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5 things we learned: Time for the Celtics to make a change in the middle 12.05.14 at 9:56 pm ET
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Tyler Zeller dominated in the Celtics' lopsided win over the Lakers. (Getty Images)

Tyler Zeller dominated in the Celtics‘ lopsided win over the Lakers. (Getty Images)

The Lakers made their only trip of the season to the TD Garden on Friday night, and the fans turned out to see them. But in a building with a surprising number of Laker fans, the home team delivered a commanding performance against Kobe Bryant‘s squad, as the Celtics won, 113-96.

Tyler Zeller and Jared Sullinger had huge nights for the C’s (more on them later), while all five starters scored in double figures for Boston. Rajon Rondo was back to his old self, but Jeff Green and Avery Bradley were big contributors as well with 19 and 16 points respectively.

Bryant, of course, led the way for the Lakers. He finished with a pedestrian 22 points.

Here’s five things we learned in Boston’s victory:

TYLER ZELLER NEEDS TO REMAIN THE STARTING CENTER

Zeller was phenomenal in this game. In 17 first half minutes, he put together a near double-double with 14 points (on 7-for-8 shooting, no less) and nine boards. Zeller and Rondo have been fantastic together on the floor all season, but even more so on Friday. Five of Zeller’s seven first half field goals were assisted by Rondo. His combination of always being a pick-and-roll threat along with running the floor play perfectly into Rondo’s passing skill set.

“I think, obviously, Tyler played at a really high level,” Brad Stevens said after the win. “I felt Rondo was just so much more aggressive and comfortable being aggressive tonight and that was great. Anytime he’s probing like that, Tyler’s going to roll to the rim and be available. And Tyler’s got that nice little flip shot at five or seven feet where he can shoot it with either hand. He doesn’t have to get it all the way to the rim to finish. So Rondo looks for him and that’s a good thing.”

Zeller wound up with a game-high 24 points and 14 rebounds — probably the best game of his career. His miss in the first half turned out to be his only one, as he went 10-of-11 from the field for the night.

Friday was Zeller’s fourth start this season in place of Kelly Olynyk, and Stevens claimed before the game that it remains a temporary role. If Stevens is watching what everyone else has seen, he should officially hand the starting center job to Zeller.

After the game, Stevens was willing to concede that Zeller will in fact be the starting center when practice begins on Saturday.

RAJON RONDO BROUGHT SOME MUCH NEEDED AGGRESSION

Rondo has scored two points in each of his last three games. He recently said that he hadn’t been himself during those games. Something evidently changed between then and the start of Friday’s game. Rondo got off to a hot start, scoring six first quarter points to go along with five assists. Rondo’s impact was clear: his plus/minus was +14 when he came out of the game for the first time, while the Celtics‘ lead was trimmed to as few as three points before Rondo reentered with his team up seven.

Rondo may have even taken it too far, attempting 17 shots in the game (and making six), but his attacking style represented a noteworthy departure. Even with all the misses, Rondo turned in a pretty effective game, scoring 12 points along with eight rebounds and 16 assists. On the other side, the Lakers only had 14 assists as a team.

Stevens did speak with Rondo about breaking out of his slump prior to Friday’s game, and he felt it may have worked.

“The main one [thought about Rondo] was that I felt like he was waiting for the game to materialize around him more than just attacking the game, and so it was really good. I thought he attacked great tonight,” Stevens said. “And every time he shot it, I was like a fan saying, ‘Go in!'”

JARED SULLINGER WAS A BEAST

Sullinger’s performance was easy to lose track of behind Zeller’s big night, but the front court duo was not one to mess with against the Lakers. Sullinger brought it in the second half, scoring nine points and grabbing five rebounds in the third quarter alone.

He finished the game with an energetic and efficient 17 points on 5-for-9 shooting with 13 rebounds. Sullinger has said that starting alongside Zeller or Olynyk doesn’t matter to him, but things seem to be going pretty well at the moment. Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Jared Sullinger, Rajon Rondo, Tyler Zeller,
Celtics go ice-cold in matinee loss to Bulls 11.28.14 at 3:25 pm ET
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Another big first half lead. Another would-be win turned into a loss as the Celtics were outscored 24-11 in the fourth quarter and fell to the Chicago Bulls, 109-102, Friday afternoon in a matinee contest at TD Garden. Jimmy Butler hit four key free throws while the Celtics went ice cold from the field as Boston fell to 4-9 on the season. The Bulls, who outscored the Celtics, 55-42 in the second half, gained a measure of revenge for Boston’s stunning win in Chicago earlier in the month.

Jared Sullinger led the Celtics with 23 points and 10 rebounds while Avery Bradley added 18 points. Rajon Rondo finished just two points, three rebounds and one assist shy of a triple-double but missed two key free throws late as the Celtics lost for the fifth time in six games.

“I felt good coming into the game,” coach Brad 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, 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.”

The game was highly entertaining, with plenty of back-and-forth.

Joakim Noah and Derrick Rose (hamstring) both overcame nagging injuries to start the game but it was an aggressive Celtics‘ dose of Bradley and Sullinger that proved to be painful for the visitors early on. Bradley hit his first three shots while Sullinger connected on three of his first four as the Celtics built a 16-point lead (54-38) midway through the second quarter.

But the Bulls finished the first half on a 16-6 run to cut it to 60-54 at the half. Brandon Bass came off the bench to score 11 points and haul in six rebounds to power Boston while Pau Gasol had 11 points to lead the Bulls.

The Bulls continued their charge in the third quarter, Rose connected on a three just four minutes into the third to tie the game, 68-68. Jimmy Butler’s 15-foot pull-up jumper gave Chicago its first lead since 6-4, capping a 16-8 run to open the second half.

The Celtics regained a measure of control late in the third quarter, going on a 15-6 spurt. Bradley scored the final 10 points in the run for Boston, which led 83-76 on Bradley’s layup with 1:54 left in the period.

The Bulls closed the Celtics‘ lead to 91-85 heading into the fourth quarter. Boston would shoot just 5-of-26 (19.2 percent) in the final 12 minutes, scoring just 11 points.
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Read More: Avery Bradley, Boston Celtics, Chicago Bulls, Jared Sullinger
Celtics growing tired of explaining how they’re blowing big leads 11.15.14 at 10:06 am ET
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The Celtics are quickly growing tired of talking about blowing big leads. It’s hard to blame them, but the painful truth is that it’s an ongoing trend that’s obvious to anyone watching them play early on in the 2014-15 season.

And it’s been a trend from the start. Against Brooklyn in the season opener they led 101-72 after three quarters. Brooklyn closed it to 15 before the C’s eventually held off the Nets. Still, they were outscored 33-20 in the fourth and gave up 64 second-half points. It may not have been a concern at the time in a one-game sample, but it’s turned into a troubling trend.

Against the Bulls in Chicago, they led 83-67 after three. They held on for dear life for a 106-101 win. But on Wednesday against the Thunder, it finally caught up with them. The Celtics raced out to an 18-3 lead and led, 51-42, at the half. They were outscored 67-43 in the second half and lost. Friday night, they had their biggest lead going into the fourth quarter, 101-84 against King James and the Cavs. They were outscored 38-20 in the fourth. Against the Nets, Thunder and Cavaliers, they have given up 64, 67, and 63 points, respectively in the second half, losing the last two.

The Celtics are learning that there’s no better way to blow big leads than playing porous defense.

“I’€™m frustrated by it,” coach Brad Stevens said. “I want to be better at it. I thought our energy and togetherness and sustainability was much better [against Cleveland]. When things went south, we came back. They went up by three; we ended up tying the game. Jeff made a great hustle play to get the free throws. You know if you turned on the TV last night you saw it in at least two games, maybe three — and that happens. You’€™ve got to play all 48. You’€™ve got to be great all 48 against this team. And it’€™s not the same against everybody, but you still have to be on your A-game the whole time.”

‘€œWe just got to win games, point blank, we just got to win,” Jared Sullinger added. “There’€™s no more lessons, no more moral victories, we just got to win flat out. Kyrie [Irving] made some shots, LeBron made some shots; that’€™s what great players do. There’€™s no answers we just got to win. In the NBA, no 15, 20-point lead is safe. You just have to keep playing.”

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Read More: Boston Celtics, Cleveland Cavaliers, Jared Sullinger, LeBron James
Five Things We Learned as Celtics — without Rajon Rondo and Marcus Smart — hold on for win over Bulls 11.08.14 at 11:01 pm ET
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The Celtics had every reason to look disjointed on Saturday night in Chicago. On the back end of their second game in as many nights, the team was without not only Rajon Rondo (who required a minor surgical procedure to remove a pin from his wrist) but also Marcus Smart following his injury on Friday.

But the Celtics instead showed tremendous energy and intensity for most of the night, building a big enough lead — a 20-point advantage at one point, the first time in five years that the team had built such a large advantage in Chicago — that they were able to withstand a late, spirited charge by the Bulls and claim a 106-101 victory on the road. The Celtics shot 52 percent from the floor and had excellent ball handling and distribution, with 25 assists and just 12 turnovers.

Here are five takeaways from a contest that allowed the Celtics to improve to .500 (3-3) for the season:

MAYBE THE THE CELTICS CAN SHOOT

The Celtics‘ 52 percent performance from the floor on 81 shots represented the third time this year (in six games) that the Celtics have shot at least 50 percent from the floor, tied for the most such contests in the NBA this season. The Celtics are now shooting 47.4 percent from the floor on the season, fifth best in the NBA to this point.

MAYBE THE CELTICS CAN CONTROL THE GLASS

With Kelly Olynyk and Jared Sullinger leading the way, the Celtics have been one of the better rebounding teams in the NBA so far. The C’s grabbed 45 boards, seven more than the Bulls reeled in, continuing a pattern that had seen the Celtics enter the night with the third-highest rebound percentage in the league (53.8).

MAYBE EVAN TURNER *CAN* PLAY Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Evan Turner, Jared Sullinger, Kelly Olynyk,
Celtics going young in front court, Tyler Zeller still fighting for minutes 11.06.14 at 4:14 pm ET
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Tyler Zeller

Tyler Zeller

Through four games this season it has been pretty clear how Celtics coach Brad Stevens intends to use his big men — he’€™s going with the young guys up front.

Veteran Brandon Bass‘€™ minutes have essentially been cut in half, as he averaged 27.6 per game last season to just 14.5 so far this year. Some of the drop off can be attributed to the three-guard lineup that Stevens has been rolling out, but the big reason is simply younger players earning themselves more minutes.

Jared Sullinger and Kelly Olynyk are both coming off season-highs in minutes played against the Raptors on Wednesday, with 38 and 34 respectively, and the rotation is beginning to feel as if both will be playing right around 30 minutes a game.

In a game where Toronto was without both of its starting bigmen, Sullinger (19 points and 16 rebounds) and Olynyk (18 points and 13 assists) were able to feast, each finishing with a double-double.

But, another young big man has become lost in the mix — Tyler Zeller. Zeller has appeared in all four games, but is averaging just 6.7 minutes during three of those contests.

What about the fourth game?

An eight point, four rebound, two block performance against the Rockets — a game in which Zeller played 19 minutes.

The minutes likely were a product of Zeller being the best matchup against a force like Dwight Howard. Centers Brook Lopez and Jonas Valanciunas have missed games against the Celtics this season in contests against the Nets and Raptors, giving Stevens less incentive to get Zeller more time on the floor.

So will the coach simply use Zeller based on matchups this season?

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Read More: Brad Stevens, Jared Sullinger, Tyler Zeller,
WEEI.com predicts 2014-15 Boston Celtics season 10.29.14 at 8:59 am ET
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The Boston Celtics season is upon us, and our WEEI.com round table of Ben Rohrbach, Mike Petraglia, Kevin O’Connor, Julian Edlow and Sam Packard weighs in on five questions facing the C’s this season.

1. What will be Rajon Rondo‘s fate this season?

@brohrbach: We’ve seen “National TV” Rondo, but we’ve never really witnessed “Contract Year” Rondo, and that could be an awful lot of fun. He’s almost two years removed from the ACL surgery, and the broken bone in his hand appears to be only a minor setback. I’m on board with Celtics president Danny Ainge’s assessment that his four-time All-Star point guard will enjoy a career statistical year as the most exciting player on a blah team. Even then, haters will find something to complain about.

As for whether he’ll be traded or not, the Celtics will sure as heck try, but the number of teams in need of a starting point guard, willing to meet Ainge’s asking price and lining up to pay Rondo max money isn’t a long list. It’s a coin flip, but I’m now leaning more toward no deal than deal.

@Trags: Traded by January.

@KevinOconnorNBA: For Rondo to be dealt by Boston, another team needs to get desperate close to the trade deadline. Looking around the NBA, I don’€™t see many teams willing to cough up what it’€™ll take, so for now I think he’€™ll remain with the Celtics all season.

@julianedlow: Rondo plays the year out in Boston. If he was ever going to be traded, it needed to happen by draft night. There are just no realistic packages out there that make sense for Ainge to deal Rondo. I won’€™t venture a guess as to what happens after this season, but I guarantee it won’€™t be boring.

@SPackGuy: Starts over 75 games for the Celtics. Re-signs in the offseason after not being offered a max deal by any other team.

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Read More: Boston Celtics, Jared Sullinger, Kelly Olynyk, Marcus Smart
Why you should care about Wednesday’s Celtics win: Marcus Smart had his best game, Jared Sullinger can rebound 10.22.14 at 10:09 pm ET
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Marcus Smart

Marcus Smart

The Celtics wrapped up the preseason with a 100-86 victory over the Nets at the TD Garden on Wednesday night (check out the box score here). Brooklyn rested its starters, while Rajon Rondo was out once again with a broken left hand for the Celtics.

Brad Stevens only played starters Jeff Green and Avery Bradley in the first quarter, while Marcus Smart and Jared Sullinger shined in their final tune up before the regular season.

Here are other reasons why you should have cared about the Celtics‘ preseason finale:

Marcus Smart had a very strong showing back in the starting point guard role

Smart opened up the game by swishing a 3-pointer out of the corner, which was nice for Celtics fans to see since shooting is one of his biggest weaknesses. However, Smart did a much better job of slashing through the lane than he has in previous games. He was able to connect on three layups in traffic, while also going 4-for-4 from the free throw line. Attacking the basket might be Smart’€™s biggest strength, so it was certainly positive to see him do so efficiently before the preseason came to an end.

Smart never saw the floor in the second half, but the damage was done. He racked up 16 points in just 15 minutes of action, adding four assists, a rebound and two steals. Perhaps most importantly, he did it on 5-for-8 shooting from the field — all three of his misses coming from downtown. Good things happen when Smart gets into the paint.

Jared Sullinger was a beast on the boards once again

Sullinger is a very good scorer, but he is a phenomenal rebounder. After ripping down 19 boards on Sunday, Sullinger grabbed 13 in the first half alone Wednesday. He finished the game with what is becoming a classic Sullinger stat line — 15 points and 17 rebounds. Sullinger did so while shooting 7-for-10 from the field in 26 minutes of action.

James Young returned from a hamstring injury

Young hurt his hamstring while warming up for the first preseason game, but kept that information to himself and ended up by playing in the game. Young posted 10 points in his debut, but then has missed each preseason contest since. He also didn’t play in a summer league game following a car crash.

The rookie wasted no time Wednesday, nailing a 3-pointer on his first possession in the game. He finished with just five points and four rebounds, but keep in mind it was just his second professional game. Young has plenty of room to grow this season.

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Read More: Brooklyn Nets, Jared Sullinger, Marcus Smart, Rajon Rondo
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