|Dirk Nowitzki, Vince Carter too much for Rajon Rondo, Celtics||02.09.14 at 8:17 pm ET|
The red-hot Dallas Mavericks weren’t about to let the Celtics match their season-high win streak.
Dirk Nowitzki scored 20 points and Vince Carter added 14 off the bench to help the Mavericks pull away for a 102-91 win Sunday night at TD Garden. The loss snapped Boston’s three-game win streak, which was one shy of the four straight at the beginning of the season.
That win streak in November put the Celtics at 4-4. Sunday’s loss dropped Boston to 18-34.
The Celtics were led by Jeff Green with 18 points while Rajon Rondo returned from a night off Friday and scored 15 with 12 assists. Green was rumored to be trade talks between Atlanta and Celtics vice president of basketball operations Danny Ainge while Rondo’s name was again in trade rumors involving the Knicks.
The Celtics could not overcome dreadful shooting Sunday night. They were down just six at the half, 44-38, despite shooting just 27.1 percent (13-of-48) from the floor.
The Mavericks pulled away in the third quarter, outscoring Boston 28-18 to take a 72-56 lead into the fourth. Avery Bradley (2-for-13), Jared Sullinger (4-for-13) and Green (6-for-15) highlighted the struggles of the Celtics. Sullinger extended his string of double-doubles to five games with 12 rebounds and 11 points, scoring a basket late in the fourth quarter to keep the streak alive.
Chris Johnson, signed to a multi-year deal on Friday, had a career high 14 off the bench for the Celtics.
Nowitizki had been averaging 28 points a game in his last six games entering Sunday’s contest but Dallas didn’t need him to be spectacular against a Celtics team that couldn’t find its offensive rhythm all night. Nowitzki was 7-for-16 from the field and his his three with 9:23 left in the fourth quarter put Dallas up, 81-58.
Dallas would build the lead to 24 in the fourth before a late Celtics run, sparked by the bench, cut the Mavs’ advantage down to nine, 98-89, with just over a minute left.
The Mavericks, who entered Sunday in the eighth and final playoff spot in the West, are making a push in the highly competitive conference. Sunday’s win on the parquet was their fourth straight and six in their last seven as they improved to 31-21.
The Celtics return to action Monday night in Milwaukee against a Bucks team that is currently leading the NBA Lottery race with a league-worst 9-41 record.
The New York Daily News reported Sunday that the Celtics vice president of basketball operations is shopping the forward around and the Atlanta Hawks reportedly have serious interest in acquiring him before the Feb. 20 deadline.
Green has $18.4 million left in guaranteed money after this season, including a player option for $9.2 million for 2015-16. He is leading the Celtics in scoring this season at 16.3 while playing in all 52 games through Sunday.
Sam Amick of USA Today reported Sunday that the Knicks might be willing to take on Green’s contract or that of Gerald Wallace in order to entice Ainge to trade Rondo to the Knicks in exchange for a package that could include Amar’e Stoudemire and several young players.
The Hawks are clearly looking to add pieces to a roster they think can make a move in the underwhelming Eastern Conference this season. They stood 25-24 entering Sunday’s action, in fourth place in the East, just a half-game ahead of Chicago Bulls.
— Mitch Lawrence (@Mitch_Lawrence) February 9, 2014
|Rajon Rondo, Avery Bradley return for Celtics against Dirk Nowitzki and Dallas Mavericks||at 6:01 pm ET|
Rondo and Bradley both missed Friday’s win over the Kings, which ran Boston’s winning streak to three games, one shy of their season high.
Rondo sat out with general soreness after returning from ACL surgery while Bradley missed the game after twisting his right ankle against the Sixers last Wednesday. With the team traveling to Milwaukee for Monday night’s game, it’s unlikely Rondo will play in back-to-back games for the first time this season.
“That’s an above-me question,” Brad Stevens answered when asked when Rondo might be cleared for such activity. “Our trainers and medical staff and [Rondo will] get together. I would think it would be sooner rather than later, but I don’t know want to project a timeline.”
As for Bradley, he turned his right ankle in only his second game back from a five-game absence due to a sprain of the same ankle.
“I think he just twisted it again on Wednesday,” said Stevens before Sunday’s game. “He was 100 percent when he was playing Sunday and Wednesday, then twisted it or whatever, so it’s almost like, instead of a reoccurring injury, he just injured it again. I don’t think it’s a lingering thing by any means.”
Dirk Nowitzki is averaging 23 points in three games in February and has led Dallas to five wins in their last six games. He scored 38 points and grabbed 17 rebounds in the team’s only loss (vs. Houston) in that stretch. How do the Celtics or anyone go about slowing him down?
“Nobody can answer that question with a straight face,” said Stevens. “Don’t know that anybody has, don’t know that anybody can. You have to mix up your matchups. You have to have different people guard him. You have to guard his pick-and-rolls differently. He presents a problem if you guard it in a traditional way, just because he’s a great shooter.
“He’s a great pull-up shooter and he’s probably one of the best two-point long-range shooters in the league — one of the very few guys that’s probably a great great shot for. Yeah, he’s a tough one to guard and he’s really playing at a great level right now, at whatever old he is, what is he 35 years old? He’s not showing signs of that right now.”
Vitor Faverani (knee) will miss his fifth straight game.
Apparently the New York Knicks don’t want to believe Danny Ainge.
A report in the USA Today indicates that the Knicks, who stand 20-30 heading into Sunday, still believe they can pry away superstar point guard Rajon Rondo for the right package.
Part of their desperation, Sam Amick’s report suggests, has to do with the desire to keep another superstar – Carmelo Anthony – from bolting Broadway.
“The Knicks have a strong belief that he can be had,” Amick writes.
Amick points out the Knicks can offer Amar’e Stoudemire, who has one season remaining after this one, at $23.4 million, while also taking future money back, i.e. Gerald Wallace (two years/$20 million) and/or Jeff Green (two years/$18.4 million). This would help Ainge clear the way for the summer of 2015 when he can add free agents to a possibly lottery pick or two.
The Knicks can’t offer any first round draft picks until 2018 but they could include point guard Raymond Felton, promising young swingman Iman Shumpert and rookie Tim Hardaway Jr.
Earlier this season it was reported that Anthony was trying to lure Rondo, a former teammate at Oak Hill Academy, to the Knicks.
|How good can Jared Sullinger be? ‘He’s not there, he can get better’||02.08.14 at 3:29 pm ET|
There’s not a big man hotter than Jared Sullinger, at least three games into February.
He is averaging 23.7 points and 12.7 rebounds in registering a double-double in his first three games of the month. Not coincidentally, the Celtics have followed up their worst month in history with a 3-0 start to February.
Friday night, he had a career high 31 points and 16 rebounds in posting his fourth straight double-double overall in a 99-89 win over the Kings. Perhaps just as impressive is the fact that he accomplished those numbers against another power big in DeMarcus Cousins.
“I think we’re doing a better job looking for him,” Brad Stevens said. “He feels a little bit better even though that dislocated finger’s still wrapped up. I think he feels better every day, and you know, it’s like we talked about last week: fair or unfair, that’s who we need him to be. And so that’s the opportunity in front of him. He’s capable and I’m not saying that you have to get a double-double every day but he’s darn near capable of doing that. And so I think that the more that we can continue to build off that, the better.
“[Sullinger] is a 6-foot-7 [big man]. That’s the one thing. And that’s what makes Jared unique is he’s a big, strong guy that can score over bigger guys in the post. But then, that’s why it’s so critical, and we’ve talked about it, that he continues to work and refine his perimeter game, which he’s obviously doing well with. But it’s not where it will be someday.”
What is Sullinger’s ceiling?
“How high does he reach?” Stevens deadpanned. “He’s not there. That’s the good news. He’s not there; he can get better. And I think, obviously, 31 and 16 is great; can you do that every night? No one in the league is doing that every night. But the bottom line is, as he continues to improve, as he continues to get more games underneath his belt, as he continues to get further away from the surgery and gets another more freshness and another summer of work and all of those things, I just think that the sky’s the limit. He’s playing at a nice level, there’s no question about it, but I really believe that he can be a consistent double-double guy.’
Sullinger is averaging 13.4 points and a team leading 8.1 rebounds in a season where he easily could be considered the team MVP. His scoring is up nearly four points from his rookie season and his rebounds are up one per game over last season.
“It is just more space, in college I was double all the time so I had to find ways to score,” Sullinger said. “That’s why my offensive rebounding has been the way it has been, I had to find other ways to score in college.”
Something else that’s been better in the last three games is Sullinger’s demeanor on the court.
“I just went out and played my game I have been doing it for the last couple of games and just have been letting go. I am showing better body language according to my father,” Sullinger said with a sheepish grin.
While the winning may be hurting the team’s draft position, Stevens is just happy that there are clear signs that the right pieces are in place.
“I think the nice part about it is at the end of the day, you had Phil Pressey out on the floor at 22 or 23 years old, you had Kelly Olynyk on the floor, you had Jared Sullinger on the floor, you had a lot of young guys on the floor but it was also we had a lot of real savvy basketball players out there,” Stevens said. “And I think this team is really figuring out what they do best individually and playing off of that. I thought the guy who really lifted us in a lot of ways was Gerald (Wallace). I thought his physicality and toughness all over the court was great.”
|Mike Petraglia talks Rajon Rondo and Jared Sullinger with NBA insider Jessica Camerato||at 2:26 am ET|
|Jared Sullinger, Jerryd Bayless provide offensive punch, lead short-handed C’s to win||02.07.14 at 9:50 pm ET|
The short-handed Celtics have suddenly won three straight.
Jared Sullinger scored a career high 31 points and grabbed 16 rebounds to lead the short-handed Celtics to their third straight win, a 99-89 victory over the Kings Friday night at TD Garden. All three wins (Orlando, Philadelphia and Sacramento) come against losing teams that figure to provide much stiffer competition for draft position in the NBA lottery this spring.
Gerald Wallace added eight points, grabbed 12 rebounds and dished nine assists as the Celtics have followed up their worst month in history (2-15 in January) with three straight wins to open February.
Jeff Green added 17 points on 6-of-20 shooting to help the Celtics improve to 18-33, which may not be great news in the long run. Boston moved 3.5 games ahead of last place Philadelphia in the Atlantic Division.
The Kings took advantage of the depleted Celtics early on, building a 29-19 lead late in the first quarter. DeMarcus Cousins was big early on, scoring 13 of his team-high 31 points in the opening quarter. Cousins and Sullinger each finished with 31 points and 16 rebounds. Sacramento led 29-21 after 12 minutes.
But Olynyk led the Celtics back in the second quarter, scoring nine of his 11 first-half points off the bench. Olynyk couldn’t miss in the first half, hitting all three field goals, including a 3-pointer, while draining all four free throws. Olynyk had eight of Boston’s 12 points in a 12-0 run that put the Celtics on top, 31-29. Boston outscored Sacramento, 28-17, in the second quarter to grab a 49-46 halftime lead.
The Kings scored the first six points of the second half, taking a 52-49 lead, moving coach Brad Stevens to call a time out. After the break, the Celtics responded with a 10-0 run. The Kings responded with the game’s next seven points to tie the game again, a trend that continued for most of the third quarter as the Celtics led, 71-69, heading into the final 12 minutes.
Isaiah Thomas added 24 points for the Kings and got into a brief scuffle with Bayless late in the fourth quarter under the Kings basket. The tussle came close to spilling into the stands but was brought under control just in time. Both players were assessed technicals but remained in the game.
The Celtics opened the fourth quarter on an 18-4 run and were never threatened down the stretch. The Celtics have Saturday off before hosting the Dallas Mavericks on Sunday evening (6:30 p.m. ET) at TD Garden.
For more, visit the Celtics team page at weei.com/celtics.