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Jared Sullinger would rather not change momentum 01.15.15 at 12:45 am ET
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Jared Sullinger

Jared Sullinger

While his team’s double-digit loss to the Hawks came as no surprise — even as Atlanta rested starters Al Horford and Kyle Korver — Celtics coach Brad Stevens wasn’t pleased with his team’s effort almost from the opening tip.

“I was really disappointed with our first three minutes of the game,” Stevens said of a timeout that came just 2:38 into Wednesday’s 105-91 loss to the red-hot Hawks. “I’m usually not that disappointed in the first three minutes of the game. I thought it was poorly played on our part.”

Things didn’t get much better over the final 45 minutes, either, as Kelly Olynyk allowed dunk after layup after dunk inside, Tyler Zeller finished 0-for-4 from the floor and Stevens continued to dig deep into his rotation.

“Well, I thought our offense was pretty poor all night, and I think they’re obviously a difficult enough offense to guard,” added Stevens. “But when you give them run-out dunks, it doesn’t help anything, and we just turned the ball over too much.” (Other than that, Mrs. Lincoln, how was the play?)

With usual energy boosters Jae Crowder and Marcus Smart struggling to produce, the Celtics desperately needed a game-changer, but only Phil Pressey (7 points, 2 assists) on the end of the bench provided any punch.

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Brad Stevens praises Jared Sullinger, Marcus Smart after C’s beat Pelicans 01.13.15 at 8:38 am ET
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After a tough road trip filled with trades, the Celtics returned home Monday to collect an impressive victory over Anthony Davis and the Pelicans. Jared Sullinger was a huge reason why. Sullinger finished with 27 points and 10 rebounds, stepping his game up against one of the top young talents in the league.

“I thought today’s a good example of his versatility,” coach Brad Stevens said of Sullinger’s big game. “When we had [Brandon] Bass in the game they usually matched up [Ryan] Anderson on [Sullinger], when we had Kelly [Olynyk] in the game they had to match up [Omer] Asik on [Sullinger]. And so when Asik’s on him he stretched it a little bit, and when Anderson was on him he posted. That’s why, in my opinion, a guy like Jared has to be able to do both if he’s going to be really good. I thought he did a lot of really good things tonight.”

While Sullinger really stood out in the box score, rookie Marcus Smart’s name would not pop if you only looked at the numbers. Smart’s contributions go beyond what’s on the stat sheet. He hit a 3-pointer out of the corner while falling down that clinched the game for the C’s — the most clutch shot of Smart’s career to date.

“He had nothing but zeros at halftime except for two assists and one turnover, and we talked as a staff, we thought he was terrific,” Stevens said of the No. 6 overall pick. “All that other stuff on a stat line isn’t where his impact can be the greatest, and he really made a huge impact, being his hands on balls, being active. I didn’t know coming into the game if he could guard [Tyreke] Evans and I thought he did a decent job on him — he’s a hard guy to guard, too. So he did a lot of great things. And obviously hit a big 3.”

Check out Sullinger’s postgame press conference below, but on a night when his Ohio State Buckeyes won the NCAA football national championship, Sully wanted to be brief so he could rush home for the second half.

Read More: Brad Stevens, Jared Sullinger, Marcus Smart,
5 things we learned in Celtics’ victory over Anthony Davis, Pelicans 01.12.15 at 10:54 pm ET
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Jared Sullinger

Jared Sullinger

The Celtics defeated the Pelicans, 108-100, Monday night at TD Garden (click here for the box score).

In a back-and-forth game which featured 14 lead changes, the Celtics finally managed to protect a late lead and seal a victory in the final frame.

Pelicans forward Anthony Davis scored a game-high 34 points, while Jared Sullinger led the way for the Celtics with 24 points and 10 rebounds.

Here are five things we learned in the game:

Davis is a superstar

Given the Celtics’ inability to defend big men, it was expected Davis would dominate. For the first three quarters, the Celtics did a solid job of containing him, limiting him to 21 points, but in the fourth quarter, the NBA’€™s best player not named LeBron James took over, scoring 13 points over the final 12 minutes.

Beyond the box score, Davis impacted the game with his mere presence in the paint at both ends. The Celtics rarely drove the lane out of respect to his shot-blocking ability (three blocks), and in defending the pick and roll, the Celtics overplayed Davis, leaving Eric Gordon alone to score a number of points at the rim.

Sullinger is ready to step up

With the recent trades, Sullinger is now the most talented player on the Celtics. Just like Rajon Rondo and Jeff Green before him, Sullinger was the final Celtic to be announced during introductions. Sullinger had a great night, scoring 27 points on 9-of-17 shooting. He was dominant on the offensive glass, accounting for six of his 10 rebounds. He did an excellent job using his large posterior to keep Davis from getting position deep in the paint.

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Jared Sullinger: ‘We can’t play hero ball [because] we don’t have heroes’ 01.06.15 at 8:58 am ET
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Jared Sullinger played one season with Paul Pierce. But that one season was enough to learn a very valuable lesson from the former captain.

One man can’t win a game. He can make a shot or haul in a rebound or make a big defensive play. But Paul Pierce learned from Doc Rivers at an early age that “hero ball” – the act of putting your team on your shoulders and trying to do it all yourself.

Monday night was yet another example of that for the 11-21 Celtics as they fell behind 50-36 at the half and by 22 in the second half before making a meaningless run in a 104-95 loss to the lowly Hornets at TD Garden.

Down 22, Stevens took most of his regulars out and turned to his bench, led by 13 points apiece from rookie James Young and Jae Crowder. But it wasn’t enough. The lesson?

“It’s a natural habit from a ton of great players,” Sullinger said. “These are all great players. We didn’t get to the league by accident. We’re great players and our natural ability comes out and we try to make that home run play. But as a team, that hurts you. As a team, that hurts you. It’s not just one individual, it’s everybody. Sometimes, I do it. We just have to step outside of ourselves and put he team first and then the home run plays will naturally spit themselves out in our system.

“We have to understand that one play is not going to make up an 18-point deficit,” Sullinger said. “That’s definitely what it’s called. It’s called hero ball. We can’t play hero ball. We don’t have heroes.

“Being a hero makes you a failure, makes you a failure. You can’t play one on five at all. As a team, the system is going to spit out who’s going to score, who’s night it is. You just have to play basketball and do better.”

Brad Stevens tried to make the same point.

“That’s the type of coach he is but as a team, we just have to do better,” Sullinger said.

Sullinger made a point after Monday’s 104-95 loss shows the weaknesses a fragile, young team has.

“No, not at all. Not at all,” Belichick said. “It’s natural. If you look around at everybody in this room was a big impact in college basketball or a big impact at wherever they played. And, their ability of us as individuals automatically says, ‘let me put the team on my back.’ As a team, you can’t do that. It’s not just one person, it’s everybody.

Look at Evan. He was a national player of the year. Tyler was an 18-10 guy at North Carolina. Marcus Smart was the man at Oklahoma State. James Young was the man at Kentucky. Jeff Green at Georgetown. I could go on and on and on. Everybody at one point was a focal point.”
Re: James Young back in: ‘€œYea all his hard work he’€™s been putting in. Going back and forth from Maine to Boston and all the hard work he’€™s been putting in throughout the couple weeks is finally showing. I’€™m so proud and happy for him and the best is yet to come.’€

Read More: Boston Celtics, Charlotte Hornets, Hero Ball, Jared Sullinger
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 »

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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
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