|Fast Break: Tim Duncan, undermanned Spurs stop Celtics||02.12.14 at 9:46 pm ET|
Tim Duncan offered a reminder of what can happen when the Ping Pong balls don’t fall the Celtics way, turning back the clock 17 years after they missed out on one of the game’s great power forwards. Duncan finished with 25 points and 11 rebounds to held the Spurs hand the C’s their second loss in three games, 104-92.
Six Celtics scored in double figures — led by 15 points from Kris Humphries and Kelly Olynyk (10 rebounds, second straight double-double) — but the Celtics dropped to 19-35. Here’s what went wrong (and right) entering the All-Star break.
WHAT WENT WRONG
Worst first: Sans two of their big three — Tony Parker (back) and Manu Ginobili (hamstring) — as well as key contributors Kawhi Leonard (hand) and Tiago Splitter (calf), the Spurs still dug the Celtics an early hole. Led by Marco Belinelli, who posted nine first-quarter points and five early assists without Avery Bradley (ankle) to frustrate him, San Antonio shot 56 percent as a team and led 25-19 after one.
Green thumbs down: It was an ugly Jeff Green outing this time around. He missed his first six shots before knocking down a 3 at the end of the first quarter, and then failed on a couple bunnies before sinking a buzzer-beating layup to limit the damage to 48-44 at the break. He had more turnovers (2) than rebounds (1), assists, steals or blocks at the half. Green’s engagement early once again proved an indication of his overall performance.
Not going streaking: After logging six straight double-doubles, Jared Sullinger‘s string came to an end. The reigning Eastern Conference Player of the Week started 2-of-9 from the field (0-2 3P) and sat for a large stretch of the second half in favor of Olynyk, Kris Humphries and (wait for it) Joel Anthony.
Sports Illustrated NBA writer Chris Mannix talked with Dennis & Callahan on Wednesday about Rajon Rondo, trade rumors, the NBA draft and more. To hear the interview, go to the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page.
Mannix predicts that Rondo will remain with the Celtics this year, and Danny Ainge will look to keep him on board for the long term if he shows an ability to work with the team’s new coach.
“I think he’s a guy that Danny wants to build around if he gets along with Brad Stevens. … It’s still very much a wait-and-see situation with Rondo,” Mannix said. “You’ve got to see what you get from him next year. He’s not going to get traded before this year’s trade deadline, he’s going to be with this team through the offseason.”
Mannix didn’t guarantee Rondo would be in Boston after the season, saying Ainge would always listen to offers.
“If Danny gets a monster offer for Rondo, I don’t think he’s attached to him in the sense that he’s untradeable,” Mannix said. “But I think it’s going to take a huge, All-Star level Kevin Garnett or Ray Allen type of offer.”
Jeff Green, who has been part of recent trade rumors, might be writing his ticket out of town due to his inconsistency, following a strong start to the season.
“He was off the table in the Omer Asik trade about a month ago,” Mannix said. “I remember talking to people in the organization and there was no way they were going to trade Jeff Green in an Omer Asik deal. They thought Green was too valuable in the short term and the long term. Now, a month and a half later, and we’re now realizing that Jeff Green is kind of this Jekyll and Hyde type of guy where some nights he can go for 30, other nights 2-for-12 from the floor and totally vanish.”
|Fast Break: Jeff Green, Jared Sullinger help Celtics stop Bucks||02.10.14 at 10:23 pm ET|
Behind 11 points from Green, the Celtics outscored Milwaukee 32-18 in the fourth quarter to improve to 19-34 on the season. While the Bucks remained atop the tank rankings at 9-42, the C’s now own the league’s eighth-worst record — four games out of a playoff spot.
While Sullinger (13 points, 10 rebounds) logged his sixth straight double-double, Olynyk (14, 11) had the first of his NBA career.
WHAT WENT RIGHT
Bass kicking: If not for Bass, the Celtics would have been in serious trouble early against the Bucks. While the rest of his teammates shot a combined 6-of-17 from the floor (35 percent) in the opening 12 minutes, Bass finished 5-of-8 for 12 points to go along with four rebounds, and the Celtics led 26-24 after one.
Crash course: Perhaps motivated by the few Milwaukee fans in attendance who constantly chanted his first name, Gerald Wallace filled the stat sheet in the opening half. Starting in place of the injured Avery Bradley, he compiled eight points on three shots, three boards, three steals and two assists by halftime, helping the C’s take a 49-46 lead into the locker room. His production halted after the break, but …
Green thumbs up: After scoring just two points on four shots in the first quarter, Green progressively improved throughout the night, saving his best for the last quarter. He scored eight points on five shots in both the second and third quarters, and then erupted for another 11 on eight attempts in the fourth to close out the win.
WHAT WENT WRONG
Tank top: The Bucks sat Larry Sanders (eye), Ersan Ilyasova (back), O.J. Mayo (illness) and Caron Butler (ankle), and the Celtics countered with Rajon Rondo (knee), Bradley (ankle) and Vitor Faverani (knee) on the bench. If a February game against the NBA’s worst team in Milwaukee could get any uglier, it just did.
Oh, shoot: Midway through the third quarter, the Bucks were shooting exactly 50 percent from the floor (22-44 FG), taking a 61-59 lead after consecutive buckets by Khris Middleton (a 3) and Zaza Pachulia (a bunny). Milwaukee entered the game shooting a league-worst 42.1 percent from the field.
Zaza’s elbows: Pretty much everybody felt the wrath of Zaza Pachulia‘s errant elbows, but Bass got the worst of it, reportedly suffering a corneal abrasion to his left eye that kept him out of the fourth quarter.
Phantom Phil? This late Phil Pressey foul call had Jackie Mac doing her best Tommy impression, but alas it appears Rondo’s replacement may have tripped up Gary Neal well before the whistle.
The NBA named Jared Sullinger the Eastern Conference Player of the Week.
Sullinger averaged 23.7 points (60.0 FG%), 12.7 rebounds, 2.0 assists and 2.0 blocks in three victories against the Magic, 76ers and Kings last week, recording three of his five straight double-doubles. Jordan Crawford (Dec. 2-8) is the only other Celtics player to earn the honor this season.
Here are Sullinger’s performances last week:
- Celtics 96, Magic 89: 21 PTS (10-15 FG), 12 REB
- Celtics 114, 76ers 108: 19 PTS (6-11 FG), 10 REB, 5 AST, 4 BLK
- Celtics 99, Kings 89: 31 PTS (14-24 FG), 16 REB
Sullinger has cemented himself as either a building block for the Celtics future or one heck of a trade chip (a la Al Jefferson in 2007). Not bad for an undersized big who fell to No. 21 and missed much of his rookie season due to back surgery.
Thunder superstar Kevin Durant took home the Western Conference Player of the Week honor.
The Warriors, Bobcats and Suns are reportedly the most likely destinations for Bass, who is owed $6.9 million next season — the going rate for a player with his production (10.8 ppg, 5.8 rpg, 1.2 apg, 54.1 TS%, 15.0 PER, 1,425 minutes).
‘He is a good fit in a lot of places,’ a league executive told the Sporting News. ‘He can start, he can come off the bench, he can make shots, he can play center against small lineups. A lot of teams need a guy like that.”
Golden State’s best offer? Something like Marreese Speights (owed $3.7 million next season), injured center Festus Ezeli, Jermaine O’Neal‘s expiring contract (bought out before he ever returned to Boston) and a future pick (the Warriors don’t have a No. 1 this season). But does that really upgrade their roster?
The Bobcats could package either of their protected first-round picks (Blazers, Pistons) along with expiring contracts (Ben Gordon, Ramon Sessions) or recent lottery disappointments (Cody Zeller, Bismack Biyombo). Bass and Keith Bogans‘ expiring contract for Gordon’s expiring deal and Portland’s No. 1 pick is an intriguing possibility that would save the Celtics $6.9 million next season and another pick in the loaded 2014 draft.
Likewise, the Suns’ best trade chips are Emeka Okafor‘s $14.5 million expiring contract and any number of four protected 2014 first-round picks (Timberwolves, Wizards, Pacers and their own). Given Suns general manager Ryan McDonough‘s prior work under Celtics president Danny Ainge, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see the two sides hammer out a deal should their pursuit of Pau Gasol fall through. Bass and Jeff Green for Okafor’s expiring contract and the Pacers pick would save the Celtics $25.3 million over the next two seasons, for example.
|On a milestone night, Rajon Rondo getting closer to where he wants to be||02.09.14 at 10:53 pm ET|
On his second of 12 assists of the night, Rajon Rondo became the 101st player in NBA history to amass 4,000 assists and just the sixth player in the storied history of the Celtics to reach the plateau. Bill Russell is next with 4,100. Bob Cousy is the all-time franchise leader with 6,945.
But that milestone was just one significant milestone for Rondo Sunday in a 102-91 loss to the Mavericks at TD Garden.
“It’s definitely an honor, especially to have so many in this organization,” Rondo said. “It’s right up there. It’s definitely an honor to get that many assists. I’ve played with a lot of great players. Give them credit. They have to make the basket.”
The Celtics point guard played a season-high 36 minutes and looked good doing so.
“I played 36 tonight and I’m a little sore but I’ll be fine,” Rondo said. “I try to listen to my body as much as possible.”
Celtics coach Brad Stevens said after the game that he spoke with Rondo and believes the time restrictions are all but gone after his return from ACL surgery.
‘Time limit’s off, yeah,” Stevens said after the game. “Not playing in the back-to-back. Probably will be cleared to play in back-to-backs again very soon. I asked the question right after we met prior to the game and it sounds like, again, that’s sooner rather than later but no time issues.’
Rondo clarified that position when he spoke post-game, about 45 minutes after Stevens made his initial proclamation.
“I wouldn’t say [limit] is completely off. I won’t be playing 40. When I’m out there and my adrenaline is going, I’m fine,” Rondo said.
Rondo will not be playing in Milwaukee on Monday night. Rondo would not say whether he would travel with the team or not on Sunday.
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.