|Stat Man: Avery Bradley is an elite jump shooter||11.21.13 at 1:04 pm ET|
For Bradley, it’s always been about confidence. After tumbling from nation’s No. 1 high school recruit in 2009 to No. 19 pick in the 2010 NBA draft and shooting 19.6 percent (9-46 FG) from anywhere outside the restricted zone as a rookie, he had none. Obviously, an ankle surgery that kept him from his first NBA training camp didn’t help matters, but slashing off the ball to the basket was the only offensive weapon in his arsenal that first year.
(NBA.com/stats key: Red = Below Average, Yellow = Average, Green = Above Average)
Bradley began his lockout-shortened sophomore season as most young players under Doc Rivers did — on the end of the bench — only earning significant playing time once Ray Allen‘s ankle issues flared in late January. After shooting just 1-for-12 from 3-point range through the first three months of the season, Bradley discovered another niche, adding a right-corner 3 to a quiver that still included all those backdoor cuts to the bucket.
|NBA fines Gerald Wallace for swearing, warns Jared Sullinger for flopping||11.20.13 at 6:22 pm ET|
The NBA levied a $10,000 fine against Celtics forward Gerald Wallace for his postgame comments during a locker room interview after Tuesday’s dreadful 109-85 loss to the Rockets. “I don’t know what the [expletive] tonight was, just to be honest with you,” Wallace told the media. “I don’t really know what was going on.”
Wallace has been extremely vocal after Celtics losses, regularly criticizing his teammates for their effort, but the NBA is walking a dangerous line by establishing a precedent for fining a player who used vulgar language during a locker room interview. After all, Kevin Garnett wasn’t exactly Mary Poppins.
Meanwhile, the NBA also issued a warning against Celtics forward Jared Sullinger for flopping while boxing out Houston center Dwight Howard. Of course, the game was already over at that point. A second offense would result in a $5,000 fine for Sullinger. In other words, swearing after a loss is twice as bad as flopping during one.
|Blazers blow by defenseless C’s||11.15.13 at 9:49 pm ET|
Before Friday’s game, Celtics coach Brad Stevens said any success on the upcoming road trip would rely on his team’s ability to play defense against some of the elite teams of the Western Conference.
If Friday night is any indication, they could be in for a long trip.
Nicolas Batum connected on 4-of-9 from 3-point range and finished with 18 points while LaMarcus Aldridge added a team-high 27 points and 12 rebounds to pace the Blazers to a 109-96 win over the Celtics Friday night at TD Garden.
The Celtics held Portland to just 8-of-22 shooting in the first quarter but still trailed, 23-21, heading into the second quarter.
But the second quarter was a different story as the Blazers started extending the Celtics defense and took 10 3-pointers, making four. The Celtics stayed close, shooting 64.3 percent, making 9-of-14 from the field. Vitor Faverani had all nine of his points in the quarter as the Celtics trailed 57-51 at the half.
Another huge factor in the game was the early foul trouble of Kelly Olynyk. The rookie was whistled for his third personal foul with 4:39 left in the second quarter and picked up his fourth just 29 seconds into the third quarter.
“Unfortunately, Kelly got the Sully treatment tonight,” joked Sullinger after the game, referring to the foul trouble Sullinger had in his rookie season last year.
The rough defense continued in the second half as the Blazers outscored the Celtics, 33-27, in the third quarter, led by 11 from Aldridge. Portland scored the last six points of the quarter to take a 90-78 lead into the final quarter.
The Celtics made it a seven-point game early in the fourth on back-to-back threes from Jared Sullinger and Courtney Lee but could get no closer. Sullinger led Boston with 26 points and eight rebounds in 36 minutes off the Boston bench.
Jeff Green (14) and Jordan Crawford (11) were the only other Celtics in double figures.
After winning four straight to even their record at 4-4, the 4-6 Celtics have lost their last two – both at home – and now head out on the road for a three-game road trip that begins Saturday night in Minnesota against the Timberwolves. They play Tuesday in Houston before wrapping up the swing on Wednesday in San Antonio against the Spurs.
The Blazers improved to 7-2 on the season.
As the Celtics embark on a four game/six night stretch, Brad Stevens is looking forward to the opportunity to see some of the Western Conference’s elite clubs. He is fully aware that his team will need to extremely sharp on the defensive end to keep their head above water against this type of elite type of competition.
“We’re going to have to be outstanding on the defensive end to have a chance to win these games,” said Stevens. “There’s no question about it. It’s one of those deals where you’re playing teams that you’ve got to play well against to have a chance to win. Defensively, every detail matters, every effort play matters, everything adds up.”
The Portland TrailBlazers, Minnesota Timberwolves, Houston Rockets, and San Antonio Spurs all present a multitude of challenges, yet the one consistent is an explosive guard and a dominating presence inside the post. Portland’s Damian Lillard/LaMarcus Aldridge precedes Minnesota’s Ricky Rubio and Kevin Love, and the beat goes on in Texas with the likes of James Harden, Dwight Howard, Tony Parker, and Tim Duncan.
“I watched a few of our preseason games,” Stevens said, “just to kind of get a gauge of if they’re improving at the rate we’d like them to, and they’ve improved quite a bit defensively. Offensively, we’ve had our moments. I think we’ve improved, maybe more so, just because of our shifts and rotations. We still have a long way to go. We’re getting a lot better on the basketball. We were a lot better at defending the paint, even though we got back cut a few times in the first half [against Charlotte]. We’ve been good all year defending the 3-point line, knock on wood, so I think it’s one of those deals where we’ve got some strengths to us. But we’ve got to foul less and we’ve got to make sure we’re as good defending the post as we possibly can.”
Without Rajon Rondo, the Celtics lack a true NBA superstar yet still present a balanced team. The roster is full of capable players at the offensive end, so when the C’s move the ball, they can get a lot of people involved.
In order to be successful in this upcoming trip, they will need to continue to play hard defensively, remaining active on the ball and creating steals. Without a true point guard, the Celtics understand the value of scoring in transition. The biggest surprise this season is the team’s ability to move the basketball on offense. Stevens has this team moving the ball from side-to-side and playing an enjoyable brand of team basketball. Any time a team that moves the ball, that presents a major challenge. Another bonus for these upcoming games is the return of post presence Jared Sullinger, who the Celtics missed desperately with right knee soreness during this past Wednesday night’s loss to the Bobcats.
“We’re not as good on the block [without Sullinger], obviously,” confirmed Stevens. “Throwing it into the post [Monday] night against Orlando, we went on a 4-0 run when we were down [by] throwing him the ball. He gives us a little more flexibility playing inside-out, and that’s been when we’ve been at our best. He is probably our best low post player.”
Beginning with tonight’s game against the Blazers, the Celtics will have an opportunity to show the league their early success is no fluke, but instead the result of hard work and the team buying into the Stevens system.
|MarShon Brooks: ‘I don’t have a role’||11.14.13 at 12:55 am ET|
As the Celtics failed to shoot 40 percent for the second time in a week, one of the few players on the roster capable of creating his own shot watched from the bench for the eighth time in nine games.
Admittedly, MarShon Brooks is frustrated. He’s played seven minutes all season and none since being on the floor for a 13-1 run that erased a double-digit deficit against the Pistons two weeks ago. Other than that, he’s been a DNP.
“I’m trying not to get frustrated, because I know my time’s going to come,” said Brooks, “and if I’m frustrated, then I’m playing against myself, so all I can do is just stay in shape and be ready.
“Right now, I’m not playing at all. I don’t have a role. I’m just cheering right now, trying to cheer my teammates on and let them know what I see. That’s about it.”
Brooks isn’t complaining. He would’ve been content letting Jeff Green in the next locker over answer all the questions after the C’s first loss in five games. Brooks was just being honest. The Providence product started 47 games and dropped 12.6 points a night for the Nets during his rookie campaign two years ago. Any player, especially one who tasted individual success so early, would crave playing time again on a young team.
“What goes through my head? I just want to go in,” said Brooks. “And then from there, I’ll just take care of my business, man. When my opportunity comes, I’m going to try to go out there, just be solid, not do too much and just play ball. I’ll run into points. I’m just going to play hard on defense. The scoring will come.”
Of course, Brooks understands the flip side of the NBA coin. Once the Nets acquired Deron Williams and Joe Johnson for their move to Brooklyn, he took a backseat. His minutes were slashed in half, and his production went with it. The trade to the Celtics seemed like a fresh start full of opportunity that just hasn’t presented itself yet.
“It’ll come,” said Brooks. “I’ll have my opportunity to play. It’s a long season.”
|Fast Break: Big Al’s Bobcats end Celtics win streak||11.13.13 at 10:05 pm ET|
The Bobcats clawed their way to a double-digit lead in the first five minutes, and while the Celtics climbed within two in the game’s final minute, they never regained the lead. Charlotte walked off the Garden floor with an 89-83 victory, snapped the C’s four-game winning streak and ended their short-lived tenure atop the Atlantic Division.
Jeff Green‘s 19 points led the Celtics (4-5), but he added just one rebound and zero assists to that line. Jordan Crawford (16 points), Gerald Wallace and Courtney Lee (10 apiece) also reached double figures on a night the C’s shot just 38 percent as a team. Kelly Olynyk grabbed a career-high 11 rebounds.
WHAT WENT WRONG
Live by the Crawford: After submitting his finest performance in a Celtics uniform on Monday — a line of 16 points, 10 assists and zero turnovers against the Magic that brought the “better without Rondo” folks out of the woodwork — it took all of 64 seconds for Crawford to commit his first turnover against the Bobcats. The de facto point guard improved in the second half, as did the Celtics. He finished with six assists and two turnovers.
Digging a hole: Meanwhile, the Bobcats backcourt wreaked havoc early, jumping out to a 22-12 lead on 9-of-11 shooting in the first 7:21 and sucking the life out of an already quiet Garden crowd. Charlotte guards Kemba Walker and Gerald Henderson either scored or assisted on seven of those nine buckets, feeding Al Jefferson for eight early points. As a result, Stevens yanked Crawford, Bradley and Brandon Bass in favor of Phil Pressey, Lee and Kris Humphries — who helped trim the deficit to six by the end of the first quarter.
Big Al: Add Jefferson to the list of talented bigs who carved up the C’s interior defense. He finished with 22 points and 11 boards. Likewise, the Celtics allowed double-digit offensive rebounds for the seventh time in nine games. Vitor Faverani and Kelly Olynyk helped keep the C’s from completely getting wiped off the boards.
WHAT WENT RIGHT
Puncher’s chance: As has been the custom under Brad Stevens, the Celtics didn’t fold. Trailing by 16 midway through the second quarter, Green scored eight points during a 15-4 run that slashed Charlotte’s lead to five. Green came in shooting 4-of-5 from the right corner and 21-of-33 in the restricted area — his two most efficient locations — and did his damage from those spots in keeping the C’s within striking distance.
Vitor fever: For much of the game, Faverani was the lone Celtics player in the plus/minus black, and he was in double digits. One of few C’s interested in banging on the boards, he successfully got under the skin of just about everyone in Charlotte’s frontcourt while contributing seven points and nine rebounds in 22 minutes off the bench.
Defending their life: While the offense struggled mightily, the Celtics kept themselves in the game on the defensive end, holding the Bobcats to 37 percent from the field. Bradley racked up five fouls chasing Walker, holding Charlotte’s point guard to three points (1-13 FG). The rest of the Bobcats shot 42 percent.
|Irish Coffee: A look at Andrew Wiggins, Jabari Parker, Julius Randle and the 18 prospects Danny Ainge scouted in Chicago||at 12:07 pm ET|
When word got out that Danny Ainge attended Tuesday night’s Champions Classic in Chicago — an event that featured the likely top three players in the 2014 NBA draft and four of college basketball’s best five teams — the Celtics president’s presence brought out the Riggin’ for Wiggins folks in full force.
While Andrew Wiggins, Jabari Parker and Julius Randle didn’t disappoint, combining for 76 points (65 TS%) and 30 rebounds, the reality is those two games (Kansas 94, Duke 83; Michigan State 78, Kentucky 74) featured as many as 18 picks in June’s draft. Ainge would be a fool not to show up. Here are the stat lines he saw from those 18 players in order of performance — complete with each prospect’s mixtape and a link to his DraftExpress profile.
18. Tarik Black SR PF Kansas (6 MIN): 0 PTS, 1 REB, 3 PF