Celtics guards Avery Bradley, Rajon Rondo and Marcus Smart wreak plenty of havoc. (Glenn James/Getty Images)

Celtics guards Avery Bradley, Rajon Rondo and Marcus Smart wreak plenty of havoc. (Glenn James/Getty Images)

With the exception of two brief offensive substitutions, Celtics coach Brad Stevens fielded a backcourt triumvirate of Rajon Rondo, Avery Bradley and Marcus Smart for the final nine minutes of Monday’s 118-113 loss to the Mavericks, and they wreaked more havoc than the “¡Three Amigos!” in Santa Poco.

The Celtics scored 29 points down the stretch, and that trio scored or assisted all of them, pulling the C’s within one with 39 seconds left after trailing by 31 points at one point in the game. Bradley scored 14 of his career-high 32 points during the run, Rondo collected six of his 15 assists and Smart submitted highlight after highlight in what can only be described as atomic excitation.

It was all thrilling basketball, and a sure sign Stevens will experiment further with this trio.

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Read More: Avery Bradley, Boston Celtics, Marcus Smart, NBA
Asset Management: Avery Bradley’s Celtics future 09.22.14 at 12:26 pm ET
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I think we can all agree the Celtics won’€™t be raising banner 18 in the immediate future, and more likely than not the 2014-15 NBA season will result in another lottery pick come June, regardless of how ardently Rajon RondoAvery Bradley & Co. argue the contrary. It’€™s been a year since Danny Ainge traded Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett to the Nets, launching the process of stockpiling draft picks and cap-friendly contracts. Since the Celtics failed to cash in those commodities in exchange for fireworks this summer, this season’€™s preview will have a Wyc Grousbeck theme, focusing on the hodgepodge of C’€™s pieces in a series we’€™ll call Asset Management. Next up: Avery Bradley.

In NBA circles outside Boston — and even some in Celtics Nation — Bradley’s four-year, $32 million contract extension received extensive criticism this summer, which seems weird for a player of his caliber. Let’s think about this.

When compared to Detroit’s overpayment of Jodie Meeks (3 years, $19.5 million), Bradley’s average annual value of $8 million doesn’t seem so bad, but teams were frugal with guards this offseason, and a deal like San Antonio’s with Patty Mills (3 years, $12 million) makes Bradley’s price tag appear a bit high.

Play along for a minute and take a look at these numbers from 2013-14.

Player 1: 18.4 ppg (44.4 FG%, 41.7 3P%, 79.5 FT%), 3.1 rpg, 2.2 apg, 0.9 spg
Player 2: 14.9 ppg (43.8 FG%, 39.5 3P%, 80.4 FT%), 3.8 rpg, 1.4 apg, 1.1 spg

If you were paying attention this past season, you’ll recognize Bradley as Player 2 in this scenario. Player 1? None other than Klay Thompson, the shooting guard Golden State wouldn’t give up to land Kevin Love. The same Thompson whose agent, Bill Duffy, recently dubbed his client, “the top two-way, two-guard in basketball,” in an attempt to land a maximum contract extension from the Warriors that would start at roughly twice Bradley’s average annual value.

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Read More: Asset Management, Avery Bradley, Boston Celtics, NBA
Irish Coffee: Celtics rookie Marcus Smart isn’t ready to start and other things we learned from Rajon Rondo’s China tour 08.27.14 at 1:55 pm ET
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Rajon Rondo is in the midst of his annual trip to China, which means more exchanges between the Celtics point guard and a media contingent that probably understands his dry humor better than Boston’s. Take this, for example.

  • Hoop China: “Who’s the next Rajon Rondo?”
  • Rondo: “Nobody.”
  • Hoop China: Straight face.
  • Rondo: “Nobody.”
  • Hoop China: Smiles all around.

The folks at Red’s Army deserve an award for keeping up with the four-time NBA All-Star’s Anta tour, and fan extraordinaire @KWAPT has more Chinese sources than the CIA. For the most part, Rondo provided the same stock answers we’ve grown accustomed to — “My leadership role has grown each year” and Kevin Garnett‘s “like a big brother to me” — but his answer to a question about whether Marcus Smart could start in the backcourt this season provided some insight into his feelings about the Celtics drafting another guard with the No. 6 overall pick.

“No,” Rondo said flatly. “He’ll play a lot of minutes, but starting as a rookie at the guard position is probably impossible or one of the toughest things you can do. Only so many guards have done it in the past, especially playing at that high level, but he’ll be ready. He’ll come in ready. He seems pretty humble, and we’ll get to work.”

Avery Bradley is probably Rondo’s closest confidant on the team, so it should come as no surprise he knocked Smart down a notch, but his response also suggests he fully expects to start the season on the Celtics. Still, the roster’s youth with the additions of Smart and James Young seems to be a sticking point for Rondo.

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Read More: Avery Bradley, Boston Celtics, James Young, Marcus Smart
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