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Rajon Rondo, Jeff Green, Kris Humphries power Celtics over Pistons 03.09.14 at 8:32 pm ET
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Rajon Rondo dishes one of his 18 assists Sunday night against the Pistons. (AP)

Rajon Rondo dishes one of his 18 assists Sunday night against the Pistons. (AP)

Rajon Rondo dished out a season-high 18 assists to go with 11 points and the Celtics rode a red-hot third quarter from the field to post a 118-111 win over the Pistons Sunday night at TD Garden. Jeff Green scored 27 while Kelly Olynyk provided a big first-half spark off the bench, scoring 13 of his 18 points in the opening 24 minutes.

Rondo’s 18 helpers were all the more remarkable considering he had no turnovers, just two assists shy of matching the NBA record for assists in a game without committing a turnover, achieved three times.

Kris Humphries added his sixth double-double of the season, scoring 20 points on 9-of-13 shooting, while grabbing 10 rebounds. The Celtics improved to 22-41, winning consecutive games for the first time since beating Orlando, Philadelphia and Sacramento to open February. Josh Smith led Detroit with 28 while Greg Monroe added 22 for the Pistons, who fell to 24-39. The Celtics are just five games out of the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference with 19 games remaining.

As was the case in Friday’s win over the Nets, the Celtics took a lead after the first quarter and were in command most of the way. Jared Sullinger’s layup with 31.3 seconds left in the first gave the Celtics a 24-22 lead, an advantage they would not relinquish.

Green scored 11 of his 27 in the second quarter as the Celtics took 57-49 halftime lead.

The Celtics came out blazing hot in the third, making 11 of their first 16 shots to open a 17-point lead. After shooting just 2-for-14 from long range in the first half, the Celtics drilled 8-of-12 from long range to put up 31 points in the first nine minutes of the quarter. The Celtics, thanks to 68 percent (15-of-22) shooting, scored 38 points in the quarter taking a 95-84 lead into the fourth.

The 38 points was the third-highest total in any quarter this season, behind the 42 in the first quarter against the Pistons on Dec. 18 and the 39 against the Bucks on Dec. 3.

While the Celtics were on fire offensively, they were leaking oil badly on defense, allowing 35 points as Detroit kept the game within range by shooting 60 percent from the field.

The 73-point quarter was a throwback to the old days of the ABA when little defense was played and open shots were the norm.

Green’s ill-fated behind-the-back pass to Will Bynum set up a Pistons fast break layup and three-point play on the other end as the Pistons drew to within eight, 95-87, in the opening 90 seconds. The two teams went back and forth. Josh Smith hit a three with 4:43 left to cut the Boston lead to nine before Jeff Green answered on the next possession.

Another Smith three cut the lead to eight, 111-103 with 2:53 left. Will Bynum hit two free throws with 2:29 left to make it 111-105. Rondo found Humphries under the basket for a nice reverse layup to make it 113-105. Bynum converted another pair of free throws with 1:10 left to make it a six-point game. His two free throws with 48.2 seconds left cut the lead to four, 113-109.

The Celtics will leave Monday after practice for a game at Indiana Tuesday night. They return to Boston to play the Knicks on Wednesday night at TD Garden. Head coach Brad Stevens indicated before the game that Rondo will likely not play in the second game of back-to-backs the rest of the season and is expected to sit out the Knicks game if he plays Tuesday night.

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Kelly Olynyk starting to figure out NBA 02.13.14 at 9:25 pm ET
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This is the Kelly Olynyk that Danny Ainge saw all along.

Heading into his first All-Star weekend, the rookie is showing real signs of finally getting into an NBA groove.

In 31 minutes Wednesday night, Olynyk had 15 points and 10 rebounds in 31 minutes off the bench. On Monday night, in a win in Milwaukee, the rookie out of Gonzaga had 14 points and 11 rebounds in 21 minutes. He’ll take the momentum with him to New Orleans for the Rising Stars game Friday night, joining teammate Jared Sullinger on Team Webber.

In six games in February, Olynyk is averaging eight points, 6.7 rebounds and 20 minutes off the bench. Drafted 13th overall by the Mavericks last June and immediately acquired by Ainge in a trade, Olynyk was seen as an athletic big man who could draw bigs out of the paint, shoot effectively and create his own shot on drives to the basket.

“He’€™s starting to get a good feel for [the offense],” coach Brad Stevens said Wednesday of Olynyk. “There’€™s a base offense, there’€™s a set offense, and then there’€™s play-in and space and understanding and picking where your opportunities are when you have those kind of structured-but-unstructured opportunities. And he’€™s really starting to figure that out. On all the pick and rolls where he’€™s playing off, whether he’€™s rolling, whether he’€™s picking and popping, whether he’€™s playing in the seam and then when he catches, where does he go from there?

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Jared Sullinger, Kelly Olynyk on same team for 2014 Rising Stars Challenge 02.07.14 at 9:57 am ET
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Jared Sullinger.

Jared Sullinger

During a draft of the 18 best rookies and second-year players Thursday evening, Celtics Jared Sullinger and Kelly Olynyk were placed on the same team for the 2014 Rising Stars Challenge.

The two teams, which are managed by retired NBA players Chris Webber and Grant Hill, will face off next Friday night during NBA All-Star Weekend in New Orleans.

The draft took players out of a pool determined by the NBA’€™s assistant coaches. Webber picked Sullinger in the fifth round, and Olynyk, who was one of the last four players chosen, was selected via a blind draw.

Full rosters:

Team Hill

  • Damian Lillard (Portland)
  • Bradley Beal (Washington)
  • Andre Drummond (Detroit)
  • Harrison Barnes (Golden State)
  • Terrence Jones (Houston)
  • Giannis Antetokounmpo (Milwaukee)
  • Jonas Valanciunas (Toronto)
  • Dion Waiters (Cleveland)
  • Pero Antic (Atlanta)

Team Webber

  • Anthony Davis (New Orleans)
  • Michael Carter-Williams (Philadelphia)
  • Tim Hardaway Jr. (New York)
  • Trey Burke (Utah)
  • Jared Sullinger (Boston)
  • Mason Plumlee (Brooklyn)
  • Victor Oladipo (Orlando)
  • Steven Adams (Oklahoma City)
  • Kelly Olynyk (Boston)
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Bounceback: Kelly Olynyk enjoys breakthrough game 01.18.14 at 1:15 am ET
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Kelly Olynyk

Kelly Olynyk

After the Celtics win against the Raptors on Wednesday night that featured a zero-point output from Kelly Olynyk, Boston owner Stephen Pagliuca approached the 7-footer at his locker.

Pagliuca wanted to instill confidence in the Gonzaga product whom the Celtics took in the first round of the 2013 NBA Draft to offset the loss of Kevin Garnett. Olynyk’s lack of aggression was not limited to the Toronto game. His zero-point effort just capped off a rough stretch of play. From Jan. 2 to Jan. 15 (nine games), Olynyk averaged 14.5 minutes per game and 4.3 points per game on 39 percent shooting. His boss encouraged him to abandon his on-court reticence.

“€œ[He said] be confident, be aggressive, take shots when they’€™re there,” Olynyk said after Boston’€™s 107-104 loss to the Lakers on Friday.

Olynyk received that message and translated it to the court in a big way against the Lakers. He totaled a game-high and career-high 25 points, and tacked on seven assists and five rebounds.

“€œI thought he was good,” Celtics coach Brad Stevens said. “[He] took advantage of some match ups in the interior and then also got his jump shot rolling.”

The timid, unaggressive Olynyk who has been prominent at times this year vanished against Los Angeles. He was efficient around the rim and creative with his passing from the top of the key. Olynyk made his only 3-pointer in the first half, but played more of a facilitating role, tallying five assists in the first 24 minutes of the game. But in the second half, the Lakers had no answer for the center, as he scorched their frontline for 16 points. Read the rest of this entry »

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Stat man: Addressing Celtics’ big problem 11.05.13 at 2:12 pm ET
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The biggest problem facing these Celtics is the lack of a point guard, but that’s a story for a different day, since there’s no viable solution on the current roster until Rajon Rondo returns. Sure, a little more Phil Pressey might help, but is an undersized, undrafted rookie point guard really going to solve this thing?

So, let’s address a problem that Brad Stevens could possibly bandage with the current roster.

The Celtics are the NBA’s worst defensive rebounding team, allowing opponents to grab 33.9 percent of available offensive boards — a number that would rank among the worst in history over a full season. Opponents attempt 39.3 field goals per game within 8 feet of the basket; only the Blazers (43.3) are worse. The opposition scores 20.8 second-chance points per game; only the Nuggets (23.0) are worse. And just four teams (Wizards, Blazers, Clippers, Bucks) give up more than the C’s 44.5 points allowed in the paint per game.

The C’s interior defense needs work. Vitor Faverani, Brandon Bass, Jared Sullinger, Kelly Olynyk and Kris Humphries are allowing an average of 26.5 attempts at the rim, where opponents are shooting 52.8 percent.

The two biggest offenders, naturally, are rookies. Faverani is allowing 11 field goal attempts at the rim per game. Eleven! Per game! That’s the fifth-worst number in the league. He’s grabbed just 49.2 percent of his 14.8 rebound chances per game. The only other player with as many opportunities to snatch fewer than 50 percent is Al Jefferson, who hasn’t played since aggravating an ankle injury on opening night.

Meanwhile, the opposition is shooting 76.5 percent at the rim against Olynyk. That’s ridiculous. Only two bigs (Trevor Booker, DeMarre Carroll) are worse. And Olynyk snags fewer rebounds per chance than Faverani.

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Celtics need to rebound after opening loss to Raptors 10.31.13 at 9:20 am ET
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Avery Bradley puts up a shot during Wednesday night's loss to the Raptors. (AP)

Celtics guard Avery Bradley puts up a shot during Wednesday night’s loss to the Raptors in Toronto. (AP)

Brad Stevens had good reason to be optimistic following his team’s season-opening 93-87 loss to the Raptors in Toronto on Wednesday night, but the first-year Celtics coach also had plenty of reason for concern. Mainly, the C’s were dominated on the boards, getting outrebounded 48-33, including 19-7 on offensive boards.

“When they broke us down, they crushed us on the glass,” Stevens told reporters. “They shot 20 more field goals than us. It’s going to be hard to win a game when that happens.”

Added Brandon Bass: “We tried to help and got ourselves out of position. Their bigs were naked under the basket for the most part.”

Jeff Green scored 25 points, Bass netted 17 and Vitor Faverani added 13 points and three blocks for the C’s, who lost to Toronto for just the sixth time in 26 meetings. Kris Humphries had eight points and a team-high nine rebounds.

First-round draft pick Kelly Olynyk played 16 minutes off the bench and scored four points on 2-of-5 shooting. Olynyk, a Toronto native, was a minus-19, tied for worst on the team with Faverani. Guard Avery Bradley struggled with his shooting, hitting just 4-of-13 from the field, and recording as many turnovers as assists (4).

The Celtics rallied from a 16-point third-quarter deficit and were tied at 78 with 7:42 left after a Jordan Crawford jumper, but they didn’t score again until 4:08 remained.

“At the end of the day we didn’t do everything perfectly,” Stevens said. “I didn’t coach a perfect game, but I think we can all rest assured we’ve got a team that will fight and we’ve got a team that will compete. And we can shore up a couple of those mistakes, maybe we can come out the other end of it.”

Rudy Gay led the Raptors with 19 points and eight rebounds.

The Celtics next host the Bucks on Friday night.

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Celtics, for the last time: Kelly Olynyk 10.29.13 at 9:21 am ET
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One of the most unpredictable Celtics seasons in recent memory begins Wednesday, and in order to determine the likelihood of each player reaching his full potential, we’ll be examining them individually in this year’s Green Street preview with one form of this question in mind: “When’s the last time … ?” First up: Kelly Olynyk.

When’s the last time a middle-of-the-pack draft pick won NBA Rookie of the Year honors?

Overshadowed by their draft night agreement to send Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett to the Nets, the Celtics traded up to grab Kelly Olynyk in the No. 13 spot this past June, and the 7-footer has already been dubbed “the steal of the draft” in NBA.com’s annual survey of the league’s general managers.

Demonstrating an ability to run the floor and score both inside and out, Olynyk averaged 9.0 points (52.5 FG%), 4.5 rebounds and 1.9 assists during the preseason. But his defense isn’t quite so NBA ready. Quality bigs gave him the revolving door treatment, and his six personal fouls per 36 minutes is cause for concern.

Still, the lack of top-end talent in this year’s draft class combined with Olynyk’s early returns thrust the Gonzaga product onto a short list of potential Rookie of the Year candidates that includes heavy favorite Victor Oladipo.

Of the 64 players ever named NBA Rookie of the Year, only four were drafted in the double digits. The last to do so was Mark Jackson, who captured the award in 1987-88 when the Knicks selected him 18th. The others: Jamaal Wilkes (1974-75: Golden State Warriors, 11th), Woody Sauldsberry (1957-58: Philadelphia Warriors, 60th) and Don Meineke (1052-53: Fort Wayne Pistons, 12th). Amare Stoudemire, drafted ninth by the Suns in 2002-03, is the lowest draft pick of the 21st century to earn ROY. So, the next time you think about placing Olynyk in the NBA Rookie of the Year conversation, remember he’d have to be a real Woody Sauldsberry to do so.

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