|Kris Humphries and the faces of Celtics death||01.30.14 at 1:23 am ET|
The Celtics hit a new low with a buzzer-beating loss to the 76ers. They’ve lost four in a row, wrapping up January with a 2-15 record after losing to the only team that stood between them and the Atlantic Division basement.
Other than that, how was the play, Mrs. Lincoln?
On the bright side, the Celtics have three days off before traveling to Orlando to take on one of two teams that owns a worse record than them in the entire NBA, and somehow they’re only 5.5 games behind the hapless Eastern Conference’s eighth-seeded Bobcats (THE EIGHTH-SEEDED BOBCATS!). Oh, and the C’s possess a 15.6 percent chance at the No. 1 pick, a 46.9 percent at a top-three pick and a 96.4 percent chance at a top-five pick on the night Kansas freshman Andrew Wiggins scored a season-high 29 points on 16 shots. So, there’s that.
Here’s how various Celtics are dealing with their dire situation heading into the final 10 weeks of the season.
|Fast Break: Evan Turner buzzer-beater sinks Celtics||01.29.14 at 9:59 pm ET|
Neither team seemed all that interested in winning — as the Celtics and Sixers combined for six missed free throws down the stretch before Hamilton product Michael Carter-Williams finally made one to tie the game at 92-92 in the final minute — but another free throw and Evan Turner‘s running layup at the buzzer negated a Kris Humphries jumper and put an end to a 95-94 Philadelphia victory that sunk the C’s to the bottom of the Atlantic Division.
Jared Sullinger led the Celtics with 24 points and 17 rebounds while Jeff Green (18 points), Humphries (13), Brandon Bass (11) and Jerryd Bayless (10) all reached double figures, but the C’s (15-33) dropped their 19th game in 22 tries. Here’s what went right and wrong in another loss loss.
WHAT WENT WRONG
No-go Rondo: For the second straight back-to-back, the Celtics rested Rajon Rondo in the second game, and the timing of both seemed a bit odd, particularly Wednesday. Not because Rondo should have played twice in two days, since he’s still experiencing some swelling in his knee, but because the second game (at Wizards and hosting 76ers) appeared infinitely more winnable than the first (in both Miami and New York) with him in the lineup. The C’s actually beat the Wizards without Rondo, but his presence against Philly would’ve a) helped counter the length of Michael Carter-Williams and b) given Boston fans another chance to see the All-Star point guard.
Worst first: The Celtics scored 26 first-quarter points, led by a baker’s dozen from Green, and held the Sixers to 29.6 percent shooting in the opening 12 points — yet only led by three after one. The C’s allowed five offensive boards and committed seven turnovers in the frame, leading to 10 of Philadelphia’s 23 points.
Phil pressing: After totaling 20 points and four assists in a victory against the Wizards in his previous start, rookie point guard Phil Pressey didn’t have the same luck opposite the 6-foot-6 Carter-Williams. Pressey finished just 1-of-7 from the floor (2 points) and committed five turnovers before Stevens yanked him for Bayless down the stretch.
WHAT WENT RIGHT
Green with envy: For whatever reason, the self-described “[expletive]-hole Jeff Green showed up against the 76ers. Both Green and Philadelphia forward Thaddeus Young were mentioned as potential trade chips in the Omer Asik discussions earlier this season, and a lot of folks were pegging Young as the more valuable chip. It’s unclear whether that was Green’s motivation or not, but it sure seemed like it.
Sully bully: Soon after the pregame announcement that both Sullinger and rookie Kelly Olynyk were selected to the Rising Stars Challenge, Celtics coach Brad Stevens called his sophomore forward to the mat. “One thing I challenged him on is not accepting being a 22-year-old in the league,” he said. “We’re in a unique situation where we’re asking some of our young guys to be leaders. My thing to him is for our team to grow, you almost have to play a few years ahead of where you are.” Despite an injury to his shooting hand that limited him to an average of 5.3 points and 4.0 rebounds over his previous three games, Sullinger responded with his first double-double in a week.
Nice Johnson: On his second 10-day contract, Chris Johnson continues to earn what should be a minimum salary contract for the remainder of the season. On what seems like sheer effort alone, he’s made an impact in just about ever game in which he’s appeared. His first fourth-quarter triple drew the Celtics even for the first time since early in the second quarter; in the next two minutes, he assisted on a Green 3-pointer that gave the C’s a three-point lead and drilled another 3 that doubled it. He also added a handful of assists and rebounds.
|Celtics sign Chris Johnson to second 10-day contract||01.28.14 at 11:01 am ET|
In four appearances for the undermanned C’s, Johnson has impressed, averaging 10.0 points, 3.3 rebounds and 1.0 assists in 26.8 minutes while filling in for Avery Bradley (ankle), Jerryd Bayless (toe) and Keith Bogans (just chilling). Bayless is expected to return to the Celtics lineup on Tuesday.
Johnson’s first 10-day contract expired after Sunday’s loss to the Nets, and his signing to a second such deal prior to Tuesday’s game will keep him on the roster for the next four games against New York, Philadelphia (twice) and the Magic.
On Feb. 6, the Celtics will be faced with a decision on whether to sign the Dayton product for the remainder of the season or let him walk, since players are limited to two consecutive 10-day contracts for the same organization.
|Video: Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett come home||01.27.14 at 3:33 pm ET|
“I think we’ll always bleed green as long as we’re playing basketball and as long as we’re living. Even when they bury us six feet, this is what it’s going to be.”
When it comes to covering basketball in Boston, it doesn’t get much better than Sunday night. I could wax poetically about Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett and their legacies as Celtics, which I attempted to do in this column, but this 15-minute video sums it up better than any words I could put together on a page. Enjoy.
Sunday night was hard for Paul Pierce, really hard.
He knew it was coming. It’s been on the schedule since last summer. But when the moment finally came, the former Celtics captain said it was the most difficult game to play in for the obvious reasons.
He just could never picture himself playing against Boston and accepting all the love showered upon him all at once.
“I was telling Kevin, and everybody this was the toughest game I ever had to play,” Pierce said after scoring just six points but helping his team to an 85-79 win over his former Celtics. “Tougher than any championship game, or any Game 7. This game was just really hard to focus and concentrate on what was at hand. At the end of the day we had a game to play but it was so hard to really focus.
“I saw so many friends, so many people I’ve known for years. Ugly cornbread Maxwell back there, my man, my main man. It was hard to really get into my routine, you have a routine when you come and get ready for a game and it never settled in and you thought about the time, the friendships, the relationships and it was just, you get showered with love the whole game. You look up and see so many Kevin jerseys, my jerseys, posters and its every second you are on the bench and in the game people were calling your name. I’m happy we got it over with and I can go back to playing basketball right now.”
Pierce acknowledged that he, Garnett and Rajon Rondo got together for dinner Saturday night before the game.
“We didn’t really bump into anybody in the street but we had a chance to go to dinner with Rondo [Saturday] night,” Pierce said. “We talked to him about his situation here and the things we went through when we were in his situation before. It was good to see him and really, that was pretty much the only guy he had a chance to see. Other than that I really just tried to focus and get back to the hotel and try to get some rest and couldn’t think about anything but today really, it was even hard for me to sleep. Laying in a downtown hotel in Boston when I’m used to being at my house. Getting into the arena, coming in the backside, and making a left instead of a right. Everything was so different, and it was great though.”
|Kevin Garnett says Celtics tribute was ‘over the top’||at 12:29 am ET|
It takes a lot for Kevin Garnett to be blown away.
The Celtics and their fans achieved that and more on Sunday night with their tribute to KG and Paul Pierce for their six years together in Boston that produced one NBA title, two NBA finals appearances and countless memories as one of the most inspirational leaders in franchise history.
“This was over the top,” Garnett gushed afterward, referring to the 60-second video tribute and the standing ovation from the crowd late in the first quarter. “Doc (Rivers) had [texted] us two days ago [telling us what to expect]. I think I had reporters ask me about the expectations before the Dallas game and I didn’t want to be thinking about things before I had another game to play. What comes to mind is unbelievable, I didn’t expect anything like that for myself, shows the first class, shows the type of organization that this is and the appreciation from this organization for you.
“And I couldn’t put it into words. Paul and I were joking before the game who was gonna tear up and drop a tear. I had lumps in my throat and I kept them under control and I focused as much as I could on the game and not take away from it but man this was over the top. I couldn’t put that into words.”
It was Garnett who stole a Rajon Rondo pass when the Celtics were within a 3-pointer of tying the game. Garnett knew Rondo was trying to set himself up for a three. Garnett, who knows Rondo as well as anyone on the court, stepped into the lane and rumbled the other way and made the layup that sealed the 85-79 win for the Nets against his former team.
“I knew they were trying to run a pick and roll and (Rajon) Rondo was gonna try a three, I knew they needed a three at that point and I just played the passing lane,” Garnett said. “It took me two days to get the layup up I thought I was gonna get caught but I got it still, put the ball in front of me, and I got the layup.
“I’m glad we came here and got a win. A lot of distraction, but they were good distractions. It felt good to be showered and for the city to show their appreciation nevertheless the organization man. You give yourself, people always say players can be too loyal. I don’t believe that, a city like Boston is worth it and tonight’s the epitome of all that.”
For Garnett, he said the totality of the night didn’t hit him until he saw longtime Celtics‘ staffers in trainer Ed Lacerte and public relations director Jeff Twiss.
“It didn’t hit me until I saw Ed Lacerte and Jeff Twiss,” Garnett said. “I got to see all the guys that made our stay worth it; Phil Lynch, Johnny Joe(Connor) all those guys. The guys that people really don’t know but make the whole thing go around. You see, like Paul said, the endless friendships through the place; the security guards, the ball boys everybody man that shows their appreciation. By far the hardest day that I’ve had to focus. This is bigger than Minnesota, even when I went back to Minnesota, Minnesota wasn’t like this.”
And for anyone who thinks this rivals any of the playoff experiences Garnett had, don’t. Garnett said Sunday night was much, much more intense.
“[The playoffs] is not even close [to Sunday],” Garnett said. “It’s not even close. The impact of people and how much we’ve impacted their lives, not just kids but grownups, just the culture here. You come here and one of the first things Jeff Twiss tells you, he takes you through the library where he shows you all the history here and you feel that responsibility. To come back here and be showered like this, it’s not even close, not even close.”
The moment Garnett will always relish, though, came with 2:25 left in the first quarter when the video came up on the big board 50 feet above center court.
“It was just an emotional moment that I just kind of went back and reflected on myself,” Garnett said. “When we all got together a lot of people didn’t think that the first year we could do what we did and I think before everyone started getting together making their teams, stacking their teams, I think we were the first to initiate that. We had a lot of pressure on us. As I sat back and watched the video, I thought a lot about the fun, how much work was invested in that.
“To this day, I talk about how big Doc Rivers was for us just from a growth, not just as a players, but as a human being and a young man perspective, of every man he coached. I don’t know, I’m just appreciative of the time. Throughout the timeline you think about those moments and you reflect, that’s what the fist pump was. I had some great times in here, like Paul (Pierce) said, obviously some dismal times, but none of those overshadow the good. It was a great time here in Boston ‘
|Fast Break: Nets cut down Celtics in Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett homecoming||01.26.14 at 9:09 pm ET|
Pierce and Garnett combined for 12 points, seven rebounds and five assists in a 85-79 Brooklyn victory, handing the Celtics (15-31) a 17th loss in their last 20 tries. Meanwhile, the Nets (20-22) moved within 1.5 games of the division-leading Raptors.
Rondo (13 points, 8 assists, 8 rebounds) engineered a Celtics comeback that brought the Celtics within three points in the final minute, but a Garnett dunk off one of the C’s 16 turnovers put the game out of reach. Brandon Bass led the Celtics with 17 points and eight rebounds, Chris Johnson netted 12 points on the night his first 10-day contract is set to expire and Gerald Wallace also added a dozen.
WHAT WENT WRONG
Sweet emotions: It’s almost as if everyone forgot they had to actually play a basketball game. Pierce and Garnett finished scoreless in the first quarter (0-3 FG), and the Nets were 4-of-18 in the opening 12 minutes. The Celtics weren’t any better, as Brooklyn took a 35-34 halftime lead. (Fitting, the C’s had 34 first-half points, by the way.) Pierce didn’t score his first points until the third quarter, when he sunk a pair of free throws 1:08 into the frame.
Oh, shoot: After Brad Stevens ripped his team for settling for too many jumpers against the Thunder, the Celtics fell into the same trap in the third quarter against Brooklyn, taking 12 of their 18 shots outside the paint and making just three in the frame. Meanwhile, the Nets built a six-point cushion heading into the fourth quarter.
Sully-Green: While Rondo and Bass enjoyed stellar games against their former teammates, Jeff Green and Jared Sullinger struggled offensively opposite the two C’s legends. Through three quarters, the pair was a combined 3-for-18 from the floor, and Stevens actually gave more crunch-time minutes to Gerald Wallace and Humphries.
WHAT WENT RIGHT
Paying tribute: As usual, the folks behind the video tributes did a masterful job putting together pieces for both Pierce and Garnett. Likewise, the crowd responded accordingly, chanting “Paul. Pierce.” before the Nets lineup was introduced, cheering their introductions and tearing the roof off the Garden when the Garnett and Pierce tributes were played on the Jumbotron during the second timeout and following the first quarter, respectively.
National TV Rondo: Whether it was the bright lights or just a natural progression, Rondo enjoyed his best game since returning from ACL surgery. He played 14 first-half minutes, also his most this season, producing eight points, five rebounds and four assists by the break. Whether he meant his “just another game” comment about his former teammates’ return or not, Rondo showed little emotion as he remained focused on his comeback.
Bass swishing: Only a handful of the current Celtics were on the roster with Truth and Ticket, and Bass was one of them, getting the start over Kris Humphries. Like Rondo, he responded with a solid game against his former mates, even driving past both of them for a dunk at one point. After failing to grab more than five rebounds since Jan. 15, he asserted himself on the glass, leading a solid team rebounding effort that included double-digit offensive boards.
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