|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.
|5 things we learned in the Celtics’ overtime victory over the Pistons||12.03.14 at 10:23 pm ET|
The Celtics entered Wednesday’s meeting with the Pistons at the TD Garden losers of eight of their last nine games. Not a good look to begin with, but even worse when you factor in their only victory during the streak came against the (then) winless 76ers. Detroit arrived with a 3-15 record, so if there was a time for the Celtics to get back on track, this was it.
It took overtime to get the job done, but Boston finally got its victory, 109-102. (For the complete box score, click here.)
Caron Butler hit a 3-pointer with just 14 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter to tie the game at 88 apiece. The Celtics then failed to convert on the final possession of regulation as Andre Drummond swatted away Jeff Green‘s layup attempt at what seemed to be its highest point. But the C’s scored the first eight points of overtime and finally held on for a win.
Despite an off night from Rajon Rondo, Green (game-high 32 points and six 3-pointers) and Kelly Olynyk (20 points, seven rebounds, three assists and an uncharacteristic three blocks) picked up the slack. Jared Sullinger was the only other Celtic in double figures, scoring 10 of his 14 points from the perimeter in overtime.
Here’s five things we learned in the win:
RAJON RONDO NEEDS TO PLAY MORE MINUTES AND FIND WAYS TO STAY ON THE FLOOR LATE IN GAMES
Rondo has been playing seven minutes per quarter pretty consistently. Despite some questions about his late-game antics and ability to close out games, the Celtics should be a much better offensive team when he is on the floor. Rondo had played a mere 19 minutes entering the fourth quarter of Wednesday’s game. He wasn’t having anywhere close to his best game, but in his defense, it’s hard to find a rhythm in such staggered minutes.
Stevens removed Rondo from the lineup with six minutes remaining, seemingly without reason since Rondo had played only 24 minutes to that point. Rondo finished with only two points for the third game in a row, this time with just three boards and eight assists. He played 34 minutes, committing a huge turnover in the final minute of regulation, and Stevens benched him again for the Celtics‘ second-to-last possession of the fourth quarter.
Stevens sat Rondo on another important possession in overtime, protecting Rondo from being sent to the free throw line (where he’s shooting an atrocious 30 percent this season). Rondo also seemed to hide from the ball on possessions, which could have been reason for Stevens to sit him down.
Long story short, Rondo needs to fix his free throw shooting problem. It’s unheard of for an All-Star point guard to be benched so late in close games.
|Magic 9-Ball: Rajon Rondo Trade Barometer v3.0||12.02.14 at 3:34 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
Since last we evaluated Rondo’s status this season, the Celtics have won just once in five attempts, and that victory came against the winless 76ers. Because they play in the Eastern Conference, the Celtics (4-10) remain only 1.5 games out of the eighth seed through 14 games, but their 1-9 record against teams with winning records isn’t too encouraging for those holding out hope for the C’s playoff prospects.
Over the past five games, Rondo has averaged 8.8 assists, 7.2 points and 5.8 rebounds, so his overall numbers have dipped, even if he’s still the only NBA player currently averaging at least seven points, seven assists and seven rebounds. He remains the league’s leader in assists, passes and assist opportunities per game as well as points created by assists per 48 minutes, according to NBA.com/stats.
The Celtics point guard has always been a different breed of basketball player, capable of controlling games as a facilitator, but at what point does his inability to score become a problem? His current status as the worst free-throw shooting guard in NBA history has been well documented, but Rondo’s offensive woes go well beyond the charity stripe. He has attempted more field goals than he’s scored points in seven of his 12 appearances, netting single digits on eight occasions and scoring six or fewer points four times this season. Meanwhile, the C’s dropped from a top-five offense through two weeks of 2014-15 to 17th in offensive rating (106.1 points per 100 possessions) a month into the season.
When you combine Rondo’s 13.7 points scored per 48 minutes (PTS/48) and 36.1 points created by assists per 48 minutes (PTSC/48), the four-time All-Star is still generating 49.8 total points per 48 minutes (PTSG/48). If that seems like a lot, it’s because it is. Of the league’s 30 starting point guards, 20 have generated more than 40 points per 48 minutes, and Rondo ranks ninth among that group. Obviously, a player’s points created by assists depend on his teammates, but the list shakes out how you might expect.
|Brad Stevens knows Celtics have ‘got to finish’ before they can even think about winning||11.28.14 at 10:27 pm ET|
Winners go for the jugular. Losers allow victory to slip through their hands.
Unfortunately, for Brad Stevens, he’s seeing much too much of the slipping and not enough killer instinct, with Friday’s 109-102 loss to the Bulls the latest example.
There’s a common, unsettling theme developing between Stevens’ rookie season of 25 wins and this season. The Celtics‘ coach watched Friday as a 16-point second-quarter lead evaporated. He then saw his team bounce back as they have so many times this season, taking an 81-72 lead late in the third quarter.
Was Friday finally going to be one of those rare days where the Celtics show the mental toughness to hang on for a quality win like they did on Nov. 8 in Chicago against these same Bulls?
Nope. Not when you shoot 5-for-26 (19.2 percent) in the final quarter, score 11 points, miss all eight 3-point attempts and convert just one of five free throws. The Celtics, like they did against Toronto, Oklahoma City and Cleveland just crumbled on their own parquet floor.
“I felt good coming into the game,” Stevens said. “I felt good about what we did at the end of the game. I’m not going to lose too much sleep over the ball not going in the basket. I’ll go back and re-watch the execution and the defensive possessions and those types of things, but I felt pretty good about it. Hey, we scored 102 points on Chicago and that’s with an 11-point quarter. So we’re doing a lot of good things, but we’ve got to finish. It’s the difference between winning and losing.”
After his team fell to 4-9 on the season, losing for the fifth time in six games, Stevens was asked if he’s starting to question what he’s doing based on all the losing.
“We can win by 30 and I’m questioning me,” Stevens said. “This has nothing to do with [score]. I don’t change game to game, as far as my own analysis or being overly critical or any of those types of things.”
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