|Fast Break: Celtics extend win streak to four games||01.09.13 at 9:54 pm ET|
Riding the best game of Jared Sullinger‘s young NBA career, the Celtics won a season-best fourth straight game, 87-79 against the Suns, and improved to 4-1 since Avery Bradley’s return on Jan. 2.
Sullinger (12 points) grabbed a career-high 16 rebounds to record the second double-double of his rookie season, as the C’s (18-17) climbed above .500 for the first time since Christmas Day.
In a balanced effort, Sullinger, Jeff Green (14 points), Jason Terry (13 points), Kevin Garnett (10 points), Bradley (9 points), Rajon Rondo (8 points, 8 assists), Paul Pierce (7 points, 7 rebounds), Brandon Bass (6 points, 5 rebounds) and Courtney Lee (6 points) all scored between 6-14 points.
WHAT WENT RIGHT
Green machine: On back-to-back second-quarter possessions, Green threw down ferocious dunks on separate Suns to hand the Celtics a 38-33 lead and force a Phoenix timeout. The first came on a dribble drive over old friend Jermaine O’Neal, and he slammed the second on a fast break oop from Bradley over Michael Beasley.
Rotating schedule: Actually, the entire Celtics bench once again performed admirably. Green, Terry and Sullinger were the C’s three highest scorers as the reserves outscored their Suns counterparts 47-16. Bradley’s return has helped coach Doc Rivers find some consistency in his rotations, and the Celtics appear to be responding to their more clearly defined roles.
On the defense: The Celtics are slowly climbing the NBA’s defensive ranks. After allowing 98.1 points per game through December, the C’s have gave up an average of just 86.3 points in Bradley’s first four games back. In his fifth, the Suns didn’t reach 70 points until 4:15 remaining in the fourth quarter. Even lineups that contain Green and Terry, who aren’t exactly known for their defensive prowess, appear to be grasping the C’s defensive schemes.
WHAT WENT WRONG
Dudley do right: Quietly, Boston College product Jared Dudley has carved out a nice NBA career for himself. He’s averaging double-digit points for the third straight season, shooting 40.5 percent from 3-point range in his five-year career and dishing out a career-high 2.7 assists per game. Against the Celtics, he amassed 14 points, 10 rebounds and five assists, doing all the little things to keep the Suns in the game.
Bigs problem: It wasn’t a matter of whether the length of the Suns frontcourt would hurt the Celtics; it was a question of how much. The 6-foot-11, 240-pound Marcin Gortat and 6-foot-9, 245-pound Luis Scola entered the game averaging 24.5 points and 15.1 rebounds between them, and they combined to surpass both those numbers against the Celtics (28 points, 22 rebounds). In all, the Suns totaled 50 points in the paint.
Aunt Chippy: Whether the Celtics instigate it or not, there’s been some serious chippiness in their recent stretch of games. Two games after Rondo’s suspension for bumping a ref and two nights after Carmelo Anthony grew infuriated with Garnett, Rondo and Suns forward P.J. Tucker logged technicals and both Green and Courtney Lee took hard falls to the parquet floor. While some of their success can be attributed to the intensity, there’s a line between aggressiveness and overaggressiveness, and the Celtics have been riding it.
|Fueled by ‘chip on my shoulder,’ Celtics rookie Jared Sullinger earns status as steal of 2012 NBA draft||11.17.12 at 7:01 pm ET|
When Jared Sullinger slipped to the Celtics at No. 21 overall, many pundits quickly declared him the steal of the 2012 NBA draft. And as much as you can make such a declaration 10 games into this season, they were right.
After averaging 17.2 points and 10.2 boards as an Ohio State sophomore, Sullinger recorded the first double-double of his NBA career on Saturday afternoon, amassing 12 points (5-8 FG, 2-2 FT) and 11 rebounds in 26 minutes off the bench in the C’s 107-89 victory against the Atlantic Division rival Raptors.
“I’m used to having double-doubles,” he said, “so it feels good to carry it over to the next level.”
Sullinger’s performance came on the heels of playing a season-low eight minutes on Thursday, when he was benched after giving up an offensive rebound in the C’s 102-97 loss to the Nets.
“He knows his place,” said Celtics coach Doc Rivers, whose first-year players rarely see the floor. “I think he wasn’t happy about not playing against Brooklyn … but he just knows how to play. He’s a calming effect at times when you put him in, and I don’t think I’ve ever said that about a rookie. It’s nice to have that.”
Sullinger raised his season averages to 3.9 points (51.6 FG%, 100.0 FT%) and 4.1 rebounds in 16 boards a night, but more importantly the Celtics earned a sixth win in their last eight games, and he’s contributed to all of them. When you look at all 14 bigs drafted in the first round, Sullinger is the most productive on any winning team.
“I’m just doing my job,” said Sullinger, who faces No. 9 overall pick Andre Drummond on Sunday. “I could care less. It put a chip on my shoulder, but I could care less how that goes. I’m just out there playing basketball. It’s a great situation. I could’ve been on some other team, worrying about not winning, instead of just playing basketball and being able to have a legitimate shot at winning every night, so it’s a blessing to be here, honestly.”
Here’s how Sullinger stacks up to his Class of 2012 peers: Read the rest of this entry »
|Fast Break: Rajon Rondo, Celtics tame Raptors||at 2:59 pm ET|
Rajon Rondo didn’t just reach double-digit assists for his 33rd straight game, he notched 20 dimes for the second time in nine games, and the Celtics rolled to a 107-89 Atlantic Division victory against the Raptors.
Rondo reached that plateau while playing just 32 minutes and sitting the final 10:33 of the C’s first comfortable victory of the season (and, obviously, Gino’s first appearance in the Garden this year).
Jared Sullinger (12 points, 11 rebounds) posted his first career double-double, Jason Terry reached 20 points for the first time this season and the triumvirate of Leandro Barbosa, Chris Wilcox and Jeff Green all scored at least eight points off the bench, giving Paul Pierce (19 points in 25 minutes) and Kevin Garnett (15 points in 17 minutes) the rest they’ll need in Detroit on Sunday.
WHAT WENT RIGHT
Early Bird special: Despite the 12:30 p.m. Saturday start, the C’s Big Three awoke early. Garnett started 3-for-3 in his first five-minute stint, Pierce netted eight points in the opening 10 minutes and Rondo showed no ill effects from the sprained right ankle that kept him out of Thursday’s game, finishing the first quarter with seven assists. As a result, the Celtics shot 73.7 percent as a team and established a 30-17 lead through 12 minutes.
Domesticated dinosaurs: Raptors attack in packs, like hyenas. Unless they’re the Toronto kind. Even when the Celtics fell into their usual jump-shooting comfort zone, at least they were open shots. Wide open shots, to be clear. Toronto imports Jose Calderon, Andrea Bargnani and Jonas Valanciunas were particular dreadful defensively. That repeatedly left Wilcox open for lobs, inflating Rondo’s ballooning assist total.
Tapping Sully: In recent games, Celtics coach Doc Rivers has avoided giving Jared Sullinger minutes without Garnett on the floor, but some Brandon Bass foul trouble forced the issue. And Sullinger delivered, grabbing six first-half boards off the bench and establishing a rare rebounding advantage for the C’s.
|Irish Coffee: Celtics no longer closing by committee?||11.13.12 at 12:17 pm ET|
As much as Celtics coach Doc Rivers says, “It doesn’t matter who starts; it matters who finishes,” he may never convince his players and their egos, but his actions speak just as clearly as his words. While the starting shooting guard and power forward turnstile continues twirling, Rivers plays matchups and hot hands down the stretch.
The C’s have played five straight games decided by six points or less, and the closing five has been as inconsistent as the team’s overall performance. Just as Courtney Lee vs. Jason Terry and Brandon Bass vs. Jared Sullinger battle for starting roles, Rivers has used just about every combination imaginable of those four plus Leandro Barbosa and Jeff Green at the 2 and 4 spots in the final five minutes of the fourth quarter of those games plus the five-minute overtime period against the Wizards. Here’s the minutes breakdown.
FINAL 5 MINUTES OF 4TH QUARTER (AND OVERTIME)
Celtics 89, Wizards 86: Terry 3:09; Lee 2:03 | Sullinger 3:25; Green 0:54; Bass 0:48
Celtics 100, Wizards 94 (OT): Terry 5:00 | Bass 4:51; Green 0:09 (OT: Terry 5:00; Bass 5:00)
76ers 106, Celtics 100: Terry 5:00 | Barbosa 2:58, Green 2:02
Celtics 96, Bucks 92: Lee 4:40; Terry 0:22 | Bass 3:12; Green 1:23; Sullinger 0:01
Celtics 101, Bulls 95: Terry 5:00 | Bass 5:00
TOTAL (OUT OF 30 MINUTES): Terry 18:31; Lee 6:43; Barbosa 2:58 | Bass 14:03; Green 4:28; Sullinger 3:26
If you need more proof Rivers is willing to try anything, look at the lineups that finished the Sixers game alongside Rajon Rondo, Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett. He played Terry for the entirety of the final five minutes and split the fifth spot between Barbosa and Green. But it’s becoming clearer who he trusts more.
|Why Kevin Garnett comparing Jared Sullinger to Kendrick Perkins matters||11.06.12 at 5:17 pm ET|
It could be coincidence that Kevin Garnett compared Jared Sullinger to Kendrick Perkins three days after the rookie earned his first career NBA start for a coach who rarely even plays first-year guys, but it’s probably not.
“Jared understands what we’re doing,” said Garnett. “He’s a no-nonsense guy — not that I’m shooting anything at the other guys — but the young fella comes in, does his job and does what you tell him. He’s a great rebounder, his IQ is unbelievable, he can pass the ball and he reminds me a lot of Perk. Obviously, he’s not the defensive player that Perk was, but as far as IQ, moving the ball and being unselfish, he’s a great teammate.”
Don’t forget the Doc Rivers-ism that the Celtics never lost a playoff series with his starting five of Perkins, Garnett, Paul Pierce, Rajon Rondo and Ray Allen. Whether you consider Perkins overrated or not, he played a role for the Celtics: rebound, defend and finish around the basket. Sullinger fills that role.
“It means a lot, especially coming from Kevin,” said Sullinger of the comparison to Perkins. “When Kevin gives anybody praise, he really likes you, I guess, so it’s a blessing. But at the same time I’ve got to keep working. That’s pretty much my motto: Just to keep working.”
WALTHAM — It wasn’t so much a complaint as it was a statement of fact.
Brandon Bass was asked after Monday’s practice how much of a challenge it will be for him to go from starting role to the bench and back.
“That’s life, man,” said Bass. “You wake up, you don’t know what to expect. Sometimes it’ll be like that. You’ve just got to make the best of it.”
He started the first two games this season before being swapped out to the bench for rookie Jared Sullinger Saturday night in Washington.
It’s not like Bass didn’t see this coming as Rivers informed him that the Celtics would use at least three different starting lineups this season, based on matchups.
“You know what? We have so much going on,” Bass said. “If it’s going to be my role to come off the bench, then once when get the bench chemistry down, and put the ball in the right player’s hands, then I think it will benefit us as a unit and as a team.”
“It’s expected when you have a new group with a bunch of new guys.”
Bass also gave an indication of what Doc Rivers expects from him this season.
“For me to grow here, I have to be more active. We have a bunch of options. Doc said to me, it’s Rondo, Paul and Kevin and Jeff they’re going to go through so I have to be more active in everything on both ends of the ball.”
|Box and 2: Inside Celtics, Bucks and Wizards, oh my||11.05.12 at 2:39 pm ET|
— Called upon by Doc Rivers Friday night to protect the paint against the Bucks, when smaller lineups weren’t working, Darko Milicic played 4:30 of the first quarter. He missed his only shot — an air-balled baby left hook — and committed more turnovers (2) than he totaled rebounds (1) or blocks (0). Then, he didn’t play Saturday.
Kevin Garnett: “We’re still playing with the chemistry. We have different lineups in which Doc is playing with simultaneously, and we’re still working. No one said this was going to be an easy process.”
Translation: “The Darko Experiment is called that for a reason. Let’s just hope it doesn’t blow up in our face.”
— Over the weekend, Brandon Bass finished a minus-11 in 40:52 without Jared Sullinger on the floor. The Celtics outscored the opponent in just two of his 10 stints sans Sullinger — by one in the final 3:53 of the first quarter against the Wizards and by two Terry free throws in the final 1:35 of that game. Without Bass on the floor, Sullinger finished a plus-14 in 33:29, and the C’s outscored opponents in five of those eight stints. (In case you were wondering, the two played 14:40 together, finished a minus-9 and only outscored opponents once in six stints.)
Rivers (via the Herald): ‘[Sullinger] brings a different component, more importantly rebounding. He knows how to play without the ball. He’s a great passer. He blends well with our starting group.’
Translation: “Sorry Brandon, but you’re going to see a lot more Sullinger in the starting lineup.”
Latest from Bleacher Report
- Why Celtics Will Be Better Than Expected in 2014-15
- Should Celtics Fans Buy or Sell Rondo's Hot Start?
- Lessons Learned from Celtics so Far
- Why Green Will Finally Succeed in Boston
- C's Big Offense Showing a Sign of Things to Come?
- Green's Transition to PF Could Reshape NBA Career Arc
- Could Rondo's Play Increase the Chances He's Dealt?