|Fast Break: Rajon Rondo-less Celtics defeat Heat||01.27.13 at 4:08 pm ET|
Ray Allen returned to Boston, and it wasn’t even the biggest story of Sunday’s battle between the Eastern Conference rival Celtics and Heat. While news of Rajon Rondo‘s ACL tear trickled out around halftime, the C’s submitted their most impressive performance of the season in a 100-98 double-overtime victory.
WHAT WENT RIGHT
Starting Sully: Celtics rookie Jared Sullinger‘s production was finally too much for coach Doc Rivers to ignore. The C’s are 9.3 points better when he’s on the floor than when he sits, the best of any player on the team, so his replacement of Brandon Bass in the starting lineup was practically inevitable. His rebounding, ability to score on the inside and willingness to hit the floor for loose balls helped the Celtics remain tied going into halftime.
Brazilian Blur: Likewise, Leandro Barbosa gave the Celtics an energetic lift off the bench, scoring seven points in 10 first-half minutes. Entering the game, Barbosa’s 15.8 points per 36 minutes ranked third on the team behind only Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett. While Jason Terry continues to struggle, there’s no reason Rivers shouldn’t give his minutes to Barbosa to kickstart a woeful Celtics offense.
“Pitbulls”: Apparently, that’s the nickname for the starting backcourt of Avery Bradley and Courtney Lee, who started in place of the injured Rondo. They lived up to the moniker, holding their Heat counterparts Dwyane Wade and Mario Chalmers to subpar nights. Even on a tough shooting night for both, their defense made a definite impact on the game. That’s what the Celtics will have to rely upon going forward.
Heart of a champion: With Rondo out for the season, Celtics veterans Paul Pierce (17 points, 13 rebounds, 10 assists) and Kevin Garnett (24 points, 11 rebounds, 4 assists) each came up huge in the final minutes of regulation and both overtimes, punctuating a valiant effort from a team without its brightest star. Pierce’s sweet spin move past Allen in the lane and Garnett’s 18-foot jumper gave the Celtics an 85-81 lead in the final minute of the fourth quarter. Pierce also fed Garnett for a pair of buckets to tie the game 93-93 with 1:14 left in the first overtime. And Pierce buried a jumper over LeBron James to give the C’s a 99-98 lead with 30.4 seconds left in double OT.
|Doc Rivers hesitantly starts Jared Sullinger in desperate move to shake up his Celtics||at 12:39 pm ET|
And sometimes that means making moves you don’t want to make.
Sunday, Rivers took Jared Sullinger out of his comfort zone off the bench and placed him in the starting lineup to add some energy to a team that has lost six straight.
“More because Jared is playing well,” Rivers said. “Honestly, I don’t love it because I worry about our bench. Our bench has been off the charts and that may affect them. But we’re doing it because he’s been playing so well.”
Sullinger has hit a speed bump in his last two games, being held scoreless in the double-overtime game against the Hawks Friday night and scoring just seven points with three rebounds in 15 minutes Thursday against the Knicks.
“Not much,” Rivers said. “Just the way our starters were playing, I thought our lineup needed a shaking up. I’m really doing it cautiously because I just think at some point our starters will find themselves. The one thing I always worry about is our bench. Our bench has been off the charts. The one thing about the Atlanta game, it was a six-point [lead] when they came in and it was 27 points when they left. You don’t hear that a lot from a bench.”
“We just took the game for granted.”
|Paul Pierce: Jared Sullinger at All-Star weekend is a ‘no-brainer’||01.14.13 at 9:15 pm ET|
Entering Monday, there wasn’t a hotter rookie in the NBA than Jared Sullinger. The first-year player out of Ohio State was a huge reason the Celtics bench had awoken from its slumber and helped the Celtics run off five straight wins. Sullinger had back-to-back double-doubles against the Suns and Rockets and is averaging 25.5 minutes per game in the first six games of January.
Sullinger is fourth among all rookies in rebounding at 5.9 rebounds per game and tied for fourth in double-doubles with three. But perhaps most significant to the Celtics is the contribution he’s made as a rookie on a team with championship expectations. Anthony Davis (New Orleans), Andre Drummond (Detroit) and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (Charlotte) are all on teams that will likely be watching the playoffs on TV in the spring.
Celtics captain Paul Pierce said there is no doubt in his mind Sullinger should be part of NBA All-Star weekend activities when a team of the best rookies take on a team of the best second-year players in Houston.
“I think that’s like a no-brainer,” Pierce said with a smile. “In the rookie class, I can’t even name five quality rookies. [Sullinger] is playing well and playing significantly for the ball club. I definitely think he should be there.”
|Jared Sullinger ‘happy to hack’ while Celtics winning||01.12.13 at 1:29 am ET|
Jared Sullinger may be soft spoken but he certainly isn’t shy.
For the fifth time in 36 games, the Celtics rookie fouled out of a game. But all of the fouls are rolling off his back during a five-game winning streak that has transformed the Celtics from a 14-17 team to a 19-17 club that is starting to click and move up the Eastern Conference standings.
“As long as we’re winning I’m happy. Happy to hack,” Sullinger said with a big smile. “No biggie.”
Sullinger wasn’t laughing with 10:01 left in the game Friday when he picked up his fifth foul, with the Celtics leading 83-69. The Rockets scored the next 12 points.
But earlier in the game, Sullinger was the biggest reason the Celtics built a double-digit lead. He had 14 points and eight rebounds off the bench in the first half. That was the same number the Celtics starters had combined late in the first half.
“It’s coming easier,” Sullinger said. “Obviously, it’s been 36 games, so I should be used to the NBA by now. It’s just me and my comfort zone right now.”
“He’s playing better, so the coach has more confidence in him,” Doc Rivers added. “That’s [No.] 1. I said it early in the year, when he’s on the floor, he does the right stuff. And a lot of stuff you don’t see, just being able to throw him the ball. How many rookies have we ever thrown the ball to at the top of the circle, and he decides which way he wants to go with it? He just has a great calm about him. He helps us. Especially with that second unit, because you gotta always have a passing big in our offense, and he gives us that extra passing big.”
Sullinger finished with 14 points and 11 rebounds, his second straight double-double.
‘We’re just playing hard, we’re in a groove right now. Five games, you know obviously we’re in a great groove right now,” Sullinger said. ‘I’m just playing hard, that’s all it is.’
|Jared Sullinger and Paul Pierce get revenge on the Rockets||01.11.13 at 9:58 pm ET|
Paul Pierce scored 23 points while Jared Sullinger had 14 points and 11 rebounds off the bench as the Celtics withstood a late charge from the Rockets to win their fifth straight, 103-91, Friday night at TD Garden. Kevin Garnett added 17 points and eight rebounds and Courtney Lee had 14 points for the Celtics, who improve to 19-17 on the season.
James Harden had 21 and Jeremy Lin added 12 points for the Rockets, who had to settle for a season split of their series with the Celtics. Houston beat Boston, 101-89, on Dec. 14 at the Toyota Center in Houston.
Early on, it was a game of runs. The Celtics jumped out to an 8-4 lead before the Rockets responded with a 13-0 spurt, as Jeremy Lin and James Harden hit 3-pointers in the spurt. But the Celtics came back with a 14-2 run of their own as Jeff Green and Courtney Lee hit consecutive threes. Boston took a 24-21 lead after 12 minutes.
Sullinger took over in the second quarter and led a bench effort that dominated for the second straight game. Sullinger had 14 points and eight rebounds in the first half. Those were the same numbers posted by Celtics starters combined until Pierce hit a three with 1:27 left in the second quarter. The Celtics bench had a season-high 36 points in the first half, outscoring the Houston reserves, 36-9, and taking a 53-45 halftime lead.
While the Celtics were held without a free throw in the first half, the Rockets self-destructed at the line, converting just 5-of-12 from the charity stripe. The Rockets finished the game a miserable 12-of-29 from the line.
Pierce came out on fire in the third quarter scoring eight of Boston’s first nine points in a 9-0 run that stretched the lead to 17. Pierce finished the third with 11 points and the Celtics led 78-66 going into the fourth.
The Rockets finally heated up in the fourth quarter and took advantage of Celtics sloppiness and a key foul. Sullinger picked up his fifth foul with 10:01 left and the Celtics leading 83-69. Houston scored the next 12 points thanks to several turnovers. The run was finished off when Harden fed Parsons for a one-handed dunk over Pierce with 7:22 left in the fourth, cutting Boston’s lead to two, 83-81.
But it was Pierce to the rescue. Pierce ended the Rockets’ 12-0 run with a basket with just under seven minutes left. Moments later, he was fouled on his layup and converted the three-point play to put Boston up, 92-82, with 5:51 left. A Garnett fadeaway jumper with 4:42 put the Celtics up, 94-82.
|Jared Sullinger: ‘We’re the Underground Railroads’||01.10.13 at 12:57 am ET|
Over the years, we’ve been treated to KG’s lectures on everything from zoology to culinary arts to technology, so there’s no telling how he’ll grade this attempt at an historical metaphor from Sullinger.
“It’s a lot of hard work,” Sullinger said after recording the second double-double of his career (12 points, 16 rebounds) in an 87-79 win over the Suns, “but the train doesn’t stop here. We’ve got to keep going. We’ve got to make it to the next stop, after that the next stop, after that the next stop, so we’re the Underground Railroads.”
|Kevin Garnett talks Jared Sullinger but not Carmelo Anthony||01.09.13 at 11:34 pm ET|
Kevin Garnett thinks Jared Sullinger is playing like a “madman” on the glass. And that’s just what these Celtics need right now. On Wednesday night, the rookie out of Ohio State had 16 rebounds and 12 points and powered the Celtics to an 87-79 win over the Phoenix Suns at TD Garden.
What makes a great rebounder?
‘First off is effort,” Garnett began. “Anytime you’re playing defense, anytime youre stealing the ball, rebounding’¦all that’s effort. Obviously his timing, body positioning, he has the perfect body for rebounding. He can take the pounding and bump a little bit and he has great anticipation when it comes to the ball, and he has great hands. Put all that in the pot, you got Jared Sullinger, that’s what makes him great.’
Apparently, Sullinger has been paying close attention to Garnett when learning how to respond, using his words carefully and economically when asked about his secret to good rebounding.
‘You gotta have a go get it attitude when it comes to rebounding and that’s what I have,” a confident Sullinger said.
Sullinger is just one part of a Celtics bench that carried the load Wednesday night, as Sullinger, Jason Terry and Jeff Green were all in double figures in scoring. But Garnett pointed out another member of the bench who shouldn’t be overlooked.
‘I think the combination of Courtney Lee and no disrespect to Rondo or any other guards we got, but Courtney Lee and Avery are impacting the game from a defensive stand point from the guard position where it all trickles down to all the forwards,” Garnett said. “When we see them up like that, we get up and then we up to what we call major pressure. Any time you can pressure the guards and take time off the shot clock, you put the other team into a panic and now they gotta go into a pic and roll versus some play the were gonna call on us.
‘I don’t know, you know. But they’ll definitely start to make some noise. I think Doc’s starting to understand the rotation he’s going with, and I think the rotation we are going with, he’s confident in it, and everybody kind of knows their niche right now.’
But as for his thoughts on Carmelo Anthony and his one-game suspension for waiting outside the Celtics locker room and team bus to confront him after Monday’s game, Garnett had only this to say: “Okay, you all have a good night, okay?”
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