|5 things we learned in the Celtics’ loss: Al Jefferson upstages Rajon Rondo’s triple-double||12.10.14 at 9:28 pm ET|
Marcus Thornton scored 13 of his 16 points in the fourth quarter, but it wasn’t enough to claw the Celtics out of an early hole in a 96-87 loss to the Hornets .
Rondo finished with 12 points, 10 assists and 10 rebounds — his third triple-double of the season — and Jeff Green added 16 points, but the Celtics scored just two points in the final 4:32 against Charlotte (6-15).
Meanwhile, the C’s had no answer for Al Jefferson (23 points, 14 rebounds) in the middle, losing a third straight road game and falling to 7-13 on the season.
For a complete box score, click here.
SLOW START: The Celtics entered Wednesday’s game with one of the NBA’s most efficient first-quarter offenses, averaging 26.7 points on 49.4 percent shooting, but struggled in the opening 12 minutes against one of the league’s worst defensive units. With the exception of Green (3-for-5 field goals), the Celtics started just 4-of-16 from the field, missing all five of their 3-point attempts. The end result was a 22-16 deficit, so rather than protecting an early lead, the C’s found themselves in the unfamiliar position of digging themselves out of a first-quarter hole.
BENCH PRESS: The C’s bench picked up right where it left off in Monday’s second-half comeback against the Wizards, quickly erasing the early deficit and pulling even at 32 apiece midway through the second quarter. Kelly Olynyk anchored the effort, scoring eight points in a span of just more than three minutes. While the reserves battled their way back into the game, the C’s starters couldn’t maintain the momentum, falling behind again 45-40 by halftime.
|Magic 9-Ball: Rajon Rondo Trade Barometer v4.0||12.09.14 at 1:20 pm ET|
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
Either Rondo hasn’t fully recovered from the knee injury he suffered nearly two years ago or he’s no longer capable of carrying the Celtics offense the way he once did during four straight trips to the NBA All-Star Game from 2009-13.
We may have to accept one or the other as fact.
Rondo’s 32.1 minutes per game are the lowest of his career since former Celtics coach Doc Rivers handed him the keys to the duck boat during the 2008 playoff run, and he’s been atrocious in back-to-back performances this fall after sitting out those games last season. The Celtics have played three back-to-backs this year, and here are the point guard’s performances in those contests.
- Celtics 106, Bulls 101: DNP. The Celtics opted to keep Rondo home in order to remove screws from his surgically repaired left hand.
- Celtics 109, Pistons 102 (OT): 34 min, 2 pts (1-6 FG, 0-1 3P), 8 ast (4 to), 3 reb, 3 stl. At the end of regulation and for portions of overtime, the C’s deliberately kept the ball out of Rondo’s hands, even benching him for a stretch in favor of Evan Turner, a superior free throw shooter.
- Wizards 133, Celtics 132 (2OT): 21 min, 0 pts (0-3 FG), 4 ast (3 to), 2 reb, 1 stl. Rondo did not return once Marcus Smart replaced him with 5:20 remaining in the third quarter and the Celtics trailing by 20.
As you can see, the C’s finished 2-1 in those games, only losing to the Southeast Division-leading Wizards in double overtime. Any way you slice it, there’s been a stark contrast between rested Rondo and fatigued Rondo.
|5 things we learned in Celtics’ crazy 2OT loss to Wizards||12.08.14 at 10:58 pm ET|
Where to even start with this game?
After collecting their best win of the season on Sunday, the Celtics almost did the same on Monday on the tail end of a back-to-back with the Wizards. Paul Pierce and company were looking for revenge against Boston, a team they felt they shouldn’t have lost to on Sunday, but Washington was in for more than it expected before finally coming out on top, 133-132, in a wild double-overtime affair in Washington. (Click here for the full box score)
The Wizards came out hot and opened up a lead as large as 23 points. This didn’t phase the Celtics, as their bench completely turned the game around (much, much more on this later) along with Jeff Green. Boston cut the lead down and needed an Evan Turner 3-pointer with just 0.6 seconds left in regulation to send the game to overtime tied at 110.
The C’s dominated the early part of the overtime, led by Green, Kelly Olynyk and Marcus Smart. But, the Wizards came back from down seven points to tie it at 121 with under a minute left thanks to a huge 3-pointer, by who else but Pierce. After Brandon Bass missed a potential game-winner on a breakaway, the game went into double-overtime.
The second overtime was almost identical. It started with a 3-pointer by Smart, like the first one did, and Boston continued to open up another seven-point lead. The Wizards fought back again, though. John Wall gave them a one-point lead with 44 seconds left on a 3-point play that put his athleticism and speed on display. It ended up being the final score of the game, as Turner was unable to connect on an isolation play and Smart couldn’t convert on a put-back attempt at the buzzer.
Pierce was huge in the win scoring 28 points on 9-for-12 shooting, while Wall was able to score 26 to go with 17 assists and seven rebounds (although he did have nine turnovers). Green led the Celtics with 28 points, but the rest of the damage in the near upset was done by the bench.
Here’s five things we learned in the epic loss:
|Celtics captain Rajon Rondo and Lakers legend Kobe Bryant, ‘just two [expletives] having breakfast’||12.06.14 at 2:37 am ET|
As Lakers coach Byron Scott gritted his teeth through another postgame press conference, this time after a 113-96 loss to their equally struggling rivals, Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge stopped to ask, “Want to get some breakfast?”
He was joking, of course, about Rajon Rondo and Kobe Bryant sharing a morning meal at The Paramount in Boston on Thursday, a concept that might have seemed absurd when Ainge’s Celtics and Scott’s Lakers split four straight trips to the NBA Finals from 1984-87.
It’s a different NBA landscape nowadays — what with AAU, shared agents and summer workouts making bros out of foes more than ever before — and it’s a different rivalry.
“We’ve had our battles, but it doesn’t carry over,” Bryant said after his team fell to 5-15 on the season. “The stone-throwing and all that doesn’t carry over to these types of games.”
|Greg Monroe willing to ‘weigh options’ with Celtics||12.04.14 at 10:25 am ET|
When Pistons starting forward Josh Smith fouled out with 6:47 remaining against the Celtics on Wednesday night, Detroit trailed by nine. Enter backup Greg Monroe off the bench.
Over a 2:21 stretch in the final minutes of regulation, the 24-year-old big scored 10 straight points — all either within four feet of the basket or from the free throw line — during a furious comeback to force overtime.
“We played pretty well in a lot of the fourth quarter, until the very end,” said Celtics coach Brad Stevens. “Monroe, obviously, that’s a tough spot, especially when you’re coaching, because you know what can beat you is the 3, and they keep chipping away with two after two. I thought [Brandon] Bass and Tyler Zeller guarded them about as well as you could, but he just made shot after shot after shot.”
The Celtics had few, if any, answers for Monroe or Andre Drummond, who combined for 56 points (21-35 field goals), 21 rebounds and six blocks. (And, yet, somehow the Pistons still managed to lose to a Celtics team that shot a combined 39.8 percent from the field.) The C’s could sure use a guy like that.
Actually, the Celtics could sure use that guy. And it’s not out of the realm of possibility.
|Marcus Smart on Celtics-Lakers rivalry: ‘We’ve got 17 [championships]; they’ve got 16′||at 1:38 am ET|
In his first action in almost a month, Celtics rookie Marcus Smart played just 4:38 of the first half of Wednesday’s 109-102 overtime win over the Pistons, but he feels ready to contribute more.
“It felt good to be out there,” said Smart, who missed all three of his 3-point attempts, collecting two assists and a pair of fouls. “Last game I played was Nov. 7, so it’s always a good feeling to get back out there with this group of guys and get a feel for the game again. I felt like I could’ve gave more, but we’re taking things slow, and that’s just kind of how it goes.”
“I didn’t think he looked ready,” said Stevens. “It had nothing to do physically. He hadn’t practiced. I felt like it would be better to go with Phil and Gerald. They would give us the same things that Marcus gave us, and they’ve been traveling with the team and everything else. That’s kind of tough to just throw him in there. I didn’t even see him until we got to the gym today.”
“What he says goes,” countered Smart. “If he felt like I wasn’t ready, then that’s what it is. I thought I was ready. I was lagging a little bit until my ankle got warm, and then once it did, by that time I was already out of the game. But, like I said, we’re just taking things slow, so it’s all good.”
The Celtics do not plan on practicing Thursday and will hold only a walk through session prior to Friday’s game, so there isn’t much of a window for Smart to make up for lost time. Still, Smart is optimistic he’ll be able to impact his first career game against the Lakers.
“It’s the rivalry,” he said. “We’ve got 17 [championships]; they’ve got 16. Everybody knows that. I’m excited. I definitely feel like I’ll be ready Friday to give a little bit more, but it really comes down to how coach feels and if he feels like I’m able to give more.”
|Rajon Rondo: ‘I’ve not been myself’||at 1:15 am ET|
After finishing 1-for-6 from the field against the Pistons, Celtics point guard Rajon Rondo has now scored just two points in each of his last three games. He’s been held to single digits in six of his last seven outings and he hasn’t made a free throw since Nov. 23.
This isn’t your older brother’s Rajon Rondo.
“I’ve not been myself,” he said after a 109-102 win snapped a five-game losing streak. “I haven’t been as aggressive. I haven’t been making shots. I’ve been turning the ball over. So, like I said, a lot of those losses I put on myself, and I’ve got to find a better rhythm.”
How, exactly, does Rondo plan to find that rhythm? He could start by attacking the basket, getting to the free throw line and breaking out of his 30 percent free-throw shooting funk.
“I don’t really have the answer,” added Rondo, who had eight assists against four turnovers. “If I had it, I’d probably figure it out, but I’m still confident in myself. I’m still believing in myself. So, that hasn’t shied away from my game, and I’ll continue to get better.”
Things have gotten so bad that Celtics coach Brad Stevens benched Rondo for one possession on each end in the final minute of a one-possession game, replacing him with Evan Turner for free-throw shooting and defensive purposes. In the final minutes of overtime, the Celtics actively kept the ball out of Rondo’s hands in order to avoid any Hack-A-Rondo attempts. It’s hard to remember any team ever freezing out an All-Star and all-defensive point guard in such a manner.
“Evan’s shooting 87 percent or something?” said Stevens, who sold Turner short on his 92 percent free-throw shooting. “We were playing Rondo off the ball in some actions … and it doesn’t really matter who has it to me. I took him out the one time, and I immediately regretted it. I felt like I should have had him back in, so I had him take the ball out the rest of the time.”
Regardless of how Stevens couched his reasoning, it was obvious the Celtics did not trust their captain with the ball in the final minutes of a close game, and that strategy actually worked to their advantage in their first home victory in almost a month. That’s not normal.
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