|Fast Break: Rajon Rondo, Celtics tame Raptors||11.17.12 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.”
Beginning with the game against the Cavaliers on Feb. 28, Bass started every game for the Celtics at power forward, including the last 34 in the regular season and all 20 in the postseason.
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.”
|Brandon Bass: ‘When my name is called, I’ll be ready’||10.25.12 at 4:54 pm ET|
WALTHAM — Celtics coach Doc Rivers indicated he already knows whether Brandon Bass or Jared Sullinger will start against the defending NBA champion Heat on opening night, but he’s not showing his cards, and Bass doesn’t seem interested in discussing whether he’s in that five-card draw or not, either. If he even knows.
“I’m confident in my work ethic — that when my name is called, I’ll be ready,” said Bass. “You’ve got to take care of what you can take care of, and that’s what I’m going to do. I’m going to continue to work hard and do what I do. That’s what got me here, and that’s how I’m going to continue to grow as a player.”
When the curtains came up on Thursday’s practice, Bass wore a green t-shirt along with the four known starters: Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, Courtney Lee and Rajon Rondo. (Jason Terry conceded what everyone already assumed: He’ll spare Rondo and Lee off the bench in Avery Bradley‘s absence.) Sullinger wore white.
“I think that’s all Doc,” added Bass. “Doc sees that we have a talented group and we have more pieces than we had last year, and he’s just trying to see which group works best with who and things of that nature. But, being a player, you just play, continue to work on your game and just be able to make a play when your name is called.”
|Irish Coffee: Limiting Doc Rivers’ Celtics lineup options||10.19.12 at 5:21 pm ET|
Celtics coach Doc Rivers has options. Kind of like Leonardo DiCaprio has options. It’s hard to choose from the depth and versatility of talent at his disposal, so he tries every combination at his disposal. Eventually, the cream rises to the top, and that appears to be what has happened over the C’s past two preseason games against the Nets. In other words, Rivers may have found his Gisele Bundchen, Bar Rafaeli and Blake Lively of lineups.
In the first three-plus quarters of the two games against Brooklyn — before Micah Downs, Kris Joseph, Robert Kurz or Fab Melo made obligatory fourth-quarter appearances — Rivers used 23 different lineups. Other than starters Rajon Rondo, Courtney Lee, Paul Pierce, Jared Sullinger and Kevin Garnett, no unit played longer than 8:36 together. Before making any observations, here are the combinations, playing time and plus/minus statistics.
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