|Rethinking the Rajon Rondo-Jared Sullinger combo||03.27.14 at 10:24 am ET|
Rajon Rondo told Brad Stevens he would like to play alongside Jared Sullinger “as much as possible,” but the Celtics captain and his coach don’t appear to be on the same page on this one, considering the sophomore big — probably the team’s second-best player at this point — hasn’t started a game for more than a month.
“I like playing on the court with Sully,” Rondo said after the C’s 99-90 loss to the Raptors. “I told Brad I wanted to play with Sully as much as possible. Not a knock on any of our other bigs, but one thing that Sully does that doesn’t show up on the stat sheet is he’s probably the best outlet passer we have.”
With respect to his encouragement of Sullinger’s 3-point shooting, Stevens admitted, “I’m not as much an analytics guy as everyone portrays me to be,” but the numbers support his coach’s hesitancy to pair the two more often.
The Celtics average 29.9 defensive rebounds, 23.2 assists and 98.8 points per 100 possessions while scoring 10.8 percent of their points on the fast break with Rondo and Sullinger paired on the court. To put that into perspective, the C’s average 33.3 defensive rebounds, 26.8 assists and 101.4 points per 100 possessions while scoring 18.7 percent of their points on the fast break with rookies Phil Pressey and Kelly Olynyk sharing the floor. Rondo and Sullinger are a minus-47 over 431 minutes; Pressey and Olynyk are a plus-21 over 418.
|Fast Break: Raptors claw Celtics, Rajon Rondo ends up in stitches||03.26.14 at 9:46 pm ET|
At the end of the third quarter, Rajon Rondo was getting stitches on his face, Jared Sullinger was 3-for-11 from the field and the Celtics trailed by 15. They never quit — far from it — but still suffered a seventh loss in their last eight games, 99-90 to the Atlantic-leading Raptors. (Yes, the ones from Toronto are winning the division.)
Rondo (9 points, 15 assists) returned from an elbow to the face in the fourth quarter, and Sullinger (26 points, 8 rebounds) totaled 19 points on just six shots in the final frame, but the C’s (23-48) couldn’t erase a double-digit Raptors lead. Avery Bradley (16 points) and Chris Johnson (13 points) also reached double figures.
The Celtics are currently tied for the league’s fifth-worst record.
WHAT WENT WRONG
Closing second: After regaining the lead with five minutes to play before halftime, the C’s defense fell apart. The Raptors converted their final six shots of the half, raising their field goal percentage from 40.6 to 50.0 at the break. Toronto’s nine-point halftime lead rapidly reached double digits early in the third quarter.
Interior defense: Back-to-back relatively uncontested Jonas Valanciunas third-quarter buckets punctuated a putrid night defensively for the Boston bigs and forced a Brad Stevens timeout. Out-rebounding the Celtics and outscoring them in the paint, Toronto’s starting frontcourt combined for 36 points and 16 rebounds in the first 30 minutes as the Raptors built a 68-54 lead midway through the third.
In stitches: A horrific third quarter only got worse when a Greivis Vasquez elbow split open Rondo’s face between his eyebrows. Replaced by Phil Pressey 5:42 into the frame, Rondo received nine stitches before returning to the bench with a bandage on his face a couple minutes into in the fourth quarter. He returned with 8:05 left.
WHAT WENT RIGHT
Mondo Rondo: The Celtics captain singlehandedly kept them in the game through the first 15 minutes. He had his hand in their first eight field goals (2 layups, 6 assists). A couple Green drives broke up Rondo’s perfect start, but he got right back to work. When Rondo took his first breather 3:09 into the second quarter, he had impacted 13 of the C’s 15 field goals (3 layups, 10 assists), and they led 35-33.
Johnson on the rise: As he has for much of his brief Celtics tenure, Chris Johnson made the most of his minutes. Checking in for Green, who submitted the prototypical Jeff Green performance, Johnson was everywhere. In 10 second-quarter minutes, he converted a 3-pointer, a pull-up 8-footer and a fast break layup while halting DeMar DeRozan‘s fast start (including a highlight reel chase-down block after Kelly Olynyk failed to convert a 3-on-1). Johnson’s effort anchored a 13-0 run that erased a double-digit Raptors lead early in the second quarter.
Sully late: After finishing 0-for-3 in the first quarter and scoring only seven points through three quarters, Sullinger erupted in the fourth. He made three consecutive 3-pointers to cut Toronto’s lead to four in the final minutes.
|Double ’07: Paul Pierce, Rajon Rondo and Celtics captaincy||at 10:47 am ET|
This is the first in a series on the parallels between Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge‘s last team to miss the NBA playoffs and this year’s lottery-bound squad. A deeper look at the C’s player personnel, potential trade packages and financial flexibility should offer insight into whether or not Ainge can recreate the 2007 magic of acquiring Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen seven years later in 2014. (Hence, Double ’07.)
Zero score and seven years ago, Ainge faced a decision that would influence the next decade of his once great franchise: a) Trade a perennial All-Star in his prime to rebuild around a young core and a top-10 draft pick, or b) Trade that young core and the top-10 draft pick to reconstruct around his Celtics captain. Sound familiar?
As the 2014 NBA draft approaches, Ainge will be faced with the same choice he made in 2007. Therefore, the Celtics must first answer a pair of questions: 1) Do they value Rajon Rondo at age 28 the same way they did Paul Pierce at 29? and 2) Who is available at what price? Here, like Ainge, we’ll examine the former first, as it will influence every other decision made this summer (as well as the ensuing posts in this series).
|Celtics sunk by coming out party of Anthony Davis, drop fourth straight||03.16.14 at 8:51 pm ET|
Sunday night the Celtics proved they are nothing if not entertaining in this rebuilding season.
Former No. 1 pick Anthony Davis scored a career-high 40 points to lead the New Orleans Pelicans a heart-pounding 121-120 overtime win over the Celtics in the Bayou Sunday night. Davis added 21 rebounds, the first 40-20 game in the history of the New Orleans franchise. Jared Sullinger, who helped sparked a late fourth quarter rally with a 3-pointer, missed a trey with 11 seconds remaining that would have given the Celtics the lead.
The last two minutes of regulation featured a frantic Boston rally and several wild sequences.
Kris Humphries forced the overtime when he took an inbounds pass from Rajon Rondo and drained a 20-foot turnaround jumper at the regulation buzzer. Jeff Green matched his season high with 39 points while Humphries had another double-double, scoring 16 points and grabbing 12 rebounds.
Green was fouled in the act of taking a 3-pointer with 4.9 seconds remaining and made all three free throws to tie the game, 110-110 before Anthony Davis drilled a jumper that appeared to give New Orleans the win with 1.1 seconds left in regulation.
Down one, the Celtics had a chance to win the game after winning a key jump ball with under 20 seconds left but Avery Bradley dribbled the ball off his leg and out of bounds, setting the stage for the frantic final sequence.
The Celtics lost their fourth straight and fell to 22-45 on the season.
The Celtics scored 39 points in the second quarter to take a 64-57 halftime lead. Leading the way in the second quarter was Green, who hit two threes and led Boston with 12 points in the stanza.
The Celtics led 66-57 on a Brandon Bass dunk with 10:40 left in the third quarter. The Celtics were outscored 27-18 in the final 10 minutes of the quarter and went into the fourth quarter tied, 84-84.
|Rajon Rondo appreciates Wyc Grousbeck sticking his neck out for him||03.15.14 at 2:09 pm ET|
The debate over the long-term future of Rajon Rondo in Boston will seemingly continue as long as he’s in a Celtics uniform. But one thing that can’t be denied is Rondo’s appreciation of those who have his back in turbulent times, led by the man who cuts his paycheck.
Celtics owner Wyc Grousbeck told the Boston Globe this week that despite all of the rumors and speculation on the future of the tempestuous point guard, Rondo remains the leader of the franchise going forward.
What did that mean to Rondo?
“It means a lot, especially coming from the head guy,” Rondo said after Friday’s loss to the Suns. “With all the rumors swirling, the criticism that I was having throughout the past couple weeks, he stuck his neck out. He didn’t have to say anything, but he did. I’ve talked to Wyc since then. Everything is what it’s supposed to be.”
Here is what Grousbeck told the Boston Globe in a story that reflected on the rebuilding season of 2013-14:
“[Rondo is] loved right here, from my seat on the court,” the owner said. “I love the guy. I love his championship ring when he was the young kid. I love his growth. It reminds me of Paul Pierce. Growing from the moments in his younger days and making progress toward being an all-time Celtic and a leader. I am always hopeful that a guy like that is going to stay around.”
Rondo will enter the final year of his contract next season, in which he will make $12.9 million.
Earlier this season, Rondo said he would be open to signing a long-term deal with the Celtics but, at the same time, indicated an interest to test free agent waters. Rondo signed a five-year, $55 million extension at the start of the 2009-10 season.
Brad Stevens made it perfectly clear before Friday’s game against Phoenix that he would ease Avery Bradley back into the mix after a 13-game absence due to a sprained right ankle. Bradley actually played nearly 17 minutes, including a key stretch in the team’s 12-0 spurt that gave them a short-lived lead in the fourth quarter of Friday’s 87-80 loss to the Suns at TD Garden.
Bradley scored nine points on 4-of-12 shooting from the floor but admitted that he was rusty trying to get back into an offensive rhythm.
“My shot was rusty, but you still can play hard on the defensive end and that’s what I try to do,” Bradley said. “I try to go out there and lift our intensity and try to get the guys going, that’s my role on this team.’
“Hopefully we’ll get to see that quite a bit in the last month here,” Stevens said. “Knock on wood, because they haven’t been able to play much together over the first four years they’ve been together. I think it’s really a duo that you would think would complement each other very well based on the strengths on both ends of the court. Hopefully we’ll see that again with a healthy month left in the season.”
“He looked well,” added Rondo. “He didn’t play or practice at all in a month. So, for him to get out there, I know he missed a couple shots, but for the most part, my main concern was his lateral movements, as far as the ankle, and his defense looked great tonight.
“Our time will come. I’ve missed [games], he’s missed [games]. Hopefully we can get it together and we’ll both be out there playing and healthy.”
Bradley also made note that he will be taping his ankles more often to prevent injury. Bradley said before the game that he feels not taping his ankles this season led to the unfortunate string of injuries that have sidelined him for two significant stretches this season.
After the game, he was just grateful that he made it through his first game back.
‘I feel fine, Bradley said. “It’s a little sore but I’m going to ice it and I’ll feel fine [this weekend]. “For me, on the defensive end and cuts, that’s what gets me going and I know what kind of player I am and I know it starts on the defensive end first for me.
‘Of course, as a competitor you want to go out there and help your team, but at the same time I have to be smart and the coaches, [Brad Stevens] knows better than me and he knows I have to get back in the rhythm. I was a little rusty and so he has to limit my minutes and he told me that before the game but I didn’t know how many minutes I was going to play and I really didn’t care.”
|Celtics eclipsed by Suns late in return of Avery Bradley||03.14.14 at 9:52 pm ET|
Alex Len’s three-point play with 54.1 seconds left broke an 80-80 tie and lifted the Suns over the Celtics, 87-80, Friday night at TD Garden. Kris Humphries led the Celtics with 11 points and 13 rebounds. The Celtics lost their third straight and fell to 22-44 on the season.
Cold shooting from the field put the the Celtics in an early hole, falling behind by as many as 11 in the opening minutes of the second quarter. But strong rebounding, led by Kris Humphries, allowed Boston to work their way back in, cutting the halftime deficit to two, 46-44.
The Celtics again went cold from the floor in the third quarter, making just four of their 20 shots from the field. As a result, Phoenix grabbed a 61-53 lead with 3:24 left in the third. But the Celtics again showed their resiliency, cutting to the deficit to just four, 64-60 heading into the fourth.
The Celtics continued that momentum by scoring the first nine points of the fourth quarter to cap an 11-0 run and grab a 69-64 lead, matching their biggest lead of the game.
Phoenix came back with the next six points to take a 70-69 lead. The Celtics led 78-75 before the Suns scored five straight, including the go-ahead basket, a turnaround jumper by Markeiff Morris with 2:30 left, putting Phoenix up, 80-78. Jeff Green‘s two free throws with 2:02 left tied the game again, 80-80.
After Len’s three-point play, the Celtics could not get off a shot close to the basket and the Suns put away the game with two breakaway layups.
The Celtics are off Saturday and begin a brief two-game road trip Sunday evening in New Orleans. They play in Dallas Monday night before returning home to play the Miami Heat Wednesday night at TD Garden.
WHAT WENT WRONG
Cold feet: The Celtics shot just 37.5 percent from the floor in the first half, making just 18-of-48 shots, including 2-of-12 from long range. Good defense and Phoenix sloppiness kept the Celtics in it, as Boston trailed by just two, 46-44 at the half. It didn’t get much better in the third quarter as the Celtics shot just 20 percent on 4-of-20 shooting.
Gone fishing: There are games where Brandon Bass can take over and find his shots in the paint and under the glass seemingly at will. Then there’s nights like Friday. He started but never got into a rhythm, scoring just eight points on 4-of-12 shooting, playing 21 minutes. Part of this was due to the fact that coach Brad Stevens elected to go with a smaller, three-guard lineup of Rajon Rondo, Avery Bradley and Chris Johnson for the better parts of the second and third quarters. Throw in the continued emergence of Kelly Olynyk and guards Jerryd Bayless and Phil Pressey and there was little time left for Bass.
Green-out: Like Bass, Jeff Green can look like a world-beater one game and come out with a dud the next, like Friday. He had just nine points in 36 minutes on 2-of-14 shooting.
WHAT WENT RIGHT
Bradley’s back: Avery Bradley returned to game action for the first time since injuring his ankle Feb. 9 against Dallas. The team’s shutdown defender came off the bench with 3:24 left in the first quarter. With 5:09 left in the third, Bradley showed his offensive skills, getting into traffic, knocking down a 10-footer and drawing the foul for a three-point play. He finished with nine points in 17 minutes.
On the rebound: The Celtics attacked the glass with authority in the first half outrebounding the Suns, 27-24. Leading the way with six in the first half was Kris Humphries, who grabbed six of his xx for the game in the opening half. Humphries finished with his seventh double-double of the season, scoring 11 points while grabbing 13 rebounds.
Balancing the scales: The only player not to get into the scoring column in the first half was Chris Babb, the undrafted rookie out of Iowa State who was signed to his second 10-day contract on Monday. Even Joel Anthony got into the mix for the first time since playing four minutes against Golden State on March 5 and scoring two points in the first half, his first points since netting four against Atlanta on Feb. 26.
Rondo passes knee test: With about seven minutes left in the third quarter, Rondo drove to the left side of the basket for one of his patented dishes under the basket but he lost his footing, slipping to the court. His knee was protected by the black ACL brace he wears and he remained in the game and played the remainder of the third quarter with no apparent ill effects.
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