|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.”
|Former Boston College star Reggie Jackson helps Thunder overpower Celtics||01.05.14 at 9:25 pm ET|
Jackson eviscerated the C’s defense with a career-best 27 points and handed the Celtics (13-21) their fourth straight loss and seventh in eight games.
The NBA’s leading scorer, Kevin Durant, played more of a facilitating role for Oklahoma City (27-7), allowing the point guard his moment in the limelight. Durant still went for 21 points, eight assists, seven rebounds and three steals.
WHAT WENT WRONG
Jackson erupts: Prior to the game, much of the defensive consternation revolved around the matchup between Green and Durant. How Boston’s top defender, Avery Bradley, would defend Oklahoma City’s raw point guard was not a hot topic. However, Jackson, filling in for an injured Russell Westbrook, surprisingly torched the usually stingy Bradley for a career-high 27 points. The Boston College product lit up Bradley in the first half. He scored 11 points in the first five minutes, and 19 over all in the half.
D on Durant: In one sense, the Celtics defense deserves plaudits for not allowing Durant to break out for 46 points like he did in the Thunder’s previous win. But Durant’s 21 points (in just 27 minutes) against Boston did not properly reveal the impact he had on the game. He dished out eight assists, and when Oklahoma City was comfortably ahead, Durant went out of his way to pad his teammates’ point totals. Durant also pulled down seven rebounds.
Front-court production: While Crawford and Bradley kept Boston’s head above water, the Celtics‘ starting big men did next to nothing to aid the guards offensively. Forwards Brandon Bass and Jared Sullinger combined for 13 points compared to their combined season average of 25.5 points per game. Their sparse production was not a product of a dearth of opportunities; Sullinger finished 3-for-11 from the field and Bass 1-for-5. Sullinger fouled out in just 19 minutes.
WHAT WENT RIGHT
Bogans’ christening: It took close to the entire first half of season, but Keith Bogans finally found the score sheet. The veteran guard acquired by the Celtics this offseason opened up the second quarter by burying a 3-pointer. Bogans last appeared in a game on Nov. 30 and had played in just 28 minutes over four games and attempted three shots. He saw playing time in lieu of backup shooting guard Courtney Lee, who was in the process of being traded Sunday.
Three-point barrage: A usually docile Celtics 3-point game erupted as Boston canned 11 3-pointers, the most since Dec. 10. The C’s defied a recent trend of poor 3-point shooting, particularly over the past three games. Boston shot a horrendous 14-61 (23 percent) in recent losses to the Hawks, Bulls and Pelicans. Crawford and Green authored the outburst with three 3-pointers apiece. Boston shot a nifty 8-13 from downtown in the first half to stay within 10 points.
Humphries: Kris Humphries again logged solid minutes off the bench, collecting 14 points along with three blocks and rebounds and two assists. In the last three weeks, Humphries has proved himself the most reliable Celtic off the bench. In his last 10 games, Humphries has averaged 9.8 points per game on 56 percent shooting, and 6.9 rebounds.
|Fast Break: Avery Bradley, Celtics can’t hold off Pelicans||01.03.14 at 10:10 pm ET|
In an ugly but entertaining game, Avery Bradley‘s contested go-ahead layup attempt ricocheted off the rim in the final seconds against the Pelicans, and — after a pair of Brian Roberts free throws — Jared Sullinger‘s game-tying 3-piont attempt sailed wide, as the Celtics fell short against New Orleans at home, 95-92.
The Celtics (13-20) lost their second game in as many nights and third straight — a killer for a team headed on a five-game-in-seven-nights West Coast trip against the Thunder, Nuggets, Clippers, Warriors and Nuggets on Sunday.
Bradley (22 points) led the Celtics in scoring while Sullinger (13 points, 11 rebounds) and Brandon Bass (16 points, 11 rebounds) each notched double-doubles. Jeff Green (16 points) also reached double figures.
WHAT WENT WRONG
Cold start: Whether it was the frigid temperatures, the same-day trip from Chicago or just plain stagnant offense, the Celtics scored just 13 points in the first 10 minutes against a team that allowed 108.9 points per 100 possessions entering the game. Bradley scored seven points (3-5 FG) in that stretch, but his Celtics teammates scored only six (3-11 FG) — including a zero-point, zero-rebound start for the ailing Sullinger.
The Stiemer: Battling a knee injury, old friend Greg Stiemsma hadn’t scored in double figures all season — until his glorious return to Boston. No Stiemboat whistle sounded in his honor, but the 7-footer who found his way back into the NBA under Kevin Garnett‘s tutelage scored 12 points on seven shots in 19 big minutes off the bench.
Ryan Anderson: In a scary moment that deserves mention, the Garden crowd sat in silence despite a 75-73 C’s lead early in the fourth, as Pelicans forward Ryan Anderson lay motionless on the floor following a head-to-head collision with Gerald Wallace. Considering all that Anderson’s been through already this season, it’s no wonder every player on both sides of the ball stood in support as paramedics carted him off in a neck brace on a stretcher. He was taken to the hospital, where he was diagnosed with a cervical stinger.
|How much is Avery Bradley worth to Celtics?||12.13.13 at 11:46 am ET|
Avery Bradley turned down a four-year, $24 million offer from the Celtics in hopes of earning an $8 million average annual value in restricted free agency this coming summer, according to a Bleacher Report report (h/t Red’s Army).
While everything from Bleacher Report requires one part sodium and one part chloride, this line from NBA analyst Jared Zwerling‘s piece should be taken with an extra packet of salt: “Bradley will be a restricted free agent next summer, so things could get ‘tricky,’ as one source said, for the Celtics to keep him.”
There’s really nothing tricky about the Celtics keeping Bradley. They can match any offer this summer, and they have the means to do so. The hard part, given present salary cap restrictions, will be for others to offer Bradley $8 million.
The Celtics thinking here probably goes something like this: We currently value Bradley as a $6 million player, but if he commands $8 million on the open market, then so be it. We can still match it. No harm, no foul, no overpayment. There’s no sense in starting a bidding war when everyone else has yet to arrive at the auction.
Given the guard’s inability to remain healthy, it was a smart play on Danny Ainge‘s part. The variance in what Bradley might earn this summer was simply too vast to offer more than a bargain level salary at the time.
However, Bradley has played himself into the $8 million conversation as an All-NBA defender averaging a career-high 15.7 points on 44.6 percent shooting, especially considering Marcus Thornton cashes a similar check.
But Thornton’s deal was signed in 2011, and most teams smartened up this summer. Look at the deals top free agent shooting guards landed. Talented two-guards Tony Allen (4 years, $20 million), Gerald Henderson (3 years, $18 million), Kyle Korver (4 years, $24 million), Kevin Martin (4 years, $28 million), J.J. Redick (4 years, $28 million), O.J. Mayo (3 years, $24 million) and Monta Elllis (3 years, $25 million) all signed between $6-8 million, and they also took a quarter of the league out of the running for Bradley’s services.
|Avery Bradley ‘can’t wait until’ Rajon Rondo returns||12.04.13 at 1:10 am ET|
As the past few days have brought conflicting reports about whether Rajon Rondo has already met with Dr. James Andrews or will do so in New York next week, the only certainty is that his return is on the horizon, and it couldn’t come at a better time for a Celtics squad that just assumed first place in the Atlantic Division.
“I think that’s going to be big and good for us to have a player like Rondo,” said Bradley, one of only five players on the current roster to play with him. “He’s a very good player, and that’s going to open up everything for everybody. Everybody’s going to get a lot of open looks, because he’s a great player. I can’t wait until he comes back.”
The C’s have shown a remarkable ability to stick with teams through the first three quarters of games, winning the ones when a handful of guys contribute on the same night — like Tuesday’s win over the Bucks, when Bradley’s 15 points, including a ridiculous over-the-backboard bucket, gave the Celtics six players in double figures.
“Everybody on our team I feel like can have a big game any night,” said Bradley. “That’s the good thing about our team. We have a lot of good players that could have breakout games. Jared [Sullinger]‘s been playing well, Jordan [Crawford]‘s been playing well and Jeff [Green]‘s been playing well, and that brings a lot to our team when we have those guys come out every single night and take turns having big games.”
Except the Celtics can’t depend on six guys all coming to play every single night if they hope to cling to the fourth seed in the Eastern Conference. Just ask Gerald Wallace. They’re lacking star-power, especially when they need to execute in the final minutes of close contests. As Celtics coach Brad Stevens said, “It’s hard sometimes when things tense up late.” Basically, they need Rondo. Half of their 12 losses have been by six or seven points, and Bradley knows Rondo’s return could mean the difference between competing regularly and winning regularly.
“It could be big for us,” he said. “I know once he comes back, a lot of teams are going to hate to play the Celtics.”
|Behind the backboard: Larry Bird vs. Avery Bradley||12.03.13 at 11:56 pm ET|
“That was honestly just a lucky shot,” said Bradley, who finished with 15 points in the Celtics‘ 108-100 win over the Bucks. “I didn’t even know how much time was left. I just wanted to get the shot up.”