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Fast Break: Rajon Rondo, Avery Bradley too cool for LeBron James-less Heat 03.19.14 at 9:51 pm ET
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Rajon Rondo scored just nine points, but he was the best player on the floor all night, taking over the fourth quarter in a 101-96 victory against the two-time defending NBA champion Heat. Of course, it didn’t hurt that LeBron James (back spasms) was relegated to the Miami bench, but still — this was Rondo’s night.

The Celtics point guard finished one point shy of a triple-double (15 assists, 10 rebounds), ending a five-game losing streak. Avery Bradley‘s 23 points, including a career-high six 3-pointers, led the scoring effort, and four other Celtics reached double figures: Brandon Bass (18 points), Jared Sullinger (14 points), Jeff Green (13 points) and Kelly Olynyk (10 points). And the Celtics needed all of it from each of them.

The Celtics improved to 23-46, moving one win ahead of the Lakers and Suns for the NBA’s seventh-worst record.

WHAT WENT RIGHT

Bradley’s back: After making just six of his 25 attempts from outside of 10 feet in his first three games back from an ankle injury, Bradley found the stroke that made him so successful early this season. The soon-to-be free agent knocked down three of his six first-half 3-point attempts and added a long jumper to enter the break with 11 points. In all, the C’s shot 50 percent (9-18) from distance over the first two quarters and stayed within 56-53 after two.

Charmed third: Working inside and out, Bradley and Brandon Bass shot a combined 8-of-8 from the field to score 21 of the C’s 27 third-quarter points. Rondo was on the feeding end of four of those buckets, finishing with six assists in the frame. As a result, the Celtics took an 80-78 lead heading into the fourth quarter.

Bench press: The C’s bench situation isn’t pretty. It’s comprised of four guys who weren’t on the team to start the season, two rookies and another player with 45 NBA games under his belt entering the year. Yet, they received valuable contributions from three of those seven players, as Sullinger, Olynyk and Jerryd Bayless (7 points, 5 assists) combined for 28 points, 10 rebounds and seven assists.

WHAT WENT WRONG

Worst first: The opening quarter couldn’t have gone much worse for the Celtics defense. While the NBA’s two-time defending MVP sat on the bench, the Heat still scored 34 points on 70 percent shooting to take a 12-point lead in the game’s initial 12 minutes. It wasn’t Dwyane Wade or Chris Bosh who victimized the C’s, but Udonis Haslem. The Miami veteran scored 12 points on 6-of-7 shooting in the first quarter.

No LeBron: The Heat announced James would miss his first game in a month shortly before tipoff. It remains to be seen whether he’ll return Friday in Miami, but regardless of how they feel about him, Boston fans missed a player worth the price of admission. Perhaps a motivated Celtics team took it as a sign of disrespect, too.

Read More: Avery Bradley, Boston Celtics, LeBron James, Miami Heat
Avery Bradley returns ‘rusty’ and hungers for more playing time 03.15.14 at 12:31 pm ET
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Brad Stevens made it perfectly clear before Friday’s game against Phoenix that he would ease Avery Bradley back into the mix after a 13-game absence due to a sprained right ankle. Bradley actually played nearly 17 minutes, including a key stretch in the team’s 12-0 spurt that gave them a short-lived lead in the fourth quarter of Friday’s 87-80 loss to the Suns at TD Garden.

Bradley scored nine points on 4-of-12 shooting from the floor but admitted that he was rusty trying to get back into an offensive rhythm.

“My shot was rusty, but you still can play hard on the defensive end and that’€™s what I try to do,” Bradley said. “I try to go out there and lift our intensity and try to get the guys going, that’€™s my role on this team.’€

When Bradley was out on the floor, it marked just the seventh time this season he and Rajon Rondo, the projected starting backcourt, had been available to coach Brad Stevens.

“Hopefully we’€™ll get to see that quite a bit in the last month here,” Stevens said. “Knock on wood, because they haven’€™t been able to play much together over the first four years they’€™ve been together. I think it’€™s really a duo that you would think would complement each other very well based on the strengths on both ends of the court. Hopefully we’€™ll see that again with a healthy month left in the season.”

“He looked well,” added Rondo. “He didn’€™t play or practice at all in a month. So, for him to get out there, I know he missed a couple shots, but for the most part, my main concern was his lateral movements, as far as the ankle, and his defense looked great tonight.

“Our time will come. I’€™ve missed [games], he’€™s missed [games]. Hopefully we can get it together and we’€™ll both be out there playing and healthy.”

Bradley also made note that he will be taping his ankles more often to prevent injury. Bradley said before the game that he feels not taping his ankles this season led to the unfortunate string of injuries that have sidelined him for two significant stretches this season.

After the game, he was just grateful that he made it through his first game back.

‘€œI feel fine, Bradley said. “It’€™s a little sore but I’€™m going to ice it and I’€™ll feel fine [this weekend]. “For me, on the defensive end and cuts, that’€™s what gets me going and I know what kind of player I am and I know it starts on the defensive end first for me.

‘€œOf course, as a competitor you want to go out there and help your team, but at the same time I have to be smart and the coaches, [Brad Stevens] knows better than me and he knows I have to get back in the rhythm. I was a little rusty and so he has to limit my minutes and he told me that before the game but I didn’€™t know how many minutes I was going to play and I really didn’€™t care.”

Read More: Avery Bradley, Boston Celtics, NBA, Rajon Rondo
Celtics eclipsed by Suns late in return of Avery Bradley 03.14.14 at 9:52 pm ET
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Alex Len’s three-point play with 54.1 seconds left broke an 80-80 tie and lifted the Suns over the Celtics, 87-80, Friday night at TD Garden. Kris Humphries led the Celtics with 11 points and 13 rebounds. The Celtics lost their third straight and fell to 22-44 on the season.

Cold shooting from the field put the the Celtics in an early hole, falling behind by as many as 11 in the opening minutes of the second quarter. But strong rebounding, led by Kris Humphries, allowed Boston to work their way back in, cutting the halftime deficit to two, 46-44.

The Celtics again went cold from the floor in the third quarter, making just four of their 20 shots from the field. As a result, Phoenix grabbed a 61-53 lead with 3:24 left in the third. But the Celtics again showed their resiliency, cutting to the deficit to just four, 64-60 heading into the fourth.

The Celtics continued that momentum by scoring the first nine points of the fourth quarter to cap an 11-0 run and grab a 69-64 lead, matching their biggest lead of the game.

Phoenix came back with the next six points to take a 70-69 lead. The Celtics led 78-75 before the Suns scored five straight, including the go-ahead basket, a turnaround jumper by Markeiff Morris with 2:30 left, putting Phoenix up, 80-78. Jeff Green‘s two free throws with 2:02 left tied the game again, 80-80.

After Len’s three-point play, the Celtics could not get off a shot close to the basket and the Suns put away the game with two breakaway layups.

The Celtics are off Saturday and begin a brief two-game road trip Sunday evening in New Orleans. They play in Dallas Monday night before returning home to play the Miami Heat Wednesday night at TD Garden.

WHAT WENT WRONG

Cold feet: The Celtics shot just 37.5 percent from the floor in the first half, making just 18-of-48 shots, including 2-of-12 from long range. Good defense and Phoenix sloppiness kept the Celtics in it, as Boston trailed by just two, 46-44 at the half. It didn’t get much better in the third quarter as the Celtics shot just 20 percent on 4-of-20 shooting.

Gone fishing: There are games where Brandon Bass can take over and find his shots in the paint and under the glass seemingly at will. Then there’s nights like Friday. He started but never got into a rhythm, scoring just eight points on 4-of-12 shooting, playing 21 minutes. Part of this was due to the fact that coach Brad Stevens elected to go with a smaller, three-guard lineup of Rajon Rondo, Avery Bradley and Chris Johnson for the better parts of the second and third quarters. Throw in the continued emergence of Kelly Olynyk and guards Jerryd Bayless and Phil Pressey and there was little time left for Bass.

Green-out: Like Bass, Jeff Green can look like a world-beater one game and come out with a dud the next, like Friday. He had just nine points in 36 minutes on 2-of-14 shooting.

WHAT WENT RIGHT

Bradley’s back: Avery Bradley returned to game action for the first time since injuring his ankle Feb. 9 against Dallas. The team’s shutdown defender came off the bench with 3:24 left in the first quarter. With 5:09 left in the third, Bradley showed his offensive skills, getting into traffic, knocking down a 10-footer and drawing the foul for a three-point play. He finished with nine points in 17 minutes.

On the rebound: The Celtics attacked the glass with authority in the first half outrebounding the Suns, 27-24. Leading the way with six in the first half was Kris Humphries, who grabbed six of his xx for the game in the opening half. Humphries finished with his seventh double-double of the season, scoring 11 points while grabbing 13 rebounds.

Balancing the scales: The only player not to get into the scoring column in the first half was Chris Babb, the undrafted rookie out of Iowa State who was signed to his second 10-day contract on Monday. Even Joel Anthony got into the mix for the first time since playing four minutes against Golden State on March 5 and scoring two points in the first half, his first points since netting four against Atlanta on Feb. 26.

Rondo passes knee test: With about seven minutes left in the third quarter, Rondo drove to the left side of the basket for one of his patented dishes under the basket but he lost his footing, slipping to the court. His knee was protected by the black ACL brace he wears and he remained in the game and played the remainder of the third quarter with no apparent ill effects.

Read More: Avery Bradley, Boston Celtics, NBA, Phoenix Suns
Dirk Nowitzki, Vince Carter too much for Rajon Rondo, Celtics 02.09.14 at 8:17 pm ET
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The red-hot Dallas Mavericks weren’t about to let the Celtics match their season-high win streak.

Dirk Nowitzki scored 20 points and Vince Carter added 14 off the bench to help the Mavericks pull away for a 102-91 win Sunday night at TD Garden. The loss snapped Boston’s three-game win streak, which was one shy of the four straight at the beginning of the season.

That win streak in November put the Celtics at 4-4. Sunday’s loss dropped Boston to 18-34.

The Celtics were led by Jeff Green with 18 points while Rajon Rondo returned from a night off Friday and scored 15 with 12 assists. Green was rumored to be trade talks between Atlanta and Celtics vice president of basketball operations Danny Ainge while Rondo’s name was again in trade rumors involving the Knicks.

The Celtics could not overcome dreadful shooting Sunday night. They were down just six at the half, 44-38, despite shooting just 27.1 percent (13-of-48) from the floor.

The Mavericks pulled away in the third quarter, outscoring Boston 28-18 to take a 72-56 lead into the fourth. Avery Bradley (2-for-13), Jared Sullinger (4-for-13) and Green (6-for-15) highlighted the struggles of the Celtics. Sullinger extended his string of double-doubles to five games with 12 rebounds and 11 points, scoring a basket late in the fourth quarter to keep the streak alive.

Chris Johnson, signed to a multi-year deal on Friday, had a career high 14 off the bench for the Celtics.

Nowitizki had been averaging 28 points a game in his last six games entering Sunday’s contest but Dallas didn’t need him to be spectacular against a Celtics team that couldn’t find its offensive rhythm all night. Nowitzki was 7-for-16 from the field and his his three with 9:23 left in the fourth quarter put Dallas up, 81-58.

Dallas would build the lead to 24 in the fourth before a late Celtics run, sparked by the bench, cut the Mavs’ advantage down to nine, 98-89, with just over a minute left.

The Mavericks, who entered Sunday in the eighth and final playoff spot in the West, are making a push in the highly competitive conference. Sunday’s win on the parquet was their fourth straight and six in their last seven as they improved to 31-21.

The Celtics return to action Monday night in Milwaukee against a Bucks team that is currently leading the NBA Lottery race with a league-worst 9-41 record.

Read More: Avery Bradley, Boston Celtics, Dallas Mavericks, Dirk Nowitzki
Rajon Rondo, Avery Bradley return for Celtics against Dirk Nowitzki and Dallas Mavericks at 6:01 pm ET
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The Celtics get Rajon Rondo and Avery Bradley back in the lineup Sunday. They’ll need them if they stand a shot of taking down Dirk Nowitzki and the red-hot Dallas Mavericks.

Rondo and Bradley both missed Friday’s win over the Kings, which ran Boston’s winning streak to three games, one shy of their season high.

Rondo sat out with general soreness after returning from ACL surgery while Bradley missed the game after twisting his right ankle against the Sixers last Wednesday. With the team traveling to Milwaukee for Monday night’s game, it’s unlikely Rondo will play in back-to-back games for the first time this season.

“That’€™s an above-me question,” Brad Stevens answered when asked when Rondo might be cleared for such activity. “Our trainers and medical staff and [Rondo will] get together. I would think it would be sooner rather than later, but I don’€™t know want to project a timeline.”

As for Bradley, he turned his right ankle in only his second game back from a five-game absence due to a sprain of the same ankle.

“I think he just twisted it again on Wednesday,” said Stevens before Sunday’s game. “He was 100 percent when he was playing Sunday and Wednesday, then twisted it or whatever, so it’€™s almost like, instead of a reoccurring injury, he just injured it again. I don’€™t think it’€™s a lingering thing by any means.”

Dirk Nowitzki is averaging 23 points in three games in February and has led Dallas to five wins in their last six games. He scored 38 points and grabbed 17 rebounds in the team’s only loss (vs. Houston) in that stretch. How do the Celtics or anyone go about slowing him down?

“Nobody can answer that question with a straight face,” said Stevens. “Don’€™t know that anybody has, don’€™t know that anybody can. You have to mix up your matchups. You have to have different people guard him. You have to guard his pick-and-rolls differently. He presents a problem if you guard it in a traditional way, just because he’€™s a great shooter.

“He’€™s a great pull-up shooter and he’s probably one of the best two-point long-range shooters in the league — one of the very few guys that’€™s probably a great great shot for. Yeah, he’€™s a tough one to guard and he’€™s really playing at a great level right now, at whatever old he is, what is he 35 years old? He’€™s not showing signs of that right now.”

Vitor Faverani (knee) will miss his fifth straight game.

Read More: Avery Bradley, Boston Celtics, Dallas Mavericks, Dirk Nowitzki
Celtics keep on losing, this time falling short against lowly Orlando Magic 01.19.14 at 8:44 pm ET
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In the race to claim one of the NBA’€™s worst records, this would have been a good night for the Celtics. But for those hoping for some wins, the 93-91 loss to the Magic was about as demoralizing a game as this season has presented.

The Celtics lost for the 14th time in their last 16 tries, extending their road losing streak to nine straight.

This one, however, was more than just another defeat. This loss came at the hands of a team seemingly in worse shape than the Celts.

With the victory, the Magic snapped a 10-game losing streak. They had also dropped their last 10 meetings with the Celtics.

Orlando still claims the worst record in the NBA, standing at 11-30, while the Celtics drop to 14-28. Brad Stevens‘€™ club is now tied with Utah and Philadelphia for the league’€™s second worst mark.

The loss was sealed when Orlando’€™s Tobias Harris sunk two free throws after Kris Humphries was whistled for a loose ball foul with 10 seconds remaining.

Avery Bradley lost control of the ball while driving to the hoop as the buzzer sounded, ending the Celtics’€™ final chance.

In his second game back after recovering from knee surgery, Rajon Rondo scored six points in 21 minutes, going 3-of-10 from the field while dishing out four assists.

The Magic finished with five players in double-figures, with former Celtic Glen Davis recording 17 points and seven rebounds. Arron Afflalo led the hosts with 20 points and 13 rebounds.

Celtics guard Jerryd Bayless was forced from the game after spraining his right toe.

Click here for a complete box score.

Read More: Avery Bradley, Brad Stevens, Celtics, Glen Davis
Despite disappointing ending, Rajon Rondo’s return a success 01.18.14 at 1:04 am ET
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Through 47 minutes and 59 seconds there was nothing to complain about regarding the debut of Rajon Rondo.

But it took just a second for that outlook to change.

With Boston trailing by three points in the waning moments, Rondo hoisted a 3-pointer that would have sent the game into overtime at the buzzer. But his shot clanked off the rim, and Boston fell 107-104 at the Garden.

‘€”Just came up a little bit short, but I was glad he had the ball,” Celtics coach Brad Stevens said after the game.

Still, there were plenty of positive takeaways from Rondo’s first game since last January — starting with the fact that he changed the dynamic of the team before the opening tip. Stevens, unbeknownst to Rondo, bestowed captainship upon Rondo before the start of the game. Rondo is the 15th Celtic captain, following Pierce, who reigned from 2003-2013.

“€œI never told him — I mean, maybe it’€™s something I should have done,” Stevens said. ‘”But I think it’€™s something you earn through your effort, through your leadership, through your involvement in the community.” Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Avery Bradley, Brad Stevens, Doc Rivers, Jared Sullinger
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